: HG and Timesert in car

01-28-09, 04:29 PM
I have been a lurker here for a few years, and have learned much from this forum. Recently I needed to replace the head gaskets on my 98 Deville. Against most recommendations, I decided to replace them leaving the engine in the car. After doing some research and staring at the problem I decided that for me, at least, it would be easier to leave the engine in place. One reason was that I was in no hurry, as I have my truck to drive, also, because of other obligations I know I would only have a few hours here and there to work on it. At any rate, it took me 7 weeks start to finish, and I estimate about 60-70 hours of actual work. If I were to do another one (and I surely would if the price was right on another car) I'm sure I could cut the man hours by at least 30%. I found a few shortcuts along the way, and I would like to share them with anyone else attempting to do the same.

First off, I did not remove the coolant crossover or the timing cover. I replaced the upper crossover gaskets since they came off with the head, but I saw no evidence of leakage on the lower ones. I felt I could retract the tensioners without removing the balancer and cover, and in fact I did. I broke a chain guide when removing the rear head, so I ended up unbolting the timing cover anyway , which slid open enough to get in there to replace the guide.

Timing the engine is no big deal. Before disassembly I put the engine at tdc of number 1 cylinder, locked the crank, and locked the camshafts. I used bungees to hold the chains tight so they wouldnt slip on the gear inside. Somehow the rear chain did slip a few teeth, but it was no problem since the engine and cams were locked and could not turn it was easy to spot and upon reassembly I just slipped a few teeth on the internal gear until the cam gears lined up.

I unbolted the front exhaust manifold from the head and left it in the car. I unbolted the rear flange and remove the manifold with the rear head. It was awkward reinstalling, but with 2 helpers (one to help hold the head and another to guide the chains thru the head) it was not a problem.

To gain clearance in the back getting at the heater pipes and removing the valve cover, I used a small cable hoist to pull the engine forward. That extra half inch meant alot.

I decided to go with the timesert kit over the Norm's. The Norm's kit makes alot of sense, but I thought I would rather have the advantage of the drill guides in the timesert kit. I found a used one on Ebay for $300. Luckily, all the drill shavings were shiny, no black dust. I taped over the top of the block and cut around the holes for drilling. I ended up renting a right angle drill from Home Depot to get at the back bolts. Some were pretty tight even with the right angle drill. The timesert kit is really slick. Took no time at all to do all 20 holes.

At any rate, it's been back together for a week, I have a put about 200 miles on it with no overheating or coolant loss, so it looks like a sucess so far. Time will tell. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. As I said, this method worked for me. Dropping the cradle may be better for you. One issue, although important, I felt really gets overblown is timing the engine. Disassemble the engine at TDC of number 1, and lock the crank and cams, and you really cant go wrong.

01-28-09, 04:51 PM
Any pictures?

Nice work!

01-28-09, 05:26 PM
Yes, I have some pics, but the site would not let me upload. A "security token was missing". Hopefully they will have it straightened out soon, and I will try to upload again.

01-30-09, 12:12 PM
Finally, I managed to get some pics uploaded, I hope that the quality is actually good enough to be of some help....

01-30-09, 12:28 PM
Nice pics - thanks. Seems like it would be a back breaker, and I don't know how you drilled the holes square - that was impressive - maybe that is easier with timeserts- I did Norms. So, do you really think it was worth it? I started by trying to pull the engine out the top - decided that was too hard - ended up doing the drop the cradle method - that seemed the easiest.

But again, thanks for the thread and pics - to each his own, I guess.

01-30-09, 01:08 PM
That does not look like fun.

01-30-09, 04:23 PM
In all honesty, yes I think it was worth it. I keep telling people it really wasn't all that bad. It was more, let's say tedious work, instead of bull work. I had the luxury of just walking away when I got frustrated. If you are in business doing this job, dropping the cradle makes more sense. I've pretty much worked on cars most of my nearly 50 years, doing alot of rebuilding, restorations,engine and trans swapping, painting, Harleys, even building a few custom bikes,you name it. Let me say this, every bolt, nut, etc is accessable. Just have to be creative at times. The reason I went with the timeserts was, as you said, to have the guides to drill straight. I don't I could drill that straight free hand, especially with a right angle drill. Still, on a few holes I had to start drilling with my air ratchet. To me, the biggest reason I can see for someone to drop the cradle is to remove the balancer and timing cover, but the pics show that's not really necessary to do the job.

01-30-09, 09:36 PM
It's been done before but you are the first guy to say "it wasn't all that bad"!!!!!

I have back problems and leaning over a fender is not good for me. I also developed the philosophy that it's the total amount of work that matters. I'll do something like dropping the cradle if it makes all the rest easier...and it does.

I'm glad to see you finished it and thanks for the pictures!

01-31-09, 08:45 AM
My back gives out also working over the fender. I put the car up on blocks so I could work under it when needed, like for the exhaust, alternator, etc. The extra height made it alot easier......Years ago I changed a main bearing in my 88 Deville due to the bearing thump while it was in the car. Although less work, it was much more of a pain in the rear.

01-31-09, 06:20 PM
Wow, you're actually crazier than me! Haha... I was thinking about doing something like that with my dads car but since he wanted me to do both front and rear HG's rather than just the front, I thought it would be better to just drop the cradle.

02-14-09, 07:19 PM
Bigtone, thanks for the info. I have a '98 Deville and may have to do 'the' job. If you use the Stud Bolts advertised on the site, coule you use the same method or would you think one would have to drop the cradle?

02-15-09, 11:57 PM
Bigtone, thanks for the info. I have a '98 Deville and may have to do 'the' job. If you use the Stud Bolts advertised on the site, coule you use the same method or would you think one would have to drop the cradle?

I'll answer that you don't "have to" drop the cradle. You can do the HG job three different ways. Drop the cradle, pull the engine, do it in the car. There are advantages/disadvantages to each.

Personally I'll drop the cradle.

02-22-09, 03:53 PM
I'm pretty sure that to use the studs the engine would have to be out of the car. There is nowhere nearly enough room to install the back head over the studs, or maybe even the front for that matter.

02-23-09, 09:29 AM
it's not a hard job in the car. I have done it both ways and can say it's easier with the engine in the car. Less wiring to unhook and you can leave the brake system closed. I recommend pulling the front cover even with the engine in the car, there's plenty of room to do so. I have a 96 sts in the garage I am replacing the hg on (in the car), so if anyone wants pics, just let me know. I am also considering creating a step by step manual and video of repairing these in the car. I have done 93 - 97 sevilles, 98 - 04 sevilles and 00 - 05 devilles all in the car. Theres a much easier way of timing these engines vs tying the chains to the cam sprocket and Norms inserts are better than the timesert solution as the last Seville I repaired had timeserts and they were pulled as well. Since the northstars block is porous, you need a corse thread insert vs a fine thread. I think most timesert repairs will last 3 - 5 years vs the life of the car with Norms. An easy modification of the tap block makes drilling easy.


02-23-09, 10:26 AM
I've never done the job in or out of the car and I hope I never have to.

But I'd say you're some what of a hero. I agree it does look like a lot more back breaking that it would be out of the car.

02-26-09, 05:24 PM
...Less wiring to unhook and you can leave the brake system closed...

I was able to leave the A/C system and brake system closed when I dropped the cradle on my dads car. The brake system is easier to leave closed than the A/C system though.

02-26-09, 11:26 PM
nice pics.... still tripping out about you doing that job in the car. I like how you propped up the timing chain. Good job overall.

02-27-09, 01:01 PM
Ive never had a Northstar DeVille but it looks like there is alot more room from the right head to the firewall on that DeVille than on my Eldorado. It doesnt appear to me that the right head can be removed in my Eldorado with the engine in the car. I just got done doing the HG by pulling the cradle, which wasnt as hard as I thought. I certainly give it to you for doing it in the car but I think I will stick with pulling the cradle with the accesability it gives you around the engine.

02-27-09, 03:42 PM
Thank you. I did notice that Eldorado's and Seville's seem to have less clearance with the rear head, whether that's an illusion or not, I don't really know. One thing, I did rotate the engine some to gain some clearance. That 1/2 inch really helped alot.

04-04-11, 06:33 PM
Hi All, great thread, appreciate all the great tips I have picked up here. I am in the process of doing the HG with the motor in on my sons 2000 Deville. The one tip I have so far for anyone else that's going to attempt this, IS TAKE THE CAR OVER TO AN AUTO SHOP WITH A LIFT AND HAVE THEM REMOVE THE 2 BOLTS THAT HOLD THE EXHAUST FLANGE TO THE MANIFOLD ON THE REAR HEAD and install 2 new one lightly so they are easy to remove when you go to do the job. As Bigone has mentioned here when you remove the rear head you have to take the exhaust manifold too.
You cannot imagine how tight and rusted mine were and I had to use every trick in the book to get them out. Its worth paying $50 and avoid stripping the heads of them. I work in the mechanical trade and have access to allot of tools but it was still quite a chore. I even had a 3/4" drive impact gun and it would not budge. Once you get the engine half apart and you have a problem you cant run it over to a shop then.

04-04-11, 07:46 PM
Nice thread bump.............the easiest way out is to drop the entire drivetrain out the bottom of the car.

BTW............Welcome Aboard !!!!!!:welcome:

04-05-11, 01:15 PM
Thanks for the welcome Submariner, really enjoy your posts, your a walking encyclopedia on Northstar. I am ready to pull the heads but am not looking forward to manipulating the timing chains and tensioners, not allot of room. I am hoping to do it without taking off the timing cover completely, similar to the way Bigtone managed it. Any suggestions appreciated.

04-05-11, 02:53 PM
IF the 2000 Deville has anything close to or over 100,000 miles on the engine I would recommend removing the timing cover and inspecting the nylon chain tensioners (3) and chain slippers. The tensioner shoes wear with the result that the metal part of the shoe/piston rod contacts the chain, first with a faint whine, then it gets progressively louder as the tensioner head wears further, finally eating the chain(s).

The timing process itself is a piece of cake, and you really don't need to worry about cam follower wear in the heads - they use roller followers (lifters).

...............sounds like the engine is still in the car, in which case you might want to leave well enough alone........There is a specific process for pinning the tensioners before you remove the sprockets - (they'll automatically ratchet full out if you don't) - and securing the chains with wire ties - you'll need a real Helm/GM Service Manual.

04-05-11, 04:32 PM
.............:yup: The engine is still in the car, I just have no way of removing it, I know those of you who drop engines on a regular basis are asking what the hell is he thinking, it would be that much easier.
I don't have a manual yet but a set is in the mail from Ebay but things are progressing ok so far without one. I will certainly need them for the re-assembly torques.
Thanks for your advice Submariner, I may be back for more.

04-05-11, 07:17 PM
I just let the tensioners ratchet out. When I was ready to install the cam gears, I used a pick to pull the lever and a long screwdriver to push the tensioners back. It can all be done with the timing cover bolts removed but the balancer still on. I even replaced a plastic guide that I broke when removing the head with the cover just pulled away from the block. .......That's a good idea, having someone with a lift loosen the exh manifold bolts. It took me about 4 or 5 days of spraying them with rust penetrant before they would break loose.

04-05-11, 10:04 PM
Thanks Bigtone for jumping in, is there a chance of the tensioners popping out when you let them ratchet forward and was it a Deville that you did the Headgaskets on. I wonder about the amount of room in the timing cover area between the different Caddys, it looks tight.
Also to Subs point earlier about mileage this Deville only has 90,000km on it, I am not sure if its the original engine or not, but it must have been parked for a while as there was a mouse nest under the Intake, made from the sound barrier material on the underside of the hood. My son has owned it for 2 years.

Thanks Jim

04-07-11, 08:04 AM
When you remove the cam gears, the slack in the chain will let the tensioners extend, they are spring loaded, I just left them that way until I reinstalled the gears again, with a pick I pulled the lever on the tensioner while pushing it back in with a long screwdriver. It was a 98 Deville, the cover will move away from the block enough to get in there with a pick. Read my post on stopping the engine before disassembly on TDC cylinder #1 and locking the cams, this is important if one of the chains slip on the lower gear in the engine (one of mine did). I used bungie cords to keep them tight so they wouldn't slip, but one still did.

04-07-11, 03:05 PM
Thanks Bigtone, That helps, I have one more question, do you remember the outside thread diameter and pitch of the time-serts. I have ordered the time-serts and they are in the snail-mail and I am machining my own drill and tap jig to save money. I have access to any tap I need but just need to know the size so I can get going on the jig.
Thanks again Jim

04-07-11, 07:42 PM
Hi Bigtone, I figured it out, it's a special size called S.T.I M11x1.5 and I will have to buy a M11x1.5 helicoil set to get the tap, I cant seen to find the STI tap by itself, luckily the kit is only $29.
If I had to do it again I would have bought Norm's Timeserts, they appear to be longer and have a standard 5/8 X 11 tpi external thread which would probably hold better anyway being a coarser thread. I was having difficulty finding Norm's on Ebay. If anyone knows a link please post.

04-08-11, 12:21 AM
Hard to find, now known as NS300L

04-08-11, 10:34 AM
the TimeFastener website probably has the info

04-10-11, 09:40 AM
Removing the engine from the car through the top is not nearly as difficult as everyone believes. Someday I'm going to post some photos and a bolt location diagram and such. It makes life so much easier.

04-11-11, 08:02 PM
Well, I have the heads off, all the bolts were tight but the gaskets were really corroded and blown thru. My hats off to you Bigtone, I noticed the size of your hands in your pics and mine are allot smaller and I had difficulty with some bolts, especially the pivot bolt for the timing chain shoe on the rear head. I haven't had much time to work on it which is a good thing it allows me to walk away and regroup. Still waiting for time-serts to arrive, been 10 days since I ordered.:bomb:

05-11-11, 07:12 PM
Got my Northstar all complete a couple of weeks ago, had to wait 17 days for timeserts to arrive. I made my own drill fixture and different drill bushings for each step of the process. I really should have ordered Normserts instead of Timeserts as they are beefier and have a 5/8'' 11tpi external thread for which Taps are readily available. The job was not as bad as I had envisioned and would do another if need be, (now that I'm an expert) :yawn: just kidding.
I found a ratchet at Princess Auto for $30 (pictured below) which was a great help.

One drawback about doing it in the car is you can't check the block thoroughly for cracks and that would be a real downer to find after you had finished the job.
Another is the opportunity to change the crank seal when the motor is out, mine has a minor leak which I will have to live with.
Thanks again for all the great tips I got here.

05-11-11, 07:28 PM
got any picture of the job itself if you do post them some of us love to see them and see what you did and how it turned out

05-11-11, 11:45 PM
Removing the engine from the car through the top is not nearly as difficult as everyone believes. Someday I'm going to post some photos and a bolt location diagram and such. It makes life so much easier.

Unless you have a large number of sockets, extensions, and swivels you are probably better off dropping the cradle. Now if you post the "secrets" you have learned it might be worth pulling one out the top.

05-12-11, 12:28 AM
Removing the engine from the car through the top is not nearly as difficult as everyone believes. Someday I'm going to post some photos and a bolt location diagram and such. It makes life so much easier.

your just teasing us
your not going to post photos of your secrets giving away your secrets nope not going to LOL

05-14-11, 01:08 AM
Removing the engine from the car through the top is not nearly as difficult as everyone believes. Someday I'm going to post some photos and a bolt location diagram and such. It makes life so much easier.

And how much easier is it with a hoist?

I will let you know tomorrow :bomb: :bomb: :bomb:

(It'll be my first)

05-14-11, 05:48 PM
got any picture of the job itself if you do post them some of us love to see them and see what you did and how it turned out

Sorry it took so long to reply, been kinda busy the last few days.
I did not take many pictures will add what I have here. In regards to approaching the job this is what I learned:
Before beginning any dis-assembly of the engine, attempt to remove the rear exhaust manifold bolts where they attach to the Y flange, they can be very difficult to loosen. I used a 1/2" drive 15mm socket with an 18" wobbler extension and a breaker bar. It took everything I had to loosen them. You have to be careful you keep the socket fully on the bolt head otherwise you could damage the bolt head. If you cant loosen them you will have to get an auto shop to do it for you.
While under the car you also need to loosen (not remove) another bolt that's for the stabilizing bracket that mounts to the drivers side of the rear head. You need to loosen this so you can pivot that bracket out of the way when you are removing the head.
When removing the other 2 bolts for that same bracket ( that attach it to the head) disconnect the shifter linkage and it will allow you more room.

I did not remove the fuel rail completely, just rotated it to right and zip tied it.

At this time, for setting the timing during re-assembly make sure you have cylinder #1 at TDC , you can do so by inserting a long straw into the plug hole of that cylinder and rotating engine with a 19mm socket on the crank pulley until you find TDC. I also placed a small strip of paper under the first bearing cap on each cam shaft and re-tightened to keep the cam shafts from rotating. ( just remember to remove afterwards)
The bolts that attach the timing chain guides to the head are difficult to remove, there are two for each head and you cannot reach the 3 6mm cap screws that hold the head down until the the chain guides are loose. Make sure you have a magnetic pick-up tool when you do this part as the bolts are easy to drop when removing. I found using 1/4" drive ratchet and sockets the best as they are smaller in overall size. You will need a regular and deep 10mm sockets and several different length of extensions.
I had to remove the timing chain cover because I broke one of the plastic chain guides when removing the head but I think it make everything much easier anyway. Accessing the release lever for each timing chain tensioner is much easier with the cover off. Bigtone was able to do it on his but I don't think I could have.
I referenced marked the crank pulley to the crank before removing so I could put back in same position. You need to remove the sepertine belt tensioner pulley to remove the timing cover but just pull it with the front head and remove from head while its out of the car. ( its tough to get at in the car)

Removing the water pump drive pulley from the cam shaft was tough and without the right pullers you are likely to destroy the pulley. When re-installing I just used a long 8mm x 1.25tpi cap screw and some washers to put it back into position. The crank pulley went on easy also using the original bolt just ensure to torque properly to ensure your oil pump works properly.

When doing the inserts for the rear head I just sat in the engine compartment rather than bending over the side.

When tightning the head bolts I torqued them all in correct sequence to the first stage as required, marked each head bolt at 12 o clock position with the wife's nail polish and just tightened them in approx 60 degree intervals till the mark reached 6 o clock. There is no room around the rear head for an angle measuring device. I can see why everyone thinks the bolts are going to break while torquing, the force applied to them is extreme.
Setting the timing was easier than I expected, just follow the manual or directions found on this site, just make sure to turn it over by hand to ensure you have it right and there is no interference and remember to remove the paper strips from the cam shafts. I forgot to do this before I tried to turn over by hand and for a moment thought I had screwed up the timing.

As Bigtone has said earlier every bolt you need to remove is accessable but this job takes allot of patience and will frustrate you at times. It will take more time than you expect but is certainly worthwhile as doing it yourself you learn so much and save allot of money. The whole job cost me around $600 canadian. $475 for head gasket kit and bolts, $26 for chain guide, $30 for ratchet, $75 for timeserts.
It is such sweet feeling when you turn the key and it fires up for the first time.

08-19-11, 02:10 PM
Removing the engine from the car through the top is not nearly as difficult as everyone believes. Someday I'm going to post some photos and a bolt location diagram and such. It makes life so much easier.
So Jake, are you able to pull a 93 N* without removing the a/c line?