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Valve seals equals engine out and top end rebuild?

Discussion in '308/328' started by tdskip, Aug 27, 2021.

  1. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    Hi folks, hope everybody’s had a good week so far and is into their Friday evening.

    I looked at a 1981 308 today that started right up but puffed a little bit of blue white smoke in the process of starting. And then let the car sit for about five minutes and when I started it again there was much more smoke but it quickly cleared. No bad noises, good oil pressure, responsive throttle.

    From my reading here and trying to educate myself this appears to be a fairly common valve seal issue, but I’m hoping to see if that sounds right to more experienced owners and also get a sense of what that would cost to fix.

    I believe that this is an engine out top and rebuild, and I’m sure the while you are in their items add up very quickly. Wood $15,000 give me a decent working budget for this assuming nothing else was problematic? I am in sunny California as I know cost will vary by region.

    Thanks in advance for the help.
     
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  3. lm2504me

    lm2504me Formula Junior
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    Aug 26, 2004
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    Did you get a PPI on the Ferrari? Miles on car? Compression readings for each cylinder?
    How much oil showing on the dipstick? Service records come with the 308?
    Personally, I do not buy a Ferrari 308 unless it has the service records and doesn't blow a lot of smoke out the exhaust when it starts up.
     
  4. smg2

    smg2 F1 World Champ
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    Just a quick heads up... Parts are getting very hard to get. Valve guides for example.... Can't get em...
    There's a massive breakdown in supply chain right now.

    $15k... Depends on the shop really. But that's a very tight budget and things will be deferred. If you're doing the work and out sourcing, machine work... That's a good budget.

    Engine R&R, head removal, recondition. And honestly since it's out.. Perfect time to address hoses and other things. It really does come down to condition and service history.
     
  5. ginoBBi512

    ginoBBi512 Formula Junior
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    Oct 9, 2016
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    Why dont you buy a 308 that has a good motor, and use your money to refurbish the suspension and whatever else it needs. If these cars are cared for properly, they can do 100 K miles without blowing any smoke, my 89 328 has 104,000 miles and runs like it did with 20k .

    Thank you
     
  6. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    First of all thank you very much for the responses. This is really a fantastic community, thanks for letting me take part.

    Some background here may help – I didn’t sit out today thinking about buying a 308, I was actually at a dealer looking at a Jaguar E-type and saw this out of the corner of my eye and was instantly smitten. The advice you offered of buying the best being ultimately cheaper than not doing that makes all the sense in the world to me and I will follow that advice, but I appreciate the feedback on the specific mechanical issue as it helps me learn about the cars.

    This particular car has clearly had attention paid to it and overall presents as a side driver but I think the reason it’s for sale is the owner didn’t want to deal with the rebuild. The oil was full into level, still clean, and the filters another service items on the car look to be recent. my hunch is that it went in for a service and the owner got some bad news and decided to cut it loose rather than dig deep and fix it.

    Thanks also for the heads up on parts availability, I’ve been pretty lucky so far and that a frontloaded any major work needed on the other vintage cars that I own and manage to bypass shortages but I know that’s a very real issue now.

    I am learning that unlike what I’ve been able to do with some of the other cars that I have bought and had to wake up or do non-trivial body or mechanical work before enjoying that this is not the space to do that in. I like doing my own work and feel pretty comfortable that I could do a good job looking after one of these but I understand the need to be very cautious about considering any car with needs.

    So back to the specific car – 6 to 9 months and $30k would be the more reasonable estimate assuming nothing else’s seriously wrong. And yes, I understand that a PPI is mandatory on this or any other car that considering.
     
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  8. 308 milano

    308 milano F1 Rookie
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    Jan 15, 2007
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    One thing that Jumps out at me is that you said “ the oil was full to level.”
    Don’t remember on my 2 valve engine but on my 4. valve to check the oil you start it, let it run for a while then shut it down and wait 10 minutes then check level. Seems that anytime you check the oil level when the car‘s been sitting a while it is always below level. Makes me wonder if someone overfilled this engine? some of what I am saying here is probably incorrect because I’m going off vague memory.
     
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  9. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    interesting, I will have to dig into that. it is a two valve car, built in Nov 1981.

    I am totally new to these cars so I would not be surprised if I drew wrong conclusions here. thank you for the consideration.
     
  10. mike996

    mike996 F1 Veteran

    Jun 14, 2008
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    Well, if it blew smoke as you described, and the engine oil is not considerably overfilled, you did not draw the wrong conclusions.

    Strictly speaking, valve seals can be replaced without pulling cylinder heads. Whether that's a good idea depends on some other testing. If a compression test AND a leak down test showed good results, just replacing the seals is reasonable. Admittedly, the necessary access to the front cylinder head to do this is..uh...minimal. ;)

    As has been noted, these engines seem to be able to manage considerable mileage so it's quite possible that the problem is simply the seals have become brittle or cracked and no longer seal properly due to age alone.
     
  11. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    Good morning and thanks for the response Mike. The car shows 41,000 miles so there should be a lot of life left in it if it was properly cared for to this point, that is the roll of the dice.
     
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  13. smg2

    smg2 F1 World Champ
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    Yes it is... And the odds are not exactly in your favor.
    81 injected was nothing to write home about. They got neglected over time, the early carb'd ones being favored for driving and the later QV and 328 for power and refinement.
    81 had engine recalls, but not all had that done. Many are oil burners, the piston of the day was also a 4 ring version, low compression.
    It quickly becomes apparent that once there's something that needs attention that requires taking the engine out and apart... Best to plan on a std rebuild/refresh. You don't have to go hotrod crazy. But the costs do add up fast.

    Find the best example you can of the 308, it'll cost but it's always going to be cheaper then a project one. Or one that needs a comprehensive engine service.
     
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  14. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    Excellent coaching, thank you.
     
  15. AZDoug

    AZDoug Formula 3

    Jun 17, 2009
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    Yes, esp with the hotrod crazy.

    -----> As long as its out, why not a 360 cranks, and 85 MM Nikasil liners, and bigger cams and of course hi comp pistols,and lets replace the worn syncros, and new gearbox bearings of course, and stainless valves with larger intake, and some head porting, and those webers need to be completely overhauled down to the throttle shaft bores.

    Gee, the clutch and throttle cables look worn, need to be replaced, as long as the engine is out replace all the coolant lines and the oil cooler lines as well, lets clean the gas tanks inside and out as well, since the engine is out.

    Hmmm, the steering rack is just little sloppy, call up TRutlands for rebuilt rack, as long as the rack is out, lets change all the suspension bushings and ball joints. New rotors also, get the calipers rebuilt, and also the master cylinder, power booster diaphragm as well since the master is out.... since we have the control arms off, the Konis should be overhauled, new CV joint boots too, but 911 boots are the same and cheaper, so we will use those.

    The costs add up very fast that way. OTOH, you have an almost new car when you are done. With about 120 more HP that it came with the from the factory. :) Its only money, right?:eek:

    Doug
     
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  16. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    Italian tune up?
     
  17. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    How long has the car been sitting? How long since used regularly? Like most of us after sitting for periods of time there are a few grunts and growns to get us going too...

    Yes the 2V engine had a history of oil consumption and blow by. 40 years later most if not all those engines have been seen to or replaced back in the day.

    Lots of people here always seem to be the sky is falling, puff of smoke ...break out $20k ;)

    No question some shop is gonna tell you "ticking time bomb" unless you pay me $20k to fix it.

    Could be a real issue, yes.....could be lack of use also. Drive the thing 2K miles like its supposed to be driven and if the problem still existing then lose sleep over it.
     
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  18. kcabpilot

    kcabpilot Formula 3

    Apr 17, 2014
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    Not sure how you could possibly replace valve seals with the head still on the engine. It ain't like a pushrod Chevy, valve springs are inside the tappet bores.
     
  19. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
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    Tom
    Thanks for the follow on responses.

    If I already owned the car I’d probably just drive it, but as a potential new purchase it seems prudent to consider what the likely cause is because it will have to be addressed at some point. It would be an uncommon shop indeed that didn’t suggest diving in to address any/everything.

    I don’t know how long it has been sitting, basically zero documentation on the car. It is entirely possible the rings could just need to be heat cycled or...

    Hope everyone is having a good weekend.
     
  20. derekw

    derekw Formula 3

    Sep 7, 2010
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    The guides are quite soft and wear (mine were loose at 36k miles) which can lead to the sodium-filled exhaust valves dropping in. You can use the rope-down-the-plug-hole trick to change the stem seals but space is tight. At least with the valve springs and cap off you can wiggle the valve to check for wear.

    If you can’t do the work yourself, plan to do the heads at an experienced shop and price the car accordingly. Don’t change the guides, get them lined with K-line sleeves— many shops will fit new guides the standard way and sink your valves into the seats. I still have some solid 21-4N valves (£10) and viton seals if you need some (also available from Lee at SI valves and from Ferrea.)

    I have a ‘61 OTS E-type and unlike Enzo, I think the 308 is prettier.
     
  21. kcabpilot

    kcabpilot Formula 3

    Apr 17, 2014
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    Really? You've done that? I'd like to see how you get those springs off and back on again, especially the 5-8 bank.
     
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  22. Skippr1999

    Skippr1999 F1 Rookie
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    Dec 22, 2009
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    This is common on 911s and to a degree these cars. Blowing a bit of smoke at startup for a car that has been sitting for a while is normal for cars this age. It can also be a bit worse during winter due to lower temperatures and contraction of tolerances.

    If the puff of smoke clears quickly I would not consider it anything worthy of tearing into the engine. Get a compression and leak down test to see what is serious vs. normal for a old car.
     
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  23. derekw

    derekw Formula 3

    Sep 7, 2010
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    Paul I haven’t done the rope trick on one of these engines and as I said, space is tight. Given that some people pull the front head in situ, it might be possible— someone who has tried it might comment. The few times I’ve done it I fabricated a lever to fit onto a stud or two with a piece of pipe to press on the caps and a hole in it to remove/replace the keepers.

    I would do the rear bank first and if any guides loose, pull both heads. Tom may have decided to skip this car already.
     
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  24. greyboxer

    greyboxer F1 World Champ

    Dec 8, 2004
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    This feels a far more rational response than an internet diagnosis of the engine needs stripping
     
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  25. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
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    SoCal
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    Tom
    Good morning gentlemen, appreciate the continued dialogue here.

    My trepidation here reflects the non-trivial cost of getting the diagnosis wrong and also just not being familiar with these cars, I don’t want to try and catch a falling knife.

    It was a significant enough amount of smoke that seems to directly line up with the symptoms of the fairly common valve guide issue that I wanted to flag it right away, I’ve decided I’m going to let this car sit and look at some other options but if I come back to it it will be with a full PPI to better pinpoint what’s going on.

    That said I’m not sure how well a leak down which flag valve see your issues?

    Internet diagnosis of mechanical issues is always a bit of an in precise thing, appreciate the good-natured responses and cooperative approach as I educate myself here.

    Thank you.
     
  26. tdskip

    tdskip Karting

    Aug 25, 2012
    89
    SoCal
    Full Name:
    Tom
    Oops - should say “valve seal issues” above.
     
  27. jgmblair

    jgmblair Formula Junior

    May 27, 2010
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    Jeff Blair
    My experience is EXACTLY the title of your thread, no internet diagnosis just reality. My advice is, unless you are capable of doing the service yourself ie pulling the engine, removing the heads etc. I would not dive into a Ferrari without a detailed service history. I had planned on doing the stem seals, complete gasket kit, water pump etc, but ended up with the heads off, 5 new guides, new head gaskets etc. My cost for parts and machining was in the 3k range and remember I’m not including labour. I would think any competent shop that actually services these cars will be in the $160-$180 per hour range so things can get expensive.
    A good service history is a great insurance policy in my mind!
     
  28. GordonC

    GordonC F1 Rookie
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    Aug 28, 2005
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    You’ve said this twice, but I’d question your base assumption that there is a “common valve guide issue” at all. I’ve owned my 308 for 8 years, have been reading the forum for 15 years, and I’ve never got the impression that valve guides are a common issue fo 308s.

    For oil burning on the 80-81 injected 2 valve cars, the issue was rings and clearances, enough so that Ferrari had to replace a significant percentage of engines under warranty - but not due to valve guides. The only noteworthy valve issue, with the 2 valve engines until 82, were the sodium exhaust valves which can break. Again, no valve guide problems. Of course some engines might have guide wear due to mileage etc, but not enough to be considered a common problem on 308s. If you were talking about 355s, then definitely there was a common valve guide premature wear problem - but not for 308s.

    Regards,
    Gordon
     

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