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Buick Rendezvous

I have a 2002 Buick Rendezvous with about 160,000 miles on it and has now had three (yes, 3) head gasket replacements at $1500 for each one. This seems to happen about every 50,000 miles, otherwise, it has been a good vehicle for me for the past 12 years. The car value is now about $1,500 so I really don’t want to keep pouring more money into it if it is going to just blow up on me next time the gasket goes bad. I don’t trust driving very far with it and I am frequently watching the temperature gauge. I have 3 questions:

  1. Have you heard of this happening with other Rendezvous with the 6 cylinder engine? If so, why was there not a recall?
  2. Do I keep it and forgo any driving vacations or do I give in and buy something more secure?
  3. What smaller sized and better mileage SUV would you recommend? (Ford Escape, Honda CRV, etc.)

I’d guess head gasket failures rarely cause recalls because it’s not a serious safety issue (you can usually get safely off the road before the car quits). My daughter put three head gaskets into a Cavalier. If you’ve lost confidence in the car, dump it. I drive Hondas, so I’d tend toward the CRV.

@insightfuls insight is correct. Recalls are only for safety issues.

As for the 3.4L V-6 needing a more head gaskets than normal, they do seem to have a reputation for that. That said, I have also seen lower intake manifold gaskets misdiagnosed as bad head gaskets when they leak oil into the coolant. Intake gaskets are A LOT easier and cheaper to replace than head gaskets. Pay an unscrupulous shop for head gaskets, and get intake manifold gaskets. It happens.

fyi, the intake manifold gasket problem is noted as Buick customer interest bulletin No.: 03-06-01-010C, 4.8.08. As mentioned above, if the symptom is oil/coolant mixing or leaks of oil and/or coolant to the outside, make sure the tech considers the intake manifold gasket being the culprit, before assuming the problem is caused by the head gasket.

To those out there experienced with this problem, what are the first tests pro’s would do to decide if it is a head gasket or an intake manifold gasket problem? Would you pressurize the cooling system and see where the air is leaking from? Compression tests? One difference I’d focus on in my DIY’er way of thinking is that head gaskets would often allow exhaust gas into the coolant, while an intake manifold gasket wouldn’t. So looking for air bubbles in the radiator coolant or chemical testing for exhaust gasses in the coolant?

Between the combustion chamber, coolant, oil, and exterior, a head gasket can fail six different ways (more if you count multiple failures).

What’s unclear is whether your 3 head gasket complaint means 3 pairs of head gaskets or one then the other followed by a failure of one of the two that was replaced. That could put a different spin on it.

If you mean 3 pairs then I’d say that the job was not done properly the first and second time.
This is all assuming the diagnosis was correct, etc, etc.

@GeorgeSanJose‌

Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s humorous that you listed it as a “customer interest bulletin”

Technically speaking, it’s a technical service bulletin

And it’s really meant for the mechanic, not the customer

The customer has to pay money to log onto the GM website, to gain access to that information

perhaps I’m just a pessimist, but I know for a fact that manufacturers do not make it easy for the vehicle owners to access all the information out there. And why should they? Information is a commodity, which can be sold

If all the information was out there, free for everybody, many people . . . not just mechanics . . . might be out of a job

And it’s also possible some people with no experience or training would overestimate their abilities and get themselves into a bind

Point taken @db4690 … tho a summary of this particular info is available to anyone via the internet.

Yup

It’s available for the masses, because some kind person went to the trouble of posting it

And I’m wondering how that person got access to the website, in the first place. Perhaps they work at a GM dealer, or perhaps they actually paid to access the website

The bottom line is, that . . . if you go back far enough . . . that information wasn’t free

Somebody bought and paid for it, in some way or form