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Oil + coolant leak? 2003 Cadillac CTS, working the $6,000 issue & cost with GM & dealers

Cadillac CTS The mid-sized sedan that has grown the popularity of the Cadillac brand with it's low price and sleek styling

Oil + coolant leak? 2003 Cadillac CTS, working the $6,000 issue & cost with GM & dealers

Old 08-10-2007, 01:20 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 46
Default Oil + coolant leak? 2003 Cadillac CTS, working the $6,000 issue & cost with GM & dealers

I went through the 12 pages of CTS items and did not find anything related - so here goes.

I bought my CTS new at the end of 2003. I have kept it maintained according to the schedules provided by GM. It gets serviced at the Cadillac dealership where I purchased the car. I have a little under 56,000 miles on the car - and use it for commuting 34 miles round trip - mostly freeway miles during the week. It gets out on weekend drives - again, mostly freeway miles.

Other than the normal stuff we all see (the steering bolt recall, windshield wiper repacement and other expected items), it really has been pretty reliable.

3 weeks ago, the power steering unit started making noise, so I took it in - apparently, there's a seep - not a leak requiring replacement ($800), but enough of a seep where enough fluid drained so it needed "topping off". That noise went away.

Here's the problem:
Yesterday at the office, I started up and heard a "ticking" noise that would speed up when I accelerated... It was about time for an oil change, so figured I'd make the appointment soon. I got home, no big deal, parked in the garage. After dinner, my wife was on the driveway... and came in the house and asked me if I had an oil leak... I went out to the driveway and sure enough, there is an oil drip about every 4 feet leading into the garage.

I opened the garage door and discovered a couple of puddles of brown liquid on the left side. The drips were from several places from the chassis. Since there was little I could do about it then, I decided that I would drive into the dealer the next morning. They are about 2 miles from my house, so no big deal.

The next morning, the puddles were a little larger than the night before, but not that much larger. I started up - no ticking sound. I got about 3/4 of a mile from home and while coasting to a stop light, the Nav/audio LCD screen displayed the following error message: "Low Oil Pressure - Stop Engine Now". Anyway, I got to the dealer, they said I had NOT done anymore damage by continuing to drive (since they are so close).

The problem is - apparently - the oil pump and coolant pump are adjacent to each other - from the description, it sounds like they are colocated in the same housing. There was a break in the wall between them - so there is oil in the cooling system and a bit of coolant in the oil system. That breach between the systems was the source of the brown liquid on my garage floor. A mixture of oil and coolant.

Resolution is to:
1) Flush the cooling system 2x to get rid of any oil that may be in there.
2) Clean out the oil path.
3) Replace all the hoses associated with the cooling system because the introduction of the oil will cause them to deteriorate.
4) Replace the Oil pump - coolant pump assembly.
5) Add new coolant.
6) Add new oil.

The estimated cost = $5,000 (parts and labor)

Does this sound reasonable?

The dealer claims he's not seen this issue before - there are no service bulletins on it. I asked what the cause could be - he said "possibly a spike in oil pressure" but could (or would) not tell me how that spike in oil pressure would happen. I checked the TSB lists at http://www.lemonlawspecialists.com/t..._cts_2003.html (and 2004) and could find nothing in the TSB titles that comes close to this.

Thank you in advance for any insight anyone can offer on this. Apologies for the long post, but I wanted to be thorough.



MOD Edit
title: Oil + coolant leak? 2003 Cadillac CTS, working the issues & cost with GM & dealers

note: this thread takes one car, a 2003 CTS through what seemed a minor leak and goes
through a long ordeal. The cost reaches almost $6,000 in repairs, an uncooperative
Cadillac dealer, a listening ear at GM, a $2,900 "coupon" from GM, and finally a purchase of
a second car, a 2008 CTS.

Old 08-10-2007, 02:08 PM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 507
Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

Is it possible the oil cooler is what they are telling you?
It is located in under the intake in the coolant passage.
I have seen them rupture (several) and it makes a nasty mess out of the cooling system.
The water pump and oil pump are not interconnected in any way and the engine block is what separates them from each other.

$5000 seems a bit high, but it really is a nasty job.
There are 2 ways to approach it. Clean everything out the best you can, but that almost always new gets it all.
Or replace every part that is contaminated, very expensive but its fixed the first time.

We quote high if there may be unkowns that will drive the cost up.
I'd rather tell you $5k and only charge $4k than the other way around.
Old 08-10-2007, 02:39 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 53
Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

have a little under 56,000 miles on the car...

Wow, sounds like you're just outside the warranty, and you have a good relationship with the dealer. Will they try to getGM to cover it?
Old 08-10-2007, 03:18 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 46
Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

For FLCaddytech:
My Service Advisor was explaining to me the steps - yes, it does sound pretty nasty. Your confirmation helps a bit with the financial pain. It is entirely possible that what you describe with the oil cooler is what it is. That you have been involved with this "several times" is a bit disconcerting - especially if there's no TSB out on this rather pricey repair. Frankly, it sounds like this design is not a good way to go - but we are stuck with it. I am going with the "fix it right the first time" method. Though it seems to me this *could* happen again. Do you know what could cause this or perhaps suggest what I might do to prevent a recurrence? On that "$5000 seems a bit high", would it make any difference if I told you I was in the San Francisco Bay Area? Everything seems to be a bit more expensive here - though I certainly appreciate that the higher quote and the lower actual is possible and the $5k estimate is not *that* far out of line (just "on the high side") : ( Thank you so much for your prompt response.

For jasper60103:
I bought my 1984 El Camino and 1994 Camaro from the Chevy dealer that this Cadillac dealer absorbed - and of course, this 2003 CTS. I told my Service Advisor that $5,000 just coming off warranty was a bit steep - he's "looking into it". That said, the car's done very nicely up until now so if I average it all out, it *really* isn't *that* bad, I guess - and certainly cheaper than buying a new car... but I know this is a combination of the Dealer and GM/Cadillac, so depending on what the final bill comes out to be will depend on what sort of complaint I file and where it goes...

Old 08-13-2007, 11:01 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 46
Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

After a few phone calls, I got my car back today. The service department wanted to keep it until 9am tomorrow. When I asked him what the difference would be between 5pm today and 9am tomorrow, the advisor said, "Um... Nothing, I guess"...

Note on the invoice detail (misspellings and all):



blah blah... two pages of detailed parts and labor lists later,

Total labor: $2,351.00
Total Parts: $2,622.36

Taxes, and everything else (and a WHOPPING $54.13 discount): $5,153.35.

Assuming the car was worked on for ALL eight hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - which we can probably agree was not the case (take out three 1 hour lunches, six 15 minute breaks) - and let use round numbers just to make things easy: Labor @ $2,400 divided by 24 hours is $100 per hour.

Let me ask the question again, is this reasonable?

The other question I asked my Advisor is, "What caused this to happen?"
He said, "Most probably a spike in oil pressure."
Me, "What could cause a spike in oil pressure like that?"
Him, "I don't know."
Me, "Then why did you throw out that answer?"
Him, "I don't know."
Me, "How can I prevent this from happening again? How should I change my driving habits?"
Him, "I don't know."
Me, "So this could happen again in 3 months and you can't tell me how to prevent it?"
Him, "Um, not really. But I did apply a $50 discount."
Me, "I've purchased multiple cars from what makes up this current dealership. I bring my cars here for service. You tell me you don't know why something happened to the current car and you can't tell me how I might prevent it in the future and you give a me a 1% discount off an invoice over $5,000. And I'm supposed to be OK with that? And you can let that pass your grin test?"
Him, "Um, it is what could find."
Me, "Would you put up with this if you were in my shoes?"
Him, "Uh, I don't know."

At this point, the cashier line is getting long - and I did not think it appropriate to hold up the other customers... I am writing the letter to the dealer and GM over the next week or so - I will not be rushed. We'll see how badly GM wants to keep me as a customer. This $5,000 is just enough to be irritating - but not enough to get a new car. I had a 1975 Camaro (got rid of it when it got to 240,000 miles), a 1984 El Camino (got rid of it at 280,000 miles), a 1994 Camaro (still have it - has 40,000 miles on it), and this 2003 CTS (with just under 56,000 miles). So far, the CTS has had more problems than the other cars combined.

Stay tuned - more to follow...
Old 11-06-2007, 05:40 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

So there is an end and a beginning...

Obviously the dealer was not going to do anything so I contacted Cadillac Customer care via email. It took a couple of weeks, but I was fianlly contacted. Short version: General Motors sent me a "coupon" for $2,900 that can be used on the purchase of my next GM vehicle. The end.

New beginning: On Monday, I backed out of my garage and started my normal drive to work. About halfway there, my wife calls...

"Your car is dripping something... I think it is oil."

I got off at the next freeway exit, turned around and headed for the dealer. No warning lights, no different sounds, nothing out of the ordinary. I get to the dealer and the service advisor (the same guy who ran with the oil/coolant leak that started this thread) confirms there is some sort of leak... Later, I get the call to authorize the charges... labor and the part (a gear that will be in Tuesday - today)... $1,800 is the estimate.

So... let's recap... In 4 years and 56,000 miles:
Warranty/safety recall of the power steering bolt (under warranty).
Replaced the moonroof switch (under warranty).
Replaced the Radio/Nav System 3x (under warranty).
Repaired the catastrophic failure of the oil leak and subsequent coolant system contamination.
Repairing the power steering mechanism due to failure of a gear.

I did not have anywhere near the number of problems on my 1975 Camaro (200K miles - it was still running great when I sold it), 1984 El Camino (200K miles - it was still running great when I sold it), 1994 Camaro (55,000 miles - my son still has it and it runs great).

I was actually considering giving this CTS to my son when he graduates college - but I cannot trust it. I was planning on getting a 2008 CTS - but just can't get there anymore. And if Cadillac is supposed to be the "top of the line", how much confidence can I have in the rest of the GM products? The "coupon" has no value at this point. Am I missing something or is my lack of confidence in Cadillac justified? I had NEVER considered getting a foreign-badged car - but this CTS is now making me look.
Old 11-06-2007, 07:12 PM
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Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

What a horror story. Dude, the other guys are beating the crap out of American cars because of this.Lexus, BMW MB make you feel like they want you at their dealerships. I don't always blame the mechanics, but I don't trust the service writers too much. Remember this is where the dealerships make their money, IMO.

The above is written because of my own experiences and is not meant to generalize.

I would also look at your sticker to see if you have a Monday or Friday car. That might be urban myth, but I'm curious.

Since you have last posted in August, we have a new tech on board, Slowroll. His opinions and knowledge are impressive. If he dosen't see this post soon send him a pm and ask him to look here, and if he wouldn't mind, give an opinion. That goes for any other GM guys on board also.

Good luck.
Old 11-06-2007, 07:47 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 46
Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

G.A.R.Y. (and anyone else caring to read this),

Thanks... At this point, I don't know what I'll be doing. I have had to call the service advisor twice today - since he did he not call me this morning when he said he would, I called and left a message at 1pm, then called again at 4:30pm. After being placed on hold for WAY too long (the first time the receptionist finallly came back and said she would take a message so I didn't need to wait any longer), he finally picked up (on my second call after I waited for a while) and told me my car would not be ready today as promised and they would need to keep it over night - and he would call me by 11am.

"How long have you known this?"
"I need to check."
"Huh? You mean you don't know how long ago you could have called me to tell me that my car would not be ready today as you promised and I had to call you twice?"
"That's correct."
"Do you understand what you just said and agreed to?"
"Yes - sounds kind of strange, I know."
"Um, yeah - strange - whatever - is the estimate the same?"
"Yes sir, it is."
"So you have either made no effort to reduce it or have no idea you were supposed to attempt to reduce it or did not care enough to even think about it."
"Uh - I guess that's correct."
"You guess that's correct? Really? Do you understand that you are single handedly pushing a customer away from your employer's dealership, service area and General Motors? Do you like it when your customers get angry?"
"Um... No - I guess - I didn't - I guess I need to check into that."
"Check into what? You are not providing... never mind - just please call me before 11am tomorrow - is that OK? I'm trying to be reasonable. Is 11am reasonable to you?"
"Yes - I will call you before 11am tomorrow - I'm sorry for these probl..." and I hung up on him.

Really and truly, I am not an unreasonable person. I am making every effort to stay on this side of that line. (Because I know I can be an a-hole when I want to be - and I have not even gotten close with this series of events.)

I am also REALLY trying to convince myself that 1 out of 4 cars isn't bad and I need to buy Red-White-Blue as I always have - but at the "Cadillac level" I did not think this was supposed be happening. Poor quality workmanship, poor dealer service. And this is supposed to be a "Platinum" Cadillac property.
Old 11-06-2007, 09:12 PM
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Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

Sorry to hear of your experence. I tend to wonder what your dealer managment was thinking. Dealers are independent operators who's poor performace can hurt the manufacturer. I don't know enough about the twin leak condition,but I do question the the whole thing. I can 't think of anything that won't make things worse, in the case of your opinion of Cadillac. You story however will have its impact on present and future buyers considering aquiring a Cadillac. I would suggest consider giving Cadillac another try , but only if you have a different dealer which you do business with in your area. Also contact dealer principle (the owner) and nobody else, its his money everyone else is playing with. If he is some how not availible I'm sure Cadillac customer assist. can find him. Share your story and tell him it's on the net. Ask him IF HE and HIS DEALERSHIP MINDS BE PART OF THE FINAL POST of this story. He may choose to become involved to regain your trust.Do not use it as a threat that can get you in trouble! If he does not seem to care, or blows you off. Share that info to protect other members in the future. He has nobody to blame but himself if business drops off because of it. SLOWROLL
Old 11-06-2007, 10:19 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Default RE: Oil + coolant leak?

Slowroll (and others),

Thank you for reading and following the saga. Your escalation suggestion (dealer management - then to Cadillac Customer Care) is a good idea for this episode. The first time (with the oil/coolant debacle), I went to straight to Cadillac Customer Care. My take is that the dealer service merely repairs - which I understand... the dealer does not design, engineer or manufacture - the dealer is the last in the process and does the fix/replace when things don't do what they are supposed to do.

This time around, however, the service advisor is being less than forthcoming (not meeting phone commitments, among other things) and that is something locally controlled.

Honestly, I am not *quite* there, but I am nearly to the point of the ONLY thing that might find me in a new Caddy is if they GIVE me a car - and I fairly certain that won't happen... and I feel bad about that - it is as though I can be bought, and that is not how I operate. Frankly, I really don't know what I want out of this anymore - like I said, the $2,900 coupon from Cadillac has no meaning. And I would prefer to keep the taxes local to my town. Ford/Mercury, Honda, BMW, Porsche, VW, Toyota, Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep, Jaguar, LandRover, Mercedes Benz, Saab - we've got 'em all... We also have exotics (Ferrari, Aston-Martin, Bently, Mazerati, etc, but those are more than I want to spend).

Actually, I do know what I want - a reliable car I can trust to give my son. Up until 3 months ago, I thought it was this CTS... Maybe getting all these items repaired now means it will live a long, operational and uneventful life, but I'll need to have that proved to me and I don't know how that would be done. Suggestions?

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