Removing and Re-installing a Chevy Stovebolt Six Head

Jake Mayock

Meet Jake

Jake is a founder of 8020 Media and has been creating automotive content online since 2017. He has been the lead writer for Chevy Trucks and has transformed it from the old and outdated site it was into what it is today. Jake creates a ton of GM related content for the 8020 Media YouTube channel and specializes in Duramax and Vortec information but has a wealth of knowledge across all GM cars and engines. Jake believes the L5P is the best diesel on the market today.

Removing and Reinstalling a Chevy “Stovebolt” Six Head

How do I remove and install my head (or a new one)?

This guide should work as a step-by-step guide to removing and reinstalling your Stovebolt Six cylinder head. However, use common sense. If something goes wrong, don’t blame it on us! We’re just trying to help.

Pulling spark plugs First, drain the radiator. Then, pull the following:

  • Spark plug wires & coil wire
  • Spark plugs
  • Coil (this can be removed from the block and left hanging, just make sure it won’t short out against a ground)
  • Carb linkage – usually throttle and/or choke and pedal linkage
  • Temperature sender
  • Intake & exhaust manifold (if this is on an Advance Design truck, wire ties can be used to hold it against the support brace as seen in this photo, otherwise you may wish to remove the exhaust pipe and then pull the manifolds out completely)
  • Water neck and thermostat. I removed the neck and thermostat housing since I was going to take the head into an engine shop and didn’t want it to get lost or banged around. This is up to you. If you don’t need to remove it, you could probably get away with pulling the upper radiator hose off.
  • Valve cover and gasket. Plan on replacing the gasket, they are a high-maintenance item anyways.

Once all this is pulled, you’re ready to start on the head. First, pull the rocker arm assembly. It is divided into two halves, so be careful when you lift up on it. You can go ahead and separate the two halves, just make sure to keep the springs, washers and center oiler assembly when you do. Then you can pull out all the pushrods (this is a good time to make sure they are all straight).

Keep it clean and organized!
While you’re pulling all of these parts, it’s a good idea to keep it organized. The photo to the left shows an example of how to do this. The brown paper is craft paper, available at drywall supply shops. Masking paper or other paper can be used, too. It’s nice to have a place to keep track of all the parts, and you can write on the paper if you need to remember things (such as firing order or front/back).

Next is to pull the head bolts. There are approximately 20 of them, some on the inside of the head and some above the manifold, on the drivers’ side. These take some muscle to get loose, you might want to use a breaker bar or torque wrench with a long handle. I used a 2 foot torque wrench. Once broken loose, you’ll probably be able to spin them out with your fingers.

Ready to break the seal? After this is done, you’re ready to break the seal and pull the head. The head adheres to the block so well (via the head gasket) that you won’t be able to simply lift it up. The easiest thing to do is to locate the “tab” on the head – a bump or protrusion on the head that sticks out past the head gasket – and place a flat-bladed, smooth screwdriver in the protrusion. The location of this protrusion is usually in a front corner. On the 235 head, it’s in the passenger side front corner, as shown in the photo to the right. Once located, tap the screwdriver with a hammer until the head lifts enough to break the seal.

Now you’re ready to pull that sucker on out. Depending on the condition of the truck, this will take at least two people. Since the head weighs upwards of sixty pounds (I’d guess), it’s not easy to lift by hand for very long. What I do is crawl into the engine compartment, sitting on the radiator and placing my feet on the frame rails, then lifting it by placing my right hand in the farthest rearward exhaust port and my left hand on the front passenger corner of the block. Then, HEAVE HO!. Lift away. On a “beater” truck, you’d probably be comfortable sitting the head on the fender. On nicer trucks (like mine), I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. I lifted it up, had someone hold it, moved my hands below the head, placed the head on my thigh, then had my “assistant” take it away from the truck so I could crawl back out.


Checking the gasket Now you’re ready to reinstall. This is fairly easy, depending on what you had done to the head. First, doublecheck that your new head gasket is correct. Just hold them up and compare holes, as shown on right.

Then surface the head (if needed) and the block. Simply sand them down to remove the old head gasket material. Be careful not to sand too hard in one spot, or you’ll make the head or block uneven, causing premature gasket failure or leaks. Then, depending on the advice of your engine builder or favorite mechanic, you may wish to spray the head gasket with high-temp silver spray paint.

Placing that head gasket
While this is still wet or curing, place it on the block and try to get it aligned correctly, as shown at left. Then you will want to grab the head and carefully set it into place.

Set it down.. gently! It’ll probably take several tries and an assistant or two to get it set down correctly and keep the gasket in the proper position, as shown at right. Watch your fingers!

Now you’re ready to put all the head bolts back in. These are torqued to between 90 and 95 pounds in the pattern shown below. I’d suggest torquing them halfway then going the rest of the way to get the head to settle correctly. Note the figure below is for the 216 head, though it works for the 235, too – it just has three more bolts. They are on the “insides” of numbers 15 and 12, and to the outside of number 1. Also note that the 216 head is supposed to be torqued to 70-80 ft-lbs.

Tightening order

Now you should be ready to reinstall the pushrods, rocker arm assembly (careful tightening it not to wedge or jam any of the rods!), torquing the assembly down to 25-30 ft-lbs.

Putting the plugs back in
Now you can reinstall the rest of the items – water neck, thermostat, and thermostat housing, upper radiator hose, valve cover (and gasket), intake and exhaust manifolds, carb linkage, spark plugs (shown at left), plug wires (the order on the wires should be, from the farthest to the passenger side, 1-4-2-6-3-5), coil and coil wire, and temperature sender. Make sure to refill the radiator with a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water, checking it often, since there will be air pockets in the head and possibly the block.

Ahh, all done You’re all done! Now it’s time to start the truck back up and admire your work. There will be little things, such as valve adjustment and carb adjustment, but things should be running fine now.

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One Comment

  1. Do I need to use new head bolts or can I use the old ones and tighten them to specs? I was told that it is possible to use the old head bolts, especially if they are the original ones. The head is a 1959 Chevy 235.

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