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Eric, Automotive Repair Shop Manager
Category: Saturn
Satisfied Customers: 32589
Experience:  20+ yrs. experience as repair shop manager and technician.
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Saturn Vue XE: I have a Saturn 2003 Vue with 78,000 miles on

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I have a Saturn 2003 Vue with 78,000 miles on it. I was told that the head gasket is leaking antifreeze and needs repaired for about $2500. Is it worth getting repaired since it's probably only worth $3,500-$4,000 for trade in? If I get it fixed how long will it last, do dealers give any warranties on the work, and are there other items that may need replaced or damaged while replacing the head gaasket? If I keep adding coolant when it's low, is it safe to drive and for how long? Day? Months? Should I be looking for a new or new SUV? A dealer would be doing the repairs. Thanks for any help you can offer. Jack Pittsburgh, PA


Ok, you have several questions in here, so I wanted to let you know that I am typing up an answer to all of them and will take a few minutes, so please be patient
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ok. Thanks.


Ok, there is one question you did not ask that we should address first. That is the quote for repair cost.

Labor to replace the headgaskets is 13.8 hours. most shops are in the $80 to $100 per hour range. so labor will be $1104 to $1380. Parts, including the headgasket, coolant, oil, oil filter, intake gasket, throttle body gasket, and egr gasket will run about $280.

So total should be $1384 to $1660.

So first, you need to find a shop that will do it for this price as that is all it should cost you.

At that price, the repair is worth doing, provided the rest of the engine, transmission, suspension, interior, exterior, tires, etc are all in good condition, which only you can answer. If there are other major issues needing to be addressed, then I would look at trading it in.

most shops give a 12month/12,000 mile warranty on this repair.

Provided maintenance is kept up, you dont drive it if it shows running hot, the repair should last you at least 80,000 to 150,000 miles.

It depends on the severity of the headgasket leak and where it is leaking into as to how long you can drive it by just adding coolant. If the coolant is getting into the oil, it could be only days as the coolant washes out the oil from the engine bearings and will cause the engine to seize.

If oil is going straight out the exhaust, you may have a couple of weeks of driving before the engine simply gets too hot one time and seizes.

if I missed anything or you have additional questions on this let me know

If you need more help, please use the Reply to Expert button. If you do not require further assistance, at this time please rate my service so I receive credit for my time and services. Thank you

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your help so far. Here's some additional information you wanted.


The $2500 repair estimate also includes replacing the serpentine belt, which apparently should be changed at 60,000 miles -it wasn't. Does this seem reasonable to do at this time and is the cost reasonable?


According to the tech the leak is only external right now not internal. It seams to leaking at the back of the manifold. The tech also indicated that we should/will be getting coolant on the floor inside the passenger compartment. Does this make a difference on how long we can safely drive the vehicle?


We just had a front wheel bearing and a rear wheel bearing repaired for about $925 plus tax. That's another reason we are looking to see if it's worth putting more money into it or to take the $1000 loss and look for something else?
Look forward for you help and answer.



Ok, I just to need to make sure of one thing.

Is it the serpentine belt(runs alternator, compressor, power steering), or is it the timing belt that runs the engine(connects the camshaft to the crankshaft)?

There is a big difference between the two, so I want to make sure

I just re-read your last post.

you didnt mention anything about coolant on the floorboard in the first post. We may need to back up a bit on the diagnosis.

If you turn on the defrost and to heat, do you get any misting out the defrost vent onto the inside of the windshield?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Eric,


The $2500 does include the installation of a new timing belt with the new head gasket.


We do not have any coolant on the floorboards at this time. Acording to my wife who ususually drives the Vue, some misting does occur on the windshield when it's first turned on. She thought this was due to the differences in temerature from the outside to inside of the vehicle. Also to get rid of the mist she would turn on the AC or open the windows.


Hope this helps you out.--Jack


Ok, time for another shop to check this coolant leak as it is not the headgasket. A headgasket leak cannot possibly cause the floorboard to get wet at anytime, so I am baffled by him telling you that it would at some point.

The misting your wife experienced may be due to a heater core leak. And a heater core leak will leak out from a couple of places - either onto the floorboard or from condensation drain on the firewall in the engine compartment.

If it is the heater core, the dash comes out to access and replace. It is 8hrs labor and $180 in parts. Total about $980

timing belt is 4.6 hours labor and $150 in parts. So total about $610. This would bring the total to $1994 to $2270 IF the headgasket is indeed leaking.

To be honest, due to the shop's comment about coolant leaking into the floorboard at some point, which can ONLY occur if heater core is leaking, I am very concerned that the coolant leak is being misdiagnosed and replacing the headgasket will be a waste of money.

You most definitely need to have another shop perform a cooling system pressure test to determine the leak.

I know this may set you back on making a decision on whether to repair or not, but there is too much doubt at this point on whether the headgasket is leaking or not.

If it turns out it is the heater core and you want to delay the repair until say winter when you need it, you can have a shop bypass the heater core by removing the hoses to the heater core at the firewall and using an end to end connector to join them so the coolant still is flowing. This would run you about $40-$50
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I apologize for not respnding sooner to you, but I don't check my email very often. As per your recommendation I will get the coolant system pressure test at another GM dealer and see what they have to say. After that I may have additional questions. Thank you so much for your help I greatly appreciate.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello Eric,

I went to another shop and had a pressure tesst done on the cooling system. They add dye and confirmed that the head gasket was leaking. I did find out that in the original shops quote of $2500, it included new headgasket, new water pump and timing belt. Does this make the $2500 price more reasonable. Also, while repairing the head gasket are there any other parts that might be needed or commonly damaged while trying to do the repair that would increase the cost?



the timing belt and water pump add about $750 to the repair, so that should put it around $2100 to $2450 parts and labor, so more inline with their estimate

the only other potential damage would be warped heads, and the cost for machining the heads would be about $250