: Can a headgasket happen even with frequent coolant changes & if it never overheated?



Twilightcall
07-02-05, 05:55 PM
I wanted to ask this question and see if anyone had this happen or if it is only due to lack of maintenence.
I am wondering can a headgasket on a N* euipped car still occur even though the coolant was changed every year and the car was maintained 100%.
I have a 1999 STS with 122K miles. My coolant temp is almost always right on half. I change the coolant every year and add the coolant supplement.

Now can a headgasket leak still happen even though I change the coolant every year and it has never been overheated? Has anyone ever had this happen? My car runs very strong and I almost over maintain it but is it only a matter of time before they develop one and is it just a crap shot on how many miles you can get out of your car before it happens? Thanks.

Ranger
07-02-05, 07:38 PM
Bad things happen to good people. That's just the way it is. I have heard of it happening but I suspect it is rare. Remember, know one comes here to say they how trouble free their car is. They are usually looking for help with a problem. I have heard of one or two with a head gasket problem at very low milage even though it was properly mantained. On the other hand, I have heard of many others with 200K, 250K and one with 325K and never had the engine opened up. maintain it , enjoy it and don't worry about it.

peteski
07-04-05, 02:08 AM
What he said. :yeah:

clusco
07-04-05, 11:55 AM
Am I reading that right? A head gasket problem is inevitable even with proper maintenance? What causes the head gasket to malfunction if the car is kept running cool then? This bother me to no end if it's true because I have 220,000 miles on my '95 STS and I try my best to maintain her.

Spyder
07-04-05, 12:06 PM
Nah, he didn't say that it was inevitable, just that it is possible. If you run an engine long enough, the head gasket will fail, no matter what vehicle it is. More likely though, something ELSE will fail first, and the headgasket will outlast the piece that breaks that finally makes you decide to get rid of the thing. You'll be alright, if you keep taking care of it. Didja buy new or used, and how old was it when you got it?

clusco
07-04-05, 09:21 PM
I bought my car used from the dealer by way of a new owner trade-in when it was 2 years old.

peteski
07-04-05, 10:38 PM
Am I reading that right? A head gasket problem is inevitable even with proper maintenance? What causes the head gasket to malfunction if the car is kept running cool then? This bother me to no end if it's true because I have 220,000 miles on my '95 STS and I try my best to maintain her.

Hmmm... I thought that Ranger's comment was quite positive. It pretty much saidnot to worry about it. But in real life, anything is possible. Hey, the gasked could have had a small defect and can fail even on a perfectly maintained engine. While odds are pretty low, it can happen.

You can also have some odds in winning a lottery (assuming that you play).
There are also some odds that you will get struck by lightning (if you live on Earth).
But do you worry that lightning will stirike you as you go about your daily routine?
I doubt it.

So, like Ranger said" keep up the maintenance and don'tworry about it.

Once, I had a seal bust on on the piston in my car's master cylinder. It was a very unpleasant experinece (no damage to the car though). So, do I worry about that happening again every time I step on my brakes? I did for about a month, but now I don't even think about it.

Same with the N* - keep driving and stop worrying!
:)

Peteski

eldorado1
07-05-05, 12:21 AM
"On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."

Substitute 'headgaskets' for 'everyone' ^^ ;)

IIRC, and I'm too lazy to do a search, one of the reasons for headgasket failure wasn't the headgasket themselves but thermal cycling pulling the threads out of the head, weakening the joint. So, everytime you start it up, drive around town, and shut it down...... it's one step closer to DOOM! DOOM I SAY! http://cadillacforums.com/forums/images/smilies/evilsmile.gif

;)

blb
07-05-05, 03:46 PM
I know of two Northstars that had headgasket failures, as diagnosed by the dealer, before the first scheduled coolant change, but after the GM warranty expired. In both cases, neither the dealer nor GM would contribute toward the cost of the repairs. The fact that these happened before the coolant was even scheduled to be changed, as per the schedule in the owner's manual, tells you that even with proper maintenance, these engines have the potential for serious issues that GM continues to ignore.

mcowden
07-05-05, 05:32 PM
I know of two Northstars that had headgasket failures, as diagnosed by the dealer, before the first scheduled coolant change, but after the GM warranty expired. In both cases, neither the dealer nor GM would contribute toward the cost of the repairs. The fact that these happened before the coolant was even scheduled to be changed, as per the schedule in the owner's manual, tells you that even with proper maintenance, these engines have the potential for serious issues that GM continues to ignore.

EVERY CAR ON THE ROAD has the potential for serious issues that the manufacturer continues to ignore. Believe what you want to believe, but so far I have seen no credible evidence to suggest these cases are anything other than improbable blips. Materials defects, manufacturing flaws, those things happen. Defects slip past quality control. No way around it. It happens with every year, make, and model. Let's see maintenance histories and detailed diagnoses for these failures you speak of, and evidence that these are unique to Northstars. If you're so worried about it, sell your Northstar and buy something else.

blb
07-05-05, 06:51 PM
mcowden....Get to know and talk to an experienced Caddy technician or two outside of the workplace and ask how many defective Northstar headgaskets they see every month at the dealership. Talk to used car dealers in your area and ask what's the first thing they look for when looking over a Northstar powered vehicle. You will find out from those with everyday real world experience that defective Northstar Headgasket issues are much more than "an improbable blip" as you put it.

steveaikens
07-05-05, 07:17 PM
It can - and does happen. I'm anal about preventive maintenance. I'm not a hot-rod, though I do drive fast. I don't drive much in town but do a lot of miles across the desert - speed limits plus in the desert. Roughly 40K per year.

My 96 Eldo lost a head gasket at 118,000. I sucked it in and paid too much money for my dealer the repair it - 12,000 miles warranty. At 137,000, it puked the same headgasket.

Instead of a repair, I got a decent trade-in and bought a 2000 Escalade, with the intention of giving the Escalade to my wife once we got to a point I could find another Eldo for something I could afford.

Instead of another Eldo, I found a great buy on an 01 DeVille with 47,000 on it. I grabbed it and ran like a bandit. It now has 51,000 on it and has been great. The wife loves the big Escalade.

Anyway, yes - properly maintained N*'s can and do have head gasket problems. Some do - most don't. I'm not at all concerned about the N* in my DeVille.
Good luck.

mcowden
07-06-05, 09:41 AM
mcowden....Get to know and talk to an experienced Caddy technician or two outside of the workplace and ask how many defective Northstar headgaskets they see every month at the dealership.

I'm not the slightest bit interested in what some "experienced Caddy technician" has to say about the statistics of how many defective head gaskets they see in a month versus how many are on the road with no troubles at all. For one thing, dealerships will see more head gasket failures because they want the warranty money and are greedy, pernicious S.O.B.s who will make up anything they can to get a dollar. It's ridiculous to me that you would even think that would be the right person to ask. Why don't you go ask a shoe salesman about congestive heart failure while you're running on that logic. It doesn't make any sense, and if that's where you get your information, you are seriously misguided. Sorry to be the one to break that news to you.

Does it happen? Yes. It does. It's unfortunate, but it is possible. Is it likely? Absolutely not. There has been no CREDIBLE evidence yet that this is a known problem, and I don't believe for one second that the company is conspiring to ignore a problem because it would not be in their best interest given the quality of the competition out there. Drive the car, maintain it the way it is supposed to be maintained, and forget about it.

blb
07-06-05, 05:29 PM
I'm not the slightest bit interested in what some "experienced Caddy technician" has to say about the statistics of how many defective head gaskets they see ..... It's ridiculous to me that you would even think that would be the right person to ask.

You can't be serious.....

After all, what could someone that works on Northstars every day as a full time job possibly know about Northstar headgasket issues?!?!???

mcowden
07-06-05, 06:36 PM
You can't be serious.....

After all, what could someone that works on Northstars every day as a full time job possibly know about Northstar headgasket issues?!?!???

If you'll re-read my post, you'll notice that I never once suggested a dealership mechanic wouldn't know anything about head gasket issues. I only suggested that they don't know anything about the STATISTICS of how many need repairs versus how many NEVER need any repairs, and I stand by that statement. An "experienced dealership mechanic" knows nothing of the sort, but they can probably replace a head gasket for you. Your earlier post suggests that you believe a dealership mechanic can tell you with some authority that head gasket problems with proper maintenance are a major failure of the Northstar engine, and I don't buy it. I don't wear tin foil hats. It's the same reason why some cops think everyone is a criminal: They are exposed to the problematic ones over and over again every day, at a much higher rate than the problems actually occur in the real world, and the sheer volume leads them to believe that the statistics lean toward a high incidence of failure. I'm not saying they're stupid, just that their experiences tend to skew the reality.

Cadillac Forums skews reality as well, mostly because people are coming here looking for answers to problems. They don't come here to talk to other people whose Cadillacs are running perfectly after 250,000 miles. They had a problem and are looking for answers. That's why I originally joined here. My point is just that mechanics are surrounded by the problems and Cadillac Forums highlights the problems as well. If you believe both sources, you'd think Northstars are complete junk, and that is simply not the case in reality. They are refined and technologically advanced engines that can run well for a long, long time when properly maintained, and that also have a few failures due to the shortfalls of mass production, just like every other car on the road.

Ranger
07-06-05, 08:01 PM
I agree with Mcowden. You have to remember that a dealership mechanic only sees the cars that need repairs. If he is the guy that does the big engine removal/head gasket/half case leak jobs, then his view is skewed. 100% of what he sees has bad head gaskets. He is bound to have a skewed perspective. Now I'm not saying the problem is all in our minds, but it certainly is not as bad as some would have you think.

blb
07-07-05, 02:59 PM
The dealership mechanic will, without a doubt, be able to tell you the common problems (ie: weak links) he sees with a particular make and model of vehicle that he frequently works on. I disagree with the statement "that a dealership mechanic only sees the cars that need repairs." Vehicles go into the service department every day for routine maintenance, state inspections, etc., so many cars in the service department have no repair issues whatsoever. Also, since some people still go to the dealer for all maintenance work, especially when the vehicle is under warranty, the dealer is familiar with the maintenance history of the vehicle. In the case of the Northstar, headgasket failures before the first scheduled coolant change do occur. Older Northstar powered vehicles have deplorable resale values because of their high degree of unreliability in general. Of course, not every one is a problem child, but you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls. I know several auto wholesalers in the area and every one steers clear of Northstar Caddys, unless they are almost free, because they have all experienced a failed Northstar headgasket at least once and they know what to look for.

Of course this is not all bad news, since someone that isn't afraid to turn a wrench can pick up an older STS for a few thousand dollars and have a fun, comfortable, quick car for cheap. If he doesn't have a headgasket problem, then great. If he does, he can either fix it himself or tow it off to the junkyard since not much money was involved in the first place.

The people that I feel sorry for, and I have seen this on several occasions, are the nonmechanically inclined people that get sweet talked into paying top dollar for one of these vehicles that looks immaculate, inside and out, all service records look perfect, and soon after purchase, the dreaded signs of a failed headgasket emerge. The repair often costs more than the vehicle is worth and the end result is an upset customer and yet another person who will never buy another GM vehicle. Fast forward to July 2005 and we see a GM who's bonds are junk status, dealers who have to sell cars on price rather than quality (resorting to "employee pricing" and other gimmicks to move cars) and a rather grim financial outlook for the future.

In answer to the original poster's question, "Can a failed Northstar headgasket happen even with frequent coolant changes & if it never overheated?".....the answer is absolutely YES!

mcowden
07-07-05, 03:57 PM
You just changed your story from "an experienced dealership mechanic" to the "service department," which outlines your assumption that all cars that go into the service department are handled by "experienced dealership mechanics." That is simply not the case in reality. The "service department" might be able to comment on maintenance versus head gasket failures, but they still can not authoritatively state how many are on the road with no problems versus how many come in for head gasket failures. You will have to go much higher in the chain to find those answers. I still maintain that "experienced dealership mechanics," "service departments," and "auto wholesalers" don't have the first clue what they're talking about when they speculate on the rate of failure, mostly because they don't know anything about the real numbers. It's not their business to know the real numbers. It's their business to fix cars and sell cars at wholesale. You have yet to post any real, credible statistics for or against your theories.

There is no doubt, and it's never been in question, that HEAD GASKET FAILURES DO OCCUR ON CARS THAT HAVE BEEN PROPERLY MAINTAINED. BUT, you are hell-bent on using speculation, assumptions, useless sources of data, and bad logic to preach that everyone should watch out and beware because the rate of failure is very high and blah blah blah, and YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY WRONG. It does happen, but for every one that fails, there are hundreds or thousands that are running just fine for a long, long time past the warranty even without the required maintenance. So the next time you're talking with your mechanic and wholesaler buddies, keep in mind that people like to speak as if they know the answers when, in fact, they're so far removed from the facts they wouldn't know the truth if it was staring them in the face.

blb
07-07-05, 05:47 PM
You're missing the point mcowdan. We each have had our own individual experience (good or bad) with Northstars which says nothing about the rate of failure in general. In an effort to get beyond our own little corners of the world, I am suggesting talking to people that have an opportunity to see, drive and work on many more Northstars in a week than perhaps you or I will in a lifetime. There is a member of this board who managed a large fleet of Norhtstars over many years, and his experiences with Northstar headgasket failures are consistent with what I hear from the dealership mechanics and wholesalers. Can you think of any better sources that are willing to provide their real life experiences on the subject? If so, ask them and report back. Please don't turn this post in to a play on words.......as this accomplishes absolutely nothing.

And back to the original topic, yes Northstar headgaskets can and will fail even with frequent coolant changes even if they never overheated.

BTW, if you have any solid statistical data on the rate of headgasket failures sorted by moldel year and maintenance routine, we all would very interested in you sharing that data. I have asked bbob for similar data on several posts, but he is either unable or unwilling to post such data.....and I can certainly understand why, given his situation.

dkozloski
07-07-05, 07:42 PM
I spent a lot of time on this board trying to browbeat Bbob into giving us some definitive failure data with no success. The best I could get was for him to say, in so many words, it was well within industry norms. I trust that he is a man of integrity, so that is good enough for me.

blb
07-07-05, 08:07 PM
What I understood from bbob's comments was that GM currently has no way of really knowing the failure rate of Norhtstar headgaskets and that there are no statistics available sorted by model year or maintenance history. The only data they have is the number of headgaskets sold through the dealership networks and that number is "within industry standards". I have absolutely no reason to doubt that. However, if the number of GM Northstar headgaskets sold is "within industry standard", then I would guess the actual number of headgasket failures to be far in excess of the number of headgaskets sold since many people either use aftermarket gaskets, replace the failed engine with a junkyard engine, or simply junk the vehicle since the cost to have the dealer do the gasket/timesert job many times exceeds the value of the vehicle.

mcowden
07-08-05, 12:06 AM
You're missing the point mcowdan. We each have had our own individual experience (good or bad) with Northstars which says nothing about the rate of failure in general. In an effort to get beyond our own little corners of the world, I am suggesting talking to people that have an opportunity to see, drive and work on many more Northstars in a week than perhaps you or I will in a lifetime. There is a member of this board who managed a large fleet of Norhtstars over many years, and his experiences with Northstar headgasket failures are consistent with what I hear from the dealership mechanics and wholesalers. Can you think of any better sources that are willing to provide their real life experiences on the subject? If so, ask them and report back. Please don't turn this post in to a play on words.......as this accomplishes absolutely nothing.

No, my friend, it is you who is missing the point. I won't post anything beyond this one for obvious reasons... :deadhorse

Regardless of what kind of "facts" you have from mechanics, wholesalers, and now a fleet manager has jumped into the fray all of a sudden, you are still confusing the experiences of a limited and biased subset of people with a standard sample of the cars on the road. Every one of those people has a different bias to the numbers. Nobody is objective. I still believe the failure rates are very much in line with industry norms, but the impact might feel a little greater because the cost to fix it is pretty high. That skews the numbers, and skewed numbers and flawed statistics is still what you're using to draw conclusions.

To answer your question, I can not think of a better source for the raw statistics. All I know is your sources of information are biased and therefore your conclusions infer something that's probably not supported by any facts. If the forum member you cited that managed a large fleet of Northstars for many years will provide some hard data on the maintenance, mileage, and failure rate of the Northstar head gaskets, I'm sure everyone would love to read it. To date, nobody has ever shared such data and, as a result, nobody is qualified to cite failure rate statistics. I have talked to lots of people with Northstars. My family has had 6 of them. I've talked to mechanics and salvage yard owners and customers and family and friends, and none of that information is of any use in drawing conclusions about the failure rate of head gaskets on Northstar engines. Just for fun, though, none of them have complained about head gaskets yet. Does that mean I'm trying to tell you that the failures don't happen? No. It does happen. But these sources are absolutely meaningless.

Your gut feeling on the subject after hearing stories from multiple bad sources of information doesn't prove or help anything either. I'm not trying to be an ass, but you came in here with guns blazin' just rearin' to opine on how the Northstar sucks and GM's going down the tubes because of head gasket failures, and I do believe you haven't the first clue what you're talking about.

The person who started this thread, Twilightcall, has a '99 with 122k on the clock. If a head gasket fails for him at this point, I'd have a very hard time blaming it on poor engineering or manufacturing. 122k miles is pretty good. If Twilightcall continues to maintain the car well, it will probably serve him well for many more miles into the future. I have 95,5xx on my '96, and I hope it serves me that well.

And, for the record, neither I nor anyone I know personally has any interest whatsoever in GM's success. I don't work for them or own any stock and never have, and neither does anyone I know. I don't really care what you think about the head gasket failures. I just don't think we need a wave of hysteria about impending doom nonsense spread around by anybody, especially when the conclusions are drawn from biased and useless sources. Like I said, I'd love to see the real numbers too, and I wish we had them. Unfortunately, we don't, and as a result, nobody can speak factually about the actual rate of head gasket failures.

Drive it, enjoy it, maintain it, and FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!

blb
07-08-05, 09:16 AM
mcowden.....if you read my posts, you will see that I have never claimed any hard ''facts'' or statistical data on this subject as you suggest, only opinions based on experiences from the best sources I can think of. You admit you cannot cite any better sources for information, however, you seem pretty sure, based on your families experiences with 6 Northstars that your opinions are more accurate than anyone elses. I don't understand how you can think in this day and age that a guy with a 1999 Northstar with 122,000 miles and no headgasket failure yet "is pretty good." Apparently your expectations are pretty low if you think that no headgasket failure in 122,000 miles is "pretty good" on GM's flagship vehicles .

I guess I now undestand why you and I seem to have some differences of opinion on this subject......our expectations of quality and reliability seem to be quite different.

By the way, below is a quote from a thread from December of last year on this board from the guy who was in charge of a fleet of Norhtstar Caddys through the 90's. I'm sure you'll find fault with this guy's experiences too and call it "biased", since it doesn't doesn't match what you wish to believe, but here it is:

"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 bbob, 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! 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 bbob, 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?"

upstate
09-04-05, 12:31 AM
Why not do a poll of who has ever had head gasket failure, what model year car and at how many miles. Lets see how real the problem is amoung or members.

Ranger
09-04-05, 01:23 AM
Keep in mind that people without problems don't come here so the outcome will likely be somewhat scewed.

mcowden
09-04-05, 01:28 AM
Why not do a poll of who has ever had head gasket failure, what model year car and at how many miles. Lets see how real the problem is amoung or members.

I'm not at all opposed to it, but you have to understand that the numbers you'll get are exactly what you want: the number of problems among our members. It will tell us nothing at all about the numbers in reality. My whole point in arguing this thread is that there is really no possible way to get the real statistics, and no mechanic or fleet manager or web site poll is going to convince me of anything related to the real statistics. They are all skewed one direction or another because none of them are a representative sample of the cars on the road. I wish we could get the real numbers, but I don't know how that would happen outside of some sort of litigation.

zonie77
09-04-05, 01:59 AM
I concur, people only come here when they have a problem.

I've mentioned several times all the other brands I hear of having head gasket problems.

STS-in-Nottingham
09-04-05, 02:07 AM
Interesting point:- (or maybe not!)

Cadillac have sold around 2000 STS's in the UK between 1998 and 2002,
I have talked to many owners at the various car shows around the country and also a few dealers,... there have so far been no reported cases of Gasket failure (mine included).

From 1998 to 2002 the STS was sold via just a handfull of GM dealers (Five I believe) for the whole of the UK, so the stats should be easy to obtain,
The two dealers I have talked to (one in Leeds the other in London) there have been no problems so far.

Just thought you might be interested, if not, ignore me! :yawn:

I won't go away though :)

Ranger
09-04-05, 02:19 AM
I think that says a lot.