Water in the Hole! Or, Series 1 Engine, Diagnosis, Removal and Rebuild

If you scroll down to the picture of the gauge panel, that’s where this thread actually starts. For the record, I did not build this engine nor paint the car as shown. I bought this “failed restoration project” from my elderly aunt in 2003. She had the work done on the car between 1990 and 1995 when in frustration and a great deal of money down the drain, she demanded the car be returned to her. What was driven into a shop in Salt Lake City came out in pieces on a trailer. After languishing for 8 years in her garage in Scottsdale, I bought it. The car’s best quality is that it is rust free and it has “good bones”. But everything I have touched - now including the engine - has had to been completely redone. So as to not have to re-post the background of why the engine was pulled, here is a link to the start of this latest debacle.
What did you do to your E-Type today? (Part 2) - #449 by REBUILD61OTS My posts in that thread are directly below:

Not today, but on Jan 10, 2024. The restart after sitting for two years while I rebuilt the IRS.
good news and bad news. The good news is the engine started right up! And I drove it down my formidable driveway - about 35 deg steep with two switchbacks. The trany shifted great through 3rd gear. Trany is a 1965 all-synchro. And the rear end felt good as did the brakes…all the first time being used. But that wisp of vapor coming from the breather tube was not good news. There was a leak of water into the engine sump. Bummer.

Jan 10, 2024 Start Up and Walk Around

Coming Down Trimont Lake Rd

Up My Driveway - Jan 10, 2024

And proof of the leak - Oil the color of coffee with cream!




Enough evidence?

The driveway is 750 feet long. And not Mrs. Orcutt’s type as you cannot do 200mph on my drive!!

I have videos from 2 years ago that show no vapor at the blow-by pipe. There was no oil water mix before starting the engine. So, something failed. I’ll start the search today. Gee I hate putting it back up on jack stands after just one week on its tires. Fun fun fun 'til her daddy took the T-bird away…

Right … Merde indeed! Sounds like sound advice.

Remember, no oil nor water leaks on the floor or outside the engine. Oil was fine before this start. I didn’t check the antifreeze assuming it had not changed. I had planned to change the oil, filter and antifreeze once I ran the engine briefly. I did watch the temp gauge to see it came up and stabilized and it did. Pic of engine gauges just before climbing my driveway. The fan never came on and I didn’t expect it to.

So, there we go. From having first been started after 30 years in August, 2021 and then sitting for 2 years while I rebuilt the IRS, it was started and driven on January 10, 2024 - a moment of excitement immediately followed by dismay and a decision to pull first the head and then the engine. The engine is at Dick Maury’s Shop in Snellville, GA where the engine and gearbox (an early all-synchro transplant) will be built like they should have in 1990. In retrospect, I should have started with this back in 2003!

I have never pulled a Jaguar engine so this was a new experience for me. I decided to pull the engine out the bottom after much consideration. More about that in a bit. The deciding factor was that the Reaction Tie Plate has to be removed regardless of whether the engine/gearbox come out the top or the bottom. In order to remove the Tie Plate there are two options: 1) release the torsion on the Torsion Bars so the Tie Plate bolts can be removed, or 2) pin the Torsion Bars in place so the bolts can be removed. Both methods are perfectly viable. I chose to release the tension which requires separating the Front Upper Ball Joint. I had replaced those ball joints recently so I knew they would come apart easily.
I really did not want to pull the engine; I was still under the impression, wishfully, that the engine had been rebuilt. After all, my aunt had paid to have it done. So my first approach was to find the leak. It didn’t take long to determine water was getting into the oil via the #5 cylinder (2nd from the front).
Water in the Hole - here’s proof (hover over pics for description).

To determine where the water was going was easy. I simply pulled the sparkplugs and saw the water in #5. Water sucked into a cylinder will be pumped into the crankcase immediately and that isn’t good because it washes all the oil off the cylinder walls and that is hard on the rings. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th pics were made with an endoscope. The 3rd and 4th pics were made after I pumped the water out, applied about 15 psi pressure to the radiator and watched the water accumulate in #5. All well and good, but I was hoping to see where it was coming from. I couldn’t, I could only note that it came from “above”. That is the gasket or a crack in the head or ??. I’m told it is possible to see water spraying but I could only see it coming down the cylinder wall. My borescope is a cheap one. This however was sufficient reason to pull the head. But first I checked the intake manifold and it was dry as were the exhaust ports.

I removed the carbs intact with their manifold.

Set the Engine to Top Dead Center.

Secure the Cam Gears after cutting the safety wire and removing the 4 Bolts.

There’s a lot to remove to get the head ready to take off. It’s just work but there’s quite a bit to do. I use an Oberg Tilt Lift attached to my cherry picker and sometimes I attach a leveling strap as in the case with the head removal.

We know now that somewhere in the process I bent a valve. The valves will stick down below head’s surface; perhaps I hit one with the wood block I used to help adjust the ratchet strap?

At this point in the process I was anxious to get the head to Dick. I could not see anything wrong with the head that would indicate where the leak actually came from. While I removed the head gasket, I had not yet cleaned the top of the block. I did not it was heavily coated with Copper Seal. Note how the #5 cylinder looks like it has been steamed cleaned…evidence of water getting in the cylinder while the engine was running. So far, I only knew the water got into #5 but I did not know how or from where.

It is an all day trip for me to Atlanta and back and then I have to spend some time with my better half, so a couple of days passed before I cleaned the top of the block. Meanwhile Dick is telling me the head looks pretty good and admonishing me to find the source of the leak. (He’s a tough mentor! :slight_smile: )

I’m going to post this now and add to it later. Yet to come: finding the source of the leak, pulling the engine.

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Sorry to see you had an engine problem. You took the head to the right place, IMO. Dick rebuilt my engine; first the head, then the rest, and did a wonderful job.

I wonder how many will have to look up that reference. :grin:

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Good to know John. Dick has been a Godsend for me on this project since I met him 3 years ago. And so many I know have sent him their engines. @Harvey_Ferris, @JCarey, @Jeff_Smith, @Ahwahnee … It is a very long list.

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Your write-ups are second to none on here! Keep up the good work… And this too shall end up with a running wonderful car!

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Keep up the accolades Paul and I’ll send you another Andrew Jackson!

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Dimension that…

  • you’re urbane
  • witty
  • exceptionally good-looking
  • and that, for 20 smackers, I’ll say near anything?


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Sounds like you may have several problems with the rebuild. First tipoff is coppercoat on the block. Cylinder head gaskets are ordinarily installed dry on XK engines. That’s not to say that’s the cause of the leak but it may be a clue as to other problems - like did the rebuilder know what he was doing. . The way the block and head are set up it’s difficult for coolant to get into the block/oilpan. For it to do so from a cylinder head leak it has to have some way of getting past the piston, #5 in this occasion. The amount of coolant in your oil from the short drive you did suggests the leak into the block is something other than the head gasket, and coolant getting by the piston.

The typical source for that quantity of coolant in the block is a leak at the interface of the timing cover and the face of the block, and specifically at the hole in each that contains the coolant coming out of the water pump going into the block.

I wonder if the rebuilder used the wrong gasket set for the car, including the head gasket and the timing cover gasket. I think you need to pull the timing cover and have a look at the gasket. There was a thread on this site about 2 weeks ago that discussed problems with the fit here as there have been various mods to the shape of the hole and corresponding gaskets. Use the wrong gasket etc and you have a significant leak into the oil pan.

Can you post photos of each side of the head gasket?

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Back in the day back in England working on BMC Ford and GM Vauxhall stuff I don’t recall ever using anything other than just the head gasket itself. Everywhere else got the Hermatite treatment.


Yes, it’s a thread started by Andy describing his issues with water in the sump on his freshly rebuilt engine discussed here: 2 Gals of coolant in oil pan on fresh engine

Now that the cylinder head is off it’s important to check this out as Terry has suggested. Good luck getting this sorted. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Terry, Les, and Gary. Thank you all for your observations. But, you are jumping the gun on me as the engine is out, the culprit was/is a deep scratch in the top of the block. I will make more posts to bring this J-L thread up to date. I just ran out of time this morning. But to give a preview:

[quote=“inlinesix, post:7, topic:443460”]
did the rebuilder know what he was doing
[/quote] Clearly he knew…he just didn’t want to loose the money he was collecting from my aunt. I, however, didn’t know because the top and bottom of the head gasket isn’t visible to me. And, remember this engine started in August 2021 and ran without issue. This head gasket was an old school metal head gasket…it was assembled sometime between 1990 and 1995. When I removed the head I inspected the gasket closely…I could see no evidence of water crossing it. But it is my understanding that a piston will pump water that gets into the cylinder straight into the oil pan…there is a tremendous amount of pressure. Look at that first video at the top of the thread. That is the startup. There is no smoke, white or otherwise, coming out the tailpipes, but you can see puffs of white coming out the breather tube. By the time the car comes up the driveway, the breather tube is puffing steam!
The gasket was correct for the engine in 1993. The use of copper coat - slathered on as you’ll see in pics not yet posted - is because they knew there was a problem. I am pretty sure the water pump gasket at the cam gear spindle didn’t leak as I changed the oil, put 15 psig on the radiator for close to 1/2 hour and water in #5, no more water in the pan. It is a moot point however as it is all apart now.
I agree Les, but copper coat was used by some. And Gary, I did read Andy’s thread…I was well ahead of him but too busy to post anything. I was thinking he was so lucky to not have started the engine. I hope it gets sorted with his builder.

Here’s pics of the head gasket but only one side. I was just trying to show Dick how thin it was. Again, it is a moot point anymore.

More tomorrow.

I prefer an engine detective job way more than watching almost any TV Drama/ cop/Detective show

Good luck with finding the issue

I am going to help someone whose car was in the most expert local repairers for 5 years, and many thousands of $ is not in the least bit drivable (and got a big dent in the process)

The last time I had a Jag at the mechanics, it also got a huge crease in the rear quarter panel…of course he knew nothing. I wondered how such a crease could have even been caused

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not me…plus 20 miles


Diagnosing the issue is half the battle.
You can now find what else the builder might have done.
(Gotta look at the bright side).

When done, the " what if’s " will recede.

Next Thursday we will be on I-40 driving right by there. I think I’ll stop and take a picture or two on “Mrs. Orcutt’s Driveway”.

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Indeed B2B! On the bright side, we now know the head was not too bad and the valve guides were in good shape. No seals but there weren’t supposed to be any in my year. We’ll add them. Dick will be picking the engine apart and making it better than new. E.g., the block is well seasoned, at 1st glance it is clear 0.020 pistons will work, but I suspect he’ll find a mismatch of one piston as it has a different number than it should…so the balance will likely be off. So, also on the bright side, the engine will be built up to snuff and that’ll give me great confidence.


Pistons that generate even low compression don’t pump water Scott and certainly not the amount you report. If there that much water in the cylinder you would almost certainly experience hydralic lock.

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What he said.

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Although pistons do not pump water, there is a vacuum during one of the 4 cycles that will suck water if there is a leak. I had not pulled the head as Scot had brought it earlier. He did mention that the head bolt torque ranged from 25 to 55. The front timing cover gasket seemed very well attached as I had to use a wedge to break it loose. The two locating dowels were missing and the cover seemed to sit high in the front. The rebuilders had tried to use a large file to match the block to the cover but only did it on the sides. The center front of the cover was still sitting higher than the block. The #5 (second from the front) cylinder was filling with water. This was verified by pressurizing the system and looking down the spark plug hole. If the timing cover gasket was leaking, it would not have bypassed #6 cylinder to go into #5. On the face of the timing cover was some errosion at the top area of the water pump that covers the timing chain gear shaft. When I surfaced the cover, the area between the water area and the shaft hole was low/erroded. Cleaned up with a surfacing. Probably a contributing factor but not the main one. I am sure Scot will write it up in a nice presentation as I sent him a much more detailed list.


It’s sad there are so many stories like this one, but I suspect many engines have quirks that need specialist attention, and that not always available. I think often of a woman I knew who had her E Type serviced at a local garage near where I live. They needed to remove the bonnet, couldn’t figure out that the wiring harness into it was a plug, so they simply cut the wires.

On the pumping issue I was speaking of the pistons pumping water into the block/pan area, something they don’t do. The water in the pan had to come from somewhere else.

That’s being generous but it’s in good hands now

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