226's dependability?


Gear Grinder
Mar 2, 2010
Willys Model
Willys Year:
Hello guys,
My question is for the fellows that are running the stock flathead six cylinder 226 engines in their willys. Have they been pretty dependable for you? A few weeks ago, in the heat of texas, i had an overheating problem, and lost coolant, so I ordered a 180 thermostat. Haven't installed it yet...but the other morning, it was 67 degrees for a few hours, and i took the old girl for about a 25 mile drive, stopping and checking for leaks.....nothing at all. Got back home and let it cool off, and checked the coolant and it was just fine. Also ordered a new sending unit and temp guage as the original doesn't work. So hopefully my engine is still ok, with 59,000 miles on her.
Looked all over the internet, and couldn't find much about how long they last, or how much trouble these engines are....? Also looks like they were used in checker cabs too?
To those of you who still run them...what kind of experiences have you had with these original engines? Do you recommend them? Would you spend the money for a rebuild if necessary? i'm an 'old' codger, and just kind of putz along....so it's not abused at all. But haven't had it long.
Any thoughts?
I had a '59 Willys 4x4 pickup with a 6-226 many years ago. It had an 8 ft. Western plow. I did a lot of plowing in Winter and a lot of hauling in Summer. It always ran strong with good oil pressure and never ran hot. It was really wound up and not very happy at speeds 50 mph or more.

The only weak link I found was the exhaust manifold cracked right near one of the middle cylinders. I didn't fix it and eventually it burnt the exhaust valve. The crack let cold air get sucked into the cylinder which caused the valve to split and then there was no compression in that cylinder. I sold the truck to a guy who was going to put a small block Chevy in it, so I never tried to fix the valve.

So--if you keep after any cracks or leaks in the exhaust manifold and everything else is good, I would say the 6-226 is as good an engine as any. Be good to it and it will be good to you!!

Old willy
Willys America likes them and says they are good, but if you do rebuild it, balance it as the factory didn't bother.
I agree with both responses. In my personal opinion the 226 is a damn good engine and reliable. As with anything, if one neglects things they do tend to wear faster. Balancing IS the key with these engines during a rebuild. I'm still waiting for fundage to get mine to the machine shop, but I know it'll be money well spent. Another opinion: People (in general) love to exploit weak spots in anything. It's a way to rationalize the changes they want. I'm all for hot rodding, but let's leave it at the hot rods. These Willys 4WD trucks and wagons are too unique to hack up. My vote is that you stick with the 226. If you rebuild it, it will be spendy, but in the long run well worth it. As far as putzing along goes, an overdrive is a wonderful thing. I have one in my wagon, and would definitely add it to one without.
Have fun with it.
The L226 engine is pretty sturdy considering that it is an old design. Kaiser bought the rights to the Continental Red Seal 6 in 1946 and used the original Continental "Red Seal" engine in early models, but they were problematic, oil leakage and soft crankshafts. Kaiser redesigned the engine in '47, stronger crankshaft, higher compression ratio and more modern valve timing, the words "Kaiser Supersonic" were cast into the cylinder head. My father owned two Kaisers, a '49 and a '51. I recall that the '49 had head gasket and valve burning problems, but the '51, which he owned for 5 years, never had an engine issue. This is the same engine that was introduced into the Willys vehicles when Kaiser bought Willys in '54, but a recast cylinder head was fitted that says "Willy Super Hurricane". The L226 in my '55 PU was salvaged from a completely rusted out '57 PU in running condition. The owner of the '57 said that he could not remember any major repairs to the engine and he had owned it for quite a few years and used it on his farm. I did a valve job on it and, so far, it has been running very well for 4 years now, doesn't smoke from the exhaust, runs smoothly. It does leak a few drips of oil from the rear main seal, but it is not enough to worry about.
My 59 wagon that I've had since 75' is still going strong, no smoke, and most of the power, ...never even pulled the head. I did adjust the valves back in 82'. They are a sweet peice of machinery and always start right up no matter how cold. My 60 wagon and 56 pickup seam to be doing fine also but i don't have as much history on them. We gotta keep'em around so the kids will know what a flat head looks like!