I'm not much of a mechanic. I mean, I can do the simple stuff like brakes, oil change, plugs, and so on, but things like head gasket repair I struggle with. Thats not to say that I havn't done a head gasket before, I have, and they were even successful, but I don't like to do it, and it takes me forever to get it done. To that end I decided that what I needed to do to get my Proton back on the road was to enlist the help of a trained mechanic who would do it faster than me, and probably better. I asked around, my regular mechanic said that he didn't really want to do it as his workshop is very small, and this would need to be there a couple of days therefore meaning that he couldn't fit another car in there. I decided to try various mobile mechincs, they came, they looked, then they told me that I would be looking at about £800 at the very least! £800!! Thats about what the whole thing cost me in the first place! I went back to my regular mechanic who had another look at it and still didn't want the job but he said that the engine in my Proton looked like a Mitsubishi 4G15 engine, therefore it should be a super easy headgasket to change. He thought that even I will probably be able to get the head off in about an hour or so. He then suggested that I had a go, and left. So I figured that I didn't really have anything to lose, so I started calling various machine shops to get prices for pressure testing the head, and skimming it, and I got prices for all the other stuff I would need to do the job, stuff like stretch bolts, gasket, oil, water, antifreeze, et cetera. Before too long I was looking at a quote for all the parts and to have the head skimmed and tested that was getting on for £450, and that was without figuring into it taking a day or two off from work! There must be another way in this day and age!
In the past when I've been in the local motorfactors I have noticed various bottles of stuff on the shelves that claim to be able to fix broken headgaskets! I've always been a bit wary of this stuff, and have always looked at it as a bit of a bodge. However, I needed to drive my Proton as I enjoy driving it, so desperate times call for desperate measures! I looked online for some of this snake oil type stuff, and there was this this one brand that came up time and time again with stories of complete sucess!
So I'm in Halfords in the que holding my £40 bottle of magic elixr, and thinking to myself that I'm just throwing money away here. Stood infront of me in the very VERY long que was one of my friends, an RAC patrol man no less, he looks at me, then looks at the bottle in my hand, then back to me, and he gives me that look. You know the one, the look that says you're clutching at straws mate, you've got no hope! I looked at him and said, yeah, I know, and with that I turned to go and put it back, figuring that really I should do it the old fasioned way, and take the damn thing apart! But as I started to step out of the que the guy behind me said what am I doing? I said, putting this crap back. He said that I wouldn't do that If I was him, and held out his own bottle of snake oil. He then went on to say that he put some in his BMW 535 when his headgasket blew on his was home from holiday one year, just in the hope that it would get him home. He said that five years later its still in there, and he's never had any problem with it and he drives it daily. Infact he said that it works so well that he buys cheap headgasket failiure cars on ebay, tips a bottle of this in, and sells them as repaired! Apparently he has had no complaints yet, and is probably responsible for keeping most of the K-series powered Rovers on the road! Against my better judgement I stayed in the que, and forked out my £40 for my own little bottle of magic elixr!
Back at BelongaClint I dubiously began the proceedure to fix my head gasket. I had this niggling feeling that even if it did work on this fellas old Rovers it wasn't going to work on my Proton for the simple reason that I actually have water coming out the exhaust when the engine is running, therefore the minute I put this stuff in, it won't work because it will be blown out the exhaust before it gets a chance! Oh well, I've got it now, so might aswell give it a go! Being a Man I'm not really one to follow instructions, however everything I had read about this stuff said follow the instructions to the letter! So, it said to make sure the engine is cold and remove the radiator cap, then pour the stuff directly into the radiator, and the system and as my engine had no coolant in it I then topped it up with coolant, and finally tightened the radiator cap back on. The next step was to turn the heater and fan to maximum, then start the engine and run your vehicle up to temperature. I'm guessing that this took about 20 minutes or so to get up to working temperature. Initially it was coughing and spluttering, and as I expected quite a lot of water was coming out of the exhaust. After about 10 minutes though, it stopped spluttering and started to idle smoothly!
Once the Proton was at operating temperature, it was idling smoothly and by now there was no water, or even vapour coming out of the exhaust. The instructions said to let it run for another 30 minutes after reaching operating temperature. I let it run, and kept an eye on the temperature gauge as it steadily climbed to the point were the needle was way past the red, and resting on the stop! But every minute that went by the engine seemed to run a little better! I must admit that watching the needle bury itself the wrong side of the red was a bit worrying, but I kept an eye on it, thinking that I should turn it off now, but all the while listening for some odd and worrying noise! It never came, and after half an hour I shut it off. I was quite relieved that was over! The next step was to allow the Proton to cool completely. I went inside to eat some lunch, and as I sat there eating my delicious lunch that Mrs Clint had prepared for me I couldn't help but think that the Proton will have welded its engine shut with the temperature that was generated when I was running it for the best part of an hour (including warm up time). After about an hour I went back to it, put my hand on the engine, and it was cold! I cautiously opened the radiator cap, I couldn't see any coolant so I topped up the system with antifreeze/water as necessary, and replaced the radiator cap tightly. Right then, I thought, just one thing for it, see if it will start! I figured that at worst it wasn't going to turn over because it had friction welded itself together with the heat, and at best I will have a real bad case of rod-knock! I put the key in the ignition and turned it expecting that it wouldn't start! To my surprise the engine turned over, then it spluttered into life! IT WAS ALIVE!!! But maybe running on only three cylinders! Nevermind, it was running! A quick check of the exhaust to see what was coming out, and to my relief it wasn't water, or even steam! Excellent, well I figured that a test drive was in order as the final step in the instructions was to leave the Steel Seal in your system and drive the vehicle as usual. Over lunch I had planned a little test route...
According to Google maps this would take me about 107 miles, however it wouldn't take me too far from home so that when I broke down, it wouldn't take me too long to get home! I filled every bottle I could find with water and loaded it into the bed of the Proton and with 42,206(ish) miles showing on the odometer I headed off into the unknown! As I headed off along the M3 the Proton was a little hesitant, it coughed and spluttered several times and felt a little underpowered, I stopped when I reached the Southampton end to check the coolant levels, all seemed fine, so far so good! I wanted to take it easy so the drive along the M3 was done at a little over 50mph. I then started my big lap! I was listening for every little new noise, watching the temperature gauge, and looking out the rear view mirrow expecting at any moment to see the tell tail clouds of white smoke that meant imminent head gasket failiure! 30 miles in, it was all looking good! Another 30 miles later still looking ok, but I thought that as I had covered over half my distance I would stop and take a look. Coolant levels were ok, and the oil still looked like oil rather than the mayonaisse that was in there previously! Every mile that passed the Proton seemed to run better and smoother, as I rounded the corner at Peterfield it really was running very well indeed! By now I had been driving the Proton for nearly four hours, despite Google maps saying that the whole trip was going to take 3 hours 11 minutes, but it didn't matter, the Proton seemed to be getting better every minute!
As I reached West End, and with less than 20 miles to go until I was back at BelongaClint I thought I'd just have another quick look. Much like the previous checks, everything was looking ok, the coolant level hadn't dropped and the oil was still a lovely golden colour. I got back in, and started on the final leg, as I joined the M3 I figured that after nearly 100 miles I might open the taps a bit just to see what happens! At 50mph in third gear I stood on the accelerator, into fourth and now up to 70mph it was still pulling strong! I let the engine rev for a couple of miles as I headed along the M3 at 70mph in fourth gear! All seemed fine, into fifth and cruise the last little bit at 70mph until I pull off the motorway! Then a fight through the traffic until I eventually pull up outside BelongaClint, I looked at the temperature gauge which showed the needle was sitting happily where it normally should, I got out to look at the exhaust for any sign of white steamy smoke, but there was nothing, everything looks to be normal! I turned the engine off, patted the bonnet and headed off inside. After a couple of hours I went back out to the Proton to see how it was, after a quick check of the oil and water which both seem to be ok I thought I'd start it up. I barely clicked the starter motor and the Proton sprang to life. I have to say that at this moment in time I would say that it is actually fixed! So I shall continue to use it daily and for journeys both long and short, and see how it goes! Besides, according to the label on the bottle if it doesn't work then I will get my money back (I'll bet its a devil of a job to reclaim your money but there you go!) However, If it does work like it would appear to be doing then I get a free T-shirt! I really can't see how I can lose!!