Head gasket question
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Cadillac Seville / Cadillac Eldorado Forum Discussion, Head gasket question in Past Cadillac Vehicle Discussion; Okay, so my stupid brother absolutely insists that I CAN change my head gasket(s) without removing the engine. (97'Eldorado.) When ...
  1. #1
    geegeeburr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Head gasket question

    Okay, so my stupid brother absolutely insists that I CAN change my head gasket(s) without removing the engine. (97'Eldorado.) When I tell him that, no, I can't he says, "Which gasket is it? Do you even know?" No, I don't. And he says, well, you should find out before you decide that you can't do it. Soooo, now if I don't find out, he will ride me about it for the rest of my natural life, and probably later, after he dies and comes back to haunt me, stupid brother. So can anyone tell me how I might go about finding out which head gasket is bad, assuming ignorance of engines, but handiness with tools? Would it have to do with checking the spark plugs? Thank you for your time. (And actually he's really smart and great with mechanical stuff, he's just a gigantic PITA, which is what makes him a "stupid" brother.)

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    basscatt's Avatar
    basscatt is offline Cadillac Owners Master
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    Re: Head gasket question

    actually -
    the head gaskets - and head bolt holes CAN be repaired without removing then engine -

    and it doesn't matter which gasket is actually bad -
    because NO ONE would ever do just one side -

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    RippyPartsDept's Avatar
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    Re: Head gasket question

    the answer to this question is much longer than i have time to write up right now but for brevity's sake lets just say this

    yes, your brother is correct
    you can change out a headgasket in a northstar without removing the engine

    why does everyone remove the engine when doing a headgasket job on a northstar powered car?
    it's much easier

    and lets hope that you can drill and tap those read heads while it's still in there
    also note: if you plan on studding the block instead of just using bigserts or normserts installing the rear head over the studs will be almost impossible (or maybe even impossible)

    the main point is that there's so much work involved that it's much easier and safer to remove the engine

    ...

    also note that nobody just replaces the gaskets ... you have to drill and tap and then insert or stud

    ...

    and if you do take the engine out then you'll have tons of space to do lower gasket work too and make sure there's no leaks at all

    ...

    all of this runs along the lines of the "if you're going to do it, do it right" line of thinking

    ...

    and really ... this is the short version

    the long version is posted time and time again in thread after thread here on these forums ... just do some digging and read up
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    geegeeburr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Head gasket question

    Thanks, Basscatt and Chris.

    Basscatt, why would you never do only one side?

    Chris, I actually read about all of those various methods, the studding, and the Norm method, and the timeserts. Being handy in a workshop and experienced with tools, and having read the directions on the kit, I actually think I would be able to do the Norm method just fine, but there's no way in heck that I can remove the engine.

    So, just so that I can make my big brother cut it out-- The reason that you would NEVER do just the gaskets, is because if the gaskets are failing, it's automatically assumed that the bolts are already stripped, is that right?

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    vincentm's Avatar
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    Re: Head gasket question

    If you keep the engine in you can only use Normserts, studs need more room for installation thus requiring engine removal.

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    Re: Head gasket question

    OK - the short version -

    the underlying problem is the threads in the block fail -
    the head bolts can't keep the correct torque/tension on the head -
    the head gasket fails -

    each cylinder head has 10 bolts that hold it down -

    Basscatt, why would you never do only one side?
    if the threads failed on one side of the motor -
    wouldn't you think it could happen to the other side?

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    geegeeburr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Head gasket question

    Okay, I gotcha. Basically, the only reason why the head gaskets fail is if the bolt threads are failing/have failed already. Which brings you back to the larger problem of having to fix all the bolts. Thanks!

    Vincent, are you sure you can do the Norm version with the engine in? The whole reason I discarded the idea of trying the Norm fix is because I know there's no way I can remove and replace the whole engine. I read that it's nearly impossible to drill out the holes properly and put in the inserts if the engine is still in.

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    It's MUCH more of a headache doing it with the engine in place. Inserts are possible, studs are NOT.

  10. #9
    JimD is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Head gasket question

    Quote Originally Posted by geegeeburr View Post
    Okay, I gotcha. Basically, the only reason why the head gaskets fail is if the bolt threads are failing/have failed already.
    That is the Reader's Digest version of the issue. Or the urban mythology slash Internet mythology version of the truth (facts). An untruth repeated often enough becomes the truth.

    Which brings you back to the larger problem of having to fix all the bolts.
    More to the point, it is the threaded bolt holes in the block that require attention. GM/Cadillac (Northstar) Service Manuals recommend the head bolts NOT be reused AND the block threads be "refreshed" (my terminology) with TimeSerts: No matter why the head bolts are removed!

    Supposedly viable alternatives to TimeSerts have been marketed. Your money + your car = your choice.

    The whole reason I discarded the idea of trying the Norm fix is because I know there's no way I can remove and replace the whole engine. I read that it's nearly impossible to drill out the holes properly and put in the inserts if the engine is still in.
    The threads I have followed about NOT dropping the engine to refresh the block threads did not include a follow-up post 50,000 miles later. Faced with the inevitability of replacing the head gaskets on a Northstar, I would pay an experienced Northstar technician to drop the engine and perform the job properly. Per the Service Manual.

    Again, your money + your car = your choice.

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    Re: Head gasket question

    Quote Originally Posted by geegeeburr View Post
    Okay, I gotcha. Basically, the only reason why the head gaskets fail is if the bolt threads are failing/have failed already. Which brings you back to the larger problem of having to fix all the bolts. Thanks!
    It the chicken or the egg theory. Did the HG leak first causing coolant (electrolyte) to corrode the threads or did the threads pull causing the heads to loose clamping pressure, thus allowing coolant (electrolyte) to enter the threads and cause the corrosion . It's been beaten too death with no conclusive answer.


    Vincent, are you sure you can do the Norm version with the engine in? The whole reason I discarded the idea of trying the Norm fix is because I know there's no way I can remove and replace the whole engine. I read that it's nearly impossible to drill out the holes properly and put in the inserts if the engine is still in.
    Actually any "insert" (Norms or Timesert) can be done in the car, as mentioned with great difficulty, but you need a 90 degree angle drill due to firewall clearance (and LOTS of patience).

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    basscatt's Avatar
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    Re: Head gasket question

    Quote Originally Posted by geegeeburr View Post
    Okay, I gotcha. Basically, the only reason why the head gaskets fail is if the bolt threads are failing/have failed already. Which brings you back to the larger problem of having to fix all the bolts. Thanks!

    Vincent, are you sure you can do the Norm version with the engine in? The whole reason I discarded the idea of trying the Norm fix is because I know there's no way I can remove and replace the whole engine. I read that it's nearly impossible to drill out the holes properly and put in the inserts if the engine is still in.
    ------------------------
    I read that it's nearly impossible to drill out the holes properly
    and put in the inserts if the engine is still in.

    it takes a right-angle drill -
    but it IS a royal pain -

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    Re: Head gasket question

    Quote Originally Posted by geegeeburr View Post
    why would you never do only one side?
    Because no one wants to do this job twice.

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    Plus, not always avgood way to tell which side is leaking, if not both anyway.

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    RippyPartsDept's Avatar
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    In my opinion a right angle drill in tight quarters is not an acceptable way to perform this repair. Especially for a first timer like yourself. You're risking a lot.
    basscatt likes this.
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    geegeeburr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Head gasket question

    Quote Originally Posted by RippyPartsDept View Post
    Especially for a first timer like yourself. You're risking a lot.
    Well, I can't argue with you on that, but at least now I have more information and a better understanding of the options, which is always a good thing.

    Thanks, guys, food for thought!

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