The pain of getting good head work done...

Joined
Aug 9, 2003
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As you know, I've had the 97 sitting in the garage headless. I went ballistic over the weekend and lost it. The head has been sitting at the race shop virtually untouched for 10 days as of this morning. Ten freakin days!!!

Over the weekend, a buddy who owns a big shop in town returned from a trip and I asked him what to do. He said "Get your head out of that shop and bring it to this shop in Spokane, WA". So at 7:59 this morning I walked into the race shop, found the head in 30 seconds and walked back out. Total elapsed time less than 45 seconds. Went back in and left a note on the owner's desk asking him to send me a bill for his cleaning and diagnosis, then followed up with a voice mail to him.

At 8:30 I dropped it at a huge shop that does nothing but cylinder heads in Spokane, about an hour's drive across the border. They took a look at it and reckon it can be welded and they will contract with a highly specialized welder who's reputed to be the best in the NW. Then they'll get it back from him, do a complete head service, valve job, resurface, pressure test and call me to come get it. While I was talking to the owner, several heads were dropped off and the counter guy would look at the clock, and say "OK sir, we'll have that ready at about 11 o'clock today". By the time I left, another 10 heads had been dropped off and the times were up to 2:30. This is a big freakin shop, and their professionalism impressed me. All they do is cylinder heads, thus their name "Cylinder Head Service." That's it.

So, another course change on what has easily become the most troublesome mechanical repair of my life. It was somewhat mean spirited for me to just grab my head and leave, but honestly I can accept that since I gave them the benefit of the doubt and got nothing in return. The parts they've been waiting for may well come in today, but I've seen enough to know that my head was not in good hands. Clearly, it is now and I'll be sleeping well tonight. Gonna cost me 50% more, but that also adds the complete valve job including valve grind and shims so I can live with it.

What a clustermuck this has become.

DougM
 

Biff

 
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Getting good head, is hard to come by you have to look long and hard for the right person to do it.:D

seriously though, I'm glad you're able to move forward on this. I'm sure a lesser wrencher would have gone crazy by now.
 
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I thought you all had decided that welding was not the way to go and that drilling/taping was best. I thought that is why your head was at this particular race shop in the first place, no?
 
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If done correctly welding or pinning will work equally well. I have welded many heads, including welding up spark plug holes and machining them in another spot. This crack is in a relatively unstressed water jacket, should be no problem.
 
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Biff,

I liked the mechanical pinning repair because of the reduced stress potential, frankly. But it is tricky to do, and when the head went to this shop I was convinced based upon my impressions and the owner's approach that they were capable of it. With more information on that first impression, I am fortunate that I'm open minded enough to use that new information and changed my mind. I'm concerned about their ability to do it correctly.

At the new shop, they're using a guy from a company I've heard of called FabTech to do the actual welding. The owner of the shop I dropped it off at is their best welder and he's extremely good, but he immediately said "this is one for Jake". Before he arrived at the counter, the counter guy (#2 at the shop) had told me that the owner was extremely good but whenever he has something tricky it goes out to this guy. I was pleased the owner immediately made the call to have a full on expert do it even though he is a head welding specialist himself. That takes objectivity. That takes pride in workmanship. And that's who I want making calls on my truck's head.

So, given the choice of a mediocre pinning job, or a weld done by a serious grand poobah master - I'll take the weld. He's also going to simply weld over the plug hole as providing the strongest structure when he's done, which someone here recommended. I told the owner this truck gets seriously worked at times and he seemed to get it completely. How much you want to bet this head will be done the same day they get it back from the welder??

DougM
 

turbocruiser

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Dec 24, 2003
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Doug, just for what its worth, this is starting to sound totally similar to my major head hassles on my classic coupe ... all the same explanations, excuses, etc. Honestly, at this point, the thousand dollars to dan for a fresh head is much more peace of mind than you can actually afford to waste with working this thing too much more. Step away from the frustration and simply see that throwing this money at this head is the wrong way to fix things. Again, JMHO, in the hope it helps.
 
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The title says it all: The pain of getting good head...

Good luck with that ;) :D, really, I hope the welding turns out to be the permanent solution for ya :)
 
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Turbo,

I hear what you're saying. If the guys at this big head shop were the least bit hesitant this morning I was prepared to toss it and call someone for a head. They weren't. Just another cracked head for them and they were certain it would hold up fine in that "we do this all day long, but understand how you feel" way that made me comfortable. I repeated that I run the engine hard at times and he met me on my own terms by pointing at the growing pile of heads from every garage in town that were coming in the door and explaining that in a typical week they fix over 50 heads and they reject only 1 or 2 as unrepairable. Mine was not even close to that category. The unsaid point he kindly did not say was that they certainly don't need to get my work because of a business slowdown....

Unlike your multi crack extravaganza, this seems straightforward.

I got quite an education watching the parade of heads come through. While waiting for the owner, I asked about a pair of Ford 4.6 V8 heads and was told they end up doing a lot of them. There's an area with a coolant passage that is stupid thin and it cracks. He then showed me the spark plug threads and how there are only 4 threads deep to engage on the head. Because of this incredibly stupid design, these engines are known for blowing spark plugs right out of the head! Yep, they can fix that too. And weld and machine the thin spot (which he said is more difficult than what they're doing on my head) without wrecking it.

Informationally, my head will be worked on while it's at 400 degrees. This prevents the localized thermal stress of welding on it. They slowly bring it up to 400 in an oven, then pull it out and weld the crack. That's why I have to have the entire head job done - they take everything out to bake it. Then it will get a full inspection, valve grind, install my Toyota stem seals, recheck flatness and resurface the gasket surface, pressure test, and a freakin partridge in a pear tree....

DougM
 
Joined
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IdahoDoug said:
Informationally, my head will be worked on while it's at 400 degrees. This prevents the localized thermal stress of welding on it. They slowly bring it up to 400 in an oven, then pull it out and weld the crack. That's why I have to have the entire head job done - they take everything out to bake it. Then it will get a full inspection, valve grind, install my Toyota stem seals, recheck flatness and resurface the gasket surface, pressure test, and a freakin partridge in a pear tree....

DougM
I think you will be happiest in the long run getting the entire thing reworked - if nothing else it will be something less to worry about in the long run. Good luck - is this shop in the Valley? I hadn't heard of it until now.

John
 
Joined
Nov 8, 2004
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IdahoDoug,
Glad to see your persistance is beginning to pay off.
Good move on the bad vibe, don't look back.
Sound like you are in good hands now.
I have always thought it worth a little trouble to make good connections with people that take pride in there work.
It like the old saying goes, you want to eat out where you have to wait.
If theres not a wait then the food is no good.
 

e9999

You want to do what...?
Moderator
 
 
Joined
Sep 21, 2003
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wait until you get the $1,000 bill from the first guy for his "evaluation" work...
Don't they also charge a "storage fee" per day...?
:eek:



:D
 

honk

 
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e9999 said:
wait until you get the $1,000 bill from the first guy for his "evaluation" work...
Don't they also charge a "storage fee" per day...?
:eek:
:D

and a summons to court for breach of contract....:cheers:
 
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Yeah, I thought about that. Unfortunate for him that when I got home I found the paperwork he filled out for my head in the factory service manual I lent him. All of it, including the original. Along with the 14mm allen tool I lent him for the plugs. Along with the valve stem seals I provided him. And when I brought the head to him, I had drawn a line on the crack with a permanent marker.

So, yeah he want all out and deserves a bunch o' money. But I do agree there's potential. However I'd rather be in a position of strength (head firmly bolted back on my 97) than standing outside his store yelling.

Believe me, I hated to do it but the handwriting was on the wall. I also liked the guy - we yakked about several things we had in common. Heck, I'd still enjoy drinking a cup of coffee and hanging at his shop. But I've got two businesses to run and a couple kids that need running around town, and next summer when I'm running hard towing over a pass I don't want to wonder how adept he really would have been at stitching that head.....

DougM
 
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