SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 6, 2013

Head gasket sealer should be used only as a temporary fix

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I’m writing to you again about the 2003 Saab 9-5 turbo. Just found out that it’s leaking antifreeze. After three days in the shop, I was told it’s leaking from the head gasket. My question is, do any of the head gasket repair kits work? It seems to be a small leak right now, and I know it will get worse.

A: There are a few very good products available that are labeled as “head gasket sealer.” My favorite is the Blue Devil brand, which is available at automotive parts stores. This be used as a temporary fix only. The head gaskets should be replaced, as well as the head bolts, after the heads are machined. Now, a little-known secret is that you can go to the drugstore and pick up a bottle of sodium silicate, which is known as liquid glass. This compound will flow into the coolant system and fill in the aluminum cylinder head gaps due to the higher temperature. The sodium silicate costs around half the price of the automotive products. The difference is that some of the automotive products come with a manufacturer’s guarantee; the sodium silicate does not have a warranty for head gasket failure repair. Postponing the proper repair of head gasket replacement may cause the coolant to get into the oil, which would cause a catastrophic failure.

Q: I purchased a 2011 Honda Odyssey van to go to Florida. The last trip coming home was rough, and as a result, we plan on flying to Florida. The van will just be an around-the-town vehicle. My question is, when will I need to change the oil? Honda says to use synthetic oil every 6,000 miles. Also, when do I flush everything that is in radiator, transmission, etc.? I estimate I’ll be driving approximately 4,000 to 6,000 miles a year.

A: The van will now be used around town more than on the highway, which means you are putting the vehicle through more torturous use. I would recommend an oil change at least twice a year. If your owner’s manual calls for synthetic oil, well, you have to use it in order to stay in compliance for warranty issues. Radiator and transmission flushes should be performed at either three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Further, I recommend having the tires rotated every six months in order to get the most out of your tires. Two fluids that should be checked for water content and cleanliness are the power steering fluid and the brake fluid. The Honda Odyssey has a great reputation, and it should give you years of trouble-free miles.

Car Care Tip: Out of sight and out of mind is where your car’s spare tire lives. However, the day will come when you will need to put it into service. Some cars, but not all, have tire pressure monitors in the spare tire. When having your car serviced at your local auto repair facility, ask to have your spare tire’s pressure checked.

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Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to scanauto@aol.com.