87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump - First Generation Forum

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87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Monday, November 09, 2015 6:41 AM
Hello everyone.

I have an 87 Skyhawk Wagon Custom with the SOHC, vin K, and am having an issue getting the water pump bolts loose so I can replace the timing belt.

From my understanding, all I have to do is remove the timing belt front cover (done), remove the crankshaft pulley (done), remove the compressor (done), and then just loosen the water pump bolts to I can release the tension with a big crows foot wrench I bought off ebay for the timing belt. Sounds simple.

The only problem is the three bolts for the water pump are damn near impossible to get to, and seem seized to the point i fear I'm going to strip them and be in a much worse position.

The three bolts are 6mm Allen hex keys, and with them being not moved on nearly 30 years, I fear I'm going to strip the hex. I've soaked them in pb blaster, tried freeze off, and they're still not budging... does anyone have any ideas? Also of anyone had any input on how to get to these easier if I DO strip them, it would be much appreciated. As it seems now, if I strip these screws in the positions they're in... I'd have no real way of getting to them. I can barely get my hand in there, let alone any stripped screw tools. To add, the plastic cover behind the water pump makes me want to pull my hair out; if anyone knows how to get that part of the timing belt cover off (it's separate from the rest of it it seems) that would be amazing.


There's a link to what she looks like from this past winter.


Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Monday, November 09, 2015 7:23 AM
Hello William!

My experience has been with the 1.8 and yours is the 2.0. Sounds like they changed to Allen Head bolts when they went to the 2.0. I'd suggest you try soaking the water pump bolts in the Actetone/Transmission mixture I discovered on the internet - 50/50 mixture. It may not cure your dilema, but it is a darn good bolt buster to try. I have been working on the '94 2nd Gen replacing the head gasket and have been using this stuff. If you can manage to get the bolts to break a little , put some more of the mixture on so it can work into the treads once you have a small gap between the bolt head and pump.

I'm betting the pump will also have corrosion too and will be a bear to get off easily. Just be patient and use the mixture there as well.

One more idea , if you remove the inner splash shield on the passenger side it might give you some access to at least 1 or 2 of those bolts.....

At least you do not have an interference engine - that is one less headache!


Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Monday, November 09, 2015 9:18 AM
I've had similar issues with allen heads on the crank pulley before. I ended up having to tack weld in an allen wrench or piece of hex stock (can't remember) to break it free and it worked out ok. If the head shears off, then they're in there pretty good and it's not going to be easy. I'm not sure if you'd even be able to do this since they're considerably harder to get to than the crank pulley, but I thought I'd mention it.
Nice wagon, by the way.

86 Skyhawk wagon 1.8SOHC 93 Sunbird two door 2.0SOHC 93 Sunbird four door 2.0SOHC
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Monday, November 09, 2015 2:40 PM
I ended up removing the altenator-p/s bracket to get a better grip on mine 92 2.0 OHC. ( 6 point socket )

Used big Channellocks to turn my pump. Bolts came loose easy even though I live near the ocean.

Any room to use the "Hot Wrench"? or a handheld propane or Mapp torch?

Doug in P.R.

92 Pontiac Sunbird LE, 2.0, AT, Red / Black with Grey 147K miles. Hurricane Maria Surviver! ( It takes a licking and keeps on ticking ! ).....in Salinas, Puerto Rico!

Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 6:29 AM
Thank you guys for the input.

I'll give the Acetone/Transmission fluid mixture a try tomorrow as I'm off for veterans day. How long should I let that sit? I could mix the acetone tonight and let that sit overnight as well if you think that will work better.

As far as getting a torch or hot wrench, I doubt I would fit one in there, and I unfortunately do not own a welder to tac a bit onto the bolt to avoid stripping them. I could possibly get a butane bbq lighter on the one bolt? Not sure how much good that would do though.

I'll most likely replace the pump at this point too if I can manage to get the bolts out.

I'll update tomorrow too with progress. I really don't want to lose the car over stuck three bolts.
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 7:13 AM
Use the Actetone/Transmission mixture anytime after you get it together. Give it a shake every now and then as it tends to separate some over time. I just used mine in an oil can - worked fine. Generally the longer you can let the mixture sit the longer it can work its magic. Overnight would be a good idea since you have the time.

Eager to see your progress and remember just be patient - many a bolt got rounded off by being in a big hurry. You can also try tightening the bolt as well, I have actually gotten some to break initially tightening them and then was able to back them off. Once you get that first "pop" you got a chance


Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 7:29 AM
Another quick idea for you: if the heads feel like they're going to shear, you could grind them off and see if you can then slide the water pump over them (you may have to remove anything/brackets in front of it, leaving the "studs" and then you could use the acetone/transfluid mixture on what's left and vice-grip etc. them out. It isn't great, but it would beat having them shear at the block which would not leave you many options...

86 Skyhawk wagon 1.8SOHC 93 Sunbird two door 2.0SOHC 93 Sunbird four door 2.0SOHC
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 2:00 PM
Update: It runs again!

After basically giving up on the seized water pump bolts as they did not want to budge (I'm hoping I don't have to replace the pump any time soon >:o), and no wanting to give up on the car, we decided to to see if we could just line up the timing marks and force a new belt on with a couple screwdrivers; much to our amaze it worked. It took two tries, but we got the top mark to Top Dead Center, and the bottom to -10 Degrees from the mark.

When we started it however, it still had a very high idle... certainly lower than before (which is why I was replacing the belt in the first place as it jumped a notch), but definitely higher than it should be. We started looking at all the vacuum lines, cleaned the PCV Valve, cleaned the PCV filter, sprayed carb cleaner around vacuum lines to see if the idle would change, and eventually stumbled upon the MAP Sensor hose being broken right behind and underneath the intake. As this tiny hose will probably be impossible to find anywhere, for the time being I taped it up with some electrical tape, and plugged it back in.

From here I started it again, and it was STILL idling high. The engine is loud and has had a tap its whole life so it's difficult to hear for any hissing, but with it running we just started shaking every vacuum line to see if we could hear a difference. I noticed whenever I shook the EVAP canister (very front of the passenger side, sorta underneath the coolant overflow and AC condenser), the idle went down... I shook it for about 10 seconds and the car returned to a normal idle and stayed there.... Confused at this, we turned the car off and started it up again... three times... and every time it started fine to a normal idle.

We put all the tools away and decided to take it for a test drive, but when we started it after about 10 minutes of cleaning up tools, it idled high again... We popped the hood, shook the EVAP canister again, and it idled normal again.

Do you guys have any clue as to why shaking the EVAP canister would cause it to idle normally? I'm probably going to replace it as it's like $20 online.

But for now, it runs!

Here's a picture of it being worked on next to the jeep

This is the line to the MAP Sensor

And now here it sits. Hood was re-painted to blue, but we ran out of blue so we left a primer stripe haha. The wheels are from a Suabru WRX as finding 13" tires were a pain in the ass, and the subie rims look better than steelies.

Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 2:35 PM
I like the rims!

Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 2:44 PM
Buuut... I just went out now to start it, and it's still idling high. So high idle on cold starts...? I didn't bother to shake the EVAP canister this time and just turned it off. I'll replace the canister and see how it goes I guess -.-
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 8:34 PM
My thoughts on the evap ball or can.It could be because it creates a vacuum you might have a leak inside the unit or the fitting where the hose attaches is cracked.By shaking it seals it to create a normal idle.I could ramble more,however if replacing this fixes said problem do so and cruise on.I will say when I repainted my block and did my intake every vacuum line and elbow (rubber hook up) was replaced and NO leaks to track down later.I would just update all the vac lines at 1 time to reduce the mystery issue of said issue's again.

Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Thursday, November 12, 2015 4:20 AM
Nice, looks good & I like the wheels too
My wagon idles kinda high cold also (2k,) but haven't really had time to look into it. It runs fine otherwise and slows down after a minute.
I'm sure you could replace that MAP rubber with a regular section of hose, I don't think it's stepped or anything is it?
Also my final thought on the water pump is you could break down and stick the job with a shop you think you can trust ... again not ideal, but if you tell them to change the water pump, they're stuck with the problem and should end up having to deal with it and solve it one way or the other.

86 Skyhawk wagon 1.8SOHC 93 Sunbird two door 2.0SOHC 93 Sunbird four door 2.0SOHC
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:35 AM
I like your Wagon too! Would like to see a nice photo shoot of it when the better weather finally returns!

Very Rare Skyhawk both in bodystyle and year. You also are proudly riding in the most luxury GM put in the J-Body Wagons as Buick was as top shelf as you could get in that bodystyle!

Nice to see Subaru wheels will swap on the J's - lots of possibilities through the years available on them. Something for me to keep in mind when I'm wondering the Salvage yard next year

Both my 1st gens run a high idle the first minute or so as well in the cold weather, Drivesa5, the 2nd and 3rd Gens don't do that with their port injection. I agree with your suggestion for the water pump too - could be a good solution come tax time for William.


Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Friday, November 13, 2015 5:22 AM
Thanks again for your input gentlemen! As a side note if you are going to put subie wheels on any jbody, you'll have to grind the hub out by .1mm as the hub is something like 11mm and GM uses 11.1mm hubs.

In regards to the evap canister l, as it's only for emissions, could I just bypass it? The car is emissions exempt, so I'm not too worried what comes out the tailpipe.

Would doing that cause more issues? A new canister is setting me back $60-70, vs a barb fitting for a couple bucks. I can get a filter for the canister for $1 online too.

As far as the high idle, it would idle higher for a bit on cold starts, but this is easily like 3-4k rpms (guessing as I have no tach) vs maybe 2k for the first minute or so.

Replacing all the lines is probably a good idea. I do have a vacuum line that's disconnected near the driverside headlight, but that's been disconnected at this point for about 2 years. I can post pictures of it/where is comes from if anyone knows what it plugs into.

Thanks again!
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Friday, November 13, 2015 9:35 AM
Perhaps try to plug the line coming from the canister that goes to the engine - preferably at the engine in case the line is busted somewhere.. Not 100% on this but there ought to be some kind of solenoid that purges the evep canister. When the canister is purged and if that line is busted you'd probably get a big ole surge of air in the intake - and a rise in idle.


Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Monday, November 30, 2015 12:33 PM
Update for the curious:

After messing with the car some more, I finally (hopefully) figured out the high idle.

I got the car to finally give me a CEL (Well, "service engine soon" light, but close enough) with the engine idling high. I quickly learned OBDII readers do not work on an 87... but low and behold, a paperclip in the OBD I port will give me diagnostic codes via the light flashing. I ended up with code 35, the idle air control valve.

I promptly took it out, cleaned it from the 30 years of gunk, and reinstalled it to hear the lowest smoothest idle the engine has every done! I am going to replace it however, as the valve is still malfunctioning on half the starts (mainly cold ones). It should be in next Tuesday, and then hopefully all will be well. Once warmed up it runs fine though, just cold starts give me code 35.

Thanks again for all the replies. I'm not excited if the water pump ever needs replacing however.
Re: 87 Skyhawk timing belt /water pump
Thursday, December 24, 2015 9:10 PM
sweet - I love happy endings...

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