Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
It's my Astra 1.7TD (LPT) 1997 GM Engine.

I had topped up the water a couple of times but couldn't find out where it was going - no obvious leaks from pipes or block, but yesterday, a plume of white smoke followed me for the first mile but disappeared after that. Wasn't obvious on start up at lunchtime or on the way home, but investigations last night showed lots of BIG bubbles going into the expansion tank (but only with the cap off - presumably back pressure limits that with the cap on), and pinprick small steam/water leak coming from the back of No.4 cylinder (to the left of the car). About to phone around garages as the plume of white smoke was there again today. The car is still running OK but I'm trying to minimise it's use - if I could have avoided taking it in I would.

I'm pretty certain the head gasket needs done - any guide price for me to weep over?

I guess this is a good time to get the Timing belt changed as they've got to remove it to take the head off (uncertain of it's age anyway), but is there anything else that would be advised with the head off?

Thanks in anticipation as always.

Chris TD
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
Vauxhall Agent in Aberdeen - Quoted only worst case scenario of £500 and 2-3 days time, might be less dependant on what they found when they opened it up.

Most annoying thing is they can't look at it for nearly two weeks and we go on holiday at the end of next week....or planned to anyway. Bang go the ferry tickets :-(
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Mark (RLBS)
Dunno what you paid for the ferry tickets, but considering renting a car - some organisations are pretty cheap at the moment.

Don't forget to tell them you will take it abroad though.
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
It's only the Isle of Man (not for the TT), and a colleagues got a car he's not using so if I can sort out the insurance then it might be OK.

A local garage has just told me the Astra GM head is prone to going rather than just the gasket - a new one is £4-500 + labour. Dark clouds settling over Aberdeen just now....
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - volvod5_dude
Try a scrap yard for a replacement head. I bought a cylinder head for a Vauxhall Carlton a few years ago for £60 from a local scrapyard which included a 3 months guarantee, a big saving on a new one. Worth a look in the Yellow Pages.

Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
Thanks VD5D

Just tried the local breakers - they won't sell me just the head - they'll only sell me a complete engine for £750 - and they want the old one in exchange! Need to shop around a bit I think.

Maybe the Bangernomics route might be best - Autotrader seems to have some diesel Astra's in for about that.

But I'm maybe getting ahead of myself a bit here. The head might just need skimming. Any other Astra owners any experience of the head gasket going?
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Railroad is the place to find used car parts. Enter all your details of the car and the part you want. Then drop your internet connection, sit back and wait for your phone to ring. I\'ve used them several times with no problems at all.

Unfortunately cylinder heads are prone to cracking on these engines. Don\'t assume that it has though, take the head off and examine it, and the old head gasket first. It\'s not that bad a job and a good mechanic should be able to do it for you as a private job for much less than a main dealer.
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
Thanks Railroad,

Things tend to be few and far between up here in the frozen north - there might be "one" outlet of whatever you are looking for (breakers, dealers etc), but as the next one is probably at least 50 miles away there is a partial monopoly in the area, and price goes up as service goes down.

Head is off courtesy of my more experienced brother in law (who has more tools than me and also lacks the small children to "help" him at the moment) and the water leak was discovered, but looking at the studs the one next to the water leak is rusty, but three others (across the engine) have heavy carbon deposits on them - could it be that the gasket had gone between that studhole and cylinder?

I can see this would pressurise the stud hole, but would only allow a limited escape of combustion gas, so might register as a drop in compression, but not a fatal leak?

Head's off and is being inspected/skimmed so at least progress is being made. Thanks to all for comments so far.

Chris TD
Astra Head Gasket gone - what else to do - Chris TD
For info and when searching the archives -

Gasket successfully replaced by brother-in-law. Total cost (without labour) £200 including
-Modified head gasket and top end kit
-Cylinder head bolts (apparently stretch on fitting so are to be used once only)
-Timing belt (as it was off anyway and had uncertain history)
-Skimming and testing head (£60)
-Front Discs and pads - Guy recommended they be done after his test drive.

New head gasket was substantially beefier than the old one - not sure if old one was a pattern part or original fitting before the problems were identified.

No noticeable difference in mpg noticed (but early days), but cooling system has much less pressure in it and no longer puts coolant out through the expansion tank cap. Before the engine ran at about 94 deg. C. all the time. Now normal running has it at 89 deg. C, but much greater variation apparent when going up long hills, applying lots of welly, etc. It topped at 100 deg. C. after 6 miles of steadily climbing steep hills with all the holiday gear + bikes on board (Cairn o'mount road for those in NE Scotland), but cooled down quickly when going down the other side.

Thanks to all for help

Chris TD


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