: Notice to all Northstar Technicans; including the DIY crowd-



97EldoCoupe
07-16-10, 05:53 PM
This is going to be a short message.

Use GM seals and gaskets. I won't specify why at this time but I can definitely tell you the quality difference; if you go in depth; is substancial.

Trust my advice and spring for the extra $$ when you do your engine work. GM's engineering dept. knows what it's doing; Fel-Pro is a cheap aftermarket company. Cheap is not quite the correct word at this point.

All head gasket jobs are halted until further notice.

STSS
07-16-10, 05:55 PM
Good luck with this one Jake.... I'll file that info for later.

mitchjagger
07-16-10, 05:59 PM
Now im interested to hear more. :confused:

tateos
07-16-10, 07:19 PM
Pretty strong words, Jake!

97EldoCoupe
07-16-10, 07:38 PM
Yeah when you find a defect in design with Fel-Pro's seals; to this extent; you lose all faith in that company.

I will never trust Fel-Pro seals again; maybe their exhaust gaskets- considering those are MLS- that's it.

I'm so glad I caught this in time. I have to do a bit of research on the differences between GM and Fel-Pro and put in an order with the dealer Monday morning.

97EldoCoupe
07-16-10, 07:42 PM
I will let more info out later once I get down to the bottom of things. But for now; my advice would be; use GM seals.

Ranger
07-16-10, 11:28 PM
Oh oh!

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 12:43 AM
Rear main seal.

I have customer complaints regarding a leak from above the black plate that connects the engine and trans. I install them all the same way; I've taught my employees how to use the Kent-Moore tool; all flywheel bolts are sealed as well.

Four instances in a short time.

Customer of mine; also my life insurance agent; came by for an oil change about 9,000 miles after a complete re-build & re-seal. The pan was bone-dry; no seepage or drops. Nothing.

Friend of mine. I called him this evening. No leaks. Another friend of mine; black 97 Aurora. No leaks. My dad's '01 DTS, no leaks. Another two owners of '99 STS's that I know; I inquired. No leaks.

But these four.

I cut a GM rear main cartridge seal apart and also a Fel-Pro seal. The GM seal has a smaller lip and allows the oil to run into the drain; the Fel-Pro seal holds more oil instead. The GM seal uses a softer rubber compound. The Fel-Pro; hard rubber compound. The GM seal has a double rail seal with an extra lip. The Fel-Pro; only a single.

Nevertheless; some cars are leaking and some are not.

The #5 rear crankshaft journal is fed oil through the main bolt holes; like the rest. All of the oil fed to the #5 main journal/bearings HAS to run around the rear main seal and down through that drain hole.

Oil level.

If the oil pan is overfilled, that drain passage begins to fill up. This means the crankshaft seal area begins to fill up and the oil pressure; at anywhere between 8 psi and 70 psi depending on engine temp and RPM, is forcing that oil under pressure out the rear main seal area and also forcing it through the drain. If the oil level is kept at the proper level, the oil will drain freely into the pan.

I had a complaint about a car that was dripping bad. I took it back and checked. Had it running for a 1/2 hour. Two drops on my concrete shop floor over that time span. Nevertheless; that wasn't right. I figured "ok. Time to pull the engine again". I drained the cooling system and let the oil out. Between 12 and 13 quarts of oil came out of that crankcase.

Right now I'm at a loss.

I always make sure that drain hole is free of blockage of RTV sealant and whatnot; so I think I can rule that out.

I've been doing extensive R&D on what's going on all afternoon. This has to be remedied before I proceed any further. I've taken the bottom part of an engine and filled with carefully measured oil. With one of my factory-equipped dipsticks and tubes; 1 liter overfilled comes up as "exactly full" on the dipstick. One liter (just over a quart) over full brings the level very close to that drain back for the rear main seal.

I will post pics soon- you can see exactly in the photos; how far oil comes up in the pan when it's full.

This $h1t is not supposed to be happening. I need to find out the cause and the cure REAL fast. One of those four cars is coming back to me tomorrow because of an oil leak. Last one was a blown power steering pressure line; we'll see what's up with this one tomorrow.

Even if the Fel-Pro seals are holding up; I'm not sure if I want to continue using them. The GM cartridge seal seems to be twice the quality of the Federal Mogul manufactured unit.

I believe in keeping costs down; as long as the parts I use are still top quality. Fel-Pro is supposed to be the best in the aftermarket; but I don't care; with the amount of work to split the engine and trans; money is no object when it comes to the rear main seal. It's near $100 here in Canada for the GM part. I get a bit of a discount; not a whole lot; but some.

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 01:02 AM
This is the correct level when full. 7 quarts or 6.6 liters (without filter, with a filter it's supposed to be 7.5 or 7.1 liters). Keep in mind an oil pick-up tube is normally sitting there in the center.

(http://www.northstarperformance.com/oilpan5.jpg

98eldo32v
07-17-10, 05:19 AM
"With one of my factory-equipped dipsticks and tubes; 1 liter overfilled comes up as "exactly full" on the dipstick. One liter (just over a quart) over full brings the level very close to that drain back for the rear main seal."

This might sound crazy. If the factory dipstick is over filling the motor by a quart, is it possible that the dipsticks are being manufactured wrong? I really can't see that, but I suppose anything can happen.

This really doesn't sound good.

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 09:43 AM
Actually yes- there were TSB's on that subject; that if you go according to the dipsticks they are being overfilled. If the level were to constantly be above the pan seal; I don't think that would be the best scenario. The correct level is mid-way in the crosshatchs on the dipstick I do believe.

That one customer of mine who overfilled his crankcase by 5-6 quarts: I gave him fresh oil and filter at no charge and sent him on his way. It did not leak after that. If there's too much oil it has no where to go. The first place it will seek to escape wll be the front and rear crankshaft seals. Overfilling by this amount is very dangerous; if a piston slaps that oil hard enough on the down-stroke; you can budget for a new engine.

Submariner409
07-17-10, 09:47 AM
The owner's manual speaks about proper oil levels and indicates that the upper hash mark is the highest the oil should ever be.

The subject of MANY posts in here, the current GM TSB for FWD Northstar oil fill procedures also gives specific guidance for oil level.

The result of all those words is that the normal oil level indication for a Northstar engine, properly filled with 7.5 quarts of oil, is just about halfway up the dipstick hashmark :

<----ADD XXXXXXXXXXX OPERATING RANGE <-------

If you habitually carry the oil level at or just above the top hash mark you are running the engine with 0.5 to 1 quart overfill, and that's also addressed in the TSB as being a contributor to complaints of excess oil consumption: The engine will rapidly burn/leak that extra oil, so if you attempt to carry the level at the top hash mark you're simply throwing oil on the street. In truth, a Northstar will be perfectly happy with the oil at the bottom hash mark all the time. I carry the level at somewhere between the bottom mark and halfway and get 4,500 miles to a quart of Pennzoil 5W-30 synthetic.

Here's a hint: I use MILODON 8-quart pans on my marine Olds455 engines. MILODON says - "Fill the engine with the recommended pan volume of oil. Prefill the oil filter. Run the engine, shut down and check oil level. The observed oil level now on the dipstick is the proper FULL level. Mark the dipstick at that point."........ If you change your Northstar oil, prefill the filter and pour in exactly 7.0 quarts of oil you will see the dipstick result.

codewize
07-17-10, 10:58 AM
When I do an oil change I put 7 quarts in. With 7 quarts in the engine I'm just about where the red X is. So that seems that the specified 7.5 quarts would almost get us to the top of the cross thatching, no?

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 01:13 PM
Too many people are overfilling. I see this constantly. I just don't know at this point whether to blame the seals; or the oil levels. 12 quarts is insane.

Necrosan
07-17-10, 02:50 PM
12 quarts is insane.
Customer put that much in?

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 03:12 PM
One- this was back in late fall.

I sent another customer back to Ohio recently; with 7.5 quarts in the pan; customer insisted it was a quart low and topped up; now leaking. Apparently from rear main seal.

ibm4mad
07-17-10, 08:32 PM
The owner's manual speaks about proper oil levels and indicates that the upper hash mark is the highest the oil should ever be.

The subject of MANY posts in here, the current GM TSB for FWD Northstar oil fill procedures also gives specific guidance for oil level.

The result of all those words is that the normal oil level indication for a Northstar engine, properly filled with 7.5 quarts of oil, is just about halfway up the dipstick hashmark :

<----ADD XXXXXXXXXXX OPERATING RANGE <-------

If you habitually carry the oil level at or just above the top hash mark you are running the engine with 0.5 to 1 quart overfill, and that's also addressed in the TSB as being a contributor to complaints of excess oil consumption: The engine will rapidly burn/leak that extra oil, so if you attempt to carry the level at the top hash mark you're simply throwing oil on the street. In truth, a Northstar will be perfectly happy with the oil at the bottom hash mark all the time. I carry the level at somewhere between the bottom mark and halfway and get 4,500 miles to a quart of Pennzoil 5W-30 synthetic. .....

I'd also like to add the fact that the same bulletin you are speaking of also very clearly states that with the NorthStar the oil should be checked with the engine hot, after it has been shut off at least 15 minutes. This will allow the oil to drain down and give the dipstick the most accurate reading.

This bulletin that gets talked about a lot is sticky'd in this section, "Northstar Performance and technicial discussion". It was posted by ranger and it says "Ring Cleaning Procedure."

97EldoCoupe
07-17-10, 09:51 PM
Yes. What Sub stated is correct in my eyes as well; that if the drain-backs are already full of oil; the oil pumped around the heads, etc. has nowhere to go. Either it leaks it out or has to burn it.

Four concerns regarding oil leaks is too much in a short time. It is my job to re-seal these engines so they will NOT leak.

I have one back here from Detroit right now. Blown power steering pressure hose. The mechanic this guy took it to could not pinpoint the leak and insisted it was the engine timing cover seal. If you turn the steering wheel; the blown line shoots out a steady stream of fluid; right on the accessory drive belt. It soaked the whole front of the engine; and travelled along the engine. The rear main seal area is dry- I checked with a flashlight and see no signs of leaking.

The GM rear main seal is considerably a better design IMO anyways; even if the Fel-Pro seals are holding up. List price in Canada is $94. I get a bit of a discount; but GM Parts Direct in the USA lists them FAR cheaper. I want to see if I can put in a volume order and get it below that amount.

I checked again with a couple of past customers today. No leaks.

The customer from Toronto who was going to bring his car back to me today for inspection of the leak had to cancel out. I'm hoping he will send me an email letting me know roughly where it's leaking from.

Ranger
07-17-10, 11:20 PM
When I do an oil change I put 7 quarts in. With 7 quarts in the engine I'm just about where the red X is. So that seems that the specified 7.5 quarts would almost get us to the top of the cross thatching, no?
Yeah, I too only use 7 qts. It's just easier.

mwise101
07-18-10, 10:41 AM
Good thing to know!!

sts2980
07-18-10, 12:28 PM
Jake,
Almost 3 thousand klicks since I got my car from you, Dry as a bone.
I have resisted the temptation to add oil, despite that darn sensor malfunction that is telling me to everytime I start the car.
Johnny

97EldoCoupe
07-18-10, 02:35 PM
Thanks Johnny- I have about 2150 oil level sensors left; I can either send you one with the keys or swing by my shop sometime; installation free of charge.

In regards to my comments against Federal Mogul gaskets; I received an interesting email regarding those comments. The author of that email is observing this.

I am a citizen who is entitled to my own opinions; and therefore I will express them in any way I please. If at any given time there is a company producing products that I rely on in my business practices; that are failing, I will voice my concerns not only to the company but also to the public so they can learn from my bad experiences. They will not reimburse me for my labor to repair issues as they arise. Anyone knows that.

Federal Mogul is beginning to get cheap. No longer are the exhaust gaskets MLS like they used to be; and should be as the OEM was. I am not going to live my life with zipped lips. How about National? They produce seals with a rubber compound that cannot handle oil. They get soft.

My posts are for the benefit for other forum members; so that when they do their head gasket replacement job themselves; they learn from my mistakes and experience. I hope I can guide them in the right direction. I can't make anyone follow my advice; but I'm here to offer it.

Federal Mogul can contact me directly if they have any issues regarding my comments.

I can already see that over time; as the Fel-Pro rear main seals will wear and begin to seep; the GM seals; according to their design; should hold up longer. I'm making the switch.

Submariner409
07-18-10, 02:48 PM
FWIW, Go back and take a look at Jake's oil pan full of oil.......Lotsa oil......now you know why the block halfcase is not only the main bearing carrier and stud (bolt) girdle but is also a very efficient windage tray and baffle: all that oil sloshing up into the crank throws during a hard turn would be a foamy mess.................

97EldoCoupe
07-19-10, 04:52 PM
I think I'm getting to the bottom of what's going on. Real quick. I just received some information. Everyone covers their own @$$. At the expense of mine.

My network shop list or the "INNRS" will soon be coming to a halt if this keeps up. Their mistakes are dragging my name into the ground.

tateos
07-20-10, 09:34 PM
Briefly, I used Felpro when I did my HG - always thought they were the best - now, I think you might be right, Jake - got a minor oil leak - rear part of the engine - rear main seal or oil pan - I installed the new design cartridge and used the special SPX tool also.

ejguillot
07-22-10, 07:28 PM
For the record, the level on the dipsitck with 7 quarts of fresh oil (prefill the filter, rest into the pan) is about 1mm above the bottom of the hash marks that show an acceptable range. I verified this when I did an oil change last night, the oil life went to 0% following a severe (gauge halfway into the red zone, A/C off and idle engine warning, but no camel mode) engine overheat last Saturday. From normal temps to red zone in a mile and a half.

Why did my engine (which was repaired for a headgasket problem with Jake's studs and Fel-Pro gaskets) overheat? The water pump tensioner pulley committed suicide and scattered its bearings all over my engine compartment. No working water pump belt = imminent meltdown! :bighead: I noticed it squealing rather badly about an hour before, but thought I would have time to run an errand and buy a replacement part to install the next day... wrong!

Had to do a field repair with a replacement from NAPA. To the credit of Jake's studs and the Fel-Pro gaskets, after repairs were complete the temp has stayed at the 12 o'clock position since. So I'm at least confident that Fel-Pro makes a decent MLS headgasket. (I didn't install their rear main seal, as I left my bottom end alone.)

tigers2007
07-25-10, 01:34 AM
I hope I can relate to this issue a little bit. I installed some headers on an '03 GMC 2500HD pickup 6.0V8 I had last year. I did an oil change a week before this repair and the oil level was perfect and the truck did not burn off oil. I replaced the oil dipstick tube as it was so rusty, it snapped in half when I had to take it off to get to the exhaust manifold. I called the dealer and ordered a new one. It came in and installed perfectly. I noticed that now the dipstick was reading that the engine was waaaay overfilled. This was not the case I though. I drained the oil and put new oil back in per the owners manual. Once again, the dipstick was reading that it was way over the hatched area. I called the dealer and verified the part number - they swore by it. I looked it up online and it matched. My best guess is that GM revised the tube AND the dipstick. VERY wierd. I sold the truck and advised the new owner to pass the story on plus I added a new "range" on the existing dipstick. Kinda scary...

BTW Jake - I just read your bit about the failure of Fel-Pro and how you have suspended operations, I hope just temporarily. Please take your time as I'm not in a huge rush for the black Deville from Detroit.

00 Deville
03-25-11, 12:30 AM
Jake, Just ran across this old thread....

What did you finally decide with the issues you were having with the Fel-Pro? What seals are you using now... OEM or Fel-Pro? I gathering the parts for my Stud job should I use the Fel-Pro Head set and the bottom end conversion set or go with OEM?

vincentm
03-25-11, 11:34 AM
I bought my gaskets from RockAuto...now im worried. Not sure what brand they are..

ThumperPup
03-25-11, 11:58 AM
i think rock auto has 3 brand gaskets they sell and from the looks of it for the 2000-05 northstar they dont have acdelco atleast when i was looking yesterday i didnt see a delco gasket

92Deville
03-25-11, 12:45 PM
I am also getting ready to tackle a stud job and am very curious what you decided Jake.

temptingf8
03-26-11, 02:12 AM
Yes. What Sub stated is correct in my eyes as well; that if the drain-backs are already full of oil; the oil pumped around the heads, etc. has nowhere to go. Either it leaks it out or has to burn it.

Four concerns regarding oil leaks is too much in a short time. It is my job to re-seal these engines so they will NOT leak.

I have one back here from Detroit right now. Blown power steering pressure hose. The mechanic this guy took it to could not pinpoint the leak and insisted it was the engine timing cover seal. If you turn the steering wheel; the blown line shoots out a steady stream of fluid; right on the accessory drive belt. It soaked the whole front of the engine; and travelled along the engine. The rear main seal area is dry- I checked with a flashlight and see no signs of leaking.

The GM rear main seal is considerably a better design IMO anyways; even if the Fel-Pro seals are holding up. List price in Canada is $94. I get a bit of a discount; but GM Parts Direct in the USA lists them FAR cheaper. I want to see if I can put in a volume order and get it below that amount.

I checked again with a couple of past customers today. No leaks.

The customer from Toronto who was going to bring his car back to me today for inspection of the leak had to cancel out. I'm hoping he will send me an email letting me know roughly where it's leaking from.

Hey Jake, not sure if you ever followed up with this but I figured you'd might like to know for your own benefit.

When reading through this thread I have a hunch that "the customer from Toronto" was Erik and your old Bonneville GXP. Due to personal/medical issues in his life, the car sat since summer and before I bought it in December, I made sure its oil leak was dealt with. At some point the power steering pressure hose was suspected and replaced - still new when I came to look at the car. It was still leaking pretty damn good, a drop or two per minute when running.

It got a new engine timing cover seal and has been bone dry ever since.

00 Deville
04-01-11, 11:55 PM
I am also getting ready to tackle a stud job and am very curious what you decided Jake.

For the record...
I checked in with him to see what he is currently using... he's using Fel-Pro on everything except... he's using OEM for the rear main seal.

ThumperPup
04-02-11, 12:02 AM
posted this in the other thread but figured for those who don' see it and might not see the reaspons
did you ask him why hes using OEM On the rear main
is there a flaw in felpro on that sail or do they not make a sail is the rear main sail cheaper oem maybe he got a better dail on it pehaps
did you ask him ?

00 Deville
04-02-11, 12:08 AM
For the record....

The Fel-Pro conversion kit actually comes with the rear main seal. It's my understanding that he's had a few come back with rear main seal leaks and has switched over to using the OEM rear main seal. Based on his advice I too will be using an OEM rear main seal even though the Fel-Pro kit I have also contains a rear main seal.

ThumperPup
04-02-11, 12:23 AM
i wonder how long they lasted the ones that came back with the leak
now im a bit peranoid maybe my mechanic did use felpro
wondring if there was a portion of time between when they came back with leak and if they make it past a surten time and all
so far close to 10k after todays driving and doing good but at this rate my warranty will be up in June or July and that would suck if it goes bad aafter that

00 Deville
04-02-11, 12:34 PM
Considering the number of HG's that he's done compared with the few that came back I wouldn't sweat it... but knowing beforehand going with an OEM seal is cheap insurance.

97EldoCoupe
04-02-11, 09:44 PM
I had some bad luck with the Fel-Pro seals. The upgraded GM seal (revised at some point in 2003) actually has an extra sealing edge that the Fel-Pro/GM 2000-2003 design does not. I want the best in my customers cars as well as my own. The exta $40 I have to spend is worth the peace of mind. It's only an extra $20 or so above Fel-Pro if you order from Chris @ Rippy - worth every red cent IMO.

ThumperPup
04-02-11, 10:11 PM
I had some bad luck with the Fel-Pro seals. The upgraded GM seal (revised at some point in 2003) actually has an extra sealing edge that the Fel-Pro/GM 2000-2003 design does not. I want the best in my customers cars as well as my own. The exta $40 I have to spend is worth the peace of mind. It's only an extra $20 or so above Fel-Pro if you order from Chris @ Rippy - worth every red cent IMO.

ok now thats what i remmber about it i thout it was the gaskets that changed new desighn sometime between 2001-03 but it was the Seal that they changed