Checking the head matting surface condition. (picture from Kenny web page)

 

This is the dreaded coolant head problem; basically this is cause by coolant getting in between the head and the outer rubber head gasket (head side of the gasket). Slowly the coolant make is way under the gasket and corrode the head mating surface where the outer gasket meetís the head, and this will happen before you see some coolant dripping under the van. When you see the coolant dripping there is some good chance that the corrosion as already begun.  VW said that starting 1986/87 with the 2.1L, new head gasket was supposed to solve this problem!!! Yea, my ass they did. Many 2.1L owners had/have this problem. The result is a pitted head, sometime to the point of NO return, in other word itís to late to save the head.

Why!!  the hell if I know why, I am not god. What I know for sure is that the wasserboxer heads is not well design.

 My opinion on this subject differs from everybody I know. I think that all O-ring, rubber seal and other flexible VW seals are of poor quality compare to other company. So as we all know, with time (cold, hot, warm, years) rubber as a tendency to harden and that is whatís causing the coolant to go trough and under the head gasket, if those one are not flexible anymore, they simply have no way of properly sealing the outer portion of the head. So go put your finger nail into your head gasket and if somewhat soft, youíre in business, if they are hard like a hockey puck, youíre up for a gasket job very soon. Many will say that non phosphate-free coolant are the main reason, I donít think so!! I would say that old coolant and cheap coolant doesnít help but the main reason is having a flexible head gasket.

The inner round flexible gasket (the one that seals the combustion chamber and stop the coolant from getting inside the cylinder) is less subject to this corrosion probably due to a better design in that portion of the head.

 would also speculate about VW poor head material, I have done many engine head (leaking) gasket replacement (Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Volks) and the only one with pitted / corroded head are VW cars.

Head can be repair, before you buy a new head, bring it to a professional head rebuilt company/shop and have their opinion.

 
Checking the head matting surface, do you need a new head or not (Image & text by Kenny).

 

 

The first thing to look for is pitting inside the lip that seals the cylinder and the head (GREEN). If there is pitting, you will not have a good seal when rebuilding. Coolant will work its way into the combustion chamber. The outer seal (The one that uses the big black rubber gasket) can be made smooth by filling in the pits with J-B Weld (YELLOW), but it is WORTHLESS to do this if the other seal is not PERFECT.
 

For a full precedure on removing the heads, click here ( www.vanagon.com )

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