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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I hope someone can give me some insight as to how this could happen. Back in early January I had a valve job done on my car. Four of the 5 valves were shot. A variety of other work was done at the same time, including the timing and serpentine belts, tune up, etc., to the tune of $3450.00. The car had approximately 210K on it when the work was done, it's now at a little over 212K. I work from home so have put less than 2500 miles on the car since all the work was done. I've been checking the oil and anti-freeze levels every week to 10 days, all levels good. Did not check in the last 2 1/2 weeks.

A week and a half ago, my AC started blowing scalding hot air into the cabin, turned it off, called my mechanic, twice, he did not respond so I took it to another garage. By then the AC was working fine again. The garage was doing an oil change, pulled the dipstick, it was bone dry. They pulled the timing belt cover, no oil on either belt (timing or serpentine) but there was oil pooled at the bottom of the water pump and all over the bottom of the car. Had it towed to the original mechanic who pulled the head and told me it is cracked. The gauge on the dash has never registered the engine as running hot.

Under what circumstances could a head crack in less than 2500 miles after a valve job? Is it possible the metal strength test was not done on the head before the valve job was done? If they used non-OEM parts, could that have caused the head to crack? I'm looking for answers because I am now out $3000 for the work and have no car.

Thank you for your input!
Sharon
 

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This sounds most unfortunate. I know that people on the forums are adamant about using a genuine Volvo head gasket. They are actually made by Goetze, a division of Federal Mogul. Heads regularly don't crack until it's been majorly overheated and warped. The cylinder can crack, but that only seems to happen when the motor is pushing high horsepower and running lean. You'll have to clarify what they meant by 4 out of 5 valves were shot. Burned or bent are more telling than shot. Also there are 20 valves in this engine, so when they say 4 out of 5 valves are shot, it makes me wonder what they are trying to say.

Without overheating, this problem seems to not be your fault. Did you ever see your oil light illuminate while driving?

I'm interested to know what was wrong in the first place and what they did to repair it.
 

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So sorry for your trouble, but that's definitely a strange problem and not normal at all. I'd guess possibly it was caused by not assembling it correctly, but I think we'd have to see the crack to really be able to deduce anything for sure.

A more economical plan is to source a good used motor and have it installed but it's a bummer no matter what at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
HI Titan Joe,

I misspoke - four of 5 cylinders were bad; three had 0 to low compression, the 4th was in parts inside. The last cylinder, not sure which number it was, was OK. I assume all 5 were rebuilt but the bill is sketchy, there is a machine shop/sublet charge for $400 which might be for the machine shop that rebuilt the cylinders. I ALWAYS specify genuine Volvo parts, not after market but I wouldn't know if they actually followed my instructions or if they used after market parts for the head gasket, bolts, cam seals, etc. The invoice is hand written with no part numbers on it. My old mechanic, who I trusted and who was so honest, retired a couple of years ago and moved out of state. The place I took the car to for the cylinder job is where I bought the car originally, 10 or so years ago. I have kept it well maintained, oil changes every 3000-3500 miles. Oil light has never come on except on start up when all the dash lights come on. It has never run hot, if it had it would have been in the shop pronto to check it out. I transport double coated dogs for rescue (and my own, too) and never want to get stuck on a highway with one or more dogs in the car so I am always on top of getting things fixed quickly when a problem arises.

I believe, but have no proof, that either the machine shop didn't check the head for hairline cracks before doing the cylinder job or the mechanic used after market parts, which he should know better than to do, he's the only other independent Volvo specialist in these parts since my guy retired. However, how is either situation proved since he has the car in his garage and has had since Thursday? His answer, when I asked how this could happen, was that his only explanation is metal fatigue, which I think is just an answer to shut me up because how does one prove or disprove that it is or isn't metal fatigue? People run Volvo's to 500K without having metal fatigue, so why would this particular car develop metal fatigue at 212+K? Makes no sense to me, not one bit. Especially since the car has been well maintained.

Sharon
 

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I've never heard of "metal fatigue" causing a cracked head on these cars. That sounds like made-up mechanic's jargon to shut you up. As mentioned, a cracked head results from overheating, crappy/failed aftermarket parts, improper re-installation of head following removal, poor machining work, etc.
 

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It's all speculation until we know what actually happened to the engine originally, and where it cracked and what happen this time. It's most likely a riddle that will never be answered. What caused 4 out of 5 to show no-to-low compression? Did the timing belt break while you were driving? In hindsight, a replacement engine would have been a more prudent choice that trying to rebuild a battered engine
 

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Yeah, I must say too that with your regiment of service it seems odd that the engine gave you any problems to begin with. Like Russ said it would be nice to know more details about the initial job. I just rebuilt my V70R's engine and it's really not anything complicated. Unless they did not setup the ring gap right and it's been waiting to self-destruct under a high load. Once again, not hard to avoid if you know how to rebuild an engine. That would also only be an issue if they were into the block. Just a vale job should not give you that problem. Also, have they pulled the head and given it a real inspection?
 

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Crack sounds fishy. Valve jobs are easy... especially on a 98-early 99 car. Sounds like someone messed up reassembly. Get a different shop to take the head off and get pictures. It'll probably be readily apparent what happened when the head is off. No compression in 4 cylinders sounds like valve kissed piston... Get someone to check the timing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
More to the saga: My brother in law and I went to the mechanic's place to speak with him and try to get straight answers. The mechanic didn't know at that point that my brother in law has rebuilt engines (he's currently working on a '52 Jag, last project was an '60's MG), and he works in a structural steel metals testing lab at Lehigh University. So, in the course of the conversation when the mechanic again stated the head cracked from metal fatigue, my brother in law said if there are no bending parts, metal fatigue is not possible. He asked if a magnaflux test had been done before the head was rebuilt, the mechanic didn't know if the machine shop had done any testing. The crack was across an upper corner of the head. The two men talked about high heat epoxy and if it would work. The mechanic said he had another head he would give me and install but I would need to pay for labor. The original invoice was for 15 hours of labor at $100/hour, he was now quoting 20 hours of labor to put a new head in. I asked him to work up a quote and call me. A week later, last Friday, he called and said he was able to epoxy the crack and it was holding. The repair cost was another $200 (really $400 but he split the labor cost with me). So far the fix is holding but less than 36 hours after I picked up the car, something popped in the engine compartment on the driver's side - might be a belt or hose. I didn't know what it was until I drove back past the spot where I heard the strange noise, there was something that looked like a belt or a hose laying on the road. I couldn't retrieve it since I was in a line of heavy traffic in both directions and no place to get over. It appears everything is working correctly but I haven't driven the car since then and will be taking it to another mechanic to check it out later today or tomorrow morning. I love this car and am not ready to give up on it! So, that's where it stands at the moment. Does anyone have experience with epoxy fixes and how long they last?
 

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As far as magnaflux, that isn't the proper test for aluminum heads as they are nonferrous. To properly check for cracks is to do a pressure test. This is performed by placing the head in a fixture that allows all of the water passages to be sealed, then pressure is applied and watched for the head to hold the pressure, then the same things are done with intake and exhaust ports. It would be very interesting to see a picture of this crack. If it's up in the cam boss, the mechanic most likely didn't remove the cam cover properly causing a crack if that's where it is.
 

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Can you find out what machine shop did the work and talk to them directly to find out exactly what was done?
 

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Sorry, but a head crack isn't fixed with epoxy, it's thrown away and a new/rebuilt head is the only option.

I, too would like to see the crack or at least know specifically where it is

Did the car run OK after you heard the "pop"? Was the temperature gauge steady? Any "check engine" light?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sorry, but a head crack isn't fixed with epoxy, it's thrown away and a new/rebuilt head is the only option.

I, too would like to see the crack or at least know specifically where it is

Did the car run OK after you heard the "pop"? Was the temperature gauge steady? Any "check engine" light?
* Yes, car is running OK, my brother in law checked for missing hoses or belts, nothing appears to be missing. He thinks it was something on the road that got caught up in my front tire. When I tried to look in the engine compartment, I couldn't get the hood to pop, something I have done probably 1000 times over the last 10 years of owning this car. It was jammed down - another check mark on the list of why this mechanic is on my sh-t list! I know the head should have been replaced, he had one there at the shop that he would have given me, but I would have had to pay for another 15-20 hours of labor at $100/hour, money I don't have since I sunk every cent I could lay my hands on into the original cylinder job. To say that I am beyond upset is an understatement. There seems to be no way to prove it was the fault of either the machine shop or the mechanic's shop. I have no idea who the machinist was who did the cylinder work and no way to know if the proper testing was done. At this point there is a lot of CYA going on.

In answer to the question of where the head was cracked - it was cracked across the upper corner of the left side of the head, right by a bolt hole. I didn't see the head from my car, the mechanic just showed us where the crack was located by demo'ing on another head he had in the shop.

I'd love to be able to take him to small claims court and get my money back, but without being able to prove anything, I have no case. The original job should have fixed the car for at least another 150-200K. I'm so disgusted and upset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
As far as magnaflux, that isn't the proper test for aluminum heads as they are nonferrous. To properly check for cracks is to do a pressure test. This is performed by placing the head in a fixture that allows all of the water passages to be sealed, then pressure is applied and watched for the head to hold the pressure, then the same things are done with intake and exhaust ports. It would be very interesting to see a picture of this crack. If it's up in the cam boss, the mechanic most likely didn't remove the cam cover properly causing a crack if that's where it is.
I think no one tested the head before doing the cylinder job which is standard procedure. I just can't think the head would crack for no reason when the car has never, ever, been run hot, and there was less than 2300 miles driven since the cylinder job was done. The crack is across the upper corner on the timing belt side, can't tell you if it was the front or the back of the head.
 
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