: Northstar: Did they ever get better?

06-01-13, 05:04 PM
Hello, First Post....

Background: Through the passing of my dad, I've recently become involved with the Northstar, via 96 Eldo ETC with 112K. While I'm not convinced it is 'ok', the car is now running, driving fine and with some code chasing via help from your forum, I have a clear dash and it just passed inspection. As of this week, it is now the 'ride' of his grandson for his "high school wheels", which I think he'd be happy to see. It only has to last about 18 months as a local driver and it has served its purpose.

Current: I really seem to like that car. It has good pickup, handles well for a car that size, drives nicely around town or on longer hauls (took 150 mile trip last weekend getting it from my dad's house). I'm actually starting to scour Craigslist and a few places to see if I can find a low mileage Eldo ETC or Seville STS for myself, as my daily driver (Ford Explorer) is getting up in the miles. But I'm still scared to death of the Northstar reputation.

Question: It seems GM went through a casting change and maybe some head bolt tweaks over the years. Is there a series of Northstars that seem to have gotten beyond the main head gasket/head bolt/cooling issue? Is there a year that you can say "well, if you get a XXXX or newer, you should be fine...."?

If not, I'll just keep looking for low mileage model and see if I can do some preventive maintenance to keep it alive.

Thanks for the help you've already provided with previous posts that helped me with the code chasing.

06-01-13, 05:08 PM
2000 and later roller cam engines seem to see decreasing problems from various reasons for head gasket failure IF head gasket failure is your worry.

"Better" is a subjective term. ALL Northstars are good engines. Some (a small minority) require a bit more TLC than others .........

EDIT: NO properly maintained Northstar in good condition has cooling issues; ANY engine with blown head gaskets or a poorly maintained cooling system will have cooling issues.

06-01-13, 05:37 PM
The hg issue got better in 2000, better again sometime in 2004. Buying anything used is always a crapshoot, especially with these cars, since you never really know the history of maintenance of the car. Many people fall in the trap of finding a beautiful DTS or DHS on a lot and just have to have it, only to find a head gasket issue right after they buy it, and the dealer will not do anything to help. This has happened more than once on this site.

06-01-13, 09:09 PM
Just to elaborate a bit, longer head bolts in 2000 and coarser thread pitch in 2004.

06-02-13, 05:57 AM
Note that production edits here and there do not make the engine "immune" to head gasket failures, in fact, all engines equipped with head gasket(s) are capable of blowing head gaskets, when they are poorly maintained.

06-02-13, 06:28 AM