help with my Sons 81 Brat Leaking and HARD to Steer

Subaru Brat Discussions - HEY BRAT PEOPLE. If you have any ideas for the Brat section of the site, please PM jaxed!
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help with my Sons 81 Brat Leaking and HARD to Steer

Post by belezeebub »

Please don’t take this the wrong way I am not insulting Brats in any way shape or form.

Against my better judgment my 16 year old got his first car a 1981 Brat 4x4 (I have nothing against brats I just feel a 30 year old car is going to be a money pit)
To make a long story short his money his car he got what he wanted
(You have to let them make some mistakes or they never learn)

The first time shifting into 4x4 mode on some loose gravel caused his first issue

It is now Steering VERY hard, I am thinking a hub or one side of the Transfer case is locked up, while I shoved myself under it looking for the issue I noticed a small Coolant leak on the drives side between the engine block and the head
The previous owner swapped out a ton of items, it’s a Subaru engine from a wagon, the dash is from who knows what the rest of the car is a Hodge podgy of adapted items made to fit Webber carb and seats out of a kia rio to name a few.

Leaking issue
I have heard the Heads need to be shaved or they will keep eating gaskets is this true? Do you think I can loosen everything up and wiggle a new gasket in without pulling the engine?

Hard Steering
It seems to run and drive okay, 4x4 works without any noises that can’t be attributed to being a 30 year old car but the steering is Horrid now
I am thinking it could be one of three things, transfer case, hub or a binding CV joint.
While not personally familiar with Subaru I have replaced engines, transmissions, and transfer cases in Toyotas, jeeps, Chevy and even a ford van as well as building an engine from the short block up so doing the work shouldn’t be a an issue it just figuring out where to start.
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Re: help with my Sons 81 Brat Leaking and HARD to Steer

Post by bulwnkl »

My reply is not specific to BRATs. Rather, it is generic in nature, and only specific in that it applies to aluminum heads (and blocks/crankcases) in particular.

Aluminum heads tend to warp slightly when you pull them off. The longer they are, the more they tend to warp, or at least the more likely that warpage is to cause problems (i.e. the aluminum head on an inline-6 240Z engine are more likely to warp enough to force you to have to plane it than a 1-cylinder small engine head). I've heard it said that current-production engines are better at resisting this than 40-year-old engines, but I don't have that kind of experience with current production heads/engines.

It's possible you could put in a new gasket and stop the leak, and it might well be worth a try, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I'd sort of 'plan' to have to take the head in and get it planed, and be happy if slipping a new gasket in there actually fixed it. You could always try Bars Leaks, or the Subaru version of that kind of product. Any chance this leak is also putting coolant into the oil, or is it purely an external leak? If it's purely external, and if it's a very minor leak, you might consider flushing the system, and refilling it with a propylene glycol antifreeze (like Sierra or Prestone's Low-Tox) to get you by until you can make the repair, but not worry (if you're worried at all) about a pet licking up the antifreeze and getting poisoned.

Just some thoughts. Good luck!
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