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Peartree

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We have a 2002 Chevy Venture minivan that has been intermittently overheating. It had the thermostat replaced at Pepboys over a month ago, worked fine for a few days then then started acting up again. Since then its been back and forth to the shop but they could never find the source of the problem. This weekend, in frustration, they replaced the thermostat again (on warranty). When I picked it up I got exactly 3.4 miles before it overheated and then I limped it back waiting for it to cool each half mile.

Today, they called and now suspect either a blown head gasket or a cracked head.

The guy at Pepboys says that repairing the gasket or head would likely overpressure the lower part of the motor and cause further problems because the engine has over 100,000 miles.

Instead, they recommend replacing the motor which will cost $4000. :eyepop:

Does that sound right to you?

I don't know yet whether we want to put that kind of money into an eight year old van or look for a new(er) one. At the same time, we have a kid that needs braces and money's tight.

I'd appreciate any advice from those who know this stuff.

Thanks.
 

kandsrockets

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First you need to take it to a real garage. There could be a list of items that will cause it to over heat. You could have a blocked radiator or a hose that is week and calapsing. Another the radiator cap could be bad.

Do you loose antifreeze?

As far as replacing a head and having the bottom end fail is just bull crap. They are just looking to sell you more than you need.
 

Peartree

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First you need to take it to a real garage. There could be a list of items that will cause it to over heat. You could have a blocked radiator or a hose that is week and calapsing. Another the radiator cap could be bad.

Do you loose antifreeze?

As far as replacing a head and having the bottom end fail is just bull crap. They are just looking to sell you more than you need.
No puddles on the garage floor that I've seen.

According to Pepboys, it is losing coolant but not on the floor, so likely through the combustion chamber. It also is supposed to be losing pressure in the cooling system as it comes up to temperature.
 

kandsrockets

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No puddles on the garage floor that I've seen.

According to Pepboys, it is losing coolant but not on the floor, so likely through the combustion chamber. It also is supposed to be losing pressure in the cooling system as it comes up to temperature.
What color is you oil on the dipstick. Does it have a milky look to it?
 

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If you blew a head gasket, there would be coolant loss. If your radiator cap is bad, there would be coolant loss through the overflow. Definitely take it to a real repair facility.

If there is no coolant loss, then there is a coolant circulation problem or a sensor problem.

Causes could be water pump, though those tend to seize up and shred rather than just quit pumping.

Blocked radiator channels...

OR... your thermocouple is bad and giving you an overheat reading when there is really no problem at all. If you have access to a infra-red non-contact thermometer, take a temp reading of your WP housing and radiator. Does the coolant boil over?

If you're not losing coolant, then it's either lack of circulation or the temp sensor.

I was a half gallon low on coolant one time after water pump replacement on a 2.2L 4cyl. When I went on down the road, the temp gage would actually dip and the vent (heater) got cold. Then the temp gage JUMPED UP and the vent got screaming hot for a couple minutes, then everything started cooling off again. This cycle repeated a couple times before I noticed a pattern.

What was happening was the air bubble settled around the thermocouple and the temp was reading low because there was no hot water around it and the housing and the heater core cooled off. Then when the coolant boiled and burped through the system, it registered high temp and the vent got hot from the boiling coolant surging through the system.

A half gallon of coolant fixed my problem.
 

stickershock23

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I am going to agree with Scott, I worked as a line tech for Chevrolet and jeep for many years.

Here is my suggestion. go to a real shop have them check for exhaust gases in the radiator (trust me they will know what I am talking about) if there are gasses present, then you have either a blown head gasket or cracked head.

If its a blown head gasket, have the heads removed, check the block deck and head deck for warpage, then have the heads magnafluxed or pressure checked. this will find cracks. if the heads are not cracked your are ok. have them surfaced and slap a new gasket and go.

Now heres the hard one. at 100,000 miles. you should not have a problem, BUT if a head is cracked and they have to replace it, this will increase compression in the engine, (new valves better seal etc) the extra compression can cause the rings to take more stress and cause them to fail. BUT THIS IS KIND OF A 1 in a 1000 chance. shops like pep boys dont want to put a new head then have the the bottom end go. then they have a pissed off customer that blames them for the engine.

What I am saying is yes it can cause the bottom end to go, but the chances are very slim. if you had 200,000 or 300,000 HARD miles and didnt change your oil often etc, then yes I would do the complete long block. but at 100,000 and if you have done even fairly decent maintenance on your vehicle. you are going to be fine.

Back to why you are overheating. there are a TON of things that could cause this other than a head gasket. it could be a collapsed hose. a bad radiator cap, a fan clutch, or electric fan switch, it could even be a drivability problem (such as the timing being way incorrect) or even a plugged cat. that is why I recommended the exhaust gasses test. its quick, simple cheap and if it passes it is NOT a head, if it fails, it most likely is the test is never wrong.

bottom line go to a reputable shop, have a pro check it out. its worth the extra bucks.
 
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RangerStl

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a fan clutch, or electric fan switch,
OOOOH. I forgot about those.

If you are fine on the highway, but overheat at stoplights or coming down from HW speeds, your fan might not be working. There is so little excess capacity in the cooling systems of cars today that this could be a real issue. Make sure your fan is pulling air.
 

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It could be the coolant. If you have the orange stuff (Dex cool) and it has never been changed it tends to form mud-like deposits, and clog things up. I'm not sure why GM continues to use Dex Cool, but if the coolant is changed/flushed per service manual recommendations (5 years or 100k) Dex Cool tends to be ok. I would say check the radiator cap and neck for crud, but since you've had it worked on they may have cleaned it out there.
 

Peartree

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The Internet says there's a Chevy dealer less than 2 miles away. Looks like that's the next step today.
 

JoeG

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All good advice. Especially about getting a second opinion.

Get a pressure test or exhaust gas analysis and find out what is really wrong.

At $4000 I would be thinking alternatives, like a used van. You may want to get some other quotes on a new engine too if it comes to that.
 

stickershock23

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It could be the coolant. If you have the orange stuff (Dex cool) and it has never been changed it tends to form mud-like deposits, and clog things up. I'm not sure why GM continues to use Dex Cool, but if the coolant is changed/flushed per service manual recommendations (5 years or 100k) Dex Cool tends to be ok. I would say check the radiator cap and neck for crud, but since you've had it worked on they may have cleaned it out there.
Also good advice, I forgot to add that to my suggestions.

another thing to check the OUTSIDE of the radiator being clogged. I have seen vehicles that spend tons of time on dirt roads and the radiator gets clogged with dead bugs grass dirt untill it cant flow.

You mentioned the Chevy dealer. they are really good but you will pay top dollar. My suggestion is a GOOD mom and pop type shop. a placethat has been there fora long time. feel them out, see what they say then decide if they are out to take you or if they want to help you.

good luck
 

Peartree

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A My suggestion is a GOOD mom and pop type shop. a placethat has been there fora long time. feel them out, see what they say then decide if they are out to take you or if they want to help you.

good luck
If I knew of one I could trust we'd have been there long ago. Our local GM dealer was great and didn't charge a lot (perhaps because they knew they were in an economically depressed county) so we had gone there for several years. Alas, even though it was the only dealer in our county, GM closed it. It's still there but only a shell of ots former self. All the techs are gone as are the service managers. They don't do much besides oil changes and tires. Sad.
 

stickershock23

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If I knew of one I could trust we'd have been there long ago. Our local GM dealer was great and didn't charge a lot (perhaps because they knew they were in an economically depressed county) so we had gone there for several years. Alas, even though it was the only dealer in our county, GM closed it. It's still there but only a shell of ots former self. All the techs are gone as are the service managers. They don't do much besides oil changes and tires. Sad.
Ouch That's gotta hurt. They closed all the Jeep dealers out here about a year after I bought my new wrangler.. now if I need jeep service I gotta drive to las vegas or SLC. 3 hrs either way... this economy STINKS.... heres to a better 2010
 

blackjack2564

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I have had 2 vehicles in my history of driving that needed head gasket replacement.

Both were Chevys. One had 79,000 miles on it [S-10] and the other 140,000 mi [Chevy cargo van]. No other repairs were needed, I was told the same thing in both cases regarding the engine re-builds. The S-10 had 180,000 on it and was still going strong when I sold it. The van I still have after 210,000 and still going strong.

In both cases I decided it was worth no more than 1000 dollars to invest in repairs, figuring it would make more sense to invest the 3-5000 needed to do the major work as a down payment on a 2-3 year old replacement vehicle.

So hopfully you will be just as lucky!
 

JonathanDunbar

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Pastor John,

You are likely being screwed! Take that van to one maybe two different repair shops.

DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT tell them what you think is wrong, only tell them what has been happening.

Compare their notes and estimates and then decide. A gasket to cracked head is apples to oranges, few hundred dollars to several thousands!

And don't tell them you are a man of the cloth because the devil comes in many forms ... in the form of auto-mechanics also ;)

Jonathan
 

troj

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FWIW, if you're losing coolant, your problem could be as simple as the coolant level gets too low, and it overheats because it doesn't circulate properly.

My wife's van had that problem; took months to figure out where the coolant was leaking. I'd put in a quart every couple of weeks, and keep an eye on it.

Finally, the leak got big enough to track -- we'd been slowly losing coolant at the water pump. So, at home it wouldn't lose much, and didn't ever leave a puddle I could identify. Finally, the leak got bad enough that it was easy to find.

All that said, these guys know more about cars than me, and it sounds like you're getting some great advice!

-Kevin
 

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Lots of good advice here already. I can add my personal experience with a bad head gasket on a Subaru Forester, and I think you'll see that your Venture's symptoms don't match too well.

I bought the 2000 Forester used as a replacement for a '98 model that got hit. Subarus of that era are notorious for head gasket problems, as I later found out. There are some really narrow areas on the gaskets (boxer engine, one on each side) that are prone to leaking. Driver's side only had been replaced under warranty. I experienced gradual coolant loss, and would see overheating only when the coolant got dangerously low. The tricky thing was that the coolant in the radiator would be low even though there was still coolant in the visible expansion tank. That occurred because the head gasket leak interfered with the normal siphoning from the expansion tank that is supposed to happen when the engine cools. Transferring the the coolant from the tank back into the radiator would always temporarily solve the problem. Initially, we could drive for many miles without an issue, but the leak got worse and it also started getting misfires on #3 cylinder. I replaced both head gaskets and the patient has been leak-free for three years.

I would have never described the symptoms as "intermittent", and I could always go much farther than 3.4 miles after starting with full coolant.
 

Peartree

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Dealership called. They believe that the gasket is at fault but the head is okay and no coolant was found in the oil. He said there is a slim chance that some damage might have occurred to the cams.

Their quote to replace the head gasket is still $2K. Ouch.

Is this what you would have expected?
 

JonathanDunbar

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Dealership called. They believe that the gasket is at fault but the head is okay and no coolant was found in the oil. He said there is a slim chance that some damage might have occurred to the cams.

Their quote to replace the head gasket is still $2K. Ouch.

Is this what you would have expected?
Pastor John,

I still say you need one or two more estimates. The labor can be expensive. If they have to tear the engine apart, that is going to take 12 - 20 hours. At $40 - $50 an hour, that ads up real fast.

Now I use the $40 - $50 because that is what my mechanic charges me; your labor costs will vary.

And no I didn't include the costs for parts. So it comes down to what exactly needs replacing? Gasket? Head? Rods? Entire Engine? Get a second opinion.

Ronald Reagan - Trust but verify.

I believe those words.

Jonathan

P.s. EMERGENCY WILL ROBINSON!!! DANGER DANGER!!!

I just realize you said , "Dealership Called", OMG NEVER DEAL WITH A DEALERSHIP. Find a well respected and honest repair shop! Dealership will pad the costs. I should have noticed that before I typed the above. Trust me, I am not trying to sell you anything except beneficial information! Lose the dealership and find an independent mechanic. Make sure they are honest, check the BBB or ask your perishiners for recommendations; don't use a dealership! Don't like my answer, check with Clark Howard (clarkhoward.com), visit his website, send him e-mail, or call him on-air.
 
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RimfireJim

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Dealership called. They believe that the gasket is at fault but the head is okay and no coolant was found in the oil. He said there is a slim chance that some damage might have occurred to the cams.

Their quote to replace the head gasket is still $2K. Ouch.

Is this what you would have expected?
The non-dealer estimate I got for my Subaru was something like $1500. I did it myself and replaced the water pump and timing belt while I was at it, and it ran somewhere around $400 just for parts, IIRC.
 

JonathanDunbar

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The non-dealer estimate I got for my Subaru was something like $1500. I did it myself and replaced the water pump and timing belt while I was at it, and it ran somewhere around $400 just for parts, IIRC.
BINGO!!! Rimfire-Jim is COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORECT!

DO NOT, NEVER, NINE, IIE, NEGATORY, don't use a dealership for anything except buying a brand new car. Anything else, you find an honest mechanic.

Pastor John,

Turn back. Turn back while you still can! A dealership will easily increase your costs 40% or more! They are wicked they are wicked!

Jonathan
 

troj

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Dealership called. They believe that the gasket is at fault but the head is okay and no coolant was found in the oil. He said there is a slim chance that some damage might have occurred to the cams.

Their quote to replace the head gasket is still $2K. Ouch.

Is this what you would have expected?
$2000 seems high, to me, but then, dealerships often charge more than independent shops do.

My recommendation would be to find an independent (non-chain) locally owned shop that other folks can tell you, from personal experience, provides good service. They're likely to cost less, and take good care of you.

I'm fortunate that we have three locally owned shops in town that all have great reputations for how they treat their customers, and the far one is 5 minutes from my house.

-Kevin
 

Brent

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Not all dealers are bad. I had an experience about 2 years ago while on vacation. I never got a chance to change oil before we left. I usually do this myself. A very easy job that takes me about 20 minutes. We were going to be in Arkansas a few days before heading to New Orleans so I had it done there at a local Wal-Mart. We left Arkansas and by the time we made it to Slidell, MS my truck was running extremely rough and the check engine light came on. I had a code reader in my glove box and checked it out . Turned out to be a dealer code. This is about noon Christmas Eve mind you. I find a local Ford dealer there and explained the situation to the shop manager. He did not want to look at it because he wanted to get everyone home beings it was Christmas eve. One of his employees overheard the conversation and asked me what the code was. He then looked it up to see what sensor it was. He then got one out of stores and walked out in the parking lot to look at it with me. We come to find out Wal-Mart did not replace the dip stick and I had oil mist get on the sensor and a plug wire. They both were burn up. I was in and out of the dealer ship without an appointment on Christmas Eve in about one and a half hours. Total bill was around 175.00 . When we got home I wrote the dealer a letter thanking them.
 

troj

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Not all dealers are bad. ...snipped for brevity... I was in and out of the dealer ship without an appointment on Christmas Eve in about one and a half hours. Total bill was around 175.00 . When we got home I wrote the dealer a letter thanking them.
Oh, most definitely true -- there are great dealers, and there are bad dealers, just like their are great independents, and bad ones.

There's a local GM dealer that I won't have a thing to do with, based on personal experience. There's another one that's not so close that I'd have no problems dealing with.

Dealers, in my experience, just tend to have higher labor rates. Not always, but a lot of the time.

At the same time, dealers are sometimes the best ones to go to for those "odd" issues, because they have more experience with that specific model of car than an independent does.

-Kevin
 

Peartree

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I appreciate where y'all are coming from. I have often been very hesitant (for good reason) to go to a dealership but as Troj mentioned some dealers are very good. Our local dealership (now closed) was great. Their prices were flat out as good as any private shop and they knew their stuff - then GM closed them. We ended up at that dealership because a) we bought one of our cars there (used) and b) we haven't found anyone local that is really well recommended - keep in mind that we are VERY rural. There is one shop that I might consider but the service manager, for unknown reasons, has taken a distinct dislike to me personally.

On this trip our options are especially limited because the car is fifteen miles away and can't be driven more than a mile or two. If I had a guy that I really trusted I'd consider getting it towed but as it is, I'm not sure I want to pay for a tow based on a gamble.

At this point the question is this: Is $2000 within the boundaries of what you would expect for this job?

Based on the answer to that question our options are: a) fix it or b) sell it.
 

troj

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FWIW, I did a quick Google search on this, and it appears that blowing a head gasket on the Venture isn't uncommon. That said, the $2000 seems in line with the going rate for this repair. Here's one answer I found:

'm a chevy technician and have had to do several of these myself. They are a serious pain. It's a semi-common problem with these. The head gasket "blows" at the #1 cylinder (back, far passenger side) and leaks coolant into the combustion chamber. Typically you relace both head gaskets at the same time. By doing this you can keep the exhaust manifolds bolted to the heads, as well as the crossover pipe between them, which means you pull both heads at the same time.

Unless the engine overheated, it isn't necessary to have the heads checked, and there is no fan clutch to remove.

$2K is actually about right, unfortunetly. It is an extremely laborious job, about 13-15 hours of labor. I dread having to do them, and I get paid to do so. I would highly recommend letting a professional do this. Sorry buddy.

Why did GM design this? I ask myself that every single time.
-Kevin
 

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John

You need to find a shop that does diagnostic work. It's not too hard to determine if a gasket is blown or if you have water in your oil.

Check out http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chevrolet/Venture/2002/ for some reported problems and repair costs.

From expereince, it could be a manifold gasket, a head gasket, a cracked head, a bad radiator, a bad water pump, a collapsing suction hose, bad thermostat, electric fans not working, or an improperly refilled cooling system where an air bubble is trapped in the cylinder head.

Odd Ball problems.

If you did not change the antifreeze at 5 years, it could be a corroded radiator. The orange coolant turns to rusting mud if it's not changed.

If the antifreeze was recently drained, it's possible in some engines to trap air in the cylinder head because the head bleed valves were not opened.

Guidelines.

If you were to buy an excellent condition 2002 Venture with 100,000 miles from a dealer, KBB says you would pay $5,300 for it, and in a private party deal $3600 for excellent condition and $2,800 in fair condition. If you were to trade-in an excellent 2002 Venture with 100,000 miles on it, you'd get $2,000 for it, or $1300 in fair condition. IMO putting $4,000 into a car that's worth at most $2,000 on a trade-in, or $3,600 on a private party sale is foolish.

For most new cars, you should not have to do any maintainence other than oil changes and air filter changes for the first 50,000 miles. Check the KBB value of the car. If the cost of the repair exceeds half the value of the car, I would not do it. Additionally my basic philosophy is that when the average monthly maintence bill exceed 50% of a new car payment, it's time for the old beast to go.

If you don't want to pay for a new car, consider buying a used car from a car rental agency such as Enterprise. (I mean directly from the rental car company's sales division and not a used car dealer.) Most of these cars are two years old and are selling for 50%-60% of new, and have >80% of useful lifetime left, and are in new car contition. If they are sold by the car rental agency, they come with a warrantee from the car rental company as well as the remainder of the factory warantee, and you will get the KBB value for your trade-in. (They wholesale their lemons because if you buy a bad used car from them, you'll never rent a car from them again, and that's their primary business.)

Bob
 

shrox

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Most dealerships are good, all dealerships are expensive!

The computer in my Saturn needed replacing. The dealer wanted $800 plus installation. I found a rebuilt on online for less than $100.
 

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I used to own a repair shop in Arizona and I was a mechanic most of my youth and into my mid 30's. If you are losing coolant you have a leak somewhere. A head gasket is most likely the cause. 100,000 miles and to few coolant changes and it's a guarantee. Coolant will go acidic after prolonged heat cycles and the majority of engines that have aluminum heads will dissolve an area next to the head gasket and leak. North east is known for this. Each time it overheats it will do it faster the next time too. If it is an internal leak into the combustion chamber you can pull the spark plugs and find it. It will be in the cylinder that has the steam cleaned spark plug. It will also make it hard to find the leak as the coolant exits the exhaust as steam, not always noticeable until it is really sever. If it has overheated to much it will have a smell of it's to late to fix, you can smell it before you get the hood open. You can't miss it, walk away from it and you can still smell it like you where still leaning over the engine.

If you don't have to add oil to your motor often and the motor does not rattle the first few seconds when you start it cold the bottom end is most likely tight enough to just replace the head gasket. If it is an aluminum head it may have to be replaced also. This would be a good time to replace a timing belt if it has one so you can go for sometime without any problems.

A local tire shop is a good place to find a good mechanic for starters. If they don't do repairs they will be a good source to finding a mechanic they trust. Dealerships, they are like pirates with this economy (stay away lol) Ah, and pepboys is for fixing flats or installing tires for girls ;)

There are many things that can cause an overheating problem, yours sounds simple to diagnose from what you wrote. No matter what, this type of repair is going to be expensive. Just tell the mechanic the problem and see if he comes up with what I said. then you will know you are not gettin ripped off. That job is a lot of work, if they don't do it right you will always have trouble with it. Also tell him who sent you, he will ether gripe about them or want to take care of you better to get more referrals.

Hope this helps.
 
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