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Old 06-08-2018, 07:24 PM   #1
candyman
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Default Opinions on white smoke

Hello all,

I was hoping to get the consensus of anyone willing to give it. My wife's 02 Saturn SL1 which I rebuilt an engine and swapped it into her car to replace her tired motor two years ago just started to blow white smoke on start up only. It started recently within the last month, but began loosing coolant 3 months ago of which I blamed the water pump since I could see drops of water beading below the water pump off the frame. In the last three months, the coolant got low enough twice to need topped off which I did to buy time till warmer weather. Then it started doing the white smoke on start up only, and it is the sweet white smoke of evaporated antifreeze. No it isn't cold enough here now to be just cold weather related.

I pulled the plugs yesterday after it sat over night and nothing pooled in the chambers. Nothing in the oil, but for the first time I found an oil film in the coolant overflow. I pulled the compression and the readings were erratic. It could be my gauge, but all in all, it averaged around 175 which is down from 185 after the rebuild. Yes I know 185 isn't stellar on a rebuild, but I didn't know how to account for it so I let it run. I also pulled codes P0340 and P0410 (inconclusive) and a P1599 from when it stalled on her after a start up. I don't know if the 1599 is related or not. Given the milkshake, I decided today to pull the engine and see what I could see. Also with the milkshake, I didn't pull the coolant pressure, figured there was no point.

I got the head off and don't see anything on the gasket out of the ordinary. Just the usual gasket material marks pulling apart as the gasket came off. No tracks leading between passages. I got the head off an ebay head machine shop with decent reviews. I don't know how to account for the fact that I have oil in the coolant and coolant getting into the combustion chamber, but no antifreeze in the oil. Is there a way the head could have cracked to allow that travel? Next step is pressure testing the head, but I am waiting for the ebay place to get back to me about the warranty coverage which is still in effect, 60 months warranty.

Any suggestions on other things to check at this point, am I missing anything? Unfortunately I didn't think to pull the coolant cap off while it was running to check for bubbles. I do suspect the over pressurization of the coolant with exhaust was causing the drip from the water pump weep hole but no proof. I'm guessing replacement of the water pump is in order after all this to be safe.

I thought the cracked head issue was mostly limited to 96 to 99 engines? Suggestions?

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Old 06-09-2018, 07:44 AM   #2
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Have the head magnafluxed to look for cracks. Also have it checked for warping. If none a new gasket properly torqued and you should be golden

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Old 06-09-2018, 10:43 AM   #3
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Thanks for the reply, now I know what to ask the machine shop for. I didn't know the term for pressure testing it was Megnafluxing it. I just ordered all the new gaskets and head bolts last night in preparation of it being put back together. Since the head is still under warranty, I will wait to talk to them before doing anything for fear of voiding the warranty.

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Old 06-09-2018, 01:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

If I'm not mistaken, magnaflux works only on cast iron, not aluminum.

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Old 06-09-2018, 02:10 PM   #5
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

correct. Magnafluxing is for iron engines....think magnetic.

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Old 06-09-2018, 03:03 PM   #6
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

A dye penetrant check would be the ticket here! Or if you are an awesome NDI tech with awesome equipment then eddy current is the way to go.

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Old 06-09-2018, 03:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

I got hold of the place I got it from today and mailed off the head for them to check it over. So they will run the tests I guess, we will see what happens. If it comes back that the head is ok, I don't know what to make of it since I saw no tracks under/on top of the head gasket. I had the block honed and deck checked by a local shop I trust when I rebuilt it. What else could it be but the head?

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Old 06-09-2018, 03:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

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Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
A dye penetrant check would be the ticket here! Or if you are an awesome NDI tech with awesome equipment then eddy current is the way to go.
I wish I had access to proper tests, unfortunately I'm just a weekend warrior doing what I can to keep my cars on the road. Any terminology you guys give me gives me more ground to stand on when talking to the place I got it from and any other shop. Thanks for the tips. So what do they call a pressure test then and what would that tell me? I thought that was what you did to check for cracks.

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Old 06-09-2018, 04:32 PM   #9
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Dye penetrant!. Or a good shop has a blanking plate so they can pressure test each chamber for leakage.

With a sohc you can have various leak paths over on the right rear corner of the block. There is a pressure line to the valve gear oiling system. You will not see these leaks unless you are actually looking for it when you first pull the head. The area of interest in your case is the camshaft journals in the #3 &#4 areas. The cost to test will exceed replacement costs.

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Old 06-10-2018, 09:57 AM   #10
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

1991-1998 Saturn 1.9L SOHC engines are crack-prone, due to a casting defect at the #5 camshaft journal area. Saturn has a TSB for this.

1999-2002 heads can still crack(as any head can crack), when the coolant level gets too low.

Coolant reservoir with oil usually means the head is cracked and due for a replacement.

Both engines are prone to a hairline crack in the head gasket, behind the #4 cylinder water jacket, which will cause an external coolant leal down the back of the block, and under the starter motor.

When you replace the head and install new gaskets, make sure to use 60% GREEN(silicate-based) ethylene glycol coolant, and 40% distilled water.

This will help prevent the replacement head from cracking, in the future, and prevent blowing out the head gasket from excessive swelling that is caused by the Dex-Cool orange.

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Old 06-24-2018, 09:22 AM   #11
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Just to give an update to those that may be curious what happened. I gave them a little more than a week and they didn't call me, so I finally called the head shop. They told me that the head pressure tested fine and that the seals looked good, nothing wrong with the head. Then he proceeded to tell me that it was normal for Saturns to smoke past the rings due to the lack of a drain back hole in the piston. I nearly died holding in laughter/frustration mixed together. I told him that I did drill the drain back holes and that it isn't oil that I'm burning, that it is coolant due to the white sweet smoke. That I have oil in the antifreeze and no antifreeze in the oil. I insisted that the head needed checked further for cracks around the 3rd and 4th cylinders. I referenced the note I put in with the head explaining it was burning coolant. After all that, he changed from trying to tell me that the head wasn't at fault to he would find a different head, rebuild it and send that to me, I just would need to pay shipping. At this point I don't care about the shipping cost, I just need this car back on the road. I hope the new head will put an end to my issues, I don't want to be tearing it back down again soon. Hopefully they don't rebuild that same head and send it back to me, should have noted the number on the head. They are at least standing behind their work and making it right, just not sure if it was office worker vs tech miscommunication that lead to it being passed off as oil burning or what happened. I am just getting tired of scootering in the rain, I want my car back.

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Old 06-24-2018, 10:03 AM   #12
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

www.car-part.com

Get a good head at a local yard.

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Old 06-24-2018, 10:29 AM   #13
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

As I posted above, head gasket leak. When doing the reinstall use a FelPro or Victor gasket only and follow this procedure to the letter. Both the head and block must be completely oil and film fre, wipe down several times with acetone.

SOHC head torquing procedure

Initial dry bolt torque in sequence to 48ft-lb following the torquing pattern in stages to 20ft-lb, 30ft-lb, and final 48ft-lb. This establishes the proper clamp load on the gasket.

This is followed by removal in about 1/4 turn in sequence until loose.

Bolts washers, threads and bolt heads are oiled with clean engine oil and reinstalled finger tight.

Torqued in sequence to 22 ft-lb then 33ft-lb and then additional 90 degree turn.

The 90 degrees is important so do not guess at the 90 degrees. You can eyeball it and use a 1/2 drive breaker bar and make the 90 degree turn in a single smooth motion.

If this is not followed the new gasket will end up leaking.

Torquing sequence
intake side
8-4-1-5-9
7-3-2-6-10
exhaust side

NOTE: oil with clean engine oil and oiled but not dripping.

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Old 06-24-2018, 11:34 AM   #14
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
As I posted above, head gasket leak. When doing the reinstall use a FelPro or Victor gasket only and follow this procedure to the letter. Both the head and block must be completely oil and film fre, wipe down several times with acetone.

SOHC head torquing procedure

Initial dry bolt torque in sequence to 48ft-lb following the torquing pattern in stages to 20ft-lb, 30ft-lb, and final 48ft-lb. This establishes the proper clamp load on the gasket.

This is followed by removal in about 1/4 turn in sequence until loose.

Bolts washers, threads and bolt heads are oiled with clean engine oil and reinstalled finger tight.

Torqued in sequence to 22 ft-lb then 33ft-lb and then additional 90 degree turn.

The 90 degrees is important so do not guess at the 90 degrees. You can eyeball it and use a 1/2 drive breaker bar and make the 90 degree turn in a single smooth motion.

If this is not followed the new gasket will end up leaking.

Torquing sequence
intake side
8-4-1-5-9
7-3-2-6-10
exhaust side

NOTE: oil with clean engine oil and oiled but not dripping.
I only use Felpro or Victor and I followed the install as you indicated, sourced from Saturn fans when I installed it the first time. The gasket I had used previously left the classic gray material on both surfaces that will have to be cleaned off. I would think if I had a head gasket leak, then I would see fluid transfer tracks in the gray textured pattern left by the gasket. Also, why would it suddenly appear after 2 years if it was gasket related install failure?

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Old 06-24-2018, 01:48 PM   #15
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Quote:
Originally Posted by candyman View Post
I only use Felpro or Victor and I followed the install as you indicated, sourced from Saturn fans when I installed it the first time. The gasket I had used previously left the classic gray material on both surfaces that will have to be cleaned off. I would think if I had a head gasket leak, then I would see fluid transfer tracks in the gray textured pattern left by the gasket. Also, why would it suddenly appear after 2 years if it was gasket related install failure?
Nuc is correct about the gasket leak between #3/#4 cylinders on these engines. I am not saying that is why you had oil in the coolant.

Oil pressures are higher than coolant pressures, which means you have a cracked camshaft journal. It will likely be the #3 or #5 camshaft journal that cracked, which are both located near the #3 & #4 cylinders, respectively.

The issues are from thermal cycling of this engine. The firing order is 1-3-4-2, which puts a lot of heat on the #3/#4 cylinders, especially with the EGR system operating off of those two cylinders, instead of the exhaust manifold(where it should have been placed).

The gasket will typically crack and leak down the back of the block, under your intake, when it cracks behind the #3/#4 cylinder water jackets. I have tore apart the stock DOHC in my 1995 SC2, and its junkyard replacement engine, and BOTH head gaskets had the exact same crack.

I used Fel-Pro for the cylinder head gasket kit, from Advance Auto, when I did mine.

Follow Nuc's torqueing instructions to the letter, as he is pinpoint accurate with the instructions in the FSM.

Follow MY instructions on the coolant mixture of 60%/40% GREEN with the SOHC engine.

I don't fully know why the single cams crack more heads, because they run a lot cooler than the DOHCs do. But, even the 1999-2002 single cams still seem to crack unexpectedly over their DOHC bothers & sisters.

I have only ever seen this phenomenon with one other engine, that shared similar engineering philosophy: The Oldsmobile 2.3L Quad 4

The Quad OHC would split every last cylinder head you put on it. The 16v DOHC would blow the head gaskets all day long, but somehow the heads would survive.

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Old 06-24-2018, 03:04 PM   #16
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Quote:
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I only use Felpro or Victor and I followed the install as you indicated, sourced from Saturn fans when I installed it the first time. The gasket I had used previously left the classic gray material on both surfaces that will have to be cleaned off. I would think if I had a head gasket leak, then I would see fluid transfer tracks in the gray textured pattern left by the gasket. Also, why would it suddenly appear after 2 years if it was gasket related install failure?
Good question as to why they fail late in life. There are answers but they are hard to understand. The common crack occurs in the cam journal first in from the left end of the head. Likely cause is a combination of a relatively thin area and a local hot spot.

Actually seeing the point of transfer between water and oil is sometimes difficult to impossible as when the head is removed in a few cases all evidence is also destroyed.

Oil in the water can occur due to a leak at the oil supply to the head. This is not always a high pressure point in the system so water can end up in the oil and the water and oil are very close to each other at this location. There will be clues but you have to look closely to see the failure.

When the cam is removed the journal crack is obvious.

One of the obvious causes of local hot spots is the buildup of mineral deposits at the junction of the head and the steel continuous flow line.

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Old 06-24-2018, 04:40 PM   #17
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

I can't check the head anymore since they have it, but I am tempted to post pics of the deck and gasket. From the foot print, I don't see how it couldn't show leaks the way the gasket left the gray material uniformly across the deck. Hopefully it was in the head and the new head will solve it. I always ran 50/50 prestone green concentrate/distilled water, I will switch to 60/40, but don't think that was the nail in the coffin. Seems to me that it had to be mechanical failure. The engine never overheated since the rebuild. I have no idea if they rebuilt the head with over-sized anything however, I wouldn't think so. For a crack to form in the cam journal, wouldn't it have to overheat enough that it would show on the temp gauge? I have never overly examined the chambers of the head to know just how close the oil is to the coolant. It had to be a pressure point though to show oil in the coolant and not the coolant in the oil. At the same time, it had to be a point that allowed coolant to enter the combustion chamber. Would the cracked cam journal allow this? I thought maybe a crack into the intake side?

Could someone elaborate on the dry fit of the head torqued to 45 ft/lbs, I don't think I did this. I acetoned the heck out of it, oiled the bolts and threads and torqued down appropriately.

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Old 06-24-2018, 05:33 PM   #18
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Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

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I can't check the head anymore since they have it, but I am tempted to post pics of the deck and gasket. From the foot print, I don't see how it couldn't show leaks the way the gasket left the gray material uniformly across the deck. Hopefully it was in the head and the new head will solve it. I always ran 50/50 prestone green concentrate/distilled water, I will switch to 60/40, but don't think that was the nail in the coffin. Seems to me that it had to be mechanical failure. The engine never overheated since the rebuild. I have no idea if they rebuilt the head with over-sized anything however, I wouldn't think so. For a crack to form in the cam journal, wouldn't it have to overheat enough that it would show on the temp gauge? I have never overly examined the chambers of the head to know just how close the oil is to the coolant. It had to be a pressure point though to show oil in the coolant and not the coolant in the oil. At the same time, it had to be a point that allowed coolant to enter the combustion chamber. Would the cracked cam journal allow this? I thought maybe a crack into the intake side?

A local hot spot is a physical location in the head cooling water passages where the flow velocity is close to zero. What happens is the local coolant temperature exceeds the boiling point at the bulk system pressure. This pressure varies from zero psig to about 10 psig. Using the nominal 50/50% mix, if it is actually 50/50% as most are 60% water and 40% antifreeze due to residual flush water in the system if a 50/50 mix is added to fill the boiling point will nominally be between 225F at zero psig and 260 at 10 psig. At the normal system operating temperature system pressure is close to 2-4 psig. At a local hot spot the coolant in contact with the metal forms small bubbles of steam that stay stuck to the metal, these insulate the metal and cause the metal temperature to increase. The bubbles eventually break free and collapse in cooler coolant areas. This local heating is what causes the local stress and aluminum is brittle and has a high expansion per degree of temperature change. The cam journal happens to have a rather thin support web so it cracks through the oil gallery.

Could someone elaborate on the dry fit of the head torqued to 45 ft/lbs, I don't think I did this. I acetoned the heck out of it, oiled the bolts and threads and torqued down appropriately.

The gasket must be compressed to approximately the final clamping force to properly size the combustion chamber sealing rings and the Kevlar-sealer substrate. If this is not done then the clamping force on the gasket is inadequate to compensate for shrinkage over time. It will be OK for some period but will eventually relax sufficiently to allow oil and water to intermingle or leak externally. The clue is oil on the top of the alternator mounting bracket.




These local hot spots are quite common in the small block V-8 engines. Aluminum cracks and cast iron warps due to this issue.

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Old 07-14-2018, 06:16 PM   #19
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2002 SL1
Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Just following up on the rebuild. I followed instillation instructions to the letter and used 60/40 antifreeze. She now has 5 miles on her and purring nicely. Since the low end wasn't touched and the upper end is just remaned (they rebuilt and sent me a different head under warranty), I assume the full lobe/ring/bearing break in is null and void. I stuck to the get it hot not holding any single rpm until the fan kicked on and off twice yet keeping it above 1000rpms. I changed the oil again although the pulled oil looked perfect, nothing in it, tempted to say it could still be used again. Fresh oil and the maiden voyage went smooth. Given the low impact rebuild, I don't think I need to have my wife follow the normal avoid any single rpm range for long stretches and idling. I think she should be able to just drive it normal at this point. Thoughts?

Edit: Old Nuc, you are dead on with your advice to stick to a good local rebuilder/machine shop. The new head came back with one of the rockers off the valve tap location. I unbolted the rockers and realigned it and torqued it back down. Then checked the other side torque specs and two bolts were not torqued down correctly. Maybe it was shipping but I doubt it.

Last edited by candyman; 07-14-2018 at 06:24 PM..

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Old 07-14-2018, 07:46 PM   #20
OldNuc
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Far Southwestern Iowa
Posts: 64,921
 

1998 SC2
Default Re: Opinions on white smoke

Shipping can knock things loose but it does not back out bolts. Mass rebuilds are a pig in a poke.

Car should be ready to run normally. That used oil works very well in the lawn mower.

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