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Old 04-16-2014, 09:24 PM   #1
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Default Head gasket? Cracked head / block? Paranoia?

Hello all, and thanks in advance for any insight you may be able to provide.

I purchased a used 96 Saturn SL2 (73K) as a compliment to my 96 SL1 which has 210K with only minor repairs and really has been a great little commuter for me.

I thought I was getting it for a good deal, and the gentleman (maybe not) that I purchased it from said it was used lightly as a second car with no mechanical issues.

When inspecting the car before purchase, I noticed that the oil cap was very difficult to remove, and that there was some leakage from the valve cover gasket (which I still cant believe is plastic). I assumed this to be a result of a warped cover / cap and planned to go to a u pull and replace with a 95 aluminum type cover.

I test drove the car on a mild spring day, and didn't notice any overheating or issues during the test. The car ran surprisingly well for the price. I was sold.

After driving it home (about 45 mins) and letting it idle a bit, I noticed that the temp was higher than my SL1 would get in the same conditions. I feared the worst, but left it that evening as it was late at night.

The next day, I started it up to find the coolant indicator flashing. I also noticed some white buildup in the expansion tank, which I take to be a bad sign (picture attached).

I did a compression test today and found 190 across all 4 cylinders.

My question is, does the buildup in the expansion tank indicate head gasket failure? Could it be something else? Why is the compression so good if the gasket is blown? Thoughts?

Again, thanks in advance for any insight you may be able to provide.

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Old 04-16-2014, 11:11 PM   #2
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Default Re: Head gasket? Cracked head / block? Paranoia?

Not sure what that white gunk is but I would doubt that it is head gasket related. Possibly some kind of stop leak additive. For now I would just try to clean it out of the reservoir and keep checking it. As long as your temp gauge doesn't go past about 5/8 without the fan kicking on you should be ok. Normal running range is 3/8 to 1/2.
97 sl2 a/t 104 K
1989 GMC 3500 454 129 K, 1969 442 455 rat rod
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Old 04-16-2014, 11:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Head gasket? Cracked head / block? Paranoia?

That's just paranoia. Probably a leak in the radiator or water pump and that white stuff might be a stop leak type product. Find and fix the leak, then flush and refill cooling system.

For what it's worth the DOHC engine makes a lot more heat than the SOHC.
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