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eldorado
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I have found a 97 catera i might buy for my stepson and was wondering are they worth a crap? Are they imported for GM and who imported them? common problems?
This on has been sitting a while and starts right up , has a new fuel pump judging from old parts in the trunk and other than a small dent on pass fender overall ok shape?? 7of 10..
 

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Platinum 2001 Cadillac Catera Sport
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1,840 Posts
I suggest reading the Sticky: Catera - Known Issues for more info but here's what I think. I ran into the Catera on internet used car sites and it jogged my memory. I remember liking the Catera when introduced in the magazines and the Steinmetz concept car, 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 also softened the suspension from its autobahn tune.

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. The '97 - '98 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. Improved coolers were installed after '99.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 pressure that blows the oil past the gaskets.
  6. 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. Again, 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 edgy 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/Vauxhall 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 springs , front & rear, fit along with the rear shocks but not the struts. 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 V8 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 isn't for you. If you want a driver's car that, like a thoroughbred horse, requires some attention .............. welcome aboard.

Elvin
 

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2 1997 Cateras: black&ocean green
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I cleaned mine yesterday with a paper clip. At first I didn't want to push it oo hard, but when I did, I realized that it was clogged up. We'll see the results today.
I am still amazed at how many little things can go wrong. There is a lot of stuff on these cars, but from what I've seen, most of the problems barely cost any money to solve. We know where to get the parts from, we have GM Shop Manuals and we have a lot of DIY guys that are willing to give up some time to make it all work, and make it all work even better. Cheers to us !!!
 

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Platinum 2001 Cadillac Catera Sport
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I've said it before. If you want a car that you can park and forget, the Catera's not for you. If you love machinery and are willing to take care if it, the Catera will treat you with great handling and a rev happy engine. Problem is that we end up playing catch-up for all the neglect of previous owners.
 

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'97 Catera (Ocean)
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You can say that again. Say it three times for good measure. I think that the situation for most of us who didn't buy our cars off the lot. Thanks to all you guys I've been able to do most repairs myself. I just need to find a service manual for cheap and I'll be good to go.
 

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1997 Catera
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service manual for cheap? maybe, but I couldn't find one. The official GM service set is available (three volumes) for about $175.00. I don't think a Chilton's or Haynes manual will help for this car.

And ditto to all the above. It helps to have a spare vehicle if you put the miles on that I do (travel for work on short notice) and do all the service yourself. But...after I played my catch-up to the PO abuse I've put over 50000 on mine for a grand total of 174K. On my second set of tires now. FYI this time I skipped the goodyear eagles and got some Kumho Solus 715. Half the price, great ride, and they do not 'track' like the eagles did. Real happy ride.
 

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2000 Catera Sport
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I say pass on it. Its a cool car but it is so temperamental. Breaks a lot and parts/labor are often expensive. I love mine but would never buy another one. Specially with out a warranty. Beware. Its a real hands-on vehicle repair wise.
 

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'97 Catera (Ocean)
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lol you can say that again, honestly, $200 to install the CPS at the Stealership? These guys are crazy! DIY for parts cost ($60-90) and 25 min of your time. Torx set required!
 

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2 1997 Cateras: black&ocean green
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Yeah, same goes for heater valve. The price is $200 installed, when I can get the part for a little over $54 ($94 at dealer) nad ait takes me, an amature back-yard (more like front door and parking lot... :D ) mechanic, only 20 or so minutes... DIY stuff is pretty cheap, I guess no matter what car you're talking about
 

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Cadillac
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I say pass on it. Its a cool car but it is so temperamental. Breaks a lot and parts/labor are often expensive. I love mine but would never buy another one. Specially with out a warranty. Beware. Its a real hands-on vehicle repair wise.
+1 also
 
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