03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?
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  1. #1
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Gosh it's been a while since I've been on here. Still having no end of problems with my SVT

    I don't even remember what was happening the last time I posted, but I got the girl running again and got a whole lot of fixed. New steering knuckle, brand-new suspension all around, new wheels/tires, new fuel pump and fuel pump relay

    Since I've got it running again I had the radiator fan relay go out and I got the car pretty hot but not past redline on the temp gauge. Replaced the relay earlier this week and now I have no idea what is going on because it died on me while I was on the freeway.

    First I heard a clicking noise coming from the engine at +2.5k RPM. It got steadily more apparent until I started losing power. Flooring it wouldn't push the engine above 3k, and when I let off the gas as I got off the freeway the engine died completely and will not restart. Coolant temp was within normal operating range. I popped the hood after coasting into a parking lot and saw a small amount of smoke coming from around the intake manifold, but it didn't smell like coolant.

    When I crank it, the engine spins, but it doesn't sound right at all. It does not turn over. It does not sound like it's trying to turn over. I have spark in all four cylinders but I can't tell if it's getting gas. I tried spraying some starter fluid in the intake manifold to see if it would at least fire up but no such luck.

    Anyone have any thoughts?
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

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  3. #2
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    After researching a little more the symptoms the car is displaying I have determined that it has indeed lost compression, hence the strange noise when starting. There is no coolant in the oil, but there was also no coolant in the reservoir. I filled the reservoir from the hose and went inside to use the bathroom and by the time I got back outside the reservoir was empty again and there was a steady drip coming down the back of the engine. I'm nearly positive this is a blown head gasket, I'm just really confused how it could happen without me overheating the engine. As I said before, it got hot when the radiator fan relay went bad, but it was never past the red line on the temp gauge.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  4. #3
    TEAM Member SVT5D's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    It is also possible that it is leaking into the cylinder or to the outside of the engine. Have you looked at the plugs? Have you actually done a compression test?

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  6. #4
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    The plugs are fine but I did determine that it is leaking somewhere at the rear of the engine. I can't pinpoint exactly where because it's difficult to see back there. I have not done a compression test, but at this point it seems moot as it would only tell me what I already know.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  7. #5
    [FJ] Specialist G-forces's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Yes, it could be a blown head gasket, but you might also have a combo of things going on. See if you can pinpoint the coolant leak, it may be from a freeze plug. If so, you may also have a broken timing belt to go with it.

    No matter what, you are still going to have to remove the head... so, good luck, I hope everything comes apart easily.
    Getaway in Stockholm 2: Escort Cosworth vs Supra... adults-only driving on YouTube.
    2002 Gold SE (Ghia) Focus, heavily modified... killed by a terrible driver
    2004 Silver SVTF w/EAP, #800... sold, to become a track star

  8. #6
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Yesterday I had put the spark plugs back in when I was trying to determine where the leak was. Today when I took them out, I had water in the 3 and 4 cylinders from when I had refilled it.

    I'm still confused on how the head gasket could have blown if I didn't overheat it.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  9. #7
    TEAM Member SVT5D's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Well, you admit that you are confused and ask for advice, but then say you already know the answer.

    So if your sure it's a head gasket, just pull the head.

  10. #8
    [FJ] Specialist G-forces's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    The dummy gauge doesn't give good readings, you probably did overheat the engine a bit. Not to the point of blowing steam out anywhere, but enough to slightly warp the head vs the block, and blow through a section of gasket. It doesn't take all that much in a high-ish compression engine.

    Water in the cylinders means water in the sump, don't take that lightly. You will need to remove the oil pan and clean it out before putting fresh oil in. If you want to do a really complete job (if you turned the engine much after the gasket was blown) you can remove the oil pump (and filter). If you do all that, then it will be a golden opportunity to run solvent down the oil galleys, to clean out any water stuck to the sludge coating.

    A lot of work, but water between the bearings/journals is a very bad thing. I'm picky enough to do that, so it's not like I'm advising something I don't do.
    Getaway in Stockholm 2: Escort Cosworth vs Supra... adults-only driving on YouTube.
    2002 Gold SE (Ghia) Focus, heavily modified... killed by a terrible driver
    2004 Silver SVTF w/EAP, #800... sold, to become a track star

  11. #9
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Well I've got the engine broken down now and I don't see any obvious warping of the head or block. I checked both with a good straightedge after scraping off all the old gasket material. Can the head/block warp enough to blow the gasket and go back to normal? Or is it possible it's still warped?

    I also noticed there is a piece broken off of one of the exhaust valves. It doesn't appear to have done any damage except for one tiny nick I can't see but can feel on the piston crown. Now I've got an extra step before I put the head back, yay.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  12. #10
    [FJ] Specialist G-forces's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    You should definitely have the head resurfaced by a CNC at an engine shop, and have a complete valve job while you're at it. If there is a problem with one of the exhaust valves, you may as well replace it, and then have all the valves/seats cut/lapped... a 3-angle job is worth it... and a flush-cut for intake side (exhaust should already be flush) may help maintain the correct CR after they resurface the head with a minimal shave. You will most likely need to get few new buckets for proper gapping. If the shop can't get the gaps right with the existing buckets, ask around, there may be some to be had (i.e. I have a set of Zetec ones... can't remember if they work on SVT or not, but I'm thinking maybe not).
    Getaway in Stockholm 2: Escort Cosworth vs Supra... adults-only driving on YouTube.
    2002 Gold SE (Ghia) Focus, heavily modified... killed by a terrible driver
    2004 Silver SVTF w/EAP, #800... sold, to become a track star

  13. #11
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    I really appreciate your advice G-forces but I think I might have to replace this cylinder head completely. I took a moment to inspect the rest of the valves for damage and I found some damage on the head itself that looks like it's not repairable.


    Here is the damaged valve, in cylinder 4


    Here is 2, 3, and 4. There is damage between the exhaust valves.


    Closeup of 3


    Closeup of 2

    Now I'm no expert, but that doesn't look right. I think I might need to replace this head, which is absolutely the worst thing that could have happened considering my budget.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  14. #12
    TEAM Member SVT5D's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Yeah that head is gone, but before you spend a bunch on a new one, try to figure out what caused all that damage. Otherwise it will just happen again. Its more than just a head gasket with that much erosion on all four cylinders.

  15. #13
    TEAM Member KR1's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    I'll do some inspecting as best as I can tomorrow, but I honestly have no idea where to start? The cylinders themselves look pretty good, the pistons look good, and I was not experiencing any symptoms of bad piston rings. Could regular gas have caused this? I know the SVT is supposed to take premium gas but for a while I was poor as dirt and couldn't afford it. Also, I bought the car with 80k miles on it and the previous owner did not take care of it very well. Springs were heated, both lower control arms were bad and looked like they were caked in concrete when I replaced them, all four headers were cracked, and maybe half a dozen other problems I inherited, including a bad transmission.

    If anyone has any suggestions on what I should be looking for I'd be grateful.
    2003 Focus SVT Build #429 of 3985
    2005 Focus ZX3
    1994 Chevy Full-size Blazer (tows the Foci when they break)

  16. #14
    TEAM Member SVT5D's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Honestly, I would part it out and buy another one.

  17. #15
    [FJ] Specialist G-forces's Avatar
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    Default Re: 03 SVT no start, weird noises, possible head gasket blown?

    Yes, 87 octane can do a lot of damage due to pre-ignition. You would need to get a mail order tune for 87 if you wanted to run it safely, but then you'd lose a noticeable amount of power.

    In your case it looks like the gas was still burning hard when the exhaust valves opened and torched the H out of the seats. Do you or did the previous owner force air on this engine?

    It sounds like you already have a lot of time/money into repairing this jewel, if you didn't I might be tempted to agree with SVT5D (as much as I hate the thought of losing another one to history). See how much it costs to find a new head and how good the cylinder walls look before deciding (it seems that you had plenty of compression, so the rings are probably good, no heavy residue either).

    Also, make sure your fuel pressure is correct and your injectors are clean. If it was my car I'd send the injectors in to RC Engineering to have them flow-matched... that is, provided you keep it.
    Getaway in Stockholm 2: Escort Cosworth vs Supra... adults-only driving on YouTube.
    2002 Gold SE (Ghia) Focus, heavily modified... killed by a terrible driver
    2004 Silver SVTF w/EAP, #800... sold, to become a track star


 
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