Now, let me tell you a story about a man named Fred, barely keeping his GM repair account FED..... (Hey, I'm in TN so I thought I would start this sad story with a laugh...Lord knows I need a few right now.)
I have work done on this GM at a shop that I trust as they stand behind their work more than fairly. The service manager is tops and the mechanic is great.
A couple of months ago were the latest repairs: a radiator replace (the OE corroded due to IL winters). thermostat replace, A/C compressor (old one locked up) and A/C dryer replace. A chunk of change but the A/C worked great around town and on several hours long freeway trips. I was a happy cool
camper with outside temps of 100F in some areas.
Then, 3 weeks ago, (coming back from Port Canaveral, FL to Knoxville, TN) the air became warmish, even MAX A/C didn't help. Traffic slowed down in lower GA (and yes, it was quite warm and humid outside) and before I knew it, the warning chime for coolant overtemp went off. I look down and the coolant gauge is pegged. Turned off the A/C, pulled off to the side of road and shut the motor off. I was thinking maybe I sprung a leak but no steam, no liquids on the ground, coolant reservoir full, no gurging...nothing. Hot smelling but that's all. I wait 15 minutes. restart, turn on the heater full blast and the temp gauge starts dropping off. What the heck, maybe i can nurse it to the next exit as it seemed better. By the time I got to the exit (about a mile), the temp was nearly back to normal. Rather than get stuck in south GA on a Sunday night, I rolled on home (sans A/C). No further events occurred, temp gauge was normal.
I didn't drive the car for about a week and then ran a very short errand (engine up to normal temp). I tried the A/C and it worked somewhat
but certainly not like it did. Starting at my errand point, I sat for a moment with the engine at idle and the A/C on. Temp gauge was normal. However, when the A/C compressor was engaged, the idle would drop off 400 rpm. It has never done that before. I drive it back home with the A/C off. I take it to the shop to diagnose the issue.
The shop changes out the A/C compressor under warranty and recharges the system. The A/C works as it is supposed to but the 400 rpm drop off issue continues to occur. They continue to run it and check on it. Eventually, it begins to overheat again. In the end, they diagnose the cooling fan is operating intermittently...not a cooling fan control module as that checked out OK many times. Still, they have concern that some of the overheating problem is a head gasket leaking combustion gases to the cooling system (they witnessed what appeared to be "boiling" in the coolant reservoir). A dye test of the coolant was performed (3 times to be sure), revealing the presence of combustion products in the coolant.
Head gasket replacement is about $3100. (I am not normally an emoticon user but
) Resolution of the 400 rpm drop off issue is still an unknown. The NADA clean retail value is only $4525. Not that I can afford to trade it in for another car with payments, the NADA clean trade-in is only $2750.
I am tempted replace the cooling fan (myself) to run it until it dies. Can these motors have a small head gasket leak and survive for a long time?
If I give the car to my (fictitious) shade tree wrench cousin Jake, WWJD (what would Jake do)? Is tearing into removing the heads worth it? I know it is a lot of work and the parts are not cheap as best as I can figure.