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Top 80 exhaust manifold gasket, nuts, springs, and studs (all engines)

by Had Robinson

A. How to tighten exhaust manifold nuts on the springs

Quick ref

Length, new spring: 12mm
Length, minimum: 9.5mm
Adjustment, ideal: 1.7mm (0.066") between widest coil -- the less spring tension the better.  Tighten only just enough to stop leaks.
Adjustment, minimum: 0.5mm (0.020") between widest coil.
Note: If gasket leaks when set to minimum spring adjustment or less, springs must be replaced.

Spring adjustment -- detail

Tools needed: (1) metric/U.S. feeler gauge.  Ordinary feeler gauges do not have a blade that is 1.7mm (0.066") thick.  To get around this, double-up adjacent blades so that you can get within a few thousandths of the needed value.  Remember: it is always better to have the spring tension too little than too much.

WARNING: The tighter the exhaust springs, the shorter the life of the gasket and the more strain that is put on the exhaust system from engine vibration.  This is why it is best to only tighten them as needed.  If the springs are compressed too tightly, the steel exhaust pipe will crack the soft copper manifold gasket.  A cracked/bent gasket will leak no matter how tight the springs are compressed.

New exhaust manifold springs are about 12mm in length.  Used springs should be at least 9.5mm in length.  If they are shorter than this, the springs will not be able to do their job -- buy new ones.  Pilots routinely over-tighten these springs and ruin them.  Just in case nuts were provided that are not the locking type (or are worn out) put a drop of BLUE threadlock on the studs about 14mm out from the cylinder head before installing the nuts.

New springs that have not been previously over-tightened should be tightened so that there is a space of 1.7mm (0.066") between the widest coil.  This value is usually sufficient to stop oil leaks with new springs.

As the springs age or have been over-tightened, this space needs to be decreased in order to keep the correct amount of tension so that the manifold does not leak.  The minimum space between the widest coil must not be less than 0.5mm (0.020").    Tighten the nuts ONLY enough to stop leaks.  If there are leaks, tighten the nuts a 1/4 turn at a time but do not allow the space to be less than the 0.5mm minimum.  However, the manifold gasket will always leak just a little but it should not drip copiously.  If it does, the gasket is defective or improperly installed.  Further tightening of the nuts will not help.  Replace the springs and the gasket if leaks still occur after the nuts are correctly tightened.

B. Exhaust manifold gasket on the Top 80

The copper exhaust manifold gasket on the Top 80 will eventually split/crack after many hours (100+) and must be checked periodically.  When changing out the gasket or re-installing the old one, install it with Permatex Ultra Grey RTV sealant on the side that is towards the cylinder.  DO NOT PUT CEMENT BETWEEN THE COPPER GASKET AND THE EXHAUST HEADER PIPE.  These two parts must be able to move with respect to each other.  Clean both surfaces thoroughly with brake cleaner.  Be sure to stuff the exhaust port with tissue in order to keep the brake cleaner out of the cylinder.  After applying the sealant, remove the excess sealant that is INSIDE the exhaust port.  Excess sealant that oozed to the outside does no harm and helps seal the joint.

C. Manifold studs on all engines

All studs in the cylinder head must be installed with RED (high strength) threadlock to the proper torque (see the SPEC page).  I have noticed that Miniplane is now using tempered steel (black) studs which are installed with threadlock.  These will last much longer and will not break as easily as the commonly used stainless steel studs.  Always check to be sure these studs are installed properly, regardless.  LOOSE STUDS WILL RUIN WHATEVER THEY ARE SCREWED IN TO!