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Blown Headgasket?

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  • Blown Headgasket?

    So my dad's 88' alpine has been in the garage for about a month with a "problem". He thinks it is a blown headgasket, and I'm just now getting around to seeing what I think about it.


    He was driving the car home from work and heard "more valve tick than normal" or "like the valves weren't getting oil" - something to that effect. The car DID NOT:
    -lose a lot of coolant
    -drive differently
    -idle differently

    So, I just went out and dropped the oil and it is pretty thick and a bit black (3k miles or so on 15/50 mobil 1). People say to look for "chocolatey look" and it does seem a bit thicker than normal, but could someone give me a more complete explanation of what that means??? There does seem to be a bit of a caramel colored film in the middle of the oil, which obviously isn't normal.

    There also appears to be some sort of a fluid leak near cylinder 1 (the closest to the radiator) comming from an unidentified location (as of now). It appears to be comming from near the very front of the motor somewhat near the coolant rail... if the head gasket was blown would it possibly leak outside the motor as well? I would assume that would only be the case if the gasket was literally gone.

    The motor has about 7k on a 2.3 rebuild that was done by the previous owner.

    Final note - the car would not start today (bad battery), no problem. Toss it on the quick charger and fire it up. Car will not hold idle, if I rev it, the car will rev, idle momentarily, and then sputter to death again. car has a new fuel pump (both pumps) and fuel filter. stock EMS, with AFM attached.

    1990 e30 m3

  • #2
    while it is running, remove the spark plug boots one at a time.... if the car runs NO differently when removing one of the spark plug boots, it likely has lost compression in that cylinder.... you can also buy a compression tester and check compression.

    Have you removed the the spark plugs and check them for any issues?

    Checked cap and rotor?

    More tick than normal could be from loose header stud bolts.
    Mark Williams
    Dallas, TX

    Nothing says "welcome to the neighborhood" like a search... oh wait... looks like they are all gone! :rastajake:



    • #3
      If there is water in the oil, it will generally look slightly foamy like frothy chocolate milk. If you see that, I would suspect blown head gasket for sure....

      Obviously a compression check would give you solid clues also.

      But, you said the car as initially driving and idling the same as always. If the head gasket was blown, there would definitely be a difference...


      • #4
        You can get a "block tester" kit at most good autoparts stores. Basically, it uses a vial of special fluid attached to the coolant reservior to detect any carbon monoxide coming out of the coolant. A cheap quick test to do before diving into compression test to confirm low compression.
        What??? an E30 M3 for sale??? I'll be right there!!!


        • #5
          Seeing as you do not seem to have much water in your oil I would test the compression. I have seen a few M10's blow the head gasket in between cylinders at the thinest part of the head gasket. If this is the case the compression would be noticeable down in two cylinders.