View Full Version : NEW - 2002 Head Gasket Failure - Best Fix...

08-31-09, 01:36 AM
First off, I have done EXTENSIVE research here... and Thank you for superior knowledge on this specific issue to many of the main contributors... you guys know who you are... But I think i'll need you a little more on this specific situation...

2002 Seville STS head gasket failure at 106,000 miles during a 1500+ mile trip soon after replacing a radiator. Had to stop in little tiny towns and find dex-cool after partial overheat...

Pretty scary... Barely made it... The next morning... thick white smoke, later found coolant in the oil (odd for N*?)No warranty. Sh!#...

I've talked to alot of techs since then... Most "won't touch it with a 10 foot pole", a few use GM's repair kits, seems risky. Norms kits are either loved or hated... but none have heard of Jakes studs... Regardless the Studs seemed like the best fix to me...

So I tried to find a side hustle guy to do it my way... I did.. but his success rate was 0% on four northstars, he didn't know there was anything to fix it at all... more risky...

Then I talked to one guy who... for the first time... sounded like he should have been a member of this forum...

Here's what happend... He's in Minnesota... 25 year experience and "thousands of cadillacs" under his belt. He normally uses Inserts from a heavy duty cast iron company called Lock-n-stitch (they have a webpage). He quickly diagnosed a misfire (which i had no clue was related) was due to coolant in the cylinder...ok then explained that oil doesnt easily mix with coolant (which i know via cadillac owners) and guessed the car had been sitting allowing the coolant to evaporate and condense on the valve hood (or something like that) and mix with the oil, Correct.

So then he goes on to recommending the dropping of the engine and replacing all seals and gaskets and stuff... I told him my budget situation and my thoughts on Jakes studs... He says he can do the job with the engine in the car for much less but never heard of Jakes Kit. However... he says the post 2000 northstars have a much longer bolt... so there is not a need to use inserts or studs... mainly just replacing the paper gasket to an MLS gasket. He says it's due to fail after about 16,000 cycles anyhow. He beleives my bolt threads should be intact. Hmmm... is this possible? If so, He'll do it for about $1000. Seems like the best fix to me. Chime in please... I trust the knowledge here... some of these guys are like street engineers...

Additionally. when the coolant enters the cylinder... is it most likely to cause a misfire in a particular cylinder like cylinder 1? if so... could the feul line be blocked to that cylinder to prevent compression in that particular one? this way it's may be safe enough to drive home from the dealership... dunno...

08-31-09, 05:16 AM
I think the best person to talk to in this situation would be Jake himself. From what I have seen he is a straight up guy and will tell you the truth. From what I have read if you dont stud it or use inserts you are just asking for problems again even on the post-2000's. Give him a call at his shop or he will probably see this thread and reply. Ask the mechanic if he would do it for 1000 and use Jakes studs. If so you would only be out 1550 for the whole HG job which would be a great deal.....

08-31-09, 10:46 AM
If you are going through the work and expense to open the engine up, I would go the extra mile to either insert or stud it for the insurance. I'm sure this guy is not going to do the job again for free should it fail again in a year or two.

08-31-09, 11:13 AM
NO! The threads HAVE to be repaired somehow either with studs or inserts. No other way. If he skips this part of the process, steer clear. And with studs, the work cannot be done with the engine in the car.

And to have done thousands of HG jobs on Caddys, I think that's BS unless he's been doing 2 per week for over 10 years. I thought I've done quite a few, at just over 100.

If he orders my studs and installs them, go ahead and use his services. Maybe even with inserts of some type. But if he leaves the holes alone, forget it. Just be cautious and careful.

08-31-09, 11:25 AM
makes sense.... what about the coolant in the cylinder making it misfire, do you find that coolant is usually in cylinders 1 & 7?.... is it possible to block the fuel to a particular cylinder to prevent compression in that particulare one?

also... any thoughts on "lock-n-stich" inserts?

08-31-09, 02:13 PM
Coolant in cylinders is usually the last/worst stage of head gasket failure. Two cylinders bad, and not siamesed cylinders at that, points to drastic bolt hole failure.

While the heads are off and the engine is out of the car, have the mechanic do a thorough check of the cylinders, particularly #7, for evidence of a cracked liner. There have been a couple of those in here over the years.

Never heard of "lock-n'-stitch". Go with Jake's studs. With the availability of the studs or Norm's Inserts, I would steer away from Timeserts and NEVER try to Helicoil a Northstar block. NEVER.

09-02-09, 10:31 AM
that's for chiming in guys... makes my northstar headgasket hell a little better..... i know how good submariner and eldo are with this stuff... so...

how would i be able to tell if the car hydrolocks? I took it to cadillac for diagnosis and when i came to pick it up and take it somewhere to get fixed it wouldnt even start.... just clicked... the guy there said it may not be locked but preventing itself from starting so it doesnt lock... what if cadillac hydrolocked my car?

09-02-09, 02:06 PM
Hard to just tell if a hydrolock is present without: 1.Trying to roll the engine using the crankshaft pulley bolt and 2. At the same time pulling all the spark plugs to see if fluid squirts out the plug hole(s).

IF the engine hydrolocked while running, even at idle, you have problems that can include cracked pistons and/or rings, cracked cylinder liner, cracked head, and one or more bent connecting rods. Fluids are not compressible: the engine breaks, every time.

If the engine just clicks when the key is turned, I'd suspect a battery or starter electrical fault. If the engine goes "click - clunk" then you have big trouble.

09-03-09, 10:23 AM
Do the Fel-pro Head bolts on rockauto come in sets of 10 or 20?

i need 20 for both sides right?

09-03-09, 10:31 AM
Yes you need 20 head bolts. Not fel-pro though. You need 20 of Jakes studs. That is unless you plan on doing this job twice.


09-03-09, 12:20 PM
Well... I understand that Jakes studs are very good... however, I'm having the job done with engine in car... So norms is the only way to go... am I right or am i right?

so I really need to know if the fel-pro head bolt kit on rock auto includes 10 or 20 head bolts for the price of $30? Anyone know?

Also should I have the heads taken to a machine shop if the car never overheated?

Please get both questions!

09-03-09, 01:01 PM
Yes, Norm's Inserts and careful machine work.

The RockAuto site shows a set of 10 head bolts for $30. You need 2 sets, or call - they're really helpful.

Northstar heads stay pretty true. If the valve guide seals are not leaking (excessive oil consumption/high mileage) and the valves have no obvious cracks or burned edges, don't bother. Carefully clean everything and DO NOT use ScotchBrite on anything within 100 miles of a disassembled engine.

09-03-09, 04:54 PM
I doubt you're getting anything but head gaskets for $30. I think a set from the dealer come with the bolts.

09-04-09, 11:34 PM
You are correct Ranger, the head gaskets from GM include bolts. There is a 30.00 difference if you use OEM vs. FELPRO. In the past, I used Felpro exclusively, but here lately, I have decided to use the OEM as the last few Felpro gaskets have looked a little rough.

09-10-09, 12:21 PM
Yeah I just picked up another set from advance auto parts... and the Fel pro gaskets from rock auto do look a little rough. O well...

20 Fel-Pro Head Bolts... check
2 Fel pro Head Gaskets... check
20 Norms inserts w/jig tap drill thing... check!

Total so far.... uhhh about $520

09-10-09, 12:27 PM
Ok... So I found an out of work ASE certified tech (used to work for meineke) who is willing to do it for $600. I found a few people to do it at $600-$1000 cant really find an expert but i've found able techs (working from home) with some drilling experience willing to do it in the car by loosening the motor mounts and using a come-along to hold the engine in place to access rear headbolts...

potentially $1200 for a head gasket fix... yeah it does sound to good to be true... what should I look out for?

I mean whats the chances that an "able" tech could screw up norms jig & tap alignment and demolish a head bolt hole beyond repair???

What Northstar specific obstacles should i have the tech look out for??? Keep in mind he is using alldata.

I really appreciate you experts chiming in because im far out from any expert willing to do this... and i just cant fork out $2000+ to fix it today... and that coolant sitting in my oil cant be good for over a month now...

09-10-09, 01:54 PM
The tech can probably do the job. The worst part for anybody, with the engine in the car, is rocking the engine assembly forward a bit to make the jig-drill job easier on the rear block surface. Not a picnic, by any stretch.

About obstacles and hints: Study here and Alldata and always measure twice, cut once !

09-10-09, 04:50 PM
well, i'll be finding out if a craigslist mechanic can do a northstar head gasket job shortly here... please guys let me know if there is anything else to watch out for going into this job... the heads are coming off today... so... i'm sure i may have questions...

09-10-09, 04:55 PM
Keep the chain tensioners retracted and DO NOT even think of using ScotchBrite or letting it in the same building as an open engine for that matter.

09-10-09, 05:47 PM
I have to chime in and say that trying to do it in the car is way MORE work, harder worker, and I feel with a greater possibility of making a mistake during drilling. The only reasons I can think of to do that are is you do not have the space to drop the cradle, or an engine hoist...and I STILL don't think it's worth it! I started my HG project by trying to take the engine out of the top - the conventional way we have all done things in the olden days. I gave up 1/2 way through and dropped the cradle. All I can say is it's thing of beauty! Re-install was so easy! I know everyone is apprehensive to drop the cradle - it sounds scary, but it's NOT! Your whole body will thank you, it will be easier, it will be faster, you will be able to replace the oil pan and other lower end gaskets and seals, and you will get a better overall result.

I think I've read that Jake pulls the engine out the top, and I think he qualifies as an expert, but maybe he's got methods and reasons I don't understand or know about.

09-11-09, 12:56 PM
If anything... the tech would have to take the engine out from the top using a hoist... I didn't know it was possible... So far iv'e insisted on him doing it in the car... i guess i should at least explore it huh?

but isnt it more likely to set off all types of codes if you have to disconnect everything?

09-11-09, 02:03 PM
You have to disconnect everything to get the heads off anyway, codes be damned. Lifting the car off the engine/transmission assembly, as Tateos opined, is the way to go. Out the top is very tricky.

Subscribe your car to www.alldatadiy.com (You did that...............)

09-11-09, 05:42 PM
In the car is far faster, I do it everyday. Yes it is a little tight in a couple spots, but I can bypass everything involved in the dopping of the cradle (disconnection brake lines, pulling all the wiring harnesses, disconnecting the steering column, list goes on...). Everything I do with it in the car is the same as if it were out of the car, so you don't lose any time at all by doing it this way. Drilling is SUPER easy with Norms new drilling rig, basically fool proof. I will take some pictures of the 2001 Deville I have apart to show just how much room there is. I have done all generation sevilles/eldorados/devilles and ALL should be done in the car assuming the oil pan is not POURING oil as it is less likely to do damage to the wiring by pulling the cradle out. I have done it both ways and it's much easier for me to do it in the car. Just trying to defend my method as everyone always want to slam it. It's always stated to pull the engine to check other items, but that is not the normal procedure for any other car. If a starter fails, do you pull the engine to check other things as well?

09-11-09, 08:14 PM
I've only done one so far, and it was in the car. I second Mikes post above, it sounds like more work but in my mind I believe it's less work, but more tedious for sure. Some guys are bull force workers, some guys would rather do tedious, less back breaking type work. There are alot less things to disconnect by doing it in the car, and once you figuire out some tricks with the timing chains such as not removing the balancer and cover, overall I'd have to say it wasnt that bad. Now, if I could just find a deal on a 2000+ Deville that needs HG's.......

09-11-09, 08:44 PM
Not sure my back could take another job like that, but if I did, I'd opt for in the car anytime if it is doable.

Seems to me we had a 2000 with a HG problem here not long ago Bigtone. Don't recall if he was going to repair or sell it.

09-12-09, 10:34 AM
Mike, Nobody's knocking your methods of inserting the block while still in the car. The OP was looking at studs, and that's a definite "out of the car" process. Given the machining required to insert a block my take on all this is:

1. Studs - out of the car

2. Norm's Inserts, novice install - out of the car (less chance for a machining error, which we have seen - the head stud bending questions).

3. Norm's Inserts, experienced mechanic install, in the car.

With Norm's new drill jig, point 2. may be moot.

09-13-09, 02:48 AM
My humble opinions,

In the car you are leaning over the fenders, working at awkward angles, hard to access timing chains, more prone to mistakes or not completing. Mike Lawson's done many and knows the techniques. He is in a different position from someone doing the first one. ( Mike, I don't disco the brakes, just hang the calipers and ABS module on the body.)

Out the top, wasn't designed for this, hard to access bolts, harder than normal to pull out the top. Jake is experienced in this technique and knows what tools (extensions, swivels, hoist adapter, etc) he needs to do it. Then you need an engine stand.

Lift the body off, easiest for first time DIY. Leaves the engine accessible for inserts or studs, once the body is off it is very easy to work on. As Tateos said, seems scary but it's not. I recommend this way for anyone doing it the first time. Cradle acts as an engine stand. Once you've done it this way you would have an easier time doing it the other ways if you wanted.

09-13-09, 10:42 PM
Well hey... if you can do it in the car... then i'd say why not...

Quick question... when doing it in the car... what all gaskets and seals should be replaced?

Seeing as though you are taking much less apart... you wouldn't need as many new seals and gaskets... but I'm not sure if there are others that must be replaced as part of taking it apart and putting back together (other than head gaskets of course) and are they reusable?

also... how much should a motor mount be?...because one of mine are torn... rock auto said like $40...