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Thread: Oil soaked engine bay

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    Jedi Knight nevets's Avatar
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    Oil soaked engine bay

    Driving on a twisty country road in Litchfield CT on a gorgeous fall day and suddenly droplets of oil appear on the passenger side windshield. I open the hood and the underside is dripping with oil and the right side of the engine is soaked along with the distributor, firewall, wire harness, etc. It's a mess! Engine is running fine, solid oil pressure and normal water temp. My wife tells me I probably need a new washer under the thingy on top. Actually, I think her diagnosis is close to correct. So after mopping up the oil, I tighten the two nuts on the alloy valve cover, which seemed insufficiently torqued, and hope for the best. All appears well for twenty minutes then the oil spray returns. I drive it home ok. I suspect that it is the stock cork valve cover gasket. I just ordered a silicone replacement. Hopefully this will fix the leak? I seem to recall reading a similar thread on this forum. Now what's the best way to clean up the mess...my wife suggests a spray solution of dish detergent and water. I'll give it a try.

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    Jedi Knight vette's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Since I do a lot of Auto painting I would end up using the typical panel "Wax and Grease" remover that I use before I paint. with that and a lot of paper towels I would just meticulously wipe it down. There are many spray on grease removers that you would spray on and then rinse with water. The professional grade such as Gunk engine cleaner comes to mine. Two issues with that are that when you spray down with water you would want to be sure to keep the water out of vital stuff, like the generator and the distributor. But it can be done without too much trouble with careful light, focused spraying and also if you wrap such components in plastic. The other down side to a flush wash method of cleaning is that all of the "stuff" will end up on the ground. So precautions such as cardboard under the car and maybe newspaper will help.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    I could be wrong but something other than the valve cover gasket might be the culprit--usually leaks under it are not as dramatic. In any case I would suggest that you positively ID the source and solve that problem before moving along to cleanup.

    Most of the reports I have heard on the silicon gaskets have been negative and cork gaskets, if properly applied, will definitely supply an oil-tight seal. There are various approaches but I like to glue the gasket to the valve cover with yellow peril (it also comes in black) and then use a good non-hardening sealant such as Hylomar or Ultra gray between the underside of the cork gasket and the top of the head. It is vital to have a flat surface, as much as possible, on the valve cover and it is easy to put it on a piece of glass to judge its flatness.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Lemans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Jedi Knight vette's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Silicone gaskets aren't always the "cats meow" to stopping leaks. They can work fine, but sometimes they don't. I have reverted back to cork gaskets in most cases and I use the cork gasket with a thin smear of Black RTV gasket maker sealant on both sides of the gasket. You can use gray RTV gasket maker as well. And now there is a green RTV gasket maker used where there is EP Gear lube present. But don't use clear silicone gasket sealer. It is junk and is degregated by oil and gasoline. When using the RTV gasket makers it is important to give them time to cure. In my mind that means 24 hours or at least overnight. Their packaging will lead you to believe that you can put the parts into service right away but if you really want it to last, wait overnight. Also on installation, let the stuff set up a little before mating the surfaces and then don't over tighten. You just need to get the pieces to be a good snug put together then the RTV will do the rest.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Use Dawn hand dish washing detergent and a drip pan to collect the mess for disposal. Dawn is used by volunteer and professional crude oil spill clean up crews, particularly on waterfowl. So your Healey would be in good hands. No suggestions on oil leak source. What condition is the oil line - it's under pressure - and, unless nicked from outside, they tend to degrade from the inside like brake hoses. Also, check oil filler cap, gasket(s) let go here too. GONZO.

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    Luke Skywalker RAC68's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Hi All,

    For one, I have installed a Silicone Valve Cover gasket from Alexander Racing (http://www.gasketinnovations.com/ind...healey-gaskets) and have had great success in stopping VC leaks dead. As I understand, this organization makes each gasket to order and I have suggested that I would also purchase the side access plate gasket if they also produced them (not at presently produced).

    Michael, for the vast amount of time I have owned my Healey, I have used cork VC gaskets and, because of the small cover/head lip, have only a small % of success total stopping oil leakage. I don't know where those providing you with the negative feedback are purchasing their gaskets, but I would suggest they consider trying Alexander Racing's product before drawing any conclusions.

    By the way, I would agree with Gonzo in the use of DAWN to get rid of the spilled oil.

    Just my thoughts,
    Ray(64BJ8P1)

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    Yoda
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Shower caps--like the ones some motels 'include' with the room--are great for covering carbs, distributors, etc. before an engine wash.

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    Jedi Warrior roscoe's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Did you run it while looking at it, revving it a bit? With that much oil so suddenly I'm with Michael above. It'd be nice if it was your valve cover gasket but oil all over the bonnet bottom seems unlikley unless there was some pressure behind it. I'd think oil would have to be gushing out the valve cover to get blown all over like that.

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    Darth Vader steveg's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Scrubbing bubbles work really well, too, for removing crud from the engine compartment.

    With the cork valve cover gaskets -- I have a plate glass table top which I like to glue the gasket to the VC with weatherstrip adhesive and place the assembly on a piece of wax paper on the glass tabletop with some books on top and leave it for 24 hrs. I have a Ray Juncal finned valve cover, which is flat on the bottom. Last time I followed Bob's advice and used Permatex aviation form -a-gasket to glue the gasket to the VC. At first this seemed like it wasn't working but it sets up a bit after a few heat cycles. The glass tabletop ensures the bottom of the gasket is flat.

    Then hylomar between the gasket and head. It's always better to glue the gasket to the movable part (i.e. the valve cover) instead of the fixed part (cylinder head).
    Steve Gerow
    Altadena, CA, USA
    Maker of most complete Big Healey rear disc kit
    Check out my galleries:
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    Yoda
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Steve,

    If I'm the 'Bob' you're referring to, I would have recommended 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive--aka 'yellow snot' (or the black equivalent)--as I've never used anything but that for gluing a cork gasket to a valve cover. I use blue silicone RTV for the other (head) side. I do use Aviation Form-A-Gasket on most paper gaskets, however.

    Be mindful of the type of sealant/adhesive you use. Some stuff--like Permatex 'Right Stuff'--is almost impossible to remove. My engine builder sealed my BJ8's pan with that stuff, and I literally damaged an elbow trying to saw the pan off when I cracked it. Supposedly, there are some photos on the web of an SBC hanging from its intake manifold after someone used that stuff to seal the manifold to head surfaces. Unless you want permanent attachment, stay away from that stuff.

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Bob--

    I'm glad I read your post regarding "The Right Stuff". On a whim, and because it comes in a dispenser that looks like it would be handy to use I picked up a tube of it a few weeks ago but have yet to use it. Searching around on google verifies what you say: Don't plan on easily separating the joined parts.

    Which leads me to wonder: where would I want to use it? It's one thing to join together two parts that hopefully should not separate--as for example bonding fiberglass body parts to a ladder frame or the like. But if we are talking about components that have a gasket between them there is a definite expectation that they will at some point need to come apart without having to destroy one or both.

    So in what application, I wonder, is this stuff really "The Right Stuff"?

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Lemans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Darth Vader steveg's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Yeah Bob - I actually have had a generally great experience with Form-a-gasket. Apologies if I misunderstood your recommendation.

    I generally used weatherstrip adhesive on the VC side and hylomar on the head side. The Form-a-gasket, however, worked fine once it had set up a bit.
    Steve Gerow
    Altadena, CA, USA
    Maker of most complete Big Healey rear disc kit
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    Yoda
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    When I mentioned my problem with the sealant, my mechanic, in his thick Kiwi accent, said 'Well, that was not meant to ever be taken apart' (or similar). But, pans do have to come off sometimes--as you know, of course--so I'm not sure what the solution is. The 'Right Stuff' definitely seals well, and there's a grey version that may not be so tenacious, but I'm leery of using it (my Mustang's pan appears to be sealed with it). I found a good used pan on eBay, but fixed the crack in my pan and reinstalled it, using a cork gasket and a different type of RTV, to take a short trip and danged if I didn't hurt the other elbow trying to get it off. At least, when using a gasket you can slice the gasket and scrape the goo off afterwards, but it was still a bear of a job. This might be a good use of the Aviation Form-A-Gasket, as that stuff seals well and kind of glazes, so it's usually easier to scrape off. In theory, the gasket alone should be sufficient but with most of our pans, and VCs having been over-torqued and warped it's hard to get a good seal. And, oh, BTW, the last couple cork gaskets I've gotten from Moss didn't have all the holes punched; no biggee, just annoying.

    I like the 'yellow snot' to glue a cork gasket to a VC, as it remains somewhat pliable and 3M Adhesive Remover works well to remove it.

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    Jedi Trainee red57's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    I always use Form-A-Gasket to glue the cork gasket to the valve cover using a flat surface and weight on it for a day as Steve describes, but I never use anything on the bottom of the cork. I have never had leak and I can take the valve cover off any time I want without destroying the gasket.
    Side cover and oil pan cork gaskets get a coating of Form-A-Gasket on both sides, let tack and then assemble - they never leak but I admit they are a bear to remove and clean up.

    Nevets, I don't think what you describe is likely from a bad valve cover gasket unless your rocker shaft & rocker bushings are quite worn - if they are in good shape, there should be very little oil floating around inside the valve cover. I don't know just what but some kind of pressure leak like the oil line running to the tach drive below the distributor or....?? Anyway, it seems to me it would take something like that to throw enough oil to create the mess you describe.
    Dave

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    Darth Vader steveg's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Paint remover also removes old adhesives.
    Steve Gerow
    Altadena, CA, USA
    Maker of most complete Big Healey rear disc kit
    Check out my galleries:
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    Great Pumpkin Keoke's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    I had that problem once and it was from crankcase pressure?????
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Don't know if its a pressure feed but the line between the dizzy tower and the block on my car developed a similar sounding leak, the banjos had become mishapem with age and use and thee copper seals were passed their best. New annealed seals and reflagged banjo faces fixed it. Regarding cleaning I've found Hyper Clean made by Comma to be the best. I always use it withe the engine running sprayed on with a hand bottle then gently washed down with a hand hose. Following it up with a water displacing spray like duck oil or GT 40.

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    Jedi Knight nevets's Avatar
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Thanks everyone for reading my post and offering good suggestions. I guess it was wishful to think it's something as simple as valve cover gasket. I will clean things up enough to see if I can spot the problem. As others suggested, it may be from a pressurized source?

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    Yoda
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    I'm leaning towards pressurization, too. Long ago, I bought a couple of the foam air cleaners for my BJ8 ('Evenflo' or something like that). They had holes on the backing plate, and came with plastic plugs and 90deg elbows--with a smaller ID than on the stock filter--for the crankcase vent hose. I installed them, plugged the hole on the front carb, ran the crankcase hose into the elbow on the back carb, and took off on a long trip. Less than 100m into the trip, I got a mist of oil on the windshield. Popped the bonnet, and sure enough there was a film of oil everywhere. Spent the whole trip--600m--trying various means to seal the VC, and eventually ruined it by over-tightening. Sourced a good used VC, put the stock air filters back on and problem solved (sort of). When I got K&N filters, they didn't have any holes for the vent hose, so that's when I went with a PCV setup.

    I think the top of my head, where the VC sits, tapers off on one corner; that's why I put a small bead of RTV on the bottom of the gasket.

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    Luke Skywalker
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    Re: Oil soaked engine bay

    Gunk, good stuff but it removes the shine off some paints. Mostly enamel paint can't take the chemical.

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