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Old 02-24-2016, 10:30 PM   #1
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Hanalei, /Chino Valley , Hawaii / Arizona
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Oh my, how small jobs can snowball

I'll try to keep this short. A while back I changed the spark plugs and wires on my 345.
In the process a canister hanging off the port side of the engine was in the way.
It was still there from when the carb was on the engine, and had been capped and left in place. It ran from the engine down to a port on the exhaust collector pipe.
While pushing it out of the way to get at the plugs , the port on the collector popped its weld.

So to complete the changing of the plugs job I've had to remove the front wheel pull aside the inner wheel well to remove the header, in order to weld a plug on the collector pipes.

Finally to the gist of my question. Once I got the header off I found no gasket between the header and engine block!
While I hear that vintage Bugatti engines were built without gaskets as a demonstration of their precise machining. With the 454 I was not expecting to find no gasket there.

Well I did install it with a gasket in place, but am wondering about this no gasket deal. Any thoughts?

Also while getting parts to go back together I was unable to find matching bolts for the header. The ones that came out were kind of unusual in that the shaft under the threads were cut is lobed or softly triangular in shape. Haven't seen that before either. They were in ok condition, so rather putting in bolts that were different, they went back in.
Anyone found these bolts or know about them?

Another little job ( hopefully ) is to replace the light switch in the dash. I realize others here have done this so am wondering about the best switch to replace with?

Thank for any input.

I was able to get the new centramatics installed while going back together :-)

Cheers Richard
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Old 02-25-2016, 02:02 AM   #2
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Hi, many engines were made without exhaust manifold gaskets; They fit quite well and a little carbon will fill the cracks so they won't leak. In most cases adding an after market gasket will cause problems. First problem is the thickness and softness of the gasket will cause the manifold to warp. Second, the thickness and softness of the gasket will cause the manifold bolts to constantly come loose. If the factory built it without gaskets, then no gasket is needed.

My recently sold 1959 Ford Galaxie was made without exhaust manifold gaskets and never leaked or come loose. I owned this car since 1977 to 2013.


If the exhaust manifolds didn't leak, why add gaskets?

"If it ain't broken fix it until it is."
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Old 02-25-2016, 05:42 AM   #3
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Thanks for your reply Robert.
In this case it did seem to be leaking at a couple of spots, and it's running a bit quieter now with a gasket in place. Tho there may have been some leaking at the failing bung hole before it was welded shut.

I've read here that blown exhaust gaskets is a common problem on the 454s so will have to see what some use leads to.

Have you seen these slightly lobed bolts before? I'm thinking they are a sort of self locking bolts

Cheers Richard
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:03 AM   #4
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Can you post a pic of the header bolts?
FYI My 1988 Ford 351 had cast iron exhaust manifolds. They started to leak when cold but the noise went away when fully warmed up. I put a gasket in and the problem went away for a few weeks then came back even worse. Took the exhaust manifold to a machine shop and they reground the mating surface. Apparently over time exhaust manifolds can warp and the best way to fix is to grind them flat again. Not sure if the same principle would apply to steel headers.
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:43 AM   #5
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We added a banks power pack which included headers. Instructions said no gasket and we used the bolts included with the kit. Four years ans 20,000 miles and no leaks
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:59 AM   #6
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When I owned my '83 310 with a 454, I had my cast iron exhaust manifolds replaced with Thorley (sp) headers at a speciality shop who did only motorhome exhausts.

They used only high temp RTV between the new headers and the block. They said they never had any issues doing that, and in fact I drove the rig another 40,000 miles with not a peep out of the exhaust headers.
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Old 02-27-2016, 11:12 AM   #7
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With some manifolds a person can get away without gaskets, headers not so much.

Header bolts often have a way of backing out, lots of bolt designs have been made to try and fix this.

Like you, I would have used the old bolts.

If the bolts do back out with your new gaskets, I highly recommend going back with COPPER header gaskets next time.


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Old 02-27-2016, 12:27 PM   #8
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A little update, after putting the port side of the engine compartment bact together. I shifted to the starboard side to install the Centramatics and to check out the exhaust.

Found clear sign of the rear two cylinders having blown out between the header and block, so I pulled the header bolts and slipped the gasket in there and bolted it back together. The gasket I used is the thinner of those available with a metal foil on one side. We will see how it works out.

Now that I have learned how to get at the sides of the engine for access Im not all that daunted at the possibility of needing to get in there again if needed.
But do feel this is a logical approach to affecting a cure.

If this does not work out as a lasting fix. I'll try having the faces of the headers flattened and try some of that high temp RTV. But for now its good to go. I'll keep you all posted if things go south. Thanks for the suggestions.

Today it's the Headlight switch change. I'm wondering if there is a better choice than replacing the OEM switch? Heading out to the parts store to see what they offer.

Sorry no pics.

Cheers Richard
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Old 02-27-2016, 01:44 PM   #9
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One big purpose is to always use exhaust gaskets , cast iron headers against cast steel heads, the heads will always lose if the bolts do come loose. Then you will have to take the heads off and have the exhaust ports resurfaced. The fiber side of the gasket go's against the head and the steel side against the header. After a good warm up re-torque the bolts and you should be good to go.
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Old 02-27-2016, 01:46 PM   #10
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Aloha Richard,
Let us know how it goes changing out your headlight switch. I think they are the same for the '82 and the '89. There is some trick to getting shaft and knob out I think Ive read somewhere. The rheostat for my dash lights is getting funky so I think I may change out my switch also. Hope all is well with you!!

Thanks, Mike
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:06 PM   #11
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Ahoy there Mike, yep there are a couple of thing I can now share that are key to changing the switch.
To get the knob and shaft out of the switch, there is a small spring loaded button on top of the switch that will release the shaft once pressed.
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:21 PM   #12
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Also the wires are all built into a big plug that can be pulled off the old switch and plugged into the new.

I started to try to pul one wire at a time, then noticed the big plug pulling away from the switch. Much easier that way.

Now I have to figure out why the 15 amp fuse for the horn and dimmer keeps popping. And the battery disconnect switch won't work with that fuse in place.

Once the new fuse is in place the disconnect switch activates the the selinoid , but the light stays on.
Go pull the fuse, and the switch works fine.

Cheers Richard

Here is the underside of the switch with the wire ing plug out
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Old 02-28-2016, 05:32 AM   #13
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Thanks Richard. So did the fuse start popping after you installed the headlight sw? Very odd. Oooooh dont you love the wiring on these rigs.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:36 AM   #14
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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The progression was the low beams not working, leading to finding the fuse burned out.
Then found the wires to one of the low beam lights broken away from the back of the light. Fixed that
Then found that the wires going to the small black relay under the hood needed a little wiggle ing around to make good contact. Got some contact cleaning to do there.
Also replaced the dash light switch and the dimmer switch on the floor.
All of that got the lights all working.

So now the lights issue is somewhat sorted.

But the disconnect switch is still wonky, and the fuse still blows if the disconnect switch is in the supposed to be disconnected position and you pull the lights on.

Mike you are so right about working on the electrics on these coaches.
Start tracing a circiut to look for a fault and you will find many issues in the spaghetti. It almost surprises me it can work as well as it does with a wire ing mess like they have.

Cheers Richard
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