Problem with 1997 Sunfire Rockers

Asked by Oct 22, 2015 at 01:41 PM about the 1997 Pontiac Sunfire 4 Dr SE Sedan

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My granddaughter brought home a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire 3 months ago as
my name imply's it is becoming somewhat of a pain in the A$$ wallet. First
thing I did was replaced oil and filter. Spark plugs and wires. This made it
easy to pass smog. Then the fun started. Spent three days to over come
the pass lock 1 when she somehow tripped it. once I installed a bypass and
relay I have not had a problem since. Then we replaced the 7 year old
battery. Then she blew the head. Crack between number two and three
cylinder. I bought a new head from King cylinder heads. I replaced the
head with new gaskets and head bolts. When I started the car the rockers
were loose. Way loose in my opinion so much that you could hear it idle
from 30 feet away  I changed the oil and filter again but it did nothing. Now
after driving it for 20 miles it dropped a cylinder. I pulled the valve cover
and 1 rocker over number 3 exhaust was broken and the push rods were
up thru both rockers on number two. I am not a mechanic but I have
worked on cars for many years. I have never seen hydraulic lifters do this
They were so loose when I installed them and then to go the extreme
I have read many posts here about engine problems but not one about
this. I read here I should have replaced the lifters and some even said
lifters and cam. I really don't want to pull this engine for the cam But is
there anything else that could be causing this? Should I replace the lifters
and try it?
Thank you for your reply's

12 Answers


hey Fred, you sound like you know whats what here, Something is amiss here, what size engine??

Hello It's the standard 2.2 engine I have found GM stuck this in many a car


Great engine that 2.2 engine, head changes are pretty standard and simple, the hydraulic lifters should of taken the length of the pushrods I would compare the two cylinder heads, this don't sound like a lifter,cam problem at all, there is no adjustment just a torque to set them at, and even of your off on that in would not have your outcome, maybe the head is off a different year or maybe a 2.5 if that would make a difference

While were at it I called the guy I bought the head from We went over all of the specs just to make sure we received the right one When I told him about this he said in 30 years he has never seen or heard of this He asked that i send him a picture Here it is

Looks like I am pulling the head today Do you think I can reuse the head bolts? They have less than 50 miles on them

Finally figured it out


Wrong head???? There certainly was a hight problem

Sorry Steven the last post was my sense of humor I didn't think any one cared to try and figure it out, Then when you asked I thought no one had any input because they really didn't know what to do. So here is what happened I have found the problem or I should say WE found the problem My coach (GM mechanic) told me to pull the head and I did. We put the heads side by side. Now in his defense he did not see theses side by side. I pulled the old head and he didn't see the car until I started having the problem. He took one look at them and said your problem is the wrong valves in the new head. He took a straight edge along the top where the valve cover gasket is and measured the stem of the exhaust valve on the old head and did the same on the new head there was almost 1/8" difference. I called the guy I bought the head from and explained the situation His reply was that's impossible. But he would check it out and call me back. He called about 20 min.'s later saying that according to his sources there was a transition between 96 and 97 of the valves used and they have been using the shorter ones since. I figure this can be confirmed or denied It doesn't matter. We came to the conclusion if he sends me another head I have about an 80% chance of receiving the head with the wrong valves again. My guy is going to take the old valves out of the head and lap them into the new head and the guy I bought the head from is going to pay for his time. So what it came down to is a rookie mistake by me But in my defense the casting numbers matched I was sent the right head and I think if anyone would have received the new one they wouldn't question the valve length and installed it just like I did. I still have to put it back together to make sure this is going to work But I don't think it's going to be a problem anymore


it seems that I am one of the few that cares, I like to hear what the answer was, we rairly get feed back and that's what sucks about spending our time trying to help, This is a situation is surely has nothing to do with your being a rookie, this could of happened to anyone of us in the trade and having us scratch our butts too. Great news you got to the bottom of this and good luck with your new head with the rite valves, these are great cheap dependable cars, cheers!

Hello Steven Thank you for the message. I belong to 4 sites that pertain to Jukeboxes and Harley's built before 1970 When i posted a message here I thought it was normal to have half a dozen guys jump in. If i post a message My 62 Panhead is puking oil. I would have from 2 to 6 guys saying try this, don't do this.Check this then that Or if I post I have a 52 Seeburg scanning left to right only, I'm going to here from 3 to 5 people telling me to check this switch but do not do this , recheck terminals 18 thru 27 maybe I am spoiled I just thought all sites were like those When you were the only one to chime in I thought "Hey tough room" I also understand if you have nothing to say then why post anything. You might say i was disappointed I mean I didn't even get the smart ass guy that likes to tell you to take it to an expert before you F it up or why am I wasting my time when i truly don't know what I'm doing. I didn't even get that guy involved But it all good I thank you for your help I will post the final out come for the record Thanks again Fred

Hello Steven This will be the last post for this thread soon to be buried into the archives my mechanic/friend inspected the valves. we found two suspect exhaust valves in his opinion should be replaced if I wanted to run the car more than 5000 miles So I replaced them, He lapped them in, We put it all back together and she runs better than the day my granddaughter brought it home. If anything I am trying to put in some key words here for anyone who might run into this problem From 1996 to 1997 2.2L GM engines had a valve upgrade or change If you have loud rocker noise after replacing the head make sure you have the right valves Also I have found there are two sets of push rods one set is 1/16 longer to fit the updated valves However the short vales and the long push rods on the head I bought would still not work properly Hope this helps someone down the road Fred


most head gasket jobs we use the same head and valves, you were just unlucky to have a crack in the head. Great job getting to the bottom of this, I hope your daughter gets to drive this car for a long time to make all this worth while. CHEERS!! Steve

Your Answer


Looking for a Used Sunfire in your area?

CarGurus has 298 nationwide Sunfire listings starting at $2,100.


Pontiac Sunfire Experts

  • #1
    John Saffrahn
  • #2
  • #3
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Pontiac Firebird
4 Great Deals out of 779 listings starting at $2,500
Used Pontiac Grand Am
1,079 listings starting at $994
Used Pontiac Grand Prix
16 Great Deals out of 2,620 listings starting at $1,450
Used Ford Mustang
590 Great Deals out of 36,206 listings starting at $1,200
Used Chevrolet Camaro
433 Great Deals out of 30,717 listings starting at $2,495
Used Mitsubishi Eclipse
23 Great Deals out of 1,195 listings starting at $1,999
Used Ford F-150
2,565 Great Deals out of 195,338 listings starting at $1,300
Used Dodge Neon
593 listings starting at $999

Content submitted by Users is not endorsed by CarGurus, does not express the opinions of CarGurus, and should not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by CarGurus. Please refer to CarGurus Terms of Use.