Damn That Dexcool...sprung another leak

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shiden_kai wrote:


Good, I am glad that after over two decades GM finally fixed that big problem. We still shall see if these turn out to be robust designs or not. My point remains that we shall see as to the overall quality and robustness of the new design.
GM has not earned the right to have customers assume that it's engine designs are well thought out and well executed. I am old enough to remember the Vega aluminum cylinder wall disaster where GM thought that iron sleeves were not needed in an aluminum block. A fancy, cheap surface treatment was supposed to do the job. It didn't. Those things turned into oil burners shocking fast.
I also well remember the horrid V-8 diesel hatched job where an Oldsmobile 350 gasoline engine was rapidly converted into a diesel design. It was a disaster and sent countless once loyal GM large car customers into the Never-Again camp.
The not-ready-for-prime-time Cadillac 4-6-8 engine and the troublesome HT series of Cadillac engines also come to mind. An aluminum block with iron heads was one of the odd features of the HT engines, but at least the HT got iron liners. Adding "sealant pellets" to the coolant of these engines was considered normal maintenance. What crap.
Then of course there is the long history of the 3.1/3.4 l family with it's intake manifold gasket problems.
The much hyped Quad-4 motor was no great piece of engineering either.
You get the point. GM has put a lot of marginal engine designs into production and let customers deal with the fallout. Of all of the ones mentioned above, only the Vega eventually got a free extended warranty period. Chevy installed huge numbers of iron sleeves for free after the oil burning Vega problem became widely known. Diesel V-8, V-4-6-8 and leaking intake manifold customers generally got screwed. Many Cadillac HT owners switched to Lexus or other foreign makes. Cadillac once really did mean Standard of the World. What a joke that slogan was allowed to become.
John
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John wrote, "I also well remember the horrid V-8 diesel hatched job where an Oldsmobile 350 gasoline engine was rapidly converted into a diesel design. It was a disaster and sent countless once loyal GM large car customers into the Never-Again camp." ***************************************** "Crankshaft mains and crankpins are 1/2 inch bigger on the diesel, three inches instead of 2 1/2 inches. The crankcase is heavier, and the cylinder head is totally new and distinctly diesel. Piston pins are full-floating, not pressed in like those on gas engines. Sure, the Olds looks superficially like a gasoline engine. It had to go under the same hood, fit the same bolt holes, and go down the same V8 machining line. There was no way it could look a lot different, and there was no reason why it should." --Popular Science Magazine
Yes there was a myriad of problems with the early Olds Diesels, but many people accuse them of simply taking a 350 Olds gasser and making it into a diesel, which of course isn't the case (and I know that isn't what you were saying). There were problems with everythihng from porosity problems in the crankshafts and problems resulting from the piston pin grinding process.
"The engine is adequate in structure for passenger car use. But it is not an industrial engine and should not be thought of as such. It was designed to have about the same life as a gasoline engine in an ordinary passenger car..."
The availability of good fuel was a problem, people didn't know how to treat a diesel, improper lubricating oil, lack of service expertise and equipment, etc. etc.
The engine got a bad rap in some ways. The public and the infrastructure (fuel) weren't ready for it yet, among many other reasons, so it was impractical regardless of its design.
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"James Goforth" wrote

Why isn't it the case? I worked on those engines for years and they most certainly were not much more then an Olds gas engine that had been beefed up in certain places.....obviously the heads would have different combustion chambers, but they used the identical style of valve train as the gas engine. Hey, they beefed up the crankshaft, guess that's why we had tons of them with crankshafts broken right in half.

There were "nonstop" problems with this engine from beginning to almost the end. The last version wasn't bad...but as GM is famous for....as soon as you fix it, phase it out.

Not even close. Oh, they might have "designed" it that way, but it rarely worked that way in reality.
Ian
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My father had an 85 Oldsmobile 98 with a 3.8 years ago...and his intake gasket failed back then.
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it
know
Yes not wet but now dry....I think.
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Ian wrote, "The 3800 isn't that great of an engine. And I think you ought to wait a bit before passing judgement on the 35 and 39. I think they will turn out to be not a bad engine." ***************************************** Was wondering why you say "the 3800 isn't that great of an engine?" I thought it was generally quite highly regarded. Didn't it afford very good economy, longevity and performance?
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"James Goforth" wrote

I'm probably thinking about it from a repair point of view. The engine has been elevated to an almost mythical status. It's not "that" great. There are plenty of other GM engines running around with lot's of miles on them.
Ian
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Ian,
Usually I agree with you, but what are you smoking today? The 3800 series (I'll admit the Series II variant had its share of problems. mostly because of the inappropriate use of plastic materials where they don't belong, like upper intake plenums) is probably one of THE best engines GM has ever made (along with the small-block Chevy V-8).
It is a bloody shame that after a 44+ year run that design is being put to rest (yeh, I'm well aware that the 3800 Series III of today and the 1962 Special V-6 don't share a whole lot in common, but you can trace the lineage down through the years).
I'm a bit leery of the new engines: witness all the problems GM has had with the new V-8 family recently or the Northstar back in the '90s. I'd personally wait oh say about 4~5 years before I'd even consider buying a car with the new 3.5 or 3.9 engines.
Regards, Bill Bowen Sacramento, CA
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"William H. Bowen" wrote

It's not as great as everyone makes it out to be. The Series II is pathetic...the Series III may be better, but so far....we've replaced 4 of them at under 20k kilometers....camshaft bearings are walking out of their bores and destroying the engines. The old Series one was good, but they used to tear all the plastic teeth off the cam sprocket and then bend valves.
I can tell you this.....we've replaced more complete 3800 engines for massive engine failures then we have the 3100/3400 series of engines. Yeah...the 3100/3400 have intake manifold gasket failures....but it doesn't translate into complete engine failure as often as you might think.

If you are talking about the new generation v-8 that's been in the trucks....then I'd have to ask you what you are smoking! They are bulletproof....we rarely do anything to them. If you are talking about the "piston slap"....sorry, that's a total non-issue that's been blown way out of proportion.
Ian
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We have a 1999 Olds 88 with the 3800 series II. Is there a kit to replace that upper plenum? We bought this car 2 years ago with only 30K miles and want to keep it for the long haul. Or should I just keep an eye on the oil and antifreeze levels? Any other potential trouble spots I should check on this drivetrain? Thanks.
-
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grappletech wrote:

I wonder if this Sure Fix Intake Manifold Kit is any good?
http://www.autopn.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=&idproduct "9679
John
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"John Horner" wrote

Yeah...I'd say that looks very good! If I owned a 3800, I'd have no problem using that upper plenum and the insert for the lower plenum.
Ian
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Standard garden variety Dorman replacement upper plenum. Been using them for a couple of years. No failures to date. But having been bit once, I no longer stop at the upper plenum, the lower gaskets get replaced also.
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"grappletech" wrote

John has the plenum covered in his post. I'd simply watch and wait for coolant levels to start going down before I did anything. It's almost never a catastrophic failure....just happens over time.
If you develop an oil leak on these engines...from the rear of the oil pan area....you often have to pull the transmission out and replace the rear main seal housing gasket. They have a bad habit of splitting and leaking.
Ian
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wrote:

Relaying what I heard. Old ford 2.8's and GM 2.8's arent dissimilar. So it was copied from ford in the late 70's. Either way the engine design should of been scrapped long ago. Instead they kept it and made it worse every chance they got. They made a few improvements with the 3500 and 3900. However neither is a worthy replacement for the 3800.
3800's have had they share of intake gasket failures too.
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That pretty much describes any engine.

Make up your mind...

Either way?

Actually, for GM, it was a pretty good effort. For GM...

As have many manufacturers.
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Bonesman,
The 2.8/3.1/3.4 GM V-6 is similar to the old Ford 2.8 (which was a German design BTW) in that they are both 60 degree V-6s, but that is about all. My sister had a Pinto with one of those in it and it gave her nothing but grief (besides the Pinto itself being a POS).
The 3800 "family" is actually composed of 6 engines (and I'm not including displacement variations using the same block {example: the 3.3L variant of the code "3" and "C" engines}, and the number is 7 if you include the tall-deck 4.1L variant used in some strange cars, including some Cadillacs) made over a period of 45 years (first intoduced in the 1962 Buick Special in Sept. 1961), and not just by GM but also by Kaiser-Jeep (known as the "Dauntless V-6" - they owned the tooling and rights to the design of the first odd-fire version from the mid 60s to the mid 70s until GM bought it back from them)..
In my experience (and I've worked on all of them except the last variant, the 3800 Series III), the best of the lot is the 86~91 code "3" and "C" engines. One piece aluminum intake, roller cam, sequential fuel injection and DIS ignition (the '88 and later also have the balance shaft). Does not suffer from the coolant in the oil issues of the later versions - its only soft spot is the original plastic-toothed camshaft gears, but once they are replaced. with all-metal parts you don't get a repeat failure. I know of a number of those engines that have had nothing but normal maintenance except for one camshaft gear/chain replacement (replaced with all-metal parts) and are still going strong in excess of 250K miles (one friend of mine in SF has an '87 Buick Electra with nearly 400K on it. Car looks like crap (crappy GM paint from that era) but runs great).
The Series I code "L" and "1" versions are my second choice (the "1" is the supercharged version). Note that some early "L" engines where built with an aluminum upper plenum - the later ones (93~95) have black plastic upper plenums but a different design entirely from the troublesome Series II design)..
I'll withold judgement on the 3.5 and 3.9 engines: too new to know how they'll hold up. Remember, any new engine can have "teething" problems: the problems Chevrolet had with the 265 V-8 in 1955/56 are legendary.
Oil consumption was among them - my dad's '55 at one point was getting 300 miles on a quart of oil! A little sidebar story: the problem was the cylinder walls where finished TOO well - rings would not seat properly. GM's official cure (after nearly a year of trial and error)? Feed the engine a can on Bon-Ami cleaner while the engine was running!! Created huge clouds of white smoke when done, stunk to the high heavens and would ruin the set of plugs in the engine when you did it, but what it did was rough up the cylinder walls enough that the rings would finally seat!.
One word on DexCool - in theory it is a better coolant BUT it is not as forgiving as the old green stuff. Since it has a smaller molecule, it can seep through "leaks" the green coolant will not. Also, DexCool is VERY sensitive to air: hot DexCool + air = cooling system sludge the likes of which will amaze you!.You cannot neglect a DexCool system and have it work right long term. Do proper maintenance and DexCool will save you time and money (longer water pump life is one benefit, the longer change interval another) - neglect it and it will cost you BIG time.
Regards, Bill Bowen Sacramento, CA
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wrote:

I thought the main idea of Dexcool was maintenance free for 100-150k miles?? So what maintenance are you referring to?
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Normal maintenance for a cooling system, regardless of the coolant used involves checking condition of hoses,check for leaks at hose connections to items like radiator and making sure recovery tank coolant level is kept at proper level.
ANYONE that tells you a system on an automobile is "maintenance-fee" is a fool! Even the ententainment systems require maintenance (cleaning tape player heads for instance).
Regards, Bill Bowen Sacramento, CA
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wrote:

Relaying what I heard. Old ford 2.8's and GM 2.8's arent dissimilar. So it was copied from ford in the late 70's. Either way the engine design should of been scrapped long ago. Instead they kept it and made it worse every chance they got. They made a few improvements with the 3500 and 3900. However neither is a worthy replacement for the 3800.
3800's have intake failures too.
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