: New Catera Owner, have a few ?'s

03-28-08, 08:41 AM
I'm planning on buying a 2001 Catera today. It has 109k and seems to run good. This is my first Cadillac and want to know: What should I be looking for/inspecting prior to purchasing? Beside the obvious, is there anything w/ these models that has "issues" the dealer may not have told me about? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

03-28-08, 09:41 AM
I remember liking the Catera from its intro in the magazines and the Steinmetz concept car, but quickly dismissed 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.

Friends ask me why I didn't buy a CTS. I can appreciate the technology under the CTS's sheetmetal but seriously dislike all the sharp creases and flat panels. They make the car look tall and boxy (no disrespect meant to you CTS/STS/XLR owners). Reminds me of those paper car models where you fold a flat piece of paper into a Ferrari. I won't buy I don't enjoy looking at. The Catera's softer, smoother sheetmetal is more pleasing to my eye. Some call the styling dated and bland. Sue me. I like it. It's flowing 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 new Mercedes and BMWs. They make me gag.

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 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. I'd still buy a Catera but with more knowledge I wouldn't have felt so taken. When you find a 2000 - 2001 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 hehind the engine inspected. Consider having it replaced regardless. 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 30 minutes. If it doesn't reappear it was probably normal water condensation and 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.
The cam cover gaskets can leak and drip oil on the exhaust heatshields and create smoke. This is too expensive to leave to Cadillac. 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. Luckily someone here or on the Omega sites will 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. Still looks good for a car originally styled in the mid 90s. Having said that, the available body kits do spruce it up. Realize that the car has been out of production for 7 years and was never a big seller here. The stuff from Irmscher, Steinmetz, and others is nice 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 the 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 enough to keep my butt planted 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. 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. 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.


03-28-08, 10:35 AM
I'm sure alvin mention this but there is 3 things that you should do when getting a cat

1. spend the $100 and get it fully inspected
2.do a carfax search
3. and do as much research as possible on the car (go to dealership and say you want to see the service record on the car) to see what work has been done. it'll be expected these car were in a couple times a year. look at the major problems that are repeated.

and when you get the car

DO THE WORK YOURSELF!!!! dealership will pretty much take your first born.
and don't neglect your car..

I myself love the car, it's the funnest car I've ever owned

good luck

03-28-08, 10:53 AM
Get the transmission checked out. :(

03-28-08, 12:51 PM
It's a shame that this will be your first Cadillac. After this, you won't want another one, and that's a shame because most Cadillacs aren't like this one. This one was always like a stepchild to Cadillac, and it was never properly thought out. They just added tons of electronics to it, which only make it more unreliable. If you did in fact get it, good luck to you. Who knows, you may be one of the lucky ones. But plan on spending a lot of time on this forum, as well at your dealer.

03-28-08, 01:16 PM
Thanks to everyone for the advice. I'm going to head down to the dealership now to get it. The price is right, so I'm going to bite the bullet and get it. If passionaterage is right, I'll be on here a lot, so I'll let you know what I find out. Fingers crossed nothing major is wrong w/ it. Thanks again!!

03-28-08, 04:51 PM
Don't get me wrong, I loved my Cat too. That's the trap. You do fall in love with it. But you'll never know the relief I felt 2 weeks ago when someone came and drove away with it.