Coolant Leak... Combustion chamber

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Hi, everybody. UncleTed here.

I have a:
'96 Chevy S-10 Blazer
4.3L Vortec Engine

A fine piece of equipment, until today. Well actually the last few days. The coolant level keeps getting low, in a matter of 2 or 3 days. Okay, no big deal it's most likely something simple.

Change radiator cap - sorry please try again.

Flush entire system with Prestone Super radiator Flush, this in turn causes the weep hole on the water pump to leak excessively... change water pump. (Logic: problem solved - the packing around the water pump bearing must have been slowly leaking. The radiator flush must have merely enhanced the hole.) - sorry please try again.

Okay, perhaps the coolant reservoir is plugged in some crazy way... remove reservoir, clean and replace. - sorry please try again.

Driving home today the fine piece of American engineering overheats, so when I had the hood open I could hear a steam leak and it sounded like it was around the intake manifold. And I have steam coming out of the tailpipe.

I understand a lot of the basics about engine systems but, I do not know what the interior looks like and I do not know anything about the cooling pasages inside the engine.

Am I looking at major surgery here?

Sincerely UncleTed (Agitated working man)

posted by  UncleTed

Sounds like a blown headgasket to me. Usually it is not a life threatening injury as long as it is caught in time and not stressed. Put simply, a crack or hole has developed in headgasket between the water passages and one or more of the cylinders. Water heats up, pushes itself into the cylinder and is "burned" and sent on its way out the tailpipe. When the car is off, the pressure is still there and the water/steam is escaping into the cylinder and out an open exhaust valve to the tail pipe. Similarly, it can also escape through an intake valve where you would hear/see steam near the air intake/carburator/throttle body. Check around for repairs...if it's JUST the gasket, then it shouldn't be TOO bad....if the gasket went because the engine was overheated at somepoint in the past and warped the heads, then it's a bit more extensive. Be prepared to be without the car for a few days at least. Hope this helps (and doesn't cause a fit of deep depression)

a couple ways to verify this: Fill the water level up and run the car with the cap off...if it's bubbling, that's exhaust gas getting into the cooling system, hence blown gasket. Also check your oil for a white, frothy substance..that's water getting into the oil via the same blwon headgasket. Been there, done, that.

posted by  dennikro

Well, Dr. Kronberg... your diagnosis has not caused me to sink into a deep depression for I am already there. It has only justified my being in this deep dark pit.

Your help is very much appreciated. I was fearing that there was major trouble on the horizon... But you have given me hope that it is merely a gasket as opposed to the head as well.

It's a good machine and I would hate to have to part with it. I'm hoping after repairs she'll be o.k.

Thanks agian.


posted by  UncleTed

It's a good thing that you have no problem with the "diagnosis", especially since it's almost definitely wrong. While I'm sure your "Dr. Kronberg" means well, he certainly doesn't have enough information to draw this conclusion (go figure, he's an online automotive expert) and he also doesn't seem to have a clue about the long and well documented history concerning the engine you're asking about (see the go figure above).

Because you saw fit to not tell us all of the pertinent information about your vehicle I'll make one assumption and work with the probability your Blazer has around 100k miles. This engine is notorious for having deficient factory intake gaskets which normally manifests itself in the #6 cylinder sealing area. You may have an external leak (puddling on top of the intake manifold) or and internal leak (coolant entering #6 cylinder, seldom does it enter the crankcase). Sometimes you'll have both.

At any rate, everytime some genius goes off half cocked and replaces the head gaskets because they've done the "I think this is what it is, but I don't know why except it sounds good" method of diagnosis the problem gets fixed... Because the intake gaskets get changed when you replace the head gaskets. The problem is you've spent a LOT of extra time and money to perform what is a fairly simple, inexpensive and quick job.

One more thing for your good "Dr. Kronberg". I'll save you the time it takes to type your indignant response to this post. No, there is no reason for you to spew bogus information as you have and yes, I do know more than you. Have a nice day.

posted by  vwhobo

Hey Uncle Ted,

I'm not a doctor, but I play one in my garage! LOL But seriously, if it's only been the past couple of days of so that this has been going on, I think the chances of major damage are pretty minimal. The major damage comes when you run all the coolent out or at least very low and it gets hot enough to warp the which case they'd have to be machined true again. I think you'll be ok...take two gaskets and call your mechanic in the morning!

posted by  dennikro


I don't profess to know everything about everything related to cars. We all have our own experiences that we have learned from. If I recall correctly, I said "it sounds like a blown headgasket to me". I didn't say it's definately what it is and offered some practical tests to get closer to the answer. Without some simple diagnostic tools, the visual clues can sometimes lead you in the right direction.

As you have experience with this particular engine, I would tend to agree that the defects you presented would lead to the same conclusion. You also offered visual clues to look for. I have not dealt with that engine specifically so I don't know. Hopefully Uncle Ted will be able to gleen something from all the suggestions offered. Obviously a mechanic with all the proper tools at his/her disposal would be able to pinpoint the problem more specifically. He was just asking a question and I was just offering an answer based upon my experiences.

posted by  dennikro

1. My name is not VDub, never has been never will be. Again, before you take offense note that I only referred to you by the same name as someone did previously, so... If you don't like the monicker bitch at them, I don't really care.

2. Read your post again. Yes you did start with the words "sounds like a" which is the same as a politician starting every sentence with the words "I think". It gives them an out when their knowledge is challenged or they are proven wrong, exactly the way you used it. Read the context of your entire post like I did, not just the first three words. Also read the thread starters response, he didn't take it as just a suggestion. I wonder why?

3. If you have not dealt with this particular engine you should have clearly stated so in your first post. If you don't have experience with this particular engine you should pass on the question or only offer troubleshooting tips.

4. Finally, if you read my post you could have saved the time it takes to type your idignant response. You see I have experience with just more than automobiles, I've been around on this forum a little bit. You are very predictable.

posted by  vwhobo

Sorry, just trying to help. I will try to qualify myself better in the future.

posted by  dennikro

Excellent, however... While you're qualifying yourself better perhaps it would also be helpful to be better qualified. Just a thought.

posted by  vwhobo

is it just me or does a fight/argument always break out in a topic.. :eek:

posted by  speedy266

VWHOBO tends to want to give the poster in need the right help, and abashes the help of others, it is his way, not much we can do about it, and personally he can send unkind words to me all the time, no big deal, hopefully we all learn from him because he has been around cars for quite a time. His hammering down on unhelpful info is just his way of ensuring that the poster in need realizes the help was not really help at all.

posted by  Flame Roller

Yeah, I was wrong to offer up personal experience as a possible avenue without all the facts. He definately knows his stuff and definately is not shy about grinding it in your face. I looked at a lot of his history here and other places and pretty much determined that it is truly the way he is so I really don't feel bashed/threatened/intimidated or anything by him.

posted by  dennikro

Wow, I didn't mean to kick the turd bucket and send the flies a scattering.

I was diagnosed by a garge over the phone with a repair price of approx $1025. To me that sounded like I need a second opinion.

My regular mechanic pulled up his sign post and headed out of Dodge. So I'm stuck with out his trustworthy advice.

A friend and co-worker sent me to a dealership mechanic who is doing the job for considerably less. He is supposed to deliver it to me tomorrow at work. Not too many shops that deliver.

I thank everybody for the input. If it wasn't so cold out I would have attempted the intake gasket myself first before, I let any one tell me it was head gaskets.(no garage of my own) 19 degrees F this morning.


posted by  UncleTed

So was it intake gaskets or head gaskets? Your post leaves me utterly confused.

Would it be better if I jumped on the bandwagon and gave the poster wrong help? That doesn't even make sense.

posted by  vwhobo

I was told it was a leaking head gasket.

posted by  UncleTed

Maybe in your own way, but the way you said it if anyone thought head gasket it would have pretty much been an assumption. :thumbs:

posted by  DodgeRida67

Lets face it, i dislike vw very much, i have yet to see him treat anyone with respect. I also have had lots of experience with this motor and even though fighting with him is amusing, he is right. Intake gaskets leak on those things. I mean, you saw steam coming from the intake. Please do not have them replace the head gaskets cause its huge $$. Even though your problem will be fixed after because they replace those while doing a head gasket. The intake gaskets are not a cake walk to replace either, but heads really suck. Oh, and VW bashes everything, right or wrong, and bashing any suggestion is never any help either. So vw :fu: get some manners.

posted by  hi.alt.perform

I have but one question to ask of you because you chose to display your immaturity and ignorance through the use of the :fu: smilie. How often does your mommy have to wrap your ankles with kerosene soaked rags to keep ants from getting to your candy ass?

posted by  vwhobo

Without paying alot of money you can try Morrosso ceramic seal just be sure to follow all directions carefully. I have seen this stuff fix craked heads and head gaskets.

posted by  barretire

It helps if you understand that by nature German males have a powerful desire to be right all the time.

posted by  FreeGovtCheeze

:stupid: Ah, the resurection of a seven month old thread. :doh:

posted by  srober32

...on the seventh month, it rose again, in fulfillment of the.... oh ,wait. that's something else...

posted by  dodger65

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