How to Replace the Head Gasket on a 1988 Nissan Sentra

Nissan marketed the Sentra, Pulsar, NX in 1988. Replacing the head gasket in one of these vehicles is a similar process. Whether from worn bolts or an overheated engine, you have to remove most of the vehicle 's parts located near the top of the engine, since the head gasket is wedged between the engine block and cylinder head.

Tools Used: Drain pan, Wrench, Ratchet and socket, Screwdriver, Coolant, New head gasket, New bolts, Torque wrench

Replace Head Gasket

Work on the engine when it is cool. Drain the coolant in a container by sliding a drain pan under the radiator and loosening the drain plug for the fluid to flow. Glide another clean pan under the engine oil reservoir to drain the motor oil. Release the pressure from the fuel system.

Detach, unfasten or remove the assemblies, mounting bolts, wires, tubes and other parts close to the engine, including the air cleaner assembly, alternator, drive belts, spark plugs, distributor, exhaust manifold, intake manifold, dust cover camshaft timing belt and tensioner pulley.

Disconnect the various electrical connectors, including engine coolant temperature sensor connector, engine oil pressure switch connector, idle air control valve connector, throttle position sensor, intake air temperature sensor connector, crankshaft position indicator connection, exhaust gas recirculation valve connector and the radiator fan switch connector.

Loosen the cylinder head bolts in the appropriate sequence. For instance, if you have an E-series engine in your 1988 Nissan, the cylinder head bolt numbers across the top row are 2, 6, 10, 8 and 4, and the bottom row bolt numbers are 1, 5, 9, 7 and 3. Raise the old gasket from the cylinder block. Tap the lower section of the cylinder head with a mallet if you have problems lifting it off.

Clean and scrap the cylinder block, holes and gasket mating surfaces. Examine the unit for dents, damage or leaks. Align it with the dowels for correct placement. Position the cylinder head in place.

Set the engine to top dead center or by pivoting the crankshaft and positioning the no. 1 cylinder. This aligns the crankshaft timing sprocket mark with the cylinder block cover mark.

Grease the new cylinder head bolts with new engine oil. Lower the new head gasket into position. Place the new cylinder head bolts in the cylinder. Tighten the new bolts in the correct tightening pattern for the E-series engine. The bolt numbers on the top level are 9, 3, 1, 6 and 8, and the lower level bolt numbers are 7, 5, 2, 4 and 10.

Tighten the new bolts to 22 foot-pounds on the first pass and then to 51 foot-pounds on the second pass. Loosen each bolt and re-torque to 22 foot-pounds and then to 51 to 54 foot-pounds for the last pass.

Return and connect the parts back on the Nissan, including the dust covers, timing belt, ground wires, spark plug pulley, mounting brackets, crankshaft pulley, manifolds and air conditioning compressor. In addition, connect the electrical connectors.

Attach the battery cables. Connect and reposition the vehicle's components underneath the hood. Pour coolant in the cooling system and motor oil in the engine oil tank. Start the car and run the car for about five minutes. Look for any oil or coolant leaks.

Tips & Warnings

Review pictures in a car service manual to see illustrations of the various car parts.

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