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I am in the market for a Deville - need comfortable and reliable transportation. I am attracted to the power of the Northstar, but terrified when reading about it reliability issues (heads becoming loose from block). Am I better off going for a 1994-1995 with the 4.9? I am looking at cars with around 100k miles and am expecting to spend another $2k or so to get the car running right. Is this realistic?

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I'd go for the 4.9. And you should be able to get one with near 100k for around $3,000. I paid $3,500 for my '94 Deville a year and a half ago with 94k on it. It really didn't need much to "fix it up". But as with any old car, it's good to have cash ready to fix whatever comes up.
 

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Remember, people come here when they have problem, not to say they have none, so your view is a bit skewed. That is not to say that the Northstar will never have a head gasket problem but there are many on here with over 200K, a few with over 300 and one with over 400. That said, the 4.9 is a very reliable engine. Which ever way you go, be sure the cooling system was maintained properly. Regular coolant changes (2yrs/green and 5/yrs Dex) is the single most important factor in head gasket life or lack thereof.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Excellent point. This board is a poor sample for a reliable statistical analysis.

If one were examining a used Deville with a Northstar, what is the easiest way to check for "gasket" problems?
 

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If you're concerned about performance, the difference between the Northstar and 4.9 is mainly in the higher speeds. Around town, the 4.9 will keep up with a northstar due to the gobs of low end torque in the 4.9, but above 55 mph, the Northstar will pull away. I have a 4.9 in my '92 Sedan deVille, 111,515 miles and im quite satisfied. Its quite fast, all things considered, and very very reliable. (The only thing i've replaced on my motor so far, was the #5 fuel injector). My 4.9 sprayed coolant once, but that was due to not having the coolant supplement pellets in, after we put those in and poured in a bottle of alumaseal, it never leaked again. Basically, my biggest pet peeve with the 4.9 is the main bearing knock they have on the 91-92 4.9's. This is due to having an undersized #1 main bearing. They fixed this problem mid 1992. I've heard that only the 1991's have it, but my car which was built in April 1992 has it also. So overall, I would have to go with the 4.9. It's a really good motor, with a few drawbacks, and its cheaper to buy, maintain, and is simpler to work on.
 

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If you're concerned about performance, the difference between the Northstar and 4.9 is mainly in the higher speeds. Around town, the 4.9 will keep up with a northstar due to the gobs of low end torque in the 4.9, but above 55 mph, the Northstar will pull away. I have a 4.9 in my '92 Sedan deVille, 111,515 miles and im quite satisfied. Its quite fast, all things considered, and very very reliable. (The only thing i've replaced on my motor so far, was the #5 fuel injector). My 4.9 sprayed coolant once, but that was due to not having the coolant supplement pellets in, after we put those in and poured in a bottle of alumaseal, it never leaked again. Basically, my biggest pet peeve with the 4.9 is the main bearing knock they have on the 91-92 4.9's. This is due to having an undersized #1 main bearing. They fixed this problem mid 1992. I've heard that only the 1991's have it, but my car which was built in April 1992 has it also. So overall, I would have to go with the 4.9. It's a really good motor, with a few drawbacks, and its cheaper to buy, maintain, and is simpler to work on.
 

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almoniyot said:
Excellent point. This board is a poor sample for a reliable statistical analysis.

If one were examining a used Deville with a Northstar, what is the easiest way to check for "gasket" problems?
Head gasket problems will manifest themselves as an overheating situation and/or coolant loss. There are test kits that supposedly test coolant for exhaust gasses. That would be the "easiest" way. The most fool proof is the cylinder pressurization test. Pressurize each cylinder with shop air one at a time. Listen for an air leak (hiss) at the tail pipe and look for bubbles in the coolant surge tank or overflow bottle, depending on the system.
 

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I have the 4.6 liter Northstar in a 99 Deville. It is a fantastic engine. Strong as John the Bear, quiet, 27 mpg, 10.6:1 compression ratio, all aluminum, Double overhead cams, 4 valves/ cylinder, 275 Hp. Runs on regular gas. Runs even stronger on premium. It is about 40 years ahead of Chrysler's hemi. Put your foot into it and you are well above the speed limit in no time at all. Passing campers on a two lane road is down right fun. Northstar in one of things that makes my black Deville cool. My next Caddy will have the Northstar.
 
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