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Seized Sparkplug needs Bailout

I have a 2002 LD300 Saturn wagon. It has 96765 miles. My husband took it in for dealer servicing which included changing out the plugs which is due at 100,000 miles. In the process 1 plug was seized on the back head of the V6 engine. Service Advisor called to request approval for using a braker bar to remove the plug because they did not to be liable for damaging the head if they stripped the plug out during removal. Cost estimate of head replacement is $3,000+. I maintain that they should be responsible for doing the service they promise on their own vehicle. I believe using a solvent to dissolve the carbon collecting on the back of the plug will make the plug removable. The real rub is that GM will not be responsible for damaging the head when it is their original product. I say, they should do the work and be fully responsible for whatever they do. Am I crazy or do I need a bailout? The stories from the service department include “can’t do it because it is a steel plug in an aluminum head - which we’ve being doing for the last 25 years.” What is the most optimum solution. Torqued in Texas.

Most cars have aluminum heads these days, and they all have steel spark plugs in them. This is nothing new. Neither is seized plugs. Happens all the time. There was a similar post earlier today, and several responders had good suggestions for removing the plugs without damaging the aluminum threads.

The dealer just doesn’t want to put the necessary time into this job, because they are working by the book, which only allows X amount of time for a spark plug replacement, and soaking with penetrating oil and WAITING is not part of their process.

Even if the threads are damaged they can install a helicoil. There should be no need to replace the head.

I suggest you find yourself a good independent mechanic and stay away from this lame dealer.

Did you agree to their request to use a breaker bar?

Unfortunately yours is a common problem when the plugs are left in that long…even though the owner’s manual implies by not scheduling them to be changed until then that they can be.

Unfortunately GM will not accept responsibility for any damage. Sucks, huh.

There’s carbon collecting on the back of the plug? Are you sure? Are you sure it isn’t oil from a leaky tube seal?

I’d try an independent shop. Ask them if the plug really is seized and the threads strip how will they handle it. They should suggest that they’ll tap and helicoil the hole. They should be able to do this without removing the head. A really cool dude will have a “back out tap”. That’s a tap with a trifurcated cutting head and a bolt with a cone in the middle. The tech inserts the tap into the hold then tightens the bolt. The cone expands the cutting head to the proper size and the tap cuts as the assembly is screwed out. That pulls the residue outward. Either way, the cyinder should be vacuumed out and checked with a borescope. The entire process is really not a big deal.

It is perfectly acceptable for a mechanic (Dealer,Independant,etc.)to call and inform the customer of problems such as you are having.

The mechanic gives you the choice to leave the pug in and come up with a plan to deal with YOUR car’s problem.

This is not the mechanics’ problem,I say button it up,put it in the lot,you can come and get it.

The dealer has done nothing wrong here. The vehicle has a problem due to something that is more your fault than theirs and they have simply presented you with an option.
This occurs with many vehicles in which the plugs are left in for too long a time frame.

Using a solvent is not always feasible as the solvent is not likely going to get past the plug gasket into the thread area. Even if it did, it may not help because the problem is caused by aluminum galding to steel; not rust.

I agree with oldschool that this dealer would be better off not doing anything and letting you have the car back as is because it sounds like you’re too eager to blame them for something they had no control over.

What is the most optimum solution.
For you? Since you are not only convinced what is causing the problem, you also know how best to solve it, you should have them stop and return the car to you. That way, you can apply your repair experience to this problem and you’ll only have yourself to blame if it doesn’t turn out as you expect. On second thought, this is probably the optimum solution for both sides.

Guys, go easy on the OP here. Since the recommended maintenance schedule does not recommend plug replacement until 100,000 miles, a person’s expectation that they shoud be able to leave them in that long without that causing them to seize in the head is a perfectly reasonable expectation. The fact that seizing is so common suggests to me that the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is wrong.

The OP has been following the recommended maintenance schedule and now has a problem that she should reasonably expect not to have. She has done nothing wrong. IMHO the manufacturer should not be making this recommendation.

A number of excelent mechanics hav responded, and I don’t agree with them. I don’t think the issue is with the mechanic or dealership, but with whoever installed the spark plugs to begin with. My guess is that it was done at the factory. I don’t think that you or the dealer should be responisble for a siezed plug. It’s all Saturn’s fault, and they should paly for any problems arising from removing the plug, especailly if a dealer does the work. I’d call a Saturn representative and present the problem to them. I’d continue until you get Wagoner’s office if it takes that much.

I must say I am as suprised as you at the comments from the regulars blaming the OP. Most questions/problems here are because owners DON"T follow the manual. I am not trying to incite anything of a flame or debate. How can a post about an oil change or tranny fluid change tell people to follow the manual “the engineers” know best and then chastise here for doing so and being upset when manual is WRONG?

Here’s what I’d do. Get a can of SeaFoam DeepCreap and a propane torch. Snap off the porcelain stem of the plug to expose the hex of the plug. Take the propane torch and heat the hex of the plug up. (the heat from a propane torch isn’t hot enough to melt an aluminum casting) Once it’s good and hot, spray it with the DeepCreap and let it cool down. Try turning it out and if it moves at all hit it with the DeepCreap, and screw it back in. Heat it up and spray again.

We want to save a head, not a sparkplug.


The thing is who pays for this? The OP wants the Dealer to pay,how much time should the mechanic get? and if it doesn’t work does the mechanic still get paid,and if the head needs to come off will the mechanic get paid for the attempt to get the plug out? and at what rate will the mechanic get paid to take the head off,is the Dealer obligated to try? Can they send the job away?

Im NOT feelin the idea of heating the steel plug,and enlarging it,in an aluminum head,makes no sense.I say get a good socket and run it out,NOT A TWELVE POINT,and a torque wrench (too use as a breaker bar?)not a crapsman socket ,a good snap=on 6 point socket,the damage will be done either way,me personally would use a 3/8 impact and shock it out.

good luck!

you have no chance of SATURN HELPING YOU.

The plugs do not have to be overtightened to seize in the heads. Even a barely snug fit over time can allow them to freeze solid. In some severe cases penetrant, a torch, or an air wrench will not bring them out.

I have no idea why the head would need to be replaced. If the old plug brings the threads out, so be it. That’s what thread repair kits are for.

It’s also not a matter of dumping on the OP over this. The OP SHOULD balk at 3 grand for cylinder head replacement but should not balk at a possible stripped plug hole that runs into extra labor to repair.

Since the OP talked to a service advisor (most of whom are mechanically illiterate) maybe the SA really thinks the head(s) need to be replaced and priced it this way.
If the OP is balking over labor to repair a stripped plug hole then they are the ones offbase.

The possibility I am thinking of is the hex section of the plug breaks off from the threaded leaving no way to get it out short of the machine shop,it happened to me on a 74 VW Bus (with the type 4 engine).

No one is taking into account the location of the stuck plug (rear bank)and the limited room (I have never worked on this vehicle)but it sure would be better if it was on the front bank,I would be much more optimistic about the success of the methods listed.

Ask your dealer a pointed question. If it is intended for spark plugs to be removed and replaced at 100k miles which is not uncommon and also with aluminum cylinder heads which have been around for some years now, why the factory did not install the spark plugs with anti-seize compound, realistically anticipating removal at 100k miles under a variety of environments and times. I would anticipate a verbal shrug from the dealer to avoid reality and unfortunately don’t know how to deal with this except in my own case in which I would do the job myself at home.

If the threads are seizing, it’s not your problem; it’s the way that the car was made.

In addition, my guess is that the head could be, if removal is needed and it may not be needed, removed, repaired and replaced in an 8 hour work day by an experienced mechanic at $80 per hour for a total labor cost of around $640 plus head, intake manifold, exhaust manifold gaskets and antifreeze and not considering that it has an overhead cam; just a guess after removing a pushrod type head or two on Saturdays.

A new head might be the optimum solution but your dealer is not telling you of all options or else you are not asking enough of the right questions.

I’m hoping there’s a big misunderstanding at the root of your whole issue. However, if you followed GM’s maintenance recommendations and this is a GM dealer, and this dealer has been servicing the car and allowed you to reach 100K miles without advising you it would likely be impossible to remove the plugs without destroying the head when you reach 100K, and then tells you the only remedy for a broken spark plug is to spend $3,000 on a new head, then something is wrong with them. If your car has been properly maintained and the plug cannot be removed without high risk of damaging the head, the technician should be calling his regional GM company representative to start petitioning GM to cover that risk from GM’s side.

On the other hand, if the plugs were installed elsewhere and installed in such a way that they cannot be removed, your best option would be to find a mechanic (elsewhere, most likely) who will give you more options and help you figure out which one would be best for you. In this case, I would not insist on help from the manufacturer.

The idea is to get thermal dynamics to work for you.

You heat the plug up. This causes the plug to expand. This heat gets pulled into the aluminum cylinder head which also causes the sparkplug hole to expand. You spray the plug with the DeepCreap. This cools the plug down and causes it to contract. In the mean time the head is still hot so the plug hole is still expanded. Now you try turning the plug out while it’s cool and the head is still hot. If turns at all and then siezes, spray it again with the DeepCreap so the capulary action pulls it down into the threads of the plug. Tighten the plug so the DeepCreap can work into the threads. Repeat this until the plug threads out.

This can be a time consuming affair. But with time and patience that plug will screw out. I’ve had to do this many times.


So 5 out of 6 plugs came out without a problem but yet Saturn is responsible because one is seized. This happens all the time. It happened before the advent of platinum plugs and the 100,000 mile service interval.

What I would like to know is the history of the car. Did you buy it new or used? What’s the service history of the vehicle? Did you follow the owners manual service procedures?

In the six years and 96000 miles this car was on the road being serviced, no one ever recommended that you replace the spark plugs? Dealer service departments thrive on customer pay repairs and always recommend replacement of spark plugs before 100,000 miles to avoid such a situation. Independent shops are no different, they will make the same recommendations. I’m sure somewhere down the line someone recommended to replace the plugs but you chose not to do it.

Most plugs today use a tapered seat instead of a gasket. The tapered seat forms a perfect seal. NOTHING is going to get past that seal, hot or cold, Deep Creep, NOTHING, until the seal is broken through rotation.

I would use an acetylene torch on it, quickly heat the plug dull red, let it cool A LITTLE, and it will come out or at least loosen so penetrating oil can do its job. Yes, there is a 20% chance thread repair will be needed, but that’s a $100 job not a $3000 job…

8hrs for the head R&R kinda skinny but maybe doable.Now I will work for straight time on trying to get the plug out but any time I spend trying to get the plug out doesn’t come out of the 8hr pool,straight time on plug removal even if it doesn’t work.

It is your responsibility to be calling GM not the Tech (who pays for his phone time?)

These time and who pay’s issues are the biggest negative side issues about being a Tech