Intake Manifold Gasket problem

  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • 170 MILES

I am the owner of a 1998 Buick Century 3.1L V6 with approx 170, xxx miles.

My family recently went to Texas for a week to visit my sister and my car sat in the garage. When I came back, I noticed a small puddle of coolant (maybe the size of a pancake) under the front end.

The next day I took it to our local mechanic. He informed me that it needed a new intake manifold gasket, and it would cost $600.

I bought this car about 3 years ago from my parents for $1500. It had a new headgasket put in a year later for $1200. I was under the impression that that would be the last big repair this car would need, and it would at least last me through college (2 more years). Well now im hit with this problem, which when added to the head gasket repair cost would be $300 more than I paid for the car.

I'm curious if you guys think it would be worth paying for the $600 repair, or just trying to do the repairs myself.

Right now, I'm leaning towards trying to repair it myself, as pretty much all my money goes towards college (electrical engineering undergraduate) and I don't have $600 to spend on this.

My next question is how difficult a job it is to replace the intake manifold gasket. I have some experience with repairs but no project of this scale. I have a haynes repair manual. I also don't know exactly what part to get or where to get it from, as I've looked at multiple auto part websites, typed in my car and what part I need, and 5 or 6 different results come up for "intake manifold gasket".

I really appreciate any help I get with this, as I'm kind of in a bind here. Thanks in advance.
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have the same problem?
Friday, June 3rd, 2011 AT 4:23 AM

1 Reply

First find out if your school or a nearby community college has an automotive program. Very often, when they are teaching engine repair, they will be looking for live work from the community. Repairs will be much less expensive but you won't get a warranty.

General Motors, more than any other manufacturer other than perhaps Volkswagen and BMW, has found a whole pile of ways to get you to spend money after the sale, but any car is going to need repairs that have nothing to do with what you paid for it. (Would the repair cost make you feel better if you paid twice as much for the car)? This same problem is common on two and three-year-old cars too. The difference is on those newer cars you'll be spending that much every two months on car payments.

I don't understand how my students handled these repair costs. Many of them had GM front-wheel-drive cars and had $800.00 repair bills every six months, and they thought that was normal. It isn't for most other brands.

Okay, now that I'm done grumping on my soapbox, you may be able to handle the repair yourself but you'll need some special tools and chemicals that you must factor into the cost savings. I'm also never convinced of the source of the leak unless I see it for myself, so you might want to borrow a cooling system pressure tester and search the area to verify it's really the gaskets.

You have the manual, but the original service manual is usually a lot better and all procedures will be specific to your car. Basically you will be taking things apart and putting them back together the same way, so it's real helpful to keep the bolts and other parts in order. The gasket surfaces must be cleaned real well so the new gaskets will seal. Professionals use rotary air tools to speed the job up. You'll want to stuff rags or paper towels into the ports to prevent the grit from getting into the engine. Use a click-type torque wrench to tighten the manifold bolts to the proper tightness. I personally like to use a very thin film of silicone gasket sealer on both sides of the new gaskets just in case there's a gouge I overlooked. It's just a little extra insurance against another leak.

Many auto parts stores borrow or rent tools. You might be able to find a torque wrench there. Brake parts cleaner in a spray can works well for cleaning the gasket surfaces and doesn't evaporate away as fast as carburetor cleaner.
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Friday, June 3rd, 2011 AT 5:58 AM

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