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The Northstar Tuner
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The Head Gaskets are not the problem!

Example: I have a 09 XLR with a belt chirp. I clean it of per Service Information (SI). The noise is gone, but I saw signs of "White Lithium Grease" sprayed on the belts. I recheck it the next morning and it barely chipped a few times, but the P/S pump was growling and I had never heard it before.
Everyone has been saying put a belt on it. It is a New car with NO miles on it.
I run the car and clean the belt scrubbing both sides. The P/S noise goes away in a rather short time.
I shut the car off and the P/S fluid spews all over the BELT!

I could have put 10 belts on and they all would have chirped. Was the belt the issue? NO WAY!
Air in the P/S system was. Now why was the air in the system? Residual or a bad pump?

So Head Gaskets, Block, Bad Castings, Poor Choice of Thread Pitch, Dex-Cool, Lack of Maintenance, Coolant Level Low, Outside Cold Temperatures, I have more?
 

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97 ETC x2, 04 GXP, 04 STS x2, 97 ESC, 99 Deville, 05 SRX
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2,602 Posts
AJ you're exactly right- but the head gaskets ARE part of the problem. Only a portion of the problem. Everything you mentioned contributes to the notorious HG problem. It's never just one fault. It's a combination of these all. You and I both know this- it's just that the majority of Cadillac owners who've bought a used Northstar powered car won't know all of this. They blame one simple thing- headgaskets. If the head gaskets blow on 90% of the older Cadillacs, everyone thinks the cars are junk. No, they are not.

On my vacation which is coming very soon I will be spending a lot of time working (???) on my website and there will be a page dedicated to explaining the cause and fix of the Northstar HG issue. AJ I want you to be a part of this- the full, in-depth explanation. Causes, repair methods, preventative measures one can take, etc. I don't know how many Northstars you've worked on but likely a lot more than I have.
 
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Yes Destroyer, bad HGs are acceptable from an aluminum engine, in my opinion, at a certain age. Stripped head bolt holes AREN'T. But it's something we have to live with and repair as necessary. It's just not right throwing the cars away because of one manufacturing defect. I can't stand to see beautiful Cadillacs go in a crusher because of a repairable problem. A $50,000 car, fixable in 2-3 days work that would be good to go for years to come, thrown away instead. That just isn't right. A lot of beautiful design work and engineering excellence went into these cars.
All cars have "repairable problems". It's just a matter if it's worth the repair or not. I agree with you about the comment on bad HG's being acceptible but stripped head bolt holes not being acceptable. I'd like to add that overly cramped working quarters in these cars is not acceptable either. Looks are subjective but "engineering excellence" is a bit far fetched.
 

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98 sls Northstar
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14 Posts
How much did GM save by not using inserts and studs on the Northstar engine? I see a lot of expensive stuff on the car in other places.
 

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2006 STS V8 AWD, '95 Ford Ranger
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Bbob(GM engineer) said they didn't use studs at the factory because they presented problems for automated assembly getting both the gaskets and the heads over them. They also were unable to get the kind of stretch characteristics for heat expansion that they were looking for.
 

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98 sls Northstar
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14 Posts
But heat expansion is a function of diameter and length. Did they want to use an existing engine assembly plant, one that couldn't be changed to use studs?
 

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2016 Honda Accord LX. Previous: 2004 Deville, 2000 STS
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I don't think the Northstar used in the '06+ DTS is any different from the one that was revised in 2004. However I believe the problems with the RWD are completely nonexistant, though only time will tell if they hold up or not.
 

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2006 STS V8 AWD, '95 Ford Ranger
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But heat expansion is a function of diameter and length. Did they want to use an existing engine assembly plant, one that couldn't be changed to use studs?
The problem was getting the correct amount of spring in the studs to compensate for the expansion of the aluminum head and block. The Northstar equipment line was designed from the start for capscrews for the heads.
 

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used to be that people were happy to get 100000 miles out of a vehicle 150000 was great. The japanese auto makers have now set the bar at 200000 plus. Quality is always a moving target as you improve so does your competition. Having a reputation of long term reliabiltiy pushes resale value up. my 1994 sts cracked 2 heads at 50000 miles, they put a new engine in under warranty. The second engine went 90000 miles before its oill leak and fouling of plugs sent it to the junk yard, its trade in value was 500 dollars with 150000 miles on it. I really want to see our american car companies prove to the world we once again can set the standard of building the highest quality cars. Since 16 years old I have drove GM. I am reading a lot of good things about their new vehicles in the pipeline, I hope they can pull it together to bring these cars to market. Just my 2 cents
 

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97 ETC x2, 04 GXP, 04 STS x2, 97 ESC, 99 Deville, 05 SRX
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It's a bad idea using inserts if the aluminum is 100% good. And it was, the day the engine left the factory. Inserts aren't the answer to the problem. Cast in place steel inserts would have been a better approach.
 

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98 sls Northstar
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14 Posts
VW in the later 1600 cc engines necked down their head/block bolts (studs) to provide more "spring".

Threading the head bolts into aluminum so that you have to turn them to torque them makes them less reliable. If they had used studs to start with they would have been better off, especially with more thread length and courser threads.
 

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94 ETC,97 STS
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I will tell this story again...(sorry)...a few years ago I walked in on a group at work talking cars and specifically head gaskets. I asked if they were talking Caddy's, they said in one voice "Caddy's have HG problems too !?!?!?"

I still say the biggest problem is the mfg's not making customers aware of coolant change. I'm sure they don't want to scare off customers with more maintenance but I think a lot ( definitely not all ) of the failures would not have happened with timely coolant changes.
 

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1997 ETC (GAVE TO STEPSON 2011), 2000 DTS (RIP)
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1,702 Posts
Yes Destroyer, bad HGs are acceptable from an aluminum engine, in my opinion, at a certain age. Stripped head bolt holes AREN'T. But it's something we have to live with and repair as necessary. It's just not right throwing the cars away because of one manufacturing defect. I can't stand to see beautiful Cadillacs go in a crusher because of a repairable problem. A $50,000 car, fixable in 2-3 days work that would be good to go for years to come, thrown away instead. That just isn't right. A lot of beautiful design work and engineering excellence went into these cars.
Jake - you said it perfectly!
 

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Deville
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DISAPOINTED TOO. Yes I dearly loved all my past 7 cadillacs. I am so disapointed in the HG problem. For the first time in my car buying career, I think I will have to consider buying a different car now. Maybe if I buy a 1 to 2 yr old Caddy, and get rid of it before the warranty goes out. Its sad that the HG problem is either a 24 hour replacement with used/new engine or 38 hour overhall. No economist would recommend overhauling or replacing a northstar. Its really sad how those lexus cars and all dont have the problem. I think I may buy lexus now. Sorry Cadillac, I will still remember all the great times we had, but, I have to move on. I drive normally 30k miles/yr. and buy 2 yr old devilles and try to get 80k miles in 3 yrs. my 97 gave me 90k miles then BANG HG got it. My 01 Deville was a 2yr old baby with 30k and at 149k it arrived DOA in 6 yrs. I am still in mourning. I may have to intervene in my cadillac addiction and enroll in a japanese treatment center for ex caddy addicts.
 

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White Diamond '03 DHS (with DTS floor shift)
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Look for a 2004+. The head bolt thread pitch was made coarser in '04 and the reliability has greatly improved.
 

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2002 SLS 97 Deville(Previous)
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290 Posts
DISAPOINTED TOO. Yes I dearly loved all my past 7 cadillacs. I am so disapointed in the HG problem. For the first time in my car buying career, I think I will have to consider buying a different car now. Maybe if I buy a 1 to 2 yr old Caddy, and get rid of it before the warranty goes out. Its sad that the HG problem is either a 24 hour replacement with used/new engine or 38 hour overhall. No economist would recommend overhauling or replacing a northstar. Its really sad how those lexus cars and all dont have the problem. I think I may buy lexus now. Sorry Cadillac, I will still remember all the great times we had, but, I have to move on. I drive normally 30k miles/yr. and buy 2 yr old devilles and try to get 80k miles in 3 yrs. my 97 gave me 90k miles then BANG HG got it. My 01 Deville was a 2yr old baby with 30k and at 149k it arrived DOA in 6 yrs. I am still in mourning. I may have to intervene in my cadillac addiction and enroll in a japanese treatment center for ex caddy addicts.
Hate to tell you this but you are not going to escape problems by buying a Lexus. The problems will be just a prevalent and just as expensive. I have a friend who bought a Lexus and the second day he had it there was a big oil puddle in his driveway. He had to have it towed back to the dealer where they spent 2 days tearing apart the engine to fix the problem. Every car is going to have mechanical issues. If you don't like that, buy a extended warranty or lease.
 

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1999 DeVille Concours, 2000 Seville STS, 2004 Escalade 2011
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Well, this is my first post to this site, just joined today and want to thank all the previous posters for their comments on the Northstar Head gasket issue. I own four Cadillacs at present, all bought new from the same dealer and impeccably dealer maintained. The 99 Deville Concours and the 2000 Seville STS are driven by two of my kids. The 04 Escalade is mine and the 2011 SRX is my wife's. We love all these cars, and by and large they have been good runners, but as I said well maintained too. The head gasket issue just popped up on the 00 STS and I have spent a lot of time in the last few days investigating these issues. As a 40 year tradesman I am bitterly disappointed that the issue seems to be fine thread, combined with carbon steel fasteners in an aluminum block with a corrosive coolant thrown in for good measure. Woulda coulda shoulda seems to apply. Stainless steel fasteners in the aluminum block would have been a no brainer, and the amount of thread engagement on a fine thread vs coarse thread fastener are clearly documented so why is this an issue. I fear, that it might just come down to value engineering during design phase, as everyone who has ever bought fasteners knows, stainless costs a lot more than carbon. While digging around I found Jake up in Canada and talked to man himself today and was quite impressed by what I heard. I love the stud concept for repair over anything else I have seen and was thrilled to learn that their Ontario operation is just 90 minutes outside Toronto where I have many friends. So, all things
Considered, I think I'm gonna trailer my 2000 STS up to Jake, after the first of the year, and then spend a few days with friends in Toronto while he works his magic. My cadillac dealer here in Chicago for whom I have the utmost respect quoted $5,500.00 for the job. The Blue Book trade value for the car is $5,500.00! I would love to hear from anyone who has had their Northstar repaired by Jake, but for now my mind is made up. I am not pressed to either start the repair, or get it back, as I have a spare vehicle. So again thanks for listening. As to the class action lawsuit issue, there may be grounds there, but it hard to argue that at nearly 100K miles that Cadillac owns the problem. Try to get this in front of jury where the poor sad Cadillac owner has to explain how he has been wronged by "Big Bidness" to a jury made up of people who have probably never owned a Cadillac. I'm gonna count my blessings, and lick my wounds, and go see some friends in Toronto as soon as the weather permits.
 
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