Steel Seal Featured In TKC
As one of life’s cynics, I always had my doubts about “magic elixir” head gasket
cures. However, I’d heard good reports about the Steel Seal product so decided to put it to the test....
During 2013 I’d been noticing the Steal Seal product gaining media exposure via adverts in various car magazines and especially during the adverts breaks on Discovery Turbo TV programmes such as Wheeler Dealers. However, to be honest I’d always dismissed it as a kind of Doc Holiday snake oil brew.
One day, I was talking about it to our contributor Graham Bell and expressed my doubts but he told me he’d used it with some success on his old 1995 Saab 9000 CSE 2.3-litre turbo, which he uses as a cheap workhorse.
As he told me: “With around 145,000 miles on it, the car was still running great, but them the exhaust pipe started doing a good impression of a boiling kettle and the coolant level went down rapidly. Truth is, the car wasn’t worth the trouble or expense of fitting a new head gasket, so I tried some Steel Seal – and no more head gasket leak”
Now if you know our Graham, you’ll know that he doesn’t do fripperies or un-necessary backslapping, so his un-solicited testimonial lends real credence to Steel Seal’s capabilities as far as I’m concerned.
Even more so as Graham continued: “The car continued to run fine for about 9 months until a broken radiator stub pipe saw half the coolant suddenly drenching the engine bay. I fitted a new radiator a few days later and all was well for about two or three weeks, then the head gasket started leaking again. I put some more Steel Seal in and the leak was fixed”. “A few months later the water pump seal finally gave up and I spent a few days just topping up the water (quite a lot of water) to get me to the weekend when I could fit a new pump. Again, all was well for a couple of weeks or so, until the head gasket started leaking again. Guess what? I put some more Steel Seal in and the leak stopped – again!”
Certainly, if you read the label on the Steel Seal bottle they are very confident that it does what it says, as the offer money back guarantee and claim in their front of wording that: “Permanently seals blown heads and cracked engine blocks.”
With the arrival on our fleet of another MGF we decided that as the car’s K-Series VVC was almost certainly going to need head gasket replacement, it would make good sense to put Steel Seal’s claims to the test, prior to embarking on the work again, having gone through it back in late Spring 2013 with our British Racing Green ‘Project OMG’, MGF.
We bought the one (Tahiti Blue this time) similarly on eBay and paid just £232.15 for it. It looked a nice enough car, although the vendor’s claims that he was selling it for a friend so knew nothing of the vehicles provenance definitely raised a suspicious eyebrow with me. Mind you for that sort of money it wasn’t going to be a minter, although at worst it would serve as a spares car for the good one.
So not expecting much we headed off to pick up the Tahiti Blue 1996 MGF and were actually quite surprised at its condition, which wasn’t bad. The bloke continued his claims that he didn’t know much about cars, so didn’t have a clue if the head gasket was shot and in any case it wasn’t his car! He was a nice enough bloke and the car started first time and despite 100,000 miles showing it sounded quite strong.
However, I went for the obvious tell-tales on a K-series and removed the expansion tank cap, which was free of mayo, and the dipstick, which definitely wasn’t and concluded that a head gasket repair was imminent. However, as I said, you can’t sniff too much at £232 and I’d pressed the “bid” button with the knowledge that it would probably have to be done, so no issue there really.
The fact that the vendor’s name was on the V5C, and had been for six weeks, kind of stuck a torpedo into his claims of ignorance and both Carol and I both firmly believe he’d bought the car innocently and then found it out needed work, the extent of which dawned on him when he got a quote for the job and was desperately trying to palm it off on someone. That’s our plausible theory anyway. He’d need to get up a lot earlier to pull that kind of trick on us, and if my guess work is half correct I hate stunts like that, but as I said the car suited our requirements and we weren’t going to renege on a deal.
Truth is though, it’s not surprising that the chap wet himself at the potential cost of repairing a K-series head gasket. We covered the job in a TKG MAG series last summer and it’s not really for the faint of heart. It isn’t just the head work it’s all the other stuff that need attention too, such as replacing water pump, drive belts and other ancillaries while you’re at it. Although you could miss a couple steps, doing the job, if you have any intentions of using the car for any length of time without future drama then don’t cut corners. If it’s worth doing, do it right is my motto.
However, repairs, when you add in labour, could run to £1500, which for a car worth half of that, makes it easy to understand why around 100 MGFs are heading off to the scrap yard each month, which is a bit scary and quite sad. Therefore, it made giving Steel Seal a try even more pertinent especially as it costs just £39.95 for a 500ml bottle. Hmm, £1500 versus 40 quid!
Final word to Graham Bell: “In my view Steel Seal works, but from my experience I’d say that once you’ve it in an engine you have to keep the stuff in the engine, which is something to bear in mind if you ever have to drain the cooling system. My Saab now has 156,000 miles on it and is still going strong. Well worth the money, in my opinion.” Nice one, Graham.
Finally the day before commencing the experiment I ran the engine to see how we stood. A cylinder head pressure test had confirmed suspicions that the cylinder head had indeed gone and needed attention. The poor old twin exhausts were spewing white smoke and plenty of it although the temperature ran to operating level on the gauge and stayed there.....
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Step One: You start with a cold engine and remove the radiator or expansion bottle cap. The former is preferable, but isn’t feasible on the MGF so we made do with the latter. Then it’s just a simple process of pouring the contents of the bottle into the tank not forgetting to re-tighten the cap!
Step Two: You have to stick the heater on its maximum settings for heat and fan and let the engine run for about one hour. While it was ticking over I went off and did some tidying up of the garage while keeping a third ear out for any knocking or hunting noises coming from the engine....
Step Three: After 60 minutes you have to turn the engine off and let it cool down and top-up with antifreeze and water again. The re-tighten the expansion bottle cap. One thing of note, was that whereas previously I had topped-up the expansion bottle with water several times because it had lost dumped the coolant, the level in the bottle remained constant this time.
Did It Work?
Well, it’s not billowing smoke anymore, which is a good sign and early driving indications are pretty positive although the temperature warning light on the dash remains illuminated and that needs to be investigated further. I have to say though that the engine is running at normal temperature on the gauge and is pulling well, although to be honest it always was...
My verdict is to be honest, at the time of writing, inconclusive, but early signs are positive. Anyway, as I said, the potential cost savings – not to mention hassle saving – make it a no-brainer.
I’ll report back on my developments.