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Chevy Lumina Engine Problems?

Q. I was reading your site for the first time (excellent job), and I would like to ask a question. I have a 1995 Chevy Lumina 3.1 liter engine. I bought the car used at 27,000 miles. At 50,000 miles, I had major service work done when antifreeze was found to be leaking into the oil.

Chevy Lumina Engine Problems?

They replaced the heads, head gaskets, and water pump (which had failed, causing overheating which is why I brought the car in for service). Fortunately the car was under an extended warranty at the time, and the $2000.00 bill was covered.

Now it is 18 months later, and the same thing has happened again - this time out of warranty. The local shop says it will cost about $1200 to replace the heads again. I explained to them that this had happened previously, and that I was very nervous about fixing a car that seemed to be developing a serious recurring problem. He suggested that the problem may have been caused by a blockage in the radiator (which was not replaced previously), to prevent this from happening again (Another $200.00 or so).

After speaking with the mechanic, I remembered that about 2 months prior to the first leak/problem I had the cooling system flushed. Given that, I have to wonder if he might be right. My question is does the service shops suggestion about the radiator make sense? I'm trying to determine whether or not to fix the car (ironically I just paid it off the month before).

I don't want this problem to happen every 12-18 months, and I worry about possible damage done to the engine that may not show up now... but seriously affect the life of the car. I would really appreciate your comments on my situation. The car actually runs very well (except if uses coolant), even with the problem. Since it has been diagnosed again I have parked it to prevent any further damage.

Thank you very much for your time,
Rolla, Missouri

BTW: It's my understanding from reading online that the 3.1 liter engine is basically an overbored chevy engine fitted with aluminum heads. Are these engines/heads especially prone to this problem... or am I just having some bad luck?

A. In my shop I haven't seen one do this. The radiator could be clogged and can be tested for such. I would look closely at the electric cooling fans to make sure they are working. We do see a lot of intake manifold gaskets leaking on all GM engines due to cast iron blocks and aluminum heads, different rate of expansion and contraction. I would also consider selling it after it's repaired just in case it happens again.

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