How to Replace a Head Gasket on the 3.8 Ford


Replacing a head gasket on the 3.8-liter Ford V-6 engine takes a matter of minutes once the cylinder head is removed. Accessing the cylinder head bolts in order to remove it and install a new head gasket is another matter. The job requires removing components and engine parts that obstruct your access to the head. The best way is with the help of the repair manual for your vehicle, and by interpreting the information in your own way. Repair manuals cover numerous aspects of a replacement, and certain steps can be skipped by applying your mechanical expertise.

Things You'll Need

  • Chilton or Haynes repair manual
  • Head gasket replacement kit
  • Standard gauge sockets and ratchet
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Torque wrench

Removing the Cylinder Head

  • Disconnect the battery cables from the battery. Drain the radiator coolant into a tub and transfer the coolant to a sealed container for disposal. Remove the bolts at each side of the engine hood hinges. Ask an assistant to help lift the hood off and set it aside.

  • Read the procedures in the repair manual for removing a cylinder head. The 3.8 engine has a right and left head. Most often, rust on one side of the engine block denotes a bad head gasket. Remove the valve cover and valve cover gasket on that side of the V-6 engine.

  • Pull the three plug wires off three spark plugs on the head. Remove the exhaust header bolts from the cylinder head. Pull the header away from the side of the engine and discard the individual exhaust manifold gaskets.

  • Remove the air cleaner from the carburetor. Disconnect the fuel line, vacuum lines, choke wires and throttle linkage from the carburetor. Take the carburetor off the intake manifold.

  • Mark the position of the distributor on the intake manifold for reference. Remove the distributor and lay it to one side. It’s not necessary to remove the spark plug wires from the distributor cap.

  • Remove the bolts that hold the intake manifold to the right and left cylinder heads. Remove the intake manifold and discard the right and left manifold gaskets.

  • Examine the area around the cylinder head. Determine any components that need to be removed so you can access and remove the cylinder head, such as the power steering pump and belt or the air conditioning unit and belt. Disconnect any wires or the EGR tube that may be in the way and lay these to the side.

Installing the Head Gasket

  • Loosen and remove the cylinder head bolts from the top of the cylinder head. Lift the head and rocker arm assembly off the top of the engine. Remove the old head gasket from the top of the cylinders.

  • Clean the top of the cylinders and underside of the cylinder head to remove old gasket material. Do this using a putty knife and a wire wheel attachment in an electric drill.

  • Position the new cylinder head gasket on the cylinders, making sure the “Top” and “Front” markings on the gasket are correct. Reinstall the cylinder head atop the new gasket. Torque the head bolts in the sequence given in your repair manual.

  • Reattach the exhaust manifold header and include the new gasket from the kit. Reinstall the intake manifold and include the new intake gaskets from the kit. Reattach the remaining components, hoses and wires in the reverse order as removed. Include the new valve cover gasket when attaching the valve cover.

  • Fill the radiator with fresh coolant before starting the engine. Ask an assistant to help position and reattach the engine hood on the hinges.

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