What's involved in doing a head gasket job on a 95 Cavalier?

Hi all,

Need your help again. For someone who’s never done one or any major engine repairs, how hard would it be to do a head gasket on a 1995 Chevy Cavalier? Think it’s the 2.2L version.

I’d have lots of time to do it and make mistakes, it’s not a daily driver.

Also, what parts or special tools would I need? Would this head gasket set be all the parts required:


I’m referring to the first item listed on that page.

Thanks a ton as usual!


There are intake and exhaust gaskets, valve cover gaskets… The timing belt has to come off to take the cylinder head off. You may as well put in a fresh timing belt and water pump (if it’s driven by the timing belt). You’ll find other fun things as you dig into this.//// It could be something to tell your grand kids, in years to come.

Be sure to get a manual to guide you. And have a good torque wrench

I would recommend buying a Haynes manual. These are available for about 20 bucks or less and will lay it out step by step. Avoid Chiltons.

Mark all wiring, hoses, etc. and remove the cylinder head with the intake and exhaust manifolds attached. It’s much eaiser to work with.

The head should be checked to make sure it’s perfectly flat and if the vehicle is high mileage, I think a valve job should be done at this time. This is a good opportunity to replace the valve seals.

Other than the gasket set, you should get a new set of head bolts. These are TTY (torque to yield) and in theory, should not be reused.
The oil and filter should also be changed as removal of the head often leads to the engine oil being contaminated by residual coolant.

When reassembled, you should turn the engine over half a dozen times by hand before attempting a start.
This verifies that a timing belt, or chain in your case, is not out of time and allowing valves to contact the pistons.
Even many so-called experienced mechanics have found out the hard way the downside of failing to do this. Hit the key, engine spins, and now it’s time to remove the head once again and repair the valve damage.

Hope some of that helps.

Wow that’s great info, as usual from ok4450, thanks!

Sounds like a big job…I’ll get the Haynes manual and go from there…if I do attempt it, I’ll post back my results/progress.

Refer to this web site:http://www.autozone.com/servlet/UiBroker?ForwardPage=az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/19/18/2f/0900823d8019182f.jsp for instructions on removing the timing chain cover — which you need to do to remove the timing chain off the camshaft gear. As an alternative to the instructions in the text, you could 1. raise the vehicle. 2. Put a support under the engine. 3. Remove the engine support, etc. // You should rent an electric, or battery powered, impact wrench to remove the crankshaft bolt.

Great advice as always. One exception is that the 2.2 is an overhead valve not an overhead cam. No timing belt to take off or re-install.

You do not need to remove the timing chain cover or the timing chain to do a head job on a 2.2.

You’re right; I’m wrong. (removing size 11 boot from mouth here).
I was thinking the 2.2 was a chain driven OHC, but the 2.3 is the OHC engine.
(I like pushrods just fine!)

Thanks for all the posts.

How long would a job like this take for a competent mechanic? Just so I know what to expect. I’d need to multiply whatever the number is by 10 for myself, I’m guessing. :slight_smile:

So beyond a torque wrench, any other special tools required for this job? And how does one turn the engine over by hand?

Use a socket and breaker bar or ratchet on the crankshaft bolt to hand turn the engine.

Also, I always chase the bolt holes on the head and block, especially the head bolt holes, with a tap and blow out the debris with compressed air. Torque measurements will be more accurate with clean threads.

The time required depends. Most mechanics are using air tools and one can usually figure around 4-5 hours on a 4 cylinder head gasket, not counting any additional time messing with an auto machine shop, etc.

As I mentioned, I was wrong on your engine since you have the 2.2, which is a pushrod motor.
With a pushrod engine you do not have to worry about turning the engine over.

One thing I would advise is that when you remove the pushrods that you mark all of them with tape and not only put them back in the same hole, but also keep them oriented correctly. Make sure the bottom is still down and don’t flip them over.
Pushrods and lifters develop their own wear patterns and changing parts around rocks the boat and can lead to faster wear afterwards.

You chose a good engine on which to do head work; not much is easier than an OHV four or six cylinder engine unless it is an old fashioned flathead engine.

The last GM OHV engine that I did head work on was a six cyl and my guess is that from start to finish, a pro mechanic would have the job done in about a day.

Keep your pushrods in order so they go back to where they came from. This is not of major importance but good to do.

I want to put a little more emphasis on a point already touched on. Since your old head gasket apparently leaked, have your head surface checked for flatness by an auto machine shop or your new gasket could fail too. Have the head machined flat if required. I am not entirely confident of my number so ask. I think that the head sealing surface must be flat within .003". You can’t machine an OHC head by much; they must be heated and pressed flat so the cam bearings don’t overload so feel fortunate that you have a good old fashioned OHV engine.

I can’t help but note that there was initial confusion on the cam drive; puts a different light on the posts provided here.