: DIY Northstar Head Gasket / Crankcase Leak Repair

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bill buttermore
06-21-12, 09:21 PM
Did you try 3 and 2 not just drive?

check out post #5


Inspect the wiring for poor electrical connections at the transmission 20-way connector. Inspect the wiring for poor electrical connections at the 5-way TFP Val. Position Sw. connector.

Yeah, tried all the forward gears. All I've got is low.

I checked the 20-way right off, thought maybe it wasn't clicked all the way in, but it was. I'll check your links and try to find where the 5-way TFP Val Pos Sw connector is.

bill buttermore
06-21-12, 09:32 PM
The only thing that changed was the routing of the shift cable. It was tight when I installed it, but I thought it might be good to go. When it would not upshift, I went through the adjustment procedure. Maybe I damaged the switch by not adjusting it first?

After connecting everything, there are no codes set and no check engine light.

When I first started it, I got a bunch of codes and a SES light because I had spun it with the fuel pump fuse out and all the coil connections undone. I pulled the codes - they were all history codes.


IPC B1552
IPC B1911
IPC U1255

ACM B1348


TCS C1255

PZM B1552
PZM B1558

IRC B1771

I recall doing an alignment of the trans switch using a drill bit on other GM cars. I wonder???

Faded Crest
06-22-12, 12:28 PM
That thing's gonna fight you right to the end, isn't it? I've been going over it in my mind, but I've got nothing yet. Gotta be something simple.

Are you sure it is starting out if 1st gear? Or is there a chance it's in safety mode?

bill buttermore
06-22-12, 12:49 PM
On the road again. Vehicle Speed Sensor was unplugged. Can't believe I never looked at the speedometer display - I was watching the RPM and Temperature, never noticed the speedo was at zero. Just plugged it in, now it shifts swell just like it always did. Just for future reference - it did not set a code.

I have a low tap at idle that is not going away - if I rev the engine to 900 or so, it disappears and does not reappear until back at idle speed. The engine is quiet and powerful otherwise. I changed out the break-in oil for Rotella T straight 30 weight with a new filter. Can't imagine what that tap is. I wonder about those chain tensioners, but the sound does not seem to emanate from the front - rather from the piston areas. I thought it might be the wrist pin in #4 that I changed out, but the tap is a little low for a pin and seems to be coming from the right bank anyway. Can't be carbon - I suppose it might be piston slap? Can't imagine it could bearings - those are all new.

bill buttermore
06-22-12, 12:49 PM
That thing's gonna fight you right to the end, isn't it? Yeah, and it's doin' a pretty good job of it.

06-22-12, 03:36 PM
Could it be accessory drive(ac pump even) or wp area ticking? i listened to video last night and it does seem a bit loud, but mine has a tick at idle so I have gotten used to it.

06-22-12, 03:47 PM
Put a piece of garden hose to your ear (the good one lol) and probe around with the other end till you isolate the tick. Noisy injector?

bill buttermore
06-22-12, 04:27 PM
Thanks for the replies. I'll make a video so you all can hear it. It's a lot quieter now than when I first fired it up. Probably take me til later tonight to post it.

bill buttermore
06-22-12, 08:59 PM
Here is how it sounds after about 20 miles of driving. Click the image below to see the video.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v116/billbuttermore/Northstar%20videos/th_VID00001.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v116/billbuttermore/Northstar%20videos/?action=view&current=VID00001.mp4)

06-22-12, 10:13 PM
That is very loud sounding to me Bill, I hear injectors clicking away, a bearing hum from the front drive(prob PS or idler), def an exhaust leak from the back. I think it is the valve train making all that noise, I would check the Oil pressure first. Were the new lifters put in the front? Did you check the cams for wear when you had them out? You replaced the exhaust valves if I remember correctly. I walked out and listened to mine and it's alot quieter than yours right now.
I will assume it wasn't that noisey before.

06-22-12, 10:38 PM
I was searching here and a couple mentions of chain tensioner issues along with lifter issues.

bill buttermore
06-22-12, 10:52 PM
It sounds a lot worse on the video with the mike inches from the cam cover than it does standing beside the engine, and of course, you can't hear it at all inside the car until you open the door with it idling. And the car is perfectly quiet under load driving at any speed, including driving beside a concrete wall with the windows down where engine noises are well-reflected. It keeps getting quieter the more it is driven so I'm inclined to agree with the tensioner assessment. I think it just needs to be driven. Let's see how it sounds in a thousand miles.

bill buttermore
06-23-12, 12:58 AM
I'm gonna consider this project completed now. I want to thank all of you who helped by offering advice, concern, generous offers for the loan/gift of parts and tools, by sharing specialized expertise, and by providing encouragement as I worked my way through this challenging repair. Thanks especially to those who give their time and money to keep this forum up and running so well. :bows: I hope that I can pay back the kindness I have received here by helping others who choose to take on the incredible Northstar engine.

06-23-12, 08:30 AM

Great job of tackling a very complex project, and STEADILY proceeding to the end. You mentioned (in one of the videos?) something about 65 days - I am at TWICE that length of time, and still not done. But your steady work has inspired me to 'get-crackin'!

Please check back in with us, in a month or so, to let us know how the car is doing.


06-23-12, 05:31 PM
Best of luck with it, let us know how it performs long term. Now that your done with this thread I have to find something else to do... :thumbsup:

06-24-12, 09:40 PM
For those that are looking for the tapered ring compressor sleeves 93MM I found them here http://www.accu-products.com/wiseco/ring-compressor-sleeves/cat_109.html for $29.95 plus shipping.

06-24-12, 09:47 PM
For those that are looking for the tapered 93MM ring compressor sleeves I found some at http://www.accu-products.com/wiseco/ring-compressor-sleeves/cat_109.html for $29.95 plus shipping.

Saw Steve's ARP tapered ring compressor - had to have one. Pistons go in so easy, it is hard to believe. I wish I had known about these tools years ago. $60, but it costs a lot more when an oil control ring pops out as you're tapping in the piston with a conventional ring compressor. Ask me how I know...


There was just a teensy little bit more clearance on the #3 rod bearing, but it felt about the same as #1, so I don't think I will disturb those only-torqued-once bolts.


Installed the four pistons I had ready to go. The next four will take a lot longer - I still have to clean the pistons and grooves on those.

Faded Crest
06-24-12, 09:58 PM
Wish you had posted that link a month ago. :annoyed: I paid around $55 and had to wait weeks for it to show up.

bill buttermore
06-24-12, 10:14 PM
Wish you had posted that link a month ago. :annoyed: I paid around $55 and had to wait weeks for it to show up.You mean that classy ARP logo isn't worth $30 to you? Heck, that Accu-Product compressor probably measures 93.000000001 instead of the 93.000000000 it's supposed to be.

Faded Crest
06-24-12, 10:18 PM
^^^ LOL. I'm only a name brand guy when it matters.

Glenn Delwood
06-25-12, 12:55 AM
By the way, did you get a rear main seal tool yet? I just got mine in the mail today. :thumbsup:

I guess this was the tool I was asking about in my decision thread. What is it?

Faded Crest
06-25-12, 12:11 PM
This is the tool in action, Glenn. Sounds like you are thinking about going all the way. Are you sure you want to separate the case halves? :ohnoes:

Glenn Delwood
06-26-12, 12:33 AM
This is the tool in action, Glenn. Sounds like you are thinking about going all the way. Are you sure you want to separate the case halves? :ohnoes:

At this point I'm too ignorant about it, that's why. :)

06-29-12, 03:42 PM
Congratulations, this has been a long journey. This is going to be a great help to me when I tackle this job all the way, the 99 needs surgery.... Anyway, enjoy the car!

07-01-12, 08:41 PM
^^^ LOL. I'm only a name brand guy when it matters.

Yup, like when you buy cars. :D

Bill, CONGRATILATIONS!!! :woot: :woot2: :excited:

You said you've had previous experience, and it shows big time. You did a bang up job, and she'll repay you with miles and miles and miles. Good on ya!

Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate it. It's good to learn the location of parts. Additionally, IF (knocking and pounding on the 2X4s behind my computer :lol:) I need to do the HGs, you have just made my life a trillion times easier.

You are a superhero now...you've repaired a Northstar supplying the labor! Kudos to you!

bill buttermore
07-01-12, 08:54 PM
Thanks for the kind words, Luke. I hope others gain some benefit from this thread, as I did from the knowledgeable and generous folks on this site.

bill buttermore
08-30-13, 11:18 PM
Just an update. I sold the car to my son who has driven it 5500 miles since. He is very happy with the car. On his most recent long trip, he got 28.8 mpg. In this hot weather, the car does not tick or tap at idle. But it still makes the noise when cold.

I have done a lot of research on the source of the noise and now feel nearly certain that the problem is the used piston I purchased to replace one I had dropped on the floor. I believe the piston came from an engine that overheated and became distorted or was otherwise damaged or worn. I never checked all the dimensions on that piston before installing it. (Wish I had!)

08-31-13, 08:52 PM
Glad to hear it's going strong Bill, your thread is still one of the best.
28+ is awesome, my newly acquired 97 got 26 over a 1600 mile trip few weeks back & I thought that was great.
So ready to do another yet? Bet we could send work your way.

bill buttermore
09-15-13, 07:42 AM
I just passed on a clean '02 DeVille with 85K for 1500 with HG leak - no room to park it - still finishing up the current project - an '04 Lincoln LS. The Ford DOHC V6 is remarkably similar to the N*. I'll probably be ready to do another Caddy next year.

11-21-13, 04:10 PM
I read some of this. a quite a bit on another thread but when coming out the top it looks like a guy can take the belt off and unbolt the AC, leave all that in place? I was wondering about exhaust, do the bolts come out ok at the Y connection. I still don't see how eng trans is connected yet. Wont let me do pics.

bill buttermore
11-27-14, 12:28 AM
Long term update.

Since the rebuild, my son has driven the Caddy from Iowa to South Dakota, several times to Chicago and to Pennsylvania this summer with his wife and two sons. The kids love that huge back seat. He has driven the car some 20,000 miles now. Sometimes it taps, sometimes it is quiet. He doesn't care - he really likes the car and has gotten a lot of nice compliments on it. He is content that he cannot hear any engine noise with the doors closed. I don't think I could drive it that way - it would drive me nuts until I had found the fault and fixed it. So, it's all good, I guess. I spent several hours today re-reading this entire thread. Wow! I had forgotten how difficult this job was. 2013 project was a 2004 Lincoln LS 3.0 -- a very similar engine, but very much easier to work on. Current project is a 1949 Plymouth sedan. I still have all my N* tools, but I am not sure I have the stamina and the courage to do another one. I have missed interacting with all the guys on the forum here. This is the best forum I have had the pleasure to participate in by far.

11-27-14, 08:54 AM
Glad the car is doing fine! And happy to see you again, thanks for the update!

The Deville back seat...ooh that's where my love for Cadillac first began.

11-27-14, 11:52 AM
Nice to hear from you Bill, don't be a stranger. Stop in and harass us in the Lounge at least. Any pics of the new project?