Dandy. I would strongly suggest looking for something else. A block can develop a hairline crack near a core plug, then it will leak coolant. A crack near an oil plug will leak engine oil. You don't want to get involved with those with the hopes some kind of chemical or sealant will fix it.
There can also be cracks around a bolt hole like for mounting the generator or power steering pump. Those are relatively minor. If a bolt hole goes into the cooling system or oiling system you would wash it out, then use some silicone gasket sealer on the bolt threads to seal the hole. That is done even when there is no crack. If the hole is stripped out you can install a "Heli-Coil" repair insert. All auto parts stores have the kits.
There are a lot of other places a block can be cracked. It can be the result of overheating in which case you have to address the cause for that and all the other things that will be damaged. With most cracks it is usually serious enough to warrant installing a used engine. That is definitely not a job for a beginner.
Allow me to make a few suggestions for your first vehicle. I would run as fast as possible away from any GM or Ford front-wheel-drive car. GM cars don't hold up to minor crashes and you are likely to be killed in one. GM also is one of the world's top manufacturers when it comes to customer-unfriendly business practices. You WILL spend a lot of money on repairs at the dealership.
Fords, especially from the '80s are called "killer cars" because of the many crashes caused by separating steering and suspension parts. When I worked at a Sears Auto Center, we got in a shipment of parts every Wednesday to include a half dozen tie rod ends for GM cars, one or two for Chryslers and imports, and 40 outer tie rod ends for Escorts and Tempos. By Saturday the Ford parts were sold and we were buying more locally. A lot of those cars came in on tow trucks after the steering broke and they went into a ditch.
A lot of Ford trucks use "rubber-bonded-socket" tie rod ends for their steering systems. The ball is dropped into a socket, then it is filled with liquid rubber. When the rubber cures they think that is going to hold together after repeated twisting every time you turn the steering wheel. It was no surprise when people started driving into ditches or on-coming traffic when those parts separated.
Ford is also famous for leaving off grease fittings to save money. That adds to the high number of part failures but they don't seem to care.
The toughest little car you can find is the older Dodge Shadow / Plymouth Sundance. A friend's girlfriend pulled into traffic with his and got hit in the driver's door by a heavy Oldsmobile Cutlass going 35 mph, and the interior door panel never got touched. Those cars are also real easy to diagnose and fix and very inexpensive to repair. Be warned that if you can find one with the 3.0L V-6 you will probably get a lot of speeding tickets. They're real fun to drive. Most have the 2.5L four cylinder which is a real tough and forgiving engine. You can tell it has the V-6 by the bulge in the left side of the hood.
If you want a truck, consider the '97 or newer Dakota. The '98 Ranger should have a front suspension system that can be adjusted during an alignment so you can get somewhat decent tire wear, but the older ones had twin I-beam suspensions. I'm in a conversation with a fellow right now with one of those piles. That is the world's worst suspension system for tire wear due to its design, and there's nothing you can do to fix it. The Dakotas are easily alignable and they have torsion bar springs that are easy to adjust if it becomes necessary. No coil springs to replace when they get old and weak.
Dakotas were available with a 3.9L V-6 engine. They do okay but if you're going to pull anything look for the 5.2L V-8. Some had that 2.5L four cylinder but those are rare and not very desirable. They'll get you there but you won't enjoy it. I'd avoid a Dodge Neon. That is a plastic car that replaced the Shadow. Parts for the Shadow are much less expensive and easier to find because there is so much interchangeability between models with Chrysler products. You might also want to consider a Hyundai or Toyota. According to some high-level national trainers, Hyundai is the top manufacturer when it comes to customer-friendly business practices, Toyota is second, and Chrysler is third. That becomes important when you need information like service manuals, and when you're looking for replacement parts for older vehicles.
I would also avoid all the European imports. BMW, VW, and Audi, along with GM pull a lot of stunts to cost you money. A lot of their problems can only be repaired at the dealerships, not by less-expensive independent shops, and not by do-it-yourselfers.
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 AT 11:57 PM