Multiple blown head gaskets in 16k miles

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Care, Maintenance & Troubleshooting' started by Dilbone, Jan 9, 2021.

  1. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    I wasn't going to post a thread on this because I've been posting in the oil catch can thread, but I thought maybe some would find this to be an interesting data point...especially if I keep this car and continue with updates on its condition. Here's the saga so far:

    I bought a 2011 Prius in July from a friend of mine that only had for a year or so. He bought it cheap with a head blown head gasket with 232K and the PO had replaced the Hybrid battery at about 200k in 2018 from the dealer.
    At 241k head gasket gave up again. He checked the head and it was warped(he suspected it was after the initial HG job but he hadn't checked), had it milled, reinstalled 2nd new HG. He kept it for 500-1000miles to make sure it was good and listed it for sale. He picked up a matching pair of diesel Passats for he and his wife...he never really liked the prius anyway and has always kinda been a diesel guy. I knew HG were an issue with Gen3 but that's all I knew...so to hear that it had already been done and a new Hybrid battery?? I decided it was worth a $4k risk even at that mileage if I could get 3 or 4 years out of it.

    It seemed fine for the first 5k miles. Maybe a half a quart of oil used in 5k. Waaaaaay less than my Gen2 uses with 233k. Then I started noticing some rough starting...not terrible but noticeable. I saw the oil catch can thread and installed an oil catch can but hadn't taken the intake off, just wiped it out as best I could from as high up as I could get.
    About 1k miles into the next oil change the start up condition worsened to what I considered catastrophic levels coupled with cappuccino looking sludge coming out of the PCV into the OCC and another 3/4"of sludge in the bottom of the intake even after cleaning it out before. 2 very violent shaking restarts happened back to back on Dec. 20th and then I parked it.

    I decided the intake needed to come off to do a better cleaning and by this time I had heard about the EGR cooler issue. I asked my buddy if he'd done anything with the EGR cooler...nope.
    So I take the intake and cooler off. Intake wasn't all that bad up inside...just the sludge in the bottom and in the PCV inlet. The EGR cooler was plugged solid. After an entire can of oven cleaner and 1/16" brass brazing rod chucked in a drill I was finally getting somewhere with the cooler, but then I was worried I'd do all the work of reassembly only to have to open it all back up to replace the HG.

    I decided I would hand crank the motor and see if I could notice liquid in the cylinder by "hitting a wall" at the top of a compression stroke. No luck. I just didn't want to tear it apart for no reason...still torn I pulled the plugs and saw #3 plug was visibly wet. Smelled like coolant, tasted like coolant...looks like I had my answer.

    I tore it all apart. I had the timing cover off and on 3 different times. 1st time I thought I forgot to torque the timing chain guide bolts...took the cover off...turns out I had tightened them after all. Damn.
    Took a while to clean off the ultra grey. The next night I reinstalled...immediately after which I realized I had forgotten to encircle the water pump/thermostat opening in the cover. Took it back off and cleaned it up again. 3rd time was a charm.
    My friend hadn't replaced the valve stem seals either time he had it apart because it wasn't using oil, so I replaced those since they were already in the kit and at 248k why on earth wouldn't you???

    Thursday the 7th I got it buttoned back up and fired it up letting it get to operating temp with the heat on high and full blast until the motor shut off on its own. It has been fine so far, in fact the cold start ups have gotten even smoother over the last few days. My initial plan was to sell this as soon as I was done with it and find another Gen2 since we've had zero issues with our gen2...but now I'm thinking maybe I want to see if the OCC and EGR cleaning will make the difference and either prove everyone here right...or wrong...at my expense.
    It seems like this car and its history would be a very good data point in the discussion of HG, OCCs, and EGR coolers.
    So in summary:
    2011 Prius
    200k new hybrid battery
    232k blown head gasket
    241k blown head gasket/head milled
    248k blown head gasket, OCC installed, EGR cooler cleaned

    I hope I end up having nothing to add to this list...except maybe 80k trouble free miles.
     
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  2. Raytheeagle

    Raytheeagle Senior Member

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    Plan on cleaning the egr cooler every 50k miles;).

    But sounds like you've got it sorted for now:).

    Good luck with your Gen3(y).
     
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  3. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Senior Member

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    The fact that the replacement head gasket packed it in SO soon, with a solidly blocked Exhaust Gas Recirculation system: that’s a smoking gun folks...

    Now with another new head gasket AND cleaned Exhaust Gas Recirculation system, if there’s no further problems (for say the aforementioned 50K): case closed?
     
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  4. rjparker

    rjparker Senior Member

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    Completely understandable. I might have done the same for an otherwise solid car. Its either third times the charm or three strikes your out. Wishing your v a charmed second wind.
     
  5. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    Thanks, 50k interval sounds like a pain, but I'll do it at this point!!

    I sure hope you're right!!!! I am also pretty surprised that with 3 blown gaskets at this point that I didn't have a bent rod.

    Thanks, I'm hoping and praying it's not 3 strikes!!!!
     
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  6. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Senior Member

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    Thanks for the “data point”. I really think scenario like yours could be ammo. That’s assuming the last gasket stays good, lol.
     
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  7. Rmay635703

    Rmay635703 Senior Member

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    Reminds me of old 1920’s trucks where you had to carry spare head gaskets in the trunk since you never knew when it would blow again
     
  8. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    Which you could likely change on the side of the road with a few tools hahahaha

    SM-G981V ?
     
  9. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    1,100 miles post HG, OCC, and EGR cleaning and I've had a couple starts that I felt were a little "rough" like a stumble on the first rotation but not death rattle knock rough. Every cold start I get nervous as to what's going to happen.
    It's only been 2 weeks so far, and I haven't listed it for sale yet...but man I'm nervous.

    Coolant level has maybe dropped a little over these 2 weeks and I can only hope that I've just worked a couple air bubbles out of the system after having filled it without a bleeder valve...also it's colder now...so some contraction too.
    The oil is completely clean and looks perfect.

    SM-G981V ?
     
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  10. rjparker

    rjparker Senior Member

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    Third times the charm. I would consider running a couple tanks of Chevron or Shell Premium to eliminate preignition from leftover carbon. Both Premiums are well known for their increased levels of additives to clean out the injectors. Then mid grade for a tank and back to regular.

    I know Mendel's egr cleaning business is counting on your success.
     
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  11. Raytheeagle

    Raytheeagle Senior Member

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    :ROFLMAO::LOL::ROFLMAO::LOL::ROFLMAO::LOL:

    From what I know, he offers his advice and has only ever delved into his garage queens egr circuit ;).

    But I could be wrong(y).
     
  12. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Senior Member

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    Nope, correct again.
     
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  13. Raytheeagle

    Raytheeagle Senior Member

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    Didn't think you assisted anyone in their maintenance quest:whistle:.

    Once we get out of the pandemic, our meetups will probably resume:).

    Take the garage queen in a road trip and we'd give you an opportunity to put your knowledge to the test(y).
     
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  14. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    2000mile update:

    I topped off the coolant after having had the level drop a bit in the first 1000miles. I had hoped it was from an air bubble making its way out and not another leaky GS already.

    The coolant level is now stable.

    Oil is still at the full mark. Nary a drop seems to have been used.

    I feel better than I did 1000miles ago.



    SM-G981V ?
     
  15. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    3,200mile update

    3k came and went on a road trip so I checked when I got back.

    Coolant level is still holding steady.

    Oil is down maybe an 1/8 to 3/16" on the dip stick. I don't believe this will even be a half quart by the oil change...which is about what it was before if I remember correctly. I mean, I've actually only owned it long enough to have had 1 oil change before the head gasket blew so.......

    I'm hesitantly confident that this will continue.

    SM-G981V ?
     
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  16. Dilbone

    Dilbone Junior Member

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    I got to my first oil change post HG and EGR cleaning this weekend and of course I forgot to check the oil before draining it. Judging by the oil usage up to this point I can't imagine it was down more than a half a quart. At 253k miles

    The oil looked pretty clean, much cleaner than my Gen2 oil is with 237k on the clock(and using over a quart and a half of beteween oil changes).

    Coolant level remains unchanged, oil consumption is good, and I still debate about getting rid of it before I have anything else catastrophic happen.
     
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