Head Gaskets

Posted by Alex Darmos on

A few years back, before there were gasket alternatives, I blew my front head gasket nearly every time I raced, and that was on my low 12 sec car. I believe one summer I had to change seven head gaskets on my car, and if there were a record for changing the most head gaskets, I would have owned it. After MLS gaskets became available for our cars I was able to make improvements, but I was also making more power, and I ended up blowing quite a few of those until I developed some techniques to make them last.

First and foremost, you must run an intercooler. As long as you’re making good power, you need to be running an intercooler. Trying for speed without and IC will just end up costing you more money in failures than what it would to just buy the IC to begin with.

Second, lower your timing. Yes, running 28 degrees makes for the most power, but it comes at a price. Here at ZZP, we’ve long since given up trying to seek out the last two or three HP, and instead favor keeping our builds reliable. 24 degrees of timing should be max for 15 pound of boost or less, considering you’re at the race track with race gas and a max effort car. If you’re on the street with pump gas, don’t go over 18 pounds. If you run nitrous or more than 15 pounds of boost, lower your timing about one degree for about every two pounds or about 25HP of nitrous.

Third, follow the procedures we use on the MLS gaskets to achieve our previously unheard of success rate. • Use copper spray, and forget about Hylomar. Whoever started the rumor that this is better was wrong. We’ve tested, we’ve failed, and we’ve succeeded. Stick with copper spray. Spray the gaskets so they get completely coated but not enough to cause a run. Do one head at a time, and let the sprayed gasket get tacky (about 5-10 minutes dry time). • We have not seen a need for the super fine finish on the heads. Using copper spray seems to fill the small gaps in enough to compensate for any inconsistencies. I doubt the ultra-fine finish hurts anything though so we will continue to use it on our S3 and 4 heads. • Prep the block. The block needs to be scraped and cleaned with something like a scotch bright. When you’re done it should have a mirror like finish.

Finally use some starting fluid (ether) on a lint free cloth to make sure it’s oil free. Same goes for the heads. Do not touch the surface of the head or block. ANY oil (even from your skin) can prevent the copper spray from adhering to the surfaces. Even brand new heads should be wiped down; don’t assume they are clean! • Use moly lube! But make sure you don’t get any on the mating surface. There should be plenty on the washer, bottom of the nut and on the threads of the studs. • Run the right gaskets. There are 3.84 bore and 3.82 bore gaskets on the market right now. If you have a stock bore block run the 3.82. You’ll have more sealing area, so eliminate the gap between the block and the head, and make more power. Sure the difference is small but it is there and it doesn’t cost any more to do it right.

ZZP credentials run deep in head gasket knowledge. We went from having the most failures to having the least. My GTP runs a 2.55″ pulley full time with 9.5:1 compression and 93 octane. Trust me; it’s making some serious cylinder pressure. It’s made more 11 sec passes without failure than I can count, and the last time it was take to the track, it was driven there, made a couple 10 sec passes, and then driven home, without any need to trailer home; no failures, no issues. Zooomer Torque proceedure should be 40, 60, 80, 90, 90. This is following the normal pattern in the Helms manual. 5136 7428