2003 Grand Am Gasket issue - Which one?

09-01-2013, 08:40 PM
Been totally thrown for a loop with this recent hand-me-down car. :banghead:

First of all, it overheated since the reservoir had cracks in it. I pulled off the minute I saw the temp was three quarters way. Was forced to turn it on a few more times to get it safely to the side of the highway (had the fans and heat on all the while) - kept bogging down. Ran perfectly fine (once it cooled on the back of the flatbed tow truck 4 hours later). Drove it straight into my garage.

When I replaced the thermostat and reservoir and that's when things got weird.

I pulled the front row of plugs (and a sensor on the throttle body and air intake) to gain access to the thermostat and damaged the #6 plug wire. Figure it's a bad wire/plug - hopefully not a ignition coil pack. It took a few tries to catch but it was a very poor (almost dead) idle and then it would pick up and run smooth with a small miss. As of now, it has degenerated into a no start - just turning over and not catching.

Here's the bigger issue...I believe there is oil in the coolant - smells a bit like it (was a bit foamy and but not really discoloured) yet at the touch still feels mostly like water/coolant not slippery at all. No water in the oil though.
Also, the coolant kept overflowing from the reservoir once warm and there's an awful amount of pressure which is hard to tell since there's no rad cap just the reservoir on this model. Not sure if it was 15 PSI worth or not. Seemed to pressurize after a few failed starts!

When I stopped filling the coolant at the top level, the coolant level would be stable. The oil level is stable too? I'm thinking its a very tiny leak? No steamy exhaust either? Water is coming out the tailpipe when it warmed up past 15 mins...didn't smell like coolant...just clear (might be just water and the catalytic doing its thing.)

On the upside, the few times I did get it running each day - it wouldn't overheat. The fans kicked in and the thermostat was opening up fine. Heard a very low groaning sound coming from the firewall (unsure if it was my power steering since it happened mostly during turns or my heater core?)

Would this be the intake manifold gasket or the head? :confused:

If its the intake I could probably give it a go but if its the head - all bets are off. My main concern is the pressure build up in the reservoir...not used to this setup at all.

Tech II
09-02-2013, 10:38 AM
That reservoir is part of the pressurized system.....so driving the vehicle like that, means you were forcing coolant out of the reservoir through the cracks....

If the temp only got as high as 3/4 and not into the red, you may be ok.....coolant that hasn't been changed in a long time(if ever) does tend to have a "funny" feel to it.....

One problem is, since you leaked the coolant, did you just add coolant or did you burp the engine of air in the system?

Hard to understand how you damaged an ignition wire.......did you replace it?

Did you reconnect the coolant temp sensor? Did you reconnect the MAF and IAT sensors? Are any codes set?

You said the reservoir was leaking....did you replace it? Do you have the proper cap for it?

There cars were known for lower intake leaks.......driving the vehicle low on coolant could lead to head gasket problems....

09-02-2013, 10:56 AM

All the sensors were reconnected...only 3 or 4 were disconnect and the TPS sensor was the only one that was pulled out completely.

Hooked it up to a reader and got a misfire and 3 EVAP codes. Might be from (over)filling the gas tank.:loser: I just didn't believe that less than $65 gas could fill a tank on these things. Unless, the EVAP is causing some sort of vapour lock or hard start condition. Gonna try with the gas cap off and see if it starts.

I damaged the spark plug wire boot pulling it out...it was cracked and visibly arcing. I will replace all the wires and plugs tomorrow.

Getting all the air out of it has been a nightmare...I was finally making progress there.
New reservoir...so the cap is good - keeping a seal. My dad had this car first and the first thing he did was replace the lower intake gasket since he was aware of the issue on these vehicles.

Outside of that - nothing much else. Thanks for the insights.

09-14-2013, 02:52 PM
So I decided to finally take it apart last week...been working on it a couple of hours at a time. I got to the lower intake and the gasket had a bit of coolant crust/residue on the outer edges of it. Was a Feltpro metal gasket - still looks good!

So, digging deeper and now almost got the down pipe off (pipe going to the Catalytic) but stuck - only able to get at one of the two nuts holding it on. I got the one from above since it was higher but the lower one just is too stubborn.

I'm having a hard time getting my 1/2 inch bar in there...even from underneath the car. Any tips on getting it off would be greatly appreciated.

Right now, I'm soaking it in this Liquid Wrench solution.

09-16-2013, 10:26 AM
Well, I gave up on the nut and just took off the manifold with the entire exhaust attached - there was enough room and give to move it clear of the intake. (Had to rip off the heat shield too since the shop stripped some of these exhaust bolts doing the previous LIM gaskets - had bolts barely on and such.)
So, in short it was the head gasket (firewall side) that had a tiny leak.
Gonna get the kit and make sure I get some new FelPro's...I know Pontiacs are gone the way of the dodo but thanks for the help TechII. :)

12-17-2013, 09:49 AM
Just an update, I replaced both the head gasket and LIM gasket as well.
Took me about two weeks on and off (no rush - couple hours here and there during the day) not even 20 hours total (wasted 6 on that stubborn exhaust pipe nut - didn't even had to touch it)

Running fine with no issues.

Had some pitting in the actual LIM and used some of the seal to fill it in (levelled it off and let it cure) Slapped everything back together just fine.

Definitely worth my time and effort wasn't that bad at all to do. :)

Tech II
12-17-2013, 11:28 AM
Keep your fingers crossed that, that took care of it......that was a big job.....

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