View Full Version : New Catera Owner With Questions

04-15-05, 04:18 PM
Hello All.

I'm the new guy...aka Brent. I picked up a 97 catera with 95k on it a couple months ago. Just got internet, found this place quickly, and joined up. I have a few questions about some things that have come up, and hope to get some help/insight from you guys/gals. Oh yeah... i'm sure many of these topics will have been covered, so if you could just link me to a thread, it'd be greatly appreciated.

Ok...first, the brakes.
I knew i was going to have to change the pads, but when I went to change them, turns out the rotors were shot, the pads decent. I ended up getting Wagner Thermo Quiet pads and Wagner rotors from Oriley. I'm NOT happy with the setup... almost as squishy as with the bum rotors (just a good bit quiter). Anyone else have these? Should I replace the brake fluid?

After about 15 minutes on the road with 2 front seat passengers and a baby in back, the leveling light comes on blinking. Its annoying. I noticed that you have to disconnect/bypass the leveling system for lowering the car, so I was wondering if that would be a viable option for me (other than getting it fixed, which isn't financially feasible at this point).

Fluid Leak...
I have a fluid leaking coming off a top metal hose coming off the radiator on the passenger's side. At least that's where it seems to have originated. It leaks down onto some other pieces below, where it then proceeds to drop a fluid spot about the size of three quarters laying down beside each other. I don't have a service manual yet (going to look on e-bay, or let me know if you have one you want to get rid of cheap), so I don't know if this is oil/tranny fluid/a/c... or what.

Transmission fluid...
98,000 miles...change it now, right? Any particular brand of fluid/shop i should go to? (nationwide shop/dealer/local shop?)

My remote works only for the trunk and the fuel door. Dealer quoted 160$ per remote + 60$ per remote programming. I have had a couple instances where the alarm was set off (people should wait til I stop before they open a door!), and I had to disconnect the battery... very embarassing. I'm thinking about getting a remote start system with two remotes, and all the goodies that come along with that, for less than the cost of 1 remote. I take it that the installer can bypass the factory alarm, no? Also, suggestions for alarm systems will be appreciated.

Bose stereo system. Sounds good enough, but the tape deck will NOT work, even after repeated cleanings. Using FM transmitter with MP3/CD player, but not happy with it. Anyone know of an mp3 cd changer that will work with the factory hookups, or if anyone is willing to get rid of a factory changer in good shape, let me know. Thanks. If you think mp3's sound bad... I would usually agree, as I am an audiophile (http://www.head-fi.org if you're into headphones and music equipment... uses the same program for the message boards as this, so would be familliar), but seeing as how I use high quality mp3 encoding methods... without spending tons on new speakers/amps...its just not worth it. But the factory cd changer would work...

Rear LED Brake Light
2/3rds of my rear brake light goes out intermittently. A loose connector, or do I just have to deal with it, or what?

High Beams
My high beams are out. I had a low beam go out, and installed a couple silverstars. Does anyone else notice the manual for the 97 reverses the order of the light placement between high and low beams. I still have bruises from the scars... from over a month ago. If anyone lives in the chattanooga TN area, and they want to change the high beams... I'll pay them... My hands are just too big (even with removing the battery.)

I'm running Kuhmo Ecsta Supra 711's. Had two in decent shape, bought a couple to match up front. Might replace next spring... any suggestions?

I've heard that the alignment on the early catera's was rather... odd. I'm noticing SEVERE negative camber in the rear. It looks like i've chopped the springs, its sad looking. Were I driving a particular road course (in a 3770 lb car...probably not), but if I were, it'd be nice...but tire wear and other factors lead me to wanting to know if there are revised specs for alignment purposes (will be getting 4 wheel alignment soon).

Occasional Smoke
Occasional smoking from under the engine. Can't find what's burning...don't want to have to fix anything else. I know its pretty vague, but I figure there will be some blanket problems in the early models I should know about. Again, I'm sure I can search for many of these, but I'm just asking for some links to the good threads, so I don't have to sit and weed out as many bad ones.

Perfomance upgrades
I saw a sticky on this, but real quick, is there some kind of ecu flash/chip upgrade/anything of that sort for this car? Lower end response would be nice, as i hover around 2200-3000 most of the time.

It sounds as if my front suspension is giving out. The rear has leveling problems. Ballpark, how much is this going to run me for a decent setup? OEM or better (better prefered, especially if less than OEM. BTW, I THINK I may be able to get OEM products at cost, so that's an option as well).

Sport Mode Light
Is there ANY way to replace the light on the shift knob that will let me know when i'm in sport mode. I can feel the lag between 20 and 30 mph, but I just kinda want that light telling me i'm in "Sport Mode."

Which oil do people like in this car, with around 100k on the odo? The previous owner was using castrol sytnec blend 10w-30. Should I switch to non-syn, high mileage, oil treatment, full syn?

Check Engine Light
I'll fill up with gas, and the light comes on for a couple days. It likes some gas stations, some it doesn't. Texaco 93 seems to be decent, but I can get Conoco 93 for about 15 cents less per gallon...these days...that adds up quick. Anyone know of any other brands these cars like? I haven't gone to get it scanned yet, but I can do that and bring the codes back with me at some point.

Anyways, I dig the car. I got it for 2g's, and I've thrown about 600$ into it with brakes, fixing a problem with the latch on the driver side door (it locked closed, 3.5 hours at the dealer to get it undone. Wrote it up as 2.5, charged me for 1.5... I got lucky that day.) And a couple hundred for some Kuhmo's/rotation/balance. I think I got a pretty good deal initially, I just hope this one holds out for me.

I appreciate in advance the help and insight I feel I will gain from this community.


04-15-05, 06:53 PM

First off- Welcome to the forums; and a congrats on your 97 Catera purchase.


Brakes: You might have some air in the system from changing the pads; id bleed the brakefluid and then replace it with new stuff. Otherwise if that doesnt help it could be related to your brake's master cylinder.

It blinking means that theres a fault with the compressor or level sensors - OR its not able to level the car due to a leak in the system. It sounds like your car is sitting to high in the rear? It may have to do with the level sensor or the computer controlled process:http://www.cadillacforums.com/forums/showpost.php?p=288933&postcount=7 (everything there is to know about the system)

Leak: What color is the fluid? It might be the valve cover leaking oil Onto the metal pipe which is part of the upper radiator hose; or if its orange/red than its coolant.

Transmission: I cant really say- although I wouldnt go to AAMCO. Thats a given in most situations. lol. Check out some shops that do transmission work for yourself. Make sure they know what your car is and have worked on it before.

Alarm/Remote: Have you tried reprogramming the remote yourself? "When your near the vehicle, hold down (first) the trunk button... then within one second - press and hold down the lock button.. hold both down for 3 seconds." Otherwise if you want to go that route of an aftermarket remotestart and alarm - id check the internet for reviews on the best system. A good trusted installer can set you up bypassing the alarm.

Stereo: http://www.crutchfield.com/S-IUcMMm4Nivg/cgi-bin/ProdView.asp?g=65500&id=detailed_info&i=581G190CAD I think you need the 6 cd cartrage for this one. Doesnt play Mp3's though. Otherwise someone here may have a changer or you could check ebay.

BrakeLight: My knowledge is limited on this; check the bulbs connections... and talk to this member: Logandiagnostic hes a sponsor and works on the brakelight strip from the Catera and other Cadillacs.

Headlights: Theres only one bulb for the headlight as far as i know. On the 2000 i know theres one and its composite (both high and low beam). IN the 97/98 catera owners manual it shows it as being composite as well. You could be having an issue with the headlight switch if your highbeams arent comming on or the highbeam fuse is blown. Page 6-58 of your owners manual lists where the fuse panel is (underneath steeringwheel). And the highbeam fuse number.

Tires: www.tirerack.com You'll find tire reviews too. I like michilens and they're going to be the next set on our Catera. Pilot Sport if i recall.

Alignment: The rear, it was setup that way because it aids in handling and isnt harming you as it stands. It might look worse now; there might be a correlation between that and the autoleveling system malfunctioning. But yes they do have negative camber on them from the factory. The alignment issues was with feathering in the front.

Smoking: Probably related to the fluid you see leaking on the side of the engine; getting onto the exhaust manifold and burning up. Is it a steam or a smoke.... lol. Otherwise the heater coolant valve can go and spew coolant that runs onto the exhaust ... the coolant crossover, or it could be a valve cover. The coolant valve and crossover would leak enough to have the low coolant light come on. Have you seen this at any time? Link just for the heatervalve if needed:http://www.cadillacforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22376
Please see if this is even a problem before you go out fixing. Im guessing its still related to the fluid you see dropping on the passengerside of the engine.

Performance: Nope. Although there is a possibillity with the european company Courtenay Sport (which they do for the Vauxhall/Opel Omega, the car the Catera is based off of) most likely it wouldnt work due to software changes between US and Euro spec settings.

Suspension: on rockauto.com they have what you need. Monroe sensitrac front struts for $60 each, For the rear theres a monroe max air shock at $77ea. If your looking for performance Koni has just the strut itself (no spring) for premium and performance street for the front on tirerack.com 103-163$. OEM is also on rockauto and www.cadillac-parts-dealer.com

Sportmode: There's no light on the shift knob; the only light is on the instrument panel. Its an orange S when sport mode is on. (or worse comes to worse if theres a fault in the transmission if you dont have sport mode on).

Check engine light: Sounds reasonable, get the codes checked so you/we know whats going on for sure.

Hope this helps! - JefferyG.

04-15-05, 07:56 PM
If the S on the dash board doesn't illuminate when you pressed on the Sport mode, then the bulb might be busted, since you said you can feel the lag when it is on. You will have to remove the instrument panel and the instruction on how to accomplish it is somewhere around here, I'm sorry i don't have the link, but if you would use the search feature of the forum, it will lead you to it.

04-15-05, 08:07 PM
http://www.angelfire.com/tx2/mannyyy/ipwriteup.html :cool:

04-15-05, 08:20 PM
First of all, thanks for the responses I've gotten so far. JefferyG, you've answered or helped me out on quite a few areas.

Real quick, let me make a correction. The 20-30MPH Lag is when the sport mode is OFF. I NEVER have it off, but I don't have a light on my instrument panel. I was under the impression that there was a light ring around the "S" on the knob. I read something about there being a light on the instrument panel, but I haven't seen it, so it must be burnt out. Sigh. I'll take a look on my way in to work to try to find it.

About the leveling system, I don't know if its too high, or too low. I thought I remembered from the owner's manual that the leveling light blinks when its too low, possibly leading to undercar damage, or something to that extent. I just hate the light.

Allen, thanks for the info on the intrument panel... I'm not looking forward to taking this car apart (just the cover for the fuse box below the steering wheel has been a pain on the two occasions i've removed it for blown fuses).

BTW, to my understanding, the 97 (or at least mine) has two seperate H7 bulbs on each side. The high beams on the inside (also for DRL's... i take it mine don't work right now), and the low beams on the outside.

The prices on the shocks and struts are promising, however. I was thinking closer to a grand or grand.5... not the 300$ or so. I'd be interested in the Koni's, however.

I'm sure I'll be devouring this site over my tenure with this car. It looks promising. Thanks again for the help so far... keep it coming.


04-15-05, 11:01 PM
The best way to get to the bulbs is to remove the headlight assembly, you can accomplish this by removing the grille which is held by 4 screws and then you can start removing all the other screws that hold the headlight assembly in place. I am guessing the high beam lights might be busted as well. You can check it by putting the working bulb into the highbeam connector and see, if it doesn't work, then check the wiring, check if there is current running into the connectors. It's a pain in the butt to solve and work on these problem all by yourself, but after accomplishing one project to another, there is a greater sense of satisfaction. I am having problems with the emission system right now, which i am still trying to decide upon if I will invest the money on it or just let it be. I was adviced by someone that had an experience with his emission system, the catalytic converter fell off one of his old cars, he decided to just remove the whole thing and then sent the car for inspection and it passed with flying colors. He's a mechanic as well, and he told me that once the engine is running well and there are no leaks and problems with timing and the ignition of a car, he said that there should be no problem with emission. Besides all these cars are designed to comply with the strict emission guidelines here in the US. So basically, just keep the engine running optimal and everything will be okay. The problem is our car is kinda problematic when it comes to this department. Not everyone is having lots of problems like you, but most, at a certain point have experienced the more common problems of this car. I am just gratefull that I saw this forum after i got the car, at least, I was able to save a lot of dollars by doing most of the repairs myself. And to think that I am not even a mechanic, but with all these guys giving you tips everytime, how can you go wrong. You just gotta have a lot of patience and of course the time to be patient. :)

04-15-05, 11:05 PM
And by the way, the instrument panel is so easy to remove and put back, the instructions in the link that Jeff posted are very straightforward and you would definitely be able to accomplish it. One tip though, if in case you decide to remove the instrument panel, you don't need to disconnect the connection wiring connection to the right side of the panel, the one near the oil pressure gauges. By tilting the steering wheel down to the lowest position, you can manipulate the panel and squeeze it through the space in between the steering wheel and the dash board. You will see what i mean, in case you decide to go for it.

04-16-05, 11:34 AM
Hey...thanks for the info.

Really, it seems to have a few problems, but I've gotten a bit of them fixed, I just don't know about the leaking fluid and the problems with the suspension. Some kinda of noise coming from the front that sounds like the suspension that's messed up with a friend's camry (hehe...she paid 5000$ for a 97 camry...i got a 97 catera for half that). I don't think the engine is leaking around the valve covers (i think that's a common problem on early ones, right? Or am I just remembering wrong?) Anyways... its all stuff that I can live with for now. The leak is very small... and the fluid that's leaking is some that had been sitting on a part of the car when I bought it (i do believe). I hope the cat doesn't go out... we just started emissions testing 2 weeks ago in TN, and they check with a mirror for the cat being physically there.

The other choice for a car I was looking at was a 5sp 1987 BMW 325i 4d, with Leather and LSD. Great little car, but twice as many miles and 10 years older. It might have passed emmsions this year...but two years from now, a 20 year old car vs. a 10 year old car... don't want to take any more chances than I already have. (1988 Audi 5000 with bum transmission, for one).

Again, thanks for the help, and I'll be checking back a lot.

BTW, any Oil recommendations? I don't think I saw one above, and I need to get that changed next month (with sticking with 3 month/5,000 mile schedule). Syn/half-syn/non-syn/high mileage? Any suggestions appreciated.


04-16-05, 02:21 PM
BTW, any Oil recommendations? I don't think I saw one above, and I need to get that changed next month (with sticking with 3 month/5,000 mile schedule). Syn/half-syn/non-syn/high mileage? Any suggestions appreciated.


Yeah 5 or 10w30 Synthetic or Synthetic Blend- from what I saw it has Castrol syntec blend now? Stick with that or go to a full synthetic. Mobil 1, Castrol, Amsoil, Halvoline All good stuff.