Phantom Head Gasket Failure Symptoms

Guns of Brixton

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Team Mud,

I hesitate to post this, but hope steady hands will offer some advice.

My 200k mile ‘93 80 recently started presenting signs of a blown head gasket. Some facts of the case:
  1. persistent white exhaust smoke
  2. bottom of oil cap had a small accumulation of white froth
  3. on a cold start with the radiator cap off, radiator fluid rose and flowed over persistently
  4. small bubbles coming up from the hose in the coolant expansion tank
  5. general poor running / noisy engine compared to normal
I have a great land cruiser specialist mechanic who has looked the truck over. It has a known valve seal issue, and has smoked ever since I’ve owned it over the last five years, consuming around 1 quart of oil per two tanks of gas. This recent episode differed in the magnitude of smoke (read bad spy movie smoke screen) and the other new symptoms above. That said, my mechanic has tested the truck and is saying the head gasket is good. Compression tests check out - very good in fact. Chemical test on the coolant shows no combustion contamination. Coolant system pressure checks ok.

Perhaps this was not a head gasket failure, but I’m curious what others think. Part of me is inclined to move forward with the work, as it would fix my valve seals, and provide peace of mind for future multi week trips that I fear might really bring a head gasket issue to bear on a truck this age. Also don‘t want to expend funds on something that isn’t broken of course, though despite the test results, I struggle for a reason why the 5 symptoms above presented themselves, especially #3 and 4. Could this simply be a case of the perfectly cold and humid day creating this situation?

Thanks in advance for your insights.
 
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1. persistent white exhaust smoke - Smoke or Steam?

2. bottom of oil cap had a small accumulation of white froth - is the vehicle being brought up to proper operating temps where any condensation in the oil & crankcase is burned off?

3. on a cold start with the radiator cap off, radiator fluid rose and flowed over persistently - being a pressureised cooling system if all is in order and the thermostat closed as it would be on a cold start then this quite normal as the water pump is pumping the coolant and with no cap to hold it back will keep coming out

4. small bubbles coming up from the hose in the coolant expansion tank - Air in the system can cause this as well as a small leak that allows air to be sucked in elsewhere however you say cooling system checked 'ok'

5. general poor running / noisy engine compared to normal - is the poor running something recent ? when was the last major service? oil, filters, thermostat, valve clearances checked (cold), timing, plugs & leads etc?

With that much oil use you are probably exhibiting alot of pre ignition that affects performance and can result in a noisier sounding engine and pre ignition can contribute to HG failure
If I were you Id remove the head whilst its still going and re do all the seals etc on the bench. Piston tops will likely need a bit of a clean as well
 
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"---consuming around 1 quart per two tanks of gas"

One quart of what, oil or radiator coolant??

What does the smoke/vapor trail smell like?

Did the smoke/vapor change in character ie: did it go from blue smoke
to white sweet smelling water vapor?? Is the cooling system filled with a water/coolant mixture??

What tests has your mechanic done to rule in/out a bad headgasket?

You can collect and ship out a sample of engine oil to Blackstone Laboratories to get an EOA , Engine Oil Analysis. That can show unusual high levels of wear metals and the chemical signature of coolant/anti-freeze getting into the oil.

If you're in Northern VA OTRAMM has a lot of experience working on the 1FZFE, could give him a call or drive by if you're close.

 
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#1 I've never had or even seen another vehicle pump out at much billowing exhaust on cold startup. Around town, it continues to do so until the engine is *thoroughly* warmed up. No idea why, maybe it's simply a much larger exhaust system than average, accumulating more condensation that takes longer to evaporate, or more thermal mass cooling the exhaust causing moisture to condense after going through the combustion chamber.

#2 is completely irrelevant.

You say the mechanic did a chemical test. Was that on a cold engine? Maybe you have a slight leak when cold that seals up once the engine is warmed up.

Mobil 1 10W-40 High Milage helped with my valve stem seals. It's got more seal conditioners in it.
 

Guns of Brixton

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Smoke questions: Has always been white, not blue. In the 5 years I’ve owned the truck, it has smelled of a putrid, petroleum type smell. Really quite foul actually. On the recent issue, I swear it had that sweet coolant smell, but I could have been out of my mind. It differs from the norm in sheer volume without doubt. The coolant system has toyota red coolant with distilled water.

One quart of oil, not coolant - original post edited.

Oil Cap - could very well have been a case of not bringing the engine to temp LONG enough… but the engine was certainly at normal operating temp for a good 20 minutes or so.

General poor running / noisy engine Q: the truck has had a major tune up within the past 2 years. Plugs, wires, distributor, timing, other items. Last oil change was a few months ago. Did not do any valve clearance work.

Tests: pretty much what I said - compression, leak down, coolant system pressure, coolant chemical test - by the aforementioned mechanic. Agree a blackstone oil test would be defining, but assume if coolant is in the oil, then combustion chemicals are in the coolant so presumably the coolant chemical test is just as good.
 
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Burning a gallon of gas produces a bit more than one gallon of water. The temps have dropped and that water coming out of the tailpipe has become move visible while your increased attention has caused you to notice it more?

I did HG as PM and see no relevant oil consumption, which is nice, but I wouldn't recommend HG as PM to most folks. If the 80 has shoddy maintenance history, anticipated long and remote trips where reliability is important and/or you don't mind the downtime and costs ($$ and/or diy) them maybe HG as PM?

I'd lean towards trusting your mech. on this and assuming you don't have a HG leak. A blackstone test should help ease your mind and restore your confidence in the 80 while the oil @gummycarbs recommended may help with your oil consumption.
 

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