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Thread: Abarth 500 Cylinder head failure!

  1. #1
    Official Vendor Robert Zecca's Avatar
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    Abarth 500 Cylinder head failure!

    A few weeks ago we got in a car running on 3 cylinders with 94,000 miles on it. We did a compression test. 180/165/120/0 What we found was the exhaust valve was burnt in cylinder #4. So what was the cause? After close inspection we found that the oil broke down from the massive amount of heat these cars generate in a small engine compartment. Car was completely stock including a stock air filter setup and not tune or mods.
    Our cars run HOT!! We recommend changing oil every 5-7k but after seeing this car we now recommend every 5K. Most oils do not HOLD UP. This customer was using Castrol Edge 5w40 which is generally an excellent oil but still the oil broke down from heat. Our recommendation is to only use Motul Xcess 5w40 and for cars over 70K Motul Sport 5w40. Again change every 5K. Motul is the only oil we know of that will hold up to the heat from these cars. Even our Italian friends recommended Motul. It can easily be found on Amazon so just buy it there for the best pricing. DO NOT AND I REPEAT DO NOT USE ROTELLA....YES it is cheap but it is the wrong oil. It is for diesel vehicles. Many customers because of price buy this but again do not.

    If you have any further questions give us a call. 973-343-6546 www.dicorse.com

    I have attached photos of head where you can see the oil deposits on valves and burnt valve. For some reason I cannot attach but email me for photos. bob@teamdi.com
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    To me it would be crazy to run anything but a full synthetic oil. I used to run enduros with a Husky 500 Automatic and a full synthetic was the only oil that could stand up to the heat in the transmission. It had three centrifugal clutches that had 3 steel shoes locking up in a steel drum in each clutch. Lots of heat build up from slippage.

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    Senior Member HalfPint's Avatar
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    So how did the cooked oil cause the burned exhaust valve? The exhaust valves are not MiltiAir, what exactly did the oil do to cause the valve to burn?
    Completely stock 2016 500 Abarth, Rhino & Nero,
    2017 Jeep Renegade 1.4 Turbo, Anvil & Black
    2016 Ford Fiesta ST

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    Moderator map's Avatar
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    Thanks for the photos; not only burned, a section of a valve missing (and maybe part of the intake valve?).
    2.jpg1.jpg

    The head gasket was OK on #4, wasn't it? (I notice it's a bit cleaner near the water jacket on #4.) Does the valve look melted? There's so much carbon build up that I wonder if #4 could have been dieseling at higher loads, assuming the owner wasn't driving on 3 cylinders for an extended time.
    Last edited by map; 09-01-2020 at 01:16 PM.

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    Senior Member aelfwyne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sportfan View Post
    To me it would be crazy to run anything but a full synthetic oil. I used to run enduros with a Husky 500 Automatic and a full synthetic was the only oil that could stand up to the heat in the transmission. It had three centrifugal clutches that had 3 steel shoes locking up in a steel drum in each clutch. Lots of heat build up from slippage.
    Castrol Edge is synthetic. However, from reading various sources I've discovered that it is what is called a "LOW SAPS" oil. Basically it has reduced amounts of additives that are damaging to diesel particulate filters and some catalytic converter designs. Fiat's oil spec is a "HIGH SAPS" oil, as those additives are actually *needed* to prevent oil breakdown in a high temp / high stress engine like ours. It's not surprising to me someone using Castrol had oil failure after knowing this.

    These are oils known to meet both the MS-12991 spec, or the MB 229.5 spec with HIGH SAPS. (The MB 229.5 is basically the same as the MS spec, but it doesn't specify SAPS level).

    OILS THAT MEET MS-12991:
    Pennzoil Platinum Euro 5W-40
    Havoline ProDS 5w-40 Full Synthetic (Not Euro?)
    Shell Helix Ultra 5W40
    Total Quartz 9000 Energy

    OILS THAT MEET MB 229.5 that are Recommended (but not guaranteed!)
    Motul 8100 X-cess
    Ravenol 5W40-VST
    Liqui Moly LEICHTLAUF HIGH TECH 5W-40

    Of note, aside from the 5w40 Castrol not being recommended due to being "LOW SAPS", the same is true for those who use "Brotella" (Rotella) oil - and ANY oil intended for diesel engines - the low additive levels will lead to rapid oil breakdown in an engine such as ours.
    2015 Rosso Abarth - MAD FIAT - 5 Speed - Phase 2
    2015 Granito Lucente 500T - Proyecto Estupido (Salvage) - Auto - OFT Stage 1

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    HalfPint (09-01-2020)

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    Senior Member aelfwyne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HalfPint View Post
    So how did the cooked oil cause the burned exhaust valve? The exhaust valves are not MiltiAir, what exactly did the oil do to cause the valve to burn?
    Low-Speed-Pre-Ignition.

    As oil fails, the viscosity can become thinner than intended, causing increase oil ingestion into the combustion chamber from various sources. If you have too much oil in the combustion chamber it can pre ignite, causing the entire fuel mixture to ignite causing detonation. LSPI is a huge problem on direct injection engines, but can affect other engines as well if running high compression and start burning too much oil.

    https://www.oronite.com/about/news/l...causes-of-LSPI
    2015 Rosso Abarth - MAD FIAT - 5 Speed - Phase 2
    2015 Granito Lucente 500T - Proyecto Estupido (Salvage) - Auto - OFT Stage 1

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    map (09-01-2020)

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    Senior Member HalfPint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aelfwyne View Post
    Low-Speed-Pre-Ignition.

    As oil fails, the viscosity can become thinner than intended, causing increase oil ingestion into the combustion chamber from various sources. If you have too much oil in the combustion chamber it can pre ignite, causing the entire fuel mixture to ignite causing detonation. LSPI is a huge problem on direct injection engines, but can affect other engines as well if running high compression and start burning too much oil.

    https://www.oronite.com/about/news/l...causes-of-LSPI
    To me that doesn't look like pre-ignition cylinder damage. Usually a burned exhaust valve is due to improper seating. Unless the valve seats it cannot transfer heat and it just gets hotter and hotter. Then hot gasses push through the gap, acting like a plasma cutter. It's a vicious cycle that doesn't last long. I'd be looking for why that valve did not seat - perhaps a problem with the hydraulic lash adjuster.
    Completely stock 2016 500 Abarth, Rhino & Nero,
    2017 Jeep Renegade 1.4 Turbo, Anvil & Black
    2016 Ford Fiesta ST

  10. #8
    Official Vendor Robert Zecca's Avatar
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    You are SPOT ON!!
    Team DICorse
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    1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi
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    2012 Fiat Abarth 500 Race Car
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    2013 Fiat Abarth 500

  11. #9
    Official Vendor Robert Zecca's Avatar
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    You are spot on. Thank you for the info!! Our friends at Old School Garage in Torino who specialize in these cars on a daily basis recommend Motul XCess and said this will take care of the issues. They will only use Motul and they literally work on over 500 Abarths per year some highly modified.
    Quote Originally Posted by aelfwyne View Post
    Castrol Edge is synthetic. However, from reading various sources I've discovered that it is what is called a "LOW SAPS" oil. Basically it has reduced amounts of additives that are damaging to diesel particulate filters and some catalytic converter designs. Fiat's oil spec is a "HIGH SAPS" oil, as those additives are actually *needed* to prevent oil breakdown in a high temp / high stress engine like ours. It's not surprising to me someone using Castrol had oil failure after knowing this.

    These are oils known to meet both the MS-12991 spec, or the MB 229.5 spec with HIGH SAPS. (The MB 229.5 is basically the same as the MS spec, but it doesn't specify SAPS level).

    OILS THAT MEET MS-12991:
    Pennzoil Platinum Euro 5W-40
    Havoline ProDS 5w-40 Full Synthetic (Not Euro?)
    Shell Helix Ultra 5W40
    Total Quartz 9000 Energy

    OILS THAT MEET MB 229.5 that are Recommended (but not guaranteed!)
    Motul 8100 X-cess
    Ravenol 5W40-VST
    Liqui Moly LEICHTLAUF HIGH TECH 5W-40

    Of note, aside from the 5w40 Castrol not being recommended due to being "LOW SAPS", the same is true for those who use "Brotella" (Rotella) oil - and ANY oil intended for diesel engines - the low additive levels will lead to rapid oil breakdown in an engine such as ours.
    Team DICorse
    Learn More About Chipbox
    1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi
    1991 Lancia Delta Integrale
    2013 Fiat 500L
    2012 Fiat Abarth 500 Race Car
    2008 Fiat Abarth 500 Mefistofele
    2013 Fiat Abarth 500

  12. #10
    Moderator map's Avatar
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    Thanks for the follow up. I was thinking bad rings, but if the oil is thinning, that could explain the extreme carbon. I was thinking along the lines of high oil usage or an over rich fuel system... probably combined with a plugged cat-conv to boot.

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