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Second Generation Legend (1991-1995)

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Old 09-17-03, 06:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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My Blown Headgasket story

I don't want to bore everyone with yet another BHG tragedy but I believe someone may benefit from my perils. I bought my 92L a couple of years ago w/160k on it. I've done all required maintenance and servicing on it myself. I am a senior aircraft mechanic by trade and keep all my vehicles in top condition. The only thing I was reluctant to do was change the coolant due to reading so mony posts about "air in the system", "overheating problems", ect. I didn't want to disturb a perfectly good system.
I decided I had to change the coolant and purchased a gallon of Prestone "extended life" DEXCOOL on the reccomendation of the parts store. The existing coolant(put in before I bought it) in my car was red in color so he reccomended this coolant. I drained and flushed the old coolant and put in the new coolant. I bled the air out of the system per the shop manual. About 1 week later my wife and I were on the way to the Casino and it overheated. I pulled over, let it cool off, filled it with water and continued on our way. The temp was normal for the rest of the trip. While the cap was off I noticed what appeared to be mud/sludge substance in the radiator that wasn't there before I changed the coolant. The next day I went straight to Honda and bought 2 gal. of the 50/50 coolant, drained and flushed the radiator several times, put the Honda coolant in and bled the air out. A few days later my wife tells me the temp gauge is acting strange( creeping up then quickly back down,no heat) just like all the other overheating posts. The upper radiator hose was hot, lower was cooler and coolant kept being pumped into the overflow tank. I must have bled it 15 times. I bought an Acura thermostat, replaced it, no help. Purchased an OEM replacement radiator, installed it, no help.
Ok, at this point i'm thinking what the $%&*, it can't be a BHG, it runs perfect, compression test normal, none of the classic BHG symptoms. One thing I noticed was when the temp needle creeped up to hot, if I put it in d3 and brought the rpm's up to around 3500 the needle would come back down, but only back down to mid range. When operating normally the needle should be(92L) 1 needle width above the second white mark from the bottom.
I came to the conclusion that the problem was either a bad water pump or BHG. I tore it down to the water pump, the pump showed signs of normal wear and tear(nothing wrong with it). The only thing left was the head gasket. I got a quote from a local shop for $1500. If I do it myself the parts would cost $500 plus what I've already spent on the radiator, therm., and coolant. I decided I would attempt it myself having done this type of work on several other vehicles in the past, plus save around $1000. Well, 3 weeks and about 30 hrs of labor later I finished the job. I have never cursed a car so much in my life. This was the most difficult auto repair I've ever done. I could have changed 3 DC10 engines with less pain. Everything that had to come off had 3 things blocking it that had to come off. I didn't help that it was 95 degrees and humid. The installation went a lot smoother and to my astonishment it started and ran smooth thie first time. Do not attempt head gasket replacement on this vehicle unless you have an extensive mechanical background and a good set of tools. I would have gladly paid the $1000 if I would have known. The damage to the head gasket was very slight, #6 cyl lower side. The only thing that stood out was that the #6 cylinder piston and head was cleaner than the rest. It didn't have as much carbon build up. I reused the head bolts didn't use any sealant on the head gaskets.
Summary:
parts: gasket kit $259
water pump $165
timing belt $50
radiator $130
thermostat $35
knock sensor $80 I broke it(%*&*)
REGULAR PRESTONE $7
bloody hands and knuckles $priceless

She runs great at 217k. Now I know why an Acura is an Acura. Quality built and engineered(except for the head gasket). My guess is Acura thinks if you can afford to own one you can afford to have someone else to repair it.

Update 12/09/04- 245k and running great.
Sold 11/01/05- 265K and running great.

Jetdoc

*NOTE- any single overheating event can cause a head gasket failure, it doesn't matter what caused it to overheat.
Update: Looking back, while troubleshooting the overheating problem, when I tried to bleed the air out it I noticed this. Opened bleeder, filled with coolant until steady stream of fluid came out of bleeder. Tightened bleeder, started engine and let it warm up until the fans came on. As the air would
burp out of the coolant I would top it off again until full. **The air would never stop burping out, about every couple of minutes it would bubble out a little air.
After changing the head gaskets I bled it once and did not have the continious burping problem.

Last edited by Jetdoc; 02-06-06 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 09-17-03, 07:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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hmm did you change the rad cap maybe that was why the temp gauge was acting up but i'm glad you got it over with now i'm wondering whats the moral of your story should i change my perfectly working condition coolant or just leave it alone forever
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Old 09-17-03, 07:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I've read quite a few horror stories about the 'red' coolant. The moral seems to be, if it comes with it from the factory, observe the same change intervals as regular 'green' coolant, not the 5 years nonsense they claim.

And if it didn't come with the 'red' stuff from the factory, don't even think about putting it in your system.

From what I understand, with 'red' retrofit, the issue is not seal compatibilty but compatibility with the 'green' coolant that was already in there. Apparently, short of a full teardown of the engine, it is virtually impossible to completely flush out the old system and when the two mix, you have problems.

what's interesting is that I just changed my radiator three days ago after discovering a leak on it. At 66000Km's. If I hadn't caught it in time (it's not like my wife was going to notice a climbing temperature needle) I'd probably be asking you for tips about the head gasket adventure you just went through.
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Old 09-17-03, 07:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I tried 2 new radiator caps
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Old 11-25-03, 06:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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what happen's if you don't have an overheating problem, but you are losing coolant. what are headgaskets and how can they ruin your engine if you don't change them. how long do you have before a bhg can ruin your engine
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Old 11-25-03, 07:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
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here is some head gasket info I found: http://members.aol.com/carleyware/library/ic697.htm
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Old 11-25-03, 09:43 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I need to do my headgasket. Does the headgasket kit come with head bolts? Does anyone know if legend head bolts are stretch bolts? I would assume they are. I mean most other cars have stretch bolts in the head.
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Old 11-25-03, 10:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The head bolts are stretch bolts. It depends on who's kit you are buying if you get the head bolts. I know the head bolts cost around $130
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Old 11-25-03, 10:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I must say that I am a chemical engineer and a computer science engineer (no matter), but that was one of the most informative posts that I have ever read. You did an excellent job in the description and resolution of the problem. So much in fact, that since it is winter time here, I am going tomorrow to do a flush of the radiator and the tranny at the dealership.

You must be in (or have been in the Air Force), as the way you told that story sounds like either a TSgt or a SMSgt. Props on your testomony and good luck in the future. I know you helped me.

one,

Also if you can make it to the Alabama meet, I think your knowledge would be a great asset to all in the community. And the first Keg is on me.
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Old 11-26-03, 01:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Bornreeady, you probably just have a very small leak. Make sure you keep it topped off until you find the leak. Small leaks can be difficult to find especially in the heater core area. As long as your not overheating you shouldn't damage anything. If you notice extra coolant in your resivior be concerned.

Mike, excellent article on head gaskets. I remember the head bolts on mine seemed to not be tight enough when I removed them. Maybe It would be a good idea to check the torque every 50K or so. I added about 5 lbs extra torque when I installed the heads.

Nupe07, Glad to hear this post has helped you in some way, I have edited it several times with more info to help other owners with this dreaded headgasket problem. I benefit from this forum regularly, just glad to give back. I see way too many posts that don't get "finished". People report a problem, members provide solutions, but the original poster doesn't reply back with good fix or no help.
I was never in the "Military". My technical posts are probably the result of signing off aircraft log books for the last 18 years. The FAA can be critical on the way things are stated in the log book.
It's not likely that I will be able to make it to BHM though I would like to. I think it's a great idea you guys are meeting. I'm strictly stock when it comes to .my Legends You guys would probably find me old(39) and boring.

Jetdoc
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Old 11-26-03, 02:09 AM   #11 (permalink)
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ah, ok, Jetdoc, like jet doctor eh? Clever guy. :p
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Old 11-26-03, 06:11 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Very well written Jetdoc.

So in your opinion, what you do you think caused your HG to blow? Was it Changing coolant?

My 91L sedan (sold now) had a BHG. The heater hose close to the the firewall blew causing all the coolant to leak. That particular day my wife was driving it and she did not pay ANY attention to the temp gauge. I think she probably drove for about 10 miles or more without any coolant. She finally pulled over when the car started smoking bad and other people started honking (on the freeway).

Anyways, I had a shop do the HG for $750. I provided all the parts. I went to the shop couple of times while they were working on the car. To my surprise, the whole engine bay was empty. They basically had to remove everything to do this job. Later the mechanic confessed to me that they this was the toughest HG repair he had ever done. He said next time he'll charge me $1500 for this car!
Like you said in your post "Everything that had to come off had 3 things blocking it that had to come off". HG repair is no easy task and the fact that you did it yourself is a great accomplishment IMO.
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Old 11-26-03, 06:27 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Coming into this thread "late in the game", my opinion on the root cause of the failure is the switch to the DEXCOOL. Dexcool is notorious for sludging up (gelling) and killing water pumps, radiators, and other components. There are several theories as to what starts the gelling reaction, the most common being air in the system (such as when you let the overflow container go dry), contaminants introduced from tap water instead of distilled water, and reaction with the normal green type antifreeze. Based on the fact that sludge had built up in the radiator in a week's time that wasn't there before, my conclusion is that there was a small amount of green remaining in the cooling system (in air pockets, etc.), which subsequently reacted with the Dexcool. Using tap water, and not fully bleeding the system only exacerbated the gelling reaction with the Dexcool.

Moral of the story: STAY AWAY FROM DEXCOOL. There's a reason why there is a class action suit against GM for its use of Dexcool.
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Old 11-26-03, 06:56 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Jetdoc: Your situation with your car is exactly what I'm experiencing. Started with getting the system powerflushed, and noticing a slight bit of sludge in the coolant. Checked radiator closer and looked to have a hairline crack again, so put in a new one.

Wasn't overheating at all before this, and now it is. Bleed it every few days, but air still getting into system. Everything else seems airtight, but think I have a small leak probably by #6 like everybody else. They tested the coolant at the radiator shop and said it had a small amount of hydrocarbons in coolant, but only in the hundreds, not like usual in the thousands.

I don't know if it would be best to take it to the dealer in case it is something else allowing some air to get into the system somewhere, but it keeps overheating slightly now even guage moves after five miles or so with the bleeder valve open slightly, but I haven't let it overheat, but it makes me nervous every time.

I've called about five shops locally, and am getting kind of negative reaction and footdragging about even doing the repair. One said it was too hard and didn't want to fool with it, and another said, there was a problem with them sealing properly after the fix, so didn't want to tackle it.

Another wouldn't give a specific parts and labor breakdown, and just said it'll be about 2500. I think these cars are getting a little bit of a reputation around as they get a bad 'rep' in a few places. It doesn't give me a very good feeling trying to find some guy that doesn't know what he is getting into to try to fix it, or giving it to some guy that says I can't tell what it will cost until we get in there.

Where did you get your gasket set, and what brand were they?? Acura of Augusta wanted 433.00 for a set and that is with 20% off list like they give mechanics.

Did you use OEM only??
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Old 11-26-03, 09:11 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Josh... Now i work @ a Benz dealer but @ my old shop our cars most certainly DID have a reputation. In the 8 months I was there I think about 5 or 6 legends came in and we only ended up taking one because we were slow and I had done mine a few weeks prior. A lot of experienced non Acura/non Import mechanics have quite a hard time with there headgaskets. Actually I think EVERYONE has a hard time with our headgaskets BTW Has anyone ever tried Benz coolant in their legend? I flushed mine a couple times about 3 months ago w/ our stuff and I havent had anyone sludge etc... No problems at all
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