: Head Gasket Repair At Your Location!

09-09-09, 03:50 PM
I've been exploring the idea of repairing Northstars at the customers premise instead of having them tow it to my location, assuming they have a garage or similar to perform the actual repair in. Since 99% of the repairs can be done in the car, a decent size 1 car garage is all that is needed. The additional cost would range with the distance, but I would assume in most cases to be in the $500.00 range. I charge $1500.00 labor + parts + mileage, so most repair totals would be in the $2500.00 range. I was just looking for some feedback as this is something I will definitely consider in the future.


09-09-09, 03:54 PM
What method would you be using? Inserts? Studs? Where would you stay while you did this (assuming it takes more than a day). What area would you be servicing?

09-09-09, 05:29 PM
I prefer using Norms inserts as they have never failed me; however, the customer can choose whatever repair mechanism they desire. If studs are wanted, I would recommend Norms inserts with ARP head studs (part number 204-4204) since this combo could still be done in the car and use factory dowel pins to hold the gasket in place where Jake's would require engine removal and that would incur additional cost, but could be done if requested. I would service most of the United States with a cost of .60 per mile round trip from area code 40299. For example a repair in Atlanta Georgia would cost $505.20 additional. This cost covers hotel stays and travel expenses as most jobs are a 3 day turn around.


09-09-09, 05:41 PM
Mike, let everyone know where you are located.

09-09-09, 06:22 PM
Well, let's see..............Google 40299 and you come up with Louisville, Kentucky.

"That was easy !"

09-09-09, 09:47 PM
Thanks Sub, you are correct Louisville, KY. :yup:

09-09-09, 10:20 PM
I was just looking for some feedback as this is something I will definitely consider in the future.
Considering that a LOT of places will not touch them and we have heard many members asking for advice on who will do them in their area, I'd say you have a winning idea here Mike. I think you may be gone a lot. HAVE TOOLS, WILL TRAVEL

09-10-09, 12:24 AM
Well, let's see..............Google 40299 and you come up with Louisville, Kentucky.

"That was easy !"


09-10-09, 07:03 PM
would you be willing to come to sacramento ca my son lives down stairs from me would you be willing to stay there and my wife will cook good home meals for you and what ever else you want any time after october email me at leonnamoja@yahoo.com will make your stay comtrable.early stage headgaskets.

09-11-09, 05:59 AM
Are you the same guy who advertises head gasket repairs on the Cinci craigslist?

09-11-09, 10:23 AM
I am the person who advertises on Craigslist. I appreciate the feedback. Unfortunately Sacremento would probably not be feasible as I would have to bring a fairly extensive amount of tools which would be impossible on a plane. Another situation is a hotel stay is almost a must as my shop helper would have to travel along with me. If you had a garage with an air compressor and a large assortment of tools, that might change the situation.


09-11-09, 12:46 PM
hey mike I got your private message, but i can't reply... I'm too "new" - the moderators don't play huh. But we did talk...and i want you to fix my car BUT i just cant afford what you deserve for travel (to Denver) on top of the normal charge... my alternate strategy is to use an unemployed tech off craigslist and help him the best i can...

I am really grateful for your help thus far, your kind of expertise is few and far between... However, alot of guys are struggling and willing to do it for $600 - $700 so i just have to hope they don't drill holes through my block...

any guidance or tips for this guy going into this with the engine still in would be appreciated.

Thanks Mike... you are the man for traveling to help all these people...

09-11-09, 05:50 PM
I understand and that's great you found someone to do it for that! It's a lot of work, so that guy will wonder what he got himself into halfway through, but I'm sure it will work out. In the car Seville's are a piece of cake. The only issue is removing the front cover and the 2000 and newer intake manifolds are kinda a pain in general. You will have to remove the 3 pass side cradle bolts and motor mount nut to remove the motor mount bracket so you can get at a couple of the front cover bolts that are behind it. Other than that issue, everything else is straight forward.


09-11-09, 06:26 PM
lol @ peice of cake... I guess i'll have to take your word for it because thats one peice of cake i'll never mess with... but i'll pass on your words of wisdom on to the guy working on the car now...

Hey enjoy the traveling cause i'm sure you'll have great success with this idea... thanks again!

09-13-09, 07:39 PM
Mike you really should start removing the engines to do the repair. My best time so far, is 2 hours 55 minutes from a running car to the engine on a stand, and this is out the top :D (99 STS)

-no suspension parts touched
-no brake lines disconnected
-no steering linkage disconnected
-no A/C lines disconnected
-no alignment afterwards
-no bleeding of the brake system
-no recharging the A/C

Keep in mind that this is without too many rusty bolts. The only part of the chassis I have to deal with is removing the RF wheel.

This makes it so much easier to work on them and you can tackle the lower seals at the same time.

09-13-09, 08:32 PM
Just a side note, Mike, while this will keep you busier than all hell, you may have a problem when it comes to people breathing down your neck while you work. I haven't had too many problems with this, but I've had enough. There are some people with whom it works really well, working while they're around, but then there's the others, who just bombard you with questions, suggestions, etc...

I wish you the best with this one, but the tools that are required are a lot to drag around. You won't always have what you need in the back of a truck or car.

What's going to happen when you're 500 miles from home, tear an engine down and find a crack in the cylinder? The customer changes his/her mind about fixing the car, or you wind up having to remove the block, find another one, and then you'll be pulling the engine or dropping it out the bottom. What about main bearing problems (from coolant in the oil) or the results of hydro-locking (bent connecting rods on 00+, cracked cylinder walls on 93-99)- you'll have to have the ability to remove and replace the block, and have access to one. If you haven't run across these problems yet, you will. I've run into about 7 or 8 cracked blocks, 4 blocks that threw rods (2 being due to hydrolocking), bad cams & lifters, worn bearings, collapsed chain tensioners, burnt valves...

You can deal with these issues so much better in your own shop. On the bright side, if you enjoy travelling.....

09-17-09, 11:24 PM
Jake, if the car had a severe oil leak, I would agree that the engine has to be removed and I'll definitely give your method a try the next time I have a cracked block or a bad oil leak, but you have to realize I don't do any of those things you mentioned either plus:
-pulling the starter
-removing the flywheel bolts through the starter opening
-remove the transmission bracket mount bolts
-the fight of pulling the engine away from the transmission
-the fight on installation of aligning the transmission dowel pins to the engine
I realize you have this down to a science by now as I do with doing them in the car, but unless the car requires an oil pan gasket or a block re-seal, then I can't justify the extra work.
I know what you mean by persistent customers as I've been there and done that, but most of the time they are just curious about their cars and the repair in general. I also agree that there will be issues that arise from cracked blocks, etc., but I still think it's a service I could offer to people who are a little too far away from me to justify towing. I, like you, have decided to make this a main source of income so I am thinking of ways to make this a sustainable venture vs something that will last a year or so and fade away. Hopefully for the both of us, people will still care enough about their Cadillacs to keep repairing them instead of buying new as soon as problems arise.


09-18-09, 02:01 AM
The day you decide to switch completely to studs and back the HG repair with a 5 year warranty is the day you'd probably be the most sought after and respected independent Northstar tech in the USA. I know you're doing well but you should be able to see the advantages of the studs. I know the engine has to be pulled to install them but there are so many other advantages to having the engine out- the ability to change the rear main seal, do the oil seals, inspect the bottom end, easier work area, etc.

You're a bright man and a damn determined one if you're willing to do the HG's in the car. Do you want to take another giant leap? Call me someday. I can't do all the Caddys, the Northstar community needs you too. You could be pulling in well over 100k/yr if you play your cards right. On-site service is just not the way to go. Liability, travel expenses and time.... I've considered this too- I could see the world if I wanted to but I barely get time to spend with friends and family as it is. Since you made it your main source of income, make sure it stays that way.

We are in no way each other's competition considering the areas we're in so we might as well put our heads together.

Norm's inserts are in my opinion, better than time-serts but still a mistake to install. It will last, most of the time, but for how long? Considering what he's all posted on his site and ebay referring to me copying his thread patterns and saying the metalurgical properties are all wrong with the studs, I won't hold back. His design is an improvement over GM's inserts, a large one, but they're still an insert. Davz (another forum member) used his inserts and wound up coming to me for an engine. I have his old one. I wonder why.... The one I sold him works, the one he sold me failed because of those inserts. Norm doesn't repair these engines on a daily basis. He doesn't have to offer a 5 year warranty on them. I do that by choice. I sell what I use and I use what I sell - that's the difference.

Customers sometimes are nervous when they come to pick up their car that the engine will overheat again. So, I do what anyone would, who believes in their work. I take them for a ride in their own car, and with their permission, open it up to 90MPH (WOT) - the temp stays on the 1/2 mark the whole time. If they're not convinced I give it a couple more runs like this. Then a smile comes across their face, followed by the sentence "Man I missed being able to do that!" I stand behind my work strongly.

For the record, the 5/8x11 thread system has probably been around since the 19th century sometime. I didn't even know about his inserts when I first designed the studs. It just seemed like the best diameter and coarseness to go with, all things considered. There's just enough meat in the block to safely rethread the holes to that size.

Get yourself a good shop set up. You can do it. Become a part of Northstar Performance. Let us work together. You obviously have the will and the patience and the determination. Do you know how badly I need a contact in the USA to refer people to? Do you realize that you're a lot like me- you took the time to figure out a way to make it work- to develop a routine process to get the work done efficiently.

Change your method to studs, back it with a 5 year warranty against HG failure, and work with me. Not for me. WITH me.

Either way, best of luck to you with what ever you decide.

09-18-09, 02:53 PM
Intresting to see such deep differences in philosophies... I think both of you guys are extremely talented, creative and confident at what you do...

However... Mike, you have a formula that does work. period. I have to thank you for doing it the way you do because it gave me the confidence to have my tech attempt it that way as well. Ultimately it is a more cost effective way to go... and if everything else down there looks good... why mess with it anyhow. Plus... mike can do somebodies car in Miami... with some hot girl in a bikini asking him what a camshaft is...

Hey.. those studs sound incredible no doubt... but when you stop and look at the OEM headbolts... i'm sure norms or studs coupled with mls gaskets should hold up over 100 times better that the original setup. A good running N* is a good running N* with studs, norms or oem headbolts that hold...

I'm one that appreciates diversity not monopolies. Kinda like my portfolio... so i encourage you both to do what you do and be the best at it... because your traveling the road less traveled... who knows what either of you will learn down the road...

P.S. eldo i am NOT knocking your way AT ALL... im just encouraging mike cause he does some good sh!t by doing in the car... beleive me eldo you are unreplaceable (as long as you finish them damn motor mounts lol)...

09-18-09, 04:43 PM
I totally agree with you Jay, but I have NO objections to working with Jake on these repairs. If he needs someone in this area to install stud kits, there's no reason for me to turn away someone needing help. I can't say that I will abandon my repair method, as it works very well for me, but I would rather make a friend than an enemy, so I am completely open to installing studs for customers that want that method over inserts. Ultimately it's what the customer wants, plus I will have to work with Jake to be sure we can negotiate pricing, etc. since his studs are significantly more than Norm's inserts. I honestly believe that either method is a permanent, long term solution to this problem or I wouldn't be investing so much time and effort into it, and not to mention that sweet girl in Miami deserves a quality head job like we all do right? :)

Jake, I agree we both are a lot alike. I'll be out of town this weekend, but e-mail me @ mikelawson@ctky.com and we can discuss our options.

Thanks, Mike.

09-18-09, 06:09 PM
I thought I read a hundred times it was a waste of time to remove a Northstar from the top; they just had to be removed from the bottom with the whole cradle. Now I see that Jake? (Northstar Performance) takes them out the top in less than 3 hours!!! And Mike fixes headgaskets with Norm's inserts with the engine in the car!! This is more my cup of tea and I'm starting to see dollar signs myself. I'll have to be on the lookout for some cheap caddies with blown headgaskets to experiment with. Keep up the good work guys.

09-18-09, 11:24 PM
The bottom line is that it is almost a sin to get rid of these beautiful cars because of the HG failures. Myself, Mike, and a some others will help make sure that these Northstars keep running for a long time to come.

09-18-09, 11:29 PM
And when the rest of the car gives out, the engines will still be in good enough condition to power your hot rods, Fieros, garden tractors, excavating equipment, generators, water pumps.... shall I go on? :D

I would say motor boats too, but that's where the 455 Olds motors come in. Right Sub? :thumbsup:

09-18-09, 11:59 PM
The bottom line is that it is almost a sin to get rid of these beautiful cars because of the HG failures. Myself, Mike, and a some others will help make sure that these Northstars keep running for a long time to come.
Long live the Northstar!!!!!
Hey Jake how do you pull an engine out in 3 hours? Care to share tip or write up for other member who are pulling the engine out from the TOP. You should have a high performance engine by now and swap it out once every other year for emission testing?

09-19-09, 06:53 AM
Now that we have a base line to work with - 14.95 sec. 1/4 ET - the performance engine is under way. Maybe I'll do a write up soon- it's a tricky process and depending on the year, a lot of stuff under the hood has to be removed to gain the clearance, but once you know the location of every nut and bolt, the wrench size, know the tools to use, it gets faster. I made some of my own tools to make life easier as well, like an engine lift bracket that gets used A LOT in my shop.

I don't know what the stock PCM will all allow for modifications, but the plan is to work around the PCM and do everything to the engine that seems to make a difference.

09-21-09, 09:19 PM
How much would you charge to repair the head gaskets in Atlanta again? I could use your services. I'm looking for a good mechanic that can do the job right. I want to keep the car.

09-22-09, 09:16 AM
Atlanta is approximately 425 miles from my location. It would cost .60 a mile for the round trip of 850 miles or 510.00. This covers all travel related expenses including hotel stays, etc. My standard labor price is 1500.00 + parts cost which varies per vehicle, but is in the 500.00 range. I can give you a more precise esimate if you require, I just need to know the year of your Deville and how many miles are on it.


09-22-09, 01:50 PM
I can't win......Someone finally will do a headgasket repair and he's 1000 miles away. Why is there noone who will do it in New England !!!!

09-22-09, 04:30 PM
Someone posted a while back about a place in Boston that he was quite happy with.

09-22-09, 08:38 PM
everyone always talks about HG repair. What about all the OTHER parts that these cars kill?

ABS pump
Rear air shocks
Air ride pumps
control arm bushings

im sure there is lots more.

My handy dismantling crew and I are talking about salvaging these parts off of cars that would cost $5k plus to repair (not including engine).

I see a lot around here with good pumps/shocks but completly rotted bodies and such. They had my engine out in 20 minutes. Im sure with a little more time they could have a bit of finesse and even salvage some body parts, i need some rear doors :) Who would want these parts though? Who would want all these Northstars i can get my hands on?

If there were extra engines laying around, wouldn't it be feasable to SWAP bad for good instead of traveling and doing the repair? Seems to me that would be an easier job. Then its just in and out and no unscheduled hangups. Maybe charge a bit more than BASE cost but round it down from what it would cost max.

00 Deville
09-22-09, 09:55 PM
Someone posted a while back about a place in Boston that he was quite happy with.


09-22-09, 10:00 PM
If there were extra engines laying around, wouldn't it be feasable to SWAP bad for good instead of traveling and doing the repair? Seems to me that would be an easier job. Then its just in and out and no unscheduled hangups. Maybe charge a bit more than BASE cost but round it down from what it would cost max.

But you have to take into consideration that some people don't have the proper tool and knowledge to do the work. Here in SoCal there is at least 5 N* in the small partyard. Much more in the bigger yard. Pull the engine yourself and its cost less than $300. Only if someone willing to pull and stud and charge to install, it would be a great business and profit.

09-28-09, 04:29 PM
Why not convert an RV or bus to a mobile shop with a retractable enclosure off one side to provide vehicle stall. All tools, equipment and parts could be stored in the cargo bays. Power supplied by generator. Best of all…a place to lay ones head.
Might take longer to get to the destinations but expenses could be less.

09-28-09, 04:40 PM
The "John Madden" of the Northstar circuit !!!! Really screw up your engine and get your pic on the side of the bus !!!! - national recognition......

09-28-09, 05:16 PM
That idea is also franchisable and could be sold as business opportunities across the country. More like the McDonnalds or the Stanley Steamer carpet cleaner of the N* circuit. By the way…who is John Maddin? Does he drive a Caddy?:hide:

09-28-09, 06:26 PM
John Madden, long-time NFL football coach and then (recently retired) anchor of Monday Night Football along with Al Michaels, is NOT a flier, so he traveled the U.S., to every Monday night game for years, in his own converted Greyhound rolling apartment. He's probably wealthy enough to drive a stable of Ferraris.

09-30-09, 01:41 AM
:) Some good ideas there. Not sure I'm ready to sell everything and become a traveling gypsy (no offense to gypsys), just not the lifestyle for me. I wouldn't mind however, traveling new places and helping people every once in a while, maybe like once a month or so. I've been busy lately as many 2000 and newer cars are starting to have issues, so people are more willing to pay the money to repair these as some of the older ones are getting trashed. I have decided to try and make a living doing this, so I can use all the help I can get!