Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, Prevention of Headgasket Trouble? in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; Simply put, why do so many Northstars blow headgaskets and what can be done to avoid this mishap in the ...
  1. #1
    Wenatchee Andy is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Question Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Simply put, why do so many Northstars blow headgaskets and what can be done to avoid this mishap in the first place. I already know about overheating and aluminum expansion. My issue is what are the common causes of engine overheating that lead to the frequency of blown headgaskets in Northstar equipped Caddys. My 98 DeVille with 76K is just fine and I want to keep it that way if possible. How?

    PS; After extensive reading over in the Northstar threads it seems the best bet is careful maintainence of the coolant. I bought this car 2 months ago with 70K on it and have since put 6K more on it, including a two week trip from Washington state to Kansas then Pennsylvania and back to Washington State. Zero problems so far. Engine temp on the long trip never went over 220 degrees. Burns a qt of oil at about 1500 miles intervals. Gas milage at 55 mph is 28 mpg and at 75 mph it fell a bit to 25 mpg.

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    Ranger's Avatar
    Ranger is online now Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    You've answered your own question. Maintain the cooling system and if it starts running hot, figure out why and correct it. Other than that, it's the luck of the draw. Few have problems, most don't.

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    Kev's Avatar
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    True for all engines, more so for all aluminum engines, cooling is vital to longevity. The quickest way to blow any head gasket is to allow the engine to overheat.

  5. #4
    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    mine was dealer maintained, checked the records. i got it, was concerned about the oil consumption, read the facts and picked up on the coolant maintnance. but it still screwed up. the head bolt size are a design flaw. they finally fixed it in 2002.

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    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    just scan through the forum topics. headgasket, coolant loss, timesert, over and over. this is not rare. all you that avoided it should count your lucky stars.

  7. #6
    mcowden is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Quote Originally Posted by bill6ft6
    just scan through the forum topics. headgasket, coolant loss, timesert, over and over. this is not rare. all you that avoided it should count your lucky stars.
    Bill, no matter how tall you are, you have no idea what you're talking about. I really am sorry you had a head gasket problem, but you haven't clue 1 what you're talking about. If you don't like the Northstar because of whatever engineering flaws you think it has, then buy a Corolla and get something better to do than complain about it all the time. Your whining grows tiresome.
    Mike

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    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    my whining grows tiresome?? check out how many threads are concerned with this "little" problem.
    i would have spent the 4 grand for the repair, but it was just a single point fix and the rest of the motor untouched. i was seriously considering a brand new engine, but still the risk of "headgasket" loomed. so i'm going to donate the beautiful car that was fast and economical, and classy and comfortable for my height. but i won't pretend it was just a fluke that killed it.
    actually, i'm a couple steps ahead of you with your advice. after having my heart broken with the northstar, i did my research, and now i'm, driving a mercedes benz, 560sel, the w-126 platform.

  9. #8
    mcowden is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Quote Originally Posted by bill6ft6
    my whining grows tiresome?? check out how many threads are concerned with this "little" problem.
    i would have spent the 4 grand for the repair, but it was just a single point fix and the rest of the motor untouched. i was seriously considering a brand new engine, but still the risk of "headgasket" loomed. so i'm going to donate the beautiful car that was fast and economical, and classy and comfortable for my height. but i won't pretend it was just a fluke that killed it.
    actually, i'm a couple steps ahead of you with your advice. after having my heart broken with the northstar, i did my research, and now i'm, driving a mercedes benz, 560sel, the w-126 platform.
    Make no mistake. I am very sorry you had a headgasket problem with your car. It does happen, even on well-maintained cars, but no matter what you're reading or how you're feeling, you have to realize that the vast majority of cars never have any head gasket problems. Most of them run well into the 100k and 200k miles+. Does anybody come to this forum to say how well their car runs? No way. Why did you come here? You came here to complain about it. That's fine. Lots of other people came here to complain and look for answers as well. So, when you go reading all that stuff, realize that you're reading about all the bad stuff and none of the good stuff. The numbers are grossly skewed in favor of your point of view, but what you read here is certainly not even close to the numbers in reality.

    I wish you luck with the M-B. Cheers!
    Mike

  10. #9
    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    'Does anybody come to this forum to say how well their car runs? No way. Why did you come here? You came here to complain about it"


    i came to the forum to find out information about my oil consumption. found excellent explanations on why and what is normal. but in that process i also "caught the warnings" about the "headgaskets". within a week i had flushed and serviced the cooling system as per the great instructions on here. checked the service records on the car, and was confident i was in good shape to prevent this problem from happening to me.
    i think the northstar was a wonderful design. but unfortunatley, there was an archilles heel in the design, that gm could have fixed in a couple years after the discovery of it, but they did not, they waited over 10 years to fix it. i bet the engineers had the fix ready but corporate mentality held them back. too much money to sink an extra 100 bucks in the manufactoring process on a $7500 engine.
    that's my 2 cents

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    peteski is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Right, the hundreds of thousands of happy Northstar owners aren't here looking for information because their engines run great. They probably don't even know about Cadillacforums.

    I would say how great mine runs, but I would probably jinx it - so I won't say anything...

    I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I don't think that the head bolt size has anything to do with the head gasket problems. The bolts aren't letting go - the gasket rots away from lack of maintenance. Granted, this is pretty lame, but it is a fact of life. We have to deal with it by changing coolant.

    This is a wvry basic explanation, but that is how I see it.
    Peteski

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    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    well, i am a marine engineer and i do work on engines up to 72,000hp. coolant wasn't the issue in mine, it had been maintained properly. also the other factor that comes in from info on this forum is that once the timesert is done, most all claim that the headgasket problem will never happen again. that tells me that once the headbolt problem is corrected, so is the underlying cause, which seems to be the smaller size, depth and thread size into untreated aluiminum. it is corrected now with larger bolts and from what i can figure from the forum is that the "headgasket" issue is gone on the current northstars.

  13. #12
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Obviously there is a design weakness in the N* head bolts and there is little one can do about that other than remove the heads, timesert and replace. If that is done correctly one should expect reliable service for some time with the engine if properly maintained.

    The question posed here is what are the best prevention means? The simple and undeniable repsonse remains that heat is the greatest enemy to head gasket longevity in any engine thus, maintaining the cooling system is the best way to avoid head gasket failure. Mechanical failure from design deficienies are dificult if not impossible to avoid. If your head bolts are going to fail there is little you can do about it.

    Bottom line, if your N* is original and still running strong keep that baby running cool and hope for the best. If the head gasket has blown then have it repaired with the proper timeserts on all head bolts and then keep it running cool.


  14. #13
    bill6ft6 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Hi guys

    Been a long time since I last posted. I had a 97 deville that "hgh'd" out. I loved that car, best gas milage and best performance and ride of any car I've owned, and the most comfortable since I've 6ft6 and leg room is everything to me. Since the deville I've had a MB 560 sel, 2002 continental, 2005 towncar. the caddy body change in 2000 removed that extra leg room. afters years, I know I want another 97-99 deville, even with the inherit weakness. I have persued information of aftermarket warranties (the most reputatable will not warranty the northstar). I've been looking at getting a low milage model to hedge my bets, but the cost is not reasonable. So, after reading up recently on more and deeper research on the headgasket and its true origin of the problem, I've decided to purchase a 75k model in good shape, hope for the best, but be ready to purchase a remanufactored from jake with studs if I have a problem. a side thought is to grab a very cheap caddy with current headgasket problems and use jake.
    What are your thoughts on my thought process?
    Also, what are the best estimates/figures of percentage of nothstar failures? 1 in 20?

    thanks to the best technical forum I've ever read

  15. #14
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    Submariner409 is offline If it won't run, stick on fender vents
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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    Percentages of failure are hard to figure - CF has more "I have problems" than "I have no problems", true of any fixit forum, so the problems look like the order of the day. Cadillac dealers do quite a few Northstar head gasket jobs, and 99% of those are not CF members, so the problem (of percents) compounds.

    Your thought of "Buy a creampuff late 90's, keep it maintained, and IF the gaskets go, have Jake build a new one." is good, as long as you keep in mind that a '99 is now 11 years old, so you're in it for the car, not the money.

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    Re: Prevention of Headgasket Trouble?

    I'll second that.

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