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I’ve hit the breaking point on header leaks. I’m tired of gasket after gasket failing, so I’m ready to spend more money than should be necessary to get the headers to seal.

Issue #1: Header Studs vs. Safety-Wired Bolts

I’ll be installing these headers (again) on aluminum heads, and I don’t like the idea of installing and reinstalling threaded steel fasteners into aluminum. Whatever fasteners I choose will be stainless steel from ARP.

Here are my options:

Hex Bolts 400-1101 $17.88
12 pt. Bolts 400-1201 $17.88
Hex Bolts (drilled for safety wire) 400-1103 $30.95
12 pt. Bolts (drilled for safety wire) 400-1203 $37.69
Hex Studs 400-1412 $47.95
12 pt. Studs 400-1402 $77.95

What is a better option? Use the studs without safety wiring them, or using the pre-drilled bolts and safety-wiring them all together? Ideally, I’d use the studs safety-wired together, but those nuts are too small to drill a hole through the side of one. I have enough extra room to deal with installing the headers over studs. I’ll use lock washers on both the studs or bolts this time.

Issue #2: Which Gaskets to Use?

I’ve read and it seems like the top 4 are (in no particular order):

Earl’s Pressure Master $40.39
Mr. Gasket Ultra-Seal $14.88
Percy’s Dead-soft Alum. $34.95
Fel-pro Steel-core Laminate $15.99

I haven’t used any of the aforementioned types before, other than the Mr. Gasket Ultra-Seal. But, I didn’t soak them in water as some have recommended before installation. I’ve also tried Permatex Copper silicone and it’s helped somewhat, but still hasn’t solved the problem. I’ve cut the header flanges in between the end cylinders and middle cylinders. I haven’t had the flange surfaced for flatness. Would it be worthwhile? I’d hate to grind away too much of the weld on the inside of the flange, so maybe I’d try to weld on the outside of the flange to reinforce it. The headers are the cheap Heddman variety, so the flanges aren’t very thick. Out of the above 4, what is the gasket of choice? Any other tips?
 

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I also have Hedman's and have had good luck with Arp 12 pt bolts and Mr. Gasket Ultra-Seal. It takes a few retightenings and then everything is good. You should ensure the flanges are flat though. Ahh, the journey.
 

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With pretty much the same attitude you have, this year I am trying something different.

#1, I used EXACTLY the gasket recommended for my heads by the manufacturer, they are a FelPro steel core laminate model, and the port openings fit the heads exactly, less than 1/16" bigger than the opening all around.

#2, I bolted the gaskets to the bare headers, scribed some lines, and opened up the port openings on my headers to within 1/16" of the gaskets.

#3, I used these bolts: http://store.summitracing.com/partdetail.asp?part=FMS-M-9432-A51&autoview=sku If the link doesn't work, they are summit part number FMS-M-9432-A51. The ones I used were 1" long, there are 2 other #'s that are slightly shorter.

These bolts are too cool. So much so that I forgive and ignore the fact that they are made by Ford.

They have both a 3/8" six point head AND an allen socket. The allen socket made getting the rear bolt on #8 tight a BREEZE!

They have locking tabs. You tighten the bolts down, slip the tabs over the heads, and secure them with an e-clip. The tabs have a flat ground on one side which locks against the tube and absulutely prevents the bolt from EVER coming loose!

Since they are made for Fords, you get 4 extra bolts, tabs, and e-clips.

Not many miles on them yet, but I have high hopes.
 

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#3, I used these bolts: http://store.summitracing.com/partdetail.asp?part=FMS-M-9432-A51&autoview=sku If the link doesn't work, they are summit part number FMS-M-9432-A51. The ones I used were 1" long, there are 2 other #'s that are slightly shorter.

These bolts are too cool. So much so that I forgive and ignore the fact that they are made by Ford.
They aren't made by Ford, just have a Ford part number. They're made by Stage 8. http://www.stage8.com/. http://store.summitracing.com/egnsearch.asp?N=700+115+301464&D=301464

I'm running Stage 8 header bolts on my LS1, but I'm not using the clips. The Stage 8's are the cheapest good aftermarket LS1 header bolt, like half the price of ARP's. A lot of us LSX guys are running them and toss the clips in the parts bucket. Running stock GM LSX gaskets, and antisieze on the threads.
 

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68 SS Convertible, 383 EFI w/TPIS Mini Ram II, TKO 600, Aluminum flywheel, 3.31 12 bolt posi
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I like the Earl’s Pressure Master header gaskets. I used to have all kinds off trouble with header gaskets leaking. I wired the bolts and that would make the gaskets last longer, but wasn't a permanent fix (and a pain).

Then I tried the Earl’s Pressure Master gaskets and have never had a leak since. I wired the bolts at first with these gaskets, but eventually stopped even doing that and still have no leaks. And I have never retorqued with these gaskets. Just bolt them on and go!

Note, I buy the "cut to fit" version that doesn't have cutouts. I bolt them to the head or header off the car and trim them for an exact fit.

(Also note, on my previous heads, TFS Twisted Wedges, the aluminum surround interfered with the spark plugs because of the altered plug location. So check this if you have heads with altered plug locations. This was a pain to discover after the headers were on.)

Good luck,

Ray
 

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Here's what works for me... I went with the Earls and though a bit pricy I think well worth it. I got the small hex head bolts like these http://store.summitracing.com/partdetail.asp?part=SUM-G1490A&autoview=sku or alan head bolts. Then I use these washers... http://store.summitracing.com/partdetail.asp?autofilter=1&part=MRG-3416&N=700+115&autoview=sku

So about $40 for gaskets and $25 for fasteners and you are good to go. The trick with these washers is to stop tightening them once the washer goes flat. If you are use to wrenching header bolts down until they cut into the flanges you won't be comfortible with stopping when the washer is colapsed but that's all you ned and the bolts won't back out...
 

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I've had good luck on aluminum heads with steel bolts and just the silver paste anti-seez. The anti-seeze dries out and helps hold the bolt in place very well.

Two other observations.
Helicoils help a whole lot in holding onto bolts, plain threads in aluminum tend to come loose.

Helicoils are stainless, a stainless bolt on stainless thread is increasing the risk to gaul the threads, use caution - and lubrication.
 

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I've always sworn by Fel-Pro Performance steel laminated gaskets, and have had great success over the years on several combos. I currently use the Fel-Pro 1404's on my AFR's with ARP stainless small 6 point heads.
 

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Agree with most here. Fel-Pro steel laminates I have never, ever had one leak and I've used them on a lot of SBC motors over the years. True up the flange on the header and head with a file. Don't remove a lot of material, just draw it over them to make sure the surfaces are true.

I am not a fan of stainless fasteners as they tend to gall and seize, especially if they get hot. I use the ARP black oxide studs and have no troubles. I'd suggest C5A anti-seize on any high temp installation, liqui-moly is more appropriate for aluminum alloys, but doesn't hold up to the heat like the C5A copper stuff. Works great in my applications at work over 2000 degrees so it'll work here. I also like safety wire, but I'd go with .041 stainless wire, as I've seen .032 break on turbo wastegate applications and the .025 is certainly too light. But if you go with the studs and you want to safety wire you'll need 6 point hex nuts and I bet you'll have issues with primary tube clearance. Most studs are using 12 point and wire isn't an option with that hardware.

I use the 12 point nut and no wire and have not had issues with them loosening up.
 
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