headgasket blown?
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, headgasket blown? in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; ok to make a long story short, my parents were driving through wyoming on there way to idaho and the ...
  1. #1
    sdpj is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    headgasket blown?

    ok to make a long story short, my parents were driving through wyoming on there way to idaho and the temp went up to approx 250 degrees. made it all the way to idaho with a/c off and temp hovering around 212 to 215 degrees. runs fine on flat ground with a/c on but once we started to head into the mountains temp shot up to 260 degrees, dash flashed change engine oil and shut off engine immediately all this happened going up hill and a/c on. pulled over and turned off car immediately. let it sit for a while and then headed back to dealership. dealership looked at it and said blown headgasket and 3800 dollars would fix it. well my parents were looking for a new car anyway and said i could keep it, do what i want with it, so i have a 97 deville to try to fix and make some money off of it. i know absolutely nothing about cadillacs, just want to know how easy it is to fix a headgasket or if anybody has any other ideas about what it is. the car seems to drive just fine around town with a/c on just dont go up any mountains. thank you.

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    Ranger's Avatar
    Ranger is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    To do the head gaskets on a Northstar you need to drop the drivetrain so you can remove the rear head and Timesert the bolt holes (hence $3800). If you "know absolutely nothing about Cadillacs", get a factory service manual before you touch it. Lots of info in the searchable archives.

  4. #3
    jupiter57 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    My '97 DeVille started overheating on me at Highway speeds, never while driving in town, most everyone I asked about it stated that it was the head gaskets.
    After doing a few routine items, such as new pressure cap, changing coolant w/ sealant tabs, I pulled the radiator and tried to run some water through it, the water came out the lower side very slowly.
    Took the radiator to my local radiator shop and had it "rodded out" (a thorough cleaning whereby they run rods the entire length of the cores on each individual core), re-installed it and it has ran flawlessly ever since.
    The radiator shop owner told me that he had performed this "Northstar 'head gasket' replacement" several times with good results.

    I just bought a '96 Deville and it definitely had a blown head gasket, it would overheat while driving in town, just after about 15 minutes of driving.

    Be sure to give your cooling system a thorough going over, new pressure cap, sealant tabs or powder, check all hoses and clamps for pinholes or leaks, and check the radiator for flow.
    If the car does not overheat around town w/ AC on, I would be highly suspect that you have some cause other than the head gaskets, though that is a distinct possibility.

    I am just now on the finishing up of the replacement engine on the '96 (got a '98 engine w/ 65K mi. at a salvage yard for $1250 with a 30 day warranty). Believe me, you certainly do not "want" to pull the engine if you don't have to.

  5. #4
    v1rott is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    Please entertain a novice...what are "sealant tabs or powder"?

    While perusing ebay and Auto-Trader I have seen a ton of caddys lately that have had blown head gaskets. Is this something that the Northstar is prone to? Or is it in many cases the clogged radiator as described above?

  6. #5
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    Look at the head gasket thread in the tech tips section.

    If you don't find anything when you check the cooling system it's very likely heads. It is not a conclusion you want to jump to without fixing the cooling system.

  7. #6
    sdpj is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    thanks for all the help guys, still trying to figure it out.

  8. #7
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    If everything checks out with cooling system, good radiator, water pump, thermostat, etc,etc,etc,,and the symptom stays overheating only under load/high speed, I'd bet on the gaskets just starting to fail.

  9. #8
    Ranger's Avatar
    Ranger is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    Quote Originally Posted by v1rott
    Please entertain a novice...what are "sealant tabs or powder"?

    While perusing ebay and Auto-Trader I have seen a ton of caddys lately that have had blown head gaskets. Is this something that the Northstar is prone to? Or is it in many cases the clogged radiator as described above?
    Sealant tabs or the powdered version are a cooling system suppliment. They are intended to prevent niusance leaks from porous castings and gasket seepage.

    I think it may be safe to say that the head gasket is probably the Northstars weak point if it has one. Once it gets a rep, it may get blamed more often than needed and I am sure many of gaskets have been pulled needlessly.

  10. #9
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: headgasket blown?

    Because the Caddy has to be removed to do the gaskets it's more expensive than most. A repair that might've been $1000 is now $3-4. More people will get rid of them than fix them.

    My friends MB 6 cyl blew a head gasket. Est went from $3000 at MB specialty shop to $900. The $900 was closer to right and that's who did it. It was a lot easier for him to take $900 than $3000! (I'm not implying you can get N* done for $900, just Mercedes does it too.)

    Anyway, all cars do it, the design makes it harder to repair. It's one of the great features of FWD...everything is harder to work on and a V8 FWD gets really hard to work on. You notice the resurgence of RWD?

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