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Ruling is near on GM engine coolant

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http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article...3/1002/BUSINESS

BY JUSTIN HYDE

FREE PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU

May 23, 2006

A federal judge may soon rule whether General Motors Corp. will face a national class action accusing GM of selling millions of vehicles with a faulty coolant.

The suits stem from GM's use of Dex-Cool, a coolant it first introduced in its vehicles in 1995 and sold in more than 35 million cars and trucks between 1995 and 2004. According to GM, 14 federal and state lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed against GM over a variety of engine problems linked to Dex-Cool.

Customers have complained of problems ranging from small coolant leaks to complete radiator and engine failure. Court documents show that GM has received tens of thousands of repair requests related to Dex-Cool and engine gaskets in the affected models and considered recalls for some models.

The company has issued several technical bulletins to its dealers about cooling-related problems in the engines, but says it prefers to handle customer complaints on a case-by-case basis.

When GM introduced the orange-colored Dex-Cool, it said in owners manuals that Dex-Cool could last up to five years or 100,000 miles without being replaced, and later extended Dex-Cool's life to 150,000 miles. Dex-Cool uses a different set of chemicals to protect engine parts than traditional green-colored coolant, which requires more frequent replacement, and GM was the first U.S. automaker to use it.

Attorneys for the owners say that clause means GM should repair any Dex-Cool-related problems, even if they crop up outside the engine's typical 3-year or 36,000-mile engine warranty.

"What we're looking for is to have GM step up and honor its warranty obligation," said Eric Gibbs, a San Francisco attorney and one of the lead lawyers for the owners. "There's a significant public interest in this problem, no question about that."

GM claims that the owners manual clause was not a warranty, but a service interval. In its court filings, the automaker says Dex-Cool "has performed without problems in the vast majority of GM vehicles."

"The recent motion to certify a class action is unfortunate," said GM spokeswoman Geri Lama, "and the situation with our customers has been grossly overstated through unsubstantiated allegations in statements which have not been proven in court and will be vigorously defended."

Six of the federal lawsuits have been consolidated in a federal court in East St. Louis, Ill. U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy could rule at any time whether the cases, which have about 100 named plaintiffs, should be granted class-action status, meaning they could represent millions of former and current GM owners.

Three similar lawsuits has been filed in Canada, while a state lawsuit in Missouri has already won class-action status, a decision GM is appealing.

The troubles blamed on Dex-Cool range from leaking coolant to blown engines, and often include failed intake manifold gaskets, pieces that rest between the engine block and the air intake to prevent coolant and oil from leaking. Replacing a gasket usually runs about $700, but a bad gasket can cause enough damage that the engine has to be replaced.

Mixing Dex-Cool with another coolant can cause other problems, and GM doesn't recommend using other coolants in Dex-Cool engines, although some mechanics do swap coolants.

About 110 complaints of coolant leaks in the GM vehicles targeted by the lawsuit have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to a Free Press review. The agency rejected a call for a defect investigation in 2002, saying the problems weren't safety related and was therefore outside its purview.

Many of the complaints say the problems appear to begin around 60,000 miles, well beyond the engine's warranty but sooner than many customers believe they should have problems with their cooling systems. A few have been reported as early as 20,000 miles.

Mark Reynolds, a radiator repair shop owner in San Carlos, Calif., says he sees one or two GM vehicles a week with Dex-Cool problems. A typical repair requires flushing the cooling system and in some cases taking the radiator apart.

"It's a shame -- vehicles in their fourth or fifth year with this awful, gooey mud attacking the top of the radiator cap and fouling up the radiator," he said.

GM has argued against certifying the lawsuit as a class action, noting that state courts in Michigan and California have already turned down similar lawsuits. It contends that the plaintiffs want to represent past and present owners who don't have any problems, and that they "complain of just about everything that can go wrong with a vehicle, attributing every bit of it to Dex-Cool."

Lama said if a GM customer has a problem beyond the warranty, GM has a process for dealing with it through its dealers.

"The first priority of General Motors and its dealers is helping our customers," Lama said.

Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or jhyde@freepress.com.

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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The scum sucking lawyers are at it again. "Please pay my client because they were too stupid to replace their coolant."

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The scum sucking lawyers are at it again. "Please pay my client because they were too stupid to replace their coolant."

Exactly. I've always replaced coolant at 50k myself. Green or Dex Cool. When I changed my Dexcool in my 03 S-10 at 50k, it was still pretty and red with no signs of any problems. I changed it anyways. My truck is now at 104k and going up daily. I checked the coolant the other day and it looks fine.

If more people would read their owners manual and just learn the basics, I reckon about 90 percent of the Dex Cool problems wouldnt happen.

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Exactly. I've always replaced coolant at 50k myself. Green or Dex Cool. When I changed my Dexcool in my 03 S-10 at 50k, it was still pretty and red with no signs of any problems. I changed it anyways. My truck is now at 104k and going up daily. I checked the coolant the other day and it looks fine.

If more people would read their owners manual and just learn the basics, I reckon about 90 percent of the Dex Cool problems wouldnt happen.

they tell us at the dealership to tell people the dexicool is good for 5 years or 150k miles...

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The troubles blamed on Dex-Cool range from leaking coolant to blown engines, and often include failed intake manifold gaskets, pieces that rest between the engine block and the air intake to prevent coolant and oil from leaking.

Since when is a bad gasket the problem of Dex-Cool?

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Since when is a bad gasket the problem of Dex-Cool?

... sounds like those engines had more then 40k miles on them...

my toyota did all of these things left me on the side of the road for 5 hours and cost over 1500$ to fix the engine... do you see me in line to sue? :stupid:

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they tell us at the dealership to tell people the dexicool is good for 5 years or 150k miles...

A good buddy of mine though that is a GM Tech told me to change it around 50 to 75K miles. Reason being if for some reason your forgot to keep the fluid level at the proper level or air got into the cooling system, it could cause the DexCool to sludge. He said however changing it at 50k to 75k was the safest thign to do with it.

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My 95 S-10 had terrible problems with the cooling system. Head gasket replacement, bad water pump, cracked radiator, overheated several times. I changed the coolant repeatedly due to sludging, I flushed the thing out probably a dozen times in the 8 years I owned it, including the work that was done. When I traded it, it was well on the way to needing another head gasket done. By this time I had also accumulated about 180k miles and chalked the problems up to age. My mechanic even recommened that I switch to green coolant, but I told him Dex-Cool was what it came with, Dex-Cool was what it will keep. It was a great truck other than the cooling system problems, so I really don't hold anything against GM.

Edited by thedriver

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Those "magic little tabs" you can buy at Walmart. They simply seal any tiny seepage that may happen anywhere in the system. If they are used as directed they work effectively. They are not however intended to be placed into the overflow tank. Rather, they are to be placed directly into one of the radiator hoses. Lots of people have placed them in the overflow tanks which has the effect of clogging the hoses back to the radiator - not good.

If GM is guilty of anything, they are guilty of not communiticating what they were changing about the coolant and why. Most people including MANY MANY professional mechanics I know (not do-it-yourselfers) are ignorant about coolant and tried to use the methods and practices they used with the old, green, change it every year coolant. These approaches do not work with contemporary engines and the technologies used to build them. On top of this, most often the "sludging" people have referred to with respect to Dexcool has been the result of mixing the old green stuff in with Dexcool. Again, not good.

Many things are to blame here, not just the coolant.

The coolant itself is nasty stuff. When I was still working at the dealership we noticed it liked to eat radiator hoses on cetain vehicles.

The gaskets are another issue. I don't know if they are made of Silly Putty or what but they just don't have the look, feel and performance of quality gaskets like those from Mr. Gasket or Fel-Pro.

Also, GM has told us we are supposed to take these magic little tabs we are supposed to crush up and put in the cooling system to solve the leaking issues. All I have noticed they have done is dye the overflow bottle orange and clog the radiator.

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Um, I'm all for this case. GM isn't backing anybody with similar problems. I blew a intake manifold gasket at only 35,000 miles.. replaced it.. and then 15,000 miles later I spun a bearing only to later find out that it's because coolant got into the oil (because of the previously blown gasket) and seized the bearing. GM said they are not responsible.

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All right, I've done this once before, but if you mix Dex-cool antifreeze with another antifreeze, it turns to gray play-doh (essentially) and you're screwed. Now the reason (so I've been told by many people in the repair industry) that the reason that GM went to Dex-Cool is because a majority of their vehicles had lots of aluminum components in the cooling system, the radiator core, heater core, heads, blocks, etc were all, or at least partly aluminum and that the traditional (green) coolant caused too many corrosion problems, therefore they changed formulations on the coolant and dyed it orange (or red, or pink, or whatever shade of color-blind you are) and called it Dex-Cool. I normally don't recommend coolant swapping at all, if that's what it came with, put it back in there because obviously it was put there for a reason OTHER than "it looks purdy". I backflushed and refilled the coolant system in my Impala at 100,000-miles and it wasn't sludged or anything at all. Another thing that people have to look at is the quality of water that they're mixing with the coolant. Distilled water is best simply because its been heavily filtered and purified to the best of the bottler's ability to remove chemicals and minerals that can be found in regular tap water, which can reduce Dex-Cool's ability to protect and cause it to sludge.

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Hmm... The 97 Achieva had all sorts of coolant-related problems before the engine finally caught fire...

I'll be bringing this to my parents' attention.

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Hmm... The 97 Achieva had all sorts of coolant-related problems before the engine finally caught fire...

I'll be bringing this to my parents' attention.

You do that. I'll be happy to point out my '97 STS is STILL running without any coolant problems after 122K miles. Somehow it hasn't caught fire yet either. Maybe we'll see each other in court testifying.

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It's the same stuff you can buy at Walmart, specifically "Bar's Leaks Gold" or something close. Supplied by the same company to GM.

The magic tabs we recieved were straight from GM. They told us we were to grind them to a fine powder and pour the powder into the top of the radiator with the engine running to help circulate the stuff through the system. I've used the Wal-Mart ones before to fix leaks on my own 3800 in my Delta 88 and they have worked just fine. I don't know if GM uses a different formula for their tabs or what, but they don't seem to work as advertised.

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You do that. I'll be happy to point out my '97 STS is STILL running without any coolant problems after 122K miles. Somehow it hasn't caught fire yet either.  Maybe we'll see each other in court testifying.

Then again it could be the fault of the previous owner not changing the coolant before we got the car at 115k. The car had various leaks over the course of its next 40-50k miles and finally combusted... externally.

I'm not saying screw GM... But my parents could use whatever compensation they may be able to get out of this lawsuit, if it's ruled in the class's favor.

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Large corporations are paralyzed to admit problems or mistakes because someone will sue. NO vehicle is perfect, and with forensic auditing these days, problems or even trends can be spotted easily.

I would have to suggest that the spottiness of this "problem" has to be related to something other than the coolant itself or the gaskets. Why is it that one Venture will go 100k miles with no problems, yet another require two gaskets in the same time frame? And I do know of customers putting in the green anti-freeze, rather than Dex-Cool.

I doubt this can be proved in Court. How can someone prove their vehicle was never tampered with, never had green fluid put in it or some other contaminant. Impossible.

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This is why it's tough to prove these kinds of things thankfully.

Large corporations are paralyzed to admit problems or mistakes because someone will sue.  NO vehicle is perfect, and with forensic auditing these days, problems or even trends can be spotted easily.

  I would have to suggest that the spottiness of this "problem" has to be related to something other than the coolant itself or the gaskets.  Why is it that one Venture will go 100k miles with no problems, yet another require two gaskets in the same time frame?  And I do know of customers putting in the green anti-freeze, rather than Dex-Cool.

  I doubt this can be proved in Court.  How can someone prove their vehicle was never tampered with, never had green fluid put in it or some other contaminant.  Impossible.

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Lack of maintenance is the problem , not bad chemistry , Some BLOODSUCKING lawywers are trying to get rich . When the tech says you need intake gaskets , do them , it is really a low cost of ownership considering that the plugs and wires are 100k items and most gm stuff can go 20k miles without an oil change , haha , seen it just the other day .....................

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Lack of maintenance is the problem , not bad chemistry , Some BLOODSUCKING lawywers are trying to get rich . When the tech says you need intake gaskets , do them , it is really a low cost of ownership considering that the plugs and wires are 100k items and most gm stuff can go 20k miles without an oil change , haha , seen it just the other day .....................

Read my earlier post, dude.. No intake gasket should go bad at 35k miles. No motor should spin a bearing at 50k because of the earlier gasket problem/coolant leakage into oil.

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I can't speak to the intake gasket issue but I can't see how GM is responsible for the spun bearing. The dealer should have been aware of the potential for coolant to be in the oil and changed it. Sue them.

Read my earlier post, dude.. No intake gasket should go bad at 35k miles. No motor should spin a bearing at 50k because of the earlier gasket problem/coolant leakage into oil.

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