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Discussion Starter #1
I have been in denial of my head gaskets needing replacement for the past several months. This past winter the truck wouldn't get to temperature, even after driving for half an hour. I live in upstate NY and while I attributed some of this to the cold, this was happening even on 30 degree days. I replaced both thermostats and I was sitting at 181 the next drive. As a note, I use the Scan Gauge for monitoring my temperatures. Fast forward a couple months, I had started the truck to let it warm up and got in after about 15 minutes. Typically my temps by that point are about 100-110 and the warm air is just starting to blow. This particular day, the temps on the gauge were still in the 40s and not going anywhere. I drove it for a couple minutes and it slowly creeped up to 60. Then it jumped up to 180 and finally settled back to about 130 and rose back to 180 normally. My first assumption is there was an air bubble trapped and it had made its way through the system. Either that or the thermostats were bad. About a week later I was driving and all the sudden my heat starts blowing cold and the temps dropped from about 140 down to 80 and then rebounded.

As I started researching this site, which has been a great wealth of knowledge, I started to get the sinking feeling that it may be the head gaskets. This truck has about 140,000 miles on it. The next day I got the dreaded low coolant message. I let the truck sit for a few days and then went out and checked the radiator hose. Sure enough, hard as a rock. I opened the coolant reservoir cap and it sounded like you took a soda bottle and shook it before opening it. I topped off the coolant and went on my way. Still in denial at this point. The last couple days the low coolant light has been more prevalent so I'm avoiding driving it as much as possible. Upper rad hose is still rock solid so I guess I'm past denial and into the sticker shock phase of what this will cost if I have someone do the work for me.

I’m mechanically inclined and have done head gaskets before on a little 4 banger so I’ve been researching this to death. I have read multiple threads on head gasket replacement and think I can take this on myself. I don’t have a car lift in the garage so removing the body isn’t really feasible. I do have a gantry crane so the engine and tranny could come out but not really what I want to do. I’ve seen where it can be done without removing the cab but I’m concerned with getting the ARP studs installed and the tight working conditions by the firewall. I know I have rounded EGR nuts to deal with.

Here is what I think I will be getting;

Head gasket kit

ARP studs

New water pump since I’m already in there.

What else is an absolute must to do while I have it torn apart? Any advice on not screwing this up? I’ve read about removing the front clip and sitting the lower control arms on blocks to get it as low as possible making it easier to access.
 

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Having gone through the same denial phase, I feel your pain! I'm in the auto repair business (30 years) and chose to have a former colleague who works on these all the time do the work for me. He was able to avoid the pitfalls that I feared. Book time (flat rate) is around 36 hours for this repair and he graciously charged only 30. I believe he spent a lot of the time through the fender wells having removed the inner liners as well as under the hood.
As for your parts list, I would consider glo plugs as well. And make sure the head gaskets are the latest design as it has changed over the years more than once. Also, the head gaskets are side specific as I'm sure you've discovered already.
 

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I would consider doing a EGR delete while your in there. Possibly upgrade the passenger side exhaust manifold and go with a LB7 passenger side up pipe. Also replace all the little chunks of fuel line in the valley of the engine. Use high quality hose, Gates Barricade EFI hose is about the best I have found. Most of the lines are prebent but can be replaced with straight hose if you cut at the perfect length. Turbo coolant line needs replaced as well.

Its a horrible nightmare. Took me like 60hours. Prep the block head surface in a meticulous manner. Dont use the die grinder discs. WD-40 and and fine sandpaper and clean by hand. Squirt some WD-40 into the cylinders and keep the rings wet while its opened up. They can rust pretty fast when opened up and youll probably get some coolant in there when you pull the heads. Make sure you use antisieze on the exhaust hardware and the glow plugs. Youll thank yourself later.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the info. I found a shop that can deal with the heads and I'm going to see if they can also check the injectors. I would rather find an issue with them on the bench rather than after everything is buttoned back up. I was looking at the manifold and down pipe in the past and now would be a good time to do it. Glo plugs make sense. I plan on keeping this truck for many more years so it's worth it to spend a little extra to help it last.

I had a mechanic in the past tell me to double whatever the book time was to determine what he thought it would take me to do the job myself. I'd like to think I've improved a little over the years so 60 hours sounds about right.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So I've been going back and forth on upgrading the down pipe since I'll have most of the engine out. With the heads out, is it easier to maneuver the down pipe out or is it still a pain?
 

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Its still a pain to remove, but easier with the heads off. Unless your going for big horsepower would prob leave it alone. I have a 100 HP tune and it works fine with the stock downpipe.
 
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