San Carlos Radiator in the News
Ruling is near on GM engine coolant
Class action sought over Dex-Cool
May 23, 2006
BY JUSTIN HYDE
DETROIT FREE PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Here's a list of models targeted by lawsuits against GM over engine
coolants and gaskets. Any of the following vehicles from model years
1995 through 2004, sold with a 3.1, 3.4, 3.8 or 4.3-liter V6 engine and
Chevrolet and GMC S/T Blazer, Jimmy, Sonoma, S10 pickup, GMC Envoy.
Buick Century, Rendezvous, Riviera, Park Avenue Regal and LeSabre.
Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, Venture, Malibu, Monte Carlo and
Oldsmobile Alero, Bravada, Cutlass, Silhouette, Ninety-Eight,
Eighty-Eight and Intrigue.
Pontiac Trans Sport, Grand Am, Montana, Grand Prix, Aztek and
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
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
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
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
"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.