I think we blew a head gasket - help!

Discussion in 'Prius c Care, Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by MarkZucc, Feb 19, 2021 at 4:59 PM.

  1. MarkZucc

    MarkZucc New Member

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    I haven't found much if anything on the 1NZ-Fe engine and the Prius C, so I apologize if this is rehashing an issue. And, I'm new to the forums, although I've browsed them for years when I've needed help. TIA for reading this mess.

    The tldr is that I think a head gasket has blown on my GF's 2013 77k miles Prius C Four (probably Three but she's not sure). We're in Northern MI which has been incredibly cold, 0 - -10F when this occurred. It has the classic symptoms:
    -rough start and idle,
    -creamy coffee colored oil (and ice from the cold+moisture under the cap)
    -coolant doesn't appear to be fouled.
    -Plugs are oily and fouled, moderate arc scorches around the bottom of the ceramic except for the driver's side cylinder which was better. The center-drivers cylinder had some metal burrs on it.
    -The center/pass side cylinder appears scorched when looking down through the spark plug hole and has what looks like black goo in it. The other 3 look OK.
    -running with the oil cap off produced a ton of sound and extreme pulsating - no oil visible under the cap when running.
    -Compression on the pass side cylinder is 165lbs.

    How the car is driven:
    Her drive to work is about 2 miles each way and she rarely drives further or warms up the car. We live at the top of a hill which she goes down, coasts in EV mode about a mile on a flat stretch, then up the hill to work. Probably the roughest life style for any vehicle :( We live 90 mins away from the closest Toyota dealership, so regular maintenance wasn't happening until I started doing oil changes about a year ago. She went very, very far stretches without oil changes (1yr+).

    Long story:
    Id noticed it sounded rough, but she insisted it was normal over the last month and I'd been pushing to install an oil pan heater but hadn't gotten her go-ahead yet. A few days ago she got a low oil pressure light on the way in, but was 90% of the way there. She consulted me, and I told her to check the oil on her way in, but she did not. On her return trip home near sunset (sharp temp drops), she called me, and I told her to startup and listen to it then shut it off. She did and it sounded rough. I advised her to bring it home, coast/EV as much as possible, and check the oil when she got home as I suspected it was just cold oil.

    Next day we actually checked it and found the creamy oil symptom. I drove her in to work in my GX470. Since then, I got a compression tester and coolant exhaust tester, but the days are short and weather is cold. I tried to run the compression tester, but with the No1 and No2 (Fuse 1 and Fuse 7 on the pass side fuse box) pulled it wont start or talk to my Tech Stream laptop for the engine ECM. Putting them back in, but with all the plug removed, I can talk to tech stream/ECU I think...but when I try to put the car ON the engine immediately cranks. What's bizzare is that it seems to run with all the plugs pulled. I have no idea how that is working, but it will "run". I hope someone can explain that.

    What I need:
    -How can I disable the fuel pump and do a compression test? There are like 7 or 8 fuses labeled "EFI" and clearly some too important to pull and run TIS.
    -How can I put this thing into Diagnostics mode without actually cranking the engine immediately?
    -Why is one cylinder blackened on the inside if this is in fact a head gasket failure?
    -If it is a head gasket failure, does anyone have the procedure on how to replace it? I know an engine swap is better and of equal cost in a shop...but I can fix the head gasket in my garage for $200-300. I cannot swap an engine, so it would be almost 10x as much cost for me personally.

    Bonus: If we end up replacing this thing, which she loves, we're looking at good snow vehicles rather than a new prius w/AWD (too little clearance - we got 2 feet of snow in 36hrs recently). Any opinions on the Lexus UX 250h or similar? I think she tends towards light and nimble vehicles, and AWD and some clearance would be nice. Anything that has that, and that could plug in, run EV mode for 2 miles up some serious hills at up to 30mph would be awesome. Teslas aren't really an option here because they weren't designed with snow in mind. I think she needs a GX460

    Again, thanks for reading
     

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    #1 MarkZucc, Feb 19, 2021 at 4:59 PM
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021 at 5:04 PM
  2. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    welcome!
    are you burning any oil, or losing coolant?
    why pay a hybrid penalty for a 2 mile drive?
     
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  3. MarkZucc

    MarkZucc New Member

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    We met in Virginia, in the Hampton Roads area a few years ago. Back then, when she'd just gotten the vehicle, she was commuting quite a bit more frequently and longer distance. Typical city life. Since then with the cold and short commute, it's not the best vehicle now but why fix what aint broke, or wasn't broken. She fills up 4 times a year, at $18 a fill up, and it works out very inexpensively with insurance and local tax code.

    No recorded oil burn up before I started. But I changed the oil twice, about ever 9 months with name brand, high mile, full synthetic 0W-20 Valvoline I think. She doesn't check it ever. IIRC the last time I looked at the oil it was darker than I'd have liked to see, but not terrible, no smell or anything memorable about it. No leaks to speak of.

    Coolant I'm not sure, didn't look low and there's a bit at the bottom of the overflow reservoir. Unfortunately it's parked on a sloping driveway so it's not possible to get an accurate read on it. I can put it back together and drive it a bit if it'll help narrow down problems.

    Is there a way to finish the compression test with techstream? I have a coolant exhaust gas test kit in hand already.
     
  4. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    If you only drive it 2 miles a day it's going to develop a bunch of mayo under the oil cap; just about any car would. It's a long way from finding some emulsion to proving a blown head gasket.

    A sharp temp drop will condense some water into the fuel and contribute to poor running- usually a shot of gas dryer clears that up quick.

    I think you're vastly overreacting.
     
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  5. MarkZucc

    MarkZucc New Member

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    Could be, but the creamy foaming oil and really rough run what kind of kicked his into motion. If I can finish the compression test I could verify the head gasket is intact. Which fuse can I pull to to crank the engine without fuel? The 1st and 7th (EFI No1 and EFI No2) fuses disabled the engine ECM.
     
  6. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Adding:

    I don't happen to know the compression test setup procedure. I know it exists, Techstream has an interface to engage and support the test, and that it's documented in the Toyota online manual. I've used that resource for other projects and it is well worth the cost; much better info than anything else I've seen.

    I'll go out on a limb: the car could use a shot of gas dryer and a weekly 20-mile trip to clarify the oil. Those plugs really didn't look that bad for service described.

    Check the coolant when you put gas in it. Most filling station pads are properly level.

    If changing vehicles to support a 2 mile commute? Personally I'd be looking at bikes, golf carts or maybe a pair of Reeboks, depending on weather.
     
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  7. MarkZucc

    MarkZucc New Member

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    Just to update - I returned the rented exhaust in the coolant checker and compression checker. Came back put new plugs with a touch of anti-seize and torqued down.

    As far as I can tell, the Prius C torque spec for the coil packs is 10ft-lbs without anti-seize and 8lbs with. Prius C torque specs for the spark plugs is 18ft-lbs without anti-seize and 15ft-lbs with.

    I drove on back roads and country highways for about 20 min, parked, checked the fluids. Coolant was just below the "LOW" line, oil was still foamy. Went home. Performed an oil change with Valvoline 0W-20 synthetic high mileage, new mobile 1 oil filter, new crush washer. I let the oil drain for a few hours with a space heater pointed at it outside in the sun. Pan was warm to the touch afterwards. Put about 4qts in, tightened everything, and drove the same route and its still a bit foamy, but it could be residual. No low oil pressure lights now. I suspect it was the moisture+oil that overfilled the system and caused the warning lights in the first place.

    Wait and see now.
     
  8. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Sounds great. Hopefully you bought the plugs in your neighborhood. There has been an avalanche of crap counterfeit spark plugs on Amazon, eBay and many other websites recently. No brand or application unaffected at this point.

    A good set of Densos bought across the counter at the local is likely a ticket for an easy 100k miles in these cars.

    Sounds like it was all foamed up from a bunch of cold runs.

    This engine can blow head gaskets like any other, but the incidence rate is lower than other Toyota engines. I'd be a lot more likely to suspect gasket trouble if the backstory involved a lot of hot operation, specific mention of loss of cabin heat during highway trips, multiple coolant top-ups needed recently, sharp but brief knocking at the first engine start of the day... those are some much more direct symptoms of HG failure in a Prius.

    With a cold short run every day, this one never gets warm enough to clarify the oil never mind boil its coolant. Heck even if the HG were blown you'd be hard pressed to notice its effects in that usage pattern.
     
    #8 Leadfoot J. McCoalroller, Feb 21, 2021 at 9:06 AM
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021 at 9:32 AM
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  9. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    For the coil you mean the locator/hold-down bolt? I wouldn’t sweat torque with those; just snug them gently/firmly, say one-hand tighten with a small ratchet wrench. You do NOT want to snap the heads of those lol.

    For the plugs, not sure about Prius c, but in repair manual for reg 3rd gen Prius the plug torque spec is 15 foot/pounds, with clean/dry threads. I believe plug manufacturers advise against lubing threads, If you DO use anti-seize, I’d recommend apply very sparingly, say a light/thorough coating, then wipe it off. Pinch the threaded zone with a shop towel and twist the plug. This’ll leave a slight residue in the thread grooves; I think that’s all you need. And reduce torque to 12~13.

    I’ll try to post gen 2 repair manual info regarding plugs/coils torque in a bit; believe that’s basically the same engine?

    Addendum:

    Coil and Plug info torque info, from 2nd gen manual for what it's worth:

    Spark Plug Torque: 13 foot/pounds
    Coil Hold-Down Bolt Torque: 80 inch/pounds (6.7 foot/pounds, you divide by 12 to convert)

    Again, these would presumably be with clean/dry threads, and if you use anti-seize I'd reduce by 20~25 percent.

    And I would not even bother with torque wrench for the coil hold-down bolts; they're purely a lightweight locator bolt. Do not go nuts on these: especially with anti-seize, it is way too easy to get carried away, snap the heads off. Then the fun begins...

    There's been a couple of instances in 3rd gen forums, guys read the "inch/pound" spec as "foot/pounds", get out their 1/2" drive and torque those puppies...

    Repair Manual excerpt attached.
     

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    #9 Mendel Leisk, Feb 21, 2021 at 9:17 AM
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021 at 10:09 AM
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  10. priusCpilot

    priusCpilot Active Member

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    Read why not to use anti-seize on newer plugs. You can over torque them.

    i just read you lowered torque.

    They do say not to use anti-seize due to the coating on the threads acting like anti-seize.
     
    #10 priusCpilot, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:40 PM
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021 at 12:45 PM
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  11. MarkZucc

    MarkZucc New Member

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    Monitoring the oil now to see if it foams up. Didn't get to check yesterday. I assume these are like most other modern vehicles, run the car up to operating temps, then cool for 5 mins and let the oil run back into the pan, then check the oil? It still looks a bit foamy, but I also think there is probably still some residual moisture in there.


    Thank you for the manual! I just happened to find the torque specs for the hold down on the coil packs at the same time as the plugs...that and the wrench was near by, closer than the 3/8th ratchet. I just touch w/e I'm working on to the brush handle in the jar of anti-seize in place on the threads. I can't think of anything comparable to small quantity I use. But its very little. I work on the other two vehicles in the OP. Done a lot, CVs, new calipers, pads and rotors and brake lines on the GX. Timing belt for the GX is next up, and then possibly struts on the honda. I'd really like the prius to be the idiot proof one that just works.
     
  12. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sunday driver DIY’r

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    I’m belabouring this point, but keep in mind: the coil bolt is purely locator/stabilizer; I wouldn’t even bother with torque wrench for that. It’s too easy to misread the torque for a small bolt like that, and especially with anti seize on its threads, snap the head off. Then you’re in a world of hurt.
     
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