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Can Northstar Head bolt Inserts be Installed Without Pulling Engine?

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Hi everyone. I'm new here but have read some of the great post you all have made on past issues. A few days ago I purchased a nice one owner 1997 Deville with 79,000 miles. It runs fine with no appearant problems now but I'm concerned about the inevitible head bolt thread problem. I just performed the engine block test that checks for combustion gas in the cooling system and it passed the test. I'm fairly familiar with the process of drilling and tapping the engine block and installing inserts to address this problem but can it be accomplished without pulling the engine?

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If it passed the block test and is not overheating, drive it and don't worry about the headgaskets. Change the coolant as one of the first preventive maintenance items.

The head bolts can be drilled with the block in the car but it is tight. It is easier to pull the engine and get it on a stand to do the work. When I did the job in my '97 STS, I was going to drill the block in the car but decided against it due to the awkward angle I'd need to work. The waterpump crossover is an absolute SOB to remove with the engine in the car. It would only be worse trying to re-install it. Once you go through the work to remove the water pump crossover and the heads, you're 95% of pulling the engine anyway. With the engine on a stand, it is more comfortable to work on and easier to get the timing marks lined up, head bolts torqued, etc.

'93 Fleetwood Brougham
'05 Deville
'04 Deville
2013 Silverado Z71

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Additionally, check your system for leaks, cracked tanks (surge, and radiator). Make sure when you change the coolant, you fill it with 50/50 of GM approved dexcool. Check your waterpump, the pully, and the little belt for problems. And make sure your level in the surge tank is ok. Surge tank should only be filled up less than 1/2 way when cold after a few refills getting the air out. Temps from195 - 225 are normal, but it should hang around the 200 degree range. I personally add a tube of the (at time of manufacture) GM recommended bars stop leak powder to the hose atop the water pump when changing the fluid. I think the trick is making sure you never overheat, and you should have a better outcome.

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You can find video's on you tube of people doing that in the car. One reason for pulling the engine would be to reseal the bottom end while at it. It might be reasonable to do it in the car if you are not having leaks, but they seem to be inevitable. I had to pull mine, because I studded it. I am very happy with the outcome. I love not having the oil on the floor!

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Pulling the engine or dropping the cradle is the best way, unless you like hanging over fenders hours.

Edited by barczy01
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