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Chevrolet Cavalier: Head Gasket Issues

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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Sure 3/4 is fine. Engines are happier when they run hot in fact.

    It might be a good idea to see if you can get the fan to kick in SOONER, that is, at a lower temperature. Changing the type of sensor could help with this.

    Overheating problems can be a devil to diagnose---very challenging for any mechanic.
  • becky30becky30 Posts: 1
    bella14.....

    Sounds like I have a very similar problem with my chevy. Was wondering if you would be able to let me know what you have found out and/or what work you have done to fix the overheating. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
  • it actually isn't just the 95's. it is the 90's in general. i have a 91 cavalier RS that the head gasket went out on. it sux. but i went and got a head gasket kit from NAPA and will be puttin it on this weekend. have you tried replacing the head bolts???
  • Hi,
    I'm in New Zealand, where we have a lot of Toyota badged RHD Chevy Cavaliers. Everyone said 'don't buy one' but what did I do?? They have a reputation for trouble here and are virtually worthless, and many get broken up for parts when still perfectly ok. I've had a good run with my 96 2.4G for 4 years needing only an alternator, but lately that dreaded engine light has been playing up. For a few weeks when I turned the key on, the gauges all flickered and it made a static type sound. I had to turn the key on and off until it didn't do it and it went fine. Now thats stopped, but now the engine check light only comes on about every 10th time I turn the key, and there's no way it'll run until that light comes up. Once it starts up, no problem on the road, runs smooth and strong, and idles perfect. Looks from other replies that its emissions syetm related, but is any particular sensor likely to be the culprit. Our GM dealers don't want to know about these cars, nor do Toyota dealers, so I'm not sure we can even run the diagnostics.
  • I bought a 98 w/ the head gasket out. I pulled it apart, milled the head, used a 0.020 head gasket shim and a new head gasket. It ran great for over a year.
    I then had an issue and lost the serpentine belt. It got hot immediately. Fixed the belt and it was then blowing compression into the cooling system and this caused the water to blow out of the coolant tank. I pulled the head again, milled it again and put it back together with new bolts and gasket. It ran great but still had the compression in the cooling system issue.
    I am so good at this by now, it took just 1 hour to pull the head. The head gasket and shim looked great and this was confirmed by my machinest. This was not confirmed but it is my feeling that the current head I have is cracked. Machinest thinks so too. No water leaks to the outside, no water in the oil, no sign of water in the combustion chambers, but compression in the radiator. I then noticed many coolant holes in the head, that open to the block, but the head gasket does not have holes in it to allow the water to pass. This prevents water from circulating from the head to the block as this is a reverse flow cooling system.
    I bought a used head. It is guaranteed to not be cracked. In looking at the used head, I can see the V track where the old head gasket allowed water from the head to the block on this head. I have been using FelPro head gaskets. I tried to look at a Victor and GM but no one has that head gasket in stock to compare.
    Theory:
    The cold water comes from the radiator and enters the head on the passenger side end. It travels to the drivers side and should allow some water to flow down through these steam holes in the head and block. The current FelPro gaskets will not allow this water to pass. The water then gets to the drivers side end of the block, travels down into the block, and then back to the passenger side where it comes to the thermostat. Since the water cannot pass, due to the head gasket not having the holes to allow circulation, steam is being generated in the head as the coolant is not properly circulating to prevent this. I may not have a cracked head. It may be these pockets of steam that are being generated to is causing the pressure in the coolant tank. I am going to go with the used head though to make sure.
    Will be pondering this question today. Will also take some photos so I can show what is happening with the head gasket issue. Saying that FelPro screwed up the gasket is something major and I am not yet doing so. At present, I am thinking of a new head gasket, using a gasket punch to open the 18 holes that are not in the new head gasket, and screwing it back together with the newer used head.
    Will keep you informed. Your thoughts.
  • I've recently received my father's car ('99 2.2L), which had been perfectly reliable for the past 8 years (believe it or not) without anything major involving the engine.

    2 weeks ago, there was a large "bang" that seemingly came out of nowhere- right from the engine. All the indicators and lights were normal - so I was pretty surprised. Ever since then, I've had problems with the car failing to start, rapid overheating (at idle the needle is above normal), coolant leakage, and white smoke coming from the exhaust.

    Now I know that it's EXTREMELY likely that it's a broken gasket.. But now I've just realized with all the comments that's this is a pretty common problem..

    Was I lucky to not have this problem until now? And how much would it cost to repair the damages? Keep in note that I have had to drive around a bit when the needle was in H.. So I think the damage might be pretty high. :sick:
  • kelvinckelvinc Posts: 1
    It sounds like you have the exact problem that my mother in was having with her car. We thought it was a headgasket but it turned out to be a clogged coolant system.
  • I have a 2001 Cavalier with 275,000 miles on it. I have had the head replaced three times in the past and now am having more trouble. My water pump, thermostat, radiator are all new. I replaced my head gasket due to the exhaust escaping into the water ports and forcing coolant out through the resevour. This thing would build up so much pressure that ever drop of coolant would blow out the tank. Strange thing is that the coolant hasn't ever gone through the exhaust pipe (no white smoke) and there isn't any water in the oil. I finally broke down and baught a new head and another new gasket and again new head bolts. I followed every instruction to a tee (this ain't my first walk through the park) and when I was finished I started the car up and it seemed to be running fabulously. I sat there and watched it get warm and was satisfied that everything was o kay but I turned my back to pick up my tools, the darned thing started blowing coolant out the reserve tank again. Can anyone please please please give me some guidance on this? I've never seen this happen in this way and I'm at the end of my rope. I can't understand why it's doing this. :mad:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well if you were SURE that exhaust gases were escaping into the coolant (by using a test kit to show combustion gases in the coolant), and putting on a new head didn't fix it, then you must have a crack in the engine block.

    If you didn't actually test for combustion gases but assumed so, then perhaps you have a badly clogged radiator.
  • you need to run some prestone cleaner thru it to clean your system and make sure that you bleed the air out of the system b/c that can led to overheating and too much pressure build up. put about half bottle of the cleaner thru it for about two or three days, drain it and run the rest of the bottle thru for another two or three days and drain it again. fill it up with coolant but only the dex cool coolant and make sure to bleed the air out. let it run for about 30-45 mins the just bleed the air every coulpe of mins once it warms up and the should fix your problem
  • how can I be certain that I do have a blown head gaket. There are problems with loss of water & over heating. The oil remains clean not milky.
    Help in Miami....

    1996 chevy cavalier, 4cly. 1.6 or 2.2 litre engine.
    Thank you for your help
  • My 95 did exact same, try another thermostat. Test it first. Radiator clogged? Another possibility Block could be warped, not allowing good seal around where block and head meet. This is gonna sound funny, try new spark plugs. I had gasket leak for months without realizing it. Old plugs, car ran fine but back pressured through resevoircouldnt burn coolant fast enough, i assume. Put new plugs in, no doubt gasket leak. Blew white terribly.
  • blowing white out of tailpipe is good sign. Those 2.2 motors notorious for blowing gaskets. Make sure you are using antifreeze and not straight water. H2o evaporates. Check water pump and thermostat first.
  • badness15badness15 Posts: 3
    edited January 2012
    another thing you might try, take resevoir cap off. start motor, look for bubbling, also a good clue, your gasket is faulty.
  • ase25ase25 Posts: 1
    I don't want to be rude but I been listening to the same thing for over 25 years, I wish one of you burber flippers could explain to me how you can get water in the oil in an ohv engine without having a bad intake gasket on a V type engine. As for white smoke, once the engine warms up and the converter is working you may not see white smoke unless the gasket is real bad.
    As someone else has already stated, step one buy a block tester, it is a kit that will look for combustion gasses in the cooling system if it fails the test take the head off send it to the machine shop and have it checked for cracks and warpage, once you get it back install it with new head bolts from GM follow the instructions to set the torque angle. Then pressure test the system to make sure you don't have any leaks. Then unplug the cooling fan and crank the car, as it is warming up feel the cores of the radiator and make sure the top and bottom are warming up at the same time, if the bottom is cold take the radiator out and have it rodded out or replace it. If the top is cold, turn the engine off and full it up with more coolant. DON'T LET THE CAR RUN TOO LONG WITH THE FAN UNPLUGED you don't want to over heat it and blow the headgasket again. Make sure you flush the old coolant out and install fresh clean coolant in it and DONOT USE GM SEAL TABS. If the radiator starts to warm up evenly turn the engine off, plug the fan up and start the engine and let it run with a/c off, it will have to get to around 223 degrees before the fan will come on, make sure it does.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well you can have a break in the head gasket between a water and oil galley---the coolant, under pressure, will enter the oil galley. So, too, a leak between the combustion seal on the head gasket and a water galley will cause back pressure into the radiator. A crack in the head might also do the same thing.

    What isn't so common is oil in the radiator.
  • I work as a mechanic and had just recently ran into this problem. Customer brought me a 1996 Cavalier that kept overheating. After finding a bad thermostat, bad head gasket and cracked head, I went ahead and corrected these issues. Car STILL overheated. Approximately 6 weeks prior, I had installed a new water pump. No blockage, coolant flowed freely. It was then that I noticed something - the water pump was pushing the anti-freeze in the opposition direction than it should have, so the thermostat was not opening. After a little research, I solved this problem by relocating the thermostat near the water pump to the housing next to the coolant temperature sensor. I was able to do this by using a 1995 Cavalier set-up, which has the thermostat located at the coolant temp sensor. It was a straight bolt-on deal. Problem solved!!! I noticed Chevy used this oddball set-up for 1996 and 1997 Cavaliers only. Sometimes you have to out think these idiotic engineers. Hope this may be of help to someone out there after 10 days of frustration for me.
  • danfodanfo Posts: 1
    thanks kingpalm61.....

    brother and i had the same issue with a 97 sunfire with a replaced motor from a 96 or 07 ..Cav... we changed head gasket because of a bent valve ..its because of snapped timing chain ... it would spill antifreez everywhere after a short drive .. but never at idle ... head scratcher !!... after doin compression checks and the likes ... with no issues !! my brother decided to try yr options ... he cut the upper housing containing the temp senser to accomadate the lower thermastat ..... it held the thermastat no problem ... it does not leak . and not throw liquid !..:-D... "NO issues" yr quote ..lol!!!... thanks again !! :-) .. engineers and their "back flow" issues !? lol
  • car_go1car_go1 Posts: 1
    My brother has the 1997 with the thermostat at the water pump area. Still having problem with overheating!
  • Yeah, I got a 98 cavalier 2.2L and notice the thermostat is no longer there on the right end of the head--it has a black pipe running out the left end of the head around the alternator bracket and across the front side of engine to hose going to radiator and heater core. NOW I CAN'T MOVE THE THERMOSTAT TO THE HEAD END FROM THE LOWER RADIATOR HOSE THAT RUNS INTO THE BOTTOM AREA OF THE BLOCK. PULLING COOLANT AWAY FROM THE THERMOSTAT IS JUST PLAIN STUPID---GM ROCKET SCIENCE WAS SMOKING DOPE WHILE COMING UP WITH THIS NEW DESIGN? WHY HAVE THE THERMOSTAT BEFORE THE WATER PUMP??? WAITING FOR THE HEAT TO GET TO THE THERMOSTAT WHEN IT WAY TO LATE THAT THE HEAD AND BLOCK IS NOW AT 212 DEGREE??? WHERE IT SUPPOSE TO BE AFTER THE WATER PUMP AND AT THE HIGHEST END OF THE ENGINE WHERE HEAT RISES. YOU WILL NEED TO RIP OUT THE THERMOSTAT, SEALANT AND BOLT IT BACK UP (OPEN) AND MODIFY A NEW THERMOSTAT HOUSING UNIT WITH TWO MALE ENDS, CUT UPPER RADITAOR HOSE AND ADD IT THERE MAKING SURE THE SPRING END OF THERMOSTAT FACED THE ENGINE.
  • OK, boys and girls, my second posting here. These so-called engineers are at it again. We have a broken shift cable on a '98 Camry. Turns out the end that connects to the transmission side is made out of plastic. Guess what, after a bunch of shifting the plastic breaks, duh. Well the greedy dealer wants to charge me $173 for this cable, and my customer definitely did want to pay that ridiculous price. So I found a junkyard that sold me one for $40 out of a 2000 Camry. Evidently, Toyota knew about this problem and quietly changed the design in 2000. The new cable has a an all metal end by the transmission. Get one of these. There are only 2 modifications to make this sucker work. First, carefully pry the plastic bushing out of the end that goes on the shifter, because they are different. The old bushing snaps right into place. The other is that the cable is slightly shorter. Easy fix, re-route the cable directly over the starter instead of around on the little hook that the old comes off of. Problem solved. And by the way, allow yourself some time, you have to tear apart the interior, and don't forget to take the little plate out of the way below the heating ducts. Have fun getting those 2 10mm bolts out.
  • My third posting. I continually searched the internet and saw questions and complaints on this problem but no real answers. Naturally, Kia knows about this problem but wants you take your car to the dealer so they can bend you over. Well, now I'm about ready to punk these guys, because here is your answer. The problem is definitely in the Idle Air Control Valve, but don't be in a hurry to go out and buy one, because they are expensive, and it won't solve the problem. There are three wires to the IAC. First, grab your test light and check the middle connection, that is the power side, make sure you have power. If you do not, you have a short somewhere in that wire. Second, if you have a 1505 or 1506 code, locate the white wire with green stripe. Find it on the PCM side, PCM is located on the floor in the middle, just ahead of the console. Take your Ohmmeter and touch both sides. My customer's Kia read between 5 to 7 ohms, not acceptable. Now check both connections and make sure they are good. Cut this wire, it is so frickin' skinny that you can easily see it is prone to failure. Put a good wire in there. I put my ohmmeter in, now I have .1 ohms, perfect. Try to start car, still no go. I'm wondering, is there a double whammy here? Pull the IAC off it is full of black soot and the little valve in there is sticking. Why? Because there is a vacuum hose from the valve cover into the throttle body that is directly opposite of the openings for the IAC. With all the vacuum going on inside the throttle body, it is pulling black soot into the IAC. Enough of this black stuff gets in there the IAC can't open and close properly. Clean the IAC out within an inch of it's life. Put it back in, car now idles. Now, for codes 1507 and 1508, follow the same procedure only now you're dealing with the white wire with yellow stripe. One final note: this will also apply to the Sportage and Spectra.
  • I have a 01 chevy cavalier with a 2.2l. I believe my head gasket is shot. My oil is dark an I need to replace my spark plugs an there brand new only a week old. The car wants to fire but it like cuts out 
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