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Chevrolet Cavalier: Head Gasket Issues

Hi, I was just searching the web for help with my cavalier, and came across this website, how awesome is this. I never knew this stuff was available. Anyways, I was reading some of the posts and it appears as though 95's have a history with crappy headgaskets. Am I making a fair assumption? I recently (January 2005)bought a 95 cavalier 2.2l Coupe, and within 1 month I had to have the head gasket done. Now it is June 21, and guess what, I am having the head gasket done AGAIN! Is this normal? Am I going to keep having this problem every 6 months? Any ideas of what could be causing this? I was told back in January that they replaced the thermostat when they did the head gasket, but I think they were full of it! It's gotten to the point when I am waiting at a traffic light, I have to turn off my car so it won't overheat! Makes for a unejoyable experience. BUT....I STILL LOVE MY CAR!!


  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421

    My wife and I traded our otherwise perfectly good 1995 Cavalier for a Mazda Protege5 in 2002 because, at 52,000 miles, we were in need of our FOURTH head gasket in the car! Chevy knew there was a problem and warranted the original head gasket for 100,000 miles -- but once you had the original replaced, you were on your own to the tune of about $600 each time. Oh, we went back and forth with the dealership and GM, to no avail. The first head gasket went at about 32,000 miles, and each subsequent one went anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 miles before busting open and covering the engine with smelly green antifreeze. We got really tired of cleaning pools of antifreeze off our driveway and choking up $600 annually for a car that was so young. By comparison, by the way, the 2002 Protege5 has just crossed 50,000 miles and has yet to visit the shop for a problem of any kind.

    It was one thing for GM to have a bad engine, but something even worse to not come clean and issue a recall for the real defect. They put band-aids on the problem instead of fixing the problem itself -- -- a poorly designed HEAD -- and then left their customers hanging. For that reason we now refer to my wife's former car as the "Crapalier" and have vowed never to patronize General Motors again.

    If you love the Cavalier so much, trade it -- quick -- for a 1997 or newer model with the Ecotec engine. It'll be the same look and the same interior, but with a much more reliable engine under the hood.

  • candiecandie Posts: 28
    Hi Mandy: I have the same car, '95 Chevy Cavalier purchased 6 months ago. I too am now having the head gasket replaced. So far I've had the crank shaft replaced, the compressor, the idler tensioner (3x) the serpentine belt (3x), new battery, new muffler, new tires, new spark plugs, later new spark plug wires, the list goes on and on. I feel in love with the "looks" of the car, which outwardly is in excellent shape, but I am wondering if this car isn't just a piece of "junk". I've been told on auto chats that they call the Cavalier a Cadaver or "a disposable vehicle." I so didn't want to believe it, but some $2,400 later, I'd be an idiot not to see that the quality of this car is way below others. Mine has only 28,800 miles on it, so I never expected all of this. I'll let you know how long the "head gasket" lasts once its installed, if more than once, we will KNOW for certain its a problem with our particular model. To answer your question: I don't think its normal, not for any car to keep needing parts replaced so quickly.
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    I hate to say this but you have to be a DIY with a big tool box to own a Cavalier. I have had a 85, 92, 94 and a 2000, I now own a 04 Malibu. :)
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    Just curious why you bought another Chevrolet product after a comment like that?

  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    This is the wrong place to get into why he bought a Malibu. We're talking about the Cavalier, as you know. Thanks.
  • candiecandie Posts: 28
    I too am wondering if I am such a DYI why you continued to buy Cavaliers after 1992? BTW, what is a DYI?

    For the record, I purchased the '95 Cavalier because it was all I could afford. The car looked well taken care of, had exceptionally low mileage; I ran a carfax on it, and believe I did everything possible to assure myself that this was a "good little vehicle for me." I had no idea that the car had gasket and all of the other problems because I had my mechaniccheck it out (who until then I trusted) tell me it was a "great" little car, buy it! Some of us can't just purchase a vehicle and "run" either. Nice thought but I'm not one who can.
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    The Cavalier is a to be kind a cheap car, the 04 Malibu is not a cheap car. As far as a Cavalier goes I did not put a lot of money into any of them but the 2000 was the worst of the bunch. Before 40 K heater blower resistor and valve cover gasket, had to put neither on my 94 that went to 120 K before trading. The 2000 got totaled, nobody injured so I was actually glad. If not for the accident I would probably still have it. I still have my large tool box for the Malibu when its gets off warranty. You can operate any car cheap if you do most all your own work. :)
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    OK I will set the record straight. I bought [ 4 ] Cavaliers because they are a simple car, easy to work on, parts are cheap. I am thrifty , so that’s why I bought 4. Here’s an example the 94 had a head gasket leak at 80 K, I replace the head gasket for a total cost of $15, plus an oil an filter change. When I traded it 40K later it was still not leaking, but you got be a DIY, actually I am also an ex Tech. I wanted the Malibu because it was cheap and loaded, hard to sell a first year model, sorry Host.
  • murphy15murphy15 Posts: 1
    I'm purchasing a used Cavalier (4 cylinder) for my daughter to use while attending Grad School this fall. It seems to be in excellent shape with one flaw noone, so far, can diagnose. Once the engine is at operating temp., the coolant seeps back into the overflow/recovery bottle, rises slowly and dribbles out past the cap. It eventually drips down the inside fender well and onto the ground.

    One shop sez its the head gasket. Another sez its not the head gasket but he's uncertain what is wrong. Anyone else run into this problem? Thanks.
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    My guess would be cracked head, you overheat that engine only once bad and it will crack the head every time. The only head gasket leak that I ever seen on that engine is external, at both ends, will show coolant stain. :(
  • Hi,

    I have a 96 chevy cavalier with 173K miles on it.
    Since past 1 week, I am facing a problem of overheating. When I start the car, it says, COOLANT is low and after running for @ 1 to 1.5 miles, the car temp increases to Maximum.

    I got my car checked for this problem. They are also clueless about the problem.

    Can anyone suggest me the cost effective way of removing the problem??

  • jpfjpf Posts: 496
    Sounds like a blown head gasket. A typical problem with the 2.2 or 2.4 liter engines. Hopefully the cylinder head is not warped or cracked. Good luck.
  • sarahannesarahanne Posts: 3
    Hi all. Just wanted some opinions. I have a 2005 Cavalier, bought brand new last March. I live out of the city and put about 150km (Canada) on it per day, so my warranty just ran out. I'm currently at 68000km. I have drive train warranty up to 100,000km. I'm hoping what's happening is covered. Last week my check engine light came on and I took it in and was told that there was a large leak in the EVAP systerm. They replaced the EVAP vent solenoid, which corrected the problem. I asked them for a full inspection, which they did, and checked and approved everything, telling me that there were no problems. Today, on the highway, the engine coolant light came on, and so I pulled over. I think the car overheated because after I shut it off it was making this bubbling sound for about 5 minutes before it finally shut up. A nice man pulled over, told me he was a mechanic, and asked me to pop the hood. He told me that there was absolutely no coolant in the car, and put some water in it. When I started it again, the water just leaked out all over the place. He told me that he thinks that a head gasket blew. I have no idea what that is, but the guy said it should be covered under the drive train warranty. I'm hoping that some of the experts on this board can verify what he's saying, or suggest something else. I'm just flipping out over this because I have just had it over a year. Is it normal for this to happen? Is it going to happen over and over again? Does this sound like a head gasket? Anyone ever try to get something like this fixed under warranty? Thanks! Sarah
  • :confuse: I really need some help. I have an 02 Chevy Cavalier, single cam, 2.2-4 Engine, Manual Trans. Ever since I bought this piece of S&*^ I have had problems. A month after I got it, check engine light comes on. Take it to dealer and they say that the Thermostat needs to be changed. I changed the Thermostat, then my water pump goes out, I change the water pump. Runs good for about a week then car starts overheating. I fill her back up with water and no leaks, then runs fine. Then overheats again. No leaks but all my water in my reservoir is gone. I soon realize that my fan is not kicking on. I change the Cooling Temp sensor, and runs great at normal temperature for about 30 miles, then breaks down. And wont drive anywhere without heating up. So I pull apart the head and I have water in my #3 cylinder, I change all the gaskets, have the head pressure checked and re-surfaced. Once got it all back together it ran great, at normal temp, and fan kicks on. Then I take it for a drive for about 20 mins, then starts to heat up again, I turn her off and steam is blowing out the back of the head and now water in my oil. Does anyone know what the hell it could be? I am so fed up with this car. :mad: Im thinking a cracked head but shouldnt they have been able to tell if they prssure test it? Please anyone give me any advice on what I can do or what it could be. Thanks in advance.
  • halscahalsca Posts: 15
    Those things had head gasket problems. If you had the head gone through and resurfaced, they either did a poor job or the block might be warped too. Seen it happen before.

    You have to be careful, there's a lot of bunk repair places out there. A friend of mine had the heads gone though on his Dodge motor home. They failed to replace a couple of stretched valves, one broke and ended up destoying the motor. He got what he paid for.
  • halscahalsca Posts: 15
    Well you might have a case against the people who did the prior servace, IF you can prove they let you leave without a full cooling system.

    This motor can't handle too much heat, problem with aluminum in general also the way it's built, light and cheap... too much heat they warp and crack, the mating surface between the head and block must be perfect. Let this motor overheat they WILL blow head gaskets. This is a fact.

    If you see steam or liquid leaking from between the head and block you can bet it's a head gasket. If you see steam in the exhaust, head gasket or cracked head. Oil in the water or water in the oil, same thing.
  • valvexvalvex Posts: 3
    Gonogo or anyone, I could use those tips on head removal on a 97 cavalier 2.2!!!!
    I just replaced the timing chain and it starts but misses.
    Bought compr. tester...
    0 on #1,
    155 on #2,
    140 on #3,
    150 on #4
    Must be at least 1 bent valve.
    I'm not sure if I'm brave enough but I might do it.(I did the chain and they didn't make that too easy did they?)

    Any advise would be muchly appreciated
  • gonogogonogo Posts: 879
    I did a 94 but the engine should be the same as the 97, 98 had a different set up. I from experience only remove what needs to be done to accomplish the job. I used one new head gasket, oil and filter change, and reused and topped off the old coolant.
    I did not remove the intake or exhaust manifold, left them on. I disconnected the throttle and cruise at the throttle body. I removed the power steering pump bracket bolts attached to the head, left the lines on just pushed it off to the side. Exhaust pipe at manifold,electrical connectors as needed, there should be on the drivers side a EGR tube to disconnect on the back of the engine. I may have missed something but if it will not lift off with ease after breaking the gasket loose look around.
    With everything still on I laid the head up side down on a old blanket. I used a razor blade scraper to remove the old gasket material, don’t use an abrasive cleaner like Scotch pads. When you scrape the block be careful not to drop anything down in the engine, a small shop vacuum work good for this.
    If you need to strip the head for valve work it‘s easier to do on the bench.
    I would rather do a head gasket then a chain. Good Luck.
  • valvexvalvex Posts: 3
    Thanks Gonogo, Those are some great tips if I can save those steps. Are you sure about those years though since the chiltons manual covers 1995-2000?

    What if I had to replace the head? I'm sure I have valve problems in one cyl. One Shop will sell me a rebuilt head for $200 with exchange. What do you think about that price and would you remove parts differently if you are replacing the head (exhaust, fuel, etc.)?
    Thanks alot!!
  • gonogogonogo Posts: 879
    Not sure on pricing, if it is a good shop that has been in business a long time go for it.
    I would do just like I said, easier to strip the head on the bench and build it back up on the bench. The 98 on had a new style air induction and valve cover and other changes, it is still the same engine just some upgrades. The 97 should have the valve cover with length wise ridges, the 98 on the valve cover is smooth. My truck with the 99 2.2 has the smooth cover.
  • valvexvalvex Posts: 3
    Thanks for the advice. I may do it this weekend.
  • I recently had the Head replaced on my 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier. After replacement the engine while in gear ran rough and made some funny noises. So I took it back to the shop that day. They had found that an injector was bad and replaced it at no charge. The engine now runs great while not in gear as well as on the highway, however at slow accelerations (low speeds) there is some minor to medium vibration. Once I increase my acceleration rate the vibration goes away. I am looking at DIM but do not know where to begin. Before the head was replaced this vibration did not occur.

    On a side note I had the Head Gasket replaced (under warranty) in 1998 @70,000 miles. The car now has 136,000 and I had the whole head replaced.

  • hoodlatchhoodlatch Mid-westPosts: 255
    I would like to talk about 2.2L Corsica but no format exist on this web site. Do you have any solution?
    Thanx :)
  • hoodlatchhoodlatch Mid-westPosts: 255
    We've had the same problems with the same engine in a 95 Corsica. The head gasket has been replaced more time than I can remember. Currently its working on engine number three, that I know of. When its running like it should, it runs great.
  • I have a 98 cavalier w/86,000 miles. It blew a head gasket and leaks at the water pump.Repair shop quoted me 1200$.Is it worth fixing and/or is this a fair repair price?
  • Does the 2.2 or 2.4 98 chevy cavalier have the oil dipstick on the front of the engine w/the dip stick on it?
  • gonogogonogo Posts: 879
    2.2 has the oil fill and combined dip stick in the front. 2.4 oil fill is at the back left side, oil dip stick back of engine right of center.
  • gonogogonogo Posts: 879
    Fair price for a 2.4, high for a 2.2.
  • patton1patton1 Posts: 2
    I am a neophyte with 6 thumbs and have absolutely zip on the mechanical aptitude scale. However, my budget is tighter than a duck's behind so I need to start doing some of the less technical skilled repairs on my own. Would attempting to change the gasket on the head cover be pushing it or shoule I take it to Mr. Goodyear and hand over my wallet?
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