Trouble with my headbolts...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

We drive cross country frequently and we have a question about our 1986 Buick. It was trouble free until one week ago when a headbolt broke. We had to be towed. The Buick people replaced the bolt after drilling out what remained of it and examining the others. We were told this incident was unusual and will not happen again. But several nagging questions persist. If one bolt goes, how can we be sure that the others are not of similar poor quality? Rather than chance another breakdown on a long trip, we are simply thinking of buying another car. What do you think?

RAY: It sounds like you have one of GM's 2.5 liter four cylinder engines. We've seen a couple of headbolts break on these, so I'm sure it's not as unusual as the Buick dealer would have you believe.

TOM: There are a dozen or so headbolts which hold the top of the engine (the cylinder head) onto the engine block, and you need every last one of these bolts! What happens in these cars, we think, is that the head begins to warp, and it warps to the point where it simply breaks off one of the bolts holding it down.

RAY: Replacing one bolt may not be good enough. The head could continue to warp, and eventually break another bolt. If you want to keep this car, you should really replace the head and all of the bolts, and if I were you, I'd ask Buick to pick up the tab. When my brother and I go out to dinner, I frequently ask him to pick up the tab, and I suspect Buick will give you the same two-word answer my brother gives me.

TOM: You should check with another dealer in case Buick has issued a service bulletin on this, but it sounds to me as though you've already lost faith in this car. I don't blame you. Who wants to drive cross country worrying whether you're going to be stranded between two cities whose names you can't even spell. If you've been generally happy with your Buick--you said it had been trouble free until last week--consider a new LeSabre with a 3.8 liter V6. The LeSabre was recently rated number two in a J.D. Power new car customer satisfaction survey. Number one, by the way, was the Nissan Maxima.

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