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200 Dakota Head gasket help

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Apr 13, 2009, 4:41 AM

Post #1 of 9 (1008 views)
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Well, been working on this v6 2000 3.9 l Dakota that my brother said overheated and started blowing white smoke. I have the heads off and wanted to make some comments and get some advice:
1: This is the first time I have worked on a dodge. I thought the distributor would need to come out in order to take the intake off. I took off the mounting clamp for the distributor. I made a mark with a sharpie on the "plate" that is on top of the distributor base below the rotor. I made the mark in the direction the rotor was pointing. (The best I could, it was hard to see back there.) I actually never took the distributor out. When putting this back together, can I just aline the rotor with this mark. If it is off a 1/4 inch will it matter or do I need to do something different?
2: I took all head bolts out and pushrods and punched holes in two shoeboxes to store them to keep them in order. How do I tell if the head bolts need replaced? Also, the push rods had a clack coating on them. DO they need to be cleaned? Also, an old manual to another car said to put grease on the top of the pushrod the area the rocker arm contacts. Is this good advice or will it block oil flow?
3. The back piston where I had high compression and was blowing coolant out the spark plug hole was about two inches from the top. I felt around and used a mirror and did not see anything wrong. Should I turn the engine over so I can inspect the rest of the bore? Will this disturb timing?
4: On this same piston there are two areas where a small "glob" of metal apparently attached to the piston. In this same cylinder during disassembly, the spark plug gap arm was missing. They are about the size of a baby asprin. I could not pry them loose with my finger. Should I try a razor blade? Is this really bad?
5: I am not sure if I am looking for is right but the head gasket looked alright to me. There were no "blown out" areas where gasket material was missing between cylinders or anything. Does this mean it might not be the head gasket?
6: Lastly, I am going to have a shop mill and crack check the heads. If they hot tank them, will this mess up the valve seals? Should I have them replaced? This engine has about 151,000 and ran ok when disassembled other than the overhweatign and smoke assumed from a leaking head gasket and anti freeze in the intake. I may drive this truck if it runs or sell it, not sure.
7: Oh, one last thing, some "leaf" material fell into the engine when I took the intake off. I vacuumed it as much as I could but did not get it perfect. Will this be a problem?
As always I appreciate your help!

Loren Champlain Sr
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Apr 13, 2009, 1:22 PM

Post #2 of 9 (1003 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

1. Good that you didn't have to pull the distributor. If you didn't turn it, shouldn't have any problems. If you did, get the rotor as close to the mark you made. That should be close enough to get it running. Ignition timing won't be affected, but fuel synchronization will, it not close enough. The distributor setting must be done with a scan tool.
2. I recommend replacing head bolts. As far as cleaning, the old rule applies: Cleanliness is close to Dodgeliness. Smile
Yes, get everything as clean as possible. The vacuum idea is great. We do it, too. Yes, you can and should pre-lube all moving parts as it will take a bit for the oil to get back up there upon start up. You can buy pre-lube at most any parts store.
3. & 4. The piston and spark plug. This is a sign of detonation. (extreme heat). Not good. Is there any way you can take a pic of the top of the piston and post it? Yes, you can turn the engine over by hand. As long as the distributor wasn't removed, shouldn't be a problem.
5. Have the machine shop inspect both head gaskets. Sometimes, it is very hard to 'see' where it was leaking. A trained eye should help.
6. Yes, the valve guide seals should be replaced, regardless.
7. Again, you cannot get it too clean. As far as preparing the surfaces for reassembly, it is imperative that they are CLEAN. You can buy surfacing discs that can be used with a drill. Buy the light ones, rather than medium or coarse. You may go through several, but the coarse ones can take off metal if not careful.
8. Sealant; In 99% of vehicles, the head gaskets go on dry. But, Mopar makes some great head gasket sealant spray that is available only at Chrysler Product dealers. You spray both sides of the head gasket, let it sit until it becomes 'tacky', then install. Was actually required on some applications.
SW Washington

(This post was edited by Loren Champlain Sr on Apr 13, 2009, 1:36 PM)


Apr 13, 2009, 1:36 PM

Post #3 of 9 (998 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

How relieable will this engine be after this work? How many miles can I get out of it?

Loren Champlain Sr
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Apr 13, 2009, 1:42 PM

Post #4 of 9 (995 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

(First, I found the timing procedure and edited into my last post.)
Longevity; That is highly questionable. With the detonation problem, and number of miles on the engine, it's anyone's guess.Unsure Most engines of today, with proper maintenance, will almost always last 200K. However, this one, having being driven with a known problem, and you've seen the results,......All you can do now is either replace the engine or keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.
There was a fellow I was 'talking' to yesturday, Dakota 3.9, with the same symptoms. He said it was a 2003. Is this the same vehicle?
SW Washington


Apr 14, 2009, 4:18 AM

Post #5 of 9 (990 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

How do you know there was a detonation problem? The spark plug hole where the plug was missing the arm was shooting coolant through the spark plug hole when cranked. Could the missing part of the plug be the result of the leaking head gasket. Compression was high in this cylinder because of the water in there.

Some history, in November my brother had this truck and took it to Midas and had the heater core replaced and coolant flushed. The next week it got hot on him and he parked it. Next day drove to Midas and white smoke started coming from tailpipe. Midas told me that they started it in the engine bay and had to open the doors so much white smoke was coming from it. They offered to buy it for 300 bucks. He ended up giving it to me. They brought it to my house in December on a wrecker. I started it right up off the wrecker and drove it about 200 feet to my driveway with no noises or other problems. No smoke either. It stayed parked there until March. At that time I checked the oil and there was coolant in it. I drained the coolant down and left the top part of the oil in it.

I started taking it apart last week.

The piston last night looked like it had two small globulas of solder on it. I turned the crankshaft with a wrench and the best I can tell no cracks. (But this is a very back cylinder and it is hard to see one side of it. The cylinder did not fill with coolant which I assume is a good sign.

I will say one of the other pistons had black garbon in it. More so than the rest. (This was not the cylinder with the problem.). I will also say that while turing the crank. Some "dirt" looking specs would get on the cylinder walls. I wiped them off with a paper towel but they would reappear.

I was asking about how long it would last because I am debating whther it would be best to drive this myself or sell it if I get it running. I hate to put too much money in it but it is a nice looking truck. I tend to keep the vehicles I have. My current truck is a Chevy 4x4 with 301,000 miles on it.

I will say the engine turned over easy with the wrench.

I am already looking at about 140 bucks to crack check, mill and do a valve job on both heads. Another 100 bucks for a head gasket set, 60 bucks for a water pump, plus whatever spark plugs, hoses, oil, filter and antifreeze costs.

What do you think?


Apr 14, 2009, 4:52 AM

Post #6 of 9 (988 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

By the way, here are my compression numbers:
6 = 90psi 3 = 190 psi (120 checked later)
5 = 105 psi 2 = 90 psi
4 = 95 psi 1 = 95 psi


Apr 14, 2009, 1:19 PM

Post #7 of 9 (984 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

Can I buy a scan tool that will allow me to adjust the timing?

Loren Champlain Sr
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Apr 14, 2009, 2:14 PM

Post #8 of 9 (981 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

>>How do you know there was a detonation problem<< From the missing electrode and 'globs' of metal attached to the piston. The pistons that appear 'clean' have probably been washed with hot water or fuel. The ones that are dark are more than likely, normal.
The engine should turn over easy with the spark plugs out of the heads.
Midas offered him $300 for it? Oh, my. How generous of them. NOT.
The compression readings are terrible, by the way.
Sorry, but no good news, here.Unsure
SW Washington


Apr 15, 2009, 4:26 AM

Post #9 of 9 (975 views)
Re: 200 Dakota Head gasket help [In reply to] Sign In

Well, I did an experiment last night:

I took one of the heads (the one with the suspected blown head gasket) and turned it over on its side the the exahust ports on top. I sprayed brake cleaner in the ports to fill them up with fluid. Every exhaust valve seeped fluid out of it, eventually completely emptying the fluid. (Not real fast)

I turned the head over and did the same thing to the intake ports, same result except for number 1 I believe intake valve. It did not leak anything.

Are my valves leaking? If this was fixed, would my compression go up to normal?

It is an extra 60 bucks to have a valve job. If you dont think this engine should have much money put into it, what if I lapped the valves by hand? Would this be advantagous? I could lap them, then do the test again to see if they are leaking then I guess if they leak have a valve job.

If the engine is not going to last i dotn want to spend too much. I have one of those suction cup lappers. I rebuilt an old techumseh engine and bought compound for that. I am not sure if it is adviseable on an automotive engine or not.

Have you ever worked on these 3.9 dodge engines? Are they good engines?

By the way, I bought a Hayes manual last night and it said you could reuse the bolts for the v6, just not the 4 cylinder.

200 Dakota Head gasket help

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