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Old 02-24-2017, 05:56 PM   #1
gtsouth
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Helicoil? Spark plugs/rocker arms

Okay. I am doing a lot of work to my 17 year old 256,000 mile car. The last time the spark plugs were changed was well over 100,000 miles ago. I don't believe that the shop that did it used any anti seize. One plug in particular was very hard to get out even after days and days of different penetrating oils and trying to turn in both directions. I finally took my large breaker bar to it and it still was not easy at all. So I have some threads to fix. I would like some input on doing this. I know there are helicoil kits but has any body used the inserts? I only just heard about them and they seem pretty slick. I'm not sure if there is a kit for the 3400 or if a universal will work. Also I've read some posts about not using steel inserts in aluminum but aren't all helicoils stainless steel? So I don't see why it wouldn't work. One more question since I'm on the helicoil topic is about the rocker arm bolts. I'm not to the point of reinstalling them yet but it looks like they strip easy. So any pointers on new threads if needed would be great too. Thank you.
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Old 02-26-2017, 06:29 PM   #2
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I would probably look for new heads if they are that bad. With the mileage that you have, it might not be a bad idea to look for a lower mileage engine.
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Old 02-27-2017, 03:06 PM   #3
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geldartb has made plenty of valid pointsgeldartb has made plenty of valid points
heads are cheap for these things. i'd buy a different set with that miles. but like suggested i'd look for an engine with lower miles..

a different engine will probably be under $500
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Old 02-27-2017, 03:18 PM   #4
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Ok. That is not answering my questions at all. I'm not buying another engine. Or new heads.
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Old 02-27-2017, 05:28 PM   #5
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I think they are trying to say you shouldn't helicoil a spark plug for the reasons you stated about different metals. If i were you i would look at as many options as possible before doing anything. I'm not familiar with all of the issues you are having but if you are having issues it may be time for a refresh or low mile swap. If your dead set on not tearing the motor apart and want to helicoil I suggest calling a machinist to get some of the details from a trusted professional.
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Old 02-27-2017, 05:33 PM   #6
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Well I actually do have it torn apart. The heads are off. I've already spent a few hundred on all new gaskets, bolts and a few other new parts. I can't afford to buy new heads. There wasn't any signs of my head gaskets being bad and after inspecting them neither one was blown anywhere. Thank god.
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Old 02-27-2017, 05:39 PM   #7
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So I think my engine has a lot of miles left in it. I'm just refreshing it. I've taken apart and cleaned all of the lifters, cleaned the rockers and push rods (all strait) nothing has abnormal ware on the top end. I've owned the car for 14 years and put 200,000 miles on it myself so I know what most of the history is. So that's good I guess. New heads would be great if I had the money. It's just not in my budget. I just wish I had changed those plugs a long time ago. It seems like the one that was really hard to get out was probably cross threaded.
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Old 02-27-2017, 06:09 PM   #8
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Greg is right, have a machine shop do the HeliCoils. They normally charge about 10-15 per hole and would be done right. The TimeSert inserts the you are refereeing to, I personally have not used them, but as far as what I was told by WOT Tech, they are the best, but will cost a lot more to do. Your best bet would be to do the rocker arm bolt holes as well as the spark plug hole. All that would cost you about 180-240. TimeSerts would be about double that.
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Old 03-04-2017, 04:46 PM   #9
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This project seems scattered across several threads...

At a quarter million miles and showing coolant emulsion in the oil, repair of that unit is a gamble. The bearings are guaranteed worn; to what extent is unknowable without teardown. If OP is a gamblin' man, more power to him, but don't be surprised if she's a knocker after putting it back together or develops a catastrophic failure soon after.

The heads are unlikely to be in specification in terms of deck surface flatness. If the unit has never been overheated, it is certainly possible they may seal up just fine.

The valve components WILL have wear. The seats will be recessed, the seats and valve faces will have pitting. The stems will have wear, both on the tips and along the stems (narrowing of shaft). Excessive wear of a valve tip or rocker tip can cause a tapping noise. The guides will not be round. The valve stem seals will be hardened. Spray brakleen or something similar down the ports to see how badly the valves leak. Disassemble the heads -- a cheap C-clamp type parts store spring compressor is the only SST needed -- for inspection. Poke the valves off the seat a half inch or so and wiggle to learn how far guide/stem wear has progressed. If valve guide replacement is foregone, at least fit new stem seals. Scrutinize the valve seats and faces for improper margin on the cuts and pitting. Paint the cleaned seat surfaces with sharpie and rotate the valve on the seat to attempt to check the contact. If valve/seat regrinding is foregone, at least give them the courtesy of hand lapping with compound. Wash the heads thoroughly with hot water and degreasing soap to remove all compound, then wash them again to remove the compound that didn't come off the first time.

An exhaust leak at the manifold -- such as occurs when the bolt heads pop off from thermal cycling stress -- can produce a ticking noise that often replicates a lifter noise. That is not to say, of course, this unit didn't make all kinds of other ticking noises from all kinds of other places.

Just get new lifters. Especially if they have been disassembled and reassembled already. If a lifter tapped before, taking it apart, spraying it with brakleen and reassembling it (probably with a now-bent retaining clip) didn't fix it.

New head bolts with factory applied sealer should be installed dry into clean, dry hole threads. It is preferable to chase the holes with a tap first. Bare head bolts are typically lubed with clean engine oil -- refer to service information -- and installed into clean hole threads.

HeliCoils -- at least the ones commonly found in parts stores -- are stainless. TimeSerts are manufactured in several materials including 303 stainless. Installing stainless thread repair devices in an aluminum casting will not cause problems (at least from a materials compatibility standpoint). HeliCoils can -- and are -- commonly used to repair spark plug holes. While repair failures do occur, it *is* a viable repair option; HeliCoil kits can even often effect a useable repair on the troublesome Ford Triton heads (they like to blow plugs out of the castings while the engine is running). A TimeSert is a superior option versus the HeliCoil. Both can be installed DIY, but care and patience must be exercised.

Clean the schmoo out of those valve covers! Accumulation in the baffling can cause PCV problems, possibly including oil consumption.

Avoid the temptation to clean gasket mating surfaces with with 3m cookies on a right angle die grinder. While lots of guys do clean this way with success, surface conditioning discs *do* remove material and it is quite easy to ruin the flatness of a sealing surface this way. Aaron's advice of using a plastic scraper is the safe route, but that often won't get surfaces completely clean. New single edge razor blades held by hand (don't stick it in a scraper) are superior, but poor technique or carelessness can still cause surface damage.

The pitting around coolant jackets is a very common occurrence. If the pitting does not prevent an clean, uninterrupted path around the water jacket, it can probably be ignore after properly cleaning the area. The pitting on the rear of the right head (the picture with the oil pump drive in the background) looks rather bad. Ideally, excessive pitting mandates replacing the casting (or welding new material and machining back to original dimension, although this would not be cost effective here). Many successful repairs of pitting have been effected by filling the area with epoxy (JB Weld is commonly used; 3m panel bonder 08115 also seems to work pretty well) and leveling back to the original contour with a file; use caution not to file away any base metal. When the Series II 3800 was still GM's passenger car workhorse, a great number of lower intake repairs involved epoxy resurfacing with success. Beyond that, get out the ultra grey and hope for the best.

Best of luck.
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Old 03-04-2017, 05:50 PM   #10
gtsouth
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Thank you for all off the info. I guess I am gambling a little considering I'm not doing a thing to the bottom end of my engine and reusing the heads. But that is what is in my budget for now. All of the push-rods were nice and tight except one. I do have a new lifter for that valve. All of my parts have been cleaned thoroughly and all new gaskets are going in from the head gaskets on up. I successfully got the broken exhaust manifold studs out of the heads and I used the OEMTools Fix-A-Thread inserts for the spark plug threads. I'm going to flush my coolant and change the oil. After I change the oil I'm going to use seafoam or some other cleaner then change the oil again. I'm sure there are parts in the valve train that are worn but hopefully I can get more miles out of my engine. All of the rods are strait and non of the lifters look worn. So that is a good sign I guess. My car has never overheated and the head gaskets looked good. The LIM gaskets on the other hand looked like crap. (OEM) I now have Fel-Pro everything. I can say that my motor has always ran very well without a noticeable loss of power. I have always thought that I got some kind of a special 1,000,000 mile motor or something. . I will look at the valves and do what you said. Again I do appreciate all of the advise and I wish I could do more to make my motor stronger but what I'm doing will have to work for now. I hope.
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Old 03-05-2017, 09:01 AM   #11
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I have not read all the posts, but I'll share some input. I had a 94 Grand Am with a 3100 years ago. Around 120-130K miles, I had a plug hole strip out. I used a "Save-a-Thread" kit (I think I got it from Advanced Auto, but I believe each store has a kit like this by a different name). My dad and I did NOT remove the head. We oiled the tap, took it in part way, removed, cleaned, re-oiled. Once we were all the way through, he rigged a thin hose to a shop vac and we did what we could to clean metal shavings (if there were any).
We put it back together per the instructions for the "Save-a-Thread" kit. Never an issue. I changed the spark plugs again later in the life of the car and even did head gaskets at 180K miles. Sold the car with 215K miles, still ran flawlessly. Never an issue with the heli-coil from the "Save-a-Thread" kit. That kit was designed specifically for spark plug and other thread issues.
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Old 03-20-2017, 08:40 AM   #12
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I also put a sleeve in the middle back plug that i stripped. been in there a long time and no problems. maybe doing plugs and wires soon so i'll see how that holds up.
my biggest concern when i did it was i put it in a little too deep... i also tried to vacuum out the chips and tried the cotton rope trick but i don't know if it helped or mattered.
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