Can I get around fixing that cylinder leak by simply adding more coolant every week?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1992 Saturn with 57,000 miles on it. I had the "low engine coolant"
light come on frequently and suspected a leak in the cooling system. When I took
the car to the Saturn dealership, they said that the cylinder head had a crack,
and the coolant was leaking inside the engine. The estimated cost of a new
cylinder head is about $2,000. The cost of repair seems a bit too high. The way
I see it, even if I have to put in $5 worth of coolant every week, I can do that
for the next 400 weeks (about eight years) for the same price as a new cylinder
head. Would I be better off just keeping an eye on the coolant level or forking
over $2,000 to the dealer to replace the cylinder head? -- Dinesh

RAY: Neither, Dinesh. Unfortunately, your $5-a-week theory doesn't really hold
water (ha, ha) here, because leaks like this almost always get worse. A lot
worse. And usually fast.

TOM: And if you do screw up and let it run out of coolant and overheat, you
could ruin the entire engine. And then you'll be looking at an even bigger bill.

TOM: So if you plan to keep this car for a while, you really should fix it. But
there's an alternative to having the work done at your dealer. An independent
shop will probably be willing to buy a used cylinder head for you from a
junkyard engine.

RAY: It'll cost a few hundred dollars to buy it and a few hundred more to have
it installed. So for about a grand, you can take care of that cracked head once
and for all.

TOM: If only I could fix my brother's cracked head that easily!

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