: 98 Catera Head Gasket?

01-08-11, 03:44 PM

I am looking for some opinions. I have read a lot of the threads on here, but my problem is a little different. I have a 98 Catera, and I am wondering how to check if my head gasket is blown, without the car running (as it fails to start now).

I had a shop install a used engine almost a year ago. Despite my inquires, they did not suggest changing the gaskets before installation. About 6 months ago, I noticed oil burnoff, appearing to be coming from the valve cover gaskets. I ran into this problem with the old engine as well, and didn't think it was a big deal. About a month ago, I lost most power and have a bad engine shake. I pulled the plugs, had oil surrounding the plugs, covering the wires as well. I am guessing that the coil is shot, misfiring on drivers side only (as passenger side is dry).

I was thinking of going in and changing the valve cover gaskets and coil. But I also realized that I have the milkshake sludge on the oil cover and white smoke exhaust (symptoms of a blown head gasket?). However, the car has never overheated since engine replacement. I have never had to top up the coolant either. Could these symptoms be due to something else?

I just don't want to change the valve cover gaskets, then have to go back and do the head gaskets (which I think is beyond my abilities anyways)


01-09-11, 01:22 AM
My green car blew a head gasket without overheating out of nowhere. I thinks that was an age issue, at around 125k. You should have seen the old gasket... I believe one of the reasons for the sludge being present may be the oil cooler. Read about it.
I have done 2 head gasket changes on my cars and one of them was leaking coolant into the cylinder (#6 on the DRIVER's side) , making the engine smoke white and misfire like I was running a radical cam. The other one blew to the outside. Neither mixed oil with coolant, just leaked into different spots.

01-09-11, 03:35 PM
Since the car has been sitting for a while, do you think I can just stick something through the plug hole and wipe the piston head to check for coolant? The plugs appear to be fine, normal deposits, no buildup or green residue. Would a compression tester indicate if one of my cylinders has a gasket leak?

I kinda wish the car was running, so I could do a bubble test on the coolant. How bad was your coolant leaking? Did you have to top it up quite a bit? Do you think I should just change the head gaskets anyways since I am replacing the valve cover gaskets anyways and have it all apart?

Thanks for the info.

01-09-11, 04:19 PM
The collant was leaking pretty badly- would have to refill daily. The cost of changing the valve cover gaskets is around $50. A head gasket job is a totally different story. If you have all the parts and work a couple hours a day on it, you MAY be able to do it in a week... Doing head gaskets will total around $700, including machining the heads, new timing set, gaskets, bolts, water pump and thermostat. And whatever else you may want to change.
Take the intake manifold off and take a look at your oil cooler.
Good luck