Ups and Downs

With any journey there is bound to be ups and downs. I knew going in to this project that it was 100% necessary. Coolant was where it shouldn’t have been, oil was where it shouldn’t have been, and there was a problem somewhere that simply wasn’t going to get better on its own.

My experience at White’s really drove that point home. I wrote last time about the guy there telling me my head gasket was definitely shot. Well, as the story goes, we had just seen the tip of the iceberg.

I got a call later that week, after dropping the cylinder head off, with some good news and some bad news. The good news was actually really great – they got the K04 turbo and exhaust manifold separated from the head. Granted it was following a lot of fighting, and they needed to torch the bolts to pull them, but it was done. The bad news, however, was that the head was warped. .009 over the length of the head. Now VW/Audi’s tolerances are .004 or .005 I believe, and that’s thousandths of an inch. So I was about double over the maximum tolerance for the head. No fricken bueno, it was going to need to be leveled.

In the process of leveling the head, they would also need to full strip it down. The cams, the valves, the springs, keepers, seals, timing chain, the whole nine. Okay, that’s fine, I get it, how much is this gonna cost me? They estimated the whole endeavor would be about $600. That’s the 1.6 hours to pull the turbo and mani, the rest of the labor to strip the head, dunk it, level it, and reassemble – assuming none of the valves or internals needed replacing. They told me if they found any parts that needed replacing they let me know as the process went along.

The one takeaway from this so far is that they did a tremendous job keeping me in the loop and apprised of what was going on. No shady shit, just straight up, here’s where we’re at. It was much appreciated. I gave them the go-ahead to start the process, and went to look at my budget to see how a $600 unplanned expense was going to fit in with everything else.

And then another call came the next week…

The head is cracked.

Four cracks, two in cylinder 2, two in cylinder 3. Probably the source of coolant loss/leak, as the shop pointed out, the carbon buildup had been somewhat washed away by the coolant.

No. God. Damn. Bueno.

So now the decision had to be made – where do I get a new head? Do I source one from a junkyard since the 1.8T is such a common engine? Who’s to say that engine won’t have cracks or warpage? It was a nightmare, and frankly it was one I didn’t see coming. I knew the gasket was shot, I knew I had some serious issues with the car. But the cracks really, truly, drove home how necessary all this work has been. I’ve owned the car for four years now, and she’s been pretty reliable over those four years. Some issues here and there, but nothing that made me stop and consider getting rid of it. Issues like these though, these can be car killers if left untreated.

After the news of my issues finally settled in my head, I had to figure out where to go from here. I did my research, checked the classified on the VW forums, checked Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, you name it. Checked the auto parts aggregators like Rock Auto and Nothing really stood out. But then I decided to check the holy mecca of potential bullshit and possible gems. eBay.

Holy fucking bananas. Cylinder heads out the asshole. Used ones, recently pulled ones. Built ones for 500+ horsepower. Remanned ones, cleaned ones, you name it fucking eBay had it. After browsing through the selection for what seemed like hours, I came across a shop that was highly rated, had sold literally tens of thousands of cylinder heads, and just so happened to have ones that’d work on the TT’s BEA engine.

Odessa Cylinder Heads. For $600, I could get a cleaned, leveled, and pressure tested head, with the cams, valves, springs, keepers, and seals already installed. Free shipping, 5 year warranty, all I need to do is transplant the remainder of the head’s internals – cam seals, cam chain, tensioner, etc – but that was it. Read to go. I would have to ship my old head and internals back, but as long as I include all the stuff I received with the new one, it doesn’t matter if any of it is broken, cracked, or damaged. There might be some light at the end of this tunnel. I placed my order, wired the money with the TT’s information, and we were off to the races.

It got delivered yesterday, which all things considered was a pretty fast turnaround. It looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s a decent amount of work still to be done to prep the head, but we’re making progress as always. The deck of the block is ready to go, I cleaned out the bolt holes as best as I could. I ended up doing multiple rounds of brake cleaner, air hose to blow it out, shop rags twisted up to get to the bottom, wire pipe cleaners, and finally one of the old head bolts grounded off to act as a thread chaser.

I ordered ARP head bolts since they’re reusable. I don’t plan on pulling the head any time soon, but I liked the idea of being able to reuse the bolts if I do. The only fucking issue with this plan, which I’ve experienced more than a couple times this project, is missing the right god damn tool to get the job done.

The original, single-use TTY (Torque To Yield) head bolts use a fancy special tool called Polydrive to remove them. It’s a weird shaped tool, just Google it. But the ARP head bolts, being that it makes more sense to use a fucking standardized size, uses a 10mm tripled-squared (12-point) bit. Now, I’ve got a 10mm triple-square bit, but the head bolts are recessed into the head, and my bit simply isn’t long enough to get the job done.


So I texted Billy to see if he had one. I remembered we used one when we worked on a certain Tiguan not too long ago. Turns out he borrowed it, and the person he borrowed it from lent it out to someone else that’s in Albany currently – so that’s out. I did order a long set off Amazon here, but I gotta wait until Wednesday to get them. Which sucks. Because I’m itching to get this thing going.

Once the bits get here, I can install the new head and start the reassembly process. Tomorrow (today?) I’ll be prepping it to occupy my time. Movie the valve cover studs, miscellaneous other bits and pieces, installing the cam seals and tensioner, and all that other fun stuff. Hope to keep the updates rolling, so stay tuned!

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