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2003 Olds Alero Head Gasket

Just recently we learned that our 2003 Olds Alero has a minor leak in the head gasket. The price quoted to us to replace the gasket by the dealership mechanic was $1200. We will be moving from Colorado to Michigan in less than a month where we know a reputable and fairly inexpensive shop where we would possibly get the car repaired. The dealership that gave us the quote told us we could probably make the drive if we kept a close eye on the temperature gage and check the coolant level in the reservoir frequently. The question is, should we try to drive back to MI for a cheaper fix with someone we trust, or should we bite the bullet and just get it fixed at our pricey dealership? Or…should we try to find another place here in CO that could fix it before the move? Thanks a million.

Is the leak external or internal? In other words, is it dripping coolant on the ground or is coolant mixing with the oil or entering the combustion chamber(s)?

If the car were mine I’d get it fixed before the trip. The dealer is correct that if the coolant is kept up and the car not overheated you MAY be fine.
The unknown part of the equation is that sometimes a weakened head gasket can decide to let go; no matter which of the symptoms it has.
It’s a gamble in my opinion and I’m not a gambling man, so…

Call around and get a couple of more estimates from well-established independent shops for comparison purposes.

(If you have this job done you should also make sure that the cylinder head(s) (depending on engine) is/are checked for warpage and surfaced as necessary. A new thermostat and oil change should also be part of the job. Failure to do this can easily put you back to square one.)

Thanks for your quick reply. The leak is internal. The coolant is mixing with the oil, though we were told the leak was very minor at the time. They suggested getting an oil change at the time because we decided not to fix it then.

When my mechanic found coolant in the oil of my 2000 Blazer from an intake gasket leak, he suggested that I do as little driving as possible until it was repaired. He explained that the coolant displaces the oil from the crankshaft bearings ruining the engine. I wouldn’t take the chance myself.

Ed B.

Coolant mixing with the oil would mean a fix right now IMHO. Coolant has very little lubricating qualities and depending on the extent of the dilution here, coolant can cause the crankshsft bearings, cam lobes, etc. to do what is called “wash out” and in a nutshell this means the entire engine can be ruined.

Something I would inspect closely before removing the cylinder head(s) is the intake manifold gasket. The intake will have to be removed in order to remove the head(s). There is a possibiity the problem could simply be an intake manifold leak and this can mimic a head gasket fault. Once the intake is removed the gaskets can be visually examined for any fault. Maybe the head gasket(s) are fine. (What engine do you have?)

The price at the dealer is a good one, for replacing a head seven years ago. The price for the head gasket seems fair by the standards of 2008. How minor is the leak? Is there just some evidence of seepage? If there is water in the oil, or oil in the water, it would be better to change it now. The price won’t be that much different later.

If it is an intake manifold leak, the Alero (V6 only) is covered under the GM Dexcool settlement under Group A vehicles. Here is a link to the page.

Good luck,

Ed B.

The problem is indeed the intake manifold leak. I called the dealership that checked it out to confirm that it was the lower intake manifold gasket rather than the head gasket. We have a 3.4 L V6 in the car. Who should I contact to confirm the possible coverage under the settlement?

Thanks a million,
Joe V

Try contacting the GM regional office; either by phone or on-line. There may be an 800 number listed in the owners manual.
One would kind of think that an intake manifold gasket leak would have been the first suspect at the dealer…