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Cleaning Cylinder Heads and Valves

Have had this engine apart for a few months now, busy with work, holidays, and hurricanes.

What’s the best way to clean these heads and valves? I was thinking of just buying a large container of cleaner and then placing each head and their removed valves in a tight container and letting it all soak for a week or more. But the cleaner is like $35/jug at Wal-Mart. Would it be more cost-effective to soak everything in kerosene, or some other solvent?

Why not just take them to a shop and have them make sure heads are level and valves seat properly?


Yes. Let the machine shop hot tank the heads and then inspect them and grind the valves. If you just want to clean them and inspect them yourself remove the valves and take them to a coin op car wash and pressure wash them.

Car never overheated. Was just chewing coolant. Pretty sure all his fine and just need to clean them and install the new seals from the FelPro head gasket kit.

Thought about bringing them to a shop, but there isn’t a good one around here. Recommended shop is 80 miles away, and when I called to inquire about a cleaning, the woman who answered the phone spent most of the time trying to convince me that my cast iron heads were either “cracked” or “warped” because they “all” crack or warp!

That’s what made me think … “maybe I should just do this myself”.

What you were told is not true. Not “all” headds (cast iron or aluminum) crack or warp.

You could just spray them down with some degreaser and blast them off at the car wash. That would work as well as those jugs of cleaner.
To get clean, clean they need to be vatted at an auto machine shop. Around here anyway, that’s about 25-30 per head.

Of course, once in the vat you would be looking at valve seals and with high miles it would be recommended that a valve job be performed.

The intake valve deposits can be cleaned with a pocket knife and then with any solvent or carburetor cleaner. The exhaust valves can be replaced at little expense. Why even bother cleaning the heads after some excess grease is cleaned off? You should find out how the coolant was lost.

Cleaned off with a pressure washer or better, a coin-op car wash spray.

Iif you’d like a quick and dirty trick to determine a warped head or not that will also prep the head for a new gasket, take 320 to 400 grit emery cloth and wrap it around a piece of rectangular steel bar or tube and work it across the sealing surface of the head. Sand in a random pattern across the head surface. If there are spots the paper doesn’t touch, the head is warped and needs to see a machine shop.

Or this guy;

Seriously though… don’t be this guy. This technique is for very light cleanup only and to expose a problem.

As for valves, carb cleaner and a scraper if you aren’t machining the seats.