Head Gasket Gone? - Saturn ION RedLine Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
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Head Gasket Gone?

Yesterday, my Ion Redline overheated for the first time. I had been driving at ~40-50 MPH for about 15 minutes. I then noticed that the dashboard text scroll was telling me to "CHECK GAUGES."

Normally, my car gives me a "CHECK GAS CAP" warning when it fails to draw a vacuum to purge the EVAP system (which happens ~70% of the time), so I had been seeing "CHECK ..." scrolling by for ~10 minutes without paying attention to it. I did start paying attention when I started smelling smoldering coolant, at which point I noticed that my temperature gauge was in the middle of the red zone. I slowed down to 30-40 MPH, which dropped the temperature to about 75% of the way up the gauge (safely away from to the red zone), and continued for ~10 minutes more until I got to an area where I could safely park. For the last couple minutes before I parked, I was also getting a "COOLANT" warning on the screen.

I then found that the right front wheel well was covered in foamy coolant, which seemed to be coming from the coolant overflow tank. But when I briefly started the car up again, I couldn't pinpoint the source of the leak. I checked the oil and found that it was at the very bottom of the dipstick only (well below the min fill level). No smoke was coming out of the exhaust pipe.

I then had the car towed to a local mechanic, who said that he found oil in the coolant. Not being set up for major engine work, he stopped investigating at that point.

Any thoughts on how to proceed from here? Is it worth looking for another shop and paying them to tear the engine down? The engine had been running great up until now.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 10:28 PM
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If you're mechanically inclined, it's not a hard job. I'd probably just replace the head gasket and send it before I tore the entire engine down. You'd know more once the head was off.

Worst case scenario is that a sleeve let loose.

If you do decide to pay someone to fix it and intend to keep the car, have them put head studs in.

Where are you located?

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Last edited by Rebel Redline; 04-22-2019 at 10:30 PM.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Rebel Redline View Post
If you're mechanically inclined, it's not a hard job. I'd probably just replace the head gasket and send it before I tore the entire engine down. You'd know more once the head was off.

Worst case scenario is that a sleeve let loose.

If you do decide to pay someone to fix it and intend to keep the car, have them put head studs in.

Where are you located?
I'm in Hawaii.

And yeah, I would do it myself, but I have to park on the street and I think it's just a little too involved a job to attempt without a garage (or at least a driveway).
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-23-2019, 08:47 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I picked up the car from the mechanic today, so here's some more info:

Since I couldn't get an appointment at the local engine mechanic until later this week, I went to the original mechanic (the one that declined to do anything after seeing "oil in the coolant") to pick up the car. When there, I took a photo of the interior of the coolant surge tank (attached). I added about 2/3rds of a gallon of distilled water to the tank (to a little past the fill line after running the engine for a minute) so I could drive it home.

I also re-checked the oil. When the engine has been running, all three segments of the indicator are filled with normal-looking oil. However, if I wipe the dipstick off and re-insert it with the engine off, it comes back out completely oil-free (not even oily to the touch). Is this normal?

The ~3 mile drive back home was unremarkable, other than that the temperature gauge kept climbing past the middle of the scale (where it usually hangs out), and was at about 60% and still rising when I got home. No smoke was coming out of the exhaust pipe, and no more water/coolant was leaking from the surge tank.

At home, I took the two attached photos of the surge tank.

Then I opened up the intercooler pump fill nozzle, and tested to see if anything was flowing by manually squeezing the hose to the left of the nozzle. I didn't see any turbulence.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 05:13 AM
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The coolant system and aftercooler systems are completely separate, FYI.

I'd say head gasket, oil cooler, or sleeve.

Quit driving it until you resolve the issue.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 06:43 AM
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Is your air scoop hanging from the bottom front of your car? Black plastic thing. If that is missing it will drive your temps up.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-27-2019, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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Is your air scoop hanging from the bottom front of your car? Black plastic thing. If that is missing it will drive your temps up.
Nope, that's still intact.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Rebel Redline View Post
The coolant system and aftercooler systems are completely separate, FYI.

I'd say head gasket, oil cooler, or sleeve.

Quit driving it until you resolve the issue.]
As Rebel said, stop driving it. That slimy stuff and the frothy stuff is from oil mixing with water. I have seen that before, on a car I owned, and it was the head gasket.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 12:54 AM Thread Starter
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As Rebel said, stop driving it. That slimy stuff and the frothy stuff is from oil mixing with water. I have seen that before, on a car I owned, and it was the head gasket.
Yeah, I drove the car home and parked it. It isn't going to move again until I can get it a slot at a local engine shop later this week.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 05:15 AM
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Yeah, I drove the car home and parked it. It isn't going to move again until I can get it a slot at a local engine shop later this week.
Good call.

Which island are you on?

My wife and I arrive on Maui tomorrow night for 15 wonderful days.
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