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LT35 head gasket woes

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johnw View Drop Down
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    Posted: 06 Nov 14 at 08:55
I joined Brick-Yard today, so good morning all! Smile

Before I go off into the deep end, is anyone here experienced in changing a head gasket? I have a Mk. II (2004) LT35 2.8 tdi. If there's enough interest, I'd like to photo document the whole job - if I decide to do it myself. Having convinced myself that it is a head gasket problem, I'd also be keen to share opinions, discuss symptoms etc. and build up a consensus of opinion. It's not beyond me to do this job, but I've never worked on diesels before, and it's been a few years since I worked on my own vehicles.

Looking forward to some genuine support, to hopefully build the confidence I need to get this problem fixed. I live in Spain and use my van for removals and courier work between Spain and the UK. My LT has performed brilliantly since I bought it at the end of July this year. I've made 6 return trips to the UK, but really don't feel I should drive it for much longer under the circumstances..
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 14 at 12:56
Sooo... being for the benefit of Mr. Kite et al.. an update. Big smile

I won't now be fixing this myself, as the issue is as clear as mud. My local diesel mechanic is reluctant to take the head off just yet. He says the problem could be the EGR, since the symptoms present the same, i.e. over-pressurised coolant system within minutes of starting from cold, coolant ejection from the overflow, and soot deposits in the coolant expansion tank after some 3000 miles of having cleaned it out thoroughly. 

Secondly, the return feed to the expansion tank is "spurting" as opposed to a constant flow. I submerged the return pipe in a litre bottle of water and whilst revving it resembled a bottle of carbonated drink! This intermittent flow, he says, points to a water pump issue, whilst the bubbles is often cited as a symptom of the head /gasket /EGR (take your pick!).

I removed the thermostats on my last trip as they were complicating matters. Normal operating temperature now, is around 70 C, not fluctuating more than 5 degrees, but after a long hill climb with a load I know that my coolant system ejects about a litre of coolant within seconds via the overflow (I rigged up a clear pipe into a 5 litre bottle in the passenger foot well). The water temperature consequently rises to around 90 -100 degrees. A blast of the heater will help me up the hill without the temperature becoming critical, but within minutes the heater fluctuates between warm and red hot as the combined low water level and over pressurisation starts creating an air lock in the system. That's when I have to stop, vent the system, and top it up.

For the record, I've had a cold compression test done which showed no discrepancy in cylinder compression, and a sniff test that came back negative. I've also replaced the cap on the expansion tank. My LT is currently in with the local VW dealer as my diesel mechanic insists that I have the water pump checked out first, for which he doesn't have the right tool to pull it off, so-to-speak. Whilst there, they will do an overall diagnosis, including another sniff test which should be more definitive, since during my last trip of some 3000 miles I topped up the expansion tank around 10-15 times using the ejected coolant which I was collecting in a bottle under the bonnet. I've convinced myself that it's the HG, going so far as to buy a new one, and a set of head bolts in preparation. 

I should have a reply from the VW dealers tomorrow, so let's see. So many times on forums I read of people in denial about HG issues. I've been there, then woken up and "smelled the coffee", but now I just don't know. It's worth bearing in mind as well, that a blown HG is usually a symptom of overheating, and that I may be looking at a HG repair in conjunction with the replacement of a faulty EGR or water pump. I hope not.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mat_the_cat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 14 at 21:47
I'm not familiar with the Mk2 LT (and most of the owners have the earlier van too, which may be a reason for the lack of a response) but are you suspecting that there is a leak in the water-cooled EGR valve, so that exhaust gases are pressurising the cooling system? I wonder if the pressure from the exhaust is stopping the water flow with an airlock if/when the exhaust pressure is greater than the pressure the pump can exert?

If it's the EGR valve, a pressure test of the cooling system should show this. You seem to have ruled out combustion gases from the cylinders leaking into it (and hence the HG itself should be fine), but I guess a crack in the head between a waterway and exhaust port is still a possibility.
Mid engined, 6 cylinder, turbocharged 2 seater - it can only be a VW LT!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jason k Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 14 at 22:06
Vw water pumps are renowned for the plastic impellers going brittle and disintegrating giving a poor flow!
This would be my first port to look at after getting the coolant sniff tested.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jason k Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 14 at 22:08
Egr is not water cooled either!

My moneys on the pump! When was it last changed? Most likely when the belt was last done.....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mat_the_cat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 14 at 00:56
Originally posted by jason k jason k wrote:

Egr is not water cooled either!

Is it not? I assumed it must be (I know some are), for the suggestion that it could be at fault causing pressurisation of the cooling system. Looking more likely to be just the pump then, I agree. Either way, if it passes a pressure test of the cooling system you know you have no leaks so I would be inclined to do that anyway for peace of mind.


Edited by mat_the_cat - 14 Nov 14 at 00:58
Mid engined, 6 cylinder, turbocharged 2 seater - it can only be a VW LT!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wheresthatgonenow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 14 at 11:16
The 2.8  is a four pot that does not use  cambelt`s, the water pump is driven off the flywheel along with the fuel pump, so there is a good chance the water pump is shot as may not ever have been changed,

the 2.5`s are five pot and have a cambelt  and a belt at the rear to drive the fuel pump, these engines if looked after right get a new water pump each time the cambelt is changed,

hope the poster comes back with the report from the dealer
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 10:13
I'm not sure if the EGR cooler on my LT is water cooled or not. My diesel mechanic seems to think so (he hasn't started the job yet, though). This could explain an over-pressurising cooling system, and the soot deposits in the expansion tank, just as you might expect from a failing HG or porous/cracked CH. The soot BTW, is something to mention in detail. I have what looks like soot particles, i.e. large, black sediment rolling around in the bottom of the expansion tank, and a fine, black, sticky deposit that looks like it was sprayed from an aerosol onto the plastic inner structure of the tank immediately below where the return pipe from the CH enters the expansion tank. This suggests to me that at some point there was only hot, contaminated air coming out of the return feed.

Are combustion gases from the cylinders not the same compound as exhaust gases in a sniff test? I would have thought so, hence I'm not ruling out a failing HG (or worse, the CH). To confuse matters, the VW dealer says the results were negative from the sniff test, but they think it's the HG anyway. They were supposed to have checked the water pump for me, but getting a joined-up conversation from them was impossible. They just send you from one desk to another, then to the cashier's kiosk! My diesel mechanic is now the only person I want to deal with. 

Concerning the water pump, are they prone to fail on this model? It has a "caged", aluminium impeller (like this: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FIRSTLINE-WATER-PUMP-RC231612P-TO-FIT-VW-LT-28-35-2-8-97-OE-QUALITY-/110924692240). My diesel mechanic was suggesting that the pinion it turns on can fail, but I don't see how this explains the soot issue. To be fair, I think he's thinking ahead, his philosophy being that HG's fail for a reason, and that the engine may have overheated at some stage (from a water pump issue?), which in turn compresses, or pinches the HG and maybe over-stretches the head bolts. Then, when you drive under load perhaps the head lifts enough to breach the gasket at the weakest point, causing the initial stages of a HG failure.

All being said, I don't think it's folly to remove the CH at this stage. The negative sniff test - I've had two negative tests now, 3000 miles apart - doesn't throw me off, as I've read plenty of forum threads whereby after multiple tests on the coolant the HG has been found to be the cause of the problem.

More news when I get it, but for now, thanks for interest and feedback so far. I appreciate it. Big smile




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wheresthatgonenow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 11:56
Has anybody checked the oil cooler for you, if this goes or o rings fail you will get pressure and oil in the tank , thinking out loud here could account for the small black lumps you say you have in the tank, also fits with the temp rising going up hill , 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 14:44
Not convinced about the oil cooler. Wouldn't that just result oil and water contamination? How would it contribute to over-pressurising the cooling system? 

After a hill climb there'd be a litre of ejected coolant in a bottle that I'd rigged up to the overflow. On one occasion, despite already being a litre down on coolant, the expansion tank was full to the brim with the temperature over 100 degrees. The heater would be blowing cold air and the water level wouldn't drop until I could vent the cap, at which point the tank would drain completely and require the ejected litre of coolant to bring it up to the line. All of this with the thermostats removed. That's excessive pressure in the cooling system. I can only think that cylinder compression gases would do that.

BTW, thanks for mentioning that the camshaft and pumps are gear-driven on the 2.8 l Mk. II. I think it's a really cool design. See p.10 here for what looks like a Swiss-watch mechanism. Big smile


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AndyT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 14:55
First engine I ever re-built was gear driven, an old ford V4.
So simple and yet modern engines use rubber belts.........
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wheresthatgonenow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 15:54
think you may have more than one issue with this motor,  i`m pretty sure  this 4 pot engine is a mercedes one, so may be worth checking out other sites to see if this problem was common or maybe throw some light on it for you before it starts costing shed loads in attemps to cure it 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 19:03
The only similarities between the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and VW LT (1996 onwards) are the body shell and running gear. Even though the Crafter now comes off the same production line as the Sprinter, they've never shared diesel engines.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jason k Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 20:25
The 158 is a merc unit!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 22:14
So the LT's 2.8 l 4-cyl 158 bhp diesel is made by Mercedes exclusively for VW? Alternatively, which Mercedes runs with the same engine? I've never heard or read of Mercedes putting one their engines in a Volkswagen.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mat_the_cat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 14 at 23:33
The later Mk1 Sprinters did have a ~160 bhp diesel engine (i.e. the 316) but that was 2.7 litres and 5 cylinders. Certainly the UK Merc vans didn't use the engine from the LT (we had a fleet of Sprinters in a previous job, but sadly mostly 311s...) although may have been used in another Merc vehicle?
Mid engined, 6 cylinder, turbocharged 2 seater - it can only be a VW LT!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jason k Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Nov 14 at 08:38
Stu diablodubs merc camper has the 158 in it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wheresthatgonenow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Nov 14 at 19:01
Originally posted by wheresthatgonenow wheresthatgonenow wrote:

Has anybody checked the oil cooler for you, if this goes or o rings fail you will get pressure and oil in the tank , thinking out loud here could account for the small black lumps you say you have in the tank, also fits with the temp rising going up hill , 

John W, sorry chap the start should have said intercooler, not oil cooler,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 14 at 12:54
Well it's bad news, a cracked liner in one of the cylinders. It's about 6 mm long from the top edge of the liner down the bore, and clearly visible across the top looking down at the block. My mechanic has stopped work, and told the repair shop with the CH to wait, since they are going to skim the head, re-cut the valve seats and fit new valve stem seals. He's already pressure tested the head, which has no faults.

My mechanic says it's going to be cheaper if I find a recon engine. Ouch Me, because although the labour here in Spain is cheap, vehicles and part here are much dearer. After a few calls, he came back with a price of 4100 Euros inc. IVA (about £3300 inc. VAT) for a recon engine from Barcelona, and that's for an engine swap.

I don't know what to do now. Is welding an option? Because compression gases are escaping through the cylinder liner, I don't think the head gasket is likely to be breached. The only evidence on the gasket in the corresponding spot above the cracked liner is rust-coloured hairline mark. The path of least resistance is through the liner itself, so even if I have the engine put back together I could run it as before, albeit with the annoyance of having to vent the cooling system every 50 or so miles. At least I could use the van, earn some money and get back to the UK where the repair options are going to be cheaper. Any suggestions?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wheresthatgonenow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 14 at 16:15
Thats not good news for you, a bit late now, but, why did sniff not come up positive ?, 

am i right in thinking you have a luton/box not a panel van, 
This recon engine is that as it says, ie, new pistons, rebored , shells, etc, etc, with c/head, or just another engine from another vehicle,  if it is the first then it could be your best option, especially if the vehicle is a chassie cab with a box on, besides you will then know the engine from start and be able to look after it with regards to oil filters, etc, etc,
i had this problem myself back in the 90`s with two lt40`s chassie cabs both brand new but i had large boxes built and fitted for both of them, both engines had gave up around same mileage`s, one van i had a recon from vw put in, the other i put a used one in, the recon cost then £2500 plus vat  fitted by vw, the other van cost just over a grand but was constant trouble till the day i sold it, the vw recon engine never give problem and that was sold same time as the other, so while £3300 sounds a lot, is it not worth it  with regards to your business and  reliability  to your customers, also you will have some warranty for the work should anything happen to that engine   
 
 
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