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Major coolant leak after replacing head and head gasket - HELP!!


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Hello! First time Spitfire owner here, loving it (mostly!!).

I have a 1972 MkIV with a 1300 engine (originally from a Herald but fitted with twin HS4s).

The engine was healthy, but it had an oil leak from the head, so I went ahead and ordered a refurbed unleaded head and fitted that with a new Payen gasket. This was my first time changing a head gasket, but i’m quite familiar with mechanical bits etc, and I did it by the book, very methodically etc etc! Torqued the head nuts up to 45 lbft, in the order shown in the Haynes.

After fitting it, I wanted to flush the coolant system with water so detached a pipe and used a hose to do so, but loads of water came out of the head all along the inlet/exhaust side, and also a bit at the back of the engine (bulkhead side). I wondered if the gasket needed heat to activate, so ran the engine briefly and tried to fill the system with water again, but it still gushes out. Compression was good, and no sign of oil leaks or smoke from exhaust...

I’m really stumped, and i’ve checked to ensure that I haven’t trapped anything on that side, but all looks flat etc. 

I’m guessing i’ll have to pull the head off to investigate, but if anyone has any ideas/suggestions, that would be just awesome!


I’ve attached some photos of the block before I fitted that gasket, after removing a ton of paper gasket crap. 

Many thanks


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Regret that you have used the wrong gasket.

There are two basic styles.  The earlier flat gaskets for the flat top blocks and the later "fire-ring gaskets" for blocks with a groove machined around the edge of the bores.  The latter have a tab that sticks out of the back of the block marked "top" which is not present on the flat gaskets.

I can see from your pictures that you have a flat-top block (normal for Herald and earlier Spitfire) but the gasket shows a tab on it.

The reason it won't work is that the fire-rings around the bores are thicker and don't compress down enough to allow the rest of the gasket to make proper contact and seal.  Sometimes they do compress just enough to give the illusion of sealing but fail very quickly once the car is driven.  This makes a worse mess.......

You'll need to repeat the job with the right gasket.  Unwelcome PITA but the clean-up should be much quicker this time around!

Slim comfort for sure, but you are not the first (by a looong way) and won't be the last either!


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Quoted from SpitfireSi1300-

I think that I have been sold a recessed gasket when my block is not recessed... It was a Payen gasket no. AK260 (‘REC H’). 

My engine number is GE1999E

Does this sound plausible?


Yes, exactly this I'm afraid - as above


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Ah bugger!! That is a shame, but i’m glad that I haven’t caused this directly! The gasket set was thrown in for free with the reconn’d head...

Should be a much faster job this time as you say. I’m learning so much, so quickly..! 

Can anyone recommend the best available flat (non-recessed) gasket? Can’t see a Payen one online. If someone has a part number, that would be awesome.

Thanks chaps!

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Just to follow up on Rob's post - the correct gasket is indeed GEG374 for an early MkIV 1300 and I would definitely recommend getting a payen one over any other. I learned the hard way that not all gaskets are equal and the first 'cheap' one failed miserably with coolant leaking everywhere. In the end, I got a payen one from Paddocks and paid a few extra pounds for the full head gasket set GEG1149P which seems a fair deal.

Good luck!

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Just to sow seeds of doubt, there was a bloke on the 'Triumph Spitfire parts and cars for sale' facebook group the other day who was asking if others have had issues with Payen gaskets failing. He'd been through 4 in swift succession and reckoned it was a bad batch (obviously all the questions were asked about head and deck condition, torque settings etc). This was troubling for me, as I'd just received a Payen gasket in the post because I didn't want to risk the 'generic' one that came in my de-coke gasket set!

Anyway I've fitted the Payen but not run the car up to temperature yet. Hoping it was just this facebook chap running a 10.6 compression ratio that was causing problems for him. Or something else not related to the gasket quality anyway... 

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A little while back Chris Witor told me there are problems with the 6 cylinder variant of the Payen gasket for recessed blocks (AK280 IIRC).  He reckons they changed the tooling or are trying to use the tooling for the flat block gaskets.  Flat block gaskets not affected.

Don't know whether the same problem applies to the 4 pot versions.



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Hi Simon,

I would change the oil as a matter of course as water contamination could be a problem with coolant leak. 

You may know this, but as you have said you are a novice at the moment (although you seem to be having to learn the hard way). 

Good luck and let us all know how you have got on.

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