Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know - Page 28
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View Poll Results: Select one if you have had a problem with the headgasket the Northstar V8:

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  • 1993

    18 2.38%
  • 1994

    38 5.03%
  • 1995

    13 1.72%
  • 1996

    40 5.29%
  • 1997

    151 19.97%
  • 1998

    166 21.96%
  • 1999

    170 22.49%
  • 2000

    81 10.71%
  • 2001

    56 7.41%
  • 2002

    41 5.42%
  • 2003

    14 1.85%
  • 2004

    0 0%
  • 2005

    3 0.40%
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I've had a run of these of late, and I just thought I'd have ...
  1. #406
    neff is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I've had a run of these of late, and I just thought I'd have some fun with them. Please share the video if you know people who would like it. Also, subscribe to my youtube page, or like nefarious motorworks llc on facebook if you would like to see my videos in the future. I have a few that should be pretty cool coming up in the next year or so. One should be of my own 2000 Seville SLS.

  2. #407
    Robertsong is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Definitive Northstar Headgasket Thread

    I have not read all 27 pages of this thread, but your title is a bit misleading, because originally at least you indicate only participate if you have had a problem. Would it not have been more 'definitive' if you were to calculate using all participants whether or not they have experienced H/G problems? I for one have a '94 Deville currently have 109551miles and to date (knock on wood, my head, etc) no problem other than oil seal leaks. Consumption of oil approx 1 qt between oil changes, which are occurring every 3 to 4 months. The percentages you indicate per year, are based upon total for all years, not the percentage of that particular year ie problems/total respondents. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks and thanks for your efforts

  3. #408
    Faded Crest's Avatar
    Faded Crest is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    So you suggest people vote in the blown head gasket that have no problems with their head gasket?

    Nobody is trying to figure out what percentage of Northstars develop head gasket problems; that would be impossible. Particularly because is is likely that a very large percentage of the members who find their way to this section of the forum are are the very ones who do have head gasket problems. Considering that, implementing your suggestion would very much skew things and would probably cause the Northstar head gasket rate to seem extremely high. The point of this poll is just to compare failures from one year to another year, not blown head gasket cars to non-blown head gasket cars. And furthermore, it is accepted by everyone here that this is a 100% un-scientific poll, making it anecdotal evidence at best.

  4. #409
    neff is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Based on my experiences with Northstar engines, and other aluminum DOHC engines with similar architecture, I feel confident in saying that these engines do not have a design problem with their head gaskets, nor with the head bolt threads in the block. I'm sure there is a random failure every now and again, but these engines are no more prone to this type of failure than any other DOHC aluminum engine, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz. I'm not saying that they don't fail more, I'm simply saying that it is not the fault of the engine. Some Cadillac owners experience 100% failure, while for others it will never happen. It has nothing to do with the engine, it is simply a consumer response to General Motors marketing.

  5. #410
    walliss34 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Yes, I agree ^^^^^

    I just purchased a 99 Seville STS with over heating problems, will post exactly what it is when i get it apart.

  6. #411
    Faded Crest's Avatar
    Faded Crest is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Interesting take on that, Neff. I'm sure many would line up to disagree.

    Personally, I am intrigued by the theory of bad motor mounts playing a part in weakening the threads. I could easily believe that head gasket problems and bad motor mounts correlate somehow.

  7. #412
    neff is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    These are not images of a northstar, they are of a BMW M54, one of the most bulletproof engines on the planet. When my customer drove his 2004 BMW 330xi in the same manner that my cadillac customers drive their cadillacs, this was the end result. These problems are not related to motor mounts, metallurgy, corrosion, casting voids, vibrations or normal engine thermal cycles; they are all (at least every one I have seen, and I have seen more than most) the result of unintended neglect. Typically encouraged by the manufacturer. We can't even blame Dex-Cool for this one. I have a customer who has had head gasket/ bolt thread failure on his eldorado twice already, and he still drives it the same as he always has. Partly to blame are the location of the water pump, and the crappy ABS radiator petcock, but these are not terminal issues. Ultimately, it comes down to operator error, induced by consumption of marketing. Cadillac spun a yarn back when they first designed the Northstar, and we all bought it. This was a fabulous motor that could do things no other motor in the world could do! I'm suggesting that this may not be exactly true. I believe that this is an incredibly well engineered motor, but it wasn't given much of a chance because it was doomed from the very beginning by its marketing. If BMW owners owned cadillacs, head gasket/ bolt thread failure would decrease by more than two thirds. Only because they weren't exposed to the same marketing. I believe that this particular failure can be completely avoided. Now the half-case seal is another story. 031.JPGIMAG1088.jpg

  8. #413
    Faded Crest's Avatar
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Can you be more specific? Are you primarily talking about people not changing the coolant? What other maintenance issues would contribute to a head gasket failure in your opinion?

    And when you are talking about the marketing, do you mean the "low maintenance" mentality that was encouraged?

  9. #414
    neff is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Recognize that this is marketing. This motor one-ups all the other motors in the world with this claim. The only problem is that for some mysterious reason, it suffers from chronic head gasket failure. How completely unexpected. I took this quote from Wikipedia:

    One notable feature, advertised at the time, was the "limp home" fail-safe mode which allowed the engine to continue running for a limited time without any coolant. Supplying fuel to only one cylinder bank in turn, the engine would "air cool" the inactive bank. This technique, combined with its all-aluminum construction and large oil capacity, allows the engine to maintain safe temperatures, allowing a Northstar-equipped car to be driven with no coolant for about 100 mi (161 km) without damage.

    I remember a commercial with the new Seville driving through the Sahara without a drop of coolant, but I couldn’t find it online. I can tell you that by the end of that drive in the Sahara, that Seville needed to have its head gaskets replaced, and its cylinder head bolts time-serted. The owner probably didn't know it for a few months though. This solution does an adequate job of keeping oil temperatures low enough to operate the lifters, but it ignores the fact that the aluminum head expands far sooner and much more than the steel bolts that attach it to the block. This expansion creates thousands of pounds of force under the heads of the bolts and increases the clamping load exerted on the threads massively. Think of it as turning the cylinder head bolts another 180 degrees. Thermal expansion is a bitch. No problem though, you don't have to worry about catastrophic failure, because the cylinder block is made from soft aluminum, and the threads just yield a little. When your heads cool, the head gaskets expand to make up for the difference, and you're fine. The problem is that the thread was compromised and it is already hastening the failure of your head gaskets, because their clamping force was decreased. And my experience is that these motors are overheated alot. Also, their water pump is driven by the camshaft, which means that its imminent failure doesn't conflict with all the engine driven accessories. Your battery light doesn't come on, your power steering still works, hell, even your air conditioning works. On almost every other car in the world, blowing a water pump or its drive belt results in loss of power steering, and charging which panics people and causes them to pull over. Cadillac drivers typically still finish running their errands, driving to work, or whatever they were doing before they call to make an appointment to get the car checked. And why not? This is Cleveland, not the Sahara. If it can go 100 miles in the Sahara (it may have been 50 in that particular commercial), then driving it 12 miles in Cleveland should certainly be fine. People may not realize this, but these are very thermally challenged motors; one day their water pump will fail, a few weeks later the rubber disc will blow out of their thermostat and restrict the coolant flow to a point where the engine always runs at at least 240 degrees, then about six months later, the radiator petcock will randomly break off and fall out while sitting at a red light, then if you forgot to wash the back of your motor after winter, the heater transfer pipes will rust a hole in them, and empty the cooling system. Once that's all fixed, the coolant reservoir will spring a crack. Radiators and hoses fail at a pretty good rate as well. None of these failures are critical, and most of their repairs are inexpensive, but everybody remembers that this car can go 100 miles without coolant and keeps on going. I mean c'mon, coolant is merely a luxury for this car. BMW owners, with the exception of the guy in my previous post, know that if they drive their car without coolant, they will be paying somebody at least 8 grand to fix their engine, so they pull over and call a tow truck. Plus, they are reminded that something bad has happened, because even if they ignore the silly lights and gauges, their steering wheel is impossible to turn. I recently learned that if you overheat a BMW over and over and over again, the force of the expanding aluminum head will pull the head bolt threads out of the block. I believe that the same applies to the Northstar. If you don't want to pay somebody like me three-quarters the book value of your car to fix your head gaskets and bolt threads, there is a very simple thing you can do: pull off the road before the car overheats, and call a tow truck. Treat the “limp home” fail-safe mode as a last resort, and know that driving that extra few miles will likely cost you thousands. AAA costs about $50 per year. Believe me, it is a worthwhile investment if you own a vehicle with a Northstar. Now you can cross "head gasket failure" off your worry list, and focus all your attention on worrying about your half-case seal, which will definitely fail.

  10. #415
    Faded Crest's Avatar
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    ^^^ Great post! You make some excellent points. A must read for new Northstar owners.

  11. #416
    Lightfoot is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    New to forum and have the dreaded "Head Gasket Pox"....2001 SLS..... 91,800 miles. Does anyone know of an independent repair shop that uses either the Huhns inserts or NP studs in the South-Central Virginia area or Triad-Raleigh area of North Carolina?

  12. #417
    Faded Crest's Avatar
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Give these guys a call... Pilot Engines, Inc. They are in Pilot Mountain, NC. They claim to do a lot of Northstar jobs. As a disclaimer, I have never dealt with them, but you can ask them what their repair procedure is... Good luck!

    www.pilotenginesinc.com
    1-800-272-0364
    336-368-5495

  13. #418
    Lightfoot is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Thanks, Faded Crest! Sent them an email yesterday and got a quick reply. They quoted considerably more than Midwest and Northstar Performance published prices, so I'm back at square one. I have also had an email conversation with Chris @ Rippy. He is a really nice guy!

  14. #419
    Faded Crest's Avatar
    Faded Crest is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Out of curiosity, what was their quote? And what did it cover? Like I said, I have never dealt with them, just saw their ad on Craigslist.

  15. #420
    Lightfoot is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstar Headgasket/Cracked Block/Bolt Failure? Please let us know

    Faded, the quote was 3956. "the total remanufacture,including the proper repair for the problem on the N* is 3956. Inc oil, antifreeze etc. The head gaskets are not the problem, the head bolts pull out of the block (poor Design by GM) the boss owns 2 personally & they both did the same thing. The job takes about 10 working days."
    FWIW, they are less than an hour and a half away from me. Descriptions of their work on their website is impressive but they must either be very busy or think I'm very naive! Still researching. LF

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