Went to long established local GM dealer last Wed. and test drove a 2001
Silhouette GLS with all options except video, including
heated leather seats and woodgrain trim package. 25.5k on odometer.
Impeccable appearing one local owner van (CarFax confirmed)--Asking price
Van drove beautifully--lots of pickup, no hesitation. Drove appx 10 miles
When we got back to the dealer, DH and I noticed a "hot" smell from under
hood--smelled like hot plastic. Temp gauge registered normal.
Arranged to buy the van for 14,750. cash (well under book)--no trade,
contingent upon diagnosis/repair of the "hot" problem. Gave the dealer
Thurs. the sales person called and said they found the problem (said it was
a gasket--didn't say what kind) but the gasket was out of stock and they are
awaiting delivery on Monday.
Today, the weather was snowy and the delivery truck hadn't made it in. I
spoke with the parts manager and asked him what gasket he was waiting for.
He said it's an intake gasket and is on backorder. Said all the dealers are
awaiting the gasket which was recently changed by GM. I asked if it was on
the truck, thinking someone must know what was loaded onto the truck.
He said they were given a delivery date of today for the backordered part.
He said they get trucks in twice a day so it may still be in today. Both
salesperson and parts guy were very apologetic and would keep me advised of
As a person who has just spent 5 years funneling money into an 89 Audi, I'm
real "gun-shy." Now, I'm hoping you can tell me: Is this a yellow flag or a
red flag and would an engine run so well if it needed a new intake gasket
and would failure of said gasket smell like hot plastic? Should I pass on
this deal that I thought was too good to pass on? (It should be noted that
the outside temp was only about 6 degrees during the test drive and when we
returned, I noted that the area under the wiper blades was packed with snow
and ice from sitting on the lot the last couple days in bad weather. I did
search Google before posting and found that intake gasket failure on other
GM models has been common.) Thanks for your consideration.
The gasket repalcement for my car was a hard composite like material
with rubber seals around the holes where coolant passes throught. So yes
I guess there could be a burn't plastic odor.
The odor might of been hot anitfreeze around the top of the engine. Have
the dealer inspect the intake manifold for any damage too.
Aside from the intake / & gasket problems that have plague the 3400 /
3800 engines they are very reliable workhorses.
If you feel uncomfortable with the deal don't buy the vehicle or ask
about an extended warranty.
good luck .
1991 Pontiac Bonneville LE, 3800 V6
_~_~_~_~276,100 miles_~_~_ ~_~_
This is a common problem with these vans. But if the intake
manifold gasket is replaced properly, and not a lot of coolant
was getting "into" the engine, you will probably have good
service out of the engine. At that low mileage, and your
description of the smell, I'd say that you probably had more
of an "external" coolant leak.
> spoke with the parts manager and asked him what gasket he was waiting
===Thanks Harry Face and Ian (I have a son named Ian)! I did some research
(found vmag forum--what a great site) and from that and what you two have
I guess the van is a better deal since the problematic gasket is being
replaced now and not after the
the warranty runs out in June. I wish the dealer would have told me that's
why they are backordered. I am going to
talk to the head mechanic tomorrow and level with him about the gasket
problems and ask him to be sure to check
other things that might be related to the gasket failure. I'm thinking since
the gasket is plastic and plastic is what we smelled,
that it probably just went on that test drive--maybe since it was so darn
cold? (I know the smell wasn't coolant
as I've had more than my share of coolant leaks with the Audi and became
*real* familiar with that odor.) I will go ahead
with the van deal but will definately get an extended warranty and I hope I
do not become as familiar with Silhouette problems as I am with Audi
problems ;-(. Thanks again, guys!
The dealers are well aware of the problem as the 3400 will not go much more
than 40 k without blowing the gasket. He had to be aware of it if it was
leaking to a point of you smelling it. If it has been leaking for some time
and getting in the oil serious damage could be done to the engine. This
problem happens to an high number of these engines and GM will not pick up
any of the charges. I went thru it with my 99 Venture. All of my cars have
been GM but the Venture was the last due to their support. I only had 36k on
In the case of the vehicle that you are looking at, it would probably
surface later in it's life. A lot depends on how much coolant and for
how long....has been going into the oil. A sure sign of dexcool being
in the oil for a period of time is a dark brown sludge that coats the
internal surfaces of the engine. Here is a picture of an intake manifold
and valve covers from an affected engine. You can see the dark
The main type of damage that I've seen (which is very rare on
low mileage engines) is the camshaft snapping in two. What appears
to happen is that eventually there is loss of proper lubrication at
the camshaft journals, the cam siezes in the bearings (usually the
rear bearings) and the front half of the camshaft is broken from
the rear of the camshaft. Kinda like this:
Anyway, this is all worst case scenario stuff. I doubt that
you will have any problems if you simply stick to a 3,000 miles/
3 month oil change interval and always keep an eye on engine
coolant levels. Do not listen to people that tell you that you
can run extended oil change intervals...even if you were to
use synthetic oil. Nothing will counteract the effects of
coolant in oil like simply "changing the oil" at a reasonable
Yes, and a GMPP plan is by far the best plan
available. It's a company that you know will be
around, and there is almost zero authorization
hassles with GMPP. Make sure you read the
fine print though, and get a good plan that
actually covers most of the items on the vehicle.
Well, my 2000 Montana just back with the famous gasket problem. Bad news is
that I knew about this famous problem AFTER I got it fixed.
Anyhow, the dealer paid half of the cost including labour in the end, I
didn't ask why and they didn't tell me. At first, I thought it must be some
sort of mistake but now I know why. I've been with the same dealer since 94
with our Regal and now the Montana, I don't think they'd rip me off.
Generally, I'm happy with their service.
I don't know much about cars other than checking out all fluids and changing
oil at most, every 4 months or tops 6000km. I first noticed the problem in
the fall when the temperature gauge went all the way up pretty close to RED
when idle or stuck in stop and go traffic. I brought the car in and they
didn't know where the problem was. Ever since I've been closely checking
the coolant level and I was losing a bit over the last few months but
nothing much. I had a problem with "Coolant Low" warning and they replaced
the sensor but that didn't work. One time I brought it in while the warning
was still on, a technician took out the coolant cap while the engine was
running and did something, then the warning disappeared for good. Not sure
if he did the right thing though.
Finally, just after Christmas of 2003, we noticed the garage floor had some
kind of fluid with a bit of pink colour. The service advisor told me from
the dealer it was the coolant leaking. Great, then she told me what
happened and what needed to be replaced. The van has been driven gentlely
and only 45000km on it so far. I can't believe I had to shell out over
$1100 for the repair.
I hope there's nothing damage to the engine but I'll keep an eye on the
I like reading this forum as I'm learning a lot everyday.
Well, that's half of the problem. I'd use normal oil and change these engines
every 3000-4000km. No joke. The regular oil should be as heavy as prudent
as well, so that less of it seeps through. Ultra-thin synthetic is going
to get by those seals a bit faster.
Definately get the maximum warranty that you can with a GM car, because
the first major repair will cost you $1000-$2000 easily.
Well, the temperature problem wasn't related to the low coolant because I
only topped up maybe 100ml and the tank wasn't empty. However, whatever
they did fixed the problem. The bill showed a few things though other the
gasket and who knows, it could be the thermostat.
Hopefully everything is fine when the summer comes, thanks.
=Thanks, Ian. Will stay on top of oil changes and mark the coolant level
on the overflow container so it's easier to watch. Do you see any merit
in using Mobile1? Do you have any opinions on Marvel Mystery Oil
additive? Many of the guys on the AudiWorld forums swear by it but
I'm not sure why.
The GM dealer left a message on my answering machine today that the gasket
is confirmed enroute so I will likely be taking possession by Friday. I will
probably go with the 84/70 Major Guard warranty. Since the van will be
payment free, I'd like to run it as long as possible and that's the
longest I can get the GMPP for it. I'm sure the time will be up before the
I think that Mobil 1 is a good oil. I don't use it and never
have, but that's probably because I tend to change the oil
in my "good" cars even more often then every 3000 miles.
So I figure that regular oil will be sufficient. I've never had
an engine failure that was oil related yet anyway.
I have no real experience at all with the Marvel Mystery
Oil on cars, but I have used it as a great after-run oil
in my radio control model airplane engines. I'm always
leery about additives in general. I suspect that the
majority of them simply have a "placebo" type effect
on the users. Often, what you "think" a particular
item does can be more important then what the
item "actually" does.
No problem, and congratulations on a fine
choice of name for your son. (grin)
Some Scottish background in your family?
=Kinda :-) --We're descendents of English shipbuilders and German outlaws.
I first heard the name in my high school years (long, long ago) in PA.
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