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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, northstars in general in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; hey guys,i just want to know are there any particulars to look out for when purchasing a vehicle thats nortstar ...
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    biggr101 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    northstars in general

    hey guys,i just want to know are there any particulars to look out for when purchasing a vehicle thats nortstar equipped.i noticed alot of them either overheating or already diagnosed for headgaskets.are there any years thats better or worse than others?is there one that doesnt eventually require head gaskets?does it matter the mileage?any help appreciated cause i really want a deville and i see more with nortstars then 4.9's.

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    eldorado1 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: northstars in general

    It was supposedly fixed in 2000

    mileage doesn't matter... year probably doesn't matter.

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    Cadillacboy's Avatar
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    Re: northstars in general

    Maintenance is a rule of thumb.
    I think a car with a lower mileage but poor maintenance doesn't mean it's better to a higher mileage car with a good maintenance .

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    eldorado1 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: northstars in general

    Maintenance does help, but I don't think it helps much. I'd guess 3 out of 4 head gasket problems are due to the threads pulling out of the block... Something you have no control over...

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    Ranger's Avatar
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    Re: northstars in general

    Cooling system maintenance is the biggest factor (though not a guarantee on any aluminum engine). Make sure the coolant has been changed as recommended.

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    Re: northstars in general

    Cooling system maintenance is probably THE most important factor. On ANY aluminum engine, you can have cooling system problems if the cooling system is not maintained. Reason being, aluminum doesn't rust away, like iron does. On an older iron engine, you know when corrosion is taking place -- the coolant starts turning a rusty red. On a newer aluminum engine, you can let the block get completely eat away (in theory), but the coolant will remain the color it started. There's no good indication to the owner that the coolant needs replacing. 5 years or 150,000 miles is the spec for the Dexcool coolant.

    There were some revisions to the engine in 2000, and those revisions include slight differences in the head bolt area. I understand the thread pitch was changed, and the bolts themselves are physically longer, with more thread contact area. I'm sure this equates, to some degree, to a lessened probability of head gasket failure, but to what extent, we don't know.

    It shouldn't be assumed that all Northstars are going to need head gasket work at x number of miles. My '97 has about 156,000 miles and the head gaskets are original. Lots of folks are running around with the original head gaskets in the engine. Certainly, as the engine ages, as is the case with ANY engine out there, the potential for major problems rises, but I don't think it's fair to assume that every engine out there is going to need an overhaul due to this one issue.

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    z06bigbird is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: northstars in general

    Quote Originally Posted by biggr101 View Post
    hey guys,i just want to know are there any particulars to look out for when purchasing a vehicle thats nortstar equipped.i noticed alot of them either overheating or already diagnosed for headgaskets.are there any years thats better or worse than others?is there one that doesnt eventually require head gaskets?does it matter the mileage?any help appreciated cause i really want a deville and i see more with nortstars then 4.9's.
    I would kill to locate a low mileage 4.9. In fact, we have a joke around my house. About 6 years ago, a friend of mine had a serious health problem. All expected him to die. He agreed to sell me his 92 SDV with 25k on it. Well, the guy is not driving although someone in family keeps the car running. I just don't understand why he doesn't die. I want that car. Just joking.

    Getting back to Northstars, here is my opinion with some actual facts:

    1. All Northstars have an extra fan belt ($11) on driver's side just behind radiator. That belt runs water pump and needs to be changed before it breaks. When it breaks, you are likely to cook engine. You can change it yourself--very easy.

    2. The earlier Northstars (93 to 2000 or so) have a real problem when the engine overheats. The head bolts pull up and strip the holes in the block. Dealer typically is only one who has special $1500 digital tool to correct problem. Even then, repair is probably $5000 give or take a 1000.

    3. Early Northstars also were known for major oil leak problem. This block is a 3 piece block. The original seals in the block did not seal well on some of them. Oil would literally POUR out of the block. Again, dealer fix only. Expensive. Engine must be pulled from bottom of car; all suspension must be removed, etc.

    4. Starter on Northstar is under intake manifold. Expensive repair.

    5. If you live in high heat and where there is high moisture, spark plug wires ground out--sparks jump. Wires break down. Dealer charges about $600. You can do it youself for the price of wires. Dealer charges for diagnostics, wires, installation, etc.

    6. DO YOU STILL WANT A NORTHSTAR????

    Now, in 2002 I bought the nicest 1997 Crimson Pearl (like candy apple red) Sedan de Ville with 21k miles on it. One owner, little old lady. Perfect car. Not a scratch on it. I loved it, but I just sold it at xmas. Never any problems. I had 5 new tires on it, new batt, hoses, belts, fuel filter, air filter, etc. I am a not on maintaining cars. In 5 years, I put only 6000 miles on it. 28 mpg too on highway. I just sold it because I was afraid that if something happened to this engine, I would be stuck with a very expensive bill on an OLD CAR. New owner bought it without even taking it for a test drive--$12,500. Blue book is probably 7k on that car, but buyer could see how I maintained that car. I do miss the car, but I will buy another much later model Caddy in the future. Right now I am driving a 2005 LeSabre with 12k miles on it. ALMOST as comfortable; good gas mileage, but not the same as a Caddy. Biggest advantage is that I have absolutely no worries about engine with this car.

    Now that I have confused you....

    If you find a Northstar, take a 1 hour test drive (or longer) to check the temp. Look under car for oil leaks. Take VIN to local Caddy dealer for a print out of maint history.

    Ed

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    Re: northstars in general

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    Getting back to Northstars, here is my opinion with some actual facts...
    Some facts to go along with your facts...

    1) Good point -- the water pump belt is on the driver side of the engine and provides extra protection against overheating if your regular serpenting belt breaks. On normal engines, that (serpentine belt breaking) would stop the water pump. On the Northstar, the water pump is driven off the left-hand intake camshaft.

    2) I'm not sure what the "$1500 digital tool" is you're talking about, unless you mean the Tech II, and a $5000 repair bill for new headgaskets is outrageous, even for dealer pricing and especially for third party pricing. You can get an entire engine for that. A common/typical repair bill for headgaskets is in the $2000-3000 range.

    3) The case half gasket and oil pan gasket are not in high pressure points. Oil does not "pour" out of the engine at this location. If you have a major oil leak that produces more than a few drops overnight, look elsewhere, like an oil filter adaptor gasket or oil cooler o-ring. The "case half leak" is probably one of the most mis-diagnosed problems (aside from headgaskets).

    4) The starter is one of the easiest starters you'll ever replace. You'd be robbed if you paid someone to do it. No laying on your back under the car, no hoisting the starter in the air and messing with shims. The starter is in a safe and dry place under the intake manifold, keeping it out of the salt spray and other sources of corrosion under the car, making the chances of starter failure on these engines remarkably low. If you do have to replace a starter, however, it's a very easy job. The intake manifold is dry with no coolant, making removal a snap.

    5) Your point about spark plug wires breaking down is valid for any engine. The original ACDelco spark plug wires on these engines normally last for 100,000+ miles. I had to replace the original plug wires on my '97 at about 135k miles, but only because they were mishandled by the dealer during the fuel rail recall.

    6) I don't see why not!

    Its unfortunate that you let your paranoia drive you to selling an excellent car (your '97 DeVille). It'll likely be running years and years into the future.

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    Re: northstars in general

    Well put Jadcock. Many wrong "facts" in post #7.

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    Re: northstars in general

    ......and a post-'01(?) N* doesn't have any plug wires, anyway. It's COP (coil on plug) with insulated connector boots between the coil packs and double platinum AC Delco plugs, which are good for 100Kmi. (don't get anal or creative about the AC plugs. Search the spark plug threads....) If you read horror stories here regarding the N*, remember that those stories represent 1/10 of 1% of all N* engines out there........my 327 Chevelle had its share of bugs, too.......Z06, you threw away a great car.......hope you're not so antsy about aircraft engines........!

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    Re: northstars in general

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    2. The earlier Northstars (93 to 2000 or so) have a real problem when the engine overheats. The head bolts pull up and strip the holes in the block. Dealer typically is only one who has special $1500 digital tool to correct problem. Even then, repair is probably $5000 give or take a 1000.

    3. Early Northstars also were known for major oil leak problem. This block is a 3 piece block. The original seals in the block did not seal well on some of them. Oil would literally POUR out of the block. Again, dealer fix only. Expensive. Engine must be pulled from bottom of car; all suspension must be removed, etc.

    4. Starter on Northstar is under intake manifold. Expensive repair.

    5. If you live in high heat and where there is high moisture, spark plug wires ground out--sparks jump. Wires break down. Dealer charges about $600. You can do it youself for the price of wires. Dealer charges for diagnostics, wires, installation, etc.

    6. DO YOU STILL WANT A NORTHSTAR????


    Ed


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    eldorado1 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: northstars in general

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    1. All Northstars have an extra fan belt ($11) on driver's side just behind radiator. That belt runs water pump and needs to be changed before it breaks. When it breaks, you are likely to cook engine. You can change it yourself--very easy.
    True.

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    2. The earlier Northstars (93 to 2000 or so) have a real problem when the engine overheats. The head bolts pull up and strip the holes in the block. Dealer typically is only one who has special $1500 digital tool to correct problem. Even then, repair is probably $5000 give or take a 1000.
    Timesert kit (I assume you're talking about) is ~$400 new. Repair is expensive, because the engine should come out. Lots of labor there.

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    3. Early Northstars also were known for major oil leak problem. This block is a 3 piece block. The original seals in the block did not seal well on some of them. Oil would literally POUR out of the block. Again, dealer fix only. Expensive. Engine must be pulled from bottom of car; all suspension must be removed, etc.
    Maybe. I would expand that to say "all" northstars were known for "minor" oil leak problems. The oil manifold and half case seal are known problem areas. They are expensive to replace. Most people live with a couple drops of oil on the driveway. It's not a big deal. Really.

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    4. Starter on Northstar is under intake manifold. Expensive repair.
    Only expensive if you don't know any better. It's a 1 hour job, and you don't even get dirty. (Try saying that on an SBC with headers that have to come off first, etc) It's easy to dupe customers by saying "well, the top half of your engine has to come off.... that'll be $2000." The truth is, 4 or 10 bolts are all that need to come off, then you just move the manifold out of the way and you have that starter staring you in the face.

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    5. If you live in high heat and where there is high moisture, spark plug wires ground out--sparks jump. Wires break down. Dealer charges about $600. You can do it youself for the price of wires. Dealer charges for diagnostics, wires, installation, etc.
    So don't go to a dealer. My wires cost me $40 and have lasted me 5 years now. I got my money's worth out of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by z06bigbird View Post
    6. DO YOU STILL WANT A NORTHSTAR????
    Even if all those problems were not blown out of proportion - YES.

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    biggr101 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: northstars in general

    thanks for all the replies.they've definetly given me some added insight.one more question though;what are timeserts??

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    Re: northstars in general

    So what's an average headgasket job on a Northstar cost when done at a dealer anyways? $2000-3000? If one could pick up a nice late '90s N* Cadillac for I dunno....$7200, and have a HG go on them, they're in for what? Like $10,200 total at most? That's not so bad considering the car cost ~$42,000 new eight years ago.
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    Re: northstars in general

    I agree that buying a used Cadillac with a known HG problem might be a good choice, if you're looking for a project car and do it yourself for about $500 in parts. For not a lot of money, you could have a pretty nice ride. Still, $7k is too much for a late '90s Cad. I'm only asking $5.5k for my '97 and still no bites.

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