Valve Guide Seals in Volvo B21, B23, B230

Volvo 8-valve overhead cam redblock engines (B21, B23, B230) have four valve guide seals, one on each intake valve.  None are used on the exhaust valves, since the exhaust gasses will push out any oil that slips by.  The intake valves need seals though – without seals, oil would be sucked/forced into the combustion chamber.

So, since my car is in the garage for a while, and I’m installing an IPD VX camshaft and RSI adjustable round-tooth cam gear on my 200,000+ mile B230, I should get at those valve guide seals while I’m there.  I don’t actually need them – I’m not getting a blue puff of smoke out of the exhaust after the car has been idling at a stop light, like a lot of older Toyotas – but it’s a good time to change them just in case.

Unfortunately, you’ll need some specialty tools to really do this job right.

  • Valve spring compressor for overhead cam engines, for use with the cylinder head still on the car.  I bought a Schley SCH91400B from tooltopia.  It is a very high quality tool, and probably the easiest valve spring compressor out there.  The design is very smart.  There a knockoffs available for about half the price, but I don’t recommend them.  If that tool breaks while the valve spring is compressed, the tool or the spring could seriously injure you in a worst case scenario.  Plus, I like high-quality tools anyway.
  • Valve seal pliers / grabber.  I bought a Schley 92350, also from tooltopia.  Although the picture shows grey handles, mine have red handles.  Another very well-made tool.  You can get by without this tool if you have a very narrow pair of needlenose pliers and a 10mm deep socket, but the job is easier with the proper tool.  Or if you have Volvo specialty tool #5219 around, you can use that too.
  • Air compressor capable of a sustained 80-90 PSI and an adapter for your spark plug hole.  Alternatively, a lot of rope and a ton of patience, and the ability to take off your cylinder head if the “rope trick” doesn’t work (filling the combustion chamber with rope through the spark plug hole, and hoping that it holds the valves up enough that they don’t drop out and fall into the combustion chamber.  If they do fall in, you’ve got to take the head off to get your valve back.  Plus the cost of a new head gasket.)
  • Four valve guide seals (part # 1306630 , aftermarket available from IPD, OEM available from your Volvo dealer.
  • Eight rubber valve hushers (part # 3514432 , OEM Volvo available from IPD.
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Magnetic pickup tool (not mandatory, but really really really handy and inexpensive)
  • Gloves
  • Full face shield
  • Teflon tape (or any tape, really, but teflon tape is easy to work with)
  • A bright light to see what you’re doing
  • Various hand tools and experience needed to remove the cam cover, camshaft, timing belt, cam sprocket etc.

First, tear down your cylinder head until you have the camshaft out.  (Easier said then done obviously – See your Bentley manual or greenbook, or see this thread, specifically, this post).  Looks like this:


Below each lobe on the camshaft is the adjusting disc, a thin metal shim that can be changed to adjust your camshaft clearance.  This shim sits in the cam follower, a piece of metal shaped like an upside-down bucket that sits on top of the valve spring.  You can just pick these up and remove them, or grab them with pliers, or put a screwdriver in the notches on each side and lift them out.  Make sure to keep them in order – each shim and cam follower.  Set them somewhere safe so they won’t get out of order.  Then you can put them back in the right holes (the same holes they were in before) when you’re done.

You will probably find some old crusty bits of the valve husher rubber underneath the cam followers.  These can be removed with a small flat screwdriver and/or needlenose pliers.

Now you’ve got to install that fancy valve spring compressor.  If  you got the Schley, you’ll need to get a Dremel tool (or just a grinding bit for your electric drill) and make the slots in one of the arches just a little longer, as shown below.

Arch fits fine on the front of the engine.


The other arch needs a bit of grinding to fit over both studs farther back on the engine, since the studs are farther apart.  I used a drill with a Dremel bit and a vice to hold the arch steady.


And now it fits fine!


Once that’s done, then set up the tool.  It’s pretty easy to figure out.  You’ll need to supply your own nuts and washers (the cam cover nuts are acorn nuts and won’t go down far enough on the stud).  This is how I did it:


Note that you can keep the lever at the front of the engine, and just reposition the plunger on the rail.  Neat!  Note also that I did this whole job with a strut tower brace installed.

Next, get your air-compressor-spark-plug-adapter hose.  Fit an air compressor line fitting to it so you can hook it up to your compressor, as shown in the picture.


Then thread that into the spark plug hole for cylinder #1 (front of the engine).

The Bentley manual will tell you to set the piston at top dead center (by rotating the crankshaft) but I found out that this is totally unnecessary, and even dangerous, since (assuming your other cylinders don’t have spark plugs in them), the force of the air compressor will just rotate the engine anyway, and put the piston at the bottom of its stroke .  In fact, if you left a wrench on the crankshaft bolt (or anything loosely attached to the crankshaft) the compressed air will spin the engine a bit and fling that wrench across your garage.  So yeah.


Then fire up your compressor and set the line pressure to about 90 PSI (Bentley manual recommends 85 PSI or greater).  Once the pressure is reached, connect your compressor to the hose that’s in spark plug hole #1.

Now you’ve got 85 PSI holding up your valves.  You’ll hear some air leaking past the rings and into the crank case.  This is normal.  You’re compressor will also need to fire up regularly to keep the pressure up, so make sure to leave it in “auto” mode.

PUT ON YOUR FACE SHIELD AND GLOVES.  TRIPLE CHECK YOUR VALVE SPRING COMPRESSOR ASSEMBLY FOR SOUNDNESS AND SAFETY.  The risk is very, very small, but the consequences of getting your face ripped open by a flying piece of metal are severe, so the extra precaution is worth it.

Next, position the plunger of the valve spring compressor over the first intake valve (you can tell which are intake and exhaust by looking at how the intake and exhaust manifolds line up with the valves).  On my B230, the valve closest to the front of the engine is an exhaust valve, and then they alternate from there.

Note that this picture shows the plunger on the first intake valve, and the second intake valve has white teflon tape on it and is ready for a new seal.  But we’ll get to that in a bit.



Get your magnetic pick-up tool in one hand, and with the other hand, use the lever arm to compress the valve spring.  Once it’s compressed, reach in there with the pick-up tool and grab the two valve keepers.  Each one is a half-cylinder-shape that wraps around the top of the valve.



Once both keepers are removed, slowly release the pressure on the valve spring and move the plunger out of the way.


Now remove the spring and the top spring retainer.  Keep track of it, make sure the spring retainer stays on the same side of the spring that it was originally on.


Now get your fancy seal grabber pliers (or just really long needlenose pliers) and reach in there and grab that old seal and remove it.


Next, get your teflon tape and wrap the top of the valve.  About a finger’s length of tape does the job.  Spinning your finger around the valve stem is the easiest way to get it on, as shown:



Now get that new seal, and put it on with those fancy pliers.  It doesn’t take much force at all to get it into position – it should just slip right down.  No need to force anything.


Alternatively, you can position the seal using a 10mm deep socket.


Carefully remove the teflon tape, and replace the spring and spring seat.

Position the plunger again, get your needle-nose pliers and the valve keeper halves handy, and then compress the spring.  It can be a lot easier if you have a helper hold the spring compressed for you.

Carefully place the keepers in there using your pliers.  They are conically shaped, with the “cone” pointing down into the engine.


Make sure all the grooves line up and they fit in easily.  Having a bright light is really important here.


Both keepers should fit comfortably.  You may need to jiggle the lever arm of the valve spring compressor tool up and down a bit.  This is where the conical shape of the keepers comes in handy – the valve spring retainer (cap) will push them into the right position, as shown below:


Now carefully release pressure on the spring – and that’s one valve guide seal done!


The rest of the process, for the other three cylinders, is the same.  Disconnect the short hose from your main air compressor hose, unscrew it from the spark plug hole, move it to the next hole, and hook it back up to the compressor.

If you changed cams and you need to check and/or adjust your valve shims, you need to put the cam followers back in with the shims, then put in the cam, then check all of your shims and adjust them as needed.  You don’t want to check your valve shim clearances with brand new hushers installed, as they will push up against the cam followers and lead to incorrect readings.  That is, if your hushers are brand new, don’t install them until after you’ve done the cam shim adjustments.

After the shims are all adjusted on your new cam, take it back out again, remove the cam followers and shims (keep them organized, remember) and install your valve hushers on top of the upper valve spring seats.


There is one on each seat, eight total.  They go on with the flared part pointed up.



Finally, when you’re putting things back together, make sure to oil it all up properly.  Oil the cam followers inside and out, the adjustment discs, camshaft, cam bearings, etc. as you put each part in.  The cam bearing nuts get torqued to 15 ft-lbs (20 newton meters).

Assuming you are also changing your oil at the same time, you should pour in your new, clean oil on top of the cam before you put the valve cover back on.  This way you can make sure everything gets oil and the cam lobe oil pools get filled up.  (Make sure your new oil filter is on and your oil plug is reinstalled before you pour in the new oil!)