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2002 STS
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking at buying a 2003 STS from my buddy. Its been cared for very well with complete service records and navigation. I havn't got a chance to look at the records yet but what major things should I be looking for to have been replaced??? It just got new brakes put on it.

According to what I have read so far the HG issue doesn't seem to be a problem with the 03 models.

The car has just under 100,000 miles. He wants $12,100 for it but im thinking I can get him down to $10,700 maybe a little lower. What do you guys think of the price? Is it still worth getting if I have to pay $12,100?

I will be taking it out for a test drive hopfully on the weekend. I know one thing is to get it up to 60-75 to try and see if the seats/floor panels begin to shake. What else should I look for during the test drive???

I am still reading as much as I can to try and answer some of these questions but your help is appreciated
 

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2013 XTS
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2,087 Posts
I doubt any Northstar is immune to the head gasket issue. Just make sure you change the coolant and keep it fresh. It seems if you maintain the cooling system they hold up better.
 

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2003 STS w/BoseNav, 1993 Deville, 1985 Deville
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1,089 Posts
Be mindful of the crank and cam position sensors. I've had four crank sensors and a cam sensor replaced so far under warranty.
 

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02 STS
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1,262 Posts
I doubt any Northstar is immune to the head gasket issue. Just make sure you change the coolant and keep it fresh. It seems if you maintain the cooling system they hold up better.
There are lots of myths and opinions about N* and head-gaskets...

The facts are:
1) There isn't an engine out there that has head-gaskets that is immune to head-gasket problems... N* included
2) All FWD N*s are somewhat known for head-gasket problems... mostly due to the enormous expense to re&re the entire front end to repair them properly. $2000 and up.
3) The newer the motor the less likely its coolant is "old" (out of date) which is thought to lead to head-gasket problems. Change the coolant every 4 years MINIMUM!
4) The newer the motor the less likely it has carbon build up issues which is speculated to lead to head-gasket, oil burning and ticking problems
5) GM change the head bolt pitch in 2000 give the bolts better "bite" in the block... the jury is out if this helps... Judging by some resent posts... maybe not.
6) GM also changed the engine mounting in 2000 to eliminate the top dog bone that bolted to the head... the jury is out if this helps too.
7) GM change the head-bolts again in 2004... Made them longer. We'll know of this helps sometime in 2011/2.
8) The only way to fix them is with timeserts... all other methods will eventually fail, make things worse and will cost you money... There is no "cheap" answer.

You will note that head gasket problems tend to get posted in year range "chunks". 2 years ago it was usually 97/98 with the odd 99 now it is 99/2000 with the odd 2001... Again we can speculate... But it looks like failing to service the coolant system after 6-8 years is "death" to these motors...

Then again I have a buddy of mine who ran with the stock coolant for almost 9 years in his 1998 with no problems. (so far) And I know of a guy with a 95 with the original coolant and his car is fine too...

Who knows... its a mystery.
 

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2013 XTS
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2,087 Posts
I think it's dex cool and it eats up the gaskets. I bet that more of the failures out there on dex engines are the actual gaskets going bad. I plan to drain mine and refill it soon.
 

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2002 STS
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47 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
If I get the codes for any problems going on... pop the hood and listen for clicks from carbon buildup... get it up to 75 or so to test for shimmy.... then listen again for carbon buildups, is there anything else I should be doing when I go to testdrive it???

I am going to look at the service history and see if the coolant has been changed although i doubt it as it is just now apporaching the 100K mark.

Is the water pump good for 100K as well? I will check to see if that has been repalced. What else should I look for to have been replaced before the 100K mark....

Thanks.
 

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1992 STS / 2005 MB G500 / 2003 STS / 2006 XLR-V
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11,694 Posts
Time-wise that car is just now coming due for the coolant change, but MILEAGE-wise, which that is quite a bit for an 03, you DEFINITELY need to do it as soon as you get the car.

Take the car and do some WOT runs with it, try to get it on some hills if you have some around where you are. Basically you want to put a good load on the motor and get it nice and hot to try to expose any headgasket problems before you take ownership. Youll know there is a problem if the temp starts to climb at any point.
 

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2002 STS
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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
What do you think, out for 10-15 minutes on the highway going 70-80 would do the trick for both the shimmy and temp? If temp goes above 220 I would think that would indicate a possible problem....

What about the water pump? Will the codes pick that up?
 

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White Diamond '03 DHS (with DTS floor shift)
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Water pump is not electronic so it can't be monitored and will not set any DTC's.
 

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2013 XTS
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If the car is in well shape for the most part the temp needle will stay right in the middle. I would be warry of buying a FWD northstar not keeping propper temp.
 

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2013 XTS
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If it is the water pump from what I have read it wouldn't be to hard to do it yourself. It's right up front and you should be able to do it in a day or less. That is if you have the confidence to do it yourself.
 

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White Diamond 2001 STS
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1,317 Posts
A water pump change is extremely easy to do on these engines...one of the easiest water pumps you'll ever come across I suspect.

The Dexcool is supposed to be good for 5 years or 150,000 miles. Given the history with potential corrosion possibly causing head gasket issues with the Northstar, it's probably prudent to change it at least that often. UR7X is right -- there's not an internal combustion engine out there that is "immune" to any mechanical problem. They're built by humans and humans are falliable.

If your friend's '03 STS has good maintenance records otherwise, I wouldn't let a lack of a coolant change disuade you from this wonderful car. It's still well within GM's window for cooling system maintenance. I would change it soon after I bought it, but it's not an emergency situation in my opinion.

Good luck, and let us know how the test drive goes!
 

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2002.5 F55 CORSA STS, 2014 Explorer XLT FWD
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Experience with my '02 and a friend's '01 STS indicates that the temp gauge needle sits at 12:00 o'clock 99% of the time, even with A/C running. Stuck in traffic, it may go up 1/8 to 3/16" before the fans go to high speed, then it goes back to center. Go to Radio Shack and pick up one of their little handheld IR thermometers.......accurate enough for checking temps all over the place......
 

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White Diamond 2001 STS
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The only time I've seen the temp gauge move off the 12:00 position is when the A/C isn't on (and the cooling fans are off) and I'm sitting in traffic. So far, with the A/C on (and cooling fans on), I haven't seen the needle step off halfway.
 

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02 STS
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Experience with my '02 and a friend's '01 STS indicates that the temp gauge needle sits at 12:00 o'clock 99% of the time, even with A/C running. Stuck in traffic, it may go up 1/8 to 3/16" before the fans go to high speed, then it goes back to center. Go to Radio Shack and pick up one of their little handheld IR thermometers.......accurate enough for checking temps all over the place......
Thank you for that post...
My 02 does this too and every time it does this it freaks me out (just a little) No issues on the freeway, up hills, WOT etc... But a hot day stuck in traffic and it "leaves" the 12:00 high position.. Though it never gets to the next white line!
 

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82 Coupe Deville /03 Seville SLS
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Basically you want to put a good load on the motor and get it nice and hot to try to expose any headgasket problems before you take ownership. Youll know there is a problem if the temp starts to climb at any point.
Is the the only reason the temp will climb ... (i.e.) City driving about 96 outside the temp goes above the halfway mark but not to the 3/4 mark ... As soon as you start driving the temp goes down?
 

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White Diamond '03 DHS (with DTS floor shift)
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Air in the system (clogged purge line).
Slipping water pump belt (tensioner pivot rusted)
Poor air flow (too many dead bugs in the condenser fins)
 
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