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Leaking intake gasket on my Grand Prix - how long could this have been going on?

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Question From Guest on Leaking intake gasket on my Grand Prix - how long could this have been going on?

2004 Grand Prix GTP @50K miles

I was recently told by my mechanic that I have a very slow leak in the lower intake gasket. He said it is 'just seeping' right now but should be taken care of soon. He has suggested replacing the lower & upper intake gaskets and estimated 4 hours of work.

I have a couple of questions here. First - I started to notice my coolant levels dropping more quickly as far back as 1.5 years ago. I brought it to the dealer for this in June 07 and they tested and found no leaks. My question is whether this could, in fact, be related. Could it have been leaking very slowly for this long? The reason I ask is that if it was related, that gives me a better argument for trying to get it serviced under my warranty, which expired just 3 months ago.

If my above hope is nothing but a pipe dream - my next question is how reasonable 4 hours is for this type of job. The total quote from my local trusted shop came out to $600 with parts, labor, and tax. Just wanted to get an idea as to whether this is reasonable. I will also probably get another couple of quotes.


Response From Jeff Norfolk

GRRR!! If this is a quote from your "local trusted shop" why are you asking someone you don't even know if this is fair? HMM......a any rate 4 hours is more than fair. If you have been loosing coolant it had to have been going somewhere. Good luck making the warranty company pay for this. If it has been leaking this way for a while it would be mixing with the oil, which it probably is not if the "trusted local mechanic" did'nt mention it. Trust your machanic as you say you do because he giving you a fair price and sound advise.

Response From Guest

OK, I noted a bit of sarcasm in your response. Let me just explain that, to a layman in terms of automobile repair, its hard for me to put complete trust in a shop without confirming things they tell me with 3rd parties now and then. They have given me reason to trust them with the minor issues I've had in the past couple of years, but I have no way of truly knowing how competent they are. Maybe they overestimate repair work - its a reasonable thing to double check. Its also possible they missed the leak earlier. And I wasn't aware how obvious it would be as you just indicated. Again, I'm not a mechanic...and if I was I probably wouldn't be asking these type of questions.

Thanks anyway for the bits of advice and well wishes you did provide.

Response From Loren Champlain Sr

A GM intake leak is VERY common. I blame it on the Dex-Cool anti-freeze that GM makes owner's use while the vehicle is in warranty. First, the estimate that you received is right in the ballpark. Backing up a bit, I doubt that the dealer 'overlooked' the leak intentionally. Even if covered under warranty, they'd still get paid from GM. So, I don't think that would be in the equation. We've had the same situation. Vehicles losing coolant, but no leaks found. Sometimes, there are tell-tale signs, like a rust trail, but not always. In my humble opinion, it won't cost you to bring this up with your warranty company, especially if you can document that it was checked, but they couldn't find it at that time.
I completely understand your apprehension. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that our industry has changed, for the better. Cars are so complex nowadays, the back-yarders have pretty much disappeared. The 'grease monkeys' are a thing of the past. The guys that work on these vehicles are, in fact, technicians. Lots of training, constant education is absolutely essential to keep up. Just like anything else, if you find a doctor, a dentist, a plumber that you like and trust.....
We are all unpaid volunteers, here. So, we have no motive to steer you wrong, not that we'd do so, anyway.
I was taught by an old Cherokee Indian, back in the '60s: Treat the customer right, and you'll have 'em for life.
Screw 'em once and you'll never see them again. (Pardon the language..that's what he told me). Consequently, we have many three generation families as customers. Sure makes me feel old, though. Have a great week and good luck with the repairs. (btw, I'd recommend having the cooling system flushed after the repair and switch to the old fashioned green (ethyln glycol) anti-freeze)

Response From Guest

Thanks all for the advice. Let me just clarify a little here...I wasn't actually suspecting the dealer intentionally missed a leak on that check - just wondering if it was possible that they could have missed it and that it could have been leaking VERY slowly for all this time. Based on Jeff's response, I'm thinking it would have shown up with other problems at this point if that was the case.

Loren - I much agree with your philosophy, and that is certainly why I've been going to this mechanic for non warranty work. But, I've yet to have much of anything major go wrong that was not covered under warranty, which just expired. That is why I was double checking how good their prices are for larger jobs.

Based on what you are saying, I wonder if they steered me wrong though. They had me do a coolant flush even after the leak was discovered - they simply said I should take care of the leak as soon as possible. In the meantime I also have to buy some new tires and some other things.

And finally, about the warranty. I had a GM extended warranty, and the dealer always handled communication for service under that. So, my plan is to call the dealer in the morning about this. I just wanted to see if my logic was even sound (that the prior leak could be related) before I brought up that point. Other than that, I know its a very common issue based on what I've seen searching around, and the kicker is that my warranty expired only 3 months ago! I'm hoping they may take pity, because I have had a LOT of work done at the dealer.

Thanks again for the help.


Response From Loren Champlain Sr

Jeff; I didn't really address that point. Yes, this could have been going on for a long time. It is very common for these things to leak ever so slowly, seepage. I'm not so sure I'd have recommended a flush prior to replacement, as that could cause it to leak even more, but.....
We deal with extended warranties all of the time. No big deal. Shouldn't have to take it to the dealer for that, but I suppose it depends on the warranty company. If you can show them that you took it in for a leak prior to the expiration, I would think that you'd have at least one leg to stand on. Good luck.

Response From Tom Greenleaf

As far as I know GM lost a lawsuit and there's a silent payback (recall) for the DexCool issues on certain models. Of course who knows if GM can even make good on that now.

You can try searching for DexCool settlements or info at www.GOHTSN.com (?) " Go Heat Transfer Service News " was the magazine that had all the links and I posted it here somewhere


Response From Double J

Click here....

Response From Guest

Thanks Tom & Jim for the Dexcool settlement site. Well, my car was in the settlement class, but unfortunately the date to make a claim expired at the end of October last year! Same timeframe in which my warrenty expired. What are the odds? I'm always just a little late.

I called the dealer today, and they sounded doubtful that they could get the repairs done under the 'good will' clause of that warranty, only because it had been 1.5 years since I brought it to that particular dealership complaining about fluid leaking. They also said they'd have to look at it before they could even talk to the warranty department. Does that sound right? I guess logically it does, but I also wonder if he's trying to trap me into having the repairs done there - he wants the car for a day and also asked me how much my other quote was 'in case they cannot get it covered by the warranty'.

Another annoying this is that I talked to the shop I go to locally, that identified the issue, and today he was acting as if it was a much faster leak than previously stated. Its possible he was not sure which car was mine, because he's not the guy I normally deal with - but he claimed they had to flush the coolant twice because it was so filthy. When I was in there, they told me it was at this point just a very slow 'seeping' and not incredibly urgent.

Oh, and finally, I'm getting new tires on Wednesday - General Altimax HP. Reviews on tirerack and other places seemed good, but the owner of the shop really acted like I was crazy when I ordered them. The person I normally deal with there said she didn't have much experience with them, but had heard some good things. What the heck. Its really just this one guy - who happens to be the owner - but he sort of frustrates me with these conflicting opinions!


Response From Double J

Hey Jeff

Sounds like you had a GMPP protection plan thru GM.
I've dealt with them for many years and have seen them provide Goodwill repairs due to prior concerns documented while still under the provisions of the warranty.
I understand a year and a half is a long time but it wouldnt hurt to try.
My suggestion to you is for you to personally contact GMPP and speak with a supervisor and state your case.
The one thing i think is in your favor is the fact that it is a known failure and if discovered then,they would have paid .
Its not like your trying to scam anybody .Being that the warranty expired only 3 months ago is in your favor also.I have seen goodwill many many times from GM and GMPP .
They will require it being taken in for inspection and may ,want an independant inspector to come out and look at it as well.
If you get goodwill,you still will be responsible for any deductible.
Sometimes they offer Goodwill in the form of a 50/50 split.If they won't cover it and don't offer any split,ask them "Can you at least split it with me?"

Don't give up...they are decent people to do busniess with and will do Whats right!
They spend their money they way you and i spend ours....

Good luck


Response From Guest

Yikes. Well, I called GMPP and they told me to buzz off essentially. Turns out the dealer was just trying to lure me in, cause as soon as I got there they told me there was no chance of getting goodwill from GMPP on this. He did tell me he could cut me a 'deal' on the service, but said I wasn't a loyal enough customer to get a great goodwill deal. I don't get my oil changed there, because its a pretty far trek...but I've had every major repair (and there were lots) done at that dealer. I also dropped an obscene amount of money on that car fully loaded, so not quite sure how they don't consider that loyal :)

Anyway, it gets worse. He told me that the gaskets would have to be replaced as well as the valve cover. He couldn't explain that to me exactly. My best guess is that its kind of hard to tell if its just the gaskets or the gaskets and cover leaking, and its easiest to just replace both at once. Does that sound right? The original mechanic was saying only to do the gaskets...so now I'm torn.

In addition, they found that the transmission cooler lines were leaking. I'm a little confused about how my mechanic didn't see that when he did the check-up and, for that matter, the transmission flush. I called someone at that shop, and he didn't seem to have any good answers..just said he wasn't the guy who looked at it. I decided to just take it in there again to see...but doesn't it make sense that they would have seen it? And my theory is that all the dealer saw was some residual stuff from the flush they did on Saturday. When I mentioned that, he kept acting as if I was trying to blame my shop for breaking it...which I said wasn't the case. Anyway, it was obviously frustrating.

Seems like everytime I go in there is more work to do. What gives?

That was half venting / half question :)

Response From Loren Champlain Sr

Jeff; To refresh this old mind of mine, was this just an external leak? Or is it leaking into the crankcase? Not that it matters, that much, but if leaking internally, it's something you have to deal with NOW. Like, yesturday. The valve cover gaskets, many times, come with the intake manifold gasket set. Some engines require the valve covers to be removed in order to remove the manifold, which would be included in the labor time estimated for the intake gasket replacement. I don't like it when anyone 'drops' the price to get the job. Makes me wonder if it's really necessary, in the first place, or...why didn't you give me the 'best' price in the first place? That is a real turn off for me. I'd do some calling around. Talk to friends. Ask your local parts store who they'd recommend, ect.
Keep in mind, when you do have the job done, you'll be looking at new GREEN anti-freeze, oil, and filter on top of the gasket replacement.
The trans. cooler lines may just need new "O" rings. Sometimes, by disconnecting them to hook up the flush machine, it will damage them. They age, just like all rubber parts. Shouldn't be a big deal. It is very possible that it is just residual, as well. From what you've said, I don't feel real comfortable about the dealer or the independent shop. Just my opinion, though.

Response From Guest

Hi Loren - I was never really given a clear explanation, but there was no great sense of urgency from the tech at my neighborhood shop. In any case, I AM planning to have the valves repaired tomorrow. Now I'm just not sure if I need to get only the intake gaskets, or the intake gaskets and the valve cover gaskets done! That is a question I have for the shop tomorrow.

The dealer also threw me for another loop. I contacted the service manager about this again, and he was actually fairly hostile with me. Apparently he took offense that I considered myself a loyal customer and had hopes of GM fixing those faulty gaskets. In any case, he suddenly added a few more issues to the list, which were not mentioned when I was in on Wednesday. I don't know if this means he was holding these to surprise me once they had it in for repair, if he was exaggerating some notes the tech left, or if he downright made this up...but here are the new items:
engine rear main seal, oil pan gasket, and left axle seal leaks

I'm wondering if those are things they could have identified in the 10-15 minutes it was up for inspection. I also wonder how the neighborhood shop didn't catch these during their much longer inspection, oil change, and fluid flushing. I'm sort of feeling trapped now because I have the dealer claiming the local shop is incompetent. My plan, for now, is just to bring the concerns the dealer brought up to my local shop and see what they have to say. I really hope they can clear it all up in the morning, but the whole situation has left me very nervous.

Are the above items the types of things that should normally be obvious during your basic inspection or even during oil changes / checkups?

Thanks Again,

Response From Loren Champlain Sr Top Rated Answer

Jeff; The rear main seal, oil pan, and axle seal leaks are relatively easy to see when the car is up in the air. If you aren't losing a lot of oil, to the point you are having to add, and you don't mind oil spots where you park, the oil pan and rear main leaks, IMO, are cosmetic. If the drips bother you or they are leaking onto hot exhaust causing a smell, then it's really up to you. The engine or transmission will have to be removed to replace the rear main seal. The trans. output shaft seal is another story. If it's leaking transmission fluid, then you probably should get it fixed as soon as you can. Again, depending on the leak. If it's just moisture (and some places will call that a leak) you could keep an eye on it and the trans. fluid level for the time being.

Response From Jeff Norfolk

You are welcome. My whole point is that if they have done well for you in the past and "have given you reason to trust them in the past" then why would this problem be any different? It is a reasonable thing to double check if you do not trust them to be honest and perform good work, but if you trust them than neither of these should be suspect. We are happy to help just understand you are asking a bunch of mechanics and shop owners if these folks are honest (even though you have had good luck with them in the past) as if we are all inherently dishonest and trying to take advantage of the less knowing. IMO the number of honest shops out there far out number the dishonest ones. What do the rest of ya'll think?