[Healeys] Premium Head Gasket Result; was "Head weight"

m.g.sharp at sympatico.ca m.g.sharp at sympatico.ca
Fri Oct 29 14:47:51 MDT 2021

Hi all, just to update this thread, I did get everything back together yesterday after replacing the head gasket and started it up.  I did a few more warm/cool cycles before letting it warm up to 160 degrees (remember I had already gone through the initial new engine start up procedure a few weeks ago, which is when the new regular gasket failed). I am happy to report there were no leaks.  I drove it around the block and still no leaks.  I then went for a short drive, 8½ miles, and still no leaks.  It was a cool day so engine temp never exceeded 160.  


So I am cautiously optimistic.  After such an unexpected failure with the regular head gasket, I am still nervous and it will take few hundred miles and more aggressive driving (once the break-in period is over), before I am confident, but so far, so good.


So what to make of all this?  The few people I have spoken with have had success with the regular head gasket that comes in the head set.  However, mine failed completely with respect to the coolant sealing.  Mike and I changed nothing when we lifted the head and installed the “Premium” Gasket.  No gasket dressing , just cleaned everything up, installed the new gasket and put the head back on all according to normal practice.  The jury is still out until there quite a few more miles on it, but preliminary blame would appear to be the regular gasket.


The other possibility is the positive effect from the collective psychic power of the list, assuming that at least some of you crossed your fingers as requested yesterday – many thanks!


Winter is closing in here (Ontario, CA), but I will drive until the first road salt goes down, hoping to get a few hundred miles on it this Fall so I can re-torque and do any detail adjustments over the winter.  I will post results, positive or negative, after the break-in period is over.


Cheers, Mirek


From: Healeys <healeys-bounces at autox.team.net> On Behalf Of Michael Oritt via Healeys
Sent: October 27, 2021 4:13 PM
To: Bob Spidell <bspidell at comcast.net>
Cc: Austin Healey <healeys at autox.team.net>
Subject: Re: [Healeys] Head weight


When I bought the DW "Fast  Street" AL head for my 100 about 17 years ago I installed it using the recommended steel sandwich head gasket and except for some very small weeping between 2 and 3 when starting from cold I have not had an issue.  In fact I can't remember when I last torqued the head, if ever!  I keep a spare on top of my gas tank under the Armacord--guess I should dust it off.


I used the Payen composite gaskets on the MG engine of my Elva Courier, spraying a light coat of copper on both sides before installing.  I never had a blown gasket, leaking, etc, etc. with them.  Hope their quality does not suffer.


On Wed, Oct 27, 2021 at 11:28 AM Bob Spidell <bspidell at comcast.net <mailto:bspidell at comcast.net> > wrote:

The late, great Norman Nock used to recommend a lacquer-like paste called 'Wellseal,' esp. for the 4-cyl engines known for leaking between the #2 and #3 cylinders (supposedly, not enough head studs in that area). I've only put a few hundred miles on my BN2 since rebuild--with Wellseal--but, so far, no sign of a leak.

I 'heard from the grapevine' that Payen off-shored manufacturing to (guess where) and quality suffered. I had most of a Payen set I'd bought decades ago for my BJ8 and didn't use for whatever reason. I used the head gasket on my latest--and hopefully last--overhaul a few years ago; 6K miles and still good. If I needed to rebuild again I'd probably spring for the composite-metal gasket from DWM; supposedly reusable for up the 3 times.


On 10/27/2021 5:23 AM, m.g.sharp--- via Healeys wrote:

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  <mailto:healeys-bounces at autox.team.net> <healeys-bounces at autox.team.net> On Behalf Of Michael Salter
Sent: October 26, 2021 10:24 PM
To: healeys  <mailto:Healeys at autox.team.net> <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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