View Full Version : 4th cylinder taking on water, white smoke from cylinder and exhaust.

10-13-2012, 06:27 PM
So I tried to start my car today. At first it was backfiring through the carb!!! Called a friend of mine and figured out that it was probably a timing issue. Went through all my timing components and I put the distributor on backwards (up pointing down on the cam pulley).

I correct this, started the car and it did start! However after walking around the car I noticed it was blowing white smoke. It had been on for less than 5 minutes when this happened. I pulled the plugs and cylinder 4 was also smoking white. All the other cylinders were not smoking. The car does not run rough even though it's blowing white smoke.

So I don't know what happened and am looking for advice. I'm going to buy a good Fel-Pro gasket and try again but I'm worried I did something stupid like cracked the head when I ran the distributor backwards. Has anyone had this happen before? What should I be looking for when I pull the head off (if anything). I'm really hoping this is just a gasket.

Thanks in advance. Your help is always appreciated.

10-13-2012, 10:04 PM
have you tried to conduct a compression test? that will give u a good idea as to whats up. could be the head gasket and or even a valve with deposits and not closing all the way. check ur coolant and oil aswell to see if either one looks like chocolate milk.

10-14-2012, 02:01 PM
Coolant looks good so far with no sign of oil in it. My oil also looks nice and clear when I take the valve cover off.

I have not done a compression check yet and didn't plan on doing one since I'm going to have to take the head off no matter what. The head has been professionally rebuilt and was in new condition when I put it on. I verified all the valves closed correctly.

It smells like coolant and smokes white so I really hope it's just a gasket. It seems like it's a very slow leak since I've never seen any coolant come out of the cylinder when I turn it by hand and my coolant level isn't dropping.

10-14-2012, 02:59 PM
Sounds like a head gasket to me.

10-14-2012, 03:31 PM
Alright I'll give it a shot and see what happens. Does anyone have a favorite brand? I don't want it to blow again.

10-22-2012, 03:45 PM
I can't speak from experience for any aftermarket brands (I know Fel-Pro is a "respected" one) but you really can't go wrong with an OEM one, it might be a little pricier, but I'd say it's worth the piece of mind!
You probably already know to do these things but friendly reminder: Don't forget to undo/redo the head bolts in the right order, torque them properly, and don't forget to check for any warpage on the block and head! I know they had some troubles with that on the earlier models....

10-22-2012, 04:58 PM
All 3 of my head gaskets have been FelPro. This last one has gone the longest without blowing, but I replaced the head bolts with ARP studs. I have a suspicion that the head bolts are actually stretching. Honda re-designed them mid-way through the 1st gen, because (so I heard) they had problems with them stretching. Part of me thinks that the redesigned Honda bolts didn't do the trick 100%.

10-23-2012, 06:46 PM
Both my head and the block were resurfaced before installing the gasket so I think they're fine. Still I'll take a straight edge and make sure they're good before putting the new gasket on. I'm also using ARP studs instead of the standard bolts to prevent stretching. The 1G Civic guys like to use the studs to prevent blowouts so I figured why not try on the Accord? This is a brand new rebuild with maybe 5 minutes of run time at this point so I think it's a crap gasket. The head has not been exposed to freezing temps after the rebuild and was checked for cracks before rebuild so I'm hoping it's ok.

I purchased the Fel-Pro kit (since I have to take the top apart I wanted another set of gaskets if I need them) and the Fel-Pro is much better quality than the one that came in Rock Auto gasket set. It's about twice as thick and is made of what appears to be a hard rubber. The one from the kit looked like cardboard with the silver waffle pattern crap on it. I currently can't find an OEM (tried HondaPartsNow and Sons) otherwise I would have gone with that.

I will loosen the bolts in torque order then go back through and remove them all the way in that order before taking the head off. I'm also going to torque them to half spec, wait 10 min, torque to full spec then wait an hour and check the torque again. The car runs really well beyond this white smoke issue on cylinder 4 so I'm hoping the gasket does the trick. Now I just need the Oregon weather to not be horrible this weekend so I can take it apart.

Also I was going to remove the exhaust, then both manifolds with the carb still attached then remove the head. I have a special wrench to get at the manifold bolts on the bottom (thank you again, Dr_Snooz) so that won't be an issue. I'll loosen the 4 bolts that hold the intake to the exhaust manifolds before removing them to make sure I can get it on right when I put them back on. Has anyone tried this method? Anything I should look out for?

Thanks again for all the help. This car is so damn close to being back on the road and I hope this gets her back out.

10-23-2012, 09:06 PM
Head gasket is a big repair. Have you done a compression check to verify the diagnosis? I mention it because I have torn into things thinking I knew what was wrong, only to find out I didn't. Definitely verify the diagnosis with a compression, leak down and/or vacuum gauge test before diving in.

10-23-2012, 09:13 PM
I can't think of any other place where coolant would enter the cylinder. It smells like coolant from the exhaust and when I pull the plug.

This is my first time rebuilding an engine and all my other experience with engines has been with air cooled VW's. Honestly I'm kind of done with this car if the head gasket isn't the issue. It's been constant issues getting this thing going and I'm getting sick of it.

10-24-2012, 07:55 AM
If it's not running rough, maybe give everything a few minutes to set in. If the engine has only been run for about 5 minutes, then it hasn't even had time to warm up. Could even just be condensation in the exhaust. Maybe let it run for a little while longer and see if everything doesn't burn out? How much white smoke are we talking here?

10-24-2012, 10:14 PM
I don't really have anything to add here, since you're kind of already knuckle deep anyhow,but if there's any info you need (Torque specs, bolt tightening order, etc....) just let me know! I'm more than happy to scan in whatever you want, I've got an 81 FSM and a few other manuals as well.
I'd really like to see you get your baby runnin!

10-25-2012, 07:59 AM
^ This.

10-26-2012, 10:52 AM
Thanks guys. I've been working on this car for 2 years so having it start up only to blow white smoke again (the reason why I took on the rebuild in the first place) is frustrating.

There's a small amount of water coming out of the exhaust. Like a couple of drops as it runs. I don't see the coolant level dropping in the radiator or reserve tank so it doesn't appear to be a lot. When I pull the 4th cylinder plug it lets out a little bit of white steam that smells like coolant. All the other cylinders appear to be fine and don't steam/smell normal.

I'm thinking that maybe when I put the brace back on that connects the head to the firewall that it's lifting the head up slightly which is causing a tiny bit of water to leak into the 4th cylinder. The brace bolts up the 4th cylinder side of the head which make me think it's pushing on it just enough to lift the head a tiny bit which is causing water to be pulled in during the downstroke? Before I take it apart again I'm going to check the torque and start it one more time to see if that clears it. If not I'm taking the head back off.

I have the Honda manual for 79 so I'm good on that but thank you for the offer. I'll let you know if I need anything. I want to see this thing running as well. It's been a lot of time and way more money than I'd like to admit to so far and don't want to give up this late in. Still it's frustrating as hell to put it all back together and have it smoke.

POS carb
10-26-2012, 02:25 PM
if there are any coolant lines going to the intake manifold plug them up and recheck, just in case there is a crack in the intake and not the head gasket

10-26-2012, 04:52 PM
That could very well be it. I've had the head checked for cracks and the block but not the intake. I will now check the torque on the studs and plug the intake off and see if it stops. The old head was cracked so I wouldn't be surprised if the intake cracked as well.

I'm guessing I shouldn't run it for long otherwise I risk cracking the intake due to heat?

10-26-2012, 05:00 PM
Also I will now get the correct tool and run a compression check on that cylinder before taking anything off. If compression is good it should be OK, correct?

10-26-2012, 09:30 PM
I'm guessing I shouldn't run it for long otherwise I risk cracking the intake due to heat?

Meh. I think the coolant is there warm it and help the fuel atomize. I don't think you'll have any trouble.

11-04-2012, 10:06 PM
Alright everyone I took the head off today and replaced the head gasket. The old gaskets were cheap and the head gasket was looking like it was already falling apart. The new gasket also went in easier than the old one so that makes me this this was it. I didn't find any coolant in the cylinder or intake and everything looked nice in there so I think it's ok.

I didn't have time to put the exhaust back on today but I'll be doing that as soon as I get some good weather again. Once that's done I'll be trying to start her up again. Thanks for all the help, everything is point to a cheap gasket so far.

11-05-2012, 06:13 PM
Good to hear! Keep us posted...and maybe a pic or 2? Just so I can drool over what a CLEAN engine looks like?

11-05-2012, 07:40 PM
I'll take some pictures next week and post them up once I try to start it again. Doing the gasket was a long job but really wasn't that hard since everything was so clean.

11-06-2012, 08:54 AM
really wasn't that hard since everything was so clean.

Ok, now you're just rubbing it in. :hmph:


I'm so tempted to take off my hood just so I can get the front of my engine nice and clean. Most of my engine bay is clean, and presently "leak free" but the whole lower front of the engine is still coated with a few years worth of oil seepage from the valve cover gasket. I don't think soap and a pressure washer will do...it needs some good brushing and scraping.