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tommysls

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1998 SLS with 108,000 miles.

Recent symptoms

Coolant loss with no visual signs of leakage. This has been happening for a couple weeks. Never overheated. Kept close watch on coolant levels.

A few days ago started hearing ticking lifter or valve noise at start up. Only after she sat overnight.

Sound goes away in minute or two.

Rough idle started two days ago - not consistently - only occassionally.

Took to dealer for diagnosis. They preformed hydro carbon test based on my symptoms. Said blue dye turned yellow instantly - so therefore it is head gaskets and they want $4000 to repair.

Calling around town to other shops - it has been suggested to me that this may only be intake gasket leak. Other shops want to replace engine.

Car is still driveable. Although I am letting her sit because don't want more damage.

Any thoughts - ideas - suggestions appreciated.

Thanks

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The Northstar intake does not have coolant flowing through it.

I would suggest pressurizing the cylinders with shop air to confirm the lack of integrity of the head gaskets.

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

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tommysls,

KHE is correct. There are no passages on a N* where coolant could enter the intake.

Do a cylinder balance test to have the pressure checked in each cylinder. This will give an idea if a gasket has failed, by how much, and where.

I had similar symptoms after my '97 Deville 4.6 overheated. A couple of dead giveaways were a liberal coolant loss at the pump seal that started suddenly and that the cooling system stayed pressurized even after the car had cooled off overnight. I also had the mis-fire at start-up.

I'm in the process of putting this engine back together right now. So far, I'm at the $1,200 range and hope to keep it less than $1,600. Of course, I'm not including any of my labor costs, but the $4K figure you stated is within range of what I've seen in other postings.

As an alternative to dumping the car or paying to repair it down, you might want to try some leak stop. Whether it works or not will depend on how badly the head gasket is leaking.

If you consider having the engine repaired, take a good look at the condition of the car interior and body. Add another $500 just in case of surprises during the engine repair and ask yourself if you can get another car that you enjoy for the same money.

Good luck!

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Try the Bar's leak Gold as discussed in numerous places on this site. It has worked wonders for some.

Britt

Britt
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I'm in the process of putting this engine back together right now.  So far, I'm at the $1,200 range and hope to keep it less than $1,600.  Of course, I'm not including any of my labor costs, but the $4K figure you stated is within range of what I've seen in other postings.

jhall,

I have the same problems you and tommysls have. I am thinking of doing the head gasket replacement this summer. I am a teacher, have the summer off, and have rebuilt a few conventional engines before. Did you have a hydraulic lift and a cradle jack to remove your engine or how did you do it? If I decide to do it, could I bug you for hints and/or suggestions about things you learned while doing it yourself?

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rbrantlee,

I also have background on the older iron engine designs and worked at an industrial air-cooled engine shop though college (mowers, tractors generators, and big Wisconsin-Teledyne engines). I do most of my own car work when possible.

I pulled my engine from the top with an engine hoist Close fit, but it worked.

I'd be happy to provide help. There are other guys on this site who have much more exposure and knowledge on the N* engines, so post your questions for all to read. ;)

First and foremost - you need to buy a copy of the factory manual (a.k.a. Helms manual) from Helms or from a web auction site. Figure about $140 for a new set of books. This allows you to understand the principles of the engine assembly as well as the torques specs and typical cautions for this engine design. Forget about Haines, Chilton or other manuals. In my opinion, they pale in comparison to the factory manual.

Second, If you have a N* engine, you will need to buy a Timesert kit (about $350) to repair the head bolt threads in the engine. The block threads are usually damaged during removal of the old head bolts. If you are hesitant to make the initial investment in the Timesert kit, repeat the following three times and use your best pirate voice --- "Ye who disregard this here warning be doomed to find failures at reassembly or worse - after getting ye ship back to sea.... Arrggh" :D

So, the basic step for manuals will be about $50 - $140. Once you pull the engine, you'll be dropping $350 for the Timesert kit - along with some gaskets and some hoses that should be changed while you've got the engine out.

Keep us posted! :)

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I'm in the process of putting this engine back together right now.  So far, I'm at the $1,200 range and hope to keep it less than $1,600.  Of course, I'm not including any of my labor costs, but the $4K figure you stated is within range of what I've seen in other postings.

jhall,

I have the same problems you and tommysls have. I am thinking of doing the head gasket replacement this summer. I am a teacher, have the summer off, and have rebuilt a few conventional engines before. Did you have a hydraulic lift and a cradle jack to remove your engine or how did you do it? If I decide to do it, could I bug you for hints and/or suggestions about things you learned while doing it yourself?

Attached is a PDF that shows my parts, equipment and miscellaneous cost for repairing the headgaskets on my 93 STS.

I provided all of the labor, with a little assistance from my son.

Removed the engine from the top in a conventional manner, tight, but the engine leveler makes it easier to do.

Hardest part was removing the exhaust flange bolts, they are in a hard to see location.

Get several boxes to keep track of the bolts and other parts as they are removed.

-George

Northstar_Headgasket_Repair.pdf

Drive'em like you own 'em. - ....................04 DTS............................

DTS_Signature.jpg

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jhall and growe3,

Thanks. You are both making me feel more comfortable about doing this job myself. Thanks for the parts list. Just knowing I can save ~$3,000 makes me inclined to do it.

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The list from growe3 looks very much like the one for my '97 N*.

I found what I considered to be exhaust valve and seat damage when I inspected the heads. Bbobynski said "nope", but my past experiences with Murphy's Law made me take it to the shop and have the seats and exhaust valves reworked (intake valves and seats were OK).

This added the need to replace the valve stem seals and increased the rebuild cost by about $250.

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I'm in the process of putting this engine back together right now.  So far, I'm at the $1,200 range and hope to keep it less than $1,600.  Of course, I'm not including any of my labor costs, but the $4K figure you stated is within range of what I've seen in other postings.

jhall,

I have the same problems you and tommysls have. I am thinking of doing the head gasket replacement this summer. I am a teacher, have the summer off, and have rebuilt a few conventional engines before. Did you have a hydraulic lift and a cradle jack to remove your engine or how did you do it? If I decide to do it, could I bug you for hints and/or suggestions about things you learned while doing it yourself?

Attached is a PDF that shows my parts, equipment and miscellaneous cost for repairing the headgaskets on my 93 STS.

I provided all of the labor, with a little assistance from my son.

Removed the engine from the top in a conventional manner, tight, but the engine leveler makes it easier to do.

Hardest part was removing the exhaust flange bolts, they are in a hard to see location.

Get several boxes to keep track of the bolts and other parts as they are removed.

-George

George that was an impressive cost breakdown on the Excel sheet. Did you buy each item individually or is there a NS rebuilt set? It looks to me like you bought each item individually. How did you determine the gaskets you needed, did you determine that as you disassembled the engine? I can definately see myself doing this job one day no question. Did you do the case half seal? Did you use an engine stand? How is it running for you? Sorry for the bombardment of questions, Mike

I am looking forward to seeing jhall's results, that project is interesting to watch. Thank heavens for Guru, jhall has asked some of the same questions that I would have asked. Having Guru there to help with questionable issues and technical questions is invaluable. Its quite an accomplishment you guys

Early on sailors navigated by the stars at night and the North star became the symbol for finding ones way home. Once you know where the Northstar is you can point your ship in the right direction to get home. So the star became a symbol for finding ones way home or more symbolically even finding ones path in life.

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Navion -

How much of the Bars Leak can I try to use before it will clog radiator or other parts.

Thanks

I seem to recall Guru saying it would take like 20 or so to clog the radiator or heater core but I would not want to be the one to test that theory. Manual says to use 3 (I went with 4) Guru says 6.

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