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What to do when you don't have a Straight 8 Side Cover Gasket


Mark Shaw
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I got my 38 Special out of the barn to give it a once over before tomorrow's Northwest BCA Picnic. I parked it in the driveway and left it running while I opened the garage door to move the car inside. Then I noticed a rather large puddle of oil was left in the driveway.

Although there were a few drops of oil left on the barn floor where the car was parked most of the winter, there was much more in the driveway. So I started the engine and investigated. I found plenty of oil flowing from the bottom rear corner of the side cover. So I pulled the spark plug wires and removed the distributor cap to gain access, and removed the side cover.

I found large globs of orange RTV sealant spread over a brittle and badly cracked cork gasket! I didn't have a spare gasket set on hand; & with less than a day before the 150 mile round trip to the picnic, I had to make one. Normally this would not be a problem unless you need a minimum of 31" of cork gasket material to make a long rectangular gasket for a straight 8 engine in a short block V8 world. The auto parts stores only stock 26" long cork flat stock and I am not yet a believer in the new aerosol spray gasket material that they say comes out like cheese whiz.

So, I got creative and used the 26" flat stock and made two U shaped pieces that I glued together with a scarp cut joint. The trick is to cut the gaskets so that one fits inside the other on the gasket material. Then lay both pieces over the cover and scarp cut both at the same time where they overlap. Then get out a little RTV sealant to seal the joint and use just enough to attach the new gasket to the cover.

It only took a little over an hour to replace the gasket, but hunting for various gasket material options made it a half day job!

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Super glue works well to splice gasket material together. Super glue sets with moisture, just breath on the splice area, apply glue and push together. It's a great way to make o-ring seals. isn't it great to apply ingenuity to keep the old iron on the road where it belongs.

Bob Engle

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Well, I thought I had it licked, but I didn't. Apparently, the side cover is tweaked so it does not rest flat on the side of the engine. I had good oil pressure all the way to the picnic yesterday, but when I checked the oil at the park, it didn't even show on the dip stick! Basically, I did an on-the-road oil change over 75 miles on the freeway to the picnic.

I caught a ride to an auto parts store and bought two one gallon containers of 20W-40 oil (just in case I needed to add more on the way home). Thankfully, these old engines hold 8 quarts of oil, because I had to add a full gallon to get the oil level back to full. I added two more quarts half way home just to keep from running out on the way.

One of my car buddies reports that another long time friend & car collector uses the cheese whiz aerosol gasket material on all his cars and swears by it. I am told it can compensate for irregularities in ill-fitting components for an oil tight seal. So, stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes....

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I spent part of the day getting the 23 out of long storage. By the way we have great results with Permatex "right stuff" sealer. It is thicker than silicone and is dull black. We get it in a caulking tube and use the gun that comes with it. You may find it to be your best friend. I also use it to fill cracks in window rubber and is about invisible as the color is a dull black. It can be used as a gasket, put down a thick bead, wait a short bit and bolt it together. Always has worked, but I only do this in a pinch as I would much rather have the proper gasket in place. It also can't be seen on gaskets. I hate seeing blue or orange silicone hanging out of gaskets.

Glad you got home OK, and had a chance to get the 38 out for a drive.

Steve

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I pulled the side cover and found the gasket squeezed out at the bottom center where my gasket splice was. The cover is slightly convex at that point and puts added pressure on the center of the gasket. Evidently I did not let the RTV set long enough to prevent the gasket from sliding out of place. When it did, it made a perfect funnel shaped opening for oil to flow out behind the distributor where it couldn't be seen. So, I just spliced another piece onto the cover and will let it dry completely before re-installing it. If this doesn't work, I will just order a new gasket from Olsen's Gaskets. Come to think of it, I should order all the missing gaskets in my spare set anyway.

A few hours later.... I installed the cover and ran the engine to check for leaks... Nothing so far, but I will keep an eye on it and check again after I put some more miles on it.

Edited by Mark Shaw (see edit history)
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Mark,

The next time you pull the side cover, check the raised bosses where the cover hangs on the studs, and see if they are collapsed. Mine were and it took a couple of times to show me that they had to be pounded back to shape to get enough pressure on the cover to make a seal.

There is a picture of my straightened and newly painted cover in my gallery FYI.

Mike in Colorado

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