Its All in the Timing

Round Four – Final Prep and Timing Gear Partial Refit.

This part of the proceedings is a few hours of finishing off dismantling of timing chains and the re-mating of heads and manifolds etc.

Here are the chains removed with the internal parts of the tensioners also removed.

Final Prep - Chain Removal 001

As if we needed any more proof that the gaskets were blown here is the number 7 piston crown showing clearly a very clean part, which has been steam cleaned by the leaking water into the bore.

Final Prep - Chain Removal 002

I made a spacer tube to fit on the end of the crank using the pulley bolt so we could turn the engine by hand, well at least with a ratchet!

Final Prep - Chain Removal 003

Chains off. I had to release the chain guides a little it the get enough room to get the chains out. You can just make out on the jackshaft that the alignment marks are pointed straight up and down at TDC….this is actually wrong. The mark should be slightly inclined down to the right. We reset this to be correct upon re-assembly.

Final Prep - Chain Removal 004

Good practice is to glaze bust the bores for re-assembly. The bores get highly polished over time. Glaze busting simply roughs-up the surface a little so that the piston rings bed themselves in again.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 003

Two of the four new guides in place.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 006

Other guides being fitted.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 008

Fitting the tensioners. After examining the new ones and old ones we decided to use the new internal components but keep the old bodies. The reason for this was that the old bodies have locating dowels and the new ones do not. Also the old ones have a plate that would stop the tensioners coming right out, so we kept them as well. If you ever got to that stage mind you, you wouldn’t half have some stretched chains…..

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 012

Bottom tensioner in place.   Note the plastic spacer.    This is there to stop the tensioner releasing until you’re ready for final gap setting etc.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 013

You can’t finally set tension on the chains until the heads are on so we left this at this point and went and finished the prep work on the heads etc. Here we are fitting the manifolds.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 018

Nice shiny hot air intake goes onto the manifold.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 019

And finally, the nice (well I think they look nice anyway) cam covers resting on the heads.

Final Prep - inc Chain Part-Refit 020



PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)

Heads And Valves

Round Three – Head Re-building and Valve Clearance Setting.

With the heads all stripped and cleaned the next job is to rebuild them. Valves will need to be lapped in to ensure an accurate seating is achieved. Lapping in valves is a bit of a chore in some respects, but an absolute essential if you are to get the full performance out of your engine. When Bill started to check the valve clearances he gave me some great news. If you remember I mentioned in the first phase of this project that the compression on No 4 cylinder was well down. The reason was that there was no clearance on the exhaust valve, therefore it was never shutting properly, hence the lack of compression.   PHEW !!!!!

Some of the essential tools you’ll need for the rebuild. Feeler gauges, shims of different thicknesses, micrometer and out of shot spring compressor.

Head Rebuild valve setting 001

Bill doing his ‘favourite’ job of lapping in the valves.

Head Rebuild valve setting 005

Lapping tool in situ. With lapping paste on the valve and seat you now employ the boy-scout fire-starting reciprocating stick rotating technique which grinds away small amount of the seat and valve against each other ending up with a perfectly mating valve and seat.   It would be much easier to find a boy scout and pay him to do the job in the first place!

Head Rebuild valve setting 007

Everything is now ready to go back into the head now.

Head Rebuild valve setting 010

The bottom couple of coils of the valve springs are coiled slightly tighter than the remainder, so be careful to put them back the right way up.

Head Rebuild valve setting 012

The valve clearances can be a bit of a game. Each clearance needs to be measured with the cam in place. If the clearance is wrong the way you correct it is to ‘calculate’ the difference between what it is and what it should be and then measure the shim currently in place. (The shims are located on top of the spring assembly under the cam follower/bucket). By ‘adding’ the difference to the dimension of the current shim, you will now have the thickness of the required shim to give you the right clearance. Clear? Not a chance! Here’s an example which hopefully makes it a bit clearer. Current valve clearance = 25 thou. Required clearance = 18 thou.  Difference = +7 thou. Current shim thickness = 48 thou. New shim required = 48 + 7 thou = 55 thou. Clear?

Head Rebuild valve setting 017

While Bill was busy working on the valve clearances I spent some time cleaning up and painting the various bits that we’d taken off.

Ancilliaries Clean and Paint 003

Inlet manifold looking good.

Ancilliaries Clean and Paint 004

I put a block of wood under the front cover to support it whilst I belted out the crankshaft seal. When I say ‘belted’ I of course meant to gently persuade the seal to come out.

Ancilliaries Clean and Paint 005

Seal removed

Ancilliaries Clean and Paint 006



PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)

Head Cleaning and Prep

Round Two – Head Cleaning and preparation.

With heads off first job is to get the camshafts out so we inspect journals, springs valves etc.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 002

Now out with the valve buckets.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 003

Next, remove the exhaust manfold.   (haven’t got a clue what a manfold is but I’m sure I suffer from it)

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 005

Here’s Bill using his patented valve collet removal tool.    One hefty blow and they’re out.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 007

Valve spring and valve removal next.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 009

Cleanliness is everything so all muck, old gasket and carbon has to be removed.    Copious amounts of white spirit, elbow grease and water and airline and all’s nice and clean.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 013

Cleaning off the deposit build up.    The heads were pretty good actually.    The engine has done about 50,000 miles since the last rebuild, but generally was pretty good.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 016

Bill using a very flat metal block and emery paper to clean up the important faces, main head and here in the photo the inlet manifold face.

2014 March - Cylinder Head Work 018

Luckily the heads are very good as they have obviously been skimmed in the past, probably at the re-build 10 years ago.    We’re happy they are good enough, flat enough to go straight back on, else we’d be sending them off for skimming.



PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)

She’s blown my head……..gasket

The tale of Suspected head gasket problem

Here we go…..   I’ve owned my Stag since 2006 and purchased it with a newish rebuilt engine. She has been a great performer until three years ago she developed a slight ‘shimmy’ on tickover and a vibration running at speed. Whilst inspecting the underneath I spotted a slight weep from the offside head, so suspicions were aroused. I also intermittently started to get a pressurised expansion bottle, even when cold. Talking to the experts the only way you can get a pressurised bottle is exhaust gases leaking into the water jacket. Ughh! Sounds like, looks like, tastes like blown head gaskets. No choice but to bite the bullet and have a go. Fellow club members Roger Phillips and Bill Fannon did their normal ‘rat out of a drainpipe’ impression, dropping their personal work schedules to help. Roger and I started on a cool but dry Sunday morning Bill joining us later. First job is to get the top of the engine clear of Air box, carbs, etc. 2014 March - Engine Strip 002 I took photos of anything like the coil that had wires on it so that we know exactly where to put it back on rebuild. Just a little tip, take photos of anything where you could get parts the wrong way round. 2014 March - Engine Strip 003 The banjo bolt for the servo vacuum pipe was ridiculously tight, no idea why! Perhaps whoever did it up had eaten three shredded wheat for breakfast. 2014 March - Engine Strip 005 Inlet manifold next. Not all of the bolts have socket access so a couple need to be spannered out.

Pile of bits so far.   (hope we can remember where they all go) 2014 March - Engine Strip 016 Next we start removing the studs. If you’re going to have a problem, this will be the likely culprit. Depending upon how long the studs have been in and how they were put in, i.e dry without some sort of protective grease such as copper ease or molybdenum grease.   They can be very reluctant to come out. Normally because they’ve ‘welded’ themselves to the head. 2014 March - Engine Strip 017 Getting the special tool off the extracted stud. 2014 March - Engine Strip 018 Fitting the outer part of the extractor to the stud. NOTE always remove the big washer under the nut head, as this gives you close to an extra 1/8th of an inch of thread to go at.

Fitting and tightening the inner part of the tool against the outer part, this locks them together and onto the stud.

To remove the stud you simply undo the outer part. Such a simple word ‘simple’. 6 of the 8 studs came out without any drama at all. For the mathematicians amongst you, you’ll realise that two of the little blighters didn’t come out nicely. 2014 March - Engine Strip 024 The next job was to drop the exhausts off the manifolds. For this you need a special flexible tool, in the form of my lad Sam, 28 years old and a damn sight more flexible than either me or Roger. 2014 March - Engine Strip 028 We aligned the timing marks on the cam shaft sprocket with the cut outs on the first retaining cap, to ensure No 2 pot was on TDC. This was not absolutely necessary for my job as I’m replacing the timing chains anyway. 2014 March - Engine Strip 029 If you’re not replacing timing gear you need to lock the cam sprockets onto the guides within the cover before removing the sprocket from the camshaft to stop the tension of chains etc being lost.   The following picture shows the sprocket retained into it’s guide.

2014 March - Engine Strip 035

Knocking back the tab washer to enable us to remove the sprocket. NOTE the cloth to prevent any stray bits of metal dropping into the covers and consequently the sump.   Next we undid the two bolts and remove the sprocket.

Nearside head off. Note the rear stud still in place, one of the two little blighters. We stillsoned it out after successfully removing head, we had very little clearance to get it off with the exhaust manifold still on the head. At one point we thought we’d have to remove the manifold BUT luckily there was enough room, just! In case any of you are wondering we didn’t use the chisel to remove anything, it was just used as a wedge. 2014 March - Engine Strip 036 On the offside head the rear stud once again refused to budge using the extractor tool or two nuts together, so we eased the head far enough off to get the stillsons in to break the studs hold in the block. Bill, who has immense experience in engine work has never seen a stud stuck this hard in a block before. Just goes to show, you’re never to old to learn something new. 2014 March - Engine Strip 038 With radiator out, next job was to free off the front cover bolts and remove the cover.   We were lucky and it came away from the sump gasket without damaging it. We were prepared to simply replace that front cover section of the sump gasket and sealer if we had damaged it. As it happens when we replace we’ll simply put a bit of sealer for added comfort. 2014 March - Engine Strip 041 The timing gear etc is pristine, so we’ve decided only to replace the chains. There is absolutely no wear on sprockets, guides etc.

2014 March - Engine Strip 042

Now for the proof that the head gaskets had gone…… No 3 Cylinder outer edge, no wonder there was a little drip coming from there. 2014 March - Engine Strip 044 No 7 Cylinder showing damage to the rear edge. 2014 March - Engine Strip 045 No 4 Cylinder showing signs of creepage. Note, on a compression test the pressure on 4 was well down, BUT on inspection of the cylinder there’s no sign of damage so we’re hoping we’ve got a dodgy valve or seat. Bill has the heads so we’ll know soon. 2014 March - Engine Strip 046 No 8 Cylinder showing signs of failure. 2014 March - Engine Strip 047 MORE TO FOLLOW AS WE PROGRESS – Come back for part 2 – Head cleaning and prep.


PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)

The Restoration show and the Learner

Each year our area at the SOC attend the restoration show, and each year we take on a project in a day. We find from our area a job that is needed on one of our cars and that is what we work on for the day. In previous years we have renewed the soft top and worked on the seats, this year we took on replacing the rear sub-frame mounting bushes. Tony and I were lucky enough to not just to have our car the one chosen to be worked on but as I love to work on our car and enjoy learning how to do all the new jobs – the suggestion was made that I would do the work under the instruction of Bill and Paul (our experts).

We took the car over on Saturday to set up the stand and get the car up on the axle stands all ready for work to commence on Sunday.

Sunday  – best get the overalls on then!!


Then we got started, wheels off first, didn’t really need to take them off but it gave the folks that came to have a look at what we were up to a better view.


Quite early in the day while I was cleaning off the under-seal from the bolts, (you need to do this before you try and undo them as you can’t really get a spanner or socket onto them correctly) a couple arrived on the stand from Canada!! Tarn asked Lesley where the people who do the Stag Owners Facebook page were and was pointed in my direction – thats me on my knees! It was great to meet Tarn and her husband, she has been a regular on our page since we started it just over year ago, it is wonderful to meet friends from Facebook especially when they are from other parts of the world. Tarn is going to be doing the same job on her car so was interested in how it was going.


So on with the job, now I had 2 expert mechanics helping me with this job – and as we are working with the rear suspension it’s really important to work safely so we had the car firmly on axel stands and had the trolley jacks under the subframe arm so we can lower then under control when the time comes to remove the old subframe mounting bush.

So heres some of the highlights from my day as a learner mechanic!! – Not all the steps we did are here and there may be some terms that I don’t get quite right but these are not instructions its the parts I remember from the day (and what a day it was!!) – get yourself an expert or manual if your taking this on.

First as I said, clean all the nut and bolt heads to get them nice and clean so you can get the socket cleanly on them before you try and undo them. I was surprised that I managed to crack them myself (just give the spanner a little gentle tap with a hammer if they are a little stiff).

The bolt on the anti vibration strap can be undone, the bolt nut on the bush itself needs a helping hand inside the car to stop the top of the long bolt from turning as I undo the nut. Once they are off I can then take out the 2 small bolts that hold the bush to the subframe, will need a socket and spanner here as need to hold the nut on the top still with a spanner whilst undoing the bolt with a socket. – Now heres a tip from Paul, when undoing these 2 bolts about half way it got really tight to undo, this is where the exposed thread on the bolt is now coming through the nut and all the dirt on the thread is now clogging up inside the nut and causes it to be really hard to turn. So just reverse and tighten the nut, once the thread is exposed again (above the nut) give it a good spray with WD40, then reverse again and begin loosening again. Its still a little tight when we get to the “dirty” part of the thread again but better than before – and this time I can get the nut fully off. (if its still tight or won’t undo – just repeat the process)  – good tip!!

Next Paul and Bill took the lead to lower the subframe arm so that we can get the old bush out and the new one in. The long bolt needs to be removed that goes through the bush from inside the car, as the hole under the seat is quite small thats when a telescopic magnet comes in handy!!

All the old parts that we will re-use are cleaned up, get all the dirt and old under-seal off and spruce up with a wire brush. All the bolts are given a smear of copper ease, and the new bush – just to help it slid through the hole it fits into.

The new bush goes into  place and then the 2 small nuts and bolts on either side hold it into place (all the nuts were checked for tightness by Paul after I had done them up – need to make sure that they were tight enough but not over tight)

The long bolt needs to go into place – including all those huge washers that fell out when we removed the old ones – make sure you take note where they come from and put back in the same order. This takes many hands, one inside the car to thread the bolt down through the hole, one to check that the bolt is coming down through the washers and new bush, and lastly one to jack the subframe arm back up so that the bolt will locate through the bush enough to get the nut on the end of the thread.

So all that done the strap is located too and then nut located on the strap and subframe, and there you have it the new one is on!!

New on in place

New on in place

Paul then sprayed Dinitrol on the bush, nuts, bolts and all round to protect all that new metal against the elements.

So one side done, we moved round to the other side and repeat!!!

I had a wonderful day, Tony (the other half) and I have done a few jobs on the car and enjoy learning about how to maintain these wonderful cars. The guys at the club are so helpful and supportive to us, happily passing on the knowledge to us learners!! Bill and Paul thanks for a great day!

Take a look at all the photos from the day on our Flickr Page.

PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)