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Chrysler Repair/Head Gasket or Frost plug: '88 2.5 L


Hi Roland,
I have a 1988 Chrysler Lebaron Convertible that I bought new in 1987 (took possession 1st business day of 1988).  This car has some 210,000 miles and every seven years it starts to overheat to the point that I have had to replace the radiator.
This year it started again and I first tried using a “Prestone Radiator Flush + Cleaner”  for the engine and radiator.  I followed the instaurations explicitly and after doing so flushed the system with just water several times.
I changed the thermostat, installed a reconditioned radiator, filled the system with 50-50 Prestone  antifreeze and distilled water.  
Went for a drive thinking this is now ready for the next seven years and about 3 miles from home the heat gauge went right to top (HOT)!   Pulled over to the side of the road and although I shouldn’t have, turned around and drove the 3 miles back home.  
The next morning I filled the system with straight water and started the engine only to have all the water gush out onto the floor.  Checking out the engine I seen water running out from behind  the timing belt enclosure and coming from the Head cover.  Oh! Oh! I thought, I must have blown a head gasket or maybe a Frost (core) plug.  
Consequently I did a cold compression check, here are the results;
#1        0 lbs
#2   140 lbs
#3   145 lbs
#4   150 lbs  
I have checked the oil dipstick and find no contamination from coolant present, no white smoke is coming from the exhaust.
The engine still starts fine but is missing because of #1 cylinder.
Could I have gotten a bad thermostat or radiator what would cause this to happen?
I do have a couple of choices since I do have a decent parts car that has a good engine.  Should I repair what I have or change engines?
Your expertise is required.
Ross Carter

Hi Ross,
I would suspect that the head gasket has failed around the 1st cylinder. It is not as big a job to replace that as compared to changing out the powertrain as a whole so I would be inclined to try a new head gasket. You have been fortunate to go as far as you have as the original gasket was marginal and a replacement gasket should be even more reliable. My '89 also failed, and so I did replace the head gasket.  Do you have a service manual to give you direction on the job?
Before you start to remove the head, you might check the torques on the head bolts just in case it might be corrected by retightening the bolts after loosening them all one step and then re-torque them. But it appears to be a large leak.
Thanks for the detailed history.

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Roland Finston


Get a Free Fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

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I have do-it-yourself experience (50+ years) and a library of 100 1982-2012 Chrysler factory shop manuals and 20 multi-manual Chrysler Corp. CD's.

I was voted "Top Expert" 2010-2015, here at AllExperts, and have answered 20,000+ questions.


Five decades as a 'do-it-yourselfer' on domestic and imported cars.

Yahoo Autos Group called The Chrysler Lebaron Club (co-moderator)

Advanced degrees in Physics/bruised knuckles

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"Top expert" of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 here at Allexperts. Quickest "average response time" at Allexperts (currently no. 1).

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