Need opinions about this problem (head gasket?)
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Thread: Need opinions about this problem (head gasket?)

  1. #1
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    Arrow Need opinions about this problem (head gasket?)

    Hey all, I've been struggling with constant cooling system problems with this 2000 Odyssey EX (~180,000 miles). For a while the coolant overflow reservoir has been filling up. In the past year I've replaced both heater cores. A few months back a couple coolant hoses began leaking, so I replaced them. One by one the remaining coolant hoses began leaking, so all of the coolant hoses have been replaced. After replacing those, the water pump began leaking. I replaced the water pump and timing belt. Shortly thereafter the radiator sprung a leak, so I replaced it (it was replaced a few years ago as well). All the while I can still get heat from the vents.

    It sounds to me like the cooling system is being over pressurized, thus blowing all of the cooling system components. This points to a head gasket leak, and the van has overheated a few times. I'm not getting any oil loss or oil/coolant mixing, though. Does this sound like a potential head gasket failure or does anyone recommend checking something else first?

    Assuming a head is warped: I saw in the service manual that the service limit on the head is warping of 0.2mm. Is it even likely that the heads will be serviceable?

    Sorry for the novel, but I'm really torn about doing anymore work on this stupid van. (By the way, the van is on its fourth transmission, with signs that it might be having more tranny problems.)

    I appreciate any feedback.

    Thanks, Tim

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  3. #2
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    My first response is to trash the van, but...


    The radiator cap should release pressure before damage to hoses and things...

    Do you know what coolant was in it, and when it's been changed?

    Was the first timing belt service done on time, and did it include the water pump?

    If you run the engine with the radiator cap off, does the coolant bubble alot? Have your wife put it in gear with her foot firmly on the brake, and give it a bit of gas to load the engine a bit(don't do this for long, as it'll overheat the trans fluid for sure).

    Any sign of steam escaping the tailpipe, aside from the usual startup period?
    2013 Smoky Topaz Odyssey Touring
    2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T to replace the Integra
    2002 MB EXL-RES(sold at 137k miles)
    1994 Acura Integra GSR(sold in 2009 with 195k, stolen from new owner after only 7 months!)

  4. #3
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    The coolant had been replaced according the the Honda schedule. Then it was replaced the first time I replaced the radiator... and when each heater core was changed... and with all of the leaking hoses... etc.

    The first timing belt service was done according the the service schedule, and did include the water pump.

    I'll give the other things a look on Friday, and I'll report back. Thanks for the input.

  5. #4
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    I think it's the radiator cap that is bad, holding too much pressure. I'd replace it. and if you can get one with a lower rating I'd go with that.
    On older cars when ever I replaced the water pump I always opted for a lower pressure cap since it never seamed to fail that the added water flow from a new pump would seam to cause a radiator (or heater core) that didn't leak before to fail in short order.

  6. #5
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    Not a bad guess.
    2013 Smoky Topaz Odyssey Touring
    2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T to replace the Integra
    2002 MB EXL-RES(sold at 137k miles)
    1994 Acura Integra GSR(sold in 2009 with 195k, stolen from new owner after only 7 months!)

  7. #6
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    I should be able to get a new cap tomorrow, and I'll see if they have one with lower pressure. We'll see what happens. I'll report back.

  8. #7
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    These symptoms point to a problem outside the cooling system and inside the engine. It could be a head gasket leak that lets in exhaust gases into the cooling system. It could also be a crack in the engine head. That would increase the system pressure. If you are getting coolant blown into the reservoir the cap is venting the pressure.

    The problem with overheating is that it can make these problems worse. A leaky head gasket can cause loss of coolant, leading to overheating and large temperature differentials in the engine, leading to a crack or severe warpage, which leads to even worse problems.

    Did you do at least do a compression test? It's straightforward. A compression gauge is not that expensive. If memory serves... you take out the fuel pump fuse, replace a spark plug with the gauge, then with the gas pedal to the floor crank the starter for several revolutions. The behavior of the gauge, and maximum reading are noted for each cylinder. If one or two cylinders are way off the others, you likely have a gasket problem (best case) or the engine has a crack in it (worst case).

    You are obviously frustrated with having to fix variants of the same problem, but you have only been fixing the symptoms of an underlying major problem. If the rest of the car is okay, I'd encourage you to at least look into finding the root cause and fixing that. You could still get another relatively trouble-free 100K out of this car, especially with a rebuilt engine -- assuming your transmission is okay.

    Good luck to you.
    - WormGuy
    2001 Honda Odyssey, 135K miles

  9. #8
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    My original plan was to do a compression check. I haven't had time to do it since the last round of work, though. Once the radiator let go this last time, it really got me thinking about what else could be going on. As is, the van just stays parked. We've been really struggling with whether this van is worth the effort to delve into a major engine repair.

    I've never had so many problems with a Hondain addition to the aforementioned problems, we've also had issues with the power doors (obviously), the driver's seat, the stereo, and the rear wiper. I'm sure there's other stuff I can't remember right now. Okay, I'm done venting.

    Again, thanks for the feedback.

  10. #9
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    Wait, let me get this right, you live in michigan with a honda that has 180k on it and had hoses starting to go around 150k and you replaced each as they started to leak instead of replacing all at once? Why put yourself through that kind of trouble?

    As for the heater core, I've not heard of many failing on hondas. Radiators are kind of the norm for any car with 100k plus on it. I've had a radiator from nearly every car maker fail around 130k. Jeep, nissan, Ford, Mazda, Buick, Pontiac, Honda, Toyota, Chevy.

    The water pump seal would only fail early if it overheated or there was an improper coolant to water mix in the system.
    2001 Honda Odyssey
    131k Dec 09
    135k Jan 10
    137k Feb 10
    140k March 10 EGR,Valves, IAC
    143k April 10 Fluids PS, ATF, Oil(18k change), BK

  11. #10
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    The ones I didn't initially replace were right by the front heater core. I had that changed at a local garage, and I had thought that they had changed those hoses along with the heater core. They looked okay externally. Obviously they were less than okay internally.

  12. #11
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    As a general rule of thumb barring road debris external events etc. If you replace one hose due to age you need to replace all of them. Thanks for the reminder though. I'll likely be replacing all of my hoses this coming year just to prevent trouble from occuring.

    Cooling system issues are a pain in the neck but they rarely happen,
    2001 Honda Odyssey
    131k Dec 09
    135k Jan 10
    137k Feb 10
    140k March 10 EGR,Valves, IAC
    143k April 10 Fluids PS, ATF, Oil(18k change), BK

  13. #12
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    Along with some of the others above, I suspect that the rash of coolant system failures has something to do with either oil (even small amounts that you may not notice) and/or exhaust getting into your coolant. Head gasket leaks can introduce engine oil into the coolant (as well as radiator tank-mounted transmission oil coolers) and this oil will cause failure of the hoses from within--it turns the rubber into a sponge, it loses its strength and will be unable to withstand pressure. I've seen this time after time--it can happen from an external oil leak that gets onto the outside of the hoses as well.

    Until the root cause is identified and resolved, you should expect the failures to continue.

    I used to change hoses on my American cars at around 100K miles, but on my Japanese and German brands I have seen hoses easily go 200K miles without any problems (so long as they haven't been exposed to oil and so on). YMMV
    2001 Odyssey EX 175K miles, 70K on the 3rd tranny, now running Dex III ATF with Lubegard Friction Modifier (black bottle)

  14. #13
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    I owned a 96 Ford Windstar before the Honda, they are notorious for head gasket failures. Mine would also fill the overflow reservoir and you could watch constant bubbles in the reservoir at almost all times. One thing you didnt mention is the fans, are they working properly and are they cycling at the right temps. I havent needed to learn how the Honda operates but I assume its the same on most vehicles. The Ford would always have the fan on while AC was on, and kicked in a higher speed when it hit a certain temp (forget what temp). Watch the temp gauge and make sure the fan is kicking in at the right time. Also make sure the radiator feels hot, if no heat in the radiator you have a bad thermostat or collapsing hose or other blockage. I bought a block tester kit from NAPA that tests for carbon monoxide in the coolant, its placed over the overflow opening and the special chemical will turn a particular color if it detects carbon monoxide in the coolant. Not all head gasket problems are created equal and you wont always be able to see oil in coolant and visa versa, though as another pointed out oil in coolant can ruin hoses and coolant in the oil will destroy the bearings. I found the block Kit to be inconclusive and got rid of the Ford never to return to Ford again. They had recalled the earlier version for head gaskets, they claimed to have fixed it starting in 96, yeah.they doubled the head bolt torque which just got people past warranty. A water passage on the Fords was too close to the combustion and caused the failures. Youd think after a couple of centuries they would have figured out how to build an engine that didnt have such a problem. It infuriates me to see Ford leading the way out of the U.S. auto maker depression, they should be BK in my opinion.
    Last edited by FarmDog; 04-23-2010 at 03:34 PM.

  15. #14
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    I picked up a compression tester. We shall see what I find.

  16. #15
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    Alright, I checked the compression on all cylinders. They were all between 165 and 180 psi. This is confusing to me. The service manual lists a minimum compression of 135 psi, with maximum variation of 28 psi. I'm well within the limits. I'm not convinced that this is any indication that the head gaskets aren't leaking. But I'm just not sure at this point.

    As always, any input is appreciated.

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