Sunbird mostly back together (finally) - First Generation Forum

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Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:24 PM
Just a few photos - finally got the beast mostly back together. It starts right up now, but I have to get a gasket kit for the throttle body as it is leaking vacuum horribly at the base and is the cause (I hope) to a damning misfire on one of the cylinders. Power is way down so I suspect the head gasket is not the issue(lack of compression) - the old one was blown/missing and I could still get 60 MPH down the highway. This time I am lucky to putter around town at 35, Still I am glad to have this back together and moving again - I can continue to tinker around with this till I finally get it running good. The good stuff - NO fluid leaks nowhere, everything sealed up great!! The reman rack was worth every penny! This car steers better than it ever has before.
I had the same kind of issues with the '94 Cavalier after I put another head on it too - just got it finally running good this year after replacing those horrible coil packs on the back side of the engine.

The Brazil 1.8 is a terrible beast to reassemble. This is an engineers favorite! I know I torqued each head bolt 7 separate times. Only 2 of them was with a torque wrench - the rest was dialing in the degrees of angle. I also re-torqued the head after a couple of warm-ups. The actual factory manual gives you the (easy) setting of the cam prior to install of the timing belt - but leaves you clueless to the crankshaft - and that crankshaft has NO zero TDC marking on it. Not surprising - I had to guess and got it a tooth off. No problem - install the power steering pump and alternator and discover I have it wrong just to have to disassemble the alternator and power steering pump and try again just to put it all back together again and see if I got lucky. Same issue with the head, had to remove the damn alternator and mounting bracket because the bracket is bolted on the HEAD BOLTS!! Also have to remove the coil because it is also bolted to the head bolts. Had to remove the valve cover because it interfered with the degree torque tool.That head really wound up having a whole lot of torque on it for such a pitifully weak performing engine - at least the turbo 1,8's give you the extra UMMMPH but this was ridiculous! There must be at least 5 ground wires and woe is the person that misses one of them. I got a Major headache having missed the ground wire that attaches to the coil mounting bracket on the head bolt. The crazy machine lit up the oil and alternator idiot lights on the IP with the key out of the vehicle and killed the battery in just a few hours.Car would turn over but the fuel pump didn't cut on. I went to bed - evening on the 3rd day with those symptoms not knowing if I would ever see this car run again or not as I had no clue what in the world was the issue. Next day I just happen to find it after tearing darn near the whole engine bay back apart and heard the ground wire quietly arcing under the intake manifold.

I'm sure you get the picture. All the while I kept thinking about the poor fellows back in the day that had to do this on a weekend and have their cars back together to get to work Monday morning. Luckily I'm just enjoying this one as a toy....

Re: Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:37 PM
When I first got this car vs. Today......


Re: Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Thursday, September 21, 2017 5:15 PM
Hi Orlen,

Have been through the re-assembly nightmares myself, no fun.

The 2.2L is really a great engine to work on as far as the head is concerned.
Did the head gasket on my mother in-laws 94 Cav a few years ago and it was a breeze compared to that 1.8L.

Nice job on the Sunbird!

Re: Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Thursday, September 21, 2017 5:44 PM
Great Work!

Re: Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:36 AM
Looks great!
I haven't had my 1.8 apart enough to know yet (I'm sure it'll happen) but you're saying there are no markers on the 1.8 crank sprocket and oil pump housing like on the 2.0 for alignment?
I know it's a no-no but I'm definitely guilty of only torquing the head down once because of everything that attaches to the bolts like you said. It hasn't come back to haunt me so far.


All the while I kept thinking about the poor fellows back in the day that had to do this on a weekend and have their cars back together to get to work Monday morning.

I'm still that guy haha.

86 Skyhawk wagon : 2.0SOHC swap, Megasquirt, 20SEH cam
93 Sunbird sedan : 2.0SOHC, Microsquirt, ported head, 10:1
88 Sunbird coupe : 2.0SOHC, turbo project car, giant tires
Re: Sunbird mostly back together (finally)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 6:34 PM
If there were alignment markers for the sprocket & pump housing I sure weren't given a reference to them. I finally found the proper information in an old Chiltons Manual and went with it - but the mark described was around 4 degrees BTDC and therefore you had to replace the timing marker and pulley 1st before installing the belt. Kinda baffled me since am sure a lot of customers over the years had their "problem" towed in an was a neglected and broken timing belt with the timing all out of whack. I will dig up the info and make a future post.


Parts arrived and installed today.

New Donut removed the exhaust blow-by noise.

Gasket kit installed on throttle body but still had leak and miss. Replaced EGR valve with another used one and a new gasket. discovered I had loosened 2 of the base bolts that the throttle body bolts to during disassembly. That was the cause of the vacuum leak. All new gaskets never hurt anyone and great for peace of mind.

Still got a damn miss and no power. Test drove and adjusted 4 times. Discovered #2 cylinder spark plug was wet. Finally after the 4th trip back in the yard , and mostly out of sheer desperation - I replaced the #2 plug with another half worn out re-gapped plug and ***Voila*** miss was Gone! Took out 5th time for a test drive that quickly turned into a nice cruise. Throttle was a tad flat but made 75MPH down the highway - not bad for 84Hp N/A.

So the old Sunbird is finally showing promise of hanging around for another journey. I got some odds and ends to - tend to as well as many other projects. The best part , though, is knowing that somehow I managed to get this old car back together and working again! I will get to do a bit more than sit in my swing and look at the old Sunbird covered up from now on


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