View Full Version : Leaking Head Gasket?

07-17-2005, 04:47 PM
My recently purchased 55 truck may have a bad head gasket, but I want to confirm that and take the corrective steps in the right order.

First, after cleaning off the engine at a car wash, I can see that oil is leaking from the joint between head and block, on the left side, near the front. Second, looking in the radiator, not only is it rusty and muddy, but seems to have oil in it. You can tell by the way the dark "oil part" is separate from the rusty water part of the goopy radiator fluid.

I'm still leaning toward putting in a 259 V8, but until then I need to get this problem fixed.

If it is a bad head gasket, I know the gasket will have to be replaced (and that the block and head contact surfaces must be made flat if not already). But do I do that repair BEFORE or AFTER flushing the cooling system and refilling with water and coolant? And what other steps am I leaving out?


1955 1/2 Ton Pickup

07-17-2005, 04:57 PM
I would do the head first.I find I have to remove some coolant before the head comes off, that's my line of reasoning.

07-17-2005, 05:34 PM
My two cents Paul...

Drain and flush the cooling system as completely as you can. You can get the heavy duty cleaners at the local parts store, (FLAPS), but they really are rather lame in my estimation. BUT, they're all ya got, so you may need to do it more than once to get that cooling system clean.

There are "homemade" ways to do it, (I've used a 50/50, water/white vinegar mix successfully), but they have to be done with great care.

Anyway, get it as clean as ya can, then buy or find the pump device that garages use to pressurize the cooling system. Put the system through a full leak down check. There are dyes and also a procedure that garages use, with a chemical and "sniffer", to find leaks.

In any event, clean it and check it before you go through an unnecessary head gasket change. Oil can and does get into the cooling system by many different ways. A clean starting point is the only way you can know what you've got for sure.


07-17-2005, 07:39 PM

If you want, I'll sell you a can of genuine Studebaker cooling system flush (the stuff's still available from SASCO BTW). And it's NOT the wimpy stuff Sonny talks about. I'd bet this stuff was outlawed by the EPA, OSHA, FAA, NASA and other such organizations LONG ago.
This stuff has the cleaner in one end of the can and the neutralizer in the other end. Instructions are on the can and the can makes a neat conversation piece when it's empty!

Miscreant at large.

1957 Transtar 1/2ton
1960 Larkvertible V8
1958 Provincial wagon
1953 Commander coupe
1957 President 2-dr
1955 President State
1951 Champion Biz cpe
1963 Daytona project FS

07-17-2005, 09:25 PM
Man, I love the detailed advice available here from you guys! I'm probably going to take this advice, and the truck, to my local mechanic (Master Certified ASE, blah blah blah), and see if he can do the things you are talking about.

I'm just not up to doing serious engine work myself. Not having the experience, I have to defer to my limitations (the only car I ever did a complete engine tear down on was my first car, a 62 Corvair - didn't learn anything about water cooled engines on that one, unfortunately).

Thank you again, everyone. If any of you are in the Texas Hill Country Chapter, I hope to meet you at the swap meet in Fredericksburg on July 30th.


1955 1/2 Ton Pickup

07-18-2005, 09:26 AM
If you give the radiator to a repairer, make sure you check their leak-test pressure. It should be at least what the radiator cap has stamped on it. If not, you can get grief. I had a radiator opened and cleaned internally and then re-soldered and leak tested to 2 PSI by the shop. Unfortunately, the radiator cap pressurised to 8 PSI and that's when I found 2 leaks. Had to take the @#&$ thing out again and back to the shop. Some procrastinated language later it was fixed.

07-21-2005, 10:37 PM
if you are still curious whether you have a bad head gasket i am pretty sure that if you start your engine, remove the radiator cap and see bubbles coming up in the radiator, your head gasket is done.

1964 lark daytona

07-23-2005, 04:01 PM
Thanks, Benny. I don't see bubbles, so that's good. I'm going to change my oil today, after checking it for the presence of antifreeze.

Mr. Biggs, I'll keep in mind your offer to sell me a can of that "Studebaker cooling system flush & conversation piece". I plan to change to a 259 V8 engine sometime soon, and will therefore need to upgrade to a larger radiator as well, I'm told. If it's an original Studebaker radiator, it may need the original Studebaker radiator flush!

1955 1/2 Ton Pickup

07-26-2005, 12:37 AM
Is this a flathead "6"? If so, there shouldn't be any oil passages to the head, just water passages. Sometimes these flatheads seep coolant at the gaskets. Usually a new gasket and a check of the head at a machine shop is in order. A minor weep a guy can live with, if you just putter around town, but it needs to be watched..

07-26-2005, 04:10 PM
BruceStude, It is a flathead six. I do see a black substance running down the block from the point where the head and block connect. It very well could be coolant, as I have not yet flushed and refilled the black sludgy coolant that was in the system when I bought the truck (don't worry, I've only driven it a few miles so far). Thanks for the help. I think it will only be puttering around town until I obtain a V8.

1955 1/2 Ton Pickup