We have an 85 Caprice that was intermittently loosing coolant. The garage diagnosed a failed head gasket even though there was no evidence of bad compression or exhaust gases in the radiator. After $1300 to replace the head gaskets, the coolant continued to disappear without a trace.
One day, my daughter came in complaining about SIGNIFICANT hesitation and surging idle. After removing the air cleaner, I noticed that the surging idle went away as I obstructed air flow into the throttle body. This lead me to start looking for a vacuum leak. Low and behold, when I pulled the vacuum hose off the thermal vacuum switch (TVS) mounted on the intake manifold just above the water pump and below the thermostat gooseneck, I found fresh coolant. The TVS had failed and the engine was sucking coolant right into the throttle body!
Because of the age of the vehicle, I left the hose off the TVS and plugged it. Problem solved! The car's been running like a champ ever since. No hesitation, no surging idle and no more coolant leak.
Hey Robert==It varies with the area of the country you live in. Call a couple of local garages and they will give you an estimate. GoodluckJoe
If a headgasket goes chances are your engine is shot. You can spend around $1000 to have it replaced and the engine flushed but if the coolant has gotten into the crankcase (mixed with the oil) your bearing will have already suffered terminal damage. Head gaskets "blow" in different ways but one symptom is obvious, a trail of very white smoke.
I had a head gasket go on my Caprice at 132,000 miles even with excellent care. I replaced the engine with a target motor. It is a weakness in Chevy engines. My recommendation... buy a Toyoto or Lexus.
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