: looking to buy a catera i have questions

12-21-10, 10:53 AM
im looking to buy a catera the misses wants a cts buts thats out the question. the catera looks sporty and small not a full size caddy . so only search every catera under 2k has radiator waterpump issues . is this a common thing with the catera.is a good car or should i keep my search going thanks guys

12-21-10, 01:45 PM
I liked the Catera as soon as it debuted in 1996 and absolutely loved the Steinmetz Concept Car, but quickly dismissed the thought of buying one. At over $30,000 it was too rich for my blood at the time. Plus Cadillac's stupid Ziggy promotion made a joke of the car before it had a chance to establish itself in the market. Why would anyone buy a car that wasn't even respected by its division? It wasn't a homegrown Cadillac project. GM saw the success that German car makers were enjoying in the US and decided they wanted a piece of the pie. The Catera was forced on Cadillac. They hated this car. Still do. It's based on the Opel Omega (B), specifically the Elite and MV6 trim levels. A German sport sedan bred to fly down the Autobahn and to attack twisting alpine roads.

So what does Cadillac do? Add 400 lb. in "chassis reinforcements" and sound deadening for a “Cadillac feel”, de-tune the engine from 210HP down to 200HP, govern the top speed to 125MPH from 150MPH, delete the 5-speed manual transmission, and soften the suspension from autobahn to boulevard. Compared to most American cars the Catera was still a sport sedan just not what they got in Europe. Ford tried the same thing in the '80s with the Merkur Sierra and XR4Ti German Sport sedan and coupe. Only they were practically the same versions the Germans got. Ford's failure was the marketing. Why did Cadillac water down Opel's design? Using their existing customer database they tailored the car to fit buyers that didn't exist. Buyers looking for German cachet but not German performance when in reality they want both. Either they didn't ask potential German sport sedan buyers what they'd like in an American sport sedan or they didn't listen to their answers. Then too, the marketing just plain sucked. Ziggy the Duck? By the time they realized their mistakes it was too late. Production ended in 2001.

The Catera is often mentioned along with the Cimarron as one of the worst Cadillacs ever but that's not fair. The Cimarron was a Chevrolet Cavalier, 4 cylinder engine and all, trimmed to look like a Cadillac. They later fitted it with a V6 but made no other substantive changes to improve the car and justify the price they were asking. It was an economy car, poorly built, with none of the excellence buyers expected. The Omega was an Executive sedan from Opel in Germany. Like all German cars it was designed with the Autobahn and Alpine roads in mind, being the kinds of roads they'd be riding. Cadillac tuned them for the American roads the reworked Omega would encounter. That plus a leather interior, a few badges, and some body colored trim turned them into Cateras. Lightyears better than the Cimarrons but once the connection was made nothing, not even the facelift and Sport versions would remove the stink. Not saying the Catera didn't have problems just that she wasn't the fraud that the Cimarron was. If Cadillac was truly serious about competing against BMW, MBz, and Audi they could have fixed the problems.

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 puked most of the engine's coolant. I later had the leaking camcover gaskets replaced. The crankcase breather clogged, forcing oil past the gaskets, and onto the exhaust heatshields where it burned and smoked. Two years later the Crankshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed and left me stranded. The '97 - '98 Cats had the most problems. Some were addressed, but not necessarily cured, in '99. The 2000 - 2001 models are less trouble prone but not perfect. 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. All 24 of them. This service must be done every 4 years/40,000 miles.
Have the Heater Bypass Valve behind the engine inspected for leaks. Better yet have it replaced regardless. It's not expensive as Cadillac parts go and the labor is easy. If you wait and it leaks it will puke all your coolant. When that happens it can also damage the DIS ignition pack on the '97-'99s.
Check the engine oil for coolant contamination. It will appear as a cream colored emulsion 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. Another indicator is oil in the coolant reservoir. That means the oil cooler is leaking and needs replacement. A laborious but relatively cheap repair if you do it yourself. Improved coolers were introduced in '99.
With the engine running, check the coolant tank for bubbles or an exhaust smell. That's probably a blown head gasket. It's not that common but does happen. We suspect worn out coolant is to blame. Acids in the coolant attack the gaskets.
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. Cleaning the crankcase breather relieves the excess crankcase pressure that blows oil past the gaskets.
Check for tire wear front & rear. Cupping or feathered edges indicates the need for a 4 wheel alignment. It could also mean worn/split front suspension arm bushings. OEM replacement bushings are available as well as polyurethane substitutes. New front suspension arms come with the stock bushings and ball joints already installed so that's an option too. An aftermarket eccentric bolt will extend the front camber adjustment's range by +/- 1 degree over stock to help bring it to where the tires wear evenly. Eccentric rear suspension bushings for the last Pontiac GTO, adjustable for caster and toe-in, will do the same for those tires.

There are other things like weak door stays, cracked brake switches, and HVAC control malfunctions. Search the forums for more info. Most irritating are the computer gliches and sensor failures which leave you stalled and stranded. Given the level of electronics in cars today and the harsh environment they operate in I doubt the Catera is worse than other cars. A failure is never an easy thing to endure but this is the 21st century and electronic controls are here to stay. Thanks to the database, on this and other Catera/Omega sites, information is 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 Catera Sport scoots like her tail was on fire and handles like she's on rails. But remember, you're looking at cars that have been out of production for almost 10 years. Lots of wear and tear could've occurred if the previous owners didn't take care and perform the maintanence properly. Shop wisely.

Don't get me wrong. It's not all gloomy. I'm just a "bad news first" type of guy. I love my Catera. Some call the styling dated and bland. Sue me. I like it. It's soft and streamlined compared to the new edgy origami-like stealth fighter look Cadillac is pushing nowadays. And what about the "Japanesque" type styling the Germans have adopted with all sorts of accent lines and weirdness? Just look at the MBs and BMWs. They make me gag. The Catera's '97-'99 prefacelift models have a more aerodynamic form with a steeply sloped grille and low profile hood. Their rear treatment features full body width tail lights. The 2000 model year, sometimes mistakenly called the Omega (C), introduced facelifted front & rear facias, side mirrors, as well as a restyled interior. The grille was more upright with a slightly raised hood for a more formal look to better match the rest of the Cadillac line. The rear lost the full width lightbar and got separate corner units with LED turn signals. Not quite the traditional razor thin Cadillac "Tail-Fin" lights but closer to them than full width lights. The Catera was never a big seller so there is nothing here in the way of styling upgrades beyond custom wheels and some tacky chrome body trim. There is still some body stuff from Irmscher, Steinmetz, and others in Europe for the Omega but it's rapidly becoming scarce.

The Catera has a roomy, comfortable cockpit for the driver and I never hear the passengers complain (except for the poor unfortunate stuck in the rear middle). I frequently spend 6 hours or more behind the wheel and arrive without stiffness or sore spots. The front power memory seats are comfortable and supportive with too many adjustments to list (heated too). I just wish they had bigger bolsters. All Catera front seats were made by Recaro. Some came with Sport Seats equipped with manual adjustments, extendable thigh support, and thicker bottom and side bolsters. Unfortunately mine didn't. Some cars came with heated rear seats as well. Even the side mirrors are heated. The HVAC has separate driver and passenger controls. The steering wheel tilts and has remote stereo control buttons. The cruise controls are on a separate stalk to the left of the wheel. The leather interior's styling is clean without Cadillac's traditional bordello plushness. It's very Teutonic. There were few options as the Catera was well appointed but there was an available sunroof, a power rear window sunshade, and of course the Sport package. The standard stereo was good but the optional Bose system was better.

And then there's the Catera's performance. Compared to her direct competitors the Catera is overweight (3770 lb.) and underpowered (200 hp.) so 0 to 60 times suffered (8.5 seconds) but that only counts if you're planning to race her. For normal, and even slightly illegal, street driving she is a joy. In the transmission's Sport Mode the Catera accelerates quickly (once above 40 MPH) so watch the speedometer. You'll be doing 90 MPH before you know it. This engine loves to rev. She's a little thirsty though (17mpg - city/24mpg - highway). She'll drink Regular (86 octane) but really comes alive on Premium (94 octane). The ECU adjusts the ignition timing accordingly using knock sensors. In 1999 the engine received updates like Fly By Wire (FBW) throttle and Multi Ram Induction that carried over until production ended. Multi Ram Induction is a system of butterfly valves that manage air flow through the plenum for the best performance. Before 1999 it was called Dual Ram Induction. The new system added more valves to better manage air flow for optimum efficiency. FBW throttle is controlled by your foot but through the ECU via a Throttle Position Servo so that there is no hard connection to the gas pedal. The advantages? I'm not sure.

Other than the K&N style intakes that add a raspy sound but little performance and a few free flowing mufflers there's not much engine stuff here for an orphan like the Catera. Check for Vauxhall/Opel stuff on British and Euro ebay but remember, the Catera uses a unique ECU so Omega performance chips won't work. There are owners exploring V8 engine swaps but those are still in the project stage (except for the magnificent 7.0 liter V8 Lingenfelter Catera) and a shadetree V8 install currently undergoing testing.

The 4 speed electronic transmission shifts smoothly and has a Sport Mode that lets the engine rev to redline before shifting to squeeze every horse out of it. The transmission uses what Cadillac calls adaptive logic but what that means, I haven't a clue. There's also a Winter Mode that locks out 1st and 2nd gears for less torque to the wheels meaning better traction from a standing start in the snow. It disengages above 30 MPH.

The Catera's brakes are good and compare well with equivalent sport sedans but can be made even better. Luckily the last Pontiac GTO and the Catera shared some Opel ancestry. The dual piston front calipers & brake hoses from the 2004 Pontiac GTO are a direct bolt-on. A big improvement over the Catera's smaller single piston units. Combine them with slotted performance discs and C5 Corvette high performance brake pads, and you'll have all the braking power you'll ever need. Of course like most cars today the Catera has 4 wheel ABS braking and Traction Control.

If you prefer an even sportier ride and sharper handling then you need a 2000 - 2001 Catera Sport. Cadillac finally returned to the full Opel MV6 suspension. It's stiffer, but not harsh, and tuned for the backroads. There is less body roll than with the standard Catera and the Sport's wider 235/45-17 low profile tires (standard size was 225/55HR16) keep the car planted. There was a 1999 Catera Sport but it was an intermediate step to this one. The '99 Sport had firmer damping and stiffer springs that became the 2000 Catera's base suspension. Even firmer and stiffer components were used for the 2000 Sport. The '99 Sport had unique 16 inch alloy wheels, front Recaro Sport Seats, re-contoured rocker panels, and a rear wing. The 2000 - 2001 Sports came with a satin silver grille instead of chrome, unique 5 spoke 17 inch alloy wheels, a rear wing, satin silver interior trim in place of the standard faux wood, and exclusive HID headlights for superior lighting. Magazine road testers at the time praised the Catera Sport and called it comparable to Europe's best, meaning BMW.

Still better handling is available through the aftermarket for any year Catera, Catera Sport or otherwise. Suspension upgrades include stiffer Eibach, Vogtland, or Intrax lowering springs plus Koni, KYB, or Bilstein struts & shocks. GTO springs, front & rear, will fit along with its rear shocks, but not the struts. Suspension tower braces are available from Germany or the UK. Believe it or not Polyurethane bushings for the BMW M5 and Pontiac GTO/Holden Monaro will fit the Catera and greatly improve steering response and handling, in addition to extending the replacement intervals over the original rubber ones.

As I said before, I love my Catera. The engine performance, the handling, the comfort, the styling, all of it, but don't let me sway you. She has issues. It all boils down to this: If you're looking for a dependable daily driver, the kind of car you can park and forget at the end of the day. One whose maintenance schedule you can ignore. A car you can subject to abuse, then the Catera isn't for you. If you want a true German "driver's car" that, like a thoroughbred horse, requires some attention then .............. Willkommen.

12-21-10, 04:09 PM
Honestly I like cateras, but prefer a CTS. Especially with all the problems that Catera has and also parts are getting harder to find.

12-22-10, 07:39 AM
don't do it! you can find a cheaper lemon to drive.these cars are aging quikly,repairs are costly even if done yourself. i should have listened to the dealership parts guy and sold my 98 with a lil over 100,000 mls at the time but, then i found a 99 with 12,000 mls on it 4yrs ago dude it was show room the bank tryed to talk me out of it too. they loan me 8 grand to buy it. now it has about 30,000 on it $2,000 in repair but a dream to drive. my 98 has 140,000 on it about 5 grand in 5 yrs to keep it on the road.and drives like an ol gocart.
in closing it's your money spend it wisely

12-22-10, 05:47 PM
I would go with late 99, 2000-2001 models as those had the least problems.

And do your repairs yourself, one trip to the mechanic and you can be out 500$... for something simple..

12-24-10, 02:58 PM
I have a 2000sport. I LOVE it! My opinion.. if its for your wife, do not get it. and fyi the 03-04 CTS is IDENTICAL tot he catera mech.. engine.. same throttle body, same timing belt/tentioners.. in the 2.8 and 3.2

This car is great if u want a super fun inique car for super cheep!
But if you can not afford 5-700 repairs at least 2-3 times a yr.. do not buy the car. This car will cost at least $2000 a yr t maintain.

weak points not mentioned. Rear spings, they ALL break.
K-134 relay controls sunroof, radio and power relaeses goes bad.
Constant misfirecodes. your check engine light becomes a travel companion..ha ha. or at least mine is!!
MY SEAT HEATERS BROKE and the sport seats are freekin COLD in winter.

the best.. its te most fun car to drive! the BOSE is the best Ive ever had, and Ive had 30+ cars.. the acceloration is outstandng!
no one knows it s a caddillac and when they get in they re like" WOW what is this.. its so nice!"
I bought a warranty with mine. I HIGHLY recomend buying one! I wish I had bought the 4 yr one.. I only have 10 months left on my 2 yr one.
I have invested $4000 including about a grand the warranty covered.
so to date I have $7000 into my car, and its worth about 3500 on a really great day! and Ive driven it for 14months.. so thats what.. about 250 a month to own it with maintance??
to be honest... if yur wife wants a really fun RELIABLE car?? get her a v6 camry or solara coupe. i have an 08 solara. and used to drive 00 xle v6 camry. very fun. and super reliable, and resonable prices.. and hold value.

12-24-10, 10:34 PM
I have a 98 and my in laws have a 2001 catera. The 2001 catera has caused so much problem than mine...so no telling which years will be more reliable.

01-03-11, 10:46 PM


I would rather get my prostate checked by Capt. Hook than buy another one of these piece of crap! Really! It should be named Craptera!


01-04-11, 10:43 PM


I would rather get my prostate checked by Capt. Hook than buy another one of these piece of crap! Really! It should be named Craptera!


lol, and yes, we get one or two of these cruising through the forum each year. Make sure the previous owner took care of it and you SHOULD be alright. You can get a lemon with any car. Mine's at 155k and I've owned it since about 100k and had no issues at all with it, my 01 was a little rougher, but it came from a rougher area and was in a sadder condition when i got it. My sis's 99 only has had the CPS sensor go bad so far, and my dad's 01 has had bad HBV and CPS, our 97 was a nightmare when we got it, then I did some research, started doing all the work myself, and permanently solved issues on it that cadillac couldn't get worked out. You will spend a little time under the hood, so if you don't care for turning a wrench now and again I'd suggest going with something other than a german car. ;)

01-06-11, 05:43 PM
i personally would stay away from the catera. it is a nice car to drive, its zippy (somewhat) and comfortable on long trips (i'm 6'4 and it was still comfortable in a trip from pa to nc) and gets fairly decent mpg for a rear wheel drive car. now the bad......this car will dig in your pocket with its problems. i got a 1997 with 38,000 miles and its just non stop problems. valve cover gaskets, oil pump gaskets, ignition coil half went (misfiring on cylinder #1, and that happened when i was on the trip to nc), heat not blowing through vents on passenger side with heat on, power steering fluid leak. and when i got the car it was in good shape. if you need a daily driver i would get any of the other caddys.....if you just want a second car to toss around and tool with get the catera.

AL Cool Dates
01-07-11, 01:52 PM
I've had my 2000 sport since August of this year and so far its been a mixed bag. The month after I got it, they timing belt started squealing, got that replaced after a month of research and searching for a mechanic who had the actual tool to replace it and water pump (Requires a special GM tool to do the job), front struts got replaced but I knew they needed that before buying the car, going on my second oil change, and just did a Tranny flush. I'm currently having a battery draining issue I'm researching but no dice yet. Everything I'm doing seems to be general maintance (I don't know if you'd call the timing belt replacement that but w/e) and the car hasn't given me any big issues yet and it has 150,000 miles on it. From what I have learned researching this car, if you can spot trouble quickly and resolve it just as quickly, then it should last you and be fun to drive but it can get expensive if you don't turn the wrench a few times yourself. I did my brakes and I can easily say it went smoother and faster than doing them on my old 92 accord. I'd say if you can find one in good condition with a good service record, then do it. I wouldn't have brought this particular one I have now had I'd ask the questions you asked now but its too late. I plan on correcting that error by fixing my car up and driving it until the wheels fall off.

01-20-11, 06:33 PM
the caddy that zigs... i loved it for about a 3 years after i bought it. after a year everything went down hill. i have a 99 catera. if i could i would take a match to it in a heartbeat. its so hard to sell this clunker. bought it for 4000 about 3 years ago. i have 145k miles on it. i have put about 50k on it since then today.i had to replace the water pump, o2 sensors. the headlight housing. i put different headlights in i broke the pivot joints that the housing sits on. the are still broken cuz nobody has it anymore! so my headlights suck at night now and also the timing belt. Intake manifold. heat bypass value. radiatior. its not worth it. the a/c is piss poor. leaks antifreeze. radio shuts off. the battery gauge doesnt work sometimes. the battery is bad. it overheats in the summer. do not buy this car. OH AND A OTHER THING i lost my keys so i had to go the dealership to get any other. 275 dollars for a stupid key!!!! i will never buy a other gmc product again. ever.

01-27-11, 01:37 PM
^^ first of all, its not a GMC. Second, you bought a nine year old used $4,000.00 Opel, rebadged by GM, with 95K on the odometer back in 2007/8.

Swearing off gmc (sic) is not a particulary logical response. I am sorry that you have had trouble. But, if you had ever looked around for info (like here), beforehand, you likely could have saved much headache, gotten good advice, and maybe saved a few bucks during your ownership.

01-27-11, 04:35 PM
it interesting to see how frustrated owners are when they buy a nearly 10 yr old car with 100K oon it!... seriously.. the car was 35K new.. and for $4000 they expect it to be as good as it was 10 yrs ago...

Like I mentioned before. Haverealistic expectations. any luxy car is costly to fix.. and any 10 yr old car is likely to have a lotta repairs needed.. few owners actually are will to spend the money needed to fix the catera, and fewer mechanics actually know how to fix the car!.

That one guys ranting... those were alll maintance items that anyone would expect to fix by 10 yrs, and 100K.. timing belt, struts.. battery, fuses.. radiator.. valvecover gaskets.. and losing your keys.. whos fault is that.. the cars?

I have a friend with a 2010 fusion hybrid.. leaking valve cover gaskets! a friend with 03 century 75K blown apart radiator, and at 34K headgasket..

Just be realistic. honestly.. with the lease prices.. get a honda civic for $200 a month.. its cheeper than bying a 10 yr old car for 3K and fixing it up.. really.

but I LUV my catera.. its way more sexy.. and fun to drive than a civic!

04-14-11, 06:08 PM
All I can say is DON'T! I once purchased a cadillac fleetwood which was more than 10 years old and drove it for two years without a single problem. I now have a catera with tons and tons and tons of problems. If you want a caddy don't have it be a catera. If you want to keep your sanity that is :)

Yo Gonzo
04-20-11, 10:14 PM
Hey Still_Walkin,

So what did you do ... still shopping??
Just curious - its been 5 months since you asked.

I got my 2001 catera about a year ago and overall I'm happy with, although yes it has issues. What doesn't?

I sure appreciated Elvin315's comments, altho .... I wonder where he got all that knowledge!!

04-21-11, 11:39 PM
Don't buy one, and I really really mean it.
As soon as I got mine I needed tio replace the MAF
Then the camcover gaskets
Had a coolant in the back of the engine that needed fixin
had to replace two heater bypass valves (now I have an extra one on hand)
replace CPS
serp belt tensioner crapped out
positive battery cable is crap and a real bitch to replace you have to fabricate your own but than you can at least go to a higher gauge cable between the starter and the alternator
front driver side spring broke so I had to replace both springs and struts
radiator blew out twice
many problems with the leveling system

it will be a money pit you should only buy one if you are able to do much of the repair work/maint yourself

04-22-11, 06:39 AM
No matter how cheap or for that matter,even free, it's not worth it! Too many things go wrong.

Yo Gonzo
04-24-11, 03:43 AM
Since Still_Walkin and I are in the same neighborhood .... if he's/you're interested, let me know and you can make a bid on my sedan! :bigroll:

My 2001 Cat has less than 90,000 and I expect will go for another 90,000, as long as I keep up the TLC! :yup: