View Full Version : Looking At 98 Catera

03-20-08, 10:04 AM
Hey all, I am totally clueless on Cateras as all my past caddys have been STS's. Boy does it feel good to be back here, havent been around for a couple years after being Cadillacless :(

Anyway, I am in desperate need of a cheap half way decent car and have come across this 98 Catera that has a few thing mentioned in the ad.

First question is how do I pull codes off it for if/when I go to look at it.

Here is the ad "The previous owner disclosed that it does have a water leak somewhere. It doesn`t seem to overheat and it does ride and drive pretty well. The idle is a little choppy. In the summer the engine tends to get hot, but it doesn`t seem to have been run too hot causing major engine problems."

I know that vague and I apologize. Anyone have any idead of any it's "more than likey _______ or ________"?

Also if anyone have carfax capabilty I would great appreciate it

I know its not an STS but I have been dieing to get back into a Caddy, gotta start somewhere. How is the fuel mileage for those of you who do have one.

Thanks again and nice to be back

03-20-08, 10:49 AM
Take a look through all the threads. There is a lot of information about these common problems. It is most likely the coolant bridge (crossover thing), oil cooler, coolant hose in rear of engine, HCV, head gaskets, etc. The rough idle might be a sensor problems (also common)....search for CPS.

03-20-08, 11:04 AM
well... first thing is, do you do your own mechanic work. cause if you don't then it might be very costly.

water leak could be anything with GM's crappy dexcool system. but like srinne mentioned, those are the most common things.

you pull codes off like any other car... it's a obdII conection under the steering wheel area

just as a reference I bought my 98 with everything for $2000

only thing I had to fix was
shocks = <$100
Tie rod ends = $150
all 4 breaks = $200

(all except the tie rods were done myself)

so for $2500 I have a great running 98

just thought I'd let you know as a reference

03-20-08, 11:55 AM
Thanks for the replys, I have been looking through old posts. I didnt know if you could pull the codes like you can off the STS's so they display on the ICP was hoping to not have to take it to someone to do it.

Thanks Again, hope to look at it this afternoon.

03-20-08, 12:51 PM
I came across the Catera on the Internet while shopping used car sites. I remember liking the Catera at its intro in the magazines, but quickly forgot it. Cadillac's stupid Ziggy promotion made a joke of the car before it had a chance to establish itself in the market. Why would I buy a car that wasn't even respected by its division? Yes it had problems but if Cadillac was serious about selling a competitive sport sedan they could have addressed these issues. They hated this car. Still do. The Catera was forced on them by GM. It was not a homegrown Cadillac project. It's based on the Opel Omega, specifically the Elite and MV6 models, a German car bred to fly down the Autobahn and attack twisting alpine roads. So what does Cadillac do? Detune the engine from 210HP down to 200HP and limit the top speed from 150MPH to 125MPH. They probably softened the suspension a little too. Still, I was lured back by the soft styling and the possibility of owning a German sport sedan.

If you want a Catera I say shop carefully. Within days of buying mine, in November 2006 at 48,000 miles, I had to have the heater Bypass Valve replaced after it gushed antifreeze. I didn't do my homework. If I had I'd have had the seller inspect and replace it prior to my taking possession. I saw a pretty car at a great price, and a Cadillac to boot. Now I know better. I later replaced the leaking camcover gaskets. The crankcase breather was clogged, forcing oil past the gaskets, and onto the exhaust heatshields where it burned and smoked. Just recently the Crankshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed and left me stranded. Oh, I'd still buy a Catera but with more knowledge before buying I could've made a better deal and wouldn't have felt like a sap. When you find a Catera that looks good on the outside, here's what to look for on the inside.
Have Cadillac check the VIN for the cam-belt tensioner bulletin #02041A. This is critical. If the tensioner seizes the belt will break and the pistons will bend the valves. This service must be done every 4 years/40,000 miles.
Have the Heater Bypass Valve behind the engine inspected and consider having it replaced. It's not expensive as Cadillac parts go and the labor is easy. If left to leak it can damage the DIS ignition pack on the '97-'99s.
Check the engine oil for coolant contamination. It will appear as a cream colored residue under the oil filler cap and maybe the dipstick. Wipe it off and drive the car at operating temp for about 30 minutes. If it doesn't reappear it was probably normal water condensation and has boiled off. If it reappears it could be antifreeze. That means the oil cooler is leaking and needs replacement. Another relatively easy and cheap repair if you do it yourself.
With the engine running, check the coolant tank for bubbles or an exhaust smell. That is probably a blown head gasket. It's not common but has happened. We suspect worn out coolant is to blame. Acids build in the coolant and corrode the cooler.
The cam cover gaskets can leak and drip oil on the exhaust heatshields and create smoke. The crankcase breather clogs and pressure builds until the oil seeps past the gaskets. Order the gaskets and have a trusted local garage do the work or DIY.
Check the tire wear. Cupping or feathering can indicate the need for alignment. It could also mean worn or broken lower suspension arm bushings. Bushings are available but replacing the arms is easier than pressing the bushings out and in. The arms come with the bushings installed.
There are other things like weak door stays, broken brake switches, and heater control malfunctions. More irritating are the computer gliches and sensor failures which happen without warning. Given the level of electronics in cars today and the harsh environment they operate in I doubt the Catera is worse than other cars. We know from experience which symptoms point to which sensor or computer. A failure is never an easy thing to endure but this is the 21st century and electronic controls are here to stay. Thanks to great people like those who hang out here, the answers are available and you can go to your chosen service facility armed with knowledge. I mention these things in the interest of honesty but aside from the HBV, CPS, and cam cover gaskets I haven't experienced any of the other stuff. My Cat scoots like her tail was on fire, handles like she was on rails, and stops on a dime. Remember, your looking at cars that are at least 7 years old. Lots of wear and tear is possible if the owners didn't take care and perform the maintanence properly. Shop wisely.

Don't misunderstand me. I love my Catera. Some call the styling dated and bland. Sue me. I like it. It's soft and aerodynamic compared to the new edgey stealth fighter look Cadillac is pushing today, and the new Japanese style the Germans have adopted with all sorts of accent lines and weirdness. Just look at the MBs and BMWs. They make me gag. As for Catera body kits you must realize that the car has been out of production for 7 years and was never a big seller here. There is some body stuff from Irmscher, Steinmetz, and others but that's becoming scarce. Check the Omega sites and Euro Ebay. The Catera has a roomy, comfortable cockpit for the driver and I never hear my passengers complain (except for the rare one stuck over the rear seat's hump). I frequently spend 6 hours or more behind the wheel and arrive without stiffness or sore spots. The seats are supportive and bolstered but the leather is slippery so I tend to slide a little in the fast twisties I relish. The wheel tilts and places my arms in the right position for good control. The interior styling is clean without Cadillac's traditional bordello plushness. It's still very Teutonic. I prefer the 2000 - 2001 cars for the front and rear exterior treatments and the more logical window & door controls inside.

And then there's the engine performance. The Catera is overweight (3815 lb.), and, compared to her direct competitors, underpowered (200 hp.) but that only counts if you're planning to race her. For normal, and even slightly illegal, street driving she is a joy. The transmission has a Sport setting that lets the engine rev to the redline before shifting to squeeze every horse out of it. And this engine loves to spin. She is thirsty though and drinks 93 octane.

If you have a preference for sporty ride and handling you need a 2000 - 2001 Catera Sport. The suspension is stiffer than the rest and tuned for the backroads. There is little body roll and the 17 inch low profile tires keep the car planted. The brakes are adequate but I feel they could be better. But there's an easy upgrade. Luckily the GTO and Catera have common ancestry. The front calipers & hoses from the 2003 - 2004 Pontiac GTO are a direct bolt-on. Combine them with dimples & slotted discs and some C5 Corvette performance pads and you'll have all the braking power you'll ever need. There are other suspension upgrades like Eibach lowering springs and Koni, KYB, or Bilstein dampers for after the OEM stuff wears out. GTO suspension pieces are being tested. So far the GTO rear shocks fit but no definite word on the struts yet. Strut tower braces are available but from Germany or the UK. These brake and suspension upgrades fit all Cateras. Other than the K&N style intakes that add a raspy sound but little performance there's not much engine stuff here for an orphan like the Catera. Still, we do alright. There are owners exploring engine swaps but those are still in the project stage.

Please don't let my rose colored enthusiasm sway you. The Catera can be a money pit. If you're looking for a dependable daily driver, the kind you can ignore maintenance schedules and subject to abuse, the Catera Sport isn't for you. If you want a driver's car that, like a thoroughbred horse, requires some attention .............. welcome aboard.