Worth the $ to fix? - GM Forum - Buick, Cadillac, Chev, Olds, GMC & Pontiac chat


1992-1999 Series I L27 (1992-1994 SE,SLE, SSE) & Series II L36 (1995-1999 SE, SSE, SLE) and common problems for the Series I and II L67 (all supercharged models 92-99) Including Olds 88's, Olds LSS's and Buick Lesabres Please use General Chat for non-mechanical issues, and Performance and Brainstorming for improvements.

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Old 04-25-2007, 04:15 AM   #1
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I was lucky enough to own a '89 SSE as my first car when I was in high school, and absolutely loved it. I also drove it to death, and being young and stupid, I ignored many mechanical problems which snowballed into very costly problems. This led my family to believe the car was "unreliable" and weren't worth owning. Eventually the engine caught fire (bad starter that had just been replaced by a repair shop) and I received an insurance check for more than I had paid for the car. I told myself that one day I would get another Bonnie while driving reliable cars like Accords.

Fast forward to last summer when my mother told me of an opportunity to get a '96 SSEI for $1,000 (I found her informing me of this rather ironic considering how she thought they were unreliable). Considering the low price, I figured something had to be wrong with it for the price to be so low. She and her boyfriend checked it out, and said that it ran great, but some of the primer was peeling off in a few places. All in all a great deal. I took their word for it, and once I got to drive it I was impressed. Overall, it was in great shape, although it was obvious that its previous owners took very poor care of it, and hopefully with a little work, it would be a great car.

After fixing a lot of minor interior things, and replacing some mechanical (transmission cooler, thermostat, etc), I am at a bit of a crossroads: Should I put the money into the seemingly minor fixes needed and be rewarded with a great car for cheap, or bail on it before it becomes a money pit? Here is a list of things wrong/possibly wrong with it:

1. Possibly slipping transmission. Seems to mainly happen when turning, not so much in straight stretches. Doesn't shudder or over rev, just seems to not go anywhere at times. Seems mainly confined to the 25-50 mph range. I had a transmission flush done which seemed to help a little bit, but not a lot.

2. Possible fuel line issue. At times hitting the pedal will get absolutely no response, rpm'* will drop, almost as if the car was dead, although it isn't (radio, lights, etc still working fine). I pretty much have to just let off the pedal for a few moments and then its fine, if I try to push it, it'll continue to not respond. Also the fuel gauge seems off, 3/4 tank is actually 1/2, and I've had to put gas in it if trying to start it under 1/4 tank. This may be related to problem #1.

3. Overheating/antifreeze leak. Pretty sure that this is the common UIM failure that'* frequently discussed here.

4. Brake issue. Have to pump the brakes a few times to get them to fully respond. I've had them bled multiple times which has helped a bit, but never fully fixed it.

5. Rear suspension failure. When I first got it, this was fine, but it doesn't seem to inflate/hold air at all. Makes for a pretty bouncy ride.

Overall its a great daily driver/second car for me, and I think that it just needs a lot of routine maintenance. I'm hoping that the repairs needed will not exceed $1,000, in which case the trouble was well worth it. Beyond that though, I'd rather not go through the trouble. I don't have access to a garage, and don't really know anyone that does either. I'm not very knowledgable on car maintenance but would love to learn. Is this car worth my trouble or should I just sell it as is before I get in over my head? Thanks.
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Old 04-25-2007, 04:33 AM   #2
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1. Check trans fluid level and color of fluid, fluid should be well within the hash marks, be bright red, and not smell burnt. Be sure to check the level with the car running on a level surface when transmission is warm. If the fluid is dirty or smells burnt, be sure to change it or have it flushed and the filter changed. You don't ever want to let that slip. No pun intended :P If just low, be sure to add fluid immediately.

2. Check FPR and FP for correct operation. Check to see if there is fuel in the FPR vacuum line and listen to the FP to see if it hums when the ignition is on and engine off. As far as the gauge being inaccurate, I have no idea about that on the newer cars. But thats definitely a fuel pressure related issue.

3. SSEis don't have a UIM, they have a supercharger that sits on top of the LIM, replacing it. Overheating/leaks could be many things, where are the leaks from is the biggest question. Could be as simple as a new radiator, but probably could use new LIM gaskets as well. How many miles are on the car?

4. Possibly bad MC? Not too sure, I don't know alot about the newer systems with ABS, but sounds like just a basic pressure problem to me. Definitely don't quote me on that.

5. IIRC, thats pretty common, and usually replacing the ELC pump/compressor does the job and gets the back of the car off the ground.

This all sounds pretty easy to fix actually. Not having a garage never helps any situation, but it all sounds doable for a good price. Also, there might be some members near you that can help you with some of this stuff, or maybe just a garage to borrow. Where do you live?
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Old 04-25-2007, 04:56 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply.

1. As far as the transmission is concerned, I just had it flushed, and seem a little bit of a change, but not enough for me to be certain that it is the problem.

2. I'll have to look into that.

3. It has around 185,000 miles on it. Pretty high for sure, but then again its in pretty good shape for that.

4. I kinda figured that, definitely next on my list to replace.

I live in Hampton Virginia.
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Old 04-25-2007, 05:16 AM   #4
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1. Flushed, ok, but was the filter changed? Then again, at 185k, it might just be on its way out. the Heavy Duty 65 series transmission behind a supercharged 3800 is not gonna last forever. If it gets really bad, its rebuild/replace time.

2. At that mileage, check the fuel filter, most people don't change them because they don't even know they exist. You did describe it as an intermittent problem, but it could be overheating the pump with too much back pressure. Its a very cheap filter, I would advise replacing it as a given in the process of elimination.

3. Yeah, you're gonna want to do those LIM gaskets, recommended replacement is around 100k miles, so you're definitely ready for it. But where are those coolant leaks? Thats important. As far as overheating goes before suspecting something is seriously wrong with the cooling system, flush out, or have the cooling system pressure flushed. Old worn out antifreeze/coolant has no more benefit than 100% water in a cooling system. Good preventative maintenance anyways.
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Old 04-25-2007, 08:57 AM   #5
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John.. 96 had the 4T60
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