Replacing the Head Gasket on a 1994 Honda del Sol

We knew what was wrong with the del Sol as soon as it started blowing sweet-smelling white smoke out the exhaust pipe: blown head gasket. I confirmed this when I removed the spark plugs and ran water into the coolant system with the garden hose. Water started flowing out of the spark plug well of cylinder # 4. Is it worth it to replace the head gasket on a car that has 260,000 miles on it? I'll find out.

I'll follow the instructions in my old Chilton's manual and get help elsewhere when needed.

Everything connected to the cylinder head and intake manifold has to come off. I took pictures of the engine compartment from several angles so I will know where everything goes when it's time to put it back together:

Many items came off easily: hoses, electrical connectors, the distributor and spark plug wires. Even the exhaust header nuts and bolts came off without issue after first spraying them with PB Blaster:

The fuel injector electrical connectors have a retaining clip:

Pick it out with a sharp object like a nail:

The fuel feed line to the fuel rail was a puzzler until I looked it up on the internet. Use a big wrench to loosen the bolt at the end of the rail:

Then the fuel line comes off easily:

Here is an "after" picture so far:

The exhaust header was being stubborn. I removed the nuts from a bracket behind the engine and I separated the rear pipe from the front pipe:

The front pipe still would not budge, which usually means I did not remove all the bolts. Correct. There was a bolt up front that secures the front pipe to the bottom of the engine block. After I removed the bolt I was able to wiggle the header pipe out and set it on the floor. The hidden bracket is circled in red:

Valve cover off:

Here is a closeup of the timng belt. It has to come off:

It looks new, but I have never replaced it which means it has at least 100,000 miles on it. I better change it.

This view of the rocker arms shows oil in the second exhaust port:

Golden machine, but it needs fixing.

Here is another view of the timing belt:

It goes down into the depths of the machine. Stupid machine. I will have to take more stuff off, as if I have not taken enough off already.

Air conditioner belt off, and I removed the motor mount. The real motor mount is right under this one. It's holding the engine weight.
The one I removed is, I believe, an anti-torque mount that keeps the engine from rotating. The mount and the bracket in the center of the photo below have to come off in order to remove the old timing belt:

To get at the last bolt on the lower timing belt cover, I had to remove the air conditioner belt pulley and swing the belt tensioner towards the front of the engine:

The intake manifold is bolted to a bracket. I loosened these bolts from underneath the car. One is removed in the photo below:

To get the crankshaft bolt off, I looked in my "auto tools" bin and found a brace I had made when I replaced the timing belt on the green hatchback:

Here it is in action, with the big torque wrench and pipe extension. With this huge lever, the crankshaft bolt came loose without a problem. The right tools for the right job:

By the way, the photo above shows the right side motor mount. This mount holds up the engine. I did not have to support the engine when I removed upper mount.

With the crankshaft bolt off, the crankshaft pulley came right off. No puller needed. Here is a view of the old belt from below:

I forgot to align the crank pulley to the timing mark on the timing belt cover so I put the pulley back on and turned the crankshaft until the mark was up on the pulley and the camshaft was aligned with the word "up" up and the marks on the cam pulley matched the head. I'll have to recheck these marks when I reassemble.

I loosened the tensioner pulley (the smooth pulley above the crankshaft in the photo above) bolt a half turn and slipped the old timing belt off. You can see the belt is off the picture below. Ready to unbolt the head. I loosend the head bolts one at a time according to the Chilton's manual. Start at the ends and move towards the center. These bolts were tight, required the big torque wrench and a lot of force:

With the bolts out, the head came loose without much effort. My son helped me lift up the assembly because I thought there were maybe a few things not detached yet, and it was true. A hose and an electrical connector were still attached underneath the throttle body. Here is the assembly on the bench:

I unbolted the intake manifold and turned the head over to look at the old gasket. Sure enough, the gasket was blown in the circled area below:

Here is a close up of the gasket:

I scraped all the bits of old gasket away from head using a piece of flat aluminum bar, wiped the surface several times with degreaser and PB Blaster:

Here is the block after cleaning. Notice how smooth the exposed cylinder walls are. No visible scoring. And it looks like hot antifreeze is a good cleaner for pistons...

Here is a straight edge on the cleaned head. It looks dead flat to me.

Could I clean every thing better? Maybe. I don't have a parts cleaner. The whole head could use a bath, but I'm going to throw the engine back together. It has 260,000 miles on it. My gut feeling is that something else will fail before the head needs work again.

I bolted the intake manifold to the head using a new gasket, then my daughter helped me set the assembly on the block with the new head gasket. Here I am trying to reattach the exhaust header. You can see the new gasket on the studs:


(Funny how this page is about installing a head gasket and I forgot to take a picture of the new one... It's not only the goal that is important. Getting there is at least half the fun.)

Got the header on with my son's help. I inserted the lower bracket bolt but I didn't tighten it yet. I tightened the nuts in a criss-cross pattern, spreading out from the middle:

I also put the bolts on the intake manifold bracket, also not tightened yet. Then I was ready to bolt on the head. I brushed the old bolts with engine degreaser and blew them dry to clean them Then I soaked them in motor oil before inserting them into the head:

I tightened the bolts following the reverse of the pattern used to loosen them. Start at the middle and go out to either side, successively increasing torque. First snug, then 22 ft-lbs, then 47 ft-pounds:

I attached several hoses, electrical connectors, accelerator cable, return gas line, injector wires, and I attached the exhaust pipe underneath, and I tightened the intake manifold bracket bolts. Still more to connect, but I wanted to do the harder stuff first. I bought a $20 water pump since our other Honda with this model engine had a water pump leak at this age. Here is the old one. It's driven by the timing belt which is why I'm replacing the pump now.

Old pump, new pump:

Four little bolts and an alternator bolt must be removed. Here is the pump housing.

A mostly painless exchange.

To install the timing belt, the crankshaft and camshaft have to be correctly aligned. The crankshaft pulley has a timing mark on it. It must line up with an arrow on the case. The pulley is lined up in this picture but we are not looking straight on to be able to see the alignment:

At the same time, the camshaft pulley has to have the word "up" on top and the lines on the sides of the pulley must be aligned with the top of the head:


I had to do this twice. Even with everything lined up, I was off by one tooth on the first try.

Put everything back on. Not hard and it's easier than taking everything off, but it takes time.