Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?
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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket? in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; Hello, I'm having what I think could be a major problem with my 1996 Eldorado ETC. It has 110k on ...
  1. #1
    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Northstar - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Hello,

    I'm having what I think could be a major problem with my 1996 Eldorado ETC. It has 110k on it. For the past few months, I've been getting the "Check Coolant Level" mesage along with the smell of antifreeze. On close inspection, I was unable to determine where the loss of coolant was comming from. When I would top-off the coolant, it would leak down after a week or so( back to the level where the check coolant level message would appear again) My first guess, since I couldn't tell where the leak was, was to replace the waterpump. I though mabey the seal could be the cause. I was also getting an O2 sensor OBD-II code so I replaced both front O2 sensors and put in a new thermostat while I was at it.

    Ok. After doing the above mentioned repairs, the first time I started the car I noticed some thin blackish smoke for a few minutes; probably from the new O2 sensors and the paste stuff that I put on the threads. I know that it's suppose to burn off and leave glass pellets in the threads; could be wrong though( wouldn't be the first time ). I also disconnect the battery for while to reset the error codes.

    Now, when I start the car I always get white smoke out the exaust. And, I'm getting a current ODB-II code of 0300( Random MIsfire Detected ). It runs kinda rough intermittantly, especially before it's warmed up. I did some research and it looks like these symptoms point to either a cracked head or a blown head gasket .

    I'm hoping that it could be something else. I doubt that it is, but I though that I would ask you guys for your take on the situation.

    I'm probably going to take it to the dealer on Monday for a diag to make sure that it is what I think it is. I know for sure that I'm not going to pay them 3500 to replace the head gaskets or 1500 for a new head + labor. I might consider doing the work myself, though I'm not took crazy about the idea of taking my engine out to do the work.

    What do you think?

    Thanks.
    Gregg

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  3. #2
    auroradude's Avatar
    auroradude is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    If the gaskets are gone replace the engine. IMO $3500 for headgaskets on an engine with that many miles its still going to wear out down the road.

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    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Thanks for the reply. That's a good point. Who know's what else could go wrong in the future. I know for a new enigine they want around 8500 for it. I only paid 12k for the car with 58k on it. I might be better off parting it out and getting something else. I have a daughter now and a two door is a pain.

    Thanks again.

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    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    I meant Northstar in the title, it's a typo.

  6. #5
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Have you changed the plugs and wires?

    That doesn't cover the coolant leak but the head gaskets would have to be REALLY gone to cause a miss. You're only filling the surge tank once a week.

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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    The fact that you can smell coolant lead me to believe that is is an external leak. Surge tanks have been known to get hairline cracks (been there, done that). Pressurize the cooling system and see if it holds pressure. If not, look for the leak. If it does, then do a cylinder pressure test to confirm or rule out head gaskets.

  8. #7
    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    I changed the spark plugs less than a year ago. Your the second person that has mentioned plug wires. I give that a try and see if it runs better. Thanks for your help.

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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    You can get a rebuild for $4500 (a quality one) but may have to have the car shipped by truck if its too far from you. Search around. Someone here just got theirs rebuilt (i think 94greencaddy or someone) for $3500 or $4k (the cost of gasket replacement) and it has so much more balls.

    That said, good luck with everything hopefully its not the heads.

    Oh yeah i forgot. Make sure to check for used engines maybe around $2k if the heads are gone.

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    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    That's not a bad idea. Where could I look to find a used Northstar? Junkyard? Are all years of the engine compatible with the wiring and computer system?

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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Yep junkyards and ask your mechanic. Well since yours is OBDII i would suggest using the same year and VIN (vin 9 i think yours should be). Someone else fill me in here. Wouldn't he be able to use a 1997 or 1998 engine or did they change little things like the TPS etc. Even then you could probably just put the old one back on.

  12. #11
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    He can use a '96 - '99 or a '95 if he changes intake manifolds.

  13. #12
    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Yep. the Vin's a 9. I dropped the car off at the dealer and I'll hear from them tomorrow. I'm searching around the net for rebuilt northstars right now. I'm probably just going to get one and put it in myself. I've swapped engines and transmissions before, but never FWD. My first car was an 85 Monte SS and I put a 383 in it, also when through the original th700 and a few th350's. Do you think it's worth it to do the work myself. I really don't want to pay someone to do something that I can do myself. While I have it out, there are a few things that I can get to on the backside on the transmission that I would like to replace. Every one and a while a get a service transmission message. I forgot the error code, but it's related to the pressure control solanoid and I would like to replace the wiring harness too.

    I really don't want to get another car. My previous car was a 93 eldorado etc and I just love them. I figure if I put a rebuilt engine and do a bit of work on the transmission it will be worth the effort and should( hopefully ) last for a while.

  14. #13
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    If you are thinking of doing it yourself look at the Head Gasket thread in Tech Tips.

  15. #14
    greggm33 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    Talked to the service guy at the dealer today and he confirmed what I was thinking: Head gaskets are blown. He said that it looks like the problem is centered around the #4 cylinder and that the #4 is on the front side of the engine. They quoted me 3800 to fix it and said that oil is leaking from the main engine seals( 1200 to fix that).

    I think for now I'm going to garage it and buy something to get me around for a while. I'll probably just get a rebuilt engine and put it in there eventually.

    Do you think that the front headgasket can be replaced without taking the engine out?

  16. #15
    zonie77 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Northstart - Blown Head / Headgasket?

    The front can be changed in the car, but if you are thinking of keeping the car I wouldn't recommend it. The rear gasket is probably close to going. You may have a leak there already and they didn't catch it.

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