[Healeys] Head weight

m.g.sharp at sympatico.ca m.g.sharp at sympatico.ca
Wed Oct 27 06:23:19 MDT 2021

Fred, I can add to Mike’s comment as it is my BT7 we were working on.  We had used the head gasket that came with the head set supplied by MOSS.  As the engine warmed up I had coolant leaking out almost the entire length of the block/head seam, and coming up through several of the head studs.  This was not a localized leak and I would describe it as complete failure of the gasket as far as the coolant passages are concerned.  There was no evidence of oil leakage, but I think I am correct in saying that all but one of the oil passages between the head and block are for drainage back down to the sump and thus not under pressure.  There was no water/steam in the exhaust and the car fired evenly (it sounded great!) and no coolant in the cylinders after we removed the head, so it looks like just the coolant was leaking.  However remember the motor had been running for only about 15 min total over several gentle warm/cool cycles.  FYI, I use a correct 7 lb rad cap.


On removing the head we could find no evidence of any problem.  The gasket looked fine, so we really do not know the cause of the failure.  This was a complete rebuild so both the head and the block faces were machined.


I ordered a “Premium” head gasket which was supplied by A-H Spares via Healey Autofarm here in Ontario (thanks Amanda for the quick service).  My understanding (i.e., I don’t know for a fact) is that A-H Spares has these Premium gaskets made and supplies them to others, including MOSS.  It is pricey and the prices vary, so shop around.  Neither Mike nor I could discern any visible difference between the “regular” head gasket and the Premium one (except for the part number), although we did not measure the thickness and the material that is sandwiched between the copper/steel outer layers may well be a different material or thickness.


There is much debate about using a gasket dressing or not and I have never seen any actual evidence that using it helps the sealing; it is all anecdotal evidence (e.g., “I have/have not used a head dressing for 40 years and never had a problem”).  Neither Mike nor I have ever used a head gasket dressing in other rebuilds so although we discussed it we did not apply any.  Curiously, the MOSS tech expert finally responded to my request to discuss the issue (about a 3 week response time!).  He has apparently rebuild many Healey engines and always uses a gasket dressing.  Take what you want from that.  He had no explanation or helpful suggestions that Mike and I had not already discussed.


The head is now torqued down and the rocker shaft is on and torqued.  I plan to get everything else bolted up this week and will re-start the engine, perhaps tomorrow.  I’d be grateful if all listers could keep their fingers crossed tomorrow in the hopes that positive vibes will compensate for any lack of quality in current head gaskets for Healeys.


BTW, it was two elderly folk and one pretty strong young buck that removed the head w/manifolds – my 30 something friend Dan might be cheesed as being referred to as elderly!  I had lifted the head with manifolds once before so knew it could be done, but this was a BT7 and I am unfamiliar with the details of a BJ7 engine bay and whether there are any added complications.  I suggest if you lift it with the manifolds, rest the head on top of the studs when you lift it and remove the two intake manifold drain pipes, and do the same in reverse (as they are a real bugger to get on later) and you would have to lift the head very high when removing if you left them on.  Frankly, use of an engine lift/chain fall would be safer (but less exciting) if you have access to one.


Stay tuned!  Mirek


From: Healeys <healeys-bounces at autox.team.net> On Behalf Of Michael Salter
Sent: October 26, 2021 10:24 PM
To: healeys <Healeys at autox.team.net>
Subject: Re: [Healeys] Head weight


We are struggling with head gasket problems on a newly rebuilt engine BT7 engine at present so will be following this discussion closely.

Regarding lifting the head off with the engine in the car.

With the manifolds on we managed reasonably easily with 1 person on each side lifting the rear of the head and 1 at the front. Bit of a grunt but possible with 3 somewhat elderly folks.




On Tue., Oct. 26, 2021, 10:15 p.m. Fred Wescoe via Healeys, <healeys at autox.team.net <mailto:healeys at autox.team.net> > wrote:



It appears that I may have to pull the head (some oil in the radiator fluid) on my 66 BJ8 and I may (likely) have to replace the head gasket.  I am going to leave the engine in the car.  I have pulled the head of my BJ7 but that was many years ago.  I will need help physically (I'm older now) to pull the BJ8 head.  Does anyone know what the actual weight of just the head is?  I need to determine how many people I need to help me.  Of course, I will remove everything from the head before pulling it and then place a straight edge on the head and block to determine if I have additional issues to deal with.  Hopefully not but I will check.  


Do I use sealant on the new head gasket and if so what type?   One side or both sides?


After the recent discussion on Moss and their prices and quality, what are the thoughts about sources for a good quality head gasket, without being gouged.  Entering the cold months, I have plenty of time to do this right.  Is there anything I should be on the lookout for, or check before buttoning up things? 


I want to do this just once but I do want to do it completely and correctly.  So, any words of wisdom are certainly appreciated.


Thanks as always,




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