The Truth About Cars » head gaskets The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » head gaskets New or Used? Help Me Find My Old Love Edition Thu, 14 Feb 2013 19:09:49 +0000 Dear Steve & Sajeev,

For 14 years I have owned a 1998 Ford Windstar Northwoods Edition with the indomitable 3.8 Liter engine. I love this van! It’s been so reliable. $38,000 and 4 transmissions later, and old rusty is still trucking. Only had to do 4 head gaskets.

AAA absolutely loves towing my vehicle. The tow truck operator and I are nearly best friends now. The autoparts store employees know my vehicle year/model immediately as soon as I walk in the door.

This Windstar is a known commodity in my town. When I turn right, everyone knows now to move out of my way before the vehicle stalls and I lose my power steering. My bottom is permanently embedded into the comfortable 1/4″ padded seat.

My question is, “Where can I find another car with such outstanding reliability?” Here are a few highlights of my Ol’ Reliable…

  • 4 transmissions.
  • 4 head gaskets.
  • 2 engine overhauls.
  • Umpteen O2 sensors.
  • Various engine sensors.
  • Cupholders are perfect!
  • Body panels are non-existent as of 5 years ago (rust).

So what should I get? As you can tell by the $38,000 I spent, I am more than happy to invest in the right vehicle. Thanks!

Steve Says:

Gosh, this answer is as easy as rebuilding a Northstar V8. A job that only takes about three days and a fervent level of prayer.

Come to think of it, I would focus specifically on the late 1990′s vehicles since you apparently have a soft spot for them.

The Cadillac Deville and Seville of that era would easily offer the same fuel economy and comparable mechanical longevity. Oh, before I forget. Ignore the Escalade and everything else with a 350. That engine is pure junk!

Then you have the game changing late-90′s Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde with the tough as nails 2.7 Liter engine. I once bought a 2002 model that was owned by the Salvation Army since day one and had the oil changed religiously every 3,000 miles. It lasted exactly 95,000 miles. Apparently they take to longevity the same way that Richard Simmons takes to pussy.

I think a 1998 model would be about as good as it gets. They rarely go for more than $600 at the auctions and you see them at every auction here in Georgia. A very popular vehicle and surprisingly affordable.

Perhaps you want a more sophisticated car. Maybe something a bit more rare and exotic. How about a Daewoo? I don’t see too many of them out and about anymore. I’m sure the lucky owners must be keeping them in the garage in the hopes that they become the next Barrett-Jackson collectible.

There was a beautiful white Daewoo Nubira wagon at an impound auction in my town a few years back with only 41k miles. The bidding was downright furious that day.  In the very last minute, the guy who started the bidding at $100 was outdone by yours truly. Thanks to an intimidating wink of an eye which raised the bidding to a stratospheric $110. I remember that I gave him a wry smile with a wink that showed no mercy. He never made eye contact with me again.

Anyhow, I went to try to find an engine for it and you know what? None of the junkyards will sell one to you! It’s that valuable! I think the guys hording those engines are the same ones that won’t let me find a transmission for my 5-cylinder 1993 VW Eurovan.

So if it were me, I would go for the 1999 Daewoo Nubira wagon. Make sure you get the automatic.

You’re welcome.

Sajeev answers:

Steve has this all wrong: how can someone that made me laugh hard enough to cry while typing in WordPress trade up from that sweet-ass Ford Windstar?

You need a BMW 7-series (E38), Mercedes S-class (W140 or W220) or Audi A8 (Type 4D) to really max out your “bang for the buck.” By “buck” I mean the money you give people in your community who thrive by fixing horrible vehicles, horribly.  And by “bang” I mean any of the popular component failures that make doing a motor swap on a 3.8L Ford look like child’s play.

The fully depreciated–yet top drawer–German Sedans have it all for you!

  • There’s the air of sophistication and class of a Northwoods Edition Ford product, but more of it!
  • The imminent failure of sensors and modules, at prices exponentially higher than O2 sensors!
  • A single engine/transmission wear item that leads to a rebuild or replacement: costing as much as a not-shitty, fully machined, replacement 3.8L long block from Jasper with enough money left over to replace the radiator and water pump.
  • I have no German counterpoint for FWD minivan transaxles. Any of them!  How sad for me!

But, ask yourself, what’s the icing on the cake I’m offering you?

The Windstar’s cupholders are fine, but it’s a safe bet these uber-lux sedans have non-functional beverage holders!

Now do us all a solid and make sure you buy one from the creepiest person on Craigslist and insist on a complete lack of service records too!  BAM SON, you done won at the Out-Windstar-My-Windstar game!

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Piston Slap: A Way Out of The Cadillac Mafia? Thu, 16 Jun 2011 18:53:26 +0000

Bryan writes:

I have a new baby, and a prized Miata, and want to keep both. Therefore I am considering selling my daily driver, a 2002 Cadillac STS with 82K miles. In order to reduce overall monthly costs, I need something with extremely high MPG. Therefore I am considering the Honda Fit.

I like small cars. I love the Miata. However, the STS is simply the nicest car I have ever driven. It’s like being friends with a mobster. Life with the “Soprano STS” is easy: soporific comfort, isolation, lots of leather, and nonchalant delivery of raw power if/when I need it. Did I mention this is the same model Silvio drove to whack Adriana in the NJ Pine Barrens? Every time I get nervous about the Northstar head gasket, the car pinches my cheeks and reassures me “ya worry too much!!!”

Secretly, while out of earshot from the car, I’ve made plans to get out. By driving a $11k Honda Fit, I can save $70/month when payments, maintenance, and $3.75 gas is factored in. When payments are over, I’d save $160/month.

But is it worth it? Can I have more fun/frugality in the Fit than luxury in the Caddy? One STS fact: each front seat has 10 individual air bladders that adjust every 20 seconds to the pressure points of the driver. It is the Most. Comfortable. Car. Seriously, driving the Caddy is like getting away with murder while intoxicated. Traffic melts away. Other drivers defer. Everything rushes by in silent fast motion. Did I mention it’s the last GM car to use soft leather? Or that it was the most expensive American sedan when new? As in Goodfellas, “it was a glorious time”.

So why the Honda? Thou shalt not keep a high-mileage Cadillac.  Although head gasket failures were less common in 2002, Northstars still reliably blew their top that year. I already have a mysterious coolant leak. I’m starting to burn oil, though not too much yet. And the driver’s heated seat is broken. An insidious wheel-bearing noise is coming from the front, but it’s been unchanged for a year and that’s somehow even scarier. And finally, I get 17 MPG mixed.

Is it time for the Honda Fit Protection Program?


  • Cadillac payments: $100/mo, 0% interest, 19 payments remaining
  • Honda payments: $174/mo, 3% interest, 36 payments
  • Gas at $3.75
  • Caddy maint: at $1000/year
  • Honda maint: at $500/year

Monthly cost graph to 48 months:

Cumulative cost graph to 48 months:

Sajeev Answers:

Dump the Caddy immediately. Coolant leaks aren’t gonna end well on a Northstar, even a 2002 model. IIRC, that was the year for improved head gasket sealing, but that’s not to say that earlier 2002s slipped by without the upgrade. I am not a Northstar guru, hence my recommendation to run away. But conversely, your love of Cadillac and creative flair for writing mean you simply must own an LT-1 powered Fleetwood: if you think the STS is a nice car, you should drive one. Especially a Fleetwood with Impala SS suspension bits.

Well maybe an older Cadillac isn’t a bright move, considering your responsibilities as a father and possible future financial obligations…those graphs (with assumptions I consider mostly bunk) to boot! So let’s wrap it up and bring it home.

The STS goes away, but I am concerned that you’re making monthly payments on a car that old. Sure it’s at 0% interest, but you won’t be so luck with your next ride. That’s one reason why the low-value Honda Fit isn’t winning me over. They aren’t especially thrifty, and not just from a fuel economy standpoint. But clock the mileage between it and the Civic anyway. Why do you need a sporty Fit when you have a Miata? Save yourself some green and get a less desirable, more affordable car with more family appeal: a comprable Civic, Focus, Corolla, Sentra, Elantra, etc for thousands less. The list of mainstream value-mongers far outweighs the benefits of a Fit.

Save your cash for the Miata and your future LT-1 Fleetwood. This is your only hope to keep the Cadillac Mafia from givin’ you cement shoes.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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