: Buy a N* with a blown head gasket - Dumb idea?



itsabughunt
02-09-06, 02:59 PM
Hi everyone, new guy here. Iíve been considering buying an N* Cadillac ever since Iíve bought my 4.9 Deville a year ago. I love the Deville but Iíd like more power and a newer interior. Iíd also be very interested in switching over to the Seville model, or maybe even an Eldo. One big element thatís been holding me back is the all of the head gasket problems people report.

Am I getting a skewed perspective because people usually come to this site for advice after their car breaks? Iím getting the feeling that you are almost guaranteed a blown head gasket on a N* sooner or later. Is that an unfair description? Keep in mind that the only one I could possibly afford would be a mid 90ís model that has already been well used (or abused).

One concept Iíve been working on is to intentionally buy one with a blown gasket. I figure it wouldnít be too hard to find one. The idea sounds crazy to me but Iím figuring at least that way I KNOW what Iím getting into and I could chop the price down a lot if I can show that the gasket is shot. And then I could switch the gasket out myself. Iím no expert mechanic but I feel pretty sure after reading the posts on that topic that my friends and I could handle this job. Iíll have a garage parking spot after I move in 6 months so I would have a good place to work and store the car while Iím working on it. I have a pretty good selection of tools and I donít mind buying a few more if necessary. I could keep my Deville and drive that while Iím working on the new project car so I wouldnít be in a huge rush to do get it running. I donít earn a ton of money with my work but I do end up with a bit of free time so I think doing the job myself would be sensible. Iím figuring that if I did this work Iíd be starting with something of a ďclean slateĒ so I could change the coolant religiously and take good care of it so I hopefully wouldnít face the same fate again, or at least not for a long time. I swear I would change the coolant every year if it would help.

Is this a dumb idea? Any advice or pitfalls I might be missing? How much would you guess it would cost for me to switch the head gasket myself (I mean for parts only). I think itís almost mandatory to Timesert the engine so I would want to factor in the cost of doing that right? Are there any other repairs or modifications that would be wise to do while Iím at it with the gasket? Iíd be interested in performance mods so is there anything I would want to invest in and install while the engine is all taken apart?



Thanks for any advice.

eldorado1
02-09-06, 04:34 PM
Is this a dumb idea?

nope, been planning on doing it myself. :thumbsup:

JimHare
02-09-06, 06:44 PM
Hello, and welcome, ItsaBug.... :welcome:

First and foremost, do not let the reports of head gasket failures you read about on this forum skew your thinking.

Yes, many N*s have had H/G failures. How many? GM won't say (at least not to me.. lol). I'd bet somewhere around 3 to 4 percent of all N* engines produced in the last 13 years have experienced a failure. Not exactly an epidemic..

This is where people come to bitch. The silence from the literally millions of N* owners who have never had a H/G problem is deafening. I'd bet that 93 out of 100 Caddy owners never even pop the hood on their cars, and you'll see that many owners here have 100 or 150K miles on their cars. My 02 Deville has 127,000 on it, driven hard, and doesn't leak a drop.

Being an aluminum engine, cooling system maintenance is SUPREMELY important. Incorrect or faulty service can lead to corrosion, which leads to H/G failure.

If you check around and search the archives, read up on some of the technical aspects of the N* and so on, you'll get a huge amount of information. 99% of it is good stuff.

Remember, reports of H/G problems here are like reports of sick people congregating in hospitals...doesn't generally reflect the overall population.

That said, have you considered taking the money you would spend on replacing a H/G on a N*, and the attendant parts, labor, time, etc, and just getting an extended warranty on the car that would cover it anyway?

Harry Yarnell
02-09-06, 06:44 PM
Not all Northstars blow their headgasket.
As for buying one cheap with a blown gasket with the intent of 'fixing it up' is a great idea. IF you have a modicum of automotive knowledge, and the ability of dropping the cradle (and reinstalling it). It's not for the faint of heart.
I've got about $1,000 in mine, counting the Timesert kit, machine shop work, and the gasket set.Then there was the A/C compressor while I was in there.....
Plus I had to completely disassemble the block so the machine shop could boil out the ton of sealant the PO put in there to stop the leak.

Krashed989
02-09-06, 06:44 PM
Am I getting a skewed perspective because people usually come to this site for advice after their car breaks?

Yes you are getting a skewed perspective. Northstar head gaskets blow as often as any other engine's head gaskets. The reason that you hear about northstar head gasket failure more is because it's such a difficult job to do compared to other engines. If you were to take it in to a shop to get it done, it would cost you about the same as your car is worth.

itsabughunt
02-10-06, 12:27 AM
Thanks for all the advice. I'm sure the headgasket issue just looks more chronic than it is given the nature of this forum. I'm really new to the Cadillac experience but I'm really impressed so far. I'm glad there is so much advice available on this forum. Hopefully someday I'll know enough about Cadillacs to contribute some myself.

I find the extended warranty idea to be very interesting. Is this something that Cadillac offers? Would this still be possible to get even if the original warranty has already expired? Sorry, I've actually never owned a car new enough to have a warranty so I'm sort of ignorant as to how they work.

itsabughunt
02-10-06, 01:17 AM
Nevermind about the warranty question... I found this thread:
http://www.cadillacforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=62331

zonie77
02-10-06, 03:56 AM
It's a great idea. You have time to search for a nice car and it sounds like you can handle the job. You have it thought out. Buy a used timesert kit, they are on ebay or here ocassionally. You should have a little less than $1000 invested in the gasket job. Where are you located?

itsabughunt
02-10-06, 02:00 PM
It's a great idea. You have time to search for a nice car and it sounds like you can handle the job. You have it thought out. Buy a used timesert kit, they are on ebay or here ocassionally. You should have a little less than $1000 invested in the gasket job. Where are you located?

I'm in Phoenix, AZ right now. I'll move after I graduate in July to Portland, OR. It would only make sense for me to wait until after my move before I do anything with this idea. Heck, it'll probably be a year or two before I have enough money saved to really be ready. To find one with a shot head gasket I figure I'd have to use eBay and have it delivered or something. I've looked around in the paper and I didnt see anything advertised.

My thinking right now is that I'll probably swing either way either. I'm sure that I could just buy a normal healthy Seville or Eldo and not have problems. Its just that it would put me in a huge bind to pay like six or eight grand for a car just to have it break on me unexpectedly and need a huge repair. I would probably try to hang on to my 91 Deville either way so I would have something to fall back on if anything happens. My Dad always said keeping extra cars around is a bad investment, but I think I would do it anyway.

zonie77
02-10-06, 04:13 PM
There have been some in the Phx paper. Not that many. A lot on ebay seem to be NY & NJ area.

Keeping an extra car depends on your circumstances and what cars you have. If you have a new car w/ warranty you may not need or want an extra car, but if your extra car is a pickup or Corvette or street rod it makes good sense. If you are prepping your next car it makes good sense too.

cart69
02-10-06, 05:46 PM
i am happy with my 96 sts i bought for 3k with a bad head gasket, drove it home, and plan to do the job in the next few weeks, waiting for my timesert kit to get to me, i will have about 700 for the whole job so that takes my whole number to just under 4k, hard to find a 96 pearl white sts with chrome wheels in as good a shape for that price, and i know my head gasket is done and done right too. i plan to buy another to fix and sell

davesdeville
02-11-06, 10:48 AM
I've always toyed with the idea of buying a blown HG car to fix too. I think I lost a headgasket in my Eldo, so I suppose I'll have the experiance and timesert kit for it too...

mtflight
02-15-06, 05:29 PM
I think I lost a headgasket in my Eldo, so I suppose I'll have the experiance and timesert kit for it too...

How did this happen??

davesdeville
02-15-06, 07:17 PM
I haven't had the chance to do the diagnostics because of the wreck (see the thread I made in the lounge about that) so I'm not sure it's the headgasket.