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  1. #1
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    Default The Head Gasket Replacement Thread - Beginning to End

    Some of you may have seen my overflowing coolant thread. After much back and forth, the conclusion of that one was a head gasket.

    So now I'm off to do head gaskets. A job I've never done before. Hopefully that's all it is. I've wrenched on a lot of different jobs, some very simple and others very complicated (like the timing chain guides on my BMW), but this is new for me. I've never gone as deep as heads. I want to make sure I do it right, don't miss any signs of other issues, and only have to do this once.

    I'm going to use this thread to chronicle the job, gain some really great advice from you forum members, and get some info out there for others who may need to do this in the future. I'm not sure how much this will help on here, though, since I feel like the members on this forum have been wrenching for longer than I've been alive and can do this blindfolded.

    First a brief history of the car and symptoms, and then deciding on which is the best head gasket to use.

    My dad bought the car new out of the showroom in 1985, so the car has logged all 215,000 miles in our family. Most recently, I drove it down the coast from CT to FL without a single issue. It had the beginnings of leaky intake gaskets (which I did about 15 years earlier when I was in high school). When my wife and I finally settled down back in FL, I stopped driving the car until I replaced the intake gaskets and heater hoses. And then the heater core started leaking, so I replaced that. Shortly after that is when the car started getting hot, overheated, and coolant overflowing issue started that was the basis of the other thread. Last diagnostic test was a positive block test using the blue indicator fluid in the test tube put in the radiator. It changed to a green color from blue, indicating combustion gasses in the cooling system.

    I am going to try a leak down test before tearing everything apart to double verify the diagnosis and try to localize the leak.
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

  2. #2
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    So, which head gaskets should I use?

    Here are the options:
    1) Ford Performance Head Gaskets $30 https://lmr.com/item/M6051C51/mustan...-7995-m6051c51
    2) Ford Performance Competition Head Gaskets $70 (has teflon coating on it and "wire encased combustion chamber seal" which sounds way more heavy duty) https://lmr.com/item/M6051A302/1979-...g-Head-Gaskets
    3) Felpro Permatorque Gaskets $10 (there are a bunch of different part numbers, need to verify which one to use) https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo...430161&jsn=535

    Thoughts on gaskets? I'm inclined to go with the Ford Performance Competition ones, not because I'm going to build up my motor, but because they sound heavy duty. Unless you guys think that's not going fit or cause other issues.

    Also, the plan is to get Felpro PermadryPlus rubber valve cover gaskets, the good Felpro MS95952 intake gaskets with silicone end gaskets, and some Felpro exhaust manifold gaskets.

    Semi-unrelated question...with the headers unbolted from the heads and all this disassembled, is it easier to lift the engine and replace the oil pan gasket? Because mine is not in good shape and if there's ever a time to do it, it may be now?

    Thanks for the help everyone!
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

  3. #3

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    I would get as close to the stock compression. Thickness as I could. I bought a felpro gasket set when I did mine.

    It's not a hard job, in all honesty. Take your time, and clean everything up really well.

    Keep in mind, the head gasket started leaking for a reason. So make sure the heads are not warped, got use anything gritty to clean them if they look okay. Get an assortment of plastic and metal brushes and scraping tools, lots of tags and carb cleaner to clean everything up.

    Take your time, and you will be fine.
    2 1986 cougars (both 4 eyed and 5.0)
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    Felpro made two wire type gaskets. One with a steal wire and the other with a copper wire. One is for Iron heads and the other is for aluminum heads. Off hand I don't remember which one goes to which head. I think the copper is for aluminum.

    You will find the gasket blown from the cylinder into the steam ports at the top of the gasket. That will be the small triangle ports in the block between the cylinders by the head bolt holes.

  5. #5
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    There are like 4 different gaskets on RockAuto for my car. The $10 one is listed as FI w/o HO or Carb HO. How are the two cars different? I don't want to repeat my water pump fiasco and go by the listings anymore, since they don't seem to necessarily be accurate.

    What about the Ford ones?

    Do I need new head bolts? LMR says to get new head bolts, but that's probably because they sell them

    How about valve stem seals? Do them? And who makes the best that will last another 200k?

    I've read to check for head warpage using a straight edge. I have a metal ruler I can set against it to check. Is that accurate enough?
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 85stanggt View Post
    There are like 4 different gaskets on RockAuto for my car. The $10 one is listed as FI w/o HO or Carb HO. How are the two cars different? I don't want to repeat my water pump fiasco and go by the listings anymore, since they don't seem to necessarily be accurate.

    What about the Ford ones?

    Do I need new head bolts? LMR says to get new head bolts, but that's probably because they sell them

    How about valve stem seals? Do them? And who makes the best that will last another 200k?

    I've read to check for head warpage using a straight edge. I have a metal ruler I can set against it to check. Is that accurate enough?
    10 dollar gasket , means you will be doing this again , get what you pay for .
    Take your heads to a shop , a good shop , have the heads checked for square , and have them do a mild valve job .
    It takes me a half hour to pull an engine .
    I have had a lot of practice.
    Lift the engine and replace the pan gasket with the 1 piece unit .
    clowns to the left of me , Jokers to the right

  7. #7
    FEP Senior Member Matt J's Avatar
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    The FI w/HO is the throttle-body CFI, thus "FI" for "fuel injected". The other one is the carb. I have no advice on the gasket choice, I'll defer to the mechanics on that one. I'm not sure about the oil pan gasket, if your intention is to hoist up the engine a few inches then I suppose it's easier with the stuff off the top of the engine. I'm not sure how hard it is to get that gasket lined up on the pan when you go to put it back on with the engine still in the car. I'm sure it's doable, but I've never tried it myself.

    Good luck, I think you'll get this job done pretty easily.

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    Just personal opinion, but I've done quite a few Ford 3.8 head gasket jobs and the Fel-Pros have never done me wrong. I would just get the complete head gasket set. That should include every other gasket you'll need to do the heads and it should also include valve seals. When I pull heads I just do the valve seals while I'm in there regardless of whether I think they are leaking. You have the head off already. It's another hour or two to remove the valves/springs and clean everything up and install the new seals.

    As mentioned you need to make sure the heads are flat. If you don't you'll be doing the job again in short order. I have a homemade way that I use to get heads flat, but I've never used it on cast iron heads nor would I want to. It's enough work with aluminum heads. Take them to a machine shop for that. You'll probably want to break the heads down before you take them there anyway so there is your excuse to do the valve seals.

    I don't believe the head bolts on your engine are torque to yield so you can conceivably use them again if they are okay. I know I've reused non-torque to yield head bolts multiple times without issue. They are available aftermarket for not a lot of money too. That would be a coin flip for me and would depend on how quickly you need to get this done and whether you want to wait to source bolts until you examine the old ones.

    Honestly aside from having to take the heads to a machine shop (and if you can pull them on a Friday night and call ahead they may be able to squeeze you in on Saturday morning) this should be a very doable weekend job if you are taking your time. Once you get the intake and exhaust manifolds off they are right there.

    I like to label all wiring and vacuum hoses as I pull them. Some masking tape, zip loc bags, and a sharpie will go a long way in keeping everything organized. You can take pictures too if you want to be sure of proper hose and wire harness routing.
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    For your stock engine, you are better off just buying stock replacement head gaskets from Napa or any of the other parts stores. The Motorsport ones aren't needed. If you were building a new motor, then you could consider the more expensive ones. Over kill at this point, with the milage.

    Again with that many miles on it, the valve and guides will have wear and the stock stem seals will be loose. They are a hard plastic type, and not the rubber type. You will most likely find the valves to be caked with carbon, so you will be in for a major cleaning if you take them down to do seals. If you are going to re-use the stock bottom end, just replace the gaskets and get it back on the road, or you will be a couple months into this job.

    As for the oil pan gasket, it is extremely difficult to pull the pan off and replace the gasket in the car. The engine needs to be lifted high enough to get past the oil pump and pick up tube, and you can't get it that high before hitting the tunnel with the trans. If you have never done it before, don't even try it. It's not for the inexperienced backyard mechanic who isn't sure of their own skills. It's better to pull the engine and put it on a stand to turn over and do it right. It will most likely leak even more if you do it in the car. It is very hard. I have done it many times and it is probably faster to just pull the engine. If it isn't leaking that bad, leave it.

  10. #10

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    I did not have a hint of oil burn or leaks on my engine until I had well over 200K miles on it and my car was raced and received some NOS based motivation along the way too.

    Driving it like you stole it..... and mach 2 with your hair on fire a lot ......even then past 275K miles there was not enough of an oil blow to see it under hard acceleration. I only had the tell-tail for valve guides that if I revved the hell out of it then backed out it would give off a split second of smoke. It used a quart in the journey from Foster City CA to Omaha NE averaging 105 MPH which I thought was completely acceptable for any car let alone one that had lived my car's abused life.

    Oil consumption/loss was far less than a quart in an 3000 mile oil change for most of the car's 500K mile life.

    It wasnt until past 425K miles that it got serious about oil consumption. By 430K the back of the intake gasket had entirely went and I was leaking/burning a quart in a 250 mile tank of fuel and the car was a fire hazard. cleaned all the layers of oil and grease and kept a diaper on it for a long time from there.

    It gradually got worse and with somewhere around 475K miles of outrageous beatings I was down to a quart in 100.

    FYI -- Seafoam cleans a lot up. Its back to a quart in 250 again and running better than it has in a long time. Sound GREAT. Runs hard. Strong enough that I've made a local 13 GT500 look absolutely STUPID on the street with it -- two lights in a row. But IMO the dude can't drive.

    anyway -- when you buy a new car they don't consider it excessive oil consumption until it uses more than a quart in 500 miles generally. GM told me 400 with my POS 2013 3.6L Equinox that I got rid of in 2016 at 46K miles. Hated that damn thing.

    I would not go looking for problems. I would fix what needs to be fixed and let the car tell you when there are big problems that need to be solved.

    I still have the stock pan gasket on mine. No problems to report.

    front main and rear main have been replaced within the past 10K miles along with valve cover and intake gaskets. I mainily did them because I was tired of the puddles in the driveway and the stink of oil while driving it.

    Once my 85 build is done my 86 will gt tore down for full rust repair and a complete overhaul.
    Last edited by erratic50; 02-11-2019 at 02:59 PM.

  11. #11
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashley roachclip View Post
    10 dollar gasket , means you will be doing this again , get what you pay for .
    Take your heads to a shop , a good shop , have the heads checked for square , and have them do a mild valve job .
    It takes me a half hour to pull an engine .
    I have had a lot of practice.
    Lift the engine and replace the pan gasket with the 1 piece unit .
    Yes, my thoughts exactly, which is why if the $75 gasket is the best, I will get that one. I mean a set of valve cover gaskets for my '98 bmw is $45. Sheesh.

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinVarnes View Post
    Just personal opinion, but I've done quite a few Ford 3.8 head gasket jobs and the Fel-Pros have never done me wrong. I would just get the complete head gasket set. That should include every other gasket you'll need to do the heads and it should also include valve seals. When I pull heads I just do the valve seals while I'm in there regardless of whether I think they are leaking. You have the head off already. It's another hour or two to remove the valves/springs and clean everything up and install the new seals.

    As mentioned you need to make sure the heads are flat. If you don't you'll be doing the job again in short order. I have a homemade way that I use to get heads flat, but I've never used it on cast iron heads nor would I want to. It's enough work with aluminum heads. Take them to a machine shop for that. You'll probably want to break the heads down before you take them there anyway so there is your excuse to do the valve seals.

    I don't believe the head bolts on your engine are torque to yield so you can conceivably use them again if they are okay. I know I've reused non-torque to yield head bolts multiple times without issue. They are available aftermarket for not a lot of money too. That would be a coin flip for me and would depend on how quickly you need to get this done and whether you want to wait to source bolts until you examine the old ones.

    Honestly aside from having to take the heads to a machine shop (and if you can pull them on a Friday night and call ahead they may be able to squeeze you in on Saturday morning) this should be a very doable weekend job if you are taking your time. Once you get the intake and exhaust manifolds off they are right there.

    I like to label all wiring and vacuum hoses as I pull them. Some masking tape, zip loc bags, and a sharpie will go a long way in keeping everything organized. You can take pictures too if you want to be sure of proper hose and wire harness routing.
    I thought about just getting a whole set, but I want to get better gaskets for specific things, such as the valve covers and end seals of the intake. I hate the cork gaskets. They decay over time and leak. The rubber valve cover gaskets that are on there are amazing seeing as they've been on there 15+ years with barely a seep.

    I'm in no particular rush to get the job turned over, which is the good part. I'm driving my dad's car to work until my transmission gets fixed. I just want to take my time, learn, and do it right. This does not appear to be a difficult job, just one that I don't know the ins and outs of yet. (For example, was googling around and I read that you need sealer on the lower head bolts because they are in water jackets?) Am I reading something about a different block? Those are the little things I don't want to screw up. I do have the Ford books, so I should just probably read those.

    There is no chance this is more complicated than the timing chain guides on the M62. No way. That's a 40 hour shop job that I took my time on and had done in 5 days. Perfectly timed and no engine lights.

    I need to read about how the heads go together and all the parts with the valves, springs, rockers, guides, seals etc to fully understand everything. I thought only the seals wore in the heads. Didn't realize there were guides that wear too.

    Can I check for warpage myself? Use a straight edge or something to check general trueness? Or buy something to check it? Or just bring it to a machine shop? My dad's buddy (does not live near me or would probably help) who builds hotrods seemed to think to keep things simple and just replace gaskets and didn't suggest taking them to a shop and to just lap the valves myself (need to learn about that).

    Quote Originally Posted by dynodon64 View Post
    For your stock engine, you are better off just buying stock replacement head gaskets from Napa or any of the other parts stores. The Motorsport ones aren't needed. If you were building a new motor, then you could consider the more expensive ones. Over kill at this point, with the milage.

    Again with that many miles on it, the valve and guides will have wear and the stock stem seals will be loose. They are a hard plastic type, and not the rubber type. You will most likely find the valves to be caked with carbon, so you will be in for a major cleaning if you take them down to do seals. If you are going to re-use the stock bottom end, just replace the gaskets and get it back on the road, or you will be a couple months into this job.

    As for the oil pan gasket, it is extremely difficult to pull the pan off and replace the gasket in the car. The engine needs to be lifted high enough to get past the oil pump and pick up tube, and you can't get it that high before hitting the tunnel with the trans. If you have never done it before, don't even try it. It's not for the inexperienced backyard mechanic who isn't sure of their own skills. It's better to pull the engine and put it on a stand to turn over and do it right. It will most likely leak even more if you do it in the car. It is very hard. I have done it many times and it is probably faster to just pull the engine. If it isn't leaking that bad, leave it.
    Are the gaskets overkill just based on the price or are they functionally made thicker or something that would cause problems? Because standard head gaskets from Napa are like $24 each so almost $50 for the pair. Another $25 isn't a big deal to me at that point. I just want to get the correct gasket that will last.

    I'm also very untrusting of these parts stores and listings around due to my water pump issues. Anyone have a part number they KNOW is correct for my '85 carbed 5.0 HO? Napa's website only has an option for vin code "F" on the site. Mine is "M".

    I do feel like I should do the valve stem seals. I just don't know which are the best to get. I see a bunch on RockAuto, from rubber, to plastic, to plastic with metal rings, to teflon ones.

    And I think I'll leave the oil pan gasket alone. I didn't think of the oil pump and pick up being in the way when dropping the pan to snake the gasket through. My rear main, though, that is the big leaker. That needs to be done. I have a pan under the car to catch that oil.

    Quote Originally Posted by erratic50 View Post
    I would not go looking for problems. I would fix what needs to be fixed and let the car tell you when there are big problems that need to be solved.

    I still have the stock pan gasket on mine. No problems to report.

    front main and rear main have been replaced within the past 10K miles along with valve cover and intake gaskets. I mainily did them because I was tired of the puddles in the driveway and the stink of oil while driving it.

    Once my 85 build is done my 86 will gt tore down for full rust repair and a complete overhaul.
    Yeah, my rear main is the main issue. I just didn't know if it would be easier to do the pan gasket now or never. Sounds like never. There's grease caked all around it, but I'll just leave it alone.
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

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    The lower head bolts go into the water jacket in the block. You can re-use the head bolts without any problems. I have used them several times and have never changed them. I have never used any sealant on the lower bolts, and it has never caused a leak.

    All heads gasket for the 302 are all the same when it comes to fitting. You can get them in different materials and thickness. Any stock replacement gasket will be better than the ones you will be removing, except the $10 ones. If you think buying the more expensive one will give you piece of mind, then have at it. Just to let you know, if the timing is wrong, it will blow any kind of gasket no matter how much you pay for them or how good you think they are.

    The most important thing to remember is to put the gaskets on the right way. You can put them on wrong from front end to rear end of the block. The gaskets have holes in one end, and they go towards the rear of the block. Those holes let the water flow from the block into the heads. If you put the holes in the front of the engine, it will cause the water to go into the block from the water pump, and right up through the heads and out the thermostat, and not go through the block like it needs to. This will cause the exact same problem with over heating just like you went through.

    Once you pull it down, that will give you a better idea of what it is you might want to do. So until then, be ready for anything.

  13. #13
    FEP Member Tigger's Avatar
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    Felpro prema torques are decent head gaskets. I have used quite a few on various projects throughout the years and never had any problems with them. I just used one on my Saab a couple months ago. I would not hesitate one bit to use them even if they are $10. JMO
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  14. #14
    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Default 5.0 head gasket notes

    Half the auto parts sites are useless finding accurate info on head gaskets in this case.
    Generic stock coverage, conflicting data, inaccurate data, incomplete descriptions.
    Kits can contain a lot of unneeded parts. Takes more time, but only needed parts can be bought individually.
    Some gasket notes say "aluminum heads", "not for emissions engines", etc. We want the right hole patterns.
    Felpro p/n with PT means Perma-Torque. Used FelPro on my turbo engine, same as what was there from Lima.
    Germany's Mahle offers several aftermarket versions of head gaskets, are an OEM, same as Fel-Pro.
    These companies do large volume mfg, may package same OE part as aftermarket.

    If engine is in decent condition, plan the other work later when removing engine for a total rebuild.
    Adding unrelated tasks to an already major job may be easy for some, but owner's facilities, skill, time, money, vary widely.
    Could drain coolant out, then flush block with plain water to make head removal less of a cleanup mess from coolant.
    Tough part for me in this job would be proper final adjustment of rockers. My OHC 2.3 is stuff and go.
    Be careful lifting heavy parts from engines still in car. Cherry pickers pay for themselves here, rented or bought.

    Per good ol' 'Official Mustang 5.0 Tech Ref Perf Handbook', pg 214, paragraph 6.7, Head Gaskets:
    -"Proper torquing is made even more critical by the vertical orientation of the intake manifold attaching bolts.
    When tightened on assembly, these fasteners tend to unload the inboard head-to-block bolts, which can then lead to head gasket failure."

    Hmmm...

    OE gaskets; "All 1982-93 5 liter HO V8 head gaskets were mfg for Ford by Fel-Pro.
    New for 1985 5.0 HO head gasket is p/n E5ZE-6051-BB."
    When removing old gasket, check out the part number stamp in it.

    79 5.0 had steel shim type head gaskets.
    82 5.0 HO had premium quality Felpro Print-O-Seal type.
    83-84 5.0 HO had least desirable production 'PT' blue type. 10.00 Felpro 8548-PT2 may be same as 83-84?
    85 version was improved version of 82 Print-O Seal gasket.

    Expanded graphite recommended for sc, tc, nitrous, injected, apps.
    Book says stock factory gasket compressed thickness is .047".

    How bout this one? https://performanceparts.ford.com/part/M-6051-D50
    Kit looks like 2x M6051-C51, .047, T-T-Y bolts with thread sealer already added. Do check out the PDF instructions.
    Prices: https://www.google.com/search?q=M-60...w=1152&bih=715
    As usual, cost does not always indicate quality but markup margin.

    Get new head bolts. Old ones stretched when torqued, should not be reused.
    Some head gaskets require T-T-Y bolts. T-T-Y can be retorqued 3 times they say.
    Absolutely use factory torque sequence and a known good torque wrench. Center out, 2 or more progressive steps.
    4-5 bolts (and one stud?) along outboard "foot" section of head require thread sealant.

    https://www.felpro.com/professional-forum.html
    Last edited by gr79; 02-12-2019 at 03:19 AM.

  15. #15
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    Really great info thank you! Especially the Ford part number! The Ford performance ones you linked look pretty good.

    Very interesting quote there from the book. So maybe my intake job pulled the head away from the block enough to cause a leak in the gasket? Is that something I could retorque down properly on the head bolt and retorque intake? Prob not...but figured I'd ask if it would save this whole job. It's not a significant leak, because it only happens on the highway above 2k rpm. I bet that did it. And I'm pretty sure from what I hear when I turned the engine off it's something with cylinder 5 or somewhere front driver's side.
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

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    Just because the head gasket is $10 does not mean it is junk. I'd trust the Fel-Pro gaskets. For reference, look around at other engines and compare how much a stock style head gasket costs. You don't need some super-duper high performance head gasket for what you are doing. If it makes you sleep better at night then have at it, but the stock style gasket will serve you well.
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    I stated it earlier on your first thread. When you torque the heads down, go back and re-torque the top row of bolts to 10 pounds higher than the recommended torque after you have done the stock toque sequence first. This helps compensate for the intake torque.

    The stock gasket will most likely be blown around the front two cylinders, most likely the drivers side. Again it will be leaking from the cylinder bore to the steam ports along the top row of head bots.

  18. #18
    FEP Power Member 85stanggt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodon64 View Post
    I stated it earlier on your first thread. When you torque the heads down, go back and re-torque the top row of bolts to 10 pounds higher than the recommended torque after you have done the stock toque sequence first. This helps compensate for the intake torque.

    The stock gasket will most likely be blown around the front two cylinders, most likely the drivers side. Again it will be leaking from the cylinder bore to the steam ports along the top row of head bots.
    I remember you saying that. I think you are right on the money. I will definitely add the extra torque.

    And I do believe it is the driver's side right at the front. I can hear sizzling like water evaporating when the engine is up to temp and turned off. Never heard that before until I did the intake gasket job.
    1985 Mustang GT Convertible
    Stock and original @ 213k, except for dynomax ultraflos.

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