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Overheated Car won't start 2002 buick lesabre

I have a 2002 Buick LeSabre. Back information is this. the car has had a coolant leak for years, very slow though.
Last night while working (I drive for a living) the thermostat climbed up to hot and then immediately went back down to the middle range where it normally goes, so I thought I was fine. It then climbed back up and staled out. It started again nearly immediately and I made it back to my work.
About 30 minutes later I began to drive home. The temperature gauge started to climb up again, and then immediately went back to normal running temperature. I kept an eye on it. About 2 minutes later it shut off completely. I had dash lights, head lights, and emergency flashers. Trying to restart it killed my battery and I had it towed home. This morning I put water in it (it was a gallon low even though I had filled it three days prior). I got a jump start but the car wouldn’t start. It cranked and cranked but would not start. I did notice a leak of water from near the bottom of the engine.

I am curious as to what the problem may be and why it is not starting now.

My guess is that the leak was from the water pump, the pump finally failed, the timing belt popped from being saturated by coolant, and the valves are no longer operating. New belt and water pump are in order.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was unable to open the Gates catalog this morning to verify that you have a belt. But I think my odds are good.

I checked with my alternate source ( and this vehicle only came with one engine and it has a timing chain. I believe you blew a head gasket but your engine needs to be checked by a local qualified mechanic to be sure. I recommend a good independent mechanic.

So a bad gasket will keep it from starting but it will still crank? Argh! I did manage to get it to start for a second or two last night, but it shut off nearly immediately. The battery is now dead but I am going to hook another car up to it and try again in a while. Wish me luck I suppose.

Since this is a GM . . . is it possible the intake gaskets failed, and the “missing” coolat is in the crankcase?

Drain the oil into a tub, and you’ll know where the coolant went

The 3.8L V-6 is probably one of the best most long lived engines GM has made in a long time. About the only thing that regularly goes wrong with them is a failure of the plastic intake manifold. There is a passageway in the manifold that carries coolant. When it gets loose in the plastic, it literally sucks coolant into the engine. I’d bet money, at least a nickle, that the manifold is your issue. When the series II 3.8L was new, GM was getting about $800 for the part. Today you can get them from Autozone or O’reilly’s for about $125. I’ve had several Buicks with this engine, and replaced two manifolds. They are not quite as prevalent as 4.6L Ford manifold failures, but they do go bad.

Your car absolutely does not have a timing belt. It is a pushrod engine.