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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys. Before I get started, FYI, my mechanical knowledge is pretty poor.

Bought a second hand alfa about 4 months ago. Had a few issues, shuddering a little, seemed to be using up a lot of oil, creaking in front suspension.

Took it in to the mechanics (dedicated european one)
Turned out all the spark plugs were screwed and needed replacing, and the thermostat, and the front suspension arms.
So I got that done and a coolant flush and filter change. Got them to give it a good look over, they said it was in good condition and shouldn't give me too many problems after that service.
The mechanics showed me the plugs, which were all pretty badly worn, one of them was rusted (!)


So a while later I noticed that the car was smoking a fair bit in the morning and still shuddering a little. I googled it and asked around, worried about the worst, but thought it may be just a minor issue.

Today I checked the oil again and it was below the E line, despite being topped to F less than two months ago. That, plus the smoke, and the rusted spark plug makes me think there's a blown head gasket.

So, after forking out $1,650 for the most recent service, and getting told it's in good condition, it seems I'm going to have to spend at least that again.

What I'm really worried about is that all this time driving it I might have done irrepairable damage to the engine as well.

And I'm very very annoyed at the mechanics who spent a lot of time on my car but didn't apparently notice the issue.

Now I need to decide what to do. Is it going to be worth me scrimping together enough to get the head gasket fixed if the engine has been screwed in the process? I doubt I could find anyone to buy it in it's current condition, and there's no way I would get back more than half what I've paid just three months ago. >:|

Any advice?
 

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Firstly you really need to check the oil weekly and more often if you are doing long trips. Full to min is only one litre and you can comfortably use that much in 1000Km in an Alfa.

Secondly where was the spark plug rusty? On the tip or on the bit where the spanner goes?

Thirdly is there any trace of oil in the water or water in the oil?

Next step would be to get a sniff test done on the header tank and maybe a compression test. Both cheap to do and don't require any dismantling.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Haven't done any long trips really, but point taken.
Spark plug was rusted all over, pretty badly. Will check for trace of oil in water / water in oil and get a compression test done when i have the $$

Coolant and selespeed fluid also appear to be leaking. So it's not looking good.
 

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When my headgasket went the water was being blasted out through the coolent filler cap and tell tell signs were water residue around the engine bay.

It still went for ages before it finally packed in but you need to stop driving asap if the temperature goes sky high as you dont want a banana shaped head.

You really need to check the oil every week as others have said and before long journeys as they can use lots as standard.

As for selespeed leaking are you sure that it has not been overfilled and it is coming out the breather pipe onto the wheel/front battery area?
 

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I had a dream about head gasket failure on my Alfa last night. Not out of the blue, my diesel had a HGF shortly after I bought her which was helped along by a rogue mechanic who is currently looking at a court case for his little adventure into willful negligence. Anywhoo, a HGF comes in at the tune of some £1000 of the Queens English pounds. The first instance was -luckily- covered by my warranty for which I pay £25 per month. It has replaced a turbo and a head and I wouldn't be without some kind of warranty again. I suppose my point is that the HGF can be caused by faulty thermostats and faulty radiators which should be picked up by a proper service technician. It might not be their fault but you should ask that question since it happened immediately following work on the car by their garage. Also driving the car on damage can cause more damage, you could warp the engine block or cause more damage to the head. If you keep coolant and oil topped up this shouldn't be the case but do not let it run dry! The head is skimmed and the head gasket is effectively a big soft washer which is sandwiched between the head and block to form an airtight seal so in most cases the malleable metal will knit back together without a problem.

Nick
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well, had the tests done -
TK Test was negative and Compression is fine - 250/250/240/245 PSI.

He noted that the cooling system was rusty (i thought it was just the colour of the coolant) and suggested I get it cleaned, but noted that it's possible that the head gasket is blown but there's rust holding it together!
So apparently it may still be a blown head gasket, but I won't know until the cooling system is cleaned.
The plot (and the potential bill) thickens. If it's just the cooling system and the head gasket is fine, well.. that would be okay - but given the problems I'm having I'm not sure it's likely.
 

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Doubtful TBH you have a head gasket problem It sounds like you are spending to much time thinking the worst, If you have no oil on the water or water in the oil/coolant and no loss of compression then I recon you are ok, the cars use quite a bit of oil anyway and smoke first thing is not uncommon and could just be condensation in the mornings especially If its only when you fist start it, the shuddering could be one of a hundred things and if you have no error codes in the ECU (get it checked) then I'd be thinking something like a dirty injector ect :),
 

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but noted that it's possible that the head gasket is blown but there's rust holding it together!
Your compressions are good, so stop worrying about the head gasket. Doesn't really matter whether gasket is made of material, rust or The Force, you have compression.

So:

- The plugs, were they rusty on the tips that sit inside the engine, or the body (the bit the socket goes on to remove them)? All plugs have rusty bodies.

- Are you losing coolant with no unexplained leaks?

- Do you have coolant in the oil?

- As others have noted, using oil is normal.

- The smoke and juddering. What colour is the smoke (white = steam, blue/gray = oil, black = unburnt petrol), how long does it go on for, and what causes the juddering?
 
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