View Full Version : Cracked head/blown head gasket tech HELP WITH DIAGNOSIS

07-30-2002, 09:12 PM
Would like to hear from any certified techs out there (preferably Saturn)
for the exact procedure to determine if the head on my 96 SL 1.9L SOHC is
cracked, or head gasket is blown, or possibly cracked block.

Having the classic symptoms on the car; oil in the coolant (but no water in
the oil), bubbling, frothing, boiling over at the radiator cap (reservoir

Checked with Saturn dealer today, says Saturn will cover cracked heads on
this engine 94-96 models for 6 years or 100k miles. Memo was issued in
2000. Hopefully that 6 years is from 2000, not 6 years from the in service
date of the car---

Want to know how to cover my ass at the dealer, can't afford a misdiagnosis
or "guess" at the problem. ("Well, Sir, we THOUGHT is was a cracked head
under warranty, but you really need X and it'll cost you $3,000.00 to fix")
You know the routine----

What's the best way to keep the dealer honest?

If it turns out to be something NOT covered by warranty, how do I keep
myself from being at the dealer's mercy? Some sort of specific up front

Need help fast, appointment in the morning---

Thanks to all----

07-30-2002, 09:52 PM
You have the classic symptoms of the SOHC cracked head. If you have a history with the Saturn store then they are more likely to try and help and fight for you to get the repair covered under the special policy. Be calm about it, if they won't cover it try to get hold of Saturn. Unless you had a very early in service date you should still be in or just out of the time. Mileage, you didn't say. Just out of the time limit they may still be able to help you. A calm polite firm manner will get you further than going off the handle.

08-15-2002, 03:04 PM
I've already started a thread on the infamous "cracked head" problem---mine
is in the shop right now for that very thing (96 SL 1.9L).

I knew within 500 miles of the problem, cuz I maintain and check everything
on my cars OFTEN.

Car has 73K miles and was in service June of 96. Discovered the "chocolate
milk shake" in July (last month). Took it immediately to local Saturn
dealer, response was "too bad, you're over by one month, nothing we can do
except give you the 800 number at Tennessee headquarters."

Called them and plead my case for one month over---but "sorry, we'll only
cover half."

So, the car is fixed and ready to be picked up, but I'm not giving
up----called back to Tenn. today to tell them that they will lose a customer
for life if they don't cover the thing.

Waiting for call back tomorrow----I'll post their response----


08-15-2002, 03:05 PM
Well, just got off the phone with Saturn Customer Service in Tennessee, and
here was their response:

"We are truly sorry, Sir, that you have experienced this problem with your
Saturn, but it is our position that, in conjunction with your dealer, that
we have done all that we can do to satisfy your concerns by paying for 1/2
of the repair for the cracked head on your car. However, we will offer you
1 year of free oil changes, in a goodwill effort to keep you as a customer."

My response to this was, in effect, that Saturn has lost me as a repeat
customer, for life. My share of the bill comes to $782.00, and I asked the
young lady if $782 was worth losing a customer for life. My argument was
that Saturn KNOWS that hundreds, if not thousands of defective cylinder
heads were put into these cars, and for me, as a first time (and now last
time) Saturn owner, all they would have to do was to cover the cost of this
repair to keep me as a customer for life. After all, one month over the
silent warranty? I told her that this decision, for $782, would be the
difference between my next car and future cars being Saturns, or my never
buying another Saturn again, for fear of some other part being defective and
giving up the ghost 1 month out of warranty.

Folks, this isn't about the money. It's about ethics in business. If this
would be some chance, random, cylinder head failure, so be it. I'd chalk it
up to bad luck, poor maint., whatever, and pay the FULL amount of the bill
to have it repaired.

I'm in the capital equipment business. Rotating equipment to be exact.
I've been at it for 22 years. If one of my manufacturers ever discovered a
defect in any casting they put out, ALL of those castings would be replaced,
repaired, whatever it took to keep our customers happy and keep them for
life. Some of this equipment makes a Saturn look cheap by comparison. But
the manufacturers would never let a customer go ESPECIALLY when they know
the problem was a defect.

That should complete this thread----any comment will be responded to-----

08-15-2002, 04:50 PM
Sorry to hear about your problems, but the fact of the matter is Saturn DID compromise by offering to meet you 1/2 way.
If this was any other vehicle company you would have been out of luck the day your warranty expired and there is nothing even court time could have done about it.

The fact is that Legally and Ethically Saturn is not required or expected to do anything. They took the initiative by offering an extended warranty on vehicles when the problem was discovered. Then they took an additional initiative when you wanted to change the extended contract. Now you are here talking about how multiple steps to resolve any compromises in long-term quality beyond what any other automotive manufacturer in the world would have done isn't enough.

I think that your expectations are unrealistic and to think that you'll have better luck with another automotive company is TOTALLY ignorant.

If you think that you have used at least 50% of the expected life of the vehicle then you should be satisfied with what Saturn has offered. They are replacing the other 50% (in your eyes) they failed to provide with a brand new product. Up and above that they have offered more with a year of oil services for free and the 12/12 warranty on the new head.

No I understand you are upset, but the fact of the matter is Saturn went above and beyond what was expected and DID in fact exceed your expectations. It's just that you are so surprised that you don't know how to react.

Just smile, say thank you and gloat in the fact that you just paid $700 for a damn near brand new vehicle 3/4 the way through its life.

Or trade it in for an ION in 3 months.

Donít take offence to this just try to see the facts based on whatís expected from a vehicle company and how Saturn exceeded those expectations.

08-15-2002, 10:30 PM
Dittos to Mr. Chant.

I had the same experience on my 95 SL. Head cracked at 6.5 years, 109,000 miles. My out of pocket cost was $900 (Chicago labor rates). First paid repair ever on that car, by the way. I'm a happy camper. I don't think ANY other car maker would have given that much. You think Chrysler fixes lousy Caravan trannys with known problems? No. Is Honda gonna buy you a new engine if the timing belt breaks at 89,000 miles and trashes your engine? No.

It's the way things are. Pooh happens. They offered to eat half of it. That's pretty stand up, if you ask me. Remember, they were not obligated to do squat for anybody after 3/36!

08-15-2002, 10:33 PM
I feel your pain, but as stated above Saturn did meet you half-way on a warranty that they were not forced to give via a recall. Life is a trade-off sometimes. I understand your position...I had a battery in an F-250 truck that went bad 1 week past the 1 year that Ford gives all their vehicles (at least at that time) and I was pretty mad about it!...
But the next year the wife got a new Mustang GT...
When served lemons...make lemonade...

08-16-2002, 09:50 AM
I have to agree with everyone else. There will always be some cars that will have a problem just after the warranty goes. Some will get lucky and squeek in at 99,500 miles, and others will just barely miss it.

(By the way, Chrysler covered those transmissions in the Caravan to 10 years or 100,000 miles voluntarily...)

Just think of it this way. If you had a Neon, 100,000 miles would be the end of the life for that car, even without a head problem! :) (Although your probably would have had 2 head gaskets on it by that time...)

A 100,000 mile car by any other companies' standards is at the end of it's life, and they need to start hitting you hard with advertising to get you to buy a new one. Saturn (as well as most people on this board) doesn't believe that 100,000 miles on one of their cars means a whole lot. These cars were built well, and repairing a high mileage Saturn usually isn't a waste of money as it is with some other cars.