My 1997 Deville needs new engine...
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1985-1992 Fleetwood, 1993 Sixty Special, All FWD Forum Discussion, My 1997 Deville needs new engine... in Past Cadillac Vehicle Discussion; I just bought my mom a 1997 Cadillac Deville. The car has only 37,301 miles on it. It is mostly ...
  1. #1
    optiplex is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    I just bought my mom a 1997 Cadillac Deville. The car has only 37,301 miles on it. It is mostly immaculate and seemed a pretty good deal for $4,000.

    On one of her first trips out, the engine overheated due to water pump belt sheering. There was no way to know just how hot it was gettingas there is no actual gauge but rather a series of warnings, but the computer did shut down the engine as a precaution.

    Against my advice, she has had the car towed to a Cadillac dealer. I was worried about this because the advice I read online about this dealer was mostly negative. So now the dealer calls and says the entire engine needs to be replaced. Problem is, there are no parts for such engine. I'm dealing with a salesperson who tells me what the technician said, she's reading from his notes. I told her to have the mechanic call me. But it seems for now the head was warped, etc. His "recommendation" is just replace the whole engine instead because, as he states, by the time he pulls the heads, he may find more damage.

    My mechanic where I live (my Mom lives in Hawaii) is suspicious because he agrees this particular model car's computer would have auto-sshut the engine to prevent further damage. As it did. So I don't get how the engine could be damaged if the auto-shutdown occurred.

    So now... I cannot afford a new engine, even if the parts were available, due to helping mom with this and other financial issues. I have my own family's financial challenges to address as the sole breadwinner, so I am more or less shrugging my shoulders and calling this a loss. But now my 70 yr old mother will be without a car so I'll eventually get dragged into solving that problem as well. I may be able to scrounge up the money to get the engine fixed (heads rebuilt?) but no way I can justify a new engine on a older car that may spring up a whole other set of problems down the road.

    Any suggestions from the Caddy enthusiasts on here?

    Does anyone have a mechanic recommendation in the Honolulu area? NOT a dealer?

    Thx.

    Frustrated.

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  3. #2
    MoistCabbage's Avatar
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    Whatever dealer the car is at, is completely full of it.

    The heads are still on the engine, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to diagnose a warped head without removing them, which requires removal of the entire engine. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that a head is warped in the first place. The Northstar was designed and tested to run for 50 miles with NO coolant.

    Parts ARE available for these engines.

    The DIC will display a message to turn the engine off, but the engine will not turn off automatically.

    Have the car towed to a good, independent shop, and have the water pump belt, tensioner pulley, and if necessary, drive pulley replaced.

  4. #3
    amunderdog is online now Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    I agree with MoistCabbage

    Our 1993 Eldorado did that trick awhile back.
    New water pump - tensioner - drive pulley - belt - thermostat
    No repercussions and not that expensive.

    Get it towed out of there to a shop that cares.

  5. #4
    optiplex is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    Thanks for the info, gentlemen. All of it good info.

    If it didn't auto-kill, then I indeed shut the engine off before it could "auto-shut".

    The story goes, my mom drove the car to the airport, her first trip since she bought it a month ago (I wired her the funds for the car). She was to pick up my 10-yr old daughter who would be staying with her for a couple of weeks, visiting grandma for the summer as it were, and I was to fly out on another flight within 2 hrs. When I landed she called and told me the car overheated on the way to the airport and she parked it at the airport parking garage. I got checked in for my flight then went to the garage with her to take a look. We were running extremely late because mom couldn't remember where she parked. I called my sister to come meet mom with some coolant outside the airport area then drove the car out of the garage once we located the car. I took a look under the hood but the belts weren't easy to see in the dark garage. As I drove out of the airport area, the warning lights started coming on. I wanted to pull over immediately but we were in gridlock traffic so I was trying to make it 1/2 block to the next intersection to get the car out of traffic. I initially shut the car off for 2 min till traffic started moving again, then I restarted and drove approximately 100 feet, made the right turn and drove 100' more then shut it down. Both times the warning light came on telling me to shut the car down. I did immediately, when I saw the warning. But I thought it was auto-shutting instead as it seemed to shut as fast as I reached for the ignition. I guess that was me shutting it down then. In my line of work the equipment I operate does the same thing... the computer saved the motor before the operator can do any significant damage. I drove the car in total for less than 5 min and for less than a mile.

    So now I've just heard back from the dealer a few min ago. This time I spoke with a technician but not the the actual mechanic working on the car. After reading y'alls posts, and telling him it's extremely unlikely that the head is warped, he did start to back-track. But he insists the test they ran proves the head gasket is blown. He gave me a technical explanation that I know suggested it may be blown. But he was evasive when I asked the basic question, is the oil milky white... as in the usual way to check for a blown HG. He told me of another test they do where they get the vehicle up to operating temp and us a chemical to check for gasket leakage. He says their test assures the gasket is blown. He then goes on to say as long as it's blown the labor is so intensive on the repair (cost-wise) that I may as well have the engine rebuilt.... but that they won't know until they get to the HG.

    I told him to get me a price on a new HG and head machining and we'll go from there. My fear is they will create more issues to get me to get into an engine rebuild.

    I don't trust the dealer, especially since they won't let me speak with the actual mechanic who is touching the car. I'm going to have it towed elsewhere.

    ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by amunderdog View Post
    I agree with MoistCabbage

    Our 1993 Eldorado did that trick awhile back.
    New water pump - tensioner - drive pulley - belt - thermostat
    No repercussions and not that expensive.

    Get it towed out of there to a shop that cares.
    How far did you drive your El Dorado without collant? I don't know for how many miles mom drove the car. She's clueless when it comes to this sort of stuff. All she tells me is that the "coolant light (red warning) came on as she approached the airport. So in her opinion the belt sheered at or near the airport and it ran this way for only a few minutes. Distance from her house to airport is 10 miles, approx 20-25 min of driving. 3/4 of it highway.

  6. #5
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    Northstars don't typically mix oil and coolant as a result of HG failure, nor do they blow white smoke out if the exhaust in the early stages. The chemical test the tech mentioned is called a block test. It indicates if there are traces of combustion gasses in the cooling system, a sign of HG failure. Why they would do a block test on a car that had a water pump fail (and why they would run the engine without a functioning water pump), is suspicious.

    IF there is an HG issue, there is no reason to rebuild the engine, and just about no chance that the heads will need any work whatsoever.

    99.9% of the time, HG failure in a Northstar is due to pulled head bolt hole threads. The only fix is to remove the engine, drill out and tap all 20 bolt holes to accept either inserts or studs, and put it all back together with new head gaskets. $2,000+.

    Get the second opinion, and go from there.

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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    you are being HOSED - find another shop -
    at this point - ANY other shop will be better -

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    Slipgate is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    There is a reason they are known as "Stealerships".

    I think I read that you are in Hawaii. If so, this is going to cost you a lot. Hopefully you can find a private shop that will give you a fair deal. Meanwhile, if they fix the water pump issue, even if the HG is blown, people have been known to drive with it blown for years. Depends on how bad it is.

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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    That dealer has already proven itself to be untrustworthy and more likely unscrupulous. GET THAT CAR OUT OF THERE and find an honest mechanic. In all probability all you need is a new belt. Possibly a new belt tensioner and worst case scenario, maybe a new WP drive pulley.

    As for the HG. A block test kit can be borrowed from AutoZone for free (just pay for the test fluid). Simple test to check for a HG failure.

    Sounds to me like that "stealer" thought they had a fish on the line and started to real it in. Spit the hook and run!

    P.S.
    Expect a diagnostic fee. I'd balk at much more than $100.

  10. #9
    cadillac_al is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    It does sound like this dealer has never dealt with a Northstar head gasket issue before. I wouldn't let them learn on my car.

  11. #10
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    SUPER LAC DEVILLE is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Mr Optiplex

    Quickly REMOVE your Vehicle from that dealership...


    Sent from AutoGuide.com Free App

  12. #11
    optiplex is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    WOW, I am so thankful for this resource. Thank you all so much for caring to give me advice and helping me solve this dilemma.

    The lady at the "stealership" told me, "You may need to just donate this car to charity". It looks like this situation may be salvagable. The problem for me now is I have to pay for an $8,000 repair to my home that is being rented while I work overseas and that is going to sap most of my savings so getting this fixed for Mom is going to push my financial resources to the limit (if only my brothers and sisters would step up to the plate for once... but that's another story) for the next few months.

    Do any of y'all think the car is safe to drive? Meaning to drive it to another shop close by (within 5-8 miles) and NOT do any further damage? It would seem that is possible, from some of your commentary but the stealer sales lady says its not... though she doesn't seem to know squat about cars. All she does is read the notes of the mechanic and call me back for the sales process. Shady, super shady. Maybe I need to get it towed though. I hate that idea because if it's towed the new shop knows we're a slave to their recommendations for repair as we won't want to be towing it all over town for estimates.

    Mom has called a few shops who all claim they can do the job but they don't really know what's wrong either until they look at the car. I get that. The problem is I don't want the car to end up at some shop that double's the repair cost of whatever may be wrong... it's sort of out of the frying pan and into the fire. I know the advice is to get the car out of the stealership, but to where? I need to find a reputable shop first. Thus far my searches online have turned up limited results.

  13. #12
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    I'm assuming that the WP belt was never replaced? If so, you won't get very far. 5-8 miles might be pushing your luck.

  14. #13
    optiplex is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    WP belt was replaced, yes. $97 for that. Plus $150 for their diagnostic work. The mech shop I'm going to take the car to thinks it's probably drivable but he's unsure as well because the info I'm giving him is as open-ended as what the stealer told me... which is that the car is not drivable. But if it's not drivable, then how did they do the supposed block test. Because that test required starting the engine, running it up to normal operating temp then testing for the combustible gasses in the cooling system. So the engine runs, yes. That much I know. But beyond that all I get is the sales rep telling me it's not drivable. Again, she doesn't know much about engines. She can't even return my calls.

    I did call one shop I got from yelp. He had pretty stellar reviews. But as soon as I mentioned the name he refused to go any further. His words: "No, no, I won't do head gasket on a Cadillac because it's an aluminium block and once the HG is damaged the block is warped." I tried to interject and tell him what y'all told me but he just cut me off and hung up on me. Glad I didn't go to him.

    Does anyone have a recommended resource for finding a Cadillac/ Northstar mech in Honolulu? Thus far I'm turning up very little options beyond the dealer.

  15. #14
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    Re: My 1997 Deville needs new engine...

    The sales rep is feeding you a line in hopes of reeling in a large repair or selling you a new car.

    If the belt was replaced and the cooling system filled, a 5-8 mile trip will be no problem. In fact, that may be all it needed in the first place (hard to tell from here).
    A lot of shops are afraid of the Northstar because they are unfamiliar with it, but you DO NOT want someone like that touching it anyway.

    Can't help with a shop in HNL though.

  16. #15
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    The Northstar is an American V8 designed in the '80's. Any "mechanic" that is intimidated by them, needs to find another line of work.

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