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Cracked Head - does this sound right?

Discussion in 'VR - VS Holden Commodore (1993 - 1997)' started by Gambor, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. Gambor

    Gambor New Member

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    Cracked Head - Does this sound right?

    I was gifted a 1996 Holden Commodore VS V6 Equippe 18 months ago by my employer (he was getting a new car). It currently has 290,000km on the clock.

    This is for use as a family car (three kids). I drive very conservatively at all times, putting minimum stress (as far as I am concerned) on the car - it has to last as we are a single income family. Daily work/school roundtrip is 80km or so.

    Over the last four months we have had many issues with it. Over three seperate incidents, the serpentine belt has failed twice, the pulley tensioner (?), all pulleys, harmonic balancer, power steering pump, some other pulley mechanism (I forget) have all failed and been replaced with new parts.

    Two weeks ago while driving down the freeway, I pulled over when the heat gauge moved to 5/10 bars (instead of the usual 3/10). As I did, I heard a "thwack!" and steam poured out. RACQ towed me to a different mechanic than my usual, who diagnosed a failed heater/water tap (vacuum pump) and replaced it.

    From that point on, the car started to idle rough for 5-20 seconds on cold start - ran smooth after that however.

    I took the car that same day to my usual mechanic, who said the repair was OK, oil/coolant were OK but he topped them to full anyway. Booked for a service in a weeks time.

    It never made that week. Five days later, the heat gauge crept to 6/10 bars. I pulled over, let it rest then drove off with the aircon on (to force the radiator fan to go). Over 20 minutes, it ctept to 7/10 bars. At that point I pulled over and got towed home by RACQ.

    Having had a blown head gasket previously in another car, I checked the oil for milky residue at home - none. I checked the coolant for signs of discoloration, none I could see.


    I took it to my regular mechanic again, who tells me he did a compression test - bubbles in the coolant, he says the engine has a cracked head - and he recommends scrapping the car and getting another one. Or getting a second hand engine replacement (which is the path we have opted for) but the cost for this is pretty excessive.

    I don't understand how the engine of our car has a cracked head - I never let the heat gauge climb all the way up to full, I understand its an all cast iron block and head, and apart from the brief rough idle on cold start and the heat creep it runs fairly smoothly.

    I generally think the mechanic I am dealing with is fairly honest, but this is alot of money (already spent, and to be spent) Does the diagnostic (and recommendations) I am getting here sound right?
     
  2. GTS69

    GTS69 New Member

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    mate its pretty common for these to do there heads the engines really nearing the end with that many Km and you never know what had happened to the car before you could have been cooked a few times but having said that you never know it could have just blown the gasket you wont know till the heads are removed but with that many km your far better off just throwing a low km engine and box in it have a look around you should be able to find one for around $400-$800 depending were you go but just make sure the km are legit what have you been quoted to do the engine swap ??
     
  3. James39

    James39 Gave up on VL's

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    Meh, mine has many k's on it. low or high k's means nothing.
    Was the themostat checked? It may not be working causeing it to stay closed.

    Maybe remove it then see if it still overheats.
    Bubbles in the cooling system could mean anything, even as simple as a blown inlet manfold gasket.
     
  4. DevilDRake

    DevilDRake Braaaap

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    If it's damaged, get a new one (well 2nd hand) off ebay for like $350. Take you a day to swap over..

    Saves you alot of problems.
     
  5. GTS69

    GTS69 New Member

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    km means plenty at 290000km the rings would be screwed and many other things will be not to far away yes these engines can do more than that but the fact is thats alot of km mine around that was starting to use a litre of oil a month if you can find something in the sub 200000km range go for that
     
  6. Gambor

    Gambor New Member

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    The mechanic has quoted me $1100-1200 for the second-hand engine replacement (engine cost is $690, the rest is labour)

    The second hand engine has 190,000km on the clock. But I have no idea what its history is (and this is a risk isn't it? Never know what the replacement engine went through)

    We are going ahead with this replacement (and hope nothing major goes wrong afterwards) but I am at a loss how the original engine got to such a state when I handled it with care when driving (and my boss used it primarly for long distance drives across country on business - he is not an aggressive or heavy-footed driver either)

    If what I am understanding is right, the mechanic cannot absolutely know the head is cracked unless he opens the head (and it could be something else, like an inlet manifold). Should I be asking him about this?

    EDIT: I forgot to add, the mechanic claims the thermostat is working perfectly, he plans to replace it anyway.
     
  7. Hangman

    Hangman Aspiring Sociopath

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    Was the thermo fan kicking in? Shouldn't have to pull ovet if the temp gauge hits halfway. The fan should be going by then.
     
  8. GTS69

    GTS69 New Member

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    if the $690 is engine only id say thats a bit high and id be looking to do a engine/gearbox swap even with a gearbox with 190000km thats not a flash price.
    How the car is driven isnt always the cause of issues its mainly how it was maintained, you never know if on one of his long trips maybe the fan died or a hole in a pipe or radiator and he could have cooked it before realising you never know sadly but truth of the matter is 290000km is alot and things will start to die.
    And yes you read right you cant tell its a cracked head without removing it, there is a chance that its a blown head gasket id say more so that than a cracked head it wont be the inlet manifold gasket.
    But having said that the price most mechanics charge to do head gaskets your still better off doing a engine swap if it was the gasket not only that but you will get more life out of a new engine with lower kms.
    Also do you get the old engine or is he keeping it ? not worth heaps but you could pull it appart and sell bits off it or sell it complete as a suit rebuild and make a few bucks back
     
  9. BowTie

    BowTie Member

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    I just got an 03 vy eco with 109k on it for $750 with a 3mth warranty from wollongong auto wreckers.
     
  10. Chappo_1

    Chappo_1 Member

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    Hi Gambor, my car, early this year, was heating up how you describe. I replaced the thermostat, and the radiator cap, and it has been fine ever since.

    I think the thermostat was sticking, because it would be OK one day, and over heat the next.
    I boiled it, and the new one I was putting in, on the stove, to see the difference. The one I replaced did not seem to open as far, and it closed almost immediately when I took it off the boil. The new one closed slowly.

    I think once pressure builds up in the cooling system, the radiator cap is supposed to open the over flow
    outlet. The spring loaded part of the cap pushes up to expose the over flow outlet - not 100% sure on this part, someone on here will correct me if I am wrong.

    A couple of cheap things to try.
    Good luck mate.
     
  11. BowTie

    BowTie Member

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    Yeh, thats right.

    A new cap and thermo never hurts. W/pump is cheap as so may as well do that at the same time.

    He has bigger issues though. A vrs set might fix it, might not.

    Not worth getting a mechanic to do a vrs. Only a good idea if you can do it yourself.

    190k motor for $1200 is risky.
     
  12. James39

    James39 Gave up on VL's

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    Many assume they have a blown head when it over heats. I have a VS here that was claimed to have a cracked head by a mechanic, but it turns out the thermostat was not working causing it to overheat.
     
  13. James39

    James39 Gave up on VL's

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    I agree with this as well.



    I am glad I do most things myself.

    Remove or replace the themostat before going down that path....
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2011
  14. Gambor

    Gambor New Member

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    I spoke to the mechanic today - this is the third day the replacement engine was supposed to arrive, but didn't.

    He told me the supplier admitted that the replacement engine had "serious problems" before being sold, did he still want it?

    The mechanic said he told him "I don't want a dud engine" and was told there was no other VS engine available. But the supplier offered a good condition VT engine (and conversation) at the same price.

    I have to admit, this makes me very nervous. A different model engine seems likely to cause issues. At the least I imagine if I took the car to another mechanic later, there would be some sort of "WTF" reaction when they go to work on it.

    Our family needs this car on the road ASAP (or I cannot get my daughter to school). Anyone know if a VT engine will be OK in a VS?
     
  15. James39

    James39 Gave up on VL's

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    The VT motor is pretty much the same as the VS except for differnt bits and peices. You only have to use the parts on your VS for it to fit properly.....
     
  16. GTS69

    GTS69 New Member

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    yeah mate you can use a VS-VY motor no worries only real difference is they put some pollution control thing on the newer models i think to ditch the new stuff they put on the later model stuff you just need to use the VS inlet manifold to fix that stuff im pretty sure there maybe one or 2 other things but if your mechanic doesn't know about that or how to do it id be going else were man im not sure if im reading it right but from what it sounds the engine your getting offered sounds dodgy any way so look around some wreckers and look online for someone wrecking a low km car and grab the engine and box from that.

    A compression test isn't going to show bubbles in the coolant was the car running rough the last time it over heated ? ie sound like its missing ?
     
  17. Gambor

    Gambor New Member

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    I watch my temp gauge like a hawk all the time after a blown head gasket and warped head in another car years ago.

    Engine seemed smooth until the day the heater tap blew as I pulled over, with the temp gauge half-way. The 5-20 second "rough idle, then smooth and fine" issue on cold start began that same day the heater tap was repaired. Its the only indicator I had that maybe the engine was in more serious trouble.

    Even with the rough idle on cold start issue, I ran the car for four days to work, 40km each way through peak hour (stop-start) freeway traffic and the engine was smooth throughout, until the day the heat gauge just started to climb out of control. Even though I got a tow, the car was still operating fine, felt smooth, although heat was at 7/10 bars when I got the tow.

    No misfiring (except maybe on rough idle/cold start)

    I am resigned to the repair now, bit I intend to find out alot more about the car and how it works, and maybe learn to do a bit more of the work myself in the future (part of my job involves repair of computer hardware, so hoping the technical background helps out)
     
  18. James39

    James39 Gave up on VL's

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    I doubt you need to replace the motor.
     
  19. Zeussy

    Zeussy SSM11K

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    Quoted for truth.
     
  20. GTS69

    GTS69 New Member

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    haha sadly engines and computers arnt alot alike if its running ok and temp is the only issue id say do as has been said new thermostat even go a 180 instead of the factory 195 its not alot but its just that little extra cooling there only cheap like $10 or so if you need any help im in brissy and have done my fare share of repairs and engine swaps.
    Do the basics like thermostat and the likes and you might be sweet and it might buy you some time to look around for a lower km engine and box at a better price and then plan for the swap to be done when you and your kids are on holidays as i said before 290000 others have seen 350000+ with these but 290000 is still alot and its not long before you get other issues
     

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