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Cracked '99 5.7 Vortec Heads

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  • Cracked '99 5.7 Vortec Heads

    Bad news for me.

    During the last few trips we noticed a slight increase in steam out of the starboard hooter along with an occasional "fuel" smell on warm restart. I assumed it was just condensation as the engine ran great and temps were normal, unfortunately that wasn't the case.

    I was due for an oil and filter change and after it was done I checked the heat exchanger tank, sure enough it was down over a quart. I ran the engine on the hose and the starboard steam was slight but obvious. After pulling the spark plugs, I noticed the #2 plug was just a bit cleaner than the others. I had heard of some cracked Vortec heads but not enough to realize the problem was significant.

    I made a call to a favorite machine shop/engine builder (Derek at L&R Engines) and he confirmed my speculation by stating that 90% of the 5.7 Vortec heads he checks will not pass a magnaflux test. I asked his opinion on the GM Bowtie 185cc Vortec heads and the Edelbrock 170cc Etec heads, the two I was considering. Derek said both heads are very good but preferred the Etecs. I also asked his opinion on pulling the engine for complete rebuild at 1385hrs and he recommended just the heads at this time, adding that the Vortec shortblock is very durable.

    Fortunately, I was able to purchase all of the parts and received them within a few days. This included Etec 170s #60795, Melling lifters and rockers, Comp Cams pushrods (0.100" long due to the higher valve stem on Etecs), and gaskets.

    The upside may be a slight performance improvement
    1998 260 Mackinaw Sea Maxx 5.7 HO TBI 12' Klamath w/ 20hp Tohatsu EFI

  • #2
    Thanks for the FYI on what’s going on with your Vortec. Interested in how much improvement you get. Good luck with the repairs
    Just wishin', and hopen', and dreamin'


    • #3
      Thanks Greg. I had no idea the problem was so prevalent so I wanted to share the info. Otherwise, the 5.7 Vortec is such a great engine. I might have been able to run some of those GM radiator biscuits that Cadillac put in the awful Northstar engines....

      I'm not expecting a big change but I will share my results after a few test runs. I'll tear into it on the weekend.
      1998 260 Mackinaw Sea Maxx 5.7 HO TBI 12' Klamath w/ 20hp Tohatsu EFI