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Stick a fork in her, I think it's done! Daughter's 1995, 3.4L with 192K just started smoking a few days ago. I had been doing a little work on it over the past few weeks since it had been hard to start and running rough. New fuel filter, air filter, injector cleaner, plugs and plug wires. Anyway, today went out and started it, after a few minutes white smoke starts coming out of the tail pipe. She says it gets really bad when she is driving and then comes to a stop. I know it's burning coolant because I checked the res and it was low with no signs of a leak. My question is this: with this type of motor and the miles that are on it, is it most likely a bad head gasket, cracked block or cracked cylinder head. If it's a bad head gasket I might try to fix it myself. Any suggestions!?!?:(
 

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Chris,
Could be an intake gasket but they usually end up with coolant in the oil. Sounds like a head gasket to me also. Heads are a 50/50 chance on cracked or not, depends on if it got real hot when the gasket gave up and it go low on coolant. I dont think I have ever seen a block cracked.

All you can do is pull the heads and see what you got. The heads will need to be resurfaced for sure. About half of the heads we see have a real small crack starting at the bottom of the spark plug threads. They never leak there when pressure tested. If that is the only crack that your machine shop can find, and the gasket is definitely blown, then I would not worry about them.
 

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A typical woman's fault with engines is for them to run the engine with low coolant and they tell you there is no heat from the heater - LOL

You now know it's been over heated and either the Head Gasket is blown or the Heads are warped or possibly cracked.

I take the Heads off and send them to a machine shop for analysis. Pending condition they can be Machined or replaced. I will also drop the pistons of each cylinder to BDC, Vaseline the interface, use transmission fluid to do a fresh Hone in the bores and replace the timing belt or chain. I also replace the Water Pump and put on new Belts. I check the cam and lifters if they need replaced.

You would be surprised, providing the bearings have not been affected, after a this simple refurbish, done with the engine in the car, that it will last for the life of the ride.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
A typical woman's fault with engines is for them to run the engine with low coolant and they tell you there is no heat from the heater - LOL

You now know it's been over heated and either the Head Gasket is blown or the Heads are warped or possibly cracked.

I take the Heads off and send them to a machine shop for analysis. Pending condition they can be Machined or replaced. I will also drop the pistons of each cylinder to BDC, Vaseline the interface, use transmission fluid to do a fresh Hone in the bores and replace the timing belt or chain. I also replace the Water Pump and put on new Belts. I check the cam and lifters if they need replaced.

You would be surprised, providing the bearings have not been affected, after a this simple refurbish, done with the engine in the car, that it will last for the life of the ride.
Unfortunately, the life has already gone out of this ride. It has been her daily transportation to work and school for the last two years. We've owned it for 3.5 years. About a year ago she was hit in the right quarter, total insurance loss. I just pushed it out the best I could and she kept driving it, since it was still in good mechanical condition, no broken glass, axle/wheel unaffected and the door and hatch still opened and closed fine. After that happened, it was a $1000 bodyman's special give or take, so I don't think it's worth tearing into if in fact it could turn out to be a cracked cylinder head. Probably going to be too much time and money for me to invest in this one. Crazy question, but how long can it keep running in this condition before it finally gives up?
 

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I vote for a bad intake gasket. Common thing with those engines. What did the plugs look like? Any of them wet or look like they were steam cleaned compared to the others?

If you can replace the intake gasket yourself, it would be worth the trouble to look into it. It you would need to take it somewhere, forget it.

Mark
 

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No coolant in the oil, at least the dipstick looks normal.
Check the underside of the oil fill cap for melted ice cream looking stuff.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Mark,

I will look at the underside of the filler cap tomorrow. As far as the plugs go, they were all dry and looked normal except for one. I'm pretty sure it was #6, left side rear cylinder. That plug was all sort of a slight orange rust colored, I mean the electrode, the ceramic insulator as well as the body of the plug itself. If it is a leaking intake, that might be the reason for it running rough. The new plugs, wires, fuel filter, air filter and injector cleaner have had little effect. It idles and accelerates OK, just seems to be a slight miss through the entire RPM range.
 

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Mark,

I will look at the underside of the filler cap tomorrow. As far as the plugs go, they were all dry and looked normal except for one. I'm pretty sure it was #6, left side rear cylinder. That plug was all sort of a slight orange rust colored, I mean the electrode, the ceramic insulator as well as the body of the plug itself. If it is a leaking intake, that might be the reason for it running rough. The new plugs, wires, fuel filter, air filter and injector cleaner have had little effect. It idles and accelerates OK, just seems to be a slight miss through the entire RPM range.
Does the car have Dex-Cool in it that would turn the plug orange, or is it actually rust? Either way it sounds like it's leaking into that cylinder.

Sounds like an intake gasket problem to me. That's the same cylinder that filled up with antifreeze on the 3.8 in my Grand Prix. The car had been sitting for a couple weeks while we were on vacation and wouldn't turn over when we came back. Had to pull the plug out and crank it over a few times to blow the antifreeze out of it. I knew what the problem was because it had done it before... :(

Stick your finger in the oil fill hole and wipe around the inside of the valve cover too. Any creamy looking stuff on your finger and you know it's leaking antifreeze into the oil.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #11
No Dexcool, it has the standard green stuff in it. I checked the underside of the filler cap today, nothing. It has a long fill tube on it, so I don't think I can reach down into the valve cover, but I will wipe around inside the tube tomorrow and see if I can find this creamy stuff you are talking about. Is it possible to have a small enough leak that all the coolant leaking into the cylinder is burned up and none of it actually gets down into the oil?
 

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It has a long fill tube on it, so I don't think I can reach down into the valve cover, but I will wipe around inside the tube tomorrow and see if I can find this creamy stuff you are talking about. Is it possible to have a small enough leak that all the coolant leaking into the cylinder is burned up and none of it actually gets down into the oil?
Does the fill tube twist out so that you can get a finger on the underside of the valve cover? If it just started doing this the oil may not be contaminated enough to have the creamy gunk in it.

It would be possible to burn off/blow out the coolant getting into the cylinder while the engine is running, but it will leak into the cylinder with the car sitting overnight also. As long as you drive it every day you may be able to get away with not doing anything for a while but it will eventually get worse and get hydrolock. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrolock If the engine is off at the time, it won't turn over the next time you try to start it because the coolant doesn't compress. If the engine is running at the time, it'll make a mess... If it's smoking/steaming out the exhaust as bad as you say, it's only a matter of time.

Mark
 

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Unfortunately, the life has already gone out of this ride. It has been her daily transportation to work and school for the last two years. We've owned it for 3.5 years. About a year ago she was hit in the right quarter, total insurance loss. I just pushed it out the best I could and she kept driving it, since it was still in good mechanical condition, no broken glass, axle/wheel unaffected and the door and hatch still opened and closed fine. After that happened, it was a $1000 bodyman's special give or take, so I don't think it's worth tearing into if in fact it could turn out to be a cracked cylinder head. Probably going to be too much time and money for me to invest in this one. Crazy question, but how long can it keep running in this condition before it finally gives up?
You kind of sound like the thing is trashed and you are just wanting to get the last few miles out of it without spending any money on it. If this is in fact the case, I would dump some stop leak in it and hope for the best. We had an old crew car that started doing the same thing. It really wasn't worth anything so we just added a couple of cans to the radiator and got a few thousand more miles out of it before we gave it to the junk yard. If you are wanting to keep it, you don't want to use stop leak! It plugs up and is hard to get out. You will need to pull the head to see if you just need a gasket or do need another head.
 

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You kind of sound like the thing is trashed and you are just wanting to get the last few miles out of it without spending any money on it.
Is it that obvious? Well, you're right. I have owned quite a few Camaros over the years, sold some that I regret and have kept the best one which happened to be my first car which is the 67 I still own. Thought it would be kind of neat for my daughter's first car to also be a Camaro. It started out as a really straight car that needed a few minor mechanical repairs and a respray job, eventually. We talked about what we were going to do to fix it up, but never really had the chance. Within the first week of owning it, someone backed into the side of it in a parking lot. After that, she learned a very valuable lesson of wet roads and rear wheel drive cars going around corners, or trying to turn a corner. She ended up out of control and stitting in someone's back yard after taking out their fence!!! Next damage also involved a rain soaked road, but entirely not her fault when someone else lost control and destroyed the rear quarter. And if that wasn't enough it was just hit again about 6 weeks ago in the only panel that had not been damaged, the other rear quarter. There was a lot of work done on my part fixing things here and there that tore up and there are a lot of new components that are still usable, but I realize that this poor thing is just a parts car now, nothing more. If it was in better physical shape, I would'nt hesitate to tear into it and find out where the problem is, but in this case I think I'm going to call it quits!
 

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How well I know the feeling! My last of 6 kids has been driving for 2 years now. Trust me, I am glad I didn't have 7! One daughter had 3 of her first cars totalled....and they were legally parked.
 
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