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Copper head gasket advice?

Discussion in 'Technical Q&A' started by RayJohns, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. RayJohns

    RayJohns F1 Veteran
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    Just wondering if anyone here has first hand experience when it comes to using copper head gaskets on a street car.

    I know it's used in drag racing and high performance / forced induction motors, but I was considering using it on my daily driven Toyota.

    Right now, I'm re-building a motor for my Toyota truck (only about 140 HP, stock compression ratio) and I was thinking about using a copper head gasket in place of the OEM one and I'm not really looking to use a MLS one. I was thinking of using a solid C110 copper alloy gasket, which I would anneal myself prior to use. I would also use some sort of copper coat spray to help seal coolant passageways. In searching around on Google, I noticed a few people have used them on Ferrari motors, so I thought I would check in here and see if anyone has any first hand experience.

    If so, what's been the results as far as long term use? Also, did you O-ring the block and/or head or just go with the gasket itself?

    Also, does surface roughness become an issue when using these? Is a crazy low RA required or can you simply anneal the copper and have it work fine with just a cleaned up block deck? Or does it always require resurfacing the block in order to seal properly with or without copper sealant?

    Any input would be appreciated. Ideally from people who have first hand experience doing this themselves and/or with a motor which has had it done.

    Thanks!

    Ray
     
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  3. RayJohns

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    Okay, I think I answered my own question with this video here:



    Ray
     
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  4. MerlinTech

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    I am wondering why change at all if it is stock compression? MLS would be my choice.
     
  5. RayJohns

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    To provide better longevity, since it would be able to handle high HP but it's largely stock.

    I'm not a big fan of MLS just yet.

    Ray
     
  6. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

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    Better longevity in a Toyota motor? Is there some record of head gasket failures in that specific engine family?


    Sorry but going to the aftermarket to seek better longevity in a Toyota motor sounds like lunacy.
     
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  8. RayJohns

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    Hey Brian!

    It does seem like there are head gasket failures on the 22RE when rebuilt. I think it relates to people not doing the work correctly and/or using head bolts twice, etc. etc. My thinking was maybe use something setup for forced induction but on a stock motor - such as O-ring the block or use a copper gasket of some sort from SCE (they have one with an O-ring sandwiched in).

    Also the OEM 22R head gasket has a metal layer on it which I think might require a lower surface RA than some of these guys are achieving when they do home mechanic rebuilds. I'm going with a composite gasket from Japan (Stone) to help sealing. I was just wondering if some sort of copper option might work better but I think I'm going down the wrong road here :)

    Ray
     
  9. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

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    For standard applications, no one but no one does headgaskets better than the OEM.

    If it was for a Ferrari motor that requires $700 + head gaskets I get shopping around but not at Toyota prices. But then I do not like experimentation. Customers expect better and its too expensive.
     
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  10. RayJohns

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    I hear what you are saying and I agree with always going OEM is best - and that's what I do. But in reading through a lot of the forums, it seems the OEM Toyota head gaskets give people more problems for some reason than some of the full composite ones. That is part of what led me to consider the copper stuff. So just tossing around options here.

    Fel-pro has an interesting MLS gasket called a permatorque, but never tried it.

    The head gasket on the motor now is OEM and someone else did the rebuild before I bought the truck - and that failed.

    Have you ever done copper on any high performance Ferrari stuff or anything other than OEM?

    Ray
     
  11. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

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    I have seen them used but only by the clueless. With wet liners a Ferrari deck is not flat. A solid gasket will not let the liners imbed in the material allowing the rest of the surface seal various water and oil passages. Worse still is because of that the head distorts and allows worse leakage and valve leakage. It usually involves several tubes of silicone sealant applied with a trowel. I have taken them out and returned to conventional head gaskets.

    Many American iron/iron motors used solid metal embossed gaskets and on those it works very well.

    If Toyota makes those head gaskets work and others cannot I'd be determining what is not being done that Toyota is doing.
    In most cases doing it their way is the best way to go, especially when the company has a name for reliability that Toyota does.

    Don't reinvent the wheel. Figure out how Toyota made it round.
     
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  13. RayJohns

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    Yeah, I'm with you 100% on that - and I totally am on board with the "Toyota OEM does it best".

    I don't know the answer as to why some people are seeing the OEM head gaskets fail while something like a Victor head gasket seems to work fine. I suspect it's due to deck / head surface finish and average roughness levels. Either that or perhaps improper torquing or something. On my block I chased the head bolt holes (which was quite a job given the state of the holes) and that make a huge difference as to how far and how well the head bolts threaded down. I suspect most people don't go to those lengths.

    I'm going to use a composite gasket, since I think it will allow for more flex between the aluminum head and cast iron block. I'm uploading a video to my YouTube channel in a while, which shows some of the block and gasket stuff. I'll post a link here later if you'd like to check it out. But, like you, I'm sort of curious why people are running into issues with the factory Toyota OEM head gasket failing so rapidly. I suspect it's due to less than perfect machining and/or mechanical practices along the way at some stage of the reassembly phase.

    Myself, I am going to torque the head bolts a little above factory specs (63 ft lbs vs. 58 ft lbs). I believe Toyota has a TSB regarding using higher torque at one point, so I am going to follow their lead and up the torque a bit as well as checking it at 500 and 1000 miles (and re-torquing). I was going to run ARP head bolt studs, but they are on back order too long for my project. Also, I'm not re-boring the short block, because - despite some discoloration - everything looks fairly decent. The block was bored over at some point by .020" and appears to largely be in good shape. Compression was good prior to the gasket failing, so I am going to just put a new head on and change the camshaft, etc. Also, this motor only has to last me 3 or 4 years, as I'm going to build a 2RZ or 3RZ motor to replace it.

    Anyway, I'll upload the video and link it here in a while.

    Ray
     
  14. MerlinTech

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    I built a modified Toyota engine for a off road truck and I used ML head gasket and aftermarket head studs.
    No problem, and it was not stock. It had compression and big cam and port work with aftermarket intake and big carb.
    The head studs or bolts hold the vale train as well. There may be some issue there with people having to go back and make a change to the valve train and loosing the studs or bolt causes and issue. Just my guess.
     
  15. INTMD8

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    I have a lot of experience with copper gaskets and o-rings. I find they are a lot of trouble and much prefer MLS.

    If you have a stock toyota truck blowing head gaskets, it's not because of the gasket.

    If my quarter million mile 22re ever needs one I will use oem.
     
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  16. RayJohns

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    Here's a video which shows what I'm dealing with as far as my Toyota (I've cleaned the deck surface up further, since this video).

    Normally I'd pull the short block and machine it, but from what I have measured, it appears to be pretty good as far as roundness and taper on the cylinder walls and everything. The motor had good compression when I took the head off, so I don't see much need to rebore over and replace pistons, etc. It currently has .020" oversize pistons in there, so someone must have done a rebuild on it in the not too distant past.

    Also, I don't want to dump a lot of money into this, because I plan to build a different motor in a few years for this pickup truck. So I mainly wanted to just put on a better cylinder head and camshaft and also, of course, a fresh head gasket.

    Again, I'm with everyone on always going the Toyota OEM route. However, in this particular case, the OEM head gasket has a metal surround, which I am not super fond of. I was going to use the Stone graphite composite gasket pictured in the video, but after further research and speaking with the engineers at Fel-Pro, I have decided I will probably go with their Perma Torque head gasket. Brian, I'd be interested to know if you have ever tried any of those yourself.

    Initially I was not going to use the PermaTorque line, because I was under the impression they were all MLS style gaskets. However, in researching on-line last night, I discovered that Fel-pro also has a non-MLS style PermaTorque head gasket available for the Toyota 22RE, which isn't the Multi-Layer Steel (MLS) design. In speaking with Fel-pro this morning, they also informed me that the PermaTorque gasket I'm considering uses Kevlar, so I like that a lot, as I've had really great luck with things like Kevlar clutches, etc. Also the PermaTorque gasket uses a PTFE (Teflon) material which withstands aluminum vs. cast iron expansion/contraction better than the graphite composite (such as the Stone mentioned in the video).

    Anyway, here's the video of the truck:

    Ray

     
  17. RayJohns

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    Oh and I talked with a friend of mine who has built a lot of motors and he said he did try using some copper gaskets once and that they work but leak all over the place. He mainly does ITC racing, but he said for street copper is pretty much a no-go.

    Ray
     
  18. RayJohns

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    Just wanted to follow up a little here...

    I was double checking the flatness of the deck on the block a minute ago. I calibrated my machinist's ruler on my granite surface plate just now (surface plate was at 65.3 degrees) and it shows everything is nice and flat. Using the rule in three or four positions on the deck surface, it's pretty flat.

    As shown in the attached picture, in the blue and green orientations, I'm unable to get a .001" feeler gauge under the rule or even started, even without any pressure on the top of ruler (i.e. just sitting on the block). In the red orientation, I did notice I can get about .002 under, but with a little adjustment of the position, then it drops back down to less than .001" - so I think there is some corrosion at the very forward left / front edge of the block perhaps. I'm going to see about addressing that later tonight.

    Overall, the deck seems to be in pretty good shape, given what this poor motor has been through.

    Ray


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  19. RayJohns

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    Here's some information I ran across on one of my favorite Toyota forums... and when I spoke with the engineer at Fel-Pro this morning, they basically confirmed what was posted here.

    The info came from this forum here:

    https://www.yotatech.com/forums/f116/head-gasket-discussion-fel-pro-answer-slipper-plate-design-305726/

    Here are some other discussions I was browsing as well, last night:

    https://www.yotatech.com/forums/f120/1985-22r-head-gasket-fiasco-266729/
    https://www.yotatech.com/forums/f116/headgasket-101-discussion-22r-22re-220124/

    Yotatech.com usually has pretty good info regarding Toyota Pickup trucks in my experience.

    Ray

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  20. 1monza

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    Don't try to fix something that isn't broken. I doubt you know better then the Japanese engineers. Those head gaskets have been proven by millions of engine built.
     
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  21. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

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    #18 Rifledriver, Jan 15, 2021 at 3:25 PM
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021 at 3:32 PM
    In that whole you tube thing no mention of how or where head gasket failed. Or a good picture showing failure point.

    Put straight edge side to side in front and behind every cylinder. I have seen heads get a trough down the middle and webs between cylinders sink from distortion.
    Blocks or heads do not always warp over a long area. Poor castings or designs or localized heat can cause a very localized problem.
     
  22. RayJohns

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    Thanks for the input.

    I'll check those areas on the block later.

    As far as the video, when I made it, I wasn't really focused on the previous gasket failing as much as just a general update on things. Also, someone prior to me had dumped in head gasket sealer, so everything was a complete mess when I pulled the head off. Most of the water passages were totally clogged up. Also, when just going through the truck in general, it was pretty obvious that the person working on it was either a very bad mechanic or someone who didn't really know much. I ran into a lot of cross threaded bolts and stuff. It's a miracle that I made it home in the truck after I purchased it.

    As far as why the original head gasket failed, I am not sure. I looked for evidence when I took it off, but it was such a disaster it was really hard to make heads or tails of things. I'll look again, but I couldn't really see too much. The gasket just seemed to have come apart in some areas.

    Ray
     
  23. RayJohns

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    Okay... Japanese engineers aren't flawless, any more than anyone else.

    There have been lots of technological advances in materials since 1990...

    Ray
     
  24. RayJohns

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    Hey Brian - I made a video for you showing the head gasket. Let me know if you spot anything I missed. That goes for 1Monza too! :)



    Ray
     
  25. RayJohns

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    Well, upon inspecting the block more tonight, using Brian's "across in front and back" (and all over the place) method, I discovered that there are some areas which are up around .002" or so. So I'm a little concerned about that. I'm going to work on it tomorrow a bit more and see what can be done. I've got a granite surface plate here (which I was going to use to hand scrape the bed of my mill) and I was actually contemplating hand scraping the deck of the cast iron block to knock down any high areas. I need to order some Prussian blue, but I'm wondering if this might not be a good idea to help ensure sealing.

    Ray
     
  26. RayJohns

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    Brian, this one's for you :)

    I laid up the deck with blue Dykem, since I don't have any Prussian Blue handy. Dykem is about 3/10,000th of an inch thick (typically), so that's roughly 30% of the .001" that I'm aiming for. I'm using my machinists rules to lightly brush across areas which I believe have small high spots (found by being able to rock the ruler in certain orientations). So by brushing sideways, it should knock off the high spots of the Dykem Blue and show me where there are slight irregularities on the deck surface. I may or may not also try using my surface plate with some fitting blue, but for now I'm going to see if this Dykem method will help improve the flatness of the deck surface.

    I may also take my surface plate or rule and setup a little track and run one of my height gauges along to see where there are high or low areas, etc. That might actually be kind of interesting.

    Anyway, 3:00 am, so I'm going to knock off for the night. I'll get back at it tomorrow.

    Ray

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  27. pshoejberg

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    You have too much time...I wish my problems were in your league..:D

    Best, Peter
     
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  28. Rexcat458

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    Hello Ray,

    Just thinking out loud here... What’s the certification on your surface plate? A, B etc? Is it relatively new? Also, have you cleaned the surface plate before taking your measurements? When doing precision metrology, everything has to be very clean and within spec. If you’re using a lower grade surface plate, did you account for it’s allowed deviation?

    Could you rig up a Noga arm and an indicator to sample the top surface (using the bed traverse on your vertical mill) instead of using the machinists level? Over time these can loose their accuracy as I found out recently. Just thinking out loud again, as I’m late to this thread and I may be all wet with my suggestions... If I am, I will accept a digital slap upside my head...

    Cheers!
     

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