Cracked Heads And Torquing!



While, I am gallivanting around Europe it seemed like a good time to talk about Torquing. not Twerking, which is a slightly different thing. Both lead to tight nuts, and a .. oh lets not go there. This story is about my oil consumption issue that has taken over a year to figure out.

It all started a year ago when the “W” started drinking oil like a sailor. Like a qt a run. Now, we trouble shooted, oil brand, and yes a torqued down head. But what was it? We did a story on oil brands HERE

Over the winter when we delivered the boat to Katzs for her refinish we pulled the engine to go back to Dave VanNess and it was found that the head bolts were at 35-40 lbs, not the 70lbs they are supposed to be. But I had just torqued the head a month back and only used the boat twice. WTF? Was I nuts? And to top it off, the head gasket was a mess, and water had creeped into all sorts of areas. So. All was fixed, cleaned and made right.

She ran like a top at the Lake Hopatcong show. And when i got home, I noticed a touch of water on the head. mmmmmmm? And so it got larger, I tried some JB weld, which kinda worked, but Dave sent us a new head right away.

New, Old head came right away, but sat to see if other things fixed the oil issue.

And so that started a journey. Oil consumption was still an issue. Ugh. So remove the head

Getting ready to pull the head


Of the two cracks.

Yup, where the crack was is causing some issues for sure

How it looked at Dave VaNess’s shop!

Now cleaned up and new head gasket

OK, now we changed the head, and gasket, cleaned up the mess from just a month of running and kept going. She ran great and guess what. No oil consumption. NONE! Now, you would think this is what the story is about. No. Cause guess what. Each week after a run, I retorque the head, and slowly but surly they are all around 68-70lbs, one or another is 55 and I tighten. This past weekend I ran th e boat for 6 hrs. 4 one day 2 the next. And guess what. Oil consumption. Checked the head bolts. Mind you I have done this weekly since June! All 45lbs. WTF! So. here is the lesson. The crappy parts business is not just in the ignition parts area but also after market gaskets, pistons and all sorts of stuff. We are making due with what we can find and tricks to fix them. But lesson learned.

Ya can never torque enough. And yes the studs are new, incase someone thinks thats the issue.

I have a torque wrench on board and its a weekly ritual now even if I think its OK, in fact I now check every nut and bold. Yup, the manifold bolts had also slipped to 30lb and should be at 50. We forget sometimes that even in the factory manual they remind us to do this. In today’s manuals, no mention of torque, no mention of oil use. I suppose this is just one more thing that makes what we love to do, more of LIVING HISTORY, rather than reading about it in a book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes us appreciate those before us and the advancements that have been made. Even if its little things like torqueing a head.

30 replies
  1. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    WOW! Looks like someone didn’t magnaflux your head the first time. Always have vintage cast iron checked on an engine rebuild, manifolds, heads, blocks, etc.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    If the bolts are loosening that much, and that quickly, something is wrong. Are they rotating, stretching, or is the gasket giving way? I would start by carefully marking the bolt head positions so you can see if they are turning during use.

  3. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    I would say there is something wrong going on there too. Start by following m-fine’s advice. I think the studs are turning.
    I have not had any problems doing just the hot retorque after assembly.
    I don’t see the connection between the head gasket and excessive oil consumption. Perhaps someone will chime in and explain that one.
    I hope you get this sorted out, keep us posted.

  4. mike
    mike says:

    ok just thinking the mechanics of this thing here…how is torquing the head down stopping the oil consumption?….

  5. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    I always recommend torque it to 40 or 50 first. Then hit it at the final number, 70 in your case. Have a cold one then hit it again before you start it. Check it occasionally till all nuts stay. Will be longer with asbestos gaskets.
    If it was mine I’d install a thermostat.

  6. Ronald
    Ronald says:

    I think your head studs are past their usable life and are stretching out, I sold auto parts in the 70’s and 80’s there were some Fords that had head gasket/head bolt stretch problems so Fel Pro head gasket kit included new head bolts as the factory ones were only a one time use. If this turns out to be the problem you might contact ARP bolt company as they may be able to make up a kit for you. Im sure Van Ness knows of them. I am also at a loss as to why the cracked head would cause oil use? There are other things as in overheating, water in the oil etc. which turns gray but never seen one to cause this. Good Luck

  7. Ronald
    Ronald says:

    One more thought, are you possibly oiling the threads before you install the nuts and washers ? maybe they are supposed to go on dry and are loosening up after running.

  8. Alan Frederick
    Alan Frederick says:

    There’s a YouTube video of a Ford FH running with one head completely off and guess what, no oil consumption. Head gaskets are there to ensure there are no water or compression leaks between cylinders but, as far as I know, have nothing whatsoever to do with oil consumption.
    I remember going on a plant tour of the GM Tonawanda engine plant and the heads are torqued with air guns once, engine run on natural gas or propane for a minute, then off to the the auto assembly line. How often has anyone ever re-torqued a car engine. 300,000 miles later and they’re still going strong. Maybe lower compression from ring and valve leakage but usually no head gasket issues.
    To use that much oil, it’s either leaking it in the bilge or it’s an oil ring problem. The cylinder walls don’t look scarred so that’s not the issue. Got to be either the oil rings, the expanders, or the cross hatch pattern wasn’t compatible with the oil rings.
    It’s a little early for winter forecasts, but this sure looks like a snow job.

  9. charles carr chuckie
    charles carr chuckie says:

    from the look of some of the valves you have low compression in one or more cylinders cold fire in some cylinders will cause oil use because of uneven expansion check valve gap and make sure you do not have uneven temp in head

  10. Mark Edmonson
    Mark Edmonson says:

    For over 30 years we have used Superior Engine & machine in St.Clair, MI and have never had an engine come back, always pressured test,maginflux, and all new head bolts. Their are old school shop and never cut corners with these expensive motors.

  11. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    Sounds to me lie the studs are pulling out of the block. I would replace them all. Remove studs. Run a tap in the block to clean up the threads. Was break in oil used at first run? I agree with some of the other people. New studs! Install them with Loc tite, use a good Fel Pro gasket, spray well with copper coat, use new nuts and lock washers. It would not hurt to drain the oil out and put in some break in oil for about a run hour. sounds like you have two problems. After all that work. Run it and enjoy it.

    • Jordan
      Jordan says:

      NO Locktite on the threads, if anything use Anti-seaze. Don’t tap the threads, that just makes them weaker. Was a torque plate used when the cylinders were machined? Torque can effect how the rings are seating in or not seating.

  12. Matt
    Matt says:

    Studs are new, original head was magnafluxed and cracked after. With the new head, the rings have been able to settle in on two of the cylendars. We are taking it easy and giving it time. The engine is slated to be pulled this fall and gone through again, yes, rings. But, since it did get better with the torque thing, we can only conclude it has some effect. But, its an old engine, and no matter how well built she is, she is old, and metal can get weak and crack. All part of the fun I suppose.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      When are you going to learn your lesson that new does not mean a part is good? Lots of new parts are bad right out of the box. I would check and double check to make sure they are not getting looser without rotating (bolt stretch or gasket breakdown?). If they are rotating, clean (do not tap) the threads in the block and on the bolts.

      The oil consumption is more distressing. I am not sure I believe it is just the head and rings. I would consider getting a second opinion from another experienced engine builder.

  13. don danenberg
    don danenberg says:

    Might it finally be time to STOP calling this the ‘TRUSTY-W”?

    Old iron is just that, ‘Old Iron’,
    If you require that ‘Old Iron’ RUN, rather than be shown,

    You should expect repair?

  14. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    And now, one more from the peanut gallery…you haven’t said if the engine was burning oil via smokey exhaust or the oil was leaking into the water passage from a cracked head/block. Your exhaust would show oily residue out the cooling water if you have a crack between a water and oil passage. Also, have you shot the motor with a temperature gun to see which, if any, cylinders are running hot. Water passages from the exhaust/intake manifold to the block are notoriously irregular casting holes with built up rust that blocks those small passages causing hotter cylinder temps in the last one or two cylinders in the block. That could trigger myriad problems with irregular heating/cooling of cylinders. That’s why Sunnyland ACBS members worked with a casting firm to repro the M exhaust manifold with larger cooling passages mating to the block.

  15. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    lots of right on the mark helpful responses to a strange problem…I enjoyed all of the suggestions and found the all enlightening or maybe “reminding” in my old age case.
    Like most of the skeptics on the oil loss….I don’t see that coming from loose studs or nuts????? But, like me, she is old?
    John in Va.

  16. Matt
    Matt says:

    I appreciate all the help. But I need to point out, that the oil consumption STOPPED! I dont want to confuse things. Maybe I wrote it wrong. Once the head was tight, no oil consumption. Yes I used break in oil, and yes, we change it. This has been a small series of issues all created by me and being ignorant. Like zi had the timing off, or there was some stuff in the fuel that caused issues. All normal crap. The real topic is that I am far away from folks that get these engines like most of us. So its a learn as you go thing. From speaking to some, the head torque thing is normal with todays aftermarket head gaskets. But maybe its something more. Either way, its a story and fun to share.

  17. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    I do not want to sound like a broken record, but I have a rabbit hole (Pun intended Rabbit!) that no one else has gone down.

    IMHO I would NOT trust a KOBALT torque wrench!

    I know many of you will roll their eyes, but I have seen many techs chase problems over my 32 year career because they cut corners by trying to buy inexpensive precision tools only to finally realize that what you save in out of pocket expense you make up for in aggravation.

  18. John F
    John F says:

    I would just like to second that motion about the Kobalt torque wrench! Haha. And Matt I am with you on the experience thing as well. I make two mistakes for every fix. The key is in not repeating the mistakes!

  19. Speedy
    Speedy says:

    The first thing I would say is you have a ring or valve sealing issue. Before you go in it any futhure check the valve lash and make sure you have the recommended clearances. If the clearance is good. I would start looking at piston rings. Is the end gap Good? To much end gap will cuase sealing problems. Are the rings crome or cast iron. Crome rings don’t do so good in older cool running engine. Next are the oil control rings one peace or three peace rings. 3 peace rings have crome rails, this may be a problem. If the cross hatch pattern from honing is to fine ,this is a problem ,this goes for the honing stones as well. Too fine a stone or patern and the rings will not seat properly. The head bolts loosening is a problem in its own. I would replace all the nuts and studs to start. Going to ARP for standard studs is a little much. If it were rod bolts I say spend the money with ARP. CHECK the threads in the block to make sure the they are not rotten. If theses threads are soft as they softer are in raw water cooled engines they will need to be heli-coiled or some other thread repair. Good copper head gasket seldom move once the second retorqe is done. Victor and fel-pro are excellent gaskets. Stay away from any thing that has China on it. Hope this helps.

  20. Jim G.
    Jim G. says:

    I used to use ARP studs but they got to be to expensive. I now use Jim Staib’s on every engine I build. It’s hard to tell from the pictures. But it doesn’t look like copper coat was used on the head gasket. Its never going to seal right without it. For a W engine I would recommend using one can of spray copper coat on the head gasket. Plus with the new studs I use the ARP nuts and thick washers. I also use the ARP thread lube which is a moly based lube on both the threads and the surface of the washers. Put it on both the threads on the stud and the threads in the nuts. This is what keeps rust from forming on the threads.

    After the head is installed and the head torqued down. If you don’t have the torque sequence just start from the center and work your way out in a circular pattern. Go run the boat on the lake for 5 minutes or so at speed. Stop the boat and turn off the engine immediately after stopping. Retorque the head. Do this 3 to 4 times. After the 3rd time the nuts should not much. If it all. If they do you have stud or block problems.

    After all that you should only have to retorque your head at the beginning of each season. Only retorque the nuts on a HOT engine. If you get popping noises from the nuts while retorqueing you need to remove each nut one at a time and lube them then torque it down and go to the next one.

    The only other thing I would recommend is getting a very good torque wrench. I you have a friend that is a professional mechanic see if you can borrow his Snap On or Mac torque wrench. I personally would not trust any other ones out there. Especially if there made in China.

    The only other thing that can be causing your head gasket problem is the engine getting to hot.

  21. Matt
    Matt says:

    Yes, we used copper coat, yes the head gasket is NOS, and yes the studs are new. No shortcuts were made on the rebuild of this engine. I messed up when I didnt torque it enough from the start. Thus creating the water issue, thus leading to the ring issue, the good news is that its clearing up, and getting better without having to go back into it. That was the point of the story. Sometimes a problem is simple, sometimes not. I have rebuilt to many things because of missing a simple slow solution. Dave has been very helpful on the phone and email with advice to help me along the way.

  22. Matt
    Matt says:

    The boat was run yesterday for hours, went through an entire tankful by a pal. Burned 0, zero oil and ran like a top. As I have said, its repaired and with help over the phone from Dave. Why in gods name would i find another engine rebuilder.

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