What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems? in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; After having a blown headgasket in my 96 Olds Aurora and reading all of the horror stories about Northstars blowing ...
  1. #1
    davidjp3 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    After having a blown headgasket in my 96 Olds Aurora and reading all of the horror stories about Northstars blowing headgaskets, it seems like most of them have this problem. It sure has scared me away from buying anything with a Northstar.

    Realistically, what percentage blow a headgasket around 100,000 miles? Are all years prone to this problem?

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    dkozloski's Avatar
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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Everybody that has headgasket problems comes on this forum and rants. The view from here is highly distorted. The GM Powertrain engineer that used to answer questions here and was very highly regarded claimed that the percentage was very, very low. I tried to pin him down along with a lot of other people but he never gave us a number.
    Don't mess with Binky Bear!


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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Oh boy here we go. You know your not going to get a reasonable answer I hope. This is just about the most pointless question to ask right after "What kind of oil should I use".

    Alot of Northstars experience the problem, and alot of Northstars dont. You wont find me being so shortsighted that I dont think its something not to be concerned about, but Im also not like the naysayers here who cower in the corner from ever touching another Northstar either, they are some of the best cars in the world and the engine has received award after award for the many positive points it DOES have. A remarkable piece of engineering with a few obvious flaws in the execution.

    Trying to quantify numbers is pointless. The best way to look at it is as a problem that you should be AWARE of, but not one that should scare you away. You just have to know what to look for. Dont buy Northstar cars that havent had the cooling system maintained. Thats pretty much it. Once you own it, make sure YOU DO the proper cooling system maintenance as well, and you shouldnt ever experience any problems.

    Only you can make the ultimate decision whether you want to give it a shot. I know when I get a chance Im going to get a 2005 STS myself as they are dirt cheap now and pack a ton of features in for the money. As far as your question about the years affected, we havent seen any here after 2003, but the engine design was improved in 2000, with no major changes in 2003... so this is an anomale that isnt quite explainable.

    Good luck.

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    AJxtcman's Avatar
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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidjp3 View Post
    After having a blown headgasket in my 96 Olds Aurora and reading all of the horror stories about Northstars blowing headgaskets, it seems like most of them have this problem. It sure has scared me away from buying anything with a Northstar.

    Realistically, what percentage blow a headgasket around 100,000 miles? Are all years prone to this problem?
    It is not a head gasket
    I can only recall 1 or 2 2000+ Northstars with head gasket concerns.
    I have only installed 1 or 2 insterts in 2000+ blocks.
    The root cause was corrected on the 2000+ engines.
    On 2000+ car they fixed the brakes, susupension, Apperance, Fuse box, and I can go on and on. It is part of evolution. They took a junk 4.9L and fixed it. The designed the Northstar. They fixed the first gen by making the second and third. They are fixing the Low powered Northstar. Yes we have a 300 HP V6 and then we will get the 7.2L 4-6-8-10-12. Well you can't just call it the 4-6-8, Rumors have it the CTS V will be a 3.6L S/C with direct injection

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Quote Originally Posted by Playdrv4me View Post
    the engine design was improved in 2000, with no major changes in 2003... so this is an anomale that isnt quite explainable.

    Good luck.
    I feel that they had a major change in 03 that concerned the head gaskets.

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    You know. I keep thinking that too but I'm not sure why. Please elaborate.

    Quote Originally Posted by AJxtcman View Post
    I feel that they had a major change in 03 that concerned the head gaskets.
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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Quote Originally Posted by AJxtcman View Post
    It is not a head gasket
    I can only recall 1 or 2 2000+ Northstars with head gasket concerns.
    I have only installed 1 or 2 insterts in 2000+ blocks.
    The root cause was corrected on the 2000+ engines.
    On 2000+ car they fixed the brakes, susupension, Apperance, Fuse box, and I can go on and on. It is part of evolution. They took a junk 4.9L and fixed it. The designed the Northstar. They fixed the first gen by making the second and third. They are fixing the Low powered Northstar. Yes we have a 300 HP V6 and then we will get the 7.2L 4-6-8-10-12. Well you can't just call it the 4-6-8, Rumors have it the CTS V will be a 3.6L S/C with direct injection


    I have to correct this misconception EVERY SINGLE time it crops up here. 2000 PLUS CARS ARE *NOT* EXEMPT FROM HG FAILURES!. In fact we have been seeing a greater majority of 2000 and 2001 cars here more than ever before. ONLY IN 2003 and NEWER CARS HAVE WE SEEN ZERO FAILURES AS OF YET, POSSIBLY as you mentioned due to an improvement. BUT THESE CARS STILL NEED DILIGENT COOLING SYSTEM MAINTENANCE! In fact, MANY of the threads that have come up in the last 3 months have been 2000 and 2001 cars with confirmed headgasket failures. Mrmadhead's DTS comes up as an immediate example. We had a member here with a 2002 STS with only 40k miles that ALSO had a head failure WITH pulled bolts, and last but not least, I myself had a 2001 SLS that blew the headgaskets, pulled the bolts and as a side effect overheated to the point it CRACKED the cheap plastic intake manifold.

    It is IGNORANT to lead people to believe that they do not need to be concerned about this problem on 2000+ cars. You should perform due diligence with respect to prior maintenance *AND* current maintenance with *ANY* Northstar cooling system, PERIOD. IT IS CHEAP AND EASY MAINTENANCE COMPARED TO THE COST OF REPAIRING A BLOWN HG.

    Also, dont know if youve picked up Motortrend, but the 09' V is slated to have the LS7. If by some odd chance that article was wrong, it would still make no sense to put a V6 in the V with that cars current cult following and promises of 500 PLUS BHP. Id like to see a RELIABLE 3.6 S/C producing over 500hp.

  9. #8
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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Like I said at the Dealership I work at we have only had 1 or 2.
    The 99 and prior problem is not a head Gasket failure, but the BLOCK fails. GM now sells a SHORT BLOCK just because that is the failure point. It is strictly an material issue.
    The cooling system has no affect on the material they used in casting!!!
    If the block leaks coolant out the side or the threaded area turns to powder is not caused by cooling system failure.
    75% or more block from 99 and prior are deteriorated to the point that a GM time sert will not work.
    As far as bolts pulling out of 2000+ blocks. How are they removed? You are aware of a special procedure correct? I have seen more main bolts broken off in 2000+ blocks than Head bolts pulled free. The bolts break when removed.
    .
    2003 Cadillac
    Notice: Do not mix early and late design components. Improper clamp loads will occur if cylinder head bolts are tightened using a mixture of early and late design components. Damage will occur to the powertrain if mixed components are used.

    *The engine block holes in the engine block deck faces for the M11 cylinder head bolts have decreased in depth, they are drilled and tapped approximately 7 mm (0.276 in) shallower.

    Notice: Do not mix early and late design components. The internal balance of the engine will be affected if early and late design components are used together. Damage will occur to the powertrain if mixed components are used.

    *There are early and late design crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and pistons pins. The early and late design components must not be interchanged
    .


    Some 03 have 2.0 bolts
    Component Comparison from the Previous Year
    The thread pitch on the M11 cylinder head bolts and the engine block cylinder head bolt holes has been revised for MY2004. Determine the pitch of the threads by using a thread pitch gage or measure the length of the threads of the cylinder head bolt.

    *The MY2003 and earlier cylinder head bolts have a pitch of 1.5 mm and the length of the threads are about 48 mm (1.890 in) long.

    *New for MY2004 the cylinder head bolts have a pitch of 2.0 mm and the length of the threads are about 67 mm (2.638 in) long.


    I am headed the the DELLS so I have to run, but I will share more info tomorrow

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    I can vouch for this. I had to get my motor replaced due to silicone clogging the oil pickup screen (bad oil pan leak "repair"). The remanufactured Northstar that I bought that was properly timeserted, and I just had one or more of the timeserts fail. The builder of the motor got together with a machine shop and designed a bigger better and stronger insert than the GM recommended timesert. The head bolts he now uses are longer to fit the new insert and the insert has coarser threads to "bite" into the block better. He is looking into litigation against GM to recoup some of his mounting losses, and thinks a class action could be possible also. In the meantime, I now have to get my motor pulled and shipped to him to be repaired under warranty.

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Quote Originally Posted by chazglenn3 View Post
    I can vouch for this. I had to get my motor replaced due to silicone clogging the oil pickup screen (bad oil pan leak "repair"). The remanufactured Northstar that I bought that was properly timeserted, and I just had one or more of the timeserts fail. The builder of the motor got together with a machine shop and designed a bigger better and stronger insert than the GM recommended timesert. The head bolts he now uses are longer to fit the new insert and the insert has coarser threads to "bite" into the block better. He is looking into litigation against GM to recoup some of his mounting losses, and thinks a class action could be possible also. In the meantime, I now have to get my motor pulled and shipped to him to be repaired under warranty.
    Sorry to hear about it. I was really really REALLY hoping this wasnt the case. Weve been recomending these guys to the forum members with headgasket issues. Im glad to see they are helping you out... I know its not their fault.

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    As far as bolts pulling out of 2000+ blocks. How are they removed? You are aware of a special procedure correct?
    Not that I am planning on doing this (and I am too lazy to go searching through the FSM ), but could you elaborate

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Quote Originally Posted by AJxtcman View Post
    *The MY2003 and earlier cylinder head bolts have a pitch of 1.5 mm and the length of the threads are about 48 mm (1.890 in) long.

    *New for MY2004 the cylinder head bolts have a pitch of 2.0 mm and the length of the threads are about 67 mm (2.638 in) long.
    This is interesting; it appears the bolts were lengthened twice in the FWD Northstars. MY2000 being the first time, and MY2004 being the second time. I didn't know there was a second head bolt re-design.

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    CaddieNewbe is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    I'm new to this site. My wife and I looked at a '99 Deville over ther weekend that has the Northstar engine with 108K. The car's in excellent shape and drives real nice. It's a private sale and he's asking $5900. We're going to have our mechanic check out the car before we decide to purchase. I've briefly read some of the posts on this site concerning this engine. The ones about oil consumption and running the engine are of interest to me - if my wife drives this car only, it will set in the garage most of the time and see maybe 35-45 mph maximum because she doesn't do a lot of driving except for errands. We will take the car on vacations, but I'm wondering if I need to take the car to work occassionally so I can get it on the highway and run 65-75 mph for 20 minutes. Does anyone have some comments to share?

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    Go to the top left of this page an click on Technical Archives. Read up on oil consumption and full throttle.

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    Re: What percentage of Northstar engines have headgasket problems?

    This morning I was up by my service manager and we started talking about how Lincoln's are junk. Them I told him about a conversation I had the night before. A tech from the muffler shop asked if I knew anything about VW 1.8L engines. He said he wanted to buy one. He told me that they are blowing Head gaskets and or turbos at a low mileage. He told me he thought he would sue VW if his blew.
    .
    I told Mike from the Exhaust shop how stupid it sounded.
    .
    My service manager and I discussed this thread and and what Mike and I had talked about and we discussed the following.
    .
    Cars evolve and that is how it is or we would be driving Model T's
    .
    How could you even think about suing GM over Head Gasket failures even if every Head Gasket on every Northstar Blew.
    .
    you could sue over Brake pads. They don't last the life of the car!!! They can!!!
    .
    You could sue over the old Green coolant that had Silicates in it and did not last 5 years. I can just pour sand in your radiator and cause the water pump to fail just like the old green coolant did.
    .
    We could sue over Tv's not lasting a life time.
    .
    We could sue over everything you buy at walmart.
    .
    My Service Manager said he could only remember 1 head gasket job on a 2000+ car. That car had been over heated from a Cross over gasket leak.
    .
    I need to make a good living. I have had a lot of training and I continue to update my training. Car must need service and if they are low maintenance then they have to break.
    .
    Year 1 cost to maintain your Vehicle is X
    Year 2 the cost is Y
    Year 3 is the cost of year 1 so it is X times 2. May need brakes or alignment
    Year 4 may be X time 3. You should need tire and the alignment for sure on top of the regular maint.
    Year 5 The cost of Y times 2. Trans and cooling system service.
    Year 6 more stuff is breaking and the cost will vary. Also brake, belts, hoses, tires again, alignment.
    .
    The cost to MAINTAN YOUR VEHICLE INCLUDES
    Oil changes
    washer fluid
    Fuel
    car washes
    tires
    brakes
    detailing the car
    under body flushes
    I think insurance is figured into it also.
    All the regular maintenance in the owners manual.
    Finance charges.
    License & registration
    Depreciation
    .
    It just comes down to how much you feel is ok to spend on a car per year.

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