Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Head Gasket Repair

I took my 2002 Olds Silhouette van to my repair shop with an overheating problem.

They diagnosed the problem as a leaking intake gasket. The repair cost was ~$800.

When I picked up the car, I was told that after the intake repair they did a hydrocarbon test on the coolant and also thought I had a leaking head gasket, and had added a sealant to the radiator in an attempt to fix the problem. They told me to drive it home and allow the sealant to work. On the way home the vehicle overheated, and I had to stop several times to allow it to cool down.

I maintain they should have found the head gasket problem initially, before I made a decision about the repair, since the head gasket repair will cost another ~1,500. The repair shop wants me to have the vehicle brought back in so they can try other sealants. Should I go this route, or spring for the repair costs on a vehicle with over 170K, but otherwise in good condition?

A new car will cost you a lot more then $1500. Sealant is NOT the way to fix a head gasket problem. You need to get this fixed. Have you checked with GM on having them pay for this. They were sued over this and lost. This has been a known issue with GM for 10+ years.

A leaking intake gasket or a leaking head gasket will not cause an engine to overheat unless the coolant level drops too low or there is a leak between one of the combustion chambers and the water jacket.

They “thought” you have a head gasket problem? They should do some proper diagnosis and make sure instead of “thinking” about it. Compression test, hydrocarbon test, cooling system pressure test, and the use of a vacuum gauge will verify it.

Have they considered the possibility of a faulty thermostat or an inoperative cooling fan as being the cause of the overheating?

If you have the vehicle at home and it’s cooled off (as in stone cold) try this.
Loosen the radiator cap and release any pressure that may exist. Retighten cap.
Start the engine and allow it to run for a minute. Shut it off and then quickly loosen the radiator cap.
If you hear a faint hiss sound it’s possible you have a head gasket problem. If you do not hear anything then it’s possible the head gasket is ok.

It’s difficult for me to advise you on what’s best to do but I always get a bit antsy over a head gasket repair. Head gaskets can be one of the most misdiagnosed items on a car and there should be no guess work involved in it.
Hope some of that helps.

I Think If These Guys Are Trying To Repair Your Car With “Mechanic In A Drum” …
In my opinion, they are just trying to put a band-aid on a problem so that you go away and they won’t have to be resposible for possibly misdiagnosing the problem initially. They hope it seals things up just long enough so that when you return it won’t be a related issue. Why didn’t they pour some crap in there the first time and save you almost $800?

Thanks for all the quick responses.

I belatedly found out about the GM class action settlement relative to intake gasket failures. However, the application period for reimbursement has already expired. The intake gasket has already been replaced once previously, three years and 90K ago. I will definitely contact them about stepping up on this, but given their current financial condition, am not too hopeful.

The overheating problem first manifested just before Thanksgiving. When I noticed it, and found the coolant level to be low, I continued to add coolant and drive the vehicle through the weekend. The temperature gauge never got above ~2/3 and usually was not that much above normal. I took it in to my regular repair shop on Monday (11/29), and although they deny it, I believe they jumped to the conclusion it was just the intake gasket without doing a thorough diagnosis. I?m not sure what tests they did, in addition to the hydrocarbon test (after the repair), but they now say they?re sure it?s the head gasket, caused they say, by my driving it over the Thanksgiving weekend.

I will try the radiator cap test tonight. I can hear the radiator fan running, but don?t know if they checked the thermostat. I also don?t see white smoke in the exhaust, and I was told there are no indications of coolant in the oil. But both times I?ve tried to drive it since picking it up, the temperature gauge has pinned within the first 5 minutes.

My position has been that if I?d known that about both repairs up front that I might have looked at the sealant approach as a short-term fix, or more likely looked at putting a used or remanufactured engine into the vehicle. I suppose it? possible that I caused the head gasket damage, but the vehicle was drive-able when I took it in, and now is not.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what I should expect from the repair shop at this point? I am dealing with the owner and he is aware that I have had virtually all my repair work done there (~$5K on this vehicle alone), and says he wants me to be satisfied. The impression I?m getting is that he?s trying to placate me with some short-term fix in the hope that I will trade it in soon, and make it someone else?s problem.

Does anyone know how much of the intake and head gasket repair work is redundant? I do know that most of the repair cost for both jobs is labor. Would it be reasonable to expect him the refund the cost of the intake gasket, in exchange for the more expensive head gasket repair?

Thanks in advance.

I am having the save issue. I have not taken it in for “mis-diagnosis” yet. My question back to you is, do you have heat inside the car? I do not have any heat when I have the overheating problem. I have replace the water pump, thermostat, flushed the radiator and still no luck. When this first started happening, it would overheat and the heat wouldn’t work in the car, then all of a sudden the engine temp would drop instantly back to normal and the heat would come on. Now though the enigine overheats to the point of about 2/3 and then drop down and then work back up again. Could this be a sign of a pressure problem in the cooling system? How does the no heat relate to this?

You really need to start a new post instead of resurrecting a post from 6 weeks ago. I think the thermostat is bad, and yes, you can buy bad ones from the store. Make sure you get the factory heat setting, and make sure you purge the air out of the system.

I am also having this issue. When I bought the van, I was able to drive a month with no problems, then it overheated. I checked and it was out of fluid. And I could see that it was bubbling out of the head gasket. I took it back to the used car dealer (my father-in-law!!!) FULL OF COOLANT and his mechanic couldn’t find a problem. So after another few weeks (once enough coolant was lost) it overheated again. I took it to them, without topping off the coolant, and they agreed the head gasket had a leak. They SWEAR that they flushed it, changed the thermostat, and gave me a new gasket. Now it lasted two months, past the thirty day guarentee, and began to overheat. This time, the heater would stop blowing warm air, and the temp would start to go up. I could then stop the car, turn the radiator cap a little and the coolant would FLUSH FAST out of the radiator and into the resiviour tank, then after a couple minutes drain back down into the engine and I could drive again. I would at home open the bleeders and add coolant and I could drive fine for a week or so.

Then it started happening more frequently and I was pouring in coolant all of the time. I changed the thermostat and checked the water pump, both are fine.

After talking to a mechanic friend, he is almost certain I have a warped head. The guys who changed the gasket didn’t check it for warps and that I am losing coolant through the exhaust. (Hence no puddles, but still coolant lose.) He said that when I turn off the engine and release the cap, that I am getting the FLUSH because there is still combustion from the pistons and that after it settles, coolant moves again.

I am going to get it fixed this week. So we will see if he is right.

God I hate these Dex-cool faulty engines.

Any time a cylinder head is removed, especially for a leak, it should be checked and milled (if needed) by an automotive machine shop. The charge is reasonable, and it is added assurance that a warped cylinder head won’t cause another leak.

just had the upper and lower intake manifold gaskets new valve cover gaskets and a couple of small items.the cost was around $800 so i would call around to a independent mechanic.that saved me a few dollars.and with the help from the people on this website to let me know what was involved and the estimate on the i was able to more informed of the situation and the advice was greatly appreciated dominic

IMHO these guys did a number of things wrong.

They did not diagnose the overheating problem properly. And that diagnosis done properly is basic and definitive.

When they thought they detected a possible headgasket leak they should have called you, discussed your options (of which additive should have been recommended against) and gotten authorization to proceed.

They should not have added sealant for a headgasket leak unless you insisted on trying it against their recommendations. Then they probably should have told you you’d need to do that yourself and recommended that you buy it from a parts store and follow the label completely.

Since you brought it in with an overheating problem, they should have told you that with a headgasket leak it would more than likely overheat again on the way home.

They should also have advised you that if the engine has overheated the original breech in the headgasket is probably much worse now. The head may be warped…and that does not a well-sealed headgasket make.

And now they want to keep dumping sealants in? And let it keep overheating?

My friend, run from this shop as fast as you can.