Torque to 15 lb-ft, Then Two Quarter Turns

Last week I got busy reassembling the Land Rover’s engine. The big box of bits arrived from Atlantic British with all the necessary gaskets, O-rings and bolts to make it right. Well, almost all of them. I forgot to order a new water pump gasket. Regardless, I had enough parts to make some serious progress, and better still, I made the mental commitment that I was going to actually do this.

Over the course of the last twenty-five years, I have delved into virtually every area of the automobile – I’ve installed electrical accessories, replaced suspensions, reupholstered entire interiors and even sanded, filled and painted sheetmetal. Prior to this project, though, I have never opened up an engine for anything more than installing a camshaft. With the Land Rover, I wouldn’t be that lucky, and so I’m diving into new territory here.

Unable to find a suitable donor engine with the proper cylinder heads, I was forced to reuse the heads from my otherwise destroyed motor. My biggest concern was that the heads hadn’t warped from the same excessive heat that melted the main fuel line. They passed visual inspection, with no visible signs of warpage, cracks or molten valves. The spec allows for 0.006-inch warpage across the diagonal; my test was to place the heads on the new block without the gaskets in place and look for daylight. Both of the old cylinder heads passed the daylight test, so I went ahead an installed the gaskets and got to work bolting them down.

The workshop manual specifies that the ten cylinder head bolts be tightened first to 15 lb-ft (in a very specific sequence), and then turn each bolt again through two ninety-degree turns, separately and in the same sequence. The first step, tightening to 15 lb-ft, seemed ridiculously inadequate as the torque wrench quickly clicked back in protest. Once this was done and confirmed on all ten, I grabbed the long extension handle and turn each bolt another quarter turn. That felt more like it.

The final step felt painfully wrong. Turning he bolts through ninety degrees that one last time was nearly impossible, and at times I wondered whether the wrench or the hardware would give out first. After the first couple, I re-read the shop manual to make sure I’d comprehended it correctly. Reassured, I continued on until all ten bolts were cranked down, and then moved to the other head to repeat the whole procedure.

The next day my biceps and triceps were still glowing from the strain I had placed on them. Inside the engine, the new head bolts had stretched to their new dimensions, usable but once. The engine was now complete, at least up to the intake plenum, and there’s nothing I can do now but put it back in the truck and hope it works. If it does, I’ll add another notch to my list of automotive project conquests. If it doesn’t work, well, at least I won’t have to pull the engine out to re-do the heads.