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The Epic 323 project.

As I've been fighting with "The Best Car in the World" over the last couple of weeks, I've reached a level of frustration that has tested even my happy-go-lucky demeanor.   This is sort of an epic saga which..well, perhaps I should just start at the beginning.


2 years ago after an unfortunate overheating incident, I purchased a new cylinder head and installed it.  The car was never quite right afterwards.  The bottom end knock that appears a couple thousand miles later was the end of it.

I hit up Harry's U-Pull it in Hazelton PA during one of their specials.  I found an '89 323 that looked well cared for, but had been rear-ended pretty hard....cost $60.

 The engine had high miles, but the car looked well cared for.  I replaced all the oil seals, chucked the engine in and said, "Let's see how far $60 gets us."

 20,000 miles.

The head-gasket gave up the ghost:



I wasn't too upset as this car is dead-simple to work on, I knew I could knock it out in a Saturday and after a quick discussion with friends over the topic knew what my approach would be.    But, I was wrestling with a question.  Do I send out the head to get machined, or just use the 2K mile old head sitting on the dead engine in the garage?

 After putting the old head and seeing a burned exhaust valve, I said, "What the Hell?" and went with the 2K mile head.  I started about 2pm on a Saturday and by 7:00 was starting to button stuff up.


This is where the epic battle begins.

 Mazda B6 engines have apparently always come with Hydraulic Valve lifters.  My new head did not.  The reman company had solid adjustable lifters on the head.  Being concerned about the slight lack of power and the fact the car sounded like a diesel with all the valve-clatter, I said, "ah well, I'll just adjust the valves".

Did I mention, the B6 didn't really come from the factory with Solid lifters.  This makes it very difficult to find a spec to adjust them to.  After about a week’s worth of trial and error, I found about 8 thousands on the Intake and Exhaust made the car pretty responsive, but there was still quite a bit of noise.  I adjusted down until the noise stopped.  I then had another problem.  No power in the upper RPM band -- I was floating the valves...damn it.

Of course while noise/power was messing me, I was having a problem with the distributor as well.  A hunk of loose metal was jamming the vacuum advance mechanism, making my "adjust valves for power" routine, actually impossible.  Anyway, once I got that straightened out, I was able to dial in on the valve adjustment much better.

Out of frustration I pulled the rocker arms off the new head and noticed that the oil channels were there for the hydraulic lifter assembly.  AH-HA!  I swapped the hydraulics on, buttoned everything up and about after about 30 seconds the damn thing sounded like a dump-truck.  The oil channels are there, there just doesn't seem to be any pressure through them to pump up the hydraulic lifters.  Back to the solid lifters....

Anyway, so I scoured teh intarwebs some more and found on a dusty cobweb ridden corner, a spec for a 1600 cc B6, with solid lifters.  The spec:  .30 mm -- hot.


Hot?  Really?  Great.


So, after work yesterday, with the engine hot, I adjusted the valves to 11 thousandths.  Power is now pretty good throughout the rpm bad, but the noise is still significant.  I'm going to call it good for now, I just don't think there is anything else I can really do for now safe for sending the old head to get machined and putting back on the car...which I may do over the summer.

The only remaining issue I have, is an little unevenness in the power band.  I'll be Ohm-ing out sensors and whatnot this weekend according to the Factory Service Manual to see what component is going bad. 

But, the old girl is back in action, competetantly whisking me around NJ on my daily100 mile commute!