More Northstar head gasket questions...
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, More Northstar head gasket questions... in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; I'm close to pulling the trigger on either a '02 or '04 Deville. Both have approx 55K on them and ...
  1. #1
    jt99 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    More Northstar head gasket questions...

    I'm close to pulling the trigger on either a '02 or '04 Deville. Both have approx 55K on them and are in almost pristine condition. My question has (of course) to do with the Northstar reliability. After reading this forum and seeing the amount of failing head gaskets reported, I'm wondering if this model is even worth considering. Can someone confirm whether the 2000+ yr heads & gaskets been redesigned or not? I've seen two posts on '00 up failures with relatively low miles, few compared with the 90's vintage, but is it just a matter of time? I know the coolant should have been changed by now, but should it have something other than DexCool? I seem to remember GM advertising this as 100K mile coolant, it's no wonder they are having problems with these engines if the first change isn't until 100K....

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    skankyfrankie is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Whatever you do, I reccomend using norosion in the coolant. See norosion.com FAQ. I am not a dealer but am a loyal user of this product.

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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Dex is changed at 100K OR 5 yrs., whichever comes first. Use it and change it when required or sooner. No offense intended to skankfrankie and I hope none is taken, but I would not add any snake oil to the system. Coolant, Dex or any other has anti corrosion additives in them. That is what they are designed for, cooling and preventing corrosion. GM and the coolant manufacturers have well educated and highly paid engineers study, develop and design cooling systems and coolant. If an additive where needed it would be recommended. I am always a bit skeptical of self serving advertising and FAQ. I doubt that stuff will do any harm, but likewise I doubt it will do anything that frequent coolant changes won't do. Just my $0.02.

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    jadcock's Avatar
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    You see problems here because folks who have problems come here looking for help. Most of the folks out there with good-running cars never come to sites like this.

    For the record, I've owned two Northstars, neither with any issues (besides a minor oil leak with the first). My '97 has 160k miles on it, still has the original head gaskets. In fact, not a single seal has been replaced on that engine save for the water pump o-ring and cover seal. The coolant has been changed once (with the water pump, at about 92k miles). My brother now owns the car in Arizona, and it's his daily driver vice his supercharged C5 Corvette.

    My '01 STS has 61k miles and runs perfect. In the interest of disclosure, the engine is NOT original. It was replaced at the bequest of the first owner, apparently for an oil consumption problem (piston rings). The engine actually only has about 25k miles on it at this point. No leaks of any kind (oil or coolant).

    The engine received a "major" revision for the 2000 MY. Among those changes were longer head bolts with a different thread pitch. It's true that the occurance of head gasket problems seems to have really fallen with MY2000. Note also that the block metallurgy was reportedly poor in the 97-99 timeframe. Dunno; mine never had a problem, but one isn't statistically significant either. Whether the different head bolt design or the better metallurgy/casting helped in MY2000, it may be hard to tell, but the occurance of problems has fallen. The head bolts were redesigned (again) for the 2004 MY. I'd say that if one of those model years were safer than the other, it'd be '04. But really, do your homework on the service records and buy the car you want. In my opinion, life is too short to torture oneself over what might happen to one car based on the statistically-irrelevant number of reports of what has happened to others. If it were documented by GM and other sources that 50% of Northstars will fail with bad gaskets, that might be one thing. But it's not, so I don't worry about it.

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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by jadcock View Post
    You see problems here because folks who have problems come here looking for help. Most of the folks out there with good-running cars never come to sites like this.

    For the record, I've owned two Northstars, neither with any issues (besides a minor oil leak with the first). My '97 has 160k miles on it, still has the original head gaskets. In fact, not a single seal has been replaced on that engine save for the water pump o-ring and cover seal. The coolant has been changed once (with the water pump, at about 92k miles). My brother now owns the car in Arizona, and it's his daily driver vice his supercharged C5 Corvette.



    I got a question for you. My 98 Deville is leaking coolant, ever so slightly, about a cup every two to three weeks. Firestone had it on the lift and said they thought it came from the water pump area. How much did it cost to have the water pump seal replaced?

    Thanks in advance.

    My '01 STS has 61k miles and runs perfect. In the interest of disclosure, the engine is NOT original. It was replaced at the bequest of the first owner, apparently for an oil consumption problem (piston rings). The engine actually only has about 25k miles on it at this point. No leaks of any kind (oil or coolant).

    The engine received a "major" revision for the 2000 MY. Among those changes were longer head bolts with a different thread pitch. It's true that the occurance of head gasket problems seems to have really fallen with MY2000. Note also that the block metallurgy was reportedly poor in the 97-99 timeframe. Dunno; mine never had a problem, but one isn't statistically significant either. Whether the different head bolt design or the better metallurgy/casting helped in MY2000, it may be hard to tell, but the occurance of problems has fallen. The head bolts were redesigned (again) for the 2004 MY. I'd say that if one of those model years were safer than the other, it'd be '04. But really, do your homework on the service records and buy the car you want. In my opinion, life is too short to torture oneself over what might happen to one car based on the statistically-irrelevant number of reports of what has happened to others. If it were documented by GM and other sources that 50% of Northstars will fail with bad gaskets, that might be one thing. But it's not, so I don't worry about it.

    On that note; I've got a question. I have a very slight leak of coolant from what Firestone thought was the water pump. What did the seal work cost you?

    Thanks in advance,

    Stu

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    jadcock's Avatar
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    I did it myself. It was a very slow leak from the water pump o-ring. So I just replaced the water pump, the water pump o-ring, and all associated parts (themostat, water pump cover gasket, etc). I did it myself...took about an hour. The Northstar water pump is perhaps the easiest water pump you'll ever change. I think it was probably about $100 in parts.

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    StuJac's Avatar
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Thanks. I doubt I'd be able, or willing to try to replace it myself. Have no idea where it is. Might you have a link to a tutorial?

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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...


  10. #9
    jt99 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Did the "major revision" in the 2000 model yr also do anything to reduce oil consumption, or is that still an issue in 03-04 cars?

  11. #10
    jadcock's Avatar
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    If anything, there appears to be a period of time in the 2001-2003 timeframe where oil consumption, if anything, worsened. The piston rings were revised in this timeframe to low-tension rings to reduce parasitic drag in the engine. If not worked, these rings seem to have a higher tendency to 'stick'. The unofficial procedure that many of us have successfully used (if the problem was present) was to simply go out and open the car up on the Interstate. Put the transmission into 2nd gear and accelerate at full throttle to near redline and then let off and let the engine brake the car. Repeat as necessary. You may see a lot of black smoke out the back; this is good -- you are dislodging lots of caked-on carbon and oil. This occurs mostly in the grandma-driven grocery getters, where the engine was not exercised. Just as with the human body, with no exercise, the engine will show deterioration. The best prescription for long life is to run the engine hard every once in a while. Me, "every once in a while" is every day.

    I've not had a stuck ring in either of my cars. The previous owner of my '01 had the engine replaced, apparently due to this issue. I don't know the details, except that the engine was replaced. I experience no abnormal oil consumption now. I have about 1000 miles on this current oil change and the level hasn't dropped any.

    Some oil consumption is not harmful. It keeps the cylinder walls clean and lubricated. Engines with hundreds of thousands of miles still show their original hone patterns, and there is little ridge wear at the top of the cylinder. The oil sump is also large -- 7.5 quarts. The engine runs fine on only 5. If you use a quart or two over an oil change, the engine will be just fine. There's also an oil level sensor that will alert you if the oil drops below about 5 quarts.

  12. #11
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    Re: More Northstar head gasket questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by jadcock View Post
    You may see a lot of black smoke out the back; this is good -- you are dislodging lots of caked-on carbon and oil. This occurs mostly in the grandma-driven grocery getters, where the engine was not exercised.

    ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Super funny comment

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