Warning: the pictures are pretty graphic, and involve a lot of open-car surgery.
This is the 'Sploder in its initial state, before the gutting begins. First step was to basically remove everything that could be removed, which was an unbelievable amount-- including the engine wiring and vacuum harnesses. The only thing that stayed in was the A/C compressor which got bungeed up out of the way.
The air intake plenum removed. I was surprised to discover that it was made of plastic. What you're seeing here is the intake manifiold/fuel rail assembly in the center and the valve covers on either side of it.
With the valve covers removed, you can see the pushrods & rocker arm assembly, and the A/C compressor bungeed up on the side.
Now the really scary part begins.
Removal of the intake manifold assembly went pretty smoothly. Interiors of the intake ports were caked with about 1-2mm of carbon deposits, but this is apparently normal. It comes from the EGR gases being hot enough to cause preignition, and it does not require removal so we left it there.
Here is the intake manifold assembly after removal. The little orange things that you see on the sides are the connectors for the fuel injectors, which you can see pretty plainly here.
The intake manifold gasket after removal. Here is the culprit for the cooling system leak: the gasket was badly deteriorated in a couple of places and had actually dissolved through. The piece that's sitting on the floor is supposed to be attached, and on the left side you can see where part of it was dissolved through.
Here's a closeup of the piece from the intake manifold gasket. The goo that you see is a weird hybrid of dissolved rubber, coolant, and something else unidentifiable. It really was not a pretty thing, other than being quite sure of being the source of the leak.
There is a step missing in the pictures, and that is the removal of the exhaust manifolds. Six bolts per side, super-hot exhaust, ten years and 180,000 miles: the bolts were insanely difficult to remove. Of the twelve, only one actually snapped off. If you're doing this at home, do yourself a favor and get a set of new bolts for the exhaust manifolds too.
Pulled off the cylinder head on the passenger side, and this is the result. This engine has over 180,000 miles on it, and the cylinders are in beautiful shape: you can still see the crosshatch left from the honing. The cylinders are actually lined with chrome, which makes me happy. This is a really good indication that paying attention to changing your oil regularly and religiously pays off.
Closeup of the piston in cylinder 1, the frontmost on the passenger side. This is the one with the most deposits on it since it is the closest to the coolant input and runs a little cooler than the others. The picture makes it look a lot cruddier than it actually is; the dark spots are some splashes of coolant that got in from removing the head, and there are some bits of debris that fell into the cyliner too. The pistons are unbelievably clean, really.
This is the underside of the cylinder head. The circles that you see are the intake and exhaust valves, also in really good shape. This is a very happy-making thing. The whitish-ashy color is normal, and if you look closely you can see the spark plug electrodes.
Closeup of the valves for cylinder 2. Again, dark spots are drops of coolant. Easy to see the spark plug here.
After being cleaned, right side up and ready to be installed again.
Herb pulling the second head. The first one was re-installed first to prevent getting any more gunk into the cylinders than necessary.
The cylinders on the other side. Some of the coolant ports were pretty gunked up here, as this was the bad head side.
The cylinder head for the left (driver) side. The one on the far right is noticeably different than the other two, and that is the one that was having the problems. Essentially the two other cylinders were leaking some of their hot exhaust into it along with a small amount of coolant, thus leaving the greenish residue on the exhaust port valve. Definitely losing horsepower and mileage from this one.
If you look closely, you can see a bit of brownish discoloration between the cylinders. That is scorching from the exhaust leaking between them.
Closeup of the head gasket with the same scorching visible.
After the heads were back in place with new gaskets and tightened to torque (three steps!), the last thing remaining was the fuel rail assembly on the intake manifold. Here you can get a really good view of the fuel injectors. New intake manifold gasket is in place on the engine in the background.
This part had two separate gaskets, six O-rings (one for each injector), and three sets of double-D shaped o-rings for the intake plenum.
After this, it was a matter of putting everyting back together. We started at 3:00 in the afternoon and wrapped at 2:30 in the morning, with a couple of breaks to get necessary parts. The 'Sploder is perkier, with noticeably more power and no more hot-piss smell of leaking coolant. I also have a lot more confidence and knowledge in fixing more serious stuff in the engine should it become necessary, and I learned a hell of a lot from Herb.
This was really a way cool and very intense experience for me. To the person who made it possible, you have my deepest gratitude.