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So . . . Blew a gasket, now to swap or refurbish the head?


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Found bubbles in radiator this fall - well, actually more of a boil of gas than bubbles

pulled it into my shop, tested compressor cooler, found no water in oil, and figured it’s the head.

Series 60 detroit - found manual online and got the head out.  Found several head bolts with water and rust on them, so pretty sure it’s not injector cups.

now i’m kinda stumped, to get it checked, complete refurbish or swap it out?

lots of things can be wrong with it-

  • warped, cracked, bad cups, bad valve seats, bad valves
  • i know the cam bearings need replaced.

Seems like a waste to put it back in only to have a cup fail in a year or two, but a replacement head means setting the backlash, and i’m not sure what else.

Cam, rollers, everything else looks ok by eye, i figure on having cam checked.

last oil analysis said 73 ppm iron in oil, and flagged it- not sure if from head or another issue, some minor pitting on exhaust cam rollers

saw that liner protrusion issues can cause blown gaskets, so will need check that also.

hour meter and ecm says 2,000 something hours, not sure i believe it.

Any suggestions as to how you recommend i blow, i mean spend my money?

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Depends on how good a mechanic you are.  I'd replace the head, remove crank/cam and have them cleaned up/mic'd, new bearings, sleeves honed/new rings, etc.  I'd basically do a rebuild, IF the truck was worth it.  As soon as you say diesel, the price of everything goes through the roof.  I say if you need to have a mechanic/shop do the job.... RUN!!!  I know of 2 guys that had reman diesel engines replaced in their pick-ups, both paid ~20k.  Before I went that route, I'd try hard to find a rebuilt engine, again expensive, or find one out of a wrecked, salvaged truck.  Still expensive.  I just did a rebuild on an ag tractor engine, with new parts and machine work, I've got twice the value of the tractor into it.  Wish I had not started the job, it's not finished.  And that's with me having all the tools on hand.  IMHO, look for another truck and sell this one to a truck wrecking yard.  I bet you could find a good used running HDT for about the same you will have in this one without the headaches of upcoming work/expense.

Again, all IMHO.

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How many miles do you figure you have left in you?

Do you have any plans of ever upgrading to a newer truck?

Are you doing the work, or hiring it out?

You're talking inframe level work, here, if you decide now's the time. If it's not the time, get the head checked and repaired, pull the cam and do the bushings, and bolt it back up.

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I am gong through this right now. As we speak my truck is in the shop getting a new head gasket. 2003 60 series Detroit. I called a couple shops and it was going to be around 6 grand with a new head. Shop rates  $95-110 an hour. If it need overhauled its going to be 20.

I was talking to the guy I bought it from (we live a rural community I see the guy all the time) Anyway he owns a trucking company and is having his shop guy do it for $50 an hour. They build engines for people all the time and can charge less because they dont have the overhead. His trucking business keeps the lights on. Wrenching is extra income. If they only did mechanic work he would have to charge the 95-110 bucks an hour that every one else does. He said I will be out the door for about 2 grand if it dont need a head.

I have already invested 30k in this truck. If I have to put in another couple grand then whatever. I'm still half the price of a new one ton and it will last me the rest of my life.

Sitting there with a bad head gasket its worth scrap price.

Edited by jenandjon
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To the OP... other then selling for scrap your only real option is to get it fixed to the point of use.  So then the question is how much to fix.

Some options

- very minimum (high probability of quick failure); clean up the head and drop in a thick gasket (this isn't a good option)

- reasonable minimum: have the head checked for cracks; resurface if necessary, reassemble

- rebuild the head or reman head and reassemble

- rebuild the head or reman head and do the cam bearings

- rebuild the head or reman head and in frame re-bearing

Where you land within the above will be based on how long you are planning on keeping it and your budget.  After the 2nd choice they all get pretty reasonable.  Basically, you need to figure out why it failed then figure out a repair strategy which mitigates the failure while aligning with your future plans for the truck and your budget.

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Get the head checked out make sure it is good. While you have that off pull the oil pan and do the main bearings. Check the injectors. Make sure everything is all good before you put it back together.

I heard back from the shop. Apparently mine had been overhauled at some point and looks good. But I got 3 crappy looking injectors. So were going to replace them while its apart.

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Thank you.

Talked to uncle’s mechanic buddy, and he said because the gasket has no visible defects, probably a cracked head, so get a reman head.  I looked closer, and also saw a valve with a chunk missing from the middle.

He told me to check liner protrusion also.

i don’t expect to put a lot of miles on it, so i will get the injectors tested and slap a reman head on it.

will price out and think hard about rolling in new bearings.

i will try to find that middle ground between going overboard and being stupidly cheap.

my shop rates are:

  • one 300$ folding engine hoist
  • one 3/4” 40” breaker bar
  • one 30” 1/2” breaker bar
  • 1/2” and 3/4” drive 5/8” 12 pt impact sockets
  • 16 mm socket
  • 22 mm bolt (cam gear tool)
  • 3/8 milwaukee impact

so far, about 700$ in tools invested - labor cost zero

still need to get liner tool and build a gear lash tool for cam gear.


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Those are all tools you would need sooner or later anyway so thats a wash lol. We broke too many things last year I dont have the time or the shop space to do it myself. Bedside that I dont trust myself when it comes to engine internals. Anything that bolts to the engine fine. But going any farther than the valve covers is not for me.  My nephew came to work on the farm with us. I want to send him to mechanic school. We can do more of this stuff in house instead of sending it out.

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