Rebuilding head, what should I replace? What should I have the shop do?

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Thread: Rebuilding head, what should I replace? What should I have the shop do?

  1. #1
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    Rebuilding head, what should I replace? What should I have the shop do?

    02 Passat with the 1.8t. Picked it up as a project car, daughters first car we're working on together. Previous owner did the timing belt but something went wrong and valves hit pistons. I've pulled the head with the intent of rebuilding it.

    This won't be a performance build, going for daily driver reliability. I'm not looking to go crazy and spend a ton of money but I am of the mindset that you might as well replace what you can while you've got it out and get a fresh start.

    So lets start with what should I replace. I was thinking all the valves, valve seals and might as well do valve guides? FCPEuro sells a cylinder head set, valves, seals and all gaskets for $300. FCPEuro kit link. I am wondering about the quality of those valves though, I don't want to put some Chinese junk in there. Wondering if I'm better off piecing it together myself. FCPEuro has Italian made valves that are $1 more than the "economy" each, some German ones $5 more. The head kit comes with the "economy" valves.

    What should I have the shop do? Clean the head, check for problems, resurface it. I'll call and ask for pricing but you think I should just do the valves and seals myself or have them do it? If I do the guides it sounds like that be better for them to do. Anything else I should ask the shop to do or check?

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  3. #2
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    Junk yard, find a 18.t passat or 1.8t Audi, pull the head, put it on. $200 for the head. I've done it on a $500 Craigslist timing belt snap and my 2005 4motion that cracked a head. By the time you get all the stuff to rebuild it, have it checked for flatness, etc.. and the time involved I feel it isn't worth the hassle (as it is with most things these days).

    I found an Audi 1.8 at the pick and pull, yanked the head off, put it on, new timing belt, good as new, wife has been driving it for over a year with no issues. I've done rebuilt heads before on other cars but you're usually looking at $500-600 plus. If you have a pick and pull/junk yard, I say that's the way to go, although with you being in MI, might suck a bit during the winter.

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    I'm sort of with nuclearseal here but I can find 10-20 1.8t heads on any given day in the local yards so that makes it easy to just replace the whole head.

    You say this is a project car and you are working together on it with your daughter? Very cool.

    From a purely economic standpoint it would probably be fastest and cheapest to just pull a junk head, have it cleaned, checked and re-surfaced, then install it. I've never rebuilt a head but from what I've seen, it is another step up in complexity to replace the valves, etc vs just replacing the head. I've also heard that if you're going to go that far you should probably spring (no pun intended...) for the good valves. That will add $ quickly vs just using a cleaned up salvage head. I'd certainly take a good hard look at the CCT but otherwise, I'd just find a salvage head, get it cleaned, checked and surfaced, then button it up. Just as a reference, my local yards charge $90 for a salvage head and I paid $125 to have one cleaned, pressure checked and surfaced.

    Enjoy the process whatever you end up doing. It should be a great learning experience for your daughter.

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    I agree, working the project with your daughter, very cool!! My daughter is only 11 and too short for engine work but her hands are perfect for finding stuff in tight spots!!

    You didn't really give any other information on the car, mileage? general condition, etc... You've got a 15 year old car there is more than just the engine that needs work.

    When you figure the valve/gasket kit is $300 BUT you still also have the timing belt, tensioner, water pump (might as well since its opened up) which will run you another $150-250ish depending on what you pick so you've got $500 into it but how much time involved in rebuilding the head? I honestly have never rebuilt one so you might be able to do it in a day (in which case go for it but I wouldn't skimp on the parts) but if that rebuild takes a couple weeks (kind of like me painting the foyer) it might not be worth it. Plus you'll still want a shop to surface the head and maybe check for leaks. Like Iowegian said, heads are plentiful at pick/pulls and some places will even pull it for you, not sure in your area. My pick and pull nickel and dimes you for everything on the head so the more I take off the cheaper it is.

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    I concur with everyone who thinks working on the car with your daughter is a really good thing to do. My daughter's first car was a used Explorer, but I made sure that she knew all the essentials like checking tire pressure, oil and coolant levels, lights, and so forth. I even insisted that she change a tire, on that beast, by herself, while I supervised. She gripped a little but seemed pretty pleased when finished. Practically the next night she was at her after-school job when one of her co-workers came in from the parking lot, saying that she had to call AAA because of a flat tire. My daughter said "do you have a spare? Let's just put it on". The lady was reportedly very impressed as she drove home. BTW, my daughter has good taste in cars; she drives a black A5 now.

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    When I was looking around for a car she had the option of getting a Focus that was ready to go but she said she'd rather have the project car. I paid $200 for the car, has around 120k miles on it, body is very clean. The amount of time it takes is no concern, she's still 15, no big hurry. The price at this point doesn't seem to be much of a factor, not to say I'm going to spend a ton on it but lets say it costs me $1000 to get it running. I'll still have a pretty cheap vehicle that I at least know is put together pretty well. There's always the possibility of something else failing but I'd be pretty confident that the motor itself should hold up for quite a while.
    DavidPeters likes this.

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    Sounds like a fun project. You'll probably want to drop the tranny pan and replace the fluid and filter while you're at it. I assume this is an automatic, otherwise, very, VERY, cool. The trans can last >250k miles but some die an early death due to low fluid. VW claims the fluid is 'lifetime' and never needs replacement but I think that is something of a reflexive argument. Ie, when the trans goes, lifetime is up with no fluid change ever. Of course, if you want that lifetime to be as long as possible, I'd replace the trans fluid and make sure it doesn't leak.

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    That "lifetime" fluid claim was really about the lifetime of the warranty, I suspect, because a costly trans service would really increase the cost of ownership calculation. And you are correct, the trans filter and fluid change should be part of this project, although perhaps put off until all the other major issues are corrected.

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    Pulled the camshaft gear using my impact wrench, because I read that was an option if you don't have the tool to hold it still.

    Did I break the gear or is this probably why the timing got misaligned for the previous owners?


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    Ouch! You'll now need another cam gear.

    Photo shows the cam seal side of the pulley, so the bolt (and cam) would've been turned counter-clockwise while the pulley was stationary to cause that damage. You should've pulled the head off the block before removing that pulley.

    Yes Virginia, Windsor keys can shear...

    I'd definitely skip any rebuild at this point. Look for a replacement head with a camshaft bolt that has no tool marks. Search for the replacement head at Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market

    Good Luck

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    I wonder if that cam ever seized.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Electron Man View Post
    Ouch! You'll now need another cam gear.

    Photo shows the cam seal side of the pulley, so the bolt (and cam) would've been turned counter-clockwise while the pulley was stationary to cause that damage. You should've pulled the head off the block before removing that pulley.

    Yes Virginia, Windsor keys can shear...

    I'd definitely skip any rebuild at this point. Look for a replacement head with a camshaft bolt that has no tool marks. Search for the replacement head at Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market

    Good Luck
    I did pull the head first, I pulled that gear off last night with the head on my bench. I had the edges of the head sitting on 2x4s so if the cam turned the valves wouldn't be hitting the bench. Why wouldn't you rebuild it at this point?

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    To rebuild or not to rebuild...
    I'm going to concur with the masses on this. If you're looking for just a straight across the board daily driver, there are places that sell "fully loaded" head(s) for cheaper than you can buy a set of valves or a set of cam followers for.
    Matter of fact I think CarParts4Sale, Inc. - Used VW and Audi Parts Shop has a 1.8 cylinder head for sale right now.

    However, If you're looking to keep the car for another 10 years or what-ever, then maybe it would be worth the money to rebuild the one you got.

    There are things you can do to 'refresh' the head a bit if your dead set on using the one you got.
    The biggest deciding factor on whether the head is re-usable is the condition of the cam bearing surfaces on the head and the bearing caps. If those are scored up, the head is junk.
    If the bearing surfaces are in good order, the next most important thing would be the CCT (cam chain tensioner).

    Replacing the valve seals is probably a good idea. However there is a special tool to install the valve seals. The tool is highly recommended because if the seal isn't installed just right, when re-inserting the valves, the keeper grooves on the valves can cut the valve seal and then you'll have other issues to contend with. I purchased a Genuine Audi/VW valve seal installation tool myself for around $40.

    Maybe you can shed some more light on the condition of the head?

  16. #14
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    Well, at the least, you need a new AWM cam gear and key. The cam itself is probably OK.

    At 120k, I wouldn't bother with replacing valve guides as they're likely still just fine. Stem seals and select bent valves (use German replacements) will need changing though.

    If you don't already have tools to remove the valve keepers, etc. you'll have spent quite bit more than $300 unless renting these tools. Same story with manual transmission rebuilds only worse...by the time you've bought all the needed tools to do the job, you may as well be in the business of rebuilding manual transmissions. (no thanks)

    Time spent on this rebuild could well be worth it though if your daughter is in learning mode...or you're trying to convince her of reasons not to become an auto technician.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Electron Man View Post
    Photo shows the cam seal side of the pulley, so the bolt (and cam) would've been turned counter-clockwise while the pulley was stationary to cause that damage.
    The pulley turned clockwise while the camshaft was stationary. It appears that the camshaft seized.
    The engine would have stopped running, and would not have started again after that happened.



    I expect cam bearings would be damaged, I suggest you buy a good used head.

    The reason for the above damage is likely low oil pressure caused by sludge.
    I suggest you drop the oil pan and correct the problem, or replace the whole engine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Electron Man View Post
    At 120k, I wouldn't bother with replacing valve guides as they're likely still just fine. Stem seals and select bent valves (use German replacements) will need changing though.
    I also concur. They're a bit pricey, but if done right will last as long as the originals.


    Quote Originally Posted by Electron Man View Post
    If you don't already have tools to remove the valve keepers, etc. you'll have spent quite bit more than $300 unless renting these tools.
    Leave the valve removal to the shop. It requires a special compression tool with extra long fingers which are what make that tool EXPENSIVE. And then most shops at that have custom presses that the compression tool is attached to so they can lock the tool in position while they fight with the valve keepers.
    There is a shop a few miles from me that I use on rare occasion, but they get my heads (every time) if I need any valves removed.
    They charge me $40 to remove and re-install all the valves on a V6 application (30 valves). That is money well spent there. Trust me, removing and installing valves on V6 and 1.8 heads is a tedious make your head explode process.

  19. #17
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    And to actually answer your questions, what should you do, what should the shop do.

    Seeing as you want to educate your daughter a bit (which is so cool by the way), I would strip the head down to where just the valves are left in the head.
    And by that I mean, the whole valve assembly, which includes the valves, valve springs, valve spring retainers, retainer keepers, and valve seals. And of course any other parts attached to the head. (i.e. exhaust manifold, shields, brackets etc).

    You would be removing the cam caps, cams, cam chain, cam chain tensioner (CCT), cam followers.

    Then send the head off to the shop so they can remove the valves and assembly components. Then they can chemically clean the head to make it look new again and re-assemble the valves and install new valve stem seals.

    You then get the head back and re-install everything.

    My guess is you could get all this done for $160 or less, minus any new parts needed.
    chefro likes this.

  20. #18
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    I'll post some pics of the cam bearing caps as I get them off. I've read these can't be replaced? They're specific to the motor they're installed on? I'm leery of buying a junkyard or other used head because you're potentially just buying someone elses messed up head. Every single head on my local craigslist is there because of a motor problem of some sort.

    There's a few guys selling rebuilt heads on ebay, the one who looked the most promising is around $500 shipped.

  21. #19
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    The shop can check yours for warpage and let you know if it is worth doing a valve job on it or not. I concur about buying someone else's mess without knowing. Andreas I also right, let the professional handle the valve job.

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    Let me rephrase my statement a bit.
    The cams ride in a series of 'saddles' (if you will) in the head. If the 'saddles' in the head are scored, then the head is junk.
    This is the only part of the engine I think VW fell short on with design intent. The head itself is being used as the bearing surface. No bearing shell is present on our motors.
    Now, the cam bearing caps, The cam caps can be replaced. Some people may or may not agree with this because of a certain wear pattern that develops over time. However, as a design engineer and a machinist by profession, the cam caps CAN be replaced with out harm. What is important is that you keep each cam cap in proper location. Each cam cap is numbered and has an arrow showing orientation and location or position on the cylinder head.
    Because all of the pressure from the camshaft is applied to the bearing caps, this being from the valve springs applying the pressure to the bottom side of the cam, thus essentially pushing up on the cam. The engine would have had to be in some pretty bad shape for the bearing 'saddles' in the head to be scored and deemed no good.
    I've done many a V6 engines in my days since joining this forum, and of all those engines, only one have I had to replace the heads on because of bad cam bearings.
    What I do after removing the cams, I polish the cam bearing journals with industrial Scotch-Brite. This polishes the cam bearing surfaces without changing the size of the bearing. This coupled with a set cam caps that are in good condition will last just as long as it was new.

    If you don't have the ability to do this let me know. You're just on the other side of the pond, you could ship me the cams and I can 're-work' them for you. FREE.
    I work at a machine shop and have a lot of cool machines at my disposal.

    I understand your concern about buying used. Oh I do!
    That's why I mentioned CarParts4Sale, Inc. - Used VW and Audi Parts Shop
    Blake is the owner, he only sells stuff that is in good condition. When it comes to internal engine parts, he and his team are pretty picky about what gets listed for sale.
    I have personally purchased quite a few parts from him, and I'm here to tell you, he sells top notch stuff, even though it is used.
    Matter of fact, I had to replace the crankshaft for my wife's V6 Passat rebuild last year. I bought a used crankshaft from Blake, could've swore it was new.
    Craigslist and flea-bay I would steer clear of when it comes to used internal engine parts.

  23. #21
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    Here's some other info if it will help diagnose what's wrong with this car and what could have happened. I've only got $200 into the car so not a big deal if we scrap this project and move on, although I would prefer to get this one going depending on what all needs to be done.

    VCDS only pulled one code, P0012, cam out of position. If there was an oil pressure issue would VCDS have had anything else come up? Is there anywhere else within VCDS to check?

    Here's a picture of where the camshaft timing was when I lined up the timing mark on the crankshaft.



    I went and took a look at that carparts4sale webite, he's actually got an assembled AWM head on there right now for $363, my head is a AWM head.

  24. #22
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    That pic shows the cam pulley is about 2 teeth retarded, this indicates that the belt jumped 2 teeth when the camshaft jammed.
    The camshaft is retarded equivalent to a further 10 to 15 teeth due to the pulley turning on the shaft when the key broke.

    VCDS does not show anything related to oil pressure.

    Something broke the key and caused the TB to jump teeth, if it wasn't seized cam bearings
    it must have been something else, like maybe a broken cam chain.

    If you replace the cam bearing caps, you will need to get them line bored.
    I only know of one case where a guy replaced the cam caps out of order, it didn't take very long to break his camshaft.


    I again suggest you replace the head, there are plenty of good heads available for $100 to $500.
    There is a reason for the head damage, be prepared to drop the oil pan to address a sludge problem.
    At least check the oil pressure as soon as you get it running.

  25. #23
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    Well this head is toast, damage to the front two saddles, that cam is no good also. Check out the heat damage to the front seal. So lets talk about that $363 head, seems like a pretty good deal, it's also on ebay $399 shipped. It's listed as "aftermarket" does that translate to chinese? There's quite a few options on ebay for rebuilt heads, they run around $500.






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    Just as I suspected from that sheared key photo. By the way, AndreasPassat, cams running directly on aluminum is pretty standard, because it makes a good bearing surface for camshafts if pressure lubricated.

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    Are we most likely looking at some sort of oil pressure issue to cause this? The head is pretty clean overall. I keep seeing people mention sludge, do these motors contain their sludge in the pan?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ylwagon View Post
    Just as I suspected from that sheared key photo. By the way, AndreasPassat, cams running directly on aluminum is pretty standard, because it makes a good bearing surface for camshafts if pressure lubricated.
    You are 100% correct.
    It's just if the designers would use cam bearing shells like the ones used on connecting rods, you could really have a badly damaged engine and still save by changing some cheap bearing shells.
    But it is what it is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilhomer View Post
    I went and took a look at that carparts4sale webite, he's actually got an assembled AWM head on there right now for $363, my head is a AWM head.
    It says China right on the casting.I didn't see that before.
    I'm on his website for V6 engines and other body related parts. I just remember seeing the "complete head" up for sale. Yes Blake also has a store on eBay. I forgot about that. I always go to the website direct, never on eBay.
    I don't have any info on the Hans heads. So I would be the wrong person to ask about reliability on that.
    Other members might know something.
    Cue to chime in.

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    Oodles of info here.

    turbo sludge lawsuit

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    Quote Originally Posted by evilhomer View Post
    Are we most likely looking at some sort of oil pressure issue to cause this?
    How many times do you need to be told. Yes !
    That damage could have been caused by a restriction in the CCT strainer, but much more likely blockage in the pickup strainer.
    Whatever the cause, those bearings did not get enough oil.


    Quote Originally Posted by evilhomer View Post
    The head is pretty clean overall. I keep seeing people mention sludge, do these motors contain their sludge in the pan?
    What is referred to as sludge is actually coke which is oil that has been burnt in the turbo,
    it accumulates around the engine and reduces oil pressure as it blocks the oil pickup strainer in the oil pan.
    You must use only full synthetic oil 0w-40 or 5w-40 that meets VW 502.00 spec to prevent this.


    I would not waste money on a head before checking the bottom end, big end and/or main bearings might also be damaged.
    At least a de-sludging will be required.
    A complete used engine might be your best option. The rest of the car is used, there is no valid reason not to put a used engine in it.
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    So now I'm going to have lower the subframe to get the oil pan off? Is there to figure out if the turbo is okay? If the turbo has issues I'll probably just scrap this one, already not enthused about pulling the oil pan off.

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