: Headgasket, or what?

04-06-08, 11:52 AM
I have a '99 SLS with 93K on the clock. For the most part the car has ran fine since I purchased it in December. I have been following this forum, reading about the headgasket woes of the N* since my purchase.

I have never had any problems with the car overheating, the temp guage needle has always been at 12 o'clock. Thinking back, it has always had a bit of a rough idle on start up when cold. Anyway, Friday I was out running some errands and out of the blue the car started dinging at me, the DIC was reporting "engine hot - a/c off, idle engine, etc" - I glance at the temp guage and it was beyond 250 - just about at the red, I quickly pulled into a parking space and shut it off. At this point I'm not sure what to do - so I go in for my Dr's appt. When I came out I started the car and the temp needle was still at about 250 - but rapidly dropped back to the 12 o'clock position - not a sweeping movement but jumping from mark to mark - went below 12 o'clock to about the 165 mark and then back to 12. I didn't open the surge tank because it was hot and didn't want to get scalded.

So I stop at the parts store and pick up some coolant on the way home. The ride home was uneventful, the temp guage stayed at 12 o'clock - no movement at all. Yesterday morning I opened the surge tank and it was empty!!! I added about a 1/2 gal of coolant - I think I might have slightly overfilled. I drove the car yesterday and the temp guage stayed at the normal 12 o'clock position. When I got home I popped the hood and there were signs that coolant had escaped from the overflow tank, it apparently burped out the excess coolant.

The exhaust does not have any "sweet" smell to it. I haven't noticed loss of coolant previously - but until Saturday morning I have only checked it once since I purchased the car and it was fine. For the past week I thought I was noticing a faint smell of antifreeze coming from under the hood.

After reading about headgaskets and symptoms on here, I seem to have some of the classic signs - I intend to take it to the shop this week to have the coolant checked for exhaust gases.

If it needs new gaskets I will do it myself, but I am wondering what brand gaskets do most people use when doing this job? I have seen in at least one post the mention of COMETIC gaskets but they seem wicked expensive at $100+ each, at that price are they really worth it? or is it just piece of mind? I will also be using Norm's inserts.

Sorry about rambling on, but I am rather disappointed that I am having to undertake such a large repair so soon after buying the car.

04-06-08, 12:42 PM
The exhaust gas/coolant check will tell you whether or not a head gasket has let go. If you are going to use Norm's or Timeserts in an eventual gasket job, that will cure the prime cause of bolt pulling: casting porosity and bolt hole corrosion. Using Cometic sandwich gaskets is expensive, possibly overkill for a street engine, and the newer replacement gaskets (GM, FelPro) are slightly upgraded from the OEM to reflect current thinking on Northstar gasket design. You WILL need a complete new head bolt set, and use GM. There was a thread in here last fall concerning broken aftermarket head bolts. The OP finally got a set of bolts to torque/yield properly, but the bolts were iffy......

Let your coolant settle down after your refill(s) and see what happens beore you go tearing things apart.

04-07-08, 05:30 PM
Three squeezes on the test bulb confirms one of my worst dreams - I in fact do have a bad head gasket. I guess I will park my baby and start collecting the parts to fix it. Hopefully I will be able to have it back on the road before long.

If anyone is interested I bought my tester from Napa it is part number 700-1006 and costs $49.99 (cheaper than taking it to the shop). It is really easy to use.