: Laundry help with 1997 and 1998 Cats

03-17-06, 09:54 AM
There is good and bad with the 1997 and 1998 Cats. They are every bit the 140 mph Autobahn cruisers that the later, 1999-2001, cars are. (I know there is a governor at 125 mph - defeat it and you can do 140)

They are as good looking and as luxurious as the later cars, or not, depending on your personal taste. But the early cars are nicely appointed.

There are more good things. On the surface at least the early, 1997 and 1998, cars appear to have potential.

And the final huge plus for these cars is of course: they are inexpensive. Where else are you going to buy a well-built 140 mph car for four grand or less . . . . . . . . running.

But there are negatives, too. The early cars can present a swarm of annoying minor challenges. I know these exist, but the larger worry is catastrophic and unexpected engine failure. Such an event can really spoil your day.

So I address this to the many 1997 and 1998 Cat owners out there. Are you willing to help create here below a laundry list, a check list, of things you would scrutinize if you were to be given a running 1997 or 1998 Cat with, say, 75,000 miles on it.

Say you are presented with a running 1997 or 1998 Cat. Say your objective is to keep it running. You do not know the history of the car. You do not want the engine to fail abruptly, as sometimes happens with these cars. What are your suggestions? What specific items would you be worried about, having the objective to avoid a dead Cat with a lost engine? What would you address first? second? Where are the threats, specifically.

If you would be willing to share your views it will help two different groups of people:

It will help other 1997 and 1998 owners here who may be taking too much for granted and may be risking losing their engines and cars.

It will help folks who want to buy a 1997 or 1998 Catera, but who are afraid of the engine heading south without warning, as seems to occur all too often.


You know it is funny. You don't hear about too many transmission failures on 75K mile Cats, though there are a few. You don't hear of many differentials with broken gears. You do hear of electrical problems and tie rod ends and suspension stuff. But nothing highly likely to create an "end of life" situation for the car;

except for the engines.

When the older Cats, running, only cost what they do, the cost of a new or rebuilt engine, or of rebuilding an engine, is a significant percentage of the cost of the entire car.

It really makes sense to try to protect the status of a running engine.

03-17-06, 10:46 AM
In my opinion the single most important thing for Catera is timing belts if you break it while running you are in BIG trouble so timing belt change is the single most important maintenance iteam in my opinion.

03-17-06, 01:21 PM
I know a lot of you guys are going to hate me for saying this, but I think Catera's need to be worked on at the dealership. :want: I just got my 97 catera back from the dealership getting the timing belt recall, water pump recall, fixing major oil leak and a missing problem in one of the spark plugs. Anyway, I have had the oil leak for almost three years, I have had it looked at by over half a dozen mechanics and only one tried to fix it (he thought it was valve cover gaskets), causing more damage. These cars are very sensitive and only mechanics who deal with these cars on a regular basis should be working on them. My caddy has 94k on her and I love her. The dealership told me I need to get rid of it because they are nothing but problems, but I am not going to give in damn it. I will not let Cadillac win, I love my car and I am keeping it. Just in case you were wondering, the bill for the oil leak and fixing the missing problem was $1,000.

03-18-06, 01:00 AM
If I am not mistaken, it's actually not the timing belt but the tensioner that is faulty. If it breaks then so goes the timing belt. But the belt alone is fine, at least according to a GM mechanic that i spoke with.

03-18-06, 04:54 AM
If your paying $4,000 for a 97 or 98, your looking in the wrong places. I got my 99 with 78k on it for 4300 at the auction. These cars go for nothing at the auction because dealers are afraid.

About the dealer only work being done, I believe thats hogwash. The dealers get paid by the work-hour, often resulting in a hurried job. Doing the work yourself if you are inclined is much safer, cheaper, and better. These cars are nothing more than pieces of metal, with a little common sense anything can be done (if you can rebuild a small block chevy, you can fix this car).

I'm glad these cars are cheap, and IMO, they are one of the best bangs for the buck. Shop around a little, and don't be afraid to lowball-the dealers HATE these cars.

03-18-06, 07:31 AM
If I am not mistaken, it's actually not the timing belt but the tensioner that is faulty. If it breaks then so goes the timing belt. But the belt alone is fine, at least according to a GM mechanic that i spoke with.
I was close :)

03-18-06, 10:34 AM
I was close :)
Actually, inconnu, you were right on.

Both the belt, AND the tensioner are worries in the earlier cars in particular, and in all Cats. This is especially true it you still have one of the older (now obsolete) belts still in your car. This is not likely, but it is possible.

Belts are especially troublesome to evaluate. While they can show signs of wear, it's also true that perfectly good appearing belts can fail without warning.

GM has a 60,000 mile recommended change interval on the belts. You would have to be flat nuts out of your mind to KNOWINGLY exceed that spec. Trouble is, owners are normal, busy people. They do not always turn their attention to stuff like this on a regualr basis. But the penalty for belt, or tensioner, failure can be VERY high. You can easily lose your car.

When I started this thread of course I knew about the timing belt related issues.

But Cats run aluminum heads on a cast iron block. Cast iron and aluminum have very different coefficients of expansion. The only things standing between Cat owners and trouble are the head gaskets, which must accomodate the difference in materials as the engine warms up.

Cat head gasgets are not the most accomodating, in MHO. It's just my opinion, OK.

When a Cat overheats, the heads want to lift at the center. This is because of the bolt pattern. The gasket will allow for some of this, but not much. Overheating will promote blown head gaskets and PERMANENT warping of the head(s). It also messes with the cam supports, just for added fun.

The take-away message from me is this:

Try real hard to avoid overheating your Cat.

Stay away from Hot Tin Roofs:).

But seriously, overheating a Cat is a REALLY bad idea. It could spoil your day . . . or your car.

If you are out somewhere and it's really hot, and if your gauge says you are approaching the edge of the bubble, turn off the damn air conditioning and turn on the heat . . . . . anything to keep the engine from going over the edge.

Be sure your thermostat is in good shape. Be sure your cooling system is flushed and fit. Be sure the coolant is fresh and right. Be certain the radiator is clean and open, without blocked and/or spoiled tubes.

I'm not ringing a fire bell here. A Cat in proper shape will NOT easily overheat and will survive OK even fairly extreme conditions.


for older cars (the subject of this thread, after all) stuff can degrade and critical cooling system service can be set aside for "later". And with Cateras there is not a huge cushion in the arena of cooling. You have to "take care of business" or truly risk some of the aforementioned sh-- happening in pressing circumstances.

Trust me:

You do not want a warped head or blown head gasket.

I hope others here will share their ideas, things to watch for and ways to keep those older Cat engines up, running, and far away from the junk heap. (more)

Note to the group:

I wanted to limit this thread to the older, 1997 and 1998, Cateras because the 1999 and newer cars are a little different. There were design changes starting in 1999. I do not have any prejudice against the newer cars. They are great, and it's true they often experience the same problems as the older cars. But the older cars are slightly different and worth discussing by themselves.

03-22-06, 11:51 AM
As for the Laundry List of common problems with 97-98 Cateras, this would be my list based on experience and what I've heard - most important/comon at top:

Timing Belt/Tensioner as discussed above - I don't think this is a 'common' problem if the recalls were done, but when it goes, look out!

Valve Cove Gaskets - leaking oil, usually into the spark plug wells causing misfire and/or damage to the spark plug boots. I haven't done this job yet, but I think I will be doing it soon. From what I've gathered, its a bit of work, but can be a do it yourself job.

Crankshaft Position Sensor - this seems to be fairly common, causing (sometimes intermittent) 'cranks but won't start' condition; or sometimes engine shutting off at highway speeds. This job can be done yourself with basic tools/know how - search this forum for more info. The Camshaft Position sensor is sometimes also mentioned with similar symptoms.

General Electrical Gremlins - stuff like battery going dead overnight due to a component staying on (like a fan), ignition problems, blowing fuses, fog lights. Major electrical problems don't seem to be too common though.

Front-end/Suspension - It seems I also sometimes hear about front-end/suspension parts that need replacing a bit sooner or more frequently than you might expect. I don't think this one is too terribly common or big of a problem.

Then there's the usual stuff that can go out on any car at any time - fuel pump, coils, brakes, etc.

As mentioned earlier, it seems you don't often hear about some things that can be a big problem that are common to other makes/models. Few transmission problems, few problems with leaks, few problems with head gaskets blowing (at least compared to some cars). Of course there are fewer Cateras out there than say, Cavaliers - so the numbers might be misleading.

Thats my $.02 - ok, what did I leave off the list??? :confused:

03-22-06, 07:02 PM
sirmqc, thanks!

You did a superb job and certainly a better job than myself.

I do think this has to be a group effort. Other contributors can help by reinforceing your views, or not, as might be their experience with their own cars. But I feel certain you helped other owners and that is a good thing.

03-31-06, 04:43 PM
i got my cat w/100k miles on it. i changed valve covers, CRK sensor, coil pack and ignition wires, overall bout 1200 on a car i bought for 3k, runs perrrfect.............for now, so check valve cover leakage, it seaps into the sparkplug wells..oh yeah, pepboys did a excellent job on the car.

09-07-06, 07:29 PM
I have a 98 Cat with 261,000 kilometres on it. I've experienced just about every problem written about on this forum and repaired it. (I get to write off 80% of my maintenance expenses, I also change my oil monthly) My car runs like a new car. The only outstanding issue I have with my car are the headlights, I can't adjust them. I may order new one on ebay.

09-11-06, 08:34 PM
ive had my cat for two years now. i've put 20,000 miles on her. bought it with 100k and just hit 120k. i love this car. it has problems every now and then, but what car doesnt?

blown head gasket..

HCV coolant leak..

new spark plug wires..

and a new ignition coil pack...

thats what ive run into.. and fairly a while back. she runs beautifully now and im looking at another 20k before i get rid of her.

oh yeah.. i needed a new front bumper too, but thats between me and her :D

09-18-06, 02:16 AM
98, 75k when bought just hit 80k. I love this car.
It had all recalls and services done. I actualy managed to get the tensinor done under warranty at the dealer. def got head gasket leak going on. The headlight thing anoys me too. I deliver chinese food with this car and i need descent lights... I also have the HCV issue. but thats it so far. I was lucky to be only the 2cnd owner and even luckier that the first owner took very good care of the car.
Oh yea i think the rocker in the back makes too much noise.

09-18-06, 08:00 AM
. . . . . had all recalls and services done. I actualy managed to get the tensinor done under warranty at the dealer.

You have done really well with your Cat!

I assume, but am not sure of this:

The first owner failed to have the recall service performed.

Is this correct?

I think Cadillac is obligated to perform the recall service, one time ONLY, on all Cats. It is a benefit attached to the CAR, and not to any partiucular owner.

If the first owner did not take your car in for the recall service, then you were entitled, or really the CAR continued to be entitled. And of course there is never a charge to have the recall service performed.

It is every Catera fan's dream to find a high mileage Cat, still running, which has not had the recall service performed. These cars are really, really RARE! And they are obviously more valuable than other Cats with the same number of miles, other things being equal.

Congratulations. You are a winner in life's lottery!:thumbsup:

11-04-06, 02:36 AM
i have a 98 and ive gone thru 3 heater contol valves, at about $90 a pop that gets exsp. also the v6 saab 9-5 shares some of the same parts for a little cheaper.

11-04-06, 11:34 AM
I use full synthetic oil and add red line watter wetter to the coolant to keep the temp down a bit as well and not using air conditioning as much as possible. thease cars run warm and thats not always bad, running warm they are more likely to get better combustion and no un burned fuel but keep that temp level in your site! For the most part stop and go traffic in the city on a summer day is when the car is likely to become the warmest.:bigroll: :bigroll:

11-15-06, 08:12 AM
Great job sirmqc. In an earlier post, I forgot that I had a problem with the spark plug wire closest to the firewall on the driver's side. (By the way, is this the #5 or #6, anyone know?) I went to Auto Zone and they wanted about $400.00 for a new set of wires or you could buy half(no kidding) for $160.00 or so. Parts America and Murray's were the same. I ended up having a friend of mine rig one up until I was lucky enough to find a junked Catera. I took ALL the wires for spares. I used Royal Purple Ice, the radiator additive to cool it down; it worked for me. I use synthetic oil in everything I own and my Cat is no exception; although I'm partial to Mobile1 and Amsoil, they're all good. It's my understanding from my brother-in-law who is a petrochemical engineer that the Walmart Brand of synthetic oil IS Mobile1.I've used it with great results.Also, every 5,000 miles or so, I use the Lucas Fuel Injector Cleaner, another great product. I replaced the radiator over the summer and done a couple of brake jobs on it. I replaced the battery twice, once when the second one was under warranty and paid a $20 pro-rated fee. These cars are heavy and go thru brakes and tires on a regular basis. Also, they have a lot of eletrical stuff on them so buying a new battery every so often should be no surprise to anyone. I've said it before ALWAYS buy replacement parts with Lifetime Warranties. Soon, I'll have to replace the valve cover gaskets on my Cat and thanks to all of you folks who contribute to this forum, I'll know how to do it...correctly.