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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix? in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; So after all this, I have a 99 STS, eventually something will happen to the head gaskets.. hopefully at 200k ...
  1. #76
    foos is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    So after all this, I have a 99 STS, eventually something will happen to the head gaskets.. hopefully at 200k or more :> What is the best thing to do?
    Upgrade the block or use norm's? I couldn't quite get what is best to do if you have a 96-99.. Thanks

  2. #77
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    I sure like all that head gasket talk. My 95 Eldorado beauty recently started overheating (done it twice now) and I hear it's the HG b/c my coolant goes low just after it overheats.
    I did find out that I had the wrong cap on the expansion tank and I had air in the system. After the first overheat 2 weeks ago I drained and refilled the coolant. 50/50 Dex/distilled but I didn't burp it much.

    Well now it overheated for the 2nd time and so I had the system flushed today at Goodyear. Seems fine for now. They did a pressure test on the cooloing system, passed.
    It's not missing, never has; It's never had a problem far as I can tell. I drove around in the heat today, the temp. stayed around 228F. Granted it's 100 degrees F in Tucson AZ.
    And my oil looks good.

    Is there any other way that exhaust can get into the coolant mix other than thru a breached headgasket? Could it be throttle body seals or pitting or something else??

    One more Question; Is 130k a lot of miles for a Northstar compared to other engines? I thought these engines were revolutionary and love the hwy, plus some hard acceleration only makes them better! ?



  3. #78
    tateos's Avatar
    tateos is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Nice looking car. Exhaust can get into the cooling system from other places, but a leaking HG is by far the most common. 100 degrees sounds good - I am in Phoenix - it's always 5-10 degrees hotter here than there

  4. #79
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    Submariner409 is offline If it won't run, chrome it
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Almost a month ago, dubya opined that there might be a Northstar bandaid applied by running the engine colder.....phooey!!! An internal combustion engine is a heat creator and a heat user: the hotter it runs (within limits) the more efficient it is. Problem is that we need to use low boiling point coolants under pressure to insure that the car and engine accessories don't cook. It makes not one whit, temperature-wise, where the engine runs, as long as the various gasketed parts are held tightly together and expand and contract at pretty much the same rates.

    The problem with the Northstar is that 10 head bolts (per head) is damn few for an aluminum engine with high power-per-cubic-inch ratings, especially one that has an inherently weak open deck design. There would be NO head gasket problems if there were a half-dozen more head bolts, or if the deck had been closed and supplied with necessary coolant and steam passages. The block should have been inserted as a part of the original casting process and fitted with studs, not bolts. Less than 1/4" of gasket between cylinder wall and coolant passage, especially in an aluminum engine, is a sure recipe for disaster and if someone wanted to ruin GM, start a class action lawsuit with head gasket failure customers. Ask for a new, redesigned Northstar which would at least operate in the original warranty period. Our problem is that, unlike a sponsored IMSA or NASCAR, we can't afford to rebuild/buy new engines every 1,250 miles.

  5. #80
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Tateos, Sounds like you've been through it with the headgasket re-build of a late 90's N*. I take it the inserts are working. Do you think the aluminium from a 95 N* block has a chance at being tough enough for a drill and insert scenario to work? How's Phoenix treating you and your Cadi? My car is running good for now, which is kinda wierd. In any case, let me know if you ever get to Tucson.

  6. #81
    Tigman is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Any feedback on the Norms NS300L inserts and the Cometic gaskets?

    Mark

  7. #82
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    I used Norm's - great kit. I used FelPro gaskets - no problem so far

  8. #83
    mtgldr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Quote Originally Posted by 99_concours View Post
    I appreciate greatly all the technical advice and the documentation of this thread. I do have some questions though.

    I have a 99 deVille Concours in premium condition with 133K miles that I believe the head gaskets just failed. Sudden coolant usage and smell; large bubbles in the coolant resevoir observed (with cap off) that when 'pop' steam or exhaust is released. After it sat a week without being used, this weekend I started it up and now has large amounts of white 'smoke' coming from both exhaust pipes. This car has NEVER overheated, even to date. Car was well maintained. The car is still in extremely excellent shape, no scratches, dings, etc. So, this isn't a 'throw away' even though according to some of the blogs and threads I have been reading that the northstar engine may be a 'throw away'. Unbelievable that the engine that essentially 'brought back Cadillac' has such a failure record.

    While I have read many of the posts, I need to simplify exactly what I should do; what is the wisest choice. I plan on removing the engine and cracking it open to determine the head bolt to block situation to determine if my engine is salvagable. No water in the oiling system so that is a good thing but what I am reading about the timeserts and powdery block alloy is disconcerting.

    I see by the threads that the '99 is one of the 'bad' engines as far as timeserting...I also read that the mid 2003 the factory head bolt upgrade to LSx style bolts has a better record. So that leads me to think that the 2004 and above FWD northstars are the way to go whether used engine or a remanufactured engine knowing there were some changes with coils, etc. I saw in the above post that the post '99s are not a simple 'bolt in' replacement for a '99 and prior but I must ask what other changes would there be?

    It is also my understanding that the closed deck design of the RWD northstar WILL NOT be usable in my FWD; is this correct?

    So, essentially, it is my understanding that the 2004 will bolt in (with modifications) but with the LSx head bolt design this is the better choice?

    It is also my understanding that the '99 northstar doesn't accept timeserts (or Norm's) very well but the 2000 thru 2003 will?

    One other question: I saw something in one of the posts about someone not wanting to own a deVille up to 99 but a '98 and '99 STS is better? Was there a difference in the engine for the STS (300hp) over that of the Concours (300hp as opposed to the 275hp of the regular deVille)? Maybe it was just that, the engine horsepower. I thought the STS and the Concours had the exact same engine.

    Sorry for the length of the post but there is so much information out there that I want to ensure that I am in full understanding. I might be crazy about wanting to keep my car (I actually was going to keep it indefinitely once I took it out of everyday service) but I really love the car. 300HP, and at 26mpg at 80mph is hard to beat! Add to that the quiet ride and the size of the car and its safety features (over a tin can at 33mpg) I can't find anything acceptable to replace it.

    Did anyone ever respond to this post? You're describing my car & situation exactly. If I'm going to pull the motor I would love to replace it with a later model that would basically bolt in and is not known for HG failure.

  9. #84
    mtgldr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    My post is the previous one. What I meant to say is that the condition of my car is identical to the one described, the symptoms are not identical. I am mainly asking if a late model motor will go into a '99 Concours. I really hate to lose the rest of the car if I need HG's and paying the dealer $5,500 to do it makes keeping the car a tough decision if the motor / block is likely to fail again due to the serts. They're quoting 35 hours labor and $1,900 in parts to sert all 20 holes.

  10. #85
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Quote Originally Posted by submariner409 View Post
    The problem with the Northstar is that 10 head bolts (per head) is damn few for an aluminum engine with high power-per-cubic-inch ratings, especially one that has an inherently weak open deck design. There would be NO head gasket problems if there were a half-dozen more head bolts, or if the deck had been closed and supplied with necessary coolant and steam passages. The block should have been inserted as a part of the original casting process and fitted with studs, not bolts.
    SubMariner said it best. It appears that Even if you are willing to pull your motor and replace the head gasket, Your head bolts probably won't hold once threaded into the block for the 2nd time. They might hold for a while??

    As above, Inserts should have been part of the original casting with studs instead of bolts. Imagine a bullet proof N* for your Cadi

    Did Cadillac get over this Head Gasket problem in the 2000 N* redesign/2nd Generation business???

    F*@%$! it, Buy a Reman motor for a late 90's Eldorado or STS and put it in?

  11. #86
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    CadVetteStang is online now Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    I called a car lot about a 98 Eldo touring coupe. The lot owner drives this car home daily. He said after a few miles he discovered it had a blown head gasket and had it fixed with a local engine rebuilder. He said he had the repair bill of $2,500. He said he has put 1,000 miles on the car with no troubles and uses that shop regularly.

    I called the shop to see what they do to fix the head gaskets for $2500. They said that they leave the engine in the car, pull the heads off, and re-drill the block to accept larger head bolts. He claims that the shop has done ten Northstars that way and none have returned. I asked him if there would be any difference in labor price if I bought a car needing gaskets and we went with head studs in stead. He said the labor would be the same, but I would need to find out what head studs would fit it. If I go that rout, anyone know what head stud to use? Would converting to studs help solve future head gasket problems by preventing reverse torque on the new inserts or will it hide potential in block stud corrosion problems by allowing seepage in some studs to go undetected in future H/G replacements?

    I am new to the Northstar- I do not yet own one, but have always wanted a 95 up touring coupe as a daily driver and autocross racer. I have been told you cannot take the engine out from the top side, but someone said they did that with an STS. Is this shop nuts for doing the head job “in car”? Can I assume they use inserts and are not placing oversized bolts directly into a tapped aluminum hole?

    I just now started learning about the cars and the head gasket problems. The shop that does those repairs does not think the Northstar is the right choice for me because I will be driving a 66 mile round trip seven days a week and do not have time to work on cars. They feel the Northstar is unreliable. However, I have seen several for sale with above 240,000 miles that have good running non-smoking engines. Those cars were at the price I could afford, but I don’t want to race a car with a quarter of million miles on it. I’m thinking of buying a nicer car with blown gaskets and using this shop to (or a mechanic friend) to perform this type of repair job if it will work. That will make hot rodding this car affordable (IF this shop can do a REAL fix for $2500, that means my mechanic can do the same thing for much less). I would then have about $3,000 TOTAL in the car total (minus wheels/tires, wing, and other racing goodies).

    I don’t want to buy a car, use my entire budget, blow the gaskets and park it. I want to drive care free and blow away a few Mustangs and Trans Ams in autocross races--- NOT a few head gaskets. I want a motor strong enough I can put a mild performance cam in and drive for years.

    I have the reliability I need NOW with my unfinished hot rod project: a 3680 lb. 1982 Eldorado with a TBI injected 472. I can overhaul that engine, put on some stiffer torsion bars, monster sway bars, and 17 X 9.5” Vette wheels, for less money than it would take to buy and repair a 95 up Touring coup, but I will get 5 MPGs less and will not look near as good (In my opinion). Should I build that car instead? Or How do I get the Northstar hold up? No one has yet answered the question about a later model engine swap. If I buy a 95 Elo ETC, can I eventually put a 2005 engine in it when the budget allows? It there enough room under the 95 Eldo hood to convert the car back to an old school forward mounted 500 on the side mounted FWD transmission?

    Sorry for the long post…

    Thanks,
    Cody

    P.S. I wish gas was still cheap enough I could drive my 1970 Eldorado. It was the coolest car ever built.

  12. #87
    mtgldr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Quote Originally Posted by patterson View Post
    SubMariner said it best. It appears that Even if you are willing to pull your motor and replace the head gasket, Your head bolts probably won't hold once threaded into the block for the 2nd time. They might hold for a while??

    As above, Inserts should have been part of the original casting with studs instead of bolts. Imagine a bullet proof N* for your Cadi

    Did Cadillac get over this Head Gasket problem in the 2000 N* redesign/2nd Generation business???

    F*@%$! it, Buy a Reman motor for a late 90's Eldorado or STS and put it in?

    That's what I'm wondering about, can a late model (non HG prone) motor be put in the car without having fabrication / pcm issues?

    Is the Eldo or STS less prone to HG issues? I assumed a N* is a N* in the 96-99 model range.

  13. #88
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    That's what I'm wondering about, can a late model (non HG prone) motor be put in the car without having fabrication / pcm issues?
    No
    Is the Eldo or STS less prone to HG issues?
    No.
    I assumed a N* is a N* in the 96-99 model range.
    Correct.

  14. #89
    mtgldr is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger View Post
    No

    No.

    Correct.
    Thanks. That's what I needed to know. Not what I had hoped for though...

  15. #90
    skankyfrankie is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Root Cause of Head gasket Failure and a Fix?

    How can you tell if your 03DTS has 11x1.5 vs the 11x2 head bolts.

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