Last time I wrote in we had just purchased a $400 Jeep in hopes of repairing it before the Gambler 500 in Detroit at the end of April. Up until this point, the gambler was just a dream. We had a lot of work ahead of us and it was time to tear into the Jeep.
After going through the vehicle and checking for anything we needed to keep an eye out for we started by tackling that engine. The story, or myth as you will soon find out, of the final hours of the Share-okee was that it had blown a head gasket. The owner, who daily drove the Cherokee, was driving to work when it spewed white smoke and sputtered to a halt at a local garage where it sat before being towed back to his house and put on craigslist as a mechanic special. After running the jeep for a little while, which i can only compare to the sound of a steam engine, we agreed this was the issue and purchased a full gasket kit, head studs, and a lot of pizza and beer before getting to work.
Disassembly of these old 4.0 liter AMC engines is pretty straight forward. With a little help from youtube and a copy of a Hayne’s service manual I was given out of pity (Thanks Chris!) we had the accessories and fuel lines out of the way and moved towards the intake and exhaust manifold.
Now, I am going to start by saying I was concerned but optimistic at the point I saw the dark reflection on the other side of the throttle body. Normally intake manifolds have air in them, but there appeared to be quite a lot of fluid in it. I turned over that information in my mind for a little while as we continued removing parts.
After removing a few more parts either side of the engine we finally liberated the intake manifold and then eventually the exhaust manifold.
Once again, concerned but optimistic. There was a lot of fluid in that intake manifold including what was not shown which spilled onto the floor as it was removed. There must have been about a quart of milkshake liquid in a place it really shouldn’t be. Moving on…
The valve cover was next to be removed and the horrors underneath were revealed. Built up oil the consistency of charcoal covered the entire valve train. After excavating the head bolts and wrenching them out we finally could remove the head and see what we were working with.
And the answer was not good.
Many expletives were expressed as we gazed at the carnage. In case you were wondering, we didn’t remove the piston to take this picture. The share-okee, in all its glory, ate the damn thing and kept on going. Add that to the reasons why draining the oil would have been a smart first step. Remember that we ran the engine before taking it apart. We now realized that the horrible sounds coming from the engine were in fact the connecting rod punching holes in the cylinder walls as it desperately tried to escape.
So the myth of the “failed headgasket” turned into a hydrolocked cylinder nightmare in the few seconds it took to lift the head off the motor. Feeling defeated we retreated with beers in hand to ponder our options. Do we make the jeep a 5 cylinder and just plug up the coolant passages? Do we scrap the whole car and start anew? Do we find a donor engine and trans and swap everything out? Because one thing is certain, we don’t believe in the law of diminishing returns. Once you start gambling, you are hooked until you come out on top.
We’ll be back.