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Head Gasket - 1994 Saturn...How do you know it's any good?

I may be buying a 1994 Saturn. How can I check if the head gasket on it is any good? Also, what other problems should I look out for?

The definitive test is a compression leakdown test. Typical symptoms include bubbling in the radiator or coolant reservoire when the engine is running, hydrocarbons in the coolant, coolant in the oil, burning of coolant (white smoke out the tailpipe), and often uneven engine performance.

The entire vehicle should be checked out on a rack by a competant shop. It’s impossible to know what chassis, steering, or braking system problems may be lurking. And even through some of the body panels are plastic, the chassis is metal…and still prone to rusting.

Is there a particular reason that you ask about the head gasket? (As opposed to tons of other things?)

The shop that I use most frequently has a “used car check” kind of service - its a flat rate thing (though that likely varies by type of auto) and they give all of the major systems a once-over.

If you find something like that and if you do have some specific reason to worry about the head, then do ask specifically for a leak-down test - which is not the same thing as a “compression test.”

Actually, since a leakdown test tests the ability of the cylinders to hold pressure, which is compression, it’s often referred to as a compression leakdown test. But I admit that the terminology might be confusing.

Ok - I’ll rephrase - b/c it’s impt for the OP to know - as I understand it a typical “compression test” doesn’t test leakdown.

But a leakdown test tests both compression and leakdown.

I wouldn’t buy the best 1994 Saturn if it cost more than $600. The good features of these cars are lackluster at best.

No. A compression test determines how much compression is produced. A leak-down test determines why there is low or no compression.


BINGO! to clarify, that was for tester./ the best way is to look down the back of the block and see if there are huge amounts of oil.(normal on a saturn) just an assumption. NAH! REALITY. love those GM products,they keep me busy.