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This is my first Cadillac and I am curious as to how good the North Star engine is in terms of reliability and longevity. I know nothing about the engine except that is makes decent power, is light and has a DOHC actuating system.

I ask because I remember the DOHC ZR1 in the Corvette and it was a hit or miss engine - owners eigther loved or hated them.

I want to keep this car just about forever as I really like it and I am just curious as to the track record of the North Star.


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Properly maintained, the Northstar V8 can be reliable. The 'achilles heel' for the engine is the repair process when major repairs are needed in my opinion. If there is a head gasket replacement needed for example, the entire powertrain needs to come out. This makes a head gasket repair an expensive proposition, and for some owners is the end of their enjoyment of these great Cadillacs.

In addition, when it does need a head gasket, the aluminum block needs to have timeserts in all bolt holes in order to ensure the threads don't pull after the head is retorqued. Not helicoils, not hope for the best, timeserts; there is a specific kit by year for this purpose. There are a couple of alternate procedures that have some fans, including Norm's inserts and a process by Northstar Performance.

Overall, for its time and technology, the Northstar powertrain provided a much-needed boost for Cadillac. Unfortunately, people buy a 4th hand example for $5K and then are shocked to find it needs a $5K head gasket repair or engine replacement, and blame the design.

I have enjoyed the Northstar, and now the Supercharged Northstar in my STS-V. I have also had (on my 96 STS) to have a Northstar head gasket replaced, and then to pay to have it properly timeserted a year later. That said, I continue to enjoy my Cadillac and recommend you enjoy yours. But if the heads ever come off, timesert everything. Also get lots of pics as we really enjoy them here on CaddyInfo!


2016 Cadillac ATS-V gray/black

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What happens to the head gaskets, do they just blow or is there a specific problem to be aware of? I know helicoils but not timeserts. Who does this process if needed? Also, could Cometic head gaskets be used if this problem was to occur? Thanks for the comments.

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Old Dog....

Just as an information point...

I have almost 114,000 miles on my Northstar with -0- mechanical issues...

It does not get "BABIED AROUND".... I take excellent care of it, but it also gets "DRIVEN"...

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I went onto Google and tried to do some research on NorthStar units and from what I can gather there are essentially, or so I think, three itereations of the block. The last one is sand cast which they say has been problem free; again, who knows?

I just know I will drive and enjoy mine and not worry about it at all.

I did find a lot about oil leaks and oil consumption on the earlier versions but don't remember what they said the cause was at present.

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  • 9 months later...

I have a 93 ETC n* with 109000 on it and I LOVE it! As near as I can figure (and anyone else with more experince should chime in) if you overheat ANY aluminium engine you will be in for trouble...

That being said, proper cooling system maintenence is the key. (with lower mileage engines)

As far as high mileage engines/cars I would think that the higher the mileage, the more the risk of being punished for previous owners lack of care...


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I have over 125,000 on mine.

I bought it new, and it has been maintained well.

I drive it pretty BRISKLY and it has been 100% reliable.

It uses about a half quart of oil every 7000 miles.

I did have a minor halfcase seal leak fixed while it was still under warranty.

Other than that... NOTHING has ever been done to the engine.

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