Did the leak remedy cause damage?

January 1, 2009 | By Richard Prince


I have a 1998 Malibu with a 3.1-liter V6 with a blown head gasket. What would you recommend as the correct procedure to get all the water out of the engine? I am concerned that a week before the head gasket started leaking water into the oil pan I put a bottle of Stop Leak into the radiator. The thought of that silver stuff in my piston rings scares me. Although the car is 10 years old it only has 65k miles and I have a daughter that needs this car.

Great magazine and the thought of trying a water-borne paint system for my first attempt to paint a car is interesting.


I am not a big fan of “quick fix” cooling system leak remedies and your dilemma is one reason why. Aside from completely disassembling the engine, there is no practical way to ensure that the leak repair material you used isn’t in the piston ring lands, on bearing surfaces and so on.

After you take the cylinder heads off, which obviously is necessary in order to change the head gaskets, you can see into the cylinders and can get at least some idea whether the leak repair liquid has infiltrated into there. Clean out anything you see using clean, lint-free rags and solvent. Also, change the oil and oil filter a couple of times very soon after you get the engine running again to help eliminate any of the leak fix fluid that got out of the cooling system and into the engine.

Realistically, I don’t think you will have engine problems because of the use of the fluid but the only way to be entirely sure is to completely disassemble the engine.

Regarding your interest in taking a crack at using a water-borne paint system (November, pg. 9), this is feasible but you would need to learn the specifics and, as with any kind of paint, you are well advised to practice, practice, practice. You will need spray equipment specifically configured for water-borne paint and it is particularly important to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations concerning the temperature and humidity of your spray environment.