: Purge tank cap fiasco



OlManRivah
04-02-04, 12:40 AM
What an engineering nightmare. On my '97 Eldo there is no room to get a good grip on the cap to turn it. To apply down pressure, I have to use both hands and there isn't room for one hand. My wife has smaller hands and together we fight the stupid thing. I've cut my fingers trying to take it off more than once. How much trouble would have it been to place it in the open? It supports some folks theory, they design them so you have to go to the Dealer.

I would hate to be a dealer's mechanic if he had to fight these things daily. Maybe some of you have come up with a trick or a tool that helps.

Next to that stupid brown oil dipstick to check brown oil, this gets the GM engineering Rasberry.

I love the Northstar, but, Geez.....

RLLOVETT
04-02-04, 11:15 AM
I'll second that one! Now that I'm in the Loss of Coolant League, I'm checking mine regularly and some days i just can't get it up...er off. I remember from long ago that they made a cap with a vertical handle across the diameter but I don't know if they're still around...I'm planning to invest in a pair of Channel lock pliers for the car...

growe3
04-02-04, 11:45 AM
Look for a replacement cap that is hexagon or has projecting knobs. Stant makes them.

You're right GM engineers need a two thumbs down for the surge tank cap being located so close to the body you can't grip the cap properly and the idiotic brown dipstick.

Attached image is a Stant cap.

-George

BeelzeBob
04-02-04, 12:20 PM
Just for the record it is a SURGE tank....a pressurized surge tank in the cooling system , not a purge tank....LOL


Sorry you have alot of trouble with the cap. I find that the cap comes off relatively easy if it is dried off carefully (usually I find them slippery with old coolant or dust or ?????) and then just push down firmly with the palm of your hand and turn. There are locks in the cap to prevent it from being turned off easily....that is a safety factor to prevent people from just spinning the cap off when the system is hot as the system will suddenly boil when the pressure is released and scalding can result. So you purposefully have to hold down and turn to release the cap. The cap is purposefully left to be a bit difficult to remove because of this. We really want to make the person stop and think about removing the pressure cap on the cooling system because of the extreme hazard involved. Imagine if it was too easy and the person grabbed it by mistake to put washer fluid in the bottle.....instant scalding shower.....with the pressurized surge tank the cap is often not very hot like when it is on the radiator and when the Northstar went to a pressurized surge tank system a "radiator" cap was on the radiator....not a bottle on the fender. So, it was often confused with other functions like the washer fluid bottle. This topic was discussed OFTEN about the design. If the cap is clean and dry I find it is relatively easy to remove. Probably a female with small hands will find it difficult, yes. That's what they have husbands for....LOL That is also why there is a low coolant level sensor in the surge tank....so the cap only needs to be removed for adds....which really aren't THAT often or necessary on the majority of vehicles. So, the debate could go on forever about how easy or hard the pressure cap should be to remove....I'll always vote to err on the side of safety and make it "too hard" to protect people.


The dipstick...??? With clean oil it is hard to read, yes. Which dipstick isn't??? This is something that all manufacturers struggle with...because we all get our dipsticks from the same sources....LOL ...and hear the same complaints and excuses. The Northstar that most of you have needed a cable style of dipstick due to the compound bends in the tube required for packaging. I notice non of you complain about how easily the dipstick pulls out and pushes in...LOL....the cable design allows for this very well, thank you. Unfortunately, with a cable, you have to put something on the end to dip into the oil. The molded plastic tip works well....but most any and all plastic turns brown after many miles in oil and heat....sorry...it is just the best available at the time. Let the oil get a little more dirty and you can see if better....LOL LOL


Complaining about the dipstick and the rad cap....you guys are getting picky....or there is nothing else left to complain about....????

OlManRivah
04-02-04, 01:55 PM
BB...Are you sure you are not in the GM Marketing Department, lol!. With all respect to your knowledge and infinite wisdom, Plastic comes in other colors than brown. Lets try metal, it's worked for years.

As for that P(S)urge Tank....come on.... Using that logic, tires wouldn't have valves because the dumb public might blow themselves up.

I think I'll go find me an Icy hill......

BeelzeBob
04-02-04, 03:02 PM
BB...Are you sure you are not in the GM Marketing Department, lol!. With all respect to your knowledge and infinite wisdom, Plastic comes in other colors than brown. Lets try metal, it's worked for years.

As for that P(S)urge Tank....come on.... Using that logic, tires wouldn't have valves because the dumb public might blow themselves up.

I think I'll go find me an Icy hill......


FYI....the plastic on the dipstick is actually yellow. Sorry I was not clear enough in the explaination. The plastic turns brown in the hot oil over time. All plastics that can be molded onto the cable and that will live in the oil pan will turn brown (or, the same color as the oil.....) over time. The tip was NOT originally brown...it was yellow. Go check out a brand new one at the dealer..... If you have a solution to this I am all ears....

I do not follow your logic in the pressure cap/tire comparison that you try to use..... A person would have to deliverately apply an air hose and wait a LONG time to "blow up a tire"... Try it some time. Very few, if any, tire inflation stations will provide enough pressure to explode a tire and , even it if did, the tire is contained on the rim minimizing risk. That is why truck tires and tires being seated on the wheels/rims are always (or should be) put into a containment so the expanding tire cannot blow the assembly into the inflator's face. When the tire is mounted on the vehicle it cannot spring off into the person. It is a pretty low risk situation putting a valve stem on a tire/wheel and the action would have to be deliberate to service it.

That is NOT true of the pressure cap. An innocent person could easily mistake the pressure cap for some other fill point (the washer fluid for example) if they are unfamiliar with cars/engines/or it is a new vehicle to them. The relocation of the pressure cap to the pressurized surge tank could easily create such confusion as most people are expecting a radiator cap on the radiator...not a tank on the fender (put yourself into the mindframe of a person buying a 93 STS with a Northstar in 1993 who had never seen a pressurized surge tank...). Mistaking the pressure cap for something else and unscrewing it on a hot engine could cause severe bodily harm with absolutely no deliberate intent by the operator. A good engineer tries to protect the operator from such situations. Sorry you do not understand/appreciate this.

In case you miss the point.... You'll be safer trying to drive up that icy hill than walk up it....LOL

BeelzeBob
04-02-04, 03:09 PM
Lets try metal, it's worked for years.


BTW....I addressed that in the earlier post. A plain metal blade like you are used to would not make the multiple bends that the dipstick tube requires. If it were to be made of metal it would have to be a very flimsy blade to accomodate the bends in more than one plane. Been there and done that. That is why the much more expensive, stainless steel cable design dipstick was used...with a cable you need some sort of tip on it that can be molded onto the cable. Plastic looked to be the best tradeoff for retention, moldability and visibility....yellow plastic. A cast metallic zinc tip was tried but it did not have the retention needed and was no more visible with clean oil than the plastic.

Always easy to second guess this choice I guess but there was a fair amount of work done to make the dipstick as easy to use as possible. Besides, that is why there is a low oil level warning sensor on the oil pan. With the oil capacity of the sump and the oil level sensor there is really no need to use the dipstick unless you are a fanatic about checking the oil...and fanatics usually can figure out how to read the dipstick so we really didn't loose much sleep over it.....

growe3
04-02-04, 03:17 PM
FYI....the plastic on the dipstick is actually yellow. Sorry I was not clear enough in the explaination. The plastic turns brown in the hot oil over time. All plastics that can be molded onto the cable and that will live in the oil pan will turn brown (or, the same color as the oil.....) over time. The tip was NOT originally brown...it was yellow. Go check out a brand new one at the dealer..... If you have a solution to this I am all ears....
....LOL
I think a metal tip with "knurled" or line marked index area would work fine, as most cars have used for decades. As you note the plastic discolors after being cooked in the oil over time. GM is aware of this so why don't they stop using such a cheap part that they know os going to discolor, and use something that will be easier to read?

growe3
04-02-04, 03:20 PM
The part number for the stant cap is #11230. Most auto stores will have one if you are interested.

-George

BeelzeBob
04-02-04, 04:01 PM
I think a metal tip with "knurled" or line marked index area would work fine, as most cars have used for decades. As you note the plastic discolors after being cooked in the oil over time. GM is aware of this so why don't they stop using such a cheap part that they know os going to discolor, and use something that will be easier to read?

Well, that is the discouraging part...it isn't cheap....LOL Seriously, it isn't. The cable style of dipstick was a large premium so as to make the stick easy to insert into the tube so it would glide down the tube and insert easily and follow the compound contours of the tubes....

The later model Northstar cars have gone to a multipiece metal blade design that has bends in both directions so as to be flexible enough to insert....back to the same old standard dipstick that has worked for a long time. It is not nearly as easy to insert...but it doesn't have the plastic tip...and it is less expensive. The tip has the knurled end to it...and it is just as hard to read as the plastic tip in my opinion....

These things are not as simple to solve as you guys make out. We check oil, too, so your comments are "after the fact"....LOL. There are just not good workable solutions to the problems sometimes.

growe3
04-02-04, 04:41 PM
....The later model Northstar cars have gone to a multipiece metal blade design that has bends in both directions so as to be flexible enough to insert....back to the same old standard dipstick that has worked for a long time. It is not nearly as easy to insert...but it doesn't have the plastic tip...and it is less expensive. The tip has the knurled end to it...and it is just as hard to read as the plastic tip in my opinion...
Well it sounds like someone has been listening to the complaints about the hard to read dipstick, and is trying to improve it. :) Great!

As far as complaining, yes the items are more of a nuisance, but they're the little things that are irritating to the average person who does their own mainrenance. Sometimes little things can make a big difference.

I do appreciate the engineering that has gone into this great engine, it is the primary reason I bought my STS.

jgr7
04-02-04, 08:45 PM
Here is a little trick I use when checking oil on any car with a hard to read dip stick. Pull it out and clean it with a white paper towel, now put it back in and leave it for 5 seconds, now lay your paper towel down on something firm and pull the dip stick out and lay the end on the towel and look where the oil stain is on the towel and compare it with the marks on the dip stick. It works every time:) .
94 Eldorado

Jeff

OlManRivah
04-03-04, 01:15 AM
I'd like to try the Stant cap, but, I'm still in the Bumper to Bumper warrenty. The Dealer would have a tizzy. The last time I took it to them about the coolant use they replaced the water pump and changed the coolant. If they added the tablets, who knows. I don't mind keeping a watch on my coolant and adding some until my next oil change, but, the cap is a pain. I'm trying to keep records of how much I add to help the guys. It seems like about 3 qts per 2000 miles, as an estimate.

Lawrence
04-03-04, 01:06 PM
Anyone ever try to paint the tip? Maybe some of that identifier paint you see inside the engine. Seems to last awhile and must not have any detrimental effects to the oil. Anyone know where you might get some of it, bbobynski?

Olds3.5
04-03-04, 07:41 PM
Do the newer N* engines use a different dipstick than the yellow tippped version mentioned here? The reason I am asking is I have a 3.5L shortstar with a cable dipstick and a bullet-like attachment to the reading end. It works perfectly so I am wondering if the newer versions of the N* use that type too.

As far as the surge tank cap is concerned, have you considered using an oil filter changing tool on it? I mean the one that looks like a cap. My oil filter is difficult to change and I use cap-like device that can be used in conjunction with a ratchet. Maybe you could find a small one that will fit over the cap and you could push down on the cap-like device while you are turning with the ratchet. Just a thought.

OlManRivah
04-04-04, 12:18 AM
I Think so....BB says [The later model Northstar cars have gone to a multipiece metal blade design that has bends in both directions so as to be flexible enough to insert....back to the same old standard dipstick that has worked for a long time. It is not nearly as easy to insert...but it doesn't have the plastic tip...and it is less expensive. The tip has the knurled end to it..]

If I could find one that fits the cap, it might work, but, I doubt if they make a filter that small.

tco43
04-14-04, 12:08 AM
The coolant cap on my 96 SLS was the same aggravation for me. It only takes a minute to fix it. When you have it off next time, flip it over and look at the underside. You'll see the sharp step edge that has to make the jump for you to get it off. Take a file or a little side-nippers pliers and trim that step to a neat little 45 degree climb. Clean off any filings and put it back on. You'll be amazed.