Exhaust Leak at Headers

Sanctus

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May 17, 2005
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Hey guys, a couple weeks back I threw a code p0171 (too lean) and come to find out it's a pretty serious exhaust leak.

After throwing on the lift, we found out the gasket on my passenger side header is cracked and it was missing one of the two OEM bolts holding it on.

The strange thing here is, I've never had the headers taken off, loosened or even touched for that matter. I've modified my H pipe and axlebacks but didn't get to the headers for this very reason. They're bloody hard to get to!

I replaced the bolt with one a friend of mine had handy and sinched it down. But it's still leaking fumes. I'm wondering if Ford could be at all responsible for a bad install on a header bolt.

I bought it in Dec '05 and only have 53k miles on the car and it looks like I'll have to replace the header gaskets sometime soon which I'm guessing isn't a cheap job to pay someone to do. And frankly, it's a little over my head to try and do by myself.

Aside from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, power loss and money, I'm more than a little peeved that Ford would have such shoddy build quality.

Any advice for me? Should I call the Ford Service Dept. or would I be wasting my breath?
 
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SpartaPerformance

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Nov 5, 2006
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At 5yrs and 50K miles later you would be wasting your breath. I've seen plenty of parts fail on many different cars from different manufacturers prematurely, fact of life that bolts sometimes back themselves out. Factory manifolds really aren't that bad to tackle on your own if you're handy.
 

Sanctus

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I guess I shouldn't hold Ford to too high of expectations. They are after all, the same people who built the pinto, probe and contour...


Just makes me wonder about the other parts just waiting for their turn to fall off the car.

I'm not confident enough to go in there and get at the headers myself. I believe you have to hoist the engine up a bit to get access right? Anyone have a good write up on something like that?
 

Spdfreak

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Feb 21, 2006
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DO we have headers? I thought they were just exhaust manifolds. I've never looked.
 

streethorse

10 Year Member
Oct 8, 2005
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we definatly have exhaust manifolds from the factory.
Im guessing the OP has manifolds..... now if he is the second owner
then they may be headers and ford would have nothing to do
with the failure.
 

Sanctus

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Original poster and original owner here.

I newb-ily called the manifolds "headers" simply because I don't really know the difference between the two. Whatever they are called, I'm referring to the exhaust 'collectors' coming straight off the block which were factory installed and untouched. One of the OEM bolts appears to have backed itself out leaving me with quite the conundrum.

I was planning on putting my stock mid pipe and axlebacks back on when I have to get smogged in about a year and a half, but now it looks like I have to replace the header gaskets sometime before that. Which is super unfortunate because if I ever wanted to swap to say long tube headers, a year before getting the car smogged wouldn't be the smartest time to do that...

And it would be redundant to replace the manifold gaskets only to later replace the gaskets again when I put on Aftermarket "headers."

Because a car with long tubes wont fit the factory mid-pipe, then there's no real way of making a car smog legal. Am I correct in that? Or am I missing something?

BTW I'm running a Pypes O/R H pipe with welded in-resonators flowing into Corsa Axlebacks (sport I think)

Thanks guys,
 

Sanctus

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Yeah that's what I thought.

So really my only option is to replace my OEM exhaust manifold gaskets now and just swap out my other pieces when smog time rolls around (it seemed so far away when I originally changed it, but at least it's relatively easy to do)

I'd be more or less a fool to use this as an excuse to swap to long tube headers because I would do it now, swap it back to stock for smog, and then again once I pass smog. That's just nonsensical and includes 3 pairs of gaskets and installations.

I guess that kind of clears some thing up for me.

But if you were to have work done to replace the gaskets, would you go to a Ford dealership? Or to some sort of specialty Mustang or Exhaust fab shop? Which would be cheaper/better quality?
 

streethorse

10 Year Member
Oct 8, 2005
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I would buy the gasket/gaskets from ford. I would have a private mechanic
or trusted muffler shop doe the work. You really only need to do the one side. Why would you do both sides...:shrug:
 

Sanctus

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You don't need to raise the engine to do factory manifolds. At this point you may want to look into a good set of headers, why not do the job and make some more HP too.
But then I just have to take them off to get smogged right?

I mean don't get me wrong, ideally I would love a set of headers. But I'd like to enjoy them for more than a year before having to take them off to pass smogg and then replace them...

hmmm
 

Sanctus

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Alright, I can't make heads or tails of this.

I've called 3 different Ford Dealerships and received 3 very different prices for the SAME service.

Apparently, I am in need of part no:
9L3Z9448A
Around $15

But the cost of installation varies significantly.

Walnut Creek Ford (closest)
For Driver's side: $847
For Both: $1,100

Hilltop Ford:
For Drivers side: $600

Bill Brandt Ford (furthest)
$340 Driver
$520 Pass

I'm scratchin my head here. Anyone have any experience with those dealerships? I'm not from the area and didn't buy my car locally so I'm naturally skeptical.
 

streethorse

10 Year Member
Oct 8, 2005
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Im still trying to figure out why you want to do both sides.
Only the passenger side needs work. You need to find a good exhaust
shop or private mechanic to do the one side. The dealers are trying to kill you.:notnice:
 

Sanctus

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Streethorse,

You're absolutely right, only the one side is leaking.

However, it looks like 90% of the cost of this repair is going to be getting at the necessary bolts. I'm just thinking to myself, if it happened to one side, what could the likelihood be of it happening to the other?

The last thing I'd want to have happen is repair one of the gasket/manifolds and then in 5000mi notice

After talking with a few MORE dealerships (I shop around okay), they said that it's likely that the OEM Exhaust Manifold is warped if any of the bolts have backed themselves out.

Of course, that's not a part they stock so add another day, maybe two to the repair. Not to mention another $250.

So I'm looking at:
$600 for the install (at a dealership)
$250 OEM manifold
$15 Gasket
+2-3days of being car-less.

= One royal pita


I don't know any exhaust shops in the area and if it does turn out that the manifold needs replacing, getting that at an independent shop might take even more time.

Rock/Me/Hard_Place
 

jpplaw

Member
Jan 14, 2009
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You said one of the TWO bolts backed out. The only place on the manifold that has two bolts (they are actually studs) is each side where the H-pipe downpipe attaches to the manifold. There are no gaskets there. Are you referring to those? If so, what exactly appeared to be cracked?

Stock manifolds are attached to the heads with 8 studs and nuts, each side. Not bolts. If there are bolts, then someone played with the manifolds before. The stock gaskets are metal. One stud nut backing off is not likely to cause a massive leak because each port has a stud on the top and bottom of the port. If it is leaking there at the head, then you definitely need to either replace the manifold or install headers.

There are plenty of people that have take-off manifolds laying around their garages, I know I do and they are always in the way. Post a WTB classified, you can probably get them for $20 - if you don't go the header route.

Stock manifolds are about a 4 hour job to replace, headers 6-8 hours. It can be done in your garage, and a lift definitely makes it easier. A PITA and time consuming, but doable.
 
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