Lotus Elan

New head gasket?

PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:05 pm

My +2s 130 overheated today, it produced a small puff of smoke from under the bonnet just before the engine stopped. I'm worried that I may have cracked the cam cork gasket, (as there seems to be a small oil leak from where the cork cam casket is closet to the cylinder block on the left hand side (exhaust manifold side), is it worth a preemptive head casket change?
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PostPost by: mbell » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:25 pm

Are you talking about head gasket or cam cover gasket?

The smoke is probably just oil burning off that has leaked from the cam cover or filler cap (common). Changing the cam cover gasket is probably sensible (could check valve clearance while in there). I wouldn't touch the head gasket unless their is a confirmed issue, e.g. oil/water mixing or lose of compression on a cylinder.
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Sat Jun 22, 2019 8:36 am

a few elements would help in defining the course of action.
was the smoke oil or water?
did the engine stop by itself (any unusual noise?) or was it whe you shut it off?
are water and oil level still fine (and of proper color and consistence)?
does the engine still starts and runs smoothly once cold ?

you may also try to pinpoint the exact leak location, and possibly intensity, to explain the symptom observed...

oil leak from the cam cover area (gasket, sealing washers, cap...) can lead to burnt oil on the exhaust pipes : this is not at all uncommon and can be attended to easily : I would take the time to make sure a head gasket job is actually required before embarking in that operation, which is considerably more work
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PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Sat Jun 22, 2019 4:02 pm

Many thanks both for the response. It had been stuttering for a bit but I know the carbs aren't running right so thought they were playing up and decided to drive for home. While stopped for traffic on a hill it then cut out just as the traffic started again, it cut out abruptly at fairly high revs (as I thought it was about to stall). I can't remember any nasty noises but it did have a bit of white smoke from from under the bonnet. Once we pushed it to safety the engine was very hot and the radiator was cold, I checked the thermostat this morning and it's the culprit for the failure.

While I was getting the thermostat out to check it, i looked at where the oil leak is coming from and the cork timing case gasket is showing proud from the block - only picked up the car that morning and can't remember seeing it after my test drive a week ago...worried that I either missed it when checking the car over or it happened when it over heated.

Photo of the timing case gasket proud attached (I've since cleaned the block so I can see exactly where the leak is coming from)
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PostPost by: Donels » Sat Jun 22, 2019 7:19 pm

It may be more serious than a head gasket. It sounds like it seized due to overheating. Now it’s cool check to see if it rotates freely, then as a minimum I would suggest a compression check and possibly remove the head to check for damage. You may be lucky but monitor oil consumption and check for smoke from the exhaust.

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PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Sat Jun 22, 2019 7:28 pm

Thanks Dave, luckily it moves freely but I'll check the compression.
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PostPost by: JonB » Sat Jun 22, 2019 8:58 pm

You're going to need a new head gasket anyway, if you want to fix the timing case gasket. It's "head off" job. And you're not alone - I need to do the same as my gasket leaks oil like a sieve.
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PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Sat Jun 22, 2019 10:11 pm

That's the conclusion I was coming too, with clearing all the muck off the block and I hopefully double check that there's no leaks anywhere else
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PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Sat Jun 22, 2019 10:13 pm

PS I did mean to put this in the technical forum section, but by accident ended up posting it in the general section, i am sorry, its been an emotional few days with the car...
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PostPost by: Craven » Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:23 pm

Cut off protruding gasket, clean off all oil in the gap with acetone ( nail varnish remover ) and inject/wipe with finger a small amount silicone gasket in void. Can work worth a try, area can be reached from the inside as well.
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PostPost by: alan.barker » Sun Jun 23, 2019 5:13 am

Hi craven,
I've done the same with the Silicon several times and it works very well.
I would say with the overheating the car was run with coolant level too low.
Is there a recuperator bottlle fitted to the Rad overflow pipe.
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Sun Jun 23, 2019 11:59 am

JamesRattenbury wrote:Many thanks both for the response. It had been stuttering for a bit but I know the carbs aren't running right so thought they were playing up and decided to drive for home. While stopped for traffic on a hill it then cut out just as the traffic started again, it cut out abruptly at fairly high revs (as I thought it was about to stall). I can't remember any nasty noises but it did have a bit of white smoke from from under the bonnet. Once we pushed it to safety the engine was very hot and the radiator was cold, I checked the thermostat this morning and it's the culprit for the failure.

While I was getting the thermostat out to check it, i looked at where the oil leak is coming from and the cork timing case gasket is showing proud from the block - only picked up the car that morning and can't remember seeing it after my test drive a week ago...worried that I either missed it when checking the car over or it happened when it over heated.

Photo of the timing case gasket proud attached (I've since cleaned the block so I can see exactly where the leak is coming from)


it's good to have identified the root cause of the issue: did you lose a lot of coolant ? if not (i.e. engine overheated just a bit without distorting the head, stopping possibly resulting from under bonnet heat effect on carburetion, oil leak increasing possibly increasing from oil degasing from heat and increased fluidity) you may be able to get by a little longer with a new thermostat (or without thermostat at all awaiting for the part). Cleaning and degreasing the timing cover will be instrumental in the duration of the fix (use top quality, fresh silicone) of the gasket moving (I personnally would not cut it, rather use it to push sealant under). Conversely you may try metal epoxy (caution with the viscosity of the stuff depending on the gap width, not to push drops of it into the sump - you can have a look with the cam cover removed, though not much access).

make sure you monitor fluids level and aspect after you restart. If all is back to where it was before (the way engine starts and runs, noises etc) you may not have to get the head off immediately : both approaches would be considered as road fixes, but may last a summer if all else is fine.

std disclaimer : use at your own risk (just like the car itself...)
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:12 pm

I would not worry about that piece of gasket. Get it started and check everything first!!
1. Noises - In particular piston slap. Most pronounced when engine is cold.
2. Coolant loss and mixing of oil and coolant
3. Check the compressions. Low compressions may mean scored cylinder walls.

If 1), 2) and 3) are ok then worry about the gasket. If 1), 2) and 3 are not ok you are going to have to strip the engine anyway so not worth trying to fix just the gasket.

Usually if an engine stops due to seizure serious harm is done. It seizes due to the piston skirts over expanding and jamming in the bores. The engine may free up after it cools but the piston skirts and bores usually end up scuffed or scored and with excessive piston to bore clearance - hence the piston slap.
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PostPost by: JamesRattenbury » Tue Jun 25, 2019 7:29 pm

Hi All, I thought I'd update you as to my progress. I used the nail varnish on the outside of the timing belt gasket and put some silicone gasket goo over it as suggested, I replaced the thermostat and topped the coolant back up (it hadn't lost any during the overheating event). Just started her up and seems to be running fine, no piston slap, smoke or anything else so far. Took her for a short 10 minute drive after letting the car warm up on the drive, and had no issues. Oil pressure was between 40 - 45psi, temp hung around 90 degrees C. I kept the revs low and didn't take her above 40 mph.


Will do the compression test at the weekend (when I have an experienced pair of hands to help, as I've never done one before) and keep an eye on coolant and oil levels, plus any signs of smoke from the exhaust.


Many thanks for all the help again, I'll let you know how the compression test goes.
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PostPost by: alan.barker » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:39 am

alan.barker wrote:Hi craven,
I've done the same with the Silicon several times and it works very well.
I would say with the overheating the car was run with coolant level too low.
Is there a recuperator bottlle fitted to the Rad overflow pipe.
Alan
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