Tech Tip #84: Ensuring Head Gasket Longevity on Continental Industrial Engines

Dr. Diesel
Written by Dr. Diesel


Get the most out of your head gasket on your Continental Industrial Engine

This Tech Tip, one in a number that we publish for people rebuilding and maintaining Continental Red Seal engines, discusses how to cure the perennial problem of blown head gaskets on these industrial engines.

Continental Red Seal industrial engines were used extensively in forklifts, welding machines, cable tool rigs, and in a wide array of other industrial applications for well over a half-century. The four-cylinder Continental industrial models began with the model F124 and became successively models F135, F140, F162 and F163. Each model number stands for its cubic inch displacement. The six-cylinder Continental Red Seal engines began as the F186 and became progressively the F209, F218, F226, F227, F244, and F245. Again, each model number represents its displacement. Initially, these long, thin flatheads were clamped to the top of the block with studs. Later the Continental factory in Muskegon, MI used cap screws.

While these Continental gas engines are rugged, easy to fix and will run on little more than turpentine or household cleaner, many have been in service for over 50 years and have been repeatedly rebuilt. As a result, we have seen an increase in head gasket failures. There are several reasons for this. As people convert from gas to propane, operating temperatures rise and the head gasket often lets go. Additionally, after years of over-tightening the studs, the top of the block is often distorted and pulled up. This results in a poor sealing surface. For those Continental industrial engine blocks that have been converted over to capscrews, the capscrews will have stretched after numerous rebuilds. Finally, younger mechanics more used to overhead valve engines with their short, heavy cylinder heads are not aware of the necessity to re-torque the long, thin cylinder head on these flathead Continental industrials after the first warmup following a rebuild. But we have some solutions to this growing problem.

  1. Resurface both the head AND the block.
    Make it a part of any overhaul to resurface the top of the block as well as the cylinder head. This will remove any distortions in the top of the engine block caused by over-tightening over the years.
  2. Change fasteners.
    We strongly suggest that you use new Continental industrial OEM head bolts. After all these years it is simply good practice to switch to all new capscrews for these Continental Red Seals. The old head bolts or the even older studs will have stretched.
  3. Use sealant.
    Install these new cap screws with a high-temperature, modern sealant. While the Continental factory manual recommends that you install the fasteners dry, this suggestion was made before modern sealants. We use and highly recommend a sealant made by Mercury Marine and sold under the Quicksilver brand as “Perfect Seal”. They sell it as PN 92-34227-1. This copper-colored sealant can be purchased from any Mercury outboard dealer. Swab it liberally on the capscrews before you slide them through the Continental cylinder head. We have heard that this Perfect Seal sealant was originally formulated by Mack Truck for their engines but we can’t confirm this. What we can confirm is that it works.
  4. Use the right head gasket on your Continental.
    For the four-cylinder Continental engine, use the Continental OEM Permatorque head gasket. For the six-cylinder Continentals do not use the current OEM paper head gasket. It will not hold. Rather use an aftermarket steel-backed one. Be careful though, there is a difference between the early and late six-cylinder head gaskets and the correct one must be used. As of this Tech Tip we don’t know of any Permatorque head gasket for the six-cylinder Continentals. Please let us know if you come across one.
  5. Install the head correctly.
    Take a look at Foley

  6. Re-torque it after the initial warm up.
    Sure it is pain, but you have come this far so you should do it. These long, thin 50 year old Continental cylinder heads need all the help they can get.

We hope that the above Tech Tip will help people who have these Continental industrial in their fleet. Much of the same advice would also apply if you are running older White- Hercules industrial engines.


Dr. Diesel
Written by Dr. Diesel
Knowledge is power. Power to build ties to engine users. To build a relationship with our customers, we share with you our 105 years of knowledge in many ways. We have this special section called “Ask Dr. Diesel™” where you can pose questions about engines, transmissions, industrial hand clutches, exhaust scrubbers, etc.