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Select one if you have had a problem with the headgasket the Northstar V8:


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Black 97 Eldorado Touring Coupe
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1997 Eldorado, 140,513 miles. Previous owner said she had it in the shop a few times before for overheating issues. Discovered the coolant reservoir and radiator has been replaced due to being blown by over pressurized coolant/exhaust gases. The shop where she had it repaired, as the final attempt to stop the leak used a stop leak product and told her to drive it easy and check the reservoir level frequently (after speaking to the shop about this I found out they offered to do this because she could not afford the head gasket repair or a replacement engine). Anyway, I am attempting to pull the engine through the top and if anyone has some pointers on removing the braces/brackets on the back of the engine (right head area) and Y-exhaust manifold bolts I sure would appreciate it. Very tight fit in that area! Other than that I am pretty close to removing it as long as the weather doesn't turn worse than it has so far! Working on it in front of my small one car garage! This is going to be a long project, just hope it works when I get it back together. Can you say Spring?
 

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2000 Eldorado ESC
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1,362 Posts
This may interest some of you. Luck of the draw theory.

Right before we traded in the 95 Eldo LD8 the water pump belt broke.
Didn't find it right away, replaced the thermostat road tested it, right
to "shut engine off" warning. Full boat 4 cyl cooling mode and all.

Saw the belt was "missing" and installed a new one
Topped off the coolant and the car was fine for another 6
months until we traded it.

If any car should have blown a gasket it was this one
Car had over 100K at the time.
 

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04 Deville
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4 Posts
I clicked the wrong one...03 instead of 04.

But yeah- bought my 04 with 112K miles...was scared of it...and 6K later...dreaded white smoke. I knew better. 4 grand down the pisser.
 

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94 Fleetwood Brougham
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7,534 Posts
This issue GM created themselves, is one of the reasons I won't buy a Cadillac again. Sad. I like them, but GM has a nasty habit of showing off penny wise dollar stupid mentality.

The list is long of GM stupidity over the years.... And the customers pay dearly for it. And never come back....

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Someone I spoke with years ago said the one of the issues was when customers brought in a Cadillac and an engine was replaced to reduce warranty costs, GM made the dealers re-use the antifreeze, without checking it for acidity or contamination, and send it back out. The high acid level in the antifreeze would eat at the head bolts in the block, and start to reduce clamping force of the head and the gasket would leak.

Can't say either way, but I had my 3800 Supercharged Buick and it had Dexcool, I had replaced it at some point with long life green (can't find non long life anymore anyway) and then decided to flush it clean, with water (distilled) and go back to Dexcool, when cold (30F and colder) it looked like applesauce. When warm ok. I finally pulled it out and put in green again, no more applesauce....

I won't run Dexcool in anything.... I would rather run the Toyota Red or Pink coolant or Rotella T red coolant, but never Dexcool. No way.
 

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2002.5 F55 CORSA STS, 2014 Explorer XLT FWD
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67,978 Posts
Curious observation. Here's 2 quarts of DEX-COOL from my STS. Lab report said the additive package was still over 75% after 3 years. (but then, the Northstar was not included in the GM/DEX-COOL class action suit.) The stuff is a perfectly good coolant for my car - no complaints.......... BUT I don't hold to the "long life" 5 year recommendation, either. 3 - 4 years and out it comes.

FWIW, Prestone now markets a "long life" coolant that is bright yellow - mixes with any coolant from any manufacturer.
 

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94 Fleetwood Brougham
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7,534 Posts
My boss has a 09 Impala and I asked him when he changed the coolant, never he answered.... And he has a leak now that is another GM design issue on the crossover on the 3.5L V6 (old school V6-60 engine). More GM design idiocy....

But he is going to get his coolant changed asap...
 

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2000 DeVille
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38 Posts
2000 DeVille with 115,000 miles. (Overheat... HG leak confirmed dx) Dexcool use only. Coolant leak repair 5 months prior.
 

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'06 STS AWD V6, '99 Deville
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68 Posts
2007 Buick Lucerne with the Northstar. 83,000 miles. "slow oil drip". GM Buick dealer confirmed exhaust gases in coolant. Want $4300USD and must outsource the repair to the nearby Cadillac dealer. This is my family's second "run-in" with the notorious Northstar...
 

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2005 Deville
2012 CTS AWD, 2005 DeVille
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62 Posts
01 Deville with 4.6 Northstar, 168K miles. The car rusted out before I had experienced ANY MAJOR PROBLEMS. This has been one of the best cars I have ever owned and if it wasn't for the midwest snow and road salt, I'd be driving it for 250k. Unfortunately the exhaust and rear tie rods are so rusted that replacing them would not be cost effective. Looking for another Deville to replace it and this thread has given me a lot of good info. on things to look out for when inspecting. I do step on mine quite a bit and have a friend that was a mechanic at a Caddy dealership until he went back to school to become an engineer. He always told me to step on it once often to keep carbon build up down. He also believes that the head gasket problem was bolt-head thread related and that the problem was resolved after 2000. Head gaskets can go on any car and the fact that there are millions of GM cars out there with Dexi without chronic head gasket issues leads me to believe that it is a bolt-thread problem and not dexi related. I am not a mechanic by any stretch, just an observation and the information from those that work on these great cars. BTW, I have never owned a car that is so sure footed in the snow, even better than my 2000 4x4 Explorer, just not as much clearance.
 

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2001 STS
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1 Posts
Re: Definitive Northstar Headgasket Thread

2001 STS
Right on time at 143,000, the exact same mileage as my 94 STS when it "died". The 94 Northstar was a much tougher engine. I was able to drive until it hot 233,000. I just kept the trunk full of water jugs. It would not die. Found a deal on a 97 STS and never had a single overheating issue during the 80,000 I put on it. I have my Pops 96 Deville with 179,000 miles & no history of overheating.
 

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1998 Cadillac Eldorado ETC
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201 Posts
Now THAT is the kind of reliability that Cadillac should have been building into their cars. In other words, Cadillac should never have their own line of engines ever built again. The cars are much better with Chevy motors. Remember the 4100 and even all that 4-6-8 crap of years gone by?
The 4-6-8 engine was good when it worked. I have spoke with former owners of the 4-6-8 engine and for the most part, they liked it. Chrysler has had some success with a similar engine that when owners talk about its economy, it is hard to believe the numbers they speak of.

The 4-6-8 was a victim caused by GM just like the Cimmeron being a rebadged Chevy and no one was supposed to notice.
The whole problem with the 4-6-8 engine according to a report I read was the electronics that GM bought cheap on LOWEST BID. The chip could not handle the heat and would fail causing the engine to revert back to 8 cyl mode. Most 4-6-8 owners, including the owner I had spoken with, said after replacing the chip module once, they just pulled it and ran the engine as an 8 cyl.

But we as consumers go back for more. Todays Caddy is too sophisticated, too high Tech and has too many complex systems just for comfort, ride, etc. You can't afford the car after it is out of warrentee, and the value plumets first after you drive it out the door then as it gets a few years on it. Someone I knew that ran a body shop said they hate to work on Cadillacs because where a car has one part, Caddy has many more to make one part. High cost to repair.

The NorthStar debate is just another of GMs experiments that the consumer has had to take on the cost of bad engineering design. I have my 98 ETC and so far, knock on a tree, no major problems. At one point, my ETC was worth LESS than what was owed on the car. Couldn't afford to sell it even if I wanted to. Good thing I like the car and keep it because I like the design and ride, because it isn't worth diddle. I am saving up for the upcoming HG event because I like the car that much, but the reality is, history of how GM dumps the cost of their mistakes on the customer. This is a bad practice and should come around and bite them in the posterior. Maybe its just me folks, but I don't mind a car that is basic like the earlier Cadillacs and why GM insists to think they can add all this complicated crap and over charge us as buyers to buy this garbage and then CHARGE US to fix GMs mistakes is just incredible. But even more incredible is consumers keep coming back for more.........

Ah, I'll take one of those re-badged Cimmerons and how about one of those Suburbans with the Cadillac emblem on the front, OH OH and I want a NorthStar engine in my Caddy so I can enjoy the headgasket event. A 4-6-8 with electronic control flaws would be fun as well. Id bring up the Corvair but I don't think the Corvair was a bad car, Nadar just had it out for the car. Probably needed a NorthStar to give it more get up and go. Jees, it would do wheelies.
 

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Past: 90 Seville Current: 92 Seville (parts), 92 Eldorado
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43 Posts
He also believes that the head gasket problem was bolt-head thread related and that the problem was resolved after 2000.

The quote above regarding that the "problem was resolved after 2000" doesn't appear to be empirically true based just on the Poll Results, does it?

I have a *slightly* interesting story to share about a used 2002 Eldorado with 60K miles that I test drove some years ago. As a lot of us probably know, there is a round dial on the dash that shows the coolant temperature. Straight up is where the needle should be, right? Not too hot, not too cold, just the way Goldilocks prefers it!

Anyway, an independent Cadillac shop in my area (Los Angeles) told me that the needle was just a hair to the right of center (ever-so-slightly on the hot side) and he said from experience this means the car is well on its way to Head Gasket Blowsville and I should run away from the potential purchase right away. No need to check any further!

Has anybody heard of this rather unscientific 'test?' It seems like this could make sense, since in the Technical Archive the Northstar expert said you could alternatively check the coolant reserve tank for any false boiling due to the combustion gases entering into the coolant system and undoubtedly raising the coolant temperature. An overheating engine is definitely a symptom of a blown head gasket!
 

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2002.5 F55 CORSA STS, 2014 Explorer XLT FWD
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67,978 Posts
Re: Cracked engine block on 2000 Cadillacs

The "gauge" is highly damped at the 12 o'clock (188 - 210 degree) position. It is perfectly normal, under high ambient temp/heavy traffic/fans not on for the needle to go as much as 1/4" to the right. The "mechanic" who told you that slight movement is a sign of head gasket/bolt hole thread failure is full of crap.

Your Eldorado "gauge" was a slightly narrower version of this Seville gauge, but the tick marks are identical in temperature. Anything up to and including 224 degrees is normal: with no A/C function set to command fans to SLOW they don't come on until 224 degrees - well past the 12 o'clock position. The engine then cools to 213, fans shut OFF, the cycle repeats. Fans don't run over 25 - 30 mph - not needed. (The engines use the exact same temp sender - variable resistor)

An overheated Northstar IS NOT "definitely a symptom of a blown head gasket".
Do some more homework and report back on "purge line", "water pump belt tensioner pulley", "water pump", and ............. coolant leaks.

You found this poll sticky - now study the companion stickies to find out how the cooling system/fans/gauge really works.
 

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Past: 90 Seville Current: 92 Seville (parts), 92 Eldorado
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Maybe I should amend my post to say 'a blown head gasket can cause overheating' but the reverse is not necessarily true. In other words, an overheated engine could be caused by other problems, such as a failing water pump.

No need to get rough with your language. You don't know me, and maybe I did just enough homework, or more-so in order to make an intelligent comment to this forum. I practically wear out the Google webpage about Cadillac topics before I post to the highly critical audience over here. Why make folks afraid to ask questions or make comments?

Because Northstar always seems to provoke a strong reaction for anyone saying anything that's not 100% high praise, I hesitated a long time to post about this subject. Sorry to say I wasn't wrong about that!
 

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2002.5 F55 CORSA STS, 2014 Explorer XLT FWD
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67,978 Posts
Re: Definitive Northstar Headgasket Thread

No beef with you or your language - the mechanic made a very misleading statement. Stuff like that is what fosters the "Yeah, the Northstar is a POS!" and so the myth continues.

No "high praise" for the Northstar here, either. Just diagnose and fix the problems - correctly.
 

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2011 DTS, 1999 Eldorado, 2009 DTS
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11 Posts
Re: Definitive Northstar Headgasket Thread

My 1998 SLS lost a head gasket at 122,000 miles
 
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