So I called the GM service centre to see what's up with my car (a 2001 Cavalier VLX sedan) as far as their last diagnosis about "preventative maintenance" on the head gasket.
These are the same techs who can't figure out why my Cavalier drops out of third gear when I hit a pothole or turn particularly sharply.
The tech promptly quoted me a price of $480 + labour, to which I boggled initially. He then went into a spiel about how the head gasket is a complex piece of technology and it's hard to replace in a GM engine. While he's talking, I'm pulling up the Wikipedia page on head gaskets and opening an IM to my gearhead friend.
Result? I picked up a new head gasket for my car for something like $8 at Auto Value (they don't give you itemized receipts, so it's hard to tell the 'head gasket' apart from the various tools I also bought). So that's my weekend project sussed right there. Anyone interested in seeing pictures and video of the inside of a Cavalier's engine? Bueller?
So guess what kind of car I'm not buying again?