: Blown Head Gasket...Help!!



jameskz28
01-25-04, 05:39 PM
Ok, I need some help here. Working on a 97 STS with 100k mi. It was sputtering at idle and blowing sweet smoke after sitting for awhile. I pulled the intake manifold and found the problem...there was actually a puddle of oil in the engine valley and appeared to be coming from the head gasket on the inside of cylinder #2.

Here are my questions:

1- There is no apparent leak from the aft gasket. I know how hard it is going to be to get these heads off...do i change both gaskets?

2- Is the use of the timeserts a requirement even if you don't have pulled head bolt threads?

3- Is it possible to get the exhaust manifold bolts out without dropping the whole motor?

4- Do the heads need to be shaved?

If anyone has experience wth changing head gaskets on these, please give me any info you can. Thanks!!!

growe3
01-25-04, 09:47 PM
I had a similar type of problem; along with the slight oil seepage the head gaskets had failed causing overheating and a sweet smelling exhaust. The oil on the engine valley is not really a problem other than a nuisance when it makes its way down to the bottom and is blown around.

Below are a few notes from my experiences replacing my head gaskets on my 1993 STS. This is not meant to be a how to do it instruction list.

First you should verify that the gaskets really are leaking, if you are satisfied that they are, only do them your self if the following is true:

1. You own a fairly complete set of auto mechanic tools.

2. You feel comfortable rebuilding a complete engine. If changing the spark plugs or water pump sound like a challenge, do not attempt this job.

3. You will need an assistant.

4. A torque wrench with an angle indicator!

5. An area to clean and store parts as you work.

6. Perhaps the most important thing; get the FACTORY SERVICE MANUALS!!
Chiltons or such absolutely won’t do. My set (2 books) cost $90 and were vital to doing the job. Do not attempt to do this job without them!!
http://www.helminc.com/helm/search_service_owner.asp?Style=&class%5F2=CAD&mscsid=LA26QXKH3NFT8HQ0SCQADELK0RF4105A

I pulled my engine from the top, its tough from the bottom or top but from the top was my method of choice.

Brief Summary Of My Car Problems
Both of my head gaskets were definitely leaking oil. The right side from the rear, lower head bolt area, and the left side from the foreword, lower left area. This has been a long time annoying seep, both from a mess as well as smell. The oil would drip on the right exhaust pipe, get under the heat shield and then the smoke would enter the car from the cowl or a hole in the heater barrier. A small oil leak by volume, but it was very annoying. From the left it would drift down and then the wind would move all over making a mess and difficult to see where it started from.

Head Bolts
Several head bolts pulled their threads when removed. I performed the thread replacement procedure using Time-Serts, on ALL of the head bolt holes in the block. The bolt holes at cylinder two & four were definitely bad, a couple of others felt nearly as weak.
I used a shop vacuum to remove most of the drill material, but found I had to use compressed air to get the hole clean enough to do a good tapping job. All in all it was a pretty straight foreword procedure.

Head Attach and Cam Timing
When I replaced the heads and re-timed the cams, the advice you gave me regarding “…rotate the cams so the valves were closed before placing the heads back on the block…” was very helpful. Also letting me know that the crank alignment mark and the center cam sprocket would only align every eight revolutions was nice to know. The manual does not make reference to this and it would have been very puzzling to see the cams appear to keep going out of time.

Watch Those Clearances
When I removed the engine the exhaust manifold flange bumped the heater barrier, the barrier broke very easy. I ordered a replacement barrier with the other parts that I needed. When I unscrewed the old one and started to remove it, the barrier came apart in my hands like crackers crumbling. This condition along with the broken foreword engine mount, explains a hole, which I had previously sealed, in the heater barrier. The engine must have rocked and broken a piece off.
After getting it all back together I added two vials of Gold Seal Bars Leak to the lower radiator hose and then filled with a 50-50 (coolant-water) mix of Prestone green anti-freeze.

In summary this is a complex job to do right, and is costly no matter who does it. My parts (bought on-line) total was about $850 + TimeSert repair Kit $326 (which include the extra serts to do ALL of the headbolts), two engine hoist rentals and lots of brake spray cleaner.

-George

growe3
01-25-04, 10:05 PM
A little more info:

"2- Is the use of the Timeserts a requirement even if you don't have pulled head bolt threads?"

YES. Do all of the head bolts. If one hole should fail when you are torqueing the head back on, you would have to remove it and then fix the bolt hole, with the added insult of buying another head gasket kit. OEM only they include new bolts which are a must due to special coatings on them.

"3- Is it possible to get the exhaust manifold bolts out without dropping the whole motor?"

YES, difficult. Normally you do not need to remove the exhaust manifolds when removing the engine, and I would recommend against removing them. The exhaust flange bolts will need to be removed. My experience was that several of the exhaust bolts were rusted in place and I had to twist them off. Once the heads were off on a bench it was fairly easy to oil them, and then grab the protruding end with vise grips to spin them out, I just chased the threads after word for clean assembly.

"4- Do the heads need to be shaved?"

Most likely the heads are fine, they seem to be OK for 200k-300k miles. I would just do a careful cleaning of them and put them back on.
Start fooling with the heads and you would probably be better off buying a new engine and not do any repair work.

-George

zonie77
01-26-04, 08:25 AM
We did the headgaskets on my brothers car recently. We dropped the cradle out the bottom using an engine hoist to pick up the body. You can do it either way but I think it's better to take the whole thing out the bottom.

I put up a thread a few months ago with a lot of info and a few pics.Look at that, it will save a lot of typing.

The heads don't seem to be a problem. Growe3 is right about cleaning and reusing them, all his info is right on but I'd still drop the cradle instead of taking it out the top.

jameskz28
01-26-04, 02:25 PM
Thanks for all the info so far guys. I think I may try the hoist idea...would seem alot easier to pull the exhaust flanges. Where did you attach to the car?

zonie77
01-26-04, 02:55 PM
Cut a 4x4 to fit under the radiator support, then wrapped them with a tow strap and used the tow strap to lift the body. That spread the load. Without the cradle the body is pretty light.

zonie77
01-26-04, 05:34 PM
I did a write up on dropping the cradlw at home. I can't find it now. If any of the modereators can find it I'd appreciate it and Jameskz28 might also. Thanks!

zonie77
01-26-04, 10:42 PM
Here's the link to the info I put up. It's a long process but obviously you can do it at home!

http://cadillacforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5052

jameskz28
01-26-04, 11:53 PM
Another question to those of you that have done this before...is there another way to get all the gaskets besides going to the dealer? Local parts shop shows Not Available. Thanks again!

zonie77
01-27-04, 12:05 PM
I think Checker had some and there are gaskets available online. My brother ordered his through a parts store so they are available. Try more parts stores.

Anthony Cipriano
01-27-04, 04:03 PM
You can replace the head gaskets and do the timeserts with the engine in the car. It's entirely possible. If you're doing this at home it's probably easier to work over the fender and do it in the car than drop the cradle. Dropping the cradle is the "correct" approach if you have a hoist but they can, and have, been done many times in the car.

If one gasket is leaking positively then I'd do both since you are that deep into the engine anyway and whatever caused the failure of one is likely working on the other as well.

Make sure the oil in the valley is not the power steering leaking and lying there. I've seen several "uncurable" engine oil leaks that were actually the power steering leaking into the valley from the pump/reservoir at the front of the engine.

Use the OEM gaskets, not an aftermarket substitute. The OEM gaskets are the best parts available. This is a big job. Don't skimp and have to do it again by using some "cheaper" aftermarket gaskets. Besides, the head bolts have to be replaced as they are one use items. The OEM gasket kit includes the head bolts which is part of the reason for the higher cost.

zonie77
01-27-04, 07:47 PM
Powerglide got parts through this site: GMPARTSDIRECT.com

See what they quote you on parts, let us know. I got that from his post on sparkplugs.

I think the gaskets we got turned out to be GM.

growe3
01-27-04, 09:13 PM
Another online source is:
http://www.partszoneonline.com/Frameset/frame.php?link=4

Parts Online is a dealership in Slovan, PA, all parts are OEM.

I ordered most of my parts through them. I also got a few from GM Direct.

You might make a list and price them through both sources before buying.

-George

growe3
01-27-04, 09:28 PM
I worked on my 1993 STS and I do not believe it is possible to do the complete head gasket repair on it in the car.

Even if I could have gotten the heads off, It would have been a nightmare trying to do the Timesert repair over the fender. The manual seems pretty clear that you need to remove the engine for this service (from the top or bottom).

Dealing with the front cover, crankshaft dampener bolt and timing chains is another somewhat tricky job, especially over the fender.

Are the later models 95+, positioned to give you more room to do this type of repair work?

-George


You can replace the head gaskets and do the timeserts with the engine in the car. It's entirely possible. If you're doing this at home it's probably easier to work over the fender and do it in the car than drop the cradle. Dropping the cradle is the "correct" approach if you have a hoist but they can, and have, been done many times in the car.

If one gasket is leaking positively then I'd do both since you are that deep into the engine anyway and whatever caused the failure of one is likely working on the other as well.

Make sure the oil in the valley is not the power steering leaking and lying there. I've seen several "uncurable" engine oil leaks that were actually the power steering leaking into the valley from the pump/reservoir at the front of the engine.

Use the OEM gaskets, not an aftermarket substitute. The OEM gaskets are the best parts available. This is a big job. Don't skimp and have to do it again by using some "cheaper" aftermarket gaskets. Besides, the head bolts have to be replaced as they are one use items. The OEM gasket kit includes the head bolts which is part of the reason for the higher cost.

Aurora By Olds
01-27-04, 10:53 PM
If youve got the right tools to do it, I would suggest pulling it out the bottom.
Im sure the Cadillacs are just as easy as the Auroras, and this was the EASIEST car I've ever dropped the cradle out of. Everything is right out in the open to disconnect (heater hoses, lines, etc.). Its also much easier to work on the engine, as well as replace things you couldnt normally get to as easily with the engine in (ie: temp sensor).
Also, I took advantage of it, and undercoated my engine bay while it was out.
It is not hard at all to pull these engines out, and I would say, for the extra labor, it is definitly worth it.

zonie77
01-28-04, 12:21 PM
Even if you could do the headgaskets with the engine in the car it would be extremely difficult to reach some of the bolts. The timing cover would be almost impossible to work on. You have to support the engine because the motor mounts have to be removed. The rear deck would be very tight to the firewall even with the block pulled forward as much as possible. The possibility of improperly installing the timeserts would be raised exponentially and your back would be in pain for years.
I don't know why someone would do this in the car as the cradle isn't that hard to remove and I'm sure it lowers the net time required.

Anthony Cipriano
01-28-04, 12:53 PM
I've personally changed the heads on a Northstar engine in the car and did the timeserts at the same time so I know it can be done. I didn't say it was the easiest job or the easiest way to go about it but if you're at home and cann't drop the cradle it can be done. I'm not the only one who's done it either.

Part of the key to doing this in the car is to anticipate the front cover removal ahead of time. Work through the right front wheel well and remove the damper and front cover and loosen the timing drive components. Then go to the top and do the heads. Reinstall the heads and then finish at the front cover.

Like I said, not the easiest way but doable if the situation requires.

Aurora By Olds
01-28-04, 01:06 PM
Ive seen it done inside of the car as well. Not impossible, but definite PITA. If you dont have the right tools to drop the cradle, it CAN be done this way, and with the right amount of patience, it is just as effective.

Anthony Cipriano
01-28-04, 02:57 PM
Ok, I need some help here. Working on a 97 STS with 100k mi. It was sputtering at idle and blowing sweet smoke after sitting for awhile. I pulled the intake manifold and found the problem...there was actually a puddle of oil in the engine valley and appeared to be coming from the head gasket on the inside of cylinder #2.

!


Just out of curiousity. Have you tried dosing the cooling system with the coolant sealant yet? If there is just an issue with coolant injested into a chamber at shutdown by the residual pressure in the cooling system it may be "cured" or at least slowed down considerably, by adding the coolant supplement/sealer to the cooling system (6 pellets into the radiator hose - not the surge tank). Many times a seepage at a gasket can all but be stopped by the sealer. If compression isn't leaking at the compression ring then likely there is a coolant leak path that is tiny enough to stop the brief gas pressure load but steady enough to allow coolant to seep while sitting under pressure. I would try the coolant supplement first, it may buy you some time and certainly wont hurt anything at this point.

zonie77
01-28-04, 05:06 PM
Anthony,
How long did it take for you to stand up straight after doing the heads in the car?...LOL :histeric:

My back won't let me work in that position that long.

Anthony Cipriano
01-28-04, 10:21 PM
Anthony,
How long did it take for you to stand up straight after doing the heads in the car?...LOL :histeric:

My back won't let me work in that position that long.

It was a lot easier when I was younger. You certainly end up laying on the fender a lot to save your back. But it can be done! :p

growe3
01-28-04, 11:27 PM
First don't take this wrong, this is not meant to be a flame.
===============================================

Attached is a photo of my drill motor, the Timesert drill/reamer, the Timesert guide plate with the drill bushing in it.

The setup is 16 .5" long, allowing only 1/16" to get the bit out of the guide plate.

I don't know what model car you worked on, but on my 93 STS this will not allow you to do the rear lower head bolt holes and would be very awkward to do the rear upper head bolt holes, if possible.

Just getting this in position to drill on the rear side of the block would be trying. Keeping it aligned to drill true, along with needing to remove it three times per hole to keep the drill bit clear, then blowing out the drill material, tapping each hole, spray clean each hole to provide a clean tapped hole to screw in the Timesert with thread locker on it, and do not allow any drill material to get into an oil return all while hanging over the fender???

While I will concede you could do the front side, I don't believe the rear could be done in any rational way. Unless you have some very specialized tools. A right angle drill motor may work, but you would spend more time and effort doing it that way and a strong likelihood of breaking a drill bit or just plain buggering up a hole, than just pulling the engine, from the top or bottom.

There is also the issue of the front cover, timing chains, etc.

If you do not have the skill level to remove the engine, I would strongly advise you to not undertake this repair.

I stand by my advice, do not attempt in the car.

-George

Anthony Cipriano
01-29-04, 01:25 PM
Duct tape over the entire deck. Then just punch holes to work through and it keeps the chips and stuff out of all the other orifices. We used a small right angle air drill - it was pretty small but it worked fine and with the guide plate it fit in there.

The car I specifically did had the engine rocked forward slightly by removing the dog-bone torque struts and using a floor jack to rock the engine forward some. It gains you several inches of clearance at the very back and gives the whole setup a little better angle.

I agree that it's a very contrived setup to do this in the car but it can be done and has been.

It's a lot like the transmission input speed sensor. It has to have the transmission removed to replace it by all common knowlege - but it can be done in the car and I know of one guy who did it and put a pictorial "how-to" somewhere on the net. There was a need to drop the cradle on one side and pulling the side cover off but "every one" said it was impossible until someone documented it.

jameskz28
01-31-04, 05:31 AM
Wow...thanks for all the different perspectives on this. I'm no mechnic, and this is only the second time I've done such an extensive repair job. (first time has a bown head gasket/ head job/ cam install on my 95 Z28) From the sound of it, I think I would be better off dropping the cradle, as I do have access to a cherry picker.

In response to the following question, there seems to be a fairly obvious comprimise of the head gasket right behind #2 (when looking at the front of the car) cylinder. The oil in the valley has been seeping from that point for some time it seems.


Just out of curiousity. Have you tried dosing the cooling system with the coolant sealant yet? If there is just an issue with coolant injested into a chamber at shutdown by the residual pressure in the cooling system it may be "cured" or at least slowed down considerably, by adding the coolant supplement/sealer to the cooling system (6 pellets into the radiator hose - not the surge tank). Many times a seepage at a gasket can all but be stopped by the sealer. If compression isn't leaking at the compression ring then likely there is a coolant leak path that is tiny enough to stop the brief gas pressure load but steady enough to allow coolant to seep while sitting under pressure. I would try the coolant supplement first, it may buy you some time and certainly wont hurt anything at this point.

Does $46 a gasket seem reasonable for the heads? Would that include the bolts? And does anyone have the timesert kit laying around?

Thanks again guys!!

Realtor1
01-31-04, 12:22 PM
Let me jump in and ask an ignorant question...any certain thing(s) you can do to help prevent a head gasket issue on a 93 STS? I can DIY on alot of stuff but after reading this thread wouldnt even try to to the Head gaskets. Sounds like the price tage to repair at a shop would be more than what the car is worth......

thanks for a very informative thread

ShadowLvr400
01-31-04, 12:28 PM
A shop a friend recommended is going to do mine for $1340. The buddy runs a body shop, tis why I'm able to get it done. Bleh. Caddy, if they'd actually do the work, would charge over $1600 for labor alone. But, Cadillac has said they won't touch my car, end of story, I'm best off buying a new one from them they say.

growe3
01-31-04, 12:55 PM
Probably the best preventive maintenance is to change the coolant every two years to keep the head gasket in good condition.

If you do not know for sure when the coolant was last changed, do it now.
Even if it looks fine, the silicates can be depleted.

.Remove surge tank cap.

.Drain coolant.

.Do NOT flush.

.Slip the lower radiator hose off at the pump and add two tubes of Bars Leak Golden Seal, this is the same as the factory put in. Reattach radiator hose.

.There is a small (3/8" tube) attached to the water pump housing bolt.
this is a vent to keep air bled from the water pump. Remove the tube and blow through, you should hear air come out the surge tank. Caution if using compressed air cover the surge tank opening with rags to prevent coolant residual from blowing out on your engine or paint.

.Refill with green coolant at a 50/50 mix (premix is best to be acurate).

.Run engine, with cap off, till warm and adjust coolant level as required at surge tank.



Let me jump in and ask an ignorant question...any certain thing(s) you can do to help prevent a head gasket issue on a 93 STS? I can DIY on alot of stuff but after reading this thread wouldnt even try to to the Head gaskets. Sounds like the price tage to repair at a shop would be more than what the car is worth......

thanks for a very informative thread

Realtor1
01-31-04, 01:15 PM
Just wondering why you say no to flushing it? Thanks for the info...is bars as good as the Gm sealant tabs I hear about?

Anthony Cipriano
01-31-04, 09:51 PM
Just wondering why you say no to flushing it? Thanks for the info...is bars as good as the Gm sealant tabs I hear about?
Flushing usually involves either adding chemicals to the system to clean it and/or using a garden hose to flush water through the system. Neither is desireable as they leave, at best, tap water in the sytem that cannot be removed or, at worst, caustic chemicals in the system that will certainly be detrimantal to the life of the heat exchangers/engine. Besides, if you flush with the hose, then you are chasing the coolant concentration to get it 50/50 by adding straight coolant. Not a good situation.

Best to just drain and refill with premixed 50/50 coolant/distilled water. The GM coolant supplement pellets and the BarsLeaks "golden seal" powder in the clear tubes is the exact same thing. BarsLeaks supplies the pellets to GM.