Edmunds Answers



  • MrShift@Edmunds 01/22/08 8:53 pm PST

    General Northstar problems to look for, which may be rare but still are well-known, are:

    excessive oil burning due to clogged oil rings

    head gasket failures

    rear main seal leaks

    carbon build up in the combustion chambers.

    You'd certainly want to have the engine well-tested on the used car you're planning on buying (cylinder leakdown test) as well as a lengthy test drive to check for knocking or pinging from the engine. Also have it on a lift to check for oil leaks. I'd also check the coolant for combustion gases.

    Remember, you can't usually rebuild this engine. Very complex and also some parts very difficult to find, if at all. If it fails, you most always have to throw it away and buy a new one from Cadillac. Not CHEAP.

  • bpari005 01/22/08 10:15 pm PST

    Cadillacs are a dealership's dream for the fact that everything that goes wrong is a trip to the dealer. There are is so much electronics in them that they commonly have check engine lights, abs lights, and airbag lights. I would not suggest buying a cadillac more than a few years old. They really are a hard vehicle to maintain.

  • bolivar 01/31/08 7:16 pm PST

    2000 Cadillacs are most known for failure of the two Crank Position Sensors. Not an expensive fix, but the car could totally stop running, at any speed, a dangeous problem.

    There are two main, very expensive Northstar problems.

    One, the head gaskets can fail. This is more of a problem with the 90's motors, but it does continue into the 2000's. A failure causes overheating, massive overheating as the failure becomes worse. The motor must be pulled, heads removed, the head bolt holes drilled out, re-threaded, and a special insert screwed in (The 'Timesert' solution), and then put back together. Somewhere in the $2-3,000 repair range.

    Second, a solonid fails in the transmission sometimes. This is the solonid that 'locks up' the transmission for 'overdrive' range. This also requires the motor an tranny to be pulled and the tranny disassembled to get to the solonid. Known as 'The $40 part buried $2,000 deep in the tranmission'. This is not a frequent problem, just an expensive repair.

    Overall, any Cadillac has extensive electronics. Which can fail. And be difficult to diagnois and expensive to repair.

    Many Cadillac have oil consumption problems. Mainly because old, grey haired people putter around in them, which causes the rings to carbon up and stick, with resulting oil usage. If you take the car out and hammer on it a few times, many times this will loosen up the rings and significantly reduce oil usage.

    Cadillac are a dream to drive. Except for the STS and ElDorado 'sports' models, they are not a 'sporty' handling car. But all are very nice to drive. The Northstar is basically a great engine and a great transmission, with only the two above possible problems a concern. You will not wear out a Northstar. If the solonid doesn't break, you won't wear out the tranny either.

    As the miles accumulate, there are also what I consider maintenance items that will happen. If the car you are looking at has reasonable milage, this could be nearing 100,000 miles. At this milage, you are going to need to replace the plugs and wires (this model might have on plug coils and no wires to replace), service the transmission fluid, and service the coolant (which should be done sooner than 100,000 miles, in my opinion). The water pumps also leak, the rear leveling system may fail, and in general the struts, shocks, sway bar links, brakes and rotors(probably much lower milage actually) are nearing the end of their life.

    You are not buying a Honda or Toyota, which, in general, can achieve 150,000 miles without anything significant happening. If you use a dealer, service is expensive. Of course any 'luxury' car is going to have expensive maintenance and complicated electronics. Mercedes, BMW, etc, etc.

    Cadillacs scare me to death. I'm now owning my third. Why? My wife loves them..... What am I to do? I try to own one which is in warranty or purchase and extended warranty.

  • drdavid2 03/16/15 8:48 pm PST

    My wife and I have owned a 2003 Cadillac for many years. It's the fifth Cadillac we've owned, and the third one with the Northstar engine. All in all, we've not had many problems with them. The one prior to this one sounded terrible upon starting when in the cold weather - like marbles rattling in a coffee can - until it warmed up. Once warm, it sounded fine. The current car doesn't have the rattling problem, but it leaks oil badly. The valve covers gaskets have been replaced twice, and now the oil pans (apparently there are two...) are leaking. The cost to repair them is anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, and I'm NOT going to spend that kind of money on a 12 year old car with 117k miles on it! That amount of money will by alot of oil. Electrical gremlins have never been a problem until this particular car, but not so much as to force me to replace it.

  • piggi1130 08/13/16 12:20 am PST

    This is for dr david2.....my 2003 caddy also had a oil pank gasket leak. the part is 14.99 and i was gonna be charged 1300.00 for the labor. i got a frined to do it and they pull the exhaust and repaired with no issues


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