: What makes the Headgaskets go so often on early N*s?



Twilightcall
08-04-04, 07:12 PM
I have been doing lots of reading through the archives on the headgasket issues. I was wondering if anyone could clarify how they go so often? I know that if you overheat the car is can warp the head and cause a leak especially aluminum heads but I have read stories where they didn't overheat the car to cause the leak, headstuds or something along those lines. Now my ? is do they just fail out of no where or if you don't overheat your car you are safe???? I have a 94' Concours and it has 114K on it with the heads stock and I was just wondering if the headgasket can just go at anytime or does it have to be provoked by overheating or ?. Any info to help clarify would be appreciated. Thanks.

ljklaiber
08-04-04, 08:12 PM
Frankly I don't know!

I have 144k on my sls and I drive it hard . My wife drives it to work and back and we have had NO problems. My 95 has been exceptional and I would not cry if it blew up...tomorrow. I think that proper maintenance and checking under the hood now and then, works out .

Never been a perfect automobile, but Caddy is my ride.

Twilightcall
08-04-04, 08:28 PM
Thanks for the info. That is great to hear.

illumina
08-04-04, 09:10 PM
i think for the most part, a bad head gasket is the case of "the bad apple". point being, sometimes you do get a bad apple from the factory once in a while, as no car maker is going to make every car perfect off the assembly line. if your car has been well taken car of, then you should have no real concern there. in regards to replacing a head gasket on the northstar...YIKES :bonkers: i have done this before, and it is no picnic. but the alternative is MUCH more expensive. from my perspective however, the N* is a FINE motor, and 9.75 out of every 10 will be fine for many miles. :cool:

Ranger
08-04-04, 09:50 PM
The biggest cause I believe is neglected cooling system maintainance. Change that coolant every 2 yrs on the green stuff and 5 yrs on the orange Dex-cool.

Twilightcall
08-04-04, 09:53 PM
Thanks for the info. Everytime I change the coolant I should put in Bar's Gold leak sealer in the lower radiator hose????

illumina
08-04-04, 09:53 PM
you're supposed to put the coolant supplement in the N* too, right?

ljklaiber
08-04-04, 10:30 PM
Just drive the car like ya stole it!!!! Work hard and buy better cars down the road.

I am an old man who fought a war before ya'll were born. Don't let fear enter yer life. Kick ass and drive a Cadillac.

Live , lil Bros!!......Live!!!

Geno Castellano
08-04-04, 11:44 PM
Yes, use the coolant supplement in the Northstar. Just remember to install it into the radiator hose not the surge tank. There are a number of past posts on this subject if you search using "head gasket" you can find them.

The single biggest problem with head gaskets is lack of cooling system maintenance. If the cooling system is neglected then the coolant looses its corrosion inhibitors (they get used up) and the system will corrode internally. The depleted coolant will cause the internal core of the head gaskets to start to rot out from the coolant passage side and eventually the head gasket will fail.

Often, repairs due to the above cause subsequent problems with reassembly when the wrong repair procedures are used. Head bolts can be easily stripped in the aluminum block if the bolts are not replaced, the bolt holes cleaned correctly, etcetera. Of course, then the "failure" is blamed on the fact that the engine must have "stripped the head bolts" BEFORE the failure occurred.

You read a lot about head gaskets on here because of two reasons. One, everyone who has a problem finds the forum to get info and bitch. Rarely do people find the forum and post about their lack of problems. Just read the newbie posts - they are always with a problem. So, the forum is no scientific survey on head gaskets or other problems. Secondly, something has to fail eventually. With the thermalcycling of the engine warming up and cooling down each drive cycle the head gaskets in an all aluminum engine are put under a great deal of stress. Northstar engines are turning out to be their own worst enemy in a way. They are still running fine with well over 100K on them and many with 200K and 300K. When the head gasket fails due to miles/years/thermalcycling it seems catostrophic. In fact, it is easily repaired and the cost is offset by the fact that the engine needs little else. Forgotten is the total lack of wear on cylinder walls, no problems with the timing chains/cam drive, no need for "valve jobs" or head work, etcetera. About the only thing the engine ever needs is an occasional head gasket it seems so the overall repair costs on the engine in the field are pretty low.

Many of the head gasket problems seem like nightmares because of poor service procedures and mechanics unwilling to read the service manual and follow the correct procedures. The engine is not very responsive to ham handed mechanics due to the high performance design and aluminum construction. If done correctly, the head bolt holes are easily repaired permanently and the head gasket is easy to replace. Reports of the engine being "unrepairable" are greatly exaggerating.

speedyman_2
08-05-04, 01:01 AM
Same for me. '98 STS. 93K miles. I drive it hard and take it to the drag strip. ALso, did a trip from California to Florida. Not one over heating problem. When I first got it a hose busted because I let someone work on it and they didn't put stuff back on right. Drove around 2 days with duct tape patching the hose. Bought a hose, installed it, and had the Dex Cool flushed and refilled. Runs like a dream.

jsantang
12-02-04, 01:39 PM
Anthony is right, I have a 98 Eldo, 136K miles. Had it for a few months. I drive it hard and fast, runs about 190 degrees on highway and about 200-220 idling, never much past middle of temp guage. I recommend all analog dash owners activate the digital readout for coolant temp through your DIC. (It is not shown by default on these models). The car runs smooth and cool, I am lucky with it insofaras the previous owner was a kid who wanted a fly ride and had alot of time to wash, wax, pamper it and maintain the engine properly. I've owned eldos since '81 (My first, a used 76 i got for $2000). I've got to admit the quality has constantly gotten better, no rust, pretty reliable now (on my '84, my old 4100 motor really sucked and died at 80,000 miles) These cars are awesome...

STS 310
12-02-04, 06:16 PM
:cool:

RLLOVETT
12-02-04, 08:01 PM
I'll add a point Anthony has made before--not much else breaks in these engines other than the HGs. Although we've logged a few at under (and WELL under) 100k, most of the reported head gasket probs are well ABOVE 100k. These cars don't rust (knock wood) and, although it's an expensive repair (that most are afraid to do) I don't think you can kick too much at a vehicle that's delivered over 100+k miles.

ellives
12-02-04, 08:58 PM
Just drive the car like ya stole it!!!! Work hard and buy better cars down the road.

I am an old man who fought a war before ya'll were born. Don't let fear enter yer life. Kick ass and drive a Cadillac.

Live , lil Bros!!......Live!!!

I like this guy ^

CBOYLE
12-02-04, 09:10 PM
I took my wifes 1999 sls into caddy dealer for cooling system service (five years old) mechanic was draining system and had no intentions of installing tablets in lower hose. he said was not necessary! Well I was prepared for this. Thus I bought along the service manual and showed him where it said that two pellets were to be installed in lower hose after being crushed. He was a good guy and said that was news to him! He complied with my request, thus he earned a good cash tip.
Perhaps such mistakes may account for motor failure ?
My two cents.
Charlie

Spyder
12-03-04, 01:29 AM
I like this guy ^


I'd hafta agree with ya on this one. If any of ya'll are ever in Northern California, stop by for a beer...I got the kegerator up and running not too long ago, so I've got fresh beer on tap 24 hours a day. :) My new li'l pride and joy. Currently stocked with "Another Pale" from Another Beer and Wine Co. in Oroville, CA. An exceptional pale with a 7.0% content that is much better tasting than Sierra Nevada's...and cheaper than a keg of bud light. Sorry...just had to rave for a minute, cause I really like this stuff. :):):)

chevyorange
12-06-04, 02:22 PM
I was pleasantly surprised that my independent mechanic, when flushing my Caddy, knew to put in the conditioner! I was going to see if they did it themselves and was ready to do that last part myself. But they did!

Adam

Dooman
12-07-04, 05:49 PM
I don't know how anyone could miss the label right on the radiator shroud..
Says right there in balck and white to do the treatment!

chevyorange
12-07-04, 05:49 PM
Never noticed that! Excellent!

peteski
12-08-04, 12:42 AM
Never noticed that! Excellent!

That is exactly how people miss it - they don't bother to read no stinkin' labels...

:rolleyes2

Peteski

STS 310
12-08-04, 01:14 AM
From the data collected, seems like maintenance is the live or die factor for this engine.
Meaning, and if I am not correct please inform, this engines cooling system MUST BE MAINTAINED FROM DAY ONE with the proper procedure.

STS 310
12-08-04, 01:19 AM
Also, my Cadillac exper tech says that when you overheat, DO NOT RELY ON THE LIMP HOME MODE. He says that more times than not, it DOESNT WORK and its not worth you limping home and blowing the HEADGASKET. He suggests that if you overheat, SHUT DOWN IMEDIATELY and tow. HE does about 3 timeserts a week. Info provided by Tipps Cadillac, Torrance CA.

chevyorange
12-08-04, 12:27 PM
That is exactly how people miss it - they don't bother to read no stinkin' labels...

:rolleyes2

Peteski
I've had the car for 6 weeks!

RLLOVETT
12-08-04, 05:38 PM
STS 310--I nursed mine with failing head gaskets for weeks and had to rely on the Limp-Home mode a total of about 6 times without adverse effect. If you read some of Anthony's stuff on this subject, it sounds like the engine is designed to not blow itself up and is pretty good at it. When I had the gaskets done there were no cracks, melted connectors, warps, etc. and the car has been running fine since except for the belt, top motor mounts, and fuel pump...

haymaker
12-08-04, 05:59 PM
RLLOVETT.

Sounds like you are an old had at the limp-home mode. It happened once to my 97 SLS. Did you notice all the noise the engine makes as it cools? Sounds like someone hitting the engine with a two pound hammer about every ten to fifteen seconds.

Spyder
12-09-04, 01:23 AM
hehe...mine sounded like that every half a second when I lost a rod bearing. :) Not pretty at all.

caddywhizkid
12-15-04, 10:32 PM
The purpose of the tablets is to seal the coolant system. It dosen't matter if they are in the hose, the tank, anywhere, as long as they are in the coolant system they are working. As far as limp home mode goes, if that happens that engine is in serious trouble. I'm a caddy tech in a very high volume shop and I VERY RARELY see LIMP HOME MODE. Last time I saw limp home mode was in in a Trailblazer that had a severly blown motor

Anthony Cipriano
12-16-04, 12:27 AM
It dosen't matter if they are in the hose, the tank, anywhere, as long as they are in the coolant system they are working.




Putting the supplement into the Northstar surge tank directly is to be AVOIDED. At the very least it will be ineffective as it does not circulate thru the cooling sytem and will just lie in the surge tank. At the worst, putting 6 of the pellets into the surge tank has been known to clog the hose leading from the surge tank to the water pump inlet causing pump cavitation and overheating as a result.

ALWAYS PUT THE COOLANT SUPPLEMENT INTO ONE OF THE RADIATOR HOSES OF A NORTHSTAR ENGINE.

By design the pressurized surge tank has very little bulk flow of the coolant. It serves as a pressure vessel at the high point in the system to pressurize the water pump inlet to prevent cavitation. There is very little flow thru the surge tank by desing so as to allow deareation of the coolant. Low flow means that the coolant supplement particles that are simply in suspension in the coolant can not be distributed thru the system to work effectively.

The coolant supplement (as has been discussed many times on the forum) does not really dissolve in the coolant but the tiny fibers or particles of the supplement are carried in suspension thru the cooling system. If a large quantity of the supplement is introduced into the surge tank it will usually just settle to the floor of the surge tank. It can, before it gets dispersed, clog the hose to the water pump and block the feed from the surge tank causing pump cavitation and overheating symptoms.

Best to pop a hose off, put the supplement in and replace the hose. That way the supplement is installed into the bulk flow path of the cooling sytem where it can be dispersed rapidly and effectively. That is where the factory installs it originally.

an01sts
12-16-04, 02:55 AM
Viewint this from a common sense look, Anthony's explaination seems more logical. I have no clue but aren't the tablets like toilet bowl biscuts that go in the pisser? Where they errode over time. Also, in the resivor, it seems as if it also acts as a sludge tank: The coolent goes in under pressure, and the car is turned off, with the coolant sitting idle; then, it slowly returns, with zero agitation of the contents of the resivor.

I wonder whether flat-rate short-cuts and GM procedgures are in conflit here? In this one, there is a clear cut answer. As a former Cadillac tech, I know for fact that Cadillac has proper procedgures for every repair that is conceviable, right down to turning each screw in the trim.

Does anyone have access to the factory service manuals?

I understand the need to flat rate whatever, and I'm not going to judge the quaity of lack thereof of a flat rate repair. (Because--in my arena--it's documented in GM Archives that I was the baddest @$$-bad @$$ in America, I could beat all warrenty times on any Cadillac warrenty glass installation, some by half, one w/s in 1/5th of the warrenty time, so I didn't have to cut corners. Cash paid well, 3 to 1 to 5 to 1, @ 16.50 an hour, so there wasn't a need to rip anyone off.) The thing is that as owners not trying to beat the clock, there isn't any reason to flat rate anything.

peteski
12-16-04, 03:14 AM
Last time I saw limp home mode was in in a Trailblazer that had a severly blown motor

A trailblazer with a N* engine? Cool!
Or do Trailblazers use another type of aluminum engine which also uses the Limp Home mode?

Peteski

ellives
12-16-04, 08:12 AM
The purpose of the tablets is to seal the coolant system. It dosen't matter if they are in the hose, the tank, anywhere, as long as they are in the coolant system they are working. As far as limp home mode goes, if that happens that engine is in serious trouble. I'm a caddy tech in a very high volume shop and I VERY RARELY see LIMP HOME MODE. Last time I saw limp home mode was in in a Trailblazer that had a severly blown motor

Another self-appointed expert?

caddywhizkid
12-16-04, 06:37 PM
I never claimed to be an expert but I know my stuff. As for the pellets I will research this at work tomorrow if I am wrong I'll say I'm wrong.
The Trailblazer does not have a N*. Its 4.2l straightsix with limp home mode.

caddywhizkid
12-16-04, 06:43 PM
Notice: Do not add cold water to the cooling system with the engine at or above operating temperature. Adding cold water causes rapid cooling, resulting in possible engine damage.

NOTICE: When adding coolant, it is important that you use GM Goodwrench DEX-COOLŽ or HAVOLINEŽ DEX-COOLŽ coolant. If Coolant other than DEX-COOLŽ or HAVOLINEŽ DEX-COOLŽ is added to the system the engine coolant will require change sooner; at 50 000 km (30,000 mi) or 24 months.

Notice: Do not use a solution stronger than 70 percent antifreeze. Pure antifreeze can freeze at -22°C (-8°F).

Notice: This engine uses DEX-COOLŽ and GM coolant supplement (sealant) P/N 3634621 specifically designed for use in aluminum engines. Failure to use the engine coolant supplement (sealant) and the approved coolant antifreeze could result in major engine damage. When refilling the cooling system, add three pellets of the engine coolant supplement sealant GM P/N 3634621 to the lower radiator hose.

This is from si (service information) for those of you who dont know what that is its GM's answer to service manuals. I was wrong about the pellets

blb
12-16-04, 07:37 PM
The 1994 GM/Cadillac/Helms service manual states specifically that the coolant supplement tablets are to be put into the surge tank. This may have been revised in later service manuals, but I cannot verify that at this time.

As far as lack of maintenance is concerned, I have no doubt, that in many cases of headgasket failure in older Northstars, the lack of maintenance is a contributing factor.

However, lack of maintenance cannot be used as a valid argument when you see 2000 and 2001 model Northstars with well under 100,000 miles (which aren't even due yet for a coolant change according to factory maintenance specifications) that require the headgasket/timesert repair. The owners of those vehicles have a perfectly legitimate reason to never buy a Cadillac again, especially with GM's arrogant position, that a day after the warranty expires, you are on your own.

caddywhizkid
12-16-04, 07:53 PM
I agree with you on that one. Dexcool isn't supposed to be changed for 5yrs/150000 miles, in my opinion that is 100000 miles to late, but I dont think it has anything to do with why N*'s blow head gaskets. I think its the fact that the headbolt holes are aluminum. They should put some steel inserts in at the factory, just like the timeserts we use. Even this is not caddys biggest problem though, its the burning oil. Cadillac really should go back to the drawing board with the N*. I know a lot of you love this engine but it does have some serious problems. After all its GM's flagship engine in the cream of the crop, the CADILLAC.

ellives
12-16-04, 08:18 PM
I agree with you on that one. Dexcool isn't supposed to be changed for 5yrs/150000 miles, in my opinion that is 100000 miles to late, but I dont think it has anything to do with why N*'s blow head gaskets. I think its the fact that the headbolt holes are aluminum. They should put some steel inserts in at the factory, just like the timeserts we use. Even this is not caddys biggest problem though, its the burning oil. Cadillac really should go back to the drawing board with the N*. I know a lot of you love this engine but it does have some serious problems. After all its GM's flagship engine in the cream of the crop, the CADILLAC.

So you're saying Dexcool only lasts 50k miles? What results are you seeing when it's left in longer? I have a mechanic friend that claims "Dexcool is keeping us in business." I think he's saying the same thing you are.

Ells

caddywhizkid
12-16-04, 08:42 PM
If you could see what Dexcool has done to 4.3 motors especially in s10 blazers you would never use it again. The stuff turns into mud, it looks just like someone took off the cap and poured in thick mud. GM has a tsb on this and it takes 3 hours of labor and 3 hours of run time to flush this stuff out, and sometimes it takes two of these flushes. In caddys its not so bad but I still think its junk. use green and flush when dirty. Your friend is right.

ellives
12-16-04, 08:49 PM
If you could see what Dexcool has done to 4.3 motors especially in s10 blazers you would never use it again. The stuff turns into mud, it looks just like someone took off the cap and poured in thick mud. GM has a tsb on this and it takes 3 hours of labor and 3 hours of run time to flush this stuff out, and sometimes it takes two of these flushes. In caddys its not so bad but I still think its junk. use green and flush when dirty. Your friend is right.

Has anyone had any luck / results using Prestone extended life coolant? It's green but it can be used in any vehicle (so the label claims.)

Ells

caddywhizkid
12-16-04, 09:03 PM
I'd use it

Anthony Cipriano
12-16-04, 09:08 PM
DexCool is an excellent product, is well proven and is the correct thing to use in a Northstar from 1996 on. It will not damage anything and is important to maintaining the corrosion protect that is vital to keeping an all aluminum engine long lived.

You are comparing two different situations with DexCool in a Northstar (all aluminum) and a 4.3 (all cast iron.)

The older, green silicated coolants coat the internal surfaces of the block and head coolant passages with silicates to prevent corrosion. This provides a measure of corrosion protection if the surface is dry momentarily. Unfortunately, in an aluminum engine, the silicates deplete very rapidly and the coolant needs to be replaced constantly to prevent the corrosion inhibitors from becoming depleted. In a cast iron engine, depleted corrosion inhibitors allow the cast iron to rust, the coolant starts looking dirty and you know it is time to change the coolant. In an aluminum engine depleted corrosion inhibitors allow the aluminum to start to oxidize and hot deposition transport corrosion starts to take place. This is insiduous as the coolant stays nice and green even though it is depleted and the engine and gaskets are corroding and failing. DexCool eliminates this eventuality by maintaining its corrosion preventing characteristics for virtually forever.

In the 4.3, the failure mode mentioned is not directly the DexCool's fault. The problem is caused by running the system low on coolant. When low, the head surfaces inside the coolant passages dry out momentarily and rust. The unfortunate aspect of the DexCool is that it will not protect against corrosion if it is not there. It does not "plate" or coat the surface like the older silicated coolants did. In any case, just like the cast iron engine would turn the coolant muddy and rusty looking when the corrosion inhibitors failed with the green stuff - the heads rust every time the (low) coolant sloshes around and then when coolant comes sloshing along it washes the rust off and into suspension. This keeps happening until the system is so full of rust that it takes the process prescribed in the service bulletine to clean it out. If it was just maintained and kept full all the time it would never have had the problem. Some may fault the DexCool for not being "tolerant" of extended operation (we are talking months and months of operation not minutes or hours) with low coolant but there is also a measure of owner neglect in the picture.

The DexCool does not eat anything or cause degradation of seals or anything as some people imply and suggest. I would heartily endorse DexCool for any GM engine - just keep the system full as you should.

Anthony Cipriano
12-16-04, 09:22 PM
Viewint this from a common sense look, Anthony's explaination seems more logical. I have no clue but aren't the tablets like toilet bowl biscuts that go in the pisser? Where they errode over time. Also, in the resivor, it seems as if it also acts as a sludge tank: The coolent goes in under pressure, and the car is turned off, with the coolant sitting idle; then, it slowly returns, with zero agitation of the contents of the resivor.




Not too sure of the description above. The toilet bowl pellets dissolve over time. The material actually does dissolve in water so it will dissolve and "disappear" over time. As previously stated, the coolant supplement does not dissolve. The material simply is suspended in the coolant. The tiny particles disperse into the coolant and are held in suspension. Not the same as dissolving. Without flow and agitation the coolant supplement material cannot disperse so it just lies there where is was installed and it CAN block the hose from the surge tank to the water pump.

There is some active flow thru the surge tank - just very little. The only flow into the surge tank is the vapor vent line flow from the top of the water crossover casting/water pump cavity. This is a very small flow as it is orificed to limit the flow thru that part of the system. The surge tank is there as a "coolant recovery reservoir", an expansion tank and a pressurized vessel so as to provide a constant source of pressure supplied to the water pump inlet to prevent cavitation of the water pump. Nothing happens in the surge tank when the engine is turned off. The coolant will continue to heat up and expand slightly after shutdown so the level in the surge tank will increase slightly but no substantial flow occurs as imagined in the post.

The pressurized surge tank will act as sort of a "sludge tank" I guess as it is a very quiet area of coolant by design so as to allow deareation of the coolant. Aereated coolant is very poor for heat transfer so the surge tank is vital in a high flow rate system to keeping the coolant free of air for maximum heat transfer.

caddywhizkid
12-18-04, 01:16 AM
B.S. Dexcool is junk and everyone knows it. Why is it that 5.7s and 3.1s errode heads away even when full of coolant.

caddywhizkid
12-18-04, 01:37 AM
Anthony, do you have any real world experience? I deal on a daily basis with neglected cars, cared for cars, babied cars, and beat on cars. I speak from experience. Why do N*s burn oil if they are so great. Let me guess only a very small percentage burn oil right? Thats why there are multiple bulletins on this, just like only a small percentage leak from the case halfs also a bulletin on this. I know for a fact that it takes more than a small percentage to release a bulletin. I know what I see, in the real world.

caddywhizkid
12-18-04, 01:40 AM
I almost forgot. Why is there a bulletin describing to replace the pistons for ticking noises? N* best engine ever lol lol lol lol.

One word to describe the N* JUNK!

haymaker
12-18-04, 01:48 AM
Kid.
How many N*s have you torn down during the head gasket repair and found loose head bolts? This the known first removal of the heads.

caddywhizkid
12-18-04, 01:51 AM
Plenty, they are not loose they have the threads ripped out, like i said before piss-poor quality control.
edit:
Sorry (kid?) over my head.

haymaker
12-18-04, 02:08 AM
No, I am talking about loose with stand oil in the bolt holes less than 20lb/ft torque to remove. You use an air wrench no doubt to remove the head bolts so it is a little tuff to notice this condition.

caddywhizkid
12-18-04, 02:15 AM
No I dont use an air wrench, used to that helps to strip out the threads. I have seen this but, not 20 lb/ft.

ellives
12-18-04, 08:05 AM
B.S. Dexcool is junk and everyone knows it. Why is it that 5.7s and 3.1s errode heads away even when full of coolant.

I always find it humorous when a debate degrades into an "everyone knows" or "everyone does" this or that discussion. It signals the lack of any real facts.

Why would you use a nickname like "caddywhizkid" when you clearly have a predisposition against Cadillac and GM?

Ells

Katshot
12-18-04, 08:58 AM
You know what I find humorous? The way people defend the Northstar engine. I can tell you from experience (and I'm sure I've "experieneced" more Northstars first hand than probably anyone here), that the Northstar is an interesting and maybe even admirable engine "ON PAPER". But in the REAL WORLD it's been a disaster for MANY Cadillac owners, dealers, and Cadillac itself. Other than the engine's performance attributes, I feel it's no better than the HT4100.
With all due respect to Anthony, I must point out that to claim that the REAL reason for Northstar head gasket failures is "lack of proper maintenance", is ridiculous. Cadillac installed Dex-Cool in all their engines starting in '95 I think it was, and claimed a service interval of 5 years or 100,000 miles. Now if you look at all the warranty claims including Northstar head gasket failures, I think you'll find that most if not ALL happened well before the 100,000 mile mark. I had roughly 250 vehicles in our fleet (the largest all-Cadillac fleet in the country as a matter of fact), and we bought approx. 120-150 new Cadillacs every year during the mid to late 90's. And I can tell you that an extremely high percentage of our Northstars had head gasket failures (some repeated failures after dealer repairs), and virtually ALL happened at well below the 100,000 mile mark. I can also tell you that during that time, Cadillac engineering KNEW what was causing the head gasket failures and I'll clue you, it wasn't improper maintenance!
One last point, Dex-Cool HAS been a problem for many people over the years. Yes, it provides a service for the aluminum engines but it also manages to cause clogging of several coolant passages, most commonly the heater core.
I removed the Dex-Cool from my car years ago after finding that it had clogged my heater core, and also had allowed a good deal of corrosion to form in my cooling system. Unfortunately, I bought my car used so I couldn't help what had been done to it in the past.
I think the CaddyWhizKid has some valid points and should not be discredited simply because he doesn't share the rose-colored glasses that many Northstar owners here do. The guy's seen MUCH more evidence first hand than any factory engineer has. At least give him that. As to what his impressions are and his opinions revolving the Northstar, they are obviously his, and they are subjective of course. I think you'll find the truth about the Northstar is somewhere in between him and Anthony, but I would tend to side a little more with the "kid" since I lived through the mess myself. Why do you think I drive a Cadillac with a Chevy engine? ;)

ellives
12-18-04, 09:30 AM
You know what I find humorous? The way people defend the Northstar engine. I can tell you from experience (and I'm sure I've "experieneced" more Northstars first hand than probably anyone here), that the Northstar is an interesting and maybe even admirable engine "ON PAPER". But in the REAL WORLD it's been a disaster for MANY Cadillac owners, dealers, and Cadillac itself. Other than the engine's performance attributes, I feel it's no better than the HT4100.
With all due respect to Anthony, I must point out that to claim that the REAL reason for Northstar head gasket failures is "lack of proper maintenance", is ridiculous. Cadillac installed Dex-Cool in all their engines starting in '95 I think it was, and claimed a service interval of 5 years or 100,000 miles. Now if you look at all the warranty claims including Northstar head gasket failures, I think you'll find that most if not ALL happened well before the 100,000 mile mark. I had roughly 250 vehicles in our fleet (the largest all-Cadillac fleet in the country as a matter of fact), and we bought approx. 120-150 new Cadillacs every year during the mid to late 90's. And I can tell you that an extremely high percentage of our Northstars had head gasket failures (some repeated failures after dealer repairs), and virtually ALL happened at well below the 100,000 mile mark. I can also tell you that during that time, Cadillac engineering KNEW what was causing the head gasket failures and I'll clue you, it wasn't improper maintenance!
One last point, Dex-Cool HAS been a problem for many people over the years. Yes, it provides a service for the aluminum engines but it also manages to cause clogging of several coolant passages, most commonly the heater core.
I removed the Dex-Cool from my car years ago after finding that it had clogged my heater core, and also had allowed a good deal of corrosion to form in my cooling system. Unfortunately, I bought my car used so I couldn't help what had been done to it in the past.
I think the CaddyWhizKid has some valid points and should not be discredited simply because he doesn't share the rose-colored glasses that many Northstar owners here do. The guy's seen MUCH more evidence first hand than any factory engineer has. At least give him that. As to what his impressions are and his opinions revolving the Northstar, they are obviously his, and they are subjective of course. I think you'll find the truth about the Northstar is somewhere in between him and Anthony, but I would tend to side a little more with the "kid" since I lived through the mess myself. Why do you think I drive a Cadillac with a Chevy engine? ;)

I agree the truth is probably somewhere in between. This ALL being said, "the kid" was CLEARLY wrong about the pellets in the cooling system. Given his brash style it makes one wonder how many other areas he claims to be knowledgeable about and isn't.

It DOES seem like GM has done themselves a dis-service with things like claiming a long lifespan for Dexcool when it seems the duration should be shorter. Of course I have often felt the same about the oil change interval and always changed at 3K miles even though the recommended interval is something like 6K.

I suspect part of the problem is an expectation on GM's part that mechanics will read and understand recommended service procedures that are non-traditional and having the traditional procedures be detrimental to the life of the engine. I have heard many stories of people topping off Dexcool-based systems with traditional coolant and discovering problems later on. I haven't seen Anthony talk to this specific scenario but it seems to be a common issue.

In the end, most car owners want a product that requires little to no service during the first 100K miles. I suppose getting to this end game requires non-traditional strategies. The challenge is to get there without picking up the old Jaguar reputation of being "high maintenance" that lives on today as far as I know.

Ells

Katshot
12-18-04, 10:43 AM
Agreed. The issue has always been that the OEMs want all your service dollars and also don't like the DIY'r "playing" with things under the hood. So you're kind of stuck with a Catch-22 scenario. I know the "Kid" came on a little strong with his screen name and tag-line but I think he means well. The problem is that many Cadillac line mechanics are NOT Cadillac fans, and he's obviously an example of this. They have the same issues that most professional dealer techs develope over time. They see the same product day in, and day out. They see the same problems over and over. They work the "machine" by providing the OEM's with feedback on the problems they see in the service bays, but often get the feeling that their input falls on deaf ears. In a way, that's true. I was in a position to offer feedback directly to the Cadillac engineers, and due to the nature of our business, was able to give them feedback that would take YEARS to get from dealers in just a couple months (we put 100K - 140K miles per year on our Caddies) yet STILL I too felt that our input was ignored at times. I believe the reason for this is that for the most part, the engineers are more interested in "future" product, than they are in "current" product.

ellives
12-18-04, 11:18 AM
Agreed. The issue has always been that the OEMs want all your service dollars and also don't like the DIY'r "playing" with things under the hood. So you're kind of stuck with a Catch-22 scenario. I know the "Kid" came on a little strong with his screen name and tag-line but I think he means well. The problem is that many Cadillac line mechanics are NOT Cadillac fans, and he's obviously an example of this. They have the same issues that most professional dealer techs develope over time. They see the same product day in, and day out. They see the same problems over and over. They work the "machine" by providing the OEM's with feedback on the problems they see in the service bays, but often get the feeling that their input falls on deaf ears. In a way, that's true. I was in a position to offer feedback directly to the Cadillac engineers, and due to the nature of our business, was able to give them feedback that would take YEARS to get from dealers in just a couple months (we put 100K - 140K miles per year on our Caddies) yet STILL I too felt that our input was ignored at times. I believe the reason for this is that for the most part, the engineers are more interested in "future" product, than they are in "current" product.

I'm not so sure the "kid" meant well. His nickname implies he's a fan of the problem but yet had nothing good to say and indeed provided misinformation. In the end I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish. These boards are self adjusting along the way seem to police and fix themselves.

I don't believe he said he actually worked for a dealer. Only that it was a high volume service center. This is really one of the challenges of the multi-brand dealership model today and even moreso with a company that services everything. How good can they actually get with any one brand? If they use the same methods across the all product lines "because they do it day in and day out" they will likely always do things the wrong way on some vehicles and get bit.

Heck I know I posted recently about a friend of mine who is a self employed mechanic who did a head gasket job for a mutual friend. I asked him if the coolant had ever been changed and his response was " we live in Florida so nobody ever does." This is a guy I respect for his mechanical skills but clearly is uninformed. How many more of these guys are out there? A whole pile I'm sure.

In the end it pays to be an informed consumer and this forum is one of the best ways to get and stay informed about the Cadillac product. It comes in handy when I need to explain to my mechanic how I want the coolant changed. I'm still happy with my 2 Northstars.

Ells

JimD
12-18-04, 11:40 AM
.... These boards are self adjusting along the way seem to police and fix themselves.

....In the end it pays to be an informed consumer and this forum is one of the best ways to get and stay informed about the Cadillac product....
Ells

Take those two thoughts to the bank!!

The self policing does work if you wait long enough. The risk is that a lurker will act on bad advice and possibly turn a fixable situation into a disaster. 'Tis the price of "free" information.

Katshot
12-18-04, 01:06 PM
I'm not so sure the "kid" meant well. His nickname implies he's a fan of the problem but yet had nothing good to say and indeed provided misinformation. In the end I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish. These boards are self adjusting along the way seem to police and fix themselves.

I don't believe he said he actually worked for a dealer. Only that it was a high volume service center. This is really one of the challenges of the multi-brand dealership model today and even moreso with a company that services everything. How good can they actually get with any one brand? If they use the same methods across the all product lines "because they do it day in and day out" they will likely always do things the wrong way on some vehicles and get bit.

Heck I know I posted recently about a friend of mine who is a self employed mechanic who did a head gasket job for a mutual friend. I asked him if the coolant had ever been changed and his response was " we live in Florida so nobody ever does." This is a guy I respect for his mechanical skills but clearly is uninformed. How many more of these guys are out there? A whole pile I'm sure.

In the end it pays to be an informed consumer and this forum is one of the best ways to get and stay informed about the Cadillac product. It comes in handy when I need to explain to my mechanic how I want the coolant changed. I'm still happy with my 2 Northstars.

Ells

You bring up a great point. And that's one of the main advantages the dealerships have over your average independent repair shops. The dealerships have brand-specific training and tools. They are more often than not, the BEST place to have any particular car repaired. At least they SHOULD be. There are still mechanics that make mistakes. Mechanics that mis-diagnose (usually based on experience rather than actual diagnosis), and certainly mechanics that take short-cuts in an effort to get jobs done faster. These can all lead to bad results for the consumer, and poor reputations for the dealerships. Sometimes, it IS possible to get better work done at independent shops, especially ones that specialize in particular makes, models, or types of repairs, but OVERALL, it's generally safer to go to the dealership.

ellives
12-18-04, 04:10 PM
You bring up a great point. And that's one of the main advantages the dealerships have over your average independent repair shops. The dealerships have brand-specific training and tools. They are more often than not, the BEST place to have any particular car repaired. At least they SHOULD be. There are still mechanics that make mistakes. Mechanics that mis-diagnose (usually based on experience rather than actual diagnosis), and certainly mechanics that take short-cuts in an effort to get jobs done faster. These can all lead to bad results for the consumer, and poor reputations for the dealerships. Sometimes, it IS possible to get better work done at independent shops, especially ones that specialize in particular makes, models, or types of repairs, but OVERALL, it's generally safer to go to the dealership.

Agreed - although the dealership is no guarantee. I had my local dealer diagnose and engine skipping problem a while back. Their solution was to replace the plugs and wires. The labor to replace the plugs alone worked out to be $25 a plug! Outrageous! On top of this when they started the job they discovered the fuel regulator was leaking and needed to be replaced. To this day I believe there was nothing wrong with those plugs and wires (car only had 60K miles.) So instead of a $150 job for a fuel regulator it cost $1400 for the plugs, wires, regular and 60K mile servicing. The car has been happy ever since and even been back once for the fuel rail replacement.

I tend to evaluate the problem up front and decide whether it's something for the dealer or something my regular mechanic can handle (I trust him and he'll tell me if the problem is out of his league.) I try to flow as much business his way as I can.

Ells

caddywhizkid
12-19-04, 11:08 AM
I do work at the dealer. How else would I know about Caddys corporate bulletins. Also I do like caddys just not the N*. Altough it does keep us in buisness.

blb
12-19-04, 01:09 PM
I'd be interested to hear Anthony's thoughts on why the headgaskets are failing on Northstar's, less that 5 years old with under 100,000 miles, since the usual excuse of inadequate cooling system maintenance can't be used in those cases.

Also, I think GM does a disservice to the orgainization when it provides the higher ranking engineers and managers with the free use of new GM vehicles, and replaces them every 6 months to a year. Its easy to say a headgasket problem is no big deal when you're not the guy who either has to shell out big bucks for the repair, or spend many hours of your own time turning bolts. Because of this, the bad engineering decisions and cost-cutting programs directly responsible for poor quality tend to be repeated time and again.