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Head Gasket replaced once, twice, now thrice?

I have a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier with 178,382 miles.

Now in 2005 I went to jiffy lube for an oil change and they told me that I had a crack in my head gasket and was leaking oil. So what do I do? Take it to the place I purchased it of course! Only now to find out that my warranty had expired.

So I swallow the $600 to replace the itty bitty $40 head gasket and take the car home. To my amazement it overheated and went back to the shop they very next day. So apparently at this point the idiot that worked on my car got coolant in the oil.

$1600 for a used motor! Ouch, so I do it. Now I was pretty sure the agreement was that I would also get a new head gasket again. Well now what do you think happen?

I take my car to jiff lube this week for an oil change (wow maybe I need to find a new place). They say I am leaking something, no kidding I can see it on the ground. Anyway, I am not too car savvy, but I know what is leaking is pink and my radiater was bone dry one day. Well this guy says that I am leaking transmission fluid. Hmmm… I though that was red.

Ok, so I take it this morning to a tranny specialist (I know I am rambling, but this is where my question comes in, I promise.) They end up telling me that it is the water pump, no biggie. Ok, I make an appointment for it next week. I can live with $200, but then they say I am leaking oil.

Oh crap. So I ask them where and they have no problem showing me what is going on under the hood. The head gasket is leaking oil. Well after a few profanities that were heard through the shop, I asked them how serious it was to replace asap. They said that I really should replace the water pump first so the car does no over heat and cause the gasket to crack.

Now see these are not my regular guys, I was referred there for the transmission thing. But they seem real kind as to show me what was going on and my car was there for like 45 minutes. Oh yeah, did I mention they did not charge me anything ;o)

So here is my quesiton (finally) do I take the car to the new place that showed me what was going on (as you can tell I have never had anyone do that for me). Or do I take it to my regulars who do ok work?

Neither do I really trust to replace the head gasket, one screw up and I am riding a bike to work. But neither has done me wrong.

Anyway thanks for reading my long and expensive story. If anyone has an advise about this darn head gasket I greatly appreciate it.

PS I forgot to mention they checked my trans fluid level and said it was full. Guess what the dealership told me,(yes, the Chevy dealership here)since I have no dipstick they can’t check it, they would need to pull out the trans check it over and put it back. These guys laughed and checked for me.

I think it is time get a different car. This sounds like a lemon to me and not worth putting anymore money into it. The people who have worked on your car have not done you any favors. I think they have made more problems than they have resolved.

I wouldn’t put a nickel into a Cavalier with 178K miles on it.

Yes, you need a new mechanic. Some of the advice you’re getting is not very good.

NEVER go to a quicky-lube place, even to ask directions. Find a good independent shop. They are much less expensive than the dealer.

I question the need for a head gasket. Why do they say you need a new head gasket?

Agreed. I think headgasket and valve cover gasket may be confused here…

Because it is leaking oil. These guys I went to today told me that I should worry about the water pump for now and that the head gasket was not that bad. It is just the fact that this car needs to last me a few more years through my remaining college days.

So what exactly is a valve cover gasket? Can they be easliy confused?

Your post is actually too long as it makes it very difficult to respond to.
In a nutshell the title makes it sound as though the head gasket was replaced 3 times on the same engine and this is not the case.

Without going into the technicals it’s possible that originally you were subjected to a bit of incompetence and you’re also not quite getting all of what is done.
The shop did not “get coolant into the oil”. That can occur when the head gasket fails and when the cylinder head is removed to replace the head gasket. This is why an oil change at the time of the head gasket replacement is a must.

Also, if you were driving around with coolant diluted oil this means a fair chance of other engine damage and a shop should make you aware of this before replacing a head gssket.
Along with a head gasket a new thermostat should always be installed, water pump IF necessary, and cooling fan operation should always be checked.

If you want to keep the car I say take it to the new place. If the person at the dealership who told you the car has no dipstick was a service writer don’t blame the entire operation for the failings of a few. Most serv. writers are not mechanics or mechanically inclined so they have a tendency to babble a little BS to cover up their ignorance of mechanical things. Hope that helps.

A 98 Cavalier with 178k is worth about $1000 at best running fine.

Given your college situation I would ask an independent to look at it. If it exceeds $500 bucks say no thank you and drive it into the ground. Make sure your fluids are topped and carry a cell phone.

Wow. There is so much here that I hardly know where to begin.

As andrew said, the car is worth–at most $1,000.00 in its current condition, so sinking more money into a car with this many miles and a dicey overall condition is not a good idea, IMHO.

As ok4450 said, you have the sequence of events wrong regarding the presence of coolant in the oil. The coolant got into the oil as a result of the bad head gasket. It is just a shame that the charlatan who replaced your head gasket did not do an oil change following the repair.

But, even if the oil had been changed at that point, the probability of internal engine damage from driving for–God only knows how long–with a bad head gasket is very high. Now, fast forward to this year, and apparently you have been driving the car–again for God only knows how long–with insufficient coolant in the radiator. Do you hate this car? If not, you really should have been checking fluids much more often than you apparently did.

If you get rid of this car–as I think you should–there are several things that you should remember regarding your next car and all future cars:

DO NOT use Jiffy Lube or any other quick lube place for maintenance. They are frequently not even able to do oil changes correctly, and the thought of anyone on their staff diagnosing a mechanical issue is…bizarre. But, most of all, you are exposing the car to probable damage at the hands of the very poorly trained kids working at Jiffy Lube and its clones.

Learn to check your oil, your transmission fluid, your coolant/antifreeze, and your brake fluid and do it on alternate gas fill-ups. Much of your difficulty with the Cavalier is due to your failure to monitor these fluids.

Locate an independent mechanic who has a good reputation. Use him for pre-purchase inspection of any used car that you are considering, and for your subsequent maintenance and repair needs. He will charge less than a dealership, will be less likely to lie to you, and will be much less prone to the screw-ups that quick lube joints are known for.

I wish you sincere good luck with your next car!

The valve cover gasket is between the valve cover (the top of the engine) and the cylinder head (the part with the spark plugs sticking out). It’s not unusual for a valve cover gasket to leak a bit of oil, and a valve cover gasket is not expensive or difficult to replace.

The head gasket goes between the cylinder head and the engine block, and usually does not leak oil to the outside of the engine. Head gaskets are expensive and difficult to replace, and the fact that the mechanics suggested replacing the water pump to keep from overheating the engine and damaging the head gasket makes me think it’s not the head gasket that’s leaking right now.