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emo Headgasket change on twin-cam Alto Works... what a pain!

02 Jan 2010 12:53 #2865

What an absolute mission that headgasket replacement was!  Started it at about 9:45 on Wednesday morning and finished up at about 4:15am on Thursday morning, and that's with no real stops for food or drinks.  Although to be honest, from 11am to about 5:30pm we were stuck in a certain spot and trying different was of getting around it.

So, met up with my buddy just after 9am and we grabbed breakfast before heading straight to work on it.  The plan was to get the head off the engine, replace the headgasket & valve cover seals, put it back together and be done by nightfall.  By the looks of it, the valve cover gaskets were leaking pretty badly, and the spark plugs were virtually swimming with oil.  Am sure it's not great for engine performance!  But Suzuki designed the twin-cam valve covers so that if you wanted to remove a single valve cover, the timing belt had to come off.  Awesome!  So we started up and was going pretty well to begin with.  No major dramas in getting the accessory belts and coolant lines off that go around the timing belt cover.  We were going to try and lift the head off while keeping the timing belt in situ so we wouldn't have to bother with removing the crankshaft pulley.  But then we realized that Suzuki, in their infinite mechanical wisdom, decided that it would be a good idea to have a single cambelt cover for their twin-cam F6A engine (as opposed to the top & bottom covers for many of the single cam models).  Have no idea why they made it like this but they must have had some amazing idea in mind.  What it did was make life for us pretty frustrating.

Looked like we'd just have to pull the crankshaft pulley off and then the timing belt cover would come off all in one, but that is much easier said than done.  The crank pulleys on these are notoriously hard to get loose, and because of where the engine's positioned in the engine bay, there is pretty much no room to work in.  We did get a breaker bar on it. with a metal pipe for extra leverage.  I put it in 5th gear and held the break down while torque was applied but it just wasn't budging.  We tried a little impact, but you can't really impact on it where it's positioned.

We even headed out to a tool shop and picked up a wrench that grips onto the pulley so it won't slip (can't remember exactly what it's called though) and we managed to break that by applying too much torque to it.  So we came to the conclusion that the only way we were going to be able to get the crank pulley bolt off was to use impact, and the only was we could get an angle to get impact was with the engine out of the car.

So for the next hour or 2 we removed a bunch of other stuff in the way, as well as the motor mounts (the rear one of which is in a ludicrous place - well done once again Suzuki) and the tranny mounts.  By very late afternoon we'd almost got to the point where we could lift the engine out of the car.  But now we had two other problems:
1.  How the hell do we get the halfshafts out of the as we lifted the whole shebang up?
2.  The garages would be closed soon and it's possibly many would be closed tomorrow and for the next few days for the new year's break.

Removing the engine was tuning into a bit of a bad idea.  So we took another look at the timing belt cover and then we (alright, my buddy) had a minor stroke of genius idea.  We both agreed the timing belt cover should be in 2 parts, so why not cut it into 2 parts!  Cue getting a hacksaw blade out and cutting into the plastic timing belt cover just above the timing marks next to the crank pulley.  We had to cut it low so we could get to the timing belt tensioner if needs be, and at the same timing, hoping the blade didn't slip and start cutting into the timing belt (which would have given us no option but to take the whole engine out.

After a short while though we'd cut the cover in 2 and it had turned out pretty well.  We marked up the timing belt on both cam gears as well as on the crankshaft, and then pulled off the cam gears themselves.  To be honest, from that point onwards it was relatively straightforward.  When we pulled the cam covers off it was clear that one of the seals at the end was leaking oil, and will have to be replaced in the near future once Suzuki is open again and I can get the parts ordered.

The head was next to come off and the pistons looked in remarkably good shape considering they had done over 140,000km.  The gasket itself looked in ok condition too, as well as the surface of both head and block.  It was all cleaned and new headgasket and rocker cover gaskets replaced and torqued back up to spec.  The timing belt took a few tries to get right as we were cheating a little by keeping the timing belt over the crank pulley sprocket at the bottom, so it was a little tough to get everything lined up and in sync.  But we did it and after connecting everything back up the engine fired up at the first attempt.

It was idling smoothly although there was a definite tapping sound which didn't sound amazing.  After a little while that went away though and we attributed it to being that we'd cleaned and re-greased the lifters.  Soon it was sounding back to normal (read "like a sewing machine on heat").  By the time we'd cleaned up and I was ready to leave it was past 4am but it was a job relatively well done, and if we were taking the head off again, I reckon it could be done and replaced in about 3-4 hours.

A couple of minor downsides.  While we seem to have sorted out one oil leak, the one at the crankshaft side of the engine is still there.  Would be willing to put money on it being that camseal that had failed that is the source of the oil leak.  That will have to get sorted out just as soon as Suzuki reopens after the new year and I can get the seals ordered.  And the leak in the spark plug area turned out to not be from the rocker cover seals, but from the 3-4cm long rubber hoses that go from one rocker cover to the other.  Have put new clamps on the hoses but it's not had a huge effect.  When I replace the rocker cover seals I'll put new hoses on them which will hopefully seal much better.

So all that's left is some pics from me, and big thanks to Mike for helping out.

1993 Suzuki Alto Works RS/X<br />

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02 Jan 2010 13:08 #2867

Looks like you did a thorough job though. Looks about as much fun as doing one in a Honda Beat too haha

Hopefully should be useful to other owners too... thank you for posting it up!

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