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Coolant loss but no leaks

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Hi fellow Alfa lovers !

hope all is well in the world of owning an Alfa, I’m certainly beginning to experience it.

I have a 2.2 JTS petrol with 105,000 on the clock. I use it as my daily driver and recently noticed coolant loss. Did some basic checks ;

No leaks around the cap.
No leaks on the main pipe going underneath the coolant bottle.
No leaks at thermostat or oil cooler.
No leaks at the radiator.
No leaks at the bleed screws.
Car not overheating and stays on 90 dead on
Fan kicks in fine
Took the under tray off and observed with no leaks.
Next day I started it from cold and just let it idle and noticed after the car warmed up that the water level slowly rose all the way up to the top of the coolant bottle and water started spitting out of the little air vent hole at the top. After closer look I could see the top part of the bonnet was covered with coolant and around the brake fluid bottle and top suspension on the right. So it seems the water spits out from the hole. That can’t be right, that hole is to relieve pressure as the cap spring opens up, if I’m not mistaken? I’ve also bought a new cap.

so the dreaded head gasket words started entering my mind, but no oil or water is mixing. I did notice as I watched the coolant bottle at idle that bubbles would enter it every now and then from the bottom pipe. I let the car cool, took off the cap and then used the diy head gasket tester with the blue liquid. Let the car idle and the liquid turned yellow, which says possible head gasket compression leak or coolant contamination.

has anyone experienced this? If water is spitting out the vent hole of the coolant bottle then maybe it is the head gasket on its way? Not sure how much I should trust the tester, but I tried it on my wife’s car and it stayed blue.

Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

I’ve tried searching for a smiler issue on here but no one’s seems to have the issue where coolant is being loss from the top of the coolant bottle hole!
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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
When you say the hoses are going hard, I take it to mean that you can't compress them? Like they are under extreme pressure inside?

Under normal operation, there should still be some slight flex in the hoses. It does sound like the system is being over pressurised, I wouldn't expect to see this if the pump were failing.

Have you checked the expansion bottle cap? If this is faulty and not regulating pressure, this could cause the symptoms you describe.

May be worth checking this out before committing to a head strip.
Hi MadmotoUk
Yes they are hard with very little flex. I have also purchased a new bottle cap too. With the old cap the coolant would overflow out of the weep hole regularly and the coolant would rise all the way to the top of the coolant bottle. With the new cap this improved but is still letting coolant out but not as much.
 

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Just a thought. You mentioned that you have had a new thermostat. Has the system been bled correctly afterwards. Air in the system can give similar symptoms to what you describe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Just a thought. You mentioned that you have had a new thermostat. Has the system been bled correctly afterwards. Air in the system can give similar symptoms to what you describe.
Hi Tickets, yep followed the procedure from the Alfa Romeo technical information, ensuring the system was filled and waited for coolant to come out of the bleed holes and then closing them. The heater inside works fine too. If there was an airlock, I’d probably get overheating issues, no? The bottle cap I have is yellow, is it supposed to be blue ?
 

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Hi Tickets, yep followed the procedure from the Alfa Romeo technical information, ensuring the system was filled and waited for coolant to come out of the bleed holes and then closing them. The heater inside works fine too. If there was an airlock, I’d probably get overheating issues, no? The bottle cap I have is yellow, is it supposed to be blue ?
Re: Overheating with an air lock. Yes and no. It depends on the airlock. The job of the cap is to maintain the pressure in the cooling system to stop it boiling. If you have a cap that is venting at a higher pressure there is a possibility that your system pressure is too high. It might be worth looking at the values on both colour caps to see if there is a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Re: Overheating with an air lock. Yes and no. It depends on the airlock. The job of the cap is to maintain the pressure in the cooling system to stop it boiling. If you have a cap that is venting at a higher pressure there is a possibility that your system pressure is too high. It might be worth looking at the values on both colour caps to see if there is a difference.
I ordered the cap from Euros so would have thought that would be correct, but then looking at some photos of other Breras I’m seeing many with blue caps. Both must have different pressure ratings. I’ll check it out and investigate further.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Hi everyone,
After replacing the cap and bottle, thermostat and recently a new radiator, the problem still exists where the coolant is being over pressurised with coolant overflowing from the coolant bottle, even could smell fuel when I opened the cap on the bottle which means compression is entering the coolant system.

I’ve decided to work on the head gasket job myself and hopefully bring the car back to life rather than scrapping it. I’ve Dismantled everything and taken the head off and removed the head gasket, upon inspection the gasket looked ok but I then noticed a very small lift in the gasket right next to the coolant jacket of the gasket. This may be the issue, photo attached.

nest step is to take to the engineering shop and have the head tested and re surfaced. I checked the flatness of the head and noticed a slight gap in the middle part of the head. I used a metal ruler and used a light to see how much light was escaping underneath. It was vey little, but little could be too much. I am considering purchasing the feeler gauges but unsure what tolerances I should work towards. Any ideas ?

Any helpful advice from anyone of what else I should be considering here? Do I need to get the valves cleaned etc, what about the block? I can’t take that out the engine but I checked that for flatness and it didn’t appear to be as bad as the head, what I mean was I could only see very minute amount of light to none at all.On the 2.2 JTS petrol engine I believe both head and block are aluminium. I’m hoping I could clean the block up with some brake cleaner and rags. I’m not risking any sanding or materials that could damage the block in anyway.

let me know what you think and I hope to get this car back on the road soon.
 

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Before you send the head away just check the block with your straight edge and make sure the piston/bore liners are all level. Using a light abrasive to remove any stubborn bits won’t hurt it. You might be there forever otherwise. It would be good practice to replace the valve stem seals and lap the valves in whilst you’re at it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Before you send the head away just check the block with your straight edge and make sure the piston/bore liners are all level. Using a light abrasive to remove any stubborn bits won’t hurt it. You might be there forever otherwise. It would be good practice to replace the valve stem seals and lap the valves in whilst you’re at it.
Hi Tickets,

I’ve attached photos of the block. When you say liners are level you mean the highlighted green section? If so they are level.
 

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Chances of a warped block are slim , I'd be taking the opportunity to skim a little more off the head to raise compression and thus performance....!!

But that's just me.

Having done a few of these it's just a question of going slowly , double check everything as you go , take the opportunity to do some other jobs like cleaning up the inlet manifold and re- lapping the valves ( if you're doing the headwork yourself) things are more accessible whilst the head is off so really think about what you could easily do.

I'd be sending injectors off for cleaning ,and would consider new plugs , coils and definitely a full service .

Sounds fun !

Best of luck with it all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Chances of a warped block are slim , I'd be taking the opportunity to skim a little more off the head to raise compression and thus performance....!!

But that's just me.

Having done a few of these it's just a question of going slowly , double check everything as you go , take the opportunity to do some other jobs like cleaning up the inlet manifold and re- lapping the valves ( if you're doing the headwork yourself) things are more accessible whilst the head is off so really think about what you could easily do.

I'd be sending injectors off for cleaning ,and would consider new plugs , coils and definitely a full service .

Sounds fun !

Best of luck with it all.
You’re right joeymannero, while everything is out, it makes perfect sense to clean everything, I’m also considering changing the timing belt and water pump too, which is a no brainer. I’ve had the standard service part for some time but held off when I notice the coolant issue.

One question. Maybe I'm overthinking, but I set the the engine to TDC, so the camshaft are in their 2 and 10 o clock positions. If I send the head off to the engineering shop I’m guessing they will remove the cams to access the valves, they will put the cams back in as they removed them right? If they don’t then my cams will be out of position.

My understanding is when you remove the cams then the pressure from the lobes on the valves are removed, which means you can then get access to them. But you would have to put the cams back in the correct position to ensure the right lobes are pressing on the correct valves as per the TDC settings I placed them in. I hope that makes sense.
Kam
 

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What engine is it ? I assume 2.2 JTS as I see 4 cylinders in your pictures ..

In which case you have a timing chain , the 2.2 JTS kit isn't expensive , and it's relatively easy to do.


The above will help, there are timing marks on the chain, crank pulley and phaser .

In terms of where to buy , try shop4parts , you can get a 10% discount code on here by emailing one of the mods .
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
What engine is it ? I assume 2.2 JTS as I see 4 cylinders in your pictures ..

In which case you have a timing chain , the 2.2 JTS kit isn't expensive , and it's relatively easy to do.


The above will help, there are timing marks on the chain, crank pulley and phaser .

In terms of where to buy , try shop4parts , you can get a 10% discount code on here by emailing one of the mods .
Thanks, yep it’s a 2.2 JTS petrol, both head and block are aluminium.

the timing chain looks simple enough to do.

will keep you all posted
 

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Do you have a milky stuff in the oil / underneath the oil cap too? I can see quite a bit of it in one of your photos of the block. Other than that admittedly I'm no mechanic, but it's hard to tell anything else looking at the photos. The gasket does not appear to be visually blown.
 

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Its Cylinder #3 where the leak is. If you look at the 4.00oclock position you will see the head is very clean where it has been 'washed'. The block should be fine, I dont think the 2.2JTS has wet liners (like a 105 engine) so you wont disturb anything (can anyone confirm that?). And as suggested you can clean up the surfaces with abrasive paper quite safely. Check for black carbon build up in the inlet ports, one of the biggest problems with DI engines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Do you have a milky stuff in the oil / underneath the oil cap too? I can see quite a bit of it in one of your photos of the block. Other than that admittedly I'm no mechanic, but it's hard to tell anything else looking at the photos. The gasket does not appear to be visually blown.
Hi SmOgER
No issues with milky stuff in the oil or anywhere. The hard gasket does look ok but I did find a slight lift on one of the joints. I’ve posted the image above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Its Cylinder #3 where the leak is. If you look at the 4.00oclock position you will see the head is very clean where it has been 'washed'. The block should be fine, I dont think the 2.2JTS has wet liners (like a 105 engine) so you wont disturb anything (can anyone confirm that?). And as suggested you can clean up the surfaces with abrasive paper quite safely. Check for black carbon build up in the inlet ports, one of the biggest problems with DI engines.
Thanks Top Down,
Will be sending the head to the shop this week to get it checked and slimmed. The block does look ok and the liners level.
This maybe a silly question, if I take off the cams so I can send the head to the engineering shop, how do I put the cams back so that they are back in the correct position as I took them off, the cams don’t have markings against the head. I have them set at the 2 and 10 o clock position, so I guess I’ll just put them back like that. I think I may have just answered my own question. Lol I just want ensure the valves are in the correct position in line with TDC.
 

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Thanks Top Down,
Will be sending the head to the shop this week to get it checked and slimmed. The block does look ok and the liners level.
This maybe a silly question, if I take off the cams so I can send the head to the engineering shop, how do I put the cams back so that they are back in the correct position as I took them off, the cams don’t have markings against the head. I have them set at the 2 and 10 o clock position, so I guess I’ll just put them back like that. I think I may have just answered my own question. Lol I just want ensure the valves are in the correct position in line with TDC.
I cant answer that accurately as I have never done so. But, usually there will be a mark on the cams where they line up against some reference or another. YOU MUST NOT PUT THEM BACK LOOKING CORRECT!! you could well cause huge damage.

It would seem that the timing chain is referenced against the sprockets. Tread carefully though, do lots of research.
 

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Contact the engineering company and ask if they need to come out can they do it. if you’re unsure and can’t access the locking tools. They may only want the studs out of the manifold faces so they can clamp the head.
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Contact the engineering company and ask if they need to come out if you’re unsure and can’t access the locking tools. They may only want the studs out of the manifold faces so they can clamp the head.
Hi Tickets

The engineering company requested the cams to be removed. Before removing them I made some marks along side the cam shaft and the bearing caps that hold the cam down, so I can put them back in the same position.
 
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