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LS430 - Suspected head gasket, mechanic recommendation?

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Hey guys,
I've had my LS430 for about 4 years now. It's been truly the best car I have ever owned. It is a '01 model, midnight pine pearl, 338,000km.

I recently had a bad oil leak from the drivers side rocker cover gasket. I just spent $1600 with Revzone in Ringwood getting both gaskets replaced with a OEM kit. I also had the alternator replaced, as the oil leak had covered the alternator and it was in pretty bad shape.

4 days after picking it up, I was driving home from work, and noticed the temp gauge started going up. I pulled over, but at the point in which I pulled over, the gauge had returned to normal. I sat at the servo for about 20 mins watching the temp gauge, then timidly drove it home and checked my coolant, which was very low. I topped up my coolant (both through the resevoir and radiator, then bled the air out). I then called Revzone to enquire whether they had to disconnect the radiator and hoses to do the rocker cover gaskets and alternator. They were insistent they did not. This of course had me worried, as I don't have an evident coolant leak.

Since then, I have conciously checked my coolant levels, and I've noticed that every morning, I check my coolant reservoir and it's completely empty.

I popped the radiator cap late last week, and noticed some very light white sludge, just a little bit. Of course, this had me panic'd. I checked the oil and the oil filler cap, there's no milk or white chunks.

At this point, I have put about 5 litres back into the cooling systems. Again, I have checked thoroughly for leaks, both around the radiator, hoses, underneath and around the heater hoses. Nothing.

The white sludge suggests I might have a head gasket on the way out. However, being that the rocker cover gaskets have just been replaced, and I've just started experiencing these issues immediately after, could this have anything to do with the rocker cover gaskets?

Do you guys have a recommended LS mechanic, ideally in the eastern suburbs of Vic?
- Shaun

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Recently had similar problem with my 2000 LS430 here in Perth (235k). Had both Tappet cover gaskets replaced (leaking badly) along with PCV hose which was perished due to age, also replaced Platinum plugs. Cost exactly $628.90. Parts and labour GST incl.

Couple of weeks later temp gauge went off the dial, called out RAC - top radiator tank split???

No way it had anything to do with rocker cover gasket replacement - radiator just decided to die without warning, no previous coolant loss, replaced radiator and car has been fine ever since.

Probably not much help to you I know but maybe have rad. pressure tested to see if any leaks under pressure.

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Update: I did an oil change last weekend. Though there was nothing out of the ordinary in the oil or on the dipstick, the oil filler cap had the white chocolate under the cap as well, further suggesting the suspected head gasket. My heart sank when I saw it. However, having done quite a bit of research over the last couple of days. Head gasket leaks on the 1uz and 3uz are reportedly extremely rare.

I have booked in with my normal mechanic as he is available again. He seems confident it isn't a head gasket, and suspected it might be something to do with the oil galleries.

The car has sat for the last week without being driven. The coolant has not depleted, nor is there any coolant to be found on the ground on in the engine bay that I can see. It either suggests I am only losing coolant when the system is pressurised, or the coolant is going somewhere within the engine. I somewhat doubt it is the radiator, as I replaced this last year, but something as simple as a crack in the rad or a bad hose would be nice.

Will update you guys as soon as I have something.

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Update: So, I took the LS to my usual mechanic. He pressure tested the system and found the bottom plastic end tank was leaking under pressure. Due to having a lot of work on, he didn't have the time to perform any fixes.

Yesterday, a mate and I pulled the old radiator out and put in a new Denso radiator, as well as flushed out what we could from the block. The coolant from the radiator and the block appeared fine, no milk or floaties. After letting it idle for 45 mins, I took it on a 20 minute drive and watched for temperature spikes. Everything is stable. Tomorrow is the first proper run it it will get. I'll update with a post of this was the resolution.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: The new radiator is in. However, I am still losing coolant, albeit at a slower rate. Problems have progressed further though. As of Wednesday evening, my LS begun producing white smoke on start up. Thick, cloudy, white smoke, that would persist for 5 seconds, then dissipate.

I topped up the coolant once again on Thursday evening. I drove to work, and then to a mates place, and then home. A 80km round trip. On the way home from my mates place, the temperature begun to rise, and then went back down. I limped it home and checked. Radiator was almost completely dry.

At this point, I couldn't keep driving it. I have a really good mechanic who works on my 300zx in the western suburbs, so I filled up the LS with coolant, put a bottle in the back and limped it over to his.

He confirmed Monday afternoon that I have blown a head gasket. The engine will be torn down and inspected to see if there is any damage to the bottom end or the block. In the event it's no good, I have located a replacement engine for $1500 out of a GS430. Have been quoted $500 for removal of the engine, and $500 to put an engine back in, whether it's my engine that's been rebuilt, or a replacement.

Will update this post once I have more info.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Update: So, my mechanic has had the LS for a month now. He has dropped and dissasembled the engine. The heads were sent off to be cleaned up. A gasket kit proved challenging to source. I did some searching myself. Nothing on eBay, Yahoo Auctions or Croooober. I called 3 Lexus dealers and 1 Toyota dealer. 1 Lexus dealer said the head gasket kit no longer exists, 1 had never heard of my car before, and 1 Lexus dealer and the Toyota dealer quotes a 1 month lead time. Fortunately, my mechanic had a connection at a Lexus repair center and managed to source the kit within 15 days. The gasket kit costs $1,100 inc shipping. The entire job is going to cost me roughly $4000.

In the meantime, the bottom end has been checked, and has been given a clean bill of health. Everything should be good once the gasket kit is in and reassembled.

Will provide another update once I have more info.






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Have you got a pic of were the head gasket blew,  you might want to replace the starter motor to (while its apart I know its a can of worms but if you can get a cheap low km,s one do it ) That looks like a nice clean shop, who,s doing it cheers.

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  • 2 months later...

Do not want to put salt in your wounds here but it is not recommendable to drive with an empty coolant tank.
Not even 500 meters. Stop immediately and fix it or tow it.  
When the water pump starts pumping airbubbles bad things happen. 
Modern engines with aluminium parts can very quickly overheat and sustain damage. 
It is essential to have enough fluid at all times. 




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