Cylinder Head Removal/Installation

Written by: Mike Ervin

The following are the steps needed for cylinder head removal and installation.


  • Disconnnect the negative battery cable.
  • Drain the cooling system.
  • Remove the air cleaner assembly.
  • Remove the air conditioning compressor, but do not disconnect any air conditioning lines.  Secure the compressor to one side.
  • Disconnect the AIR hose at the check valve, if equipped.
  • Loosen all the drive belts, and remove the alternator, power steering pump, and the air pump (if equipped).
  • Remove the oil dipstick.  Label the spark plug wires and disconnect them.
  • Disconnect the exhaust manifold from the head being removed and reposition the manifold aside.
  • Remove the valve cover.  Scribe the rocker arms with an identifying mark for reassembly.  It is important that the rocker assembly is reinstalled in the same position as it was removed.  Remove the rocker arm nuts, rocker arms and pivot balls.
  • Take a piece of heavy cardboard and cut 16 holes (or 8 holes if you are only removing one head) in it the same diameter as the pushrods being removed.  This cardboard holder will keep the pushrods in order (and hopefully out of harm's way) while they are out of the engine.  Remove the pushrods.
  • Check to make sure all wires are disconnected from the cylinder head.
  • Remove the cylinder head bolts, and remove the cylinder head gasket.  If the head seems stuck to the block, gently tap around the edge of the head with a rubber mallet until the joint breaks.


  • Use a tap of the correct size to chase the threads in the head bolt holes in the block.  Mount each bolt in a vise run a die down the threads to remove corrosion and restore the threads.  Dirt, corrosion, sealant, and damaged threads will affect torque readings.
  • The mating surfaces of the cylinder head(s) and block must be perfectly clean when the head(s) are installed.  Position a new cylinder head gasket, then install the cylinder head to the engine block.  Compositon gaskets must be installed dry, do not use sealant on these gaskets.  If a steel gasket is used (steel shim type) apply a thin, even coat of sealant such K&W Copper Coat to both sides prior to installation.  Steel gaskets must be installed with the raised bead up.
  • Coat the threads of the cylinder head bolts with sealing compound such as Permatex #2 and install finger-tight.
  • Tighten the bolts to 65 ft. lbs. in three stages.  Go over all of them to 20 ft. lbs., then 40 ft. lbs., then the final 65 ft. lbs..  The torque sequence is work in a criss-cross pattern from the center of the head out to the ends.
  • Reverse the removal procedure to complete installion.  Be sure to install the rocker arms and pushrods in their original positions.  Adjust the valves.