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Head gasket status
#1
About 2 years ago I noticed the old van was consuming more coolant than previously.  When I discussed it with my local garage about 18 months ago, they did a head gasket test and said it was starting to fail, but I might get a couple of years out of it.  As a result of this I decided to get a new van, but decided to keep the old one because I'm attached to it (and I like utilitarian vehicles).  Seeing as I wouldn't be doing many miles in it (I did 750 in the last year), I planned to start doing maintenance on it myself - simple stuff at first, and see how things go.

Since then, I haven't noticed any obvious signs of head gasket failure - no loss of power, no white exhaust smoke, no milky oil deposits. The coolant system has a couple of leaks - the heater matrix (discussed in another post), and a very minor weep on the radiator - but overall isn't noticeably losing much fluid.

The question I ask myself is: which order to go about tackling these issues? (bearing in mind my experience of working on the vehicle is somewhat limited, and I wouldn't try and change a head gasket myself).  I've read that a failed head gasket can cause serious engine damage if left unfixed, but does the current lack of symptoms mean I don't need to worry just yet? Is it possible the garage test result was an error, caused by the other leaks in the coolant system?  I am prepared to spend money on the vehicle, but obviously don't want to do so unnecessarily.
Work van:     2020 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Enterprise Berlingo
Spare van:    2001 1.9 600d Berlingo
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#2
The radiator leak if very small can be fixed with some radweld or similar radiator leak sealer. It could even seal the heater matrix leak .

If that doesn't work then the radiator is not difficult to change , biggest problem will be getting the hoses off .

I wouldn't worry too much about the head gasket failing , the 1.9d goes on forever and head gasket failing is a rare thing on them . Obvious signs are  overheating ,clouds of steam and rumbling noises as the coolant boils. (or dodgy thermostat) 
 The small leaks could have given a false impression of head gasket leaking if done with a pressure tester.   I think there is another tester that checks for exhaust gas in the coolant but  don't know how reliable it is or used it myself
2010 B9 red XTR w a v. 
2001 1.9d DW8B white  Berlingo  
2005 2.l green Berlingo
2001 1.9d DW8B white  Berlingo 
berlingo 1.4 red multispace
1993 xud 1.9 red partner
[-] The following 1 user says Thank You to brodfather11 for this post:
  • notsofast
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#3
I'm not sure about the term 'starting to fail' - if it was blowing into a waterway then you'd be very aware of it as the system will pressurise and if it was weeping coolant into the oil it would show as contamination. My 1.9D did the best part of 300,000miles with no head gasket change and unless it really does let go in a serious way it's best left alone.
I have 2 donkeys here that easily cover your mileage every year, so can offer one as back up if you have a problem!
[-] The following 1 user says Thank You to oilyrag for this post:
  • notsofast
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#4
Thanks, that helps clarify things in my mind.

I had read somewhere online that XUD engines tend to blow the head gasket after about 150,000 miles, but it seems that's not true?  Mine is the DW8 engine, which I understand to be based on the XUD. It's done 161,000. 

Earlier in the van's life there was a long period when the fan wouldn't be triggered and I had to try to prevent engine overheating by keeping the heater on full blast when sitting in traffic etc. (not fun in the summer).  So, after what the garage said, I've sometimes been concerned that that history might have been detrimental to the cylinder heads etc.

Either way, nothing dramatic is happening yet. The garage did put in some radweld in January. I don't know if that's sealed the radiator - it had only shown noticeable leaking a couple of times anyway. The heater matrix is the obvious issue - I only need to drive 10 miles or so, and the footwell carpet gets a damp patch.  I'm not sure I feel up to changing it yet, so what I think I might do is change the radiator and, while I've got the coolant drained out, disconnect the heater matrix.  I only drive it about 5 miles a week in the winter, so I can cope with having no heater (and it wouldn't be any more uncomfortable than having the heater on full blast in traffic on a summer's day....).

Donkeys? Will they accelerate if I press the throttle pedal? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJMtcDdFgVI
Big Grin
Work van:     2020 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Enterprise Berlingo
Spare van:    2001 1.9 600d Berlingo
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#5
Yes, there can be a bit of throttle lag with the donks, he was lucky not to get a kick in the face for his troubles! If you push them they lean towards you and if you pull them, they go backwards. You'll get the hang of it....once they've trained you. One of ours - if you whack him on the arse to get him to move he just turns round and faces the other way, doubling the problem - I'll keep him aside for you.
If you make up 4 clamping plates - each 3"+ long, 1"x 1/8th" bar, 4 nuts & bolts - you can clamp the heater pipes to stop any water flow and the matrix leak will then stop. No draining required and although the matrix is effectively a part of the cooling system the car can run perfectly well without it.
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#6
I can't remember when the coolant was last changed - probably more than 10 years ago, so it'd be a good idea to drain the old gunk out anyway.  If I then disconnect the matrix, but loop the input hose back round toward the block, then that should keep a flow of coolant rather than a dead-end, which I'm guessing would be preferable.

What do you get if you whack a donkey on the arse?  An ass with attitude, lol.
Work van:     2020 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Enterprise Berlingo
Spare van:    2001 1.9 600d Berlingo
[-] The following 1 user says Thank You to notsofast for this post:
  • brodfather11
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#7
There's a saying here 'Never look down on your Ass' - whether it is about Donkeys is another matter, but good advice anyway.
The fitting for the heater matrix is a plastic double unit that is bonded to the pipes and you'd have to cut the two pipes and put a connector in to do as you've suggested. Often the old matrix is so clogged that no flow occurs anyway so there'd be little to gain from putting a running loop in place.
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#8
(01-10-2021, 07:20 AM)oilyrag Wrote:  Often the old matrix is so clogged that no flow occurs anyway so there'd be little to gain from putting a running loop in place.

Ah that's interesting. Well, I'll see how I feel when I get round to doing the rad (won't be straightaway - I've got a greenhouse to finish building first!).  Eventually I might get around to replacing the matrix and having heat, but that'll be some way off yet.
Work van:     2020 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Enterprise Berlingo
Spare van:    2001 1.9 600d Berlingo
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