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'97 Catera x 2
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Everybody,

I've been on here reading up on Cateras and then recently picked up a couple so I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm in the Seattle area and my regular job is race car fabrication. I've been looking for an interesting project car for a while, and I've always been a fan of interesting or unique GM cars (Dad had Corvairs, I've had a bunch of Fieros, etc) so I was watching for Cateras on craigslist.

On Memorial Day weekend I found a guy selling two '97s. Long story short, I bought the pair. I had done enough research to know that '97s and '98s are not the ones to buy, but the price was right and I'm fairly mechanically inclined so I bought them anyway. The deal even came with a set of Factory Service Manuals.

The black one had a dead transmission and the gold one has a dead engine. The previous owner had planned to transplant the motor from the black one into the gold one but ran out of time or space or whatever. Both cars are in really nice shape, the gold one especially (only 65k miles!), so I'm going to fix them both. The plan is to sell the gold one when I get it running because it's so cherry, and then keep the black one to drive.

I decided to work on the black one first because its problem was well defined: no second gear. After some diagnosis I determined that the problem was internal so I ordered the rebuild kit and the manual and rebuilt the transmission. It turns out the 2nd gear clutch was wiped out. I've been driving it now and fixing minor electrical problems (dome lights, high beam light indicator, trunk release, backup lights, brake pad idiot light, low coolant idiot light) and it's just about ready for full time daily driver status.

The gold one is next but I have several work projects in line first so it'll be another month before I get to that one. I believe it has multiple problems. Cranks but won't fire, plus previous owner said it has a blown head gasket. Sounds like it when you crank it.

I'll be doing some more reading and will likely have more questions later, but until then I wanted to thank you all for the information you've supplied me so far.

Doug Chase
 

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1997 catera/03 CTS
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152 Posts
Hello Doug: I also have a gold 97 Cat, and agree they aren't the best choice, but fun to work on. I'm located just north of you in the Vancouver area of B.C. By the sound of it you have already been christened and becoming a vet. I'll be watching for any tidbits you may have in the future. Welcome and Good Luck. Regards, Brian
 

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2000 Black Catera Sport
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57 Posts
wish you lived near me in south carolina, I need my new timing belt installed, new serpentine belt, new water pump and rear seal installed on my 2000 catera sport, it seems i cant find any mechanics that want to do the work around here.
 

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Platinum 2001 Cadillac Catera Sport
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1,840 Posts
While you're under the cars check the suspension bushings, front and rear. After 13 years they're likely in sore need of replacement. Being involved in racing I'm sure you'll want to upgrade the car you decide to keep. I made a list of suspension upgrade components you might find helpful.

http://cateraowners.forumotion.com/suspension-f11/catera-suspension-upgrades-part-1-t108.htm#409

Lots of owners have upgraded the bushings and some have even swapped in GTO springs for a lower, firmer ride. Then there's the GTO front brake caliper swap which gives you dual pistons over the OEM single. Keep using the search engine and you'll find other mods. Maybe you can give us a few after you tear into your Cats.
 

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'97 Catera x 2
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12 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Hi Everybody,

Thanks for the welcomes. It's been a while since I've checked in here and I've been doing nothing Caddy related except driving the black car and tracking down more annoying electrical issues (dome lights don't work, horn is intermittant, front seat heaters don't work, etc). Once the weather was no longer suitable for a convertible (Miata) the Catera became an awful nice daily driver.

Unfortunately, it had a slight mishap a week ago. I was giving a snow driving lesson to a 17 year old on the way to Crystal Mountain to go skiing and, well, the driving lesson didn't go as well as we'd hoped.

I'd post a pic, but apparently I need 5 posts first, so I'll do that after a couple more posts. [EDIT: Just found the attachments button so I used that instead of posting image inline]

Mechanically the car isn't bad and all it needs to be back on the road is a left front control arm and tie rod, and driver's window. Unfortunately the whole left side of the car is dented up, and the rear bumper cover is half torn off.

At this point I'm going to transplant the perfect running engine from this car into my gold car. After that I'll put the black one up for sale either whole or as parts.

I've looked ahead into the engine R&R procedure and have a couple questions on that which I'll ask in another thread.

One final question, though. Are there any other Catera forums on the internet? In addition to this one I found cateraowners.forumotion dot com (Thanks elvin 315) and omegaowners dot com.

Anything else? I appreciate the welcome I've gotten here, but this site is soooo sloooow.

Doug
 

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Catera 2001
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343 Posts
Hi Everybody,

Thanks for the welcomes. It's been a while since I've checked in here and I've been doing nothing Caddy related except driving the black car and tracking down more annoying electrical issues (dome lights don't work, horn is intermittant, front seat heaters don't work, etc). Once the weather was no longer suitable for a convertible (Miata) the Catera became an awful nice daily driver.

Unfortunately, it had a slight mishap a week ago. I was giving a snow driving lesson to a 17 year old on the way to Crystal Mountain to go skiing and, well, the driving lesson didn't go as well as we'd hoped.

I'd post a pic, but apparently I need 5 posts first, so I'll do that after a couple more posts. [EDIT: Just found the attachments button so I used that instead of posting image inline]

Mechanically the car isn't bad and all it needs to be back on the road is a left front control arm and tie rod, and driver's window. Unfortunately the whole left side of the car is dented up, and the rear bumper cover is half torn off.

At this point I'm going to transplant the perfect running engine from this car into my gold car. After that I'll put the black one up for sale either whole or as parts.

I've looked ahead into the engine R&R procedure and have a couple questions on that which I'll ask in another thread.

One final question, though. Are there any other Catera forums on the internet? In addition to this one I found cateraowners.forumotion dot com (Thanks elvin 315) and omegaowners dot com.

Anything else? I appreciate the welcome I've gotten here, but this site is soooo sloooow.

Doug
Welcome and sorry to see your car laying on the side hope people were OK. There is another site in UK that might interest you,

vauxhallownersnetwork dot co dot uk

Cheers
 

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2000 Cadillac Catera Sport
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91 Posts
wish you lived near me in south carolina, I need my new timing belt installed, new serpentine belt, new water pump and rear seal installed on my 2000 catera sport, it seems i cant find any mechanics that want to do the work around here.
Aww Man I know your pain! Took me a freaking month to find someone here in NYC who could do the job properly for less than the dealer!
 

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2000 Cadillac Catera Sport
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91 Posts
Hi Everybody,

Thanks for the welcomes. It's been a while since I've checked in here and I've been doing nothing Caddy related except driving the black car and tracking down more annoying electrical issues (dome lights don't work, horn is intermittant, front seat heaters don't work, etc). Once the weather was no longer suitable for a convertible (Miata) the Catera became an awful nice daily driver.

Unfortunately, it had a slight mishap a week ago. I was giving a snow driving lesson to a 17 year old on the way to Crystal Mountain to go skiing and, well, the driving lesson didn't go as well as we'd hoped.

I'd post a pic, but apparently I need 5 posts first, so I'll do that after a couple more posts. [EDIT: Just found the attachments button so I used that instead of posting image inline]

Mechanically the car isn't bad and all it needs to be back on the road is a left front control arm and tie rod, and driver's window. Unfortunately the whole left side of the car is dented up, and the rear bumper cover is half torn off.

At this point I'm going to transplant the perfect running engine from this car into my gold car. After that I'll put the black one up for sale either whole or as parts.

I've looked ahead into the engine R&R procedure and have a couple questions on that which I'll ask in another thread.

One final question, though. Are there any other Catera forums on the internet? In addition to this one I found cateraowners.forumotion dot com (Thanks elvin 315) and omegaowners dot com.

Anything else? I appreciate the welcome I've gotten here, but this site is soooo sloooow.

Doug
 

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Opel Omega
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1,419 Posts
I jsut put my snow tiers on and I may say that without them on my trip to michigan I may have been in the ditch just like you a few times... cars spun in front of me and I was able to outrun them without getting hit...

Just swap the parts over and sell this one for parts...

A lot of golden parts on these plus you will need parts for the other one too.

As for your electrical problems take out the K34 relay and fix any broken joints... that causes a ton of issues with these cars..
 

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'97 Catera x 2
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12 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
I jsut put my snow tiers on and I may say that without them on my trip to michigan I may have been in the ditch just like you a few times... cars spun in front of me and I was able to outrun them without getting hit...

Just swap the parts over and sell this one for parts...

A lot of golden parts on these plus you will need parts for the other one too.

As for your electrical problems take out the K34 relay and fix any broken joints... that causes a ton of issues with these cars..
I did a bunch of repairs to the K34 relay earlier and fixed the trunk release and the dome lights that turn on with the door. Maybe I fixed the horn at that time, too? Oh well, moot point since this car has probably seen its last road use. As for the current dome light problem, the lights go on when you open the door, but the other lights with the individual switches don't turn on. Based on following the wiring diagrams and checking voltages it appears that they are not grounding. Anyway, again, moot point.

So check this out. Today I retrieved the black car from my friend's place and then started tinkering with the gold car. A couple weeks ago I had stolen the radiator for the black car which had started leaking from a crack in the top of the left end tank. I wanted to do some preliminary diagnosis on the gold car before I pulled the motor so I figured the first thing I'd do was crank it over for a quick "listen to how it cranks" compression test before an actual compression test. So I threw the bad radiator back in it and stuck the hoses on but didn't fill it. Just wanted to catch whatever the water pump was going to pump out. I didn't bother putting on any of the plastic intake box and MAF.

So I crank it over and I'm listening to it for a couple seconds thinking "this doesn't sound uneven at all" and the strangest things happened: The car started. And it sounded just fine! I shut it down quickly because there was no coolant in it, but 10 minutes later I re-started to verify. And it sounded just fine again! I checked the oil and there was no water, and when I had drained the coolant there was no oil in it.

I'm not sure what led the previous owner to diagonse it as a blown head gasket but at this point I'm going to refill coolant, drain and fill oil, and take it for a drive to see what happens.

The Caddy gods are smiling on me today.

Doug
 

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Opel Omega
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1,419 Posts
Well you will be surprised how well people diagnose cars these days... I bought a car with a bad catalytic converters... turns out it was a grounded wire that disconected a air pump for the cats... n as soon as i fixed i the lights went away car drove fine...

Shop wanted 1200$ parts not including labor.
Repari cost me 3$...
Car purchased for 250$... used it for 4 years sold it for 500... it was a 1996 Ford Taurus LX...
 

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00 Catera
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132 Posts
That sounds alot like my luck, my 2000 Catera was sitting at the dealership in back. They got it, not running from the auction, and towed it back with a penske dolly. When they pushed it off the dolly, it bottemd out, and messed up the front, and so the car sat for a year, not running. They couldn't figure it out, so I bought it for $500. I was able to get it running, just a inline fuse. I fixed the front end, added the GTO brakes, sent out the ABS mod for a rebuild, and fixed the K34 myself. I've put 3000 miles on it now, and love it. I do have a few issues with it, but its work in progress.

I also added a JL 10" sub, and tied it in with the Bose system. Sounds pretty good. Not as good as a complete new system, but good enough that it isn't worth adding a system. ;-)
 

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Catera 2001
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343 Posts
That sounds alot like my luck, my 2000 Catera was sitting at the dealership in back. They got it, not running from the auction, and towed it back with a penske dolly. When they pushed it off the dolly, it bottemd out, and messed up the front, and so the car sat for a year, not running. They couldn't figure it out, so I bought it for $500. I was able to get it running, just a inline fuse. I fixed the front end, added the GTO brakes, sent out the ABS mod for a rebuild, and fixed the K34 myself. I've put 3000 miles on it now, and love it. I do have a few issues with it, but its work in progress.

I also added a JL 10" sub, and tied it in with the Bose system. Sounds pretty good. Not as good as a complete new system, but good enough that it isn't worth adding a system. ;-)
Great post.

Separates the doers/believers from the complainers.

Good luck and post if any issues so someone can help if possible.

Have a great weekend.
 

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'97 Catera x 2
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12 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
I unloaded the black Caddy from the trailer today and got it into the shop. That was an adventure. I tried hose clamping the broken tie rod together a couple different ways, but neither worked so I resorted to driving 2', getting out with the crowbar to adjust the angle of the LF wheel, repeat. Took about an hour.

Once in the shop, I pulled the good radiator from the black car and transplanted it back to its original home in the gold car. I filled it with coolant and hooked up all the sensors and it fired right up. Not sure what was up with the cranks-but-won't-start condition it had when I bought it but I'm grateful that it's at least temporarily gone. If it's going to come back I sure hope it happens before it leaves the shop.

The car sounds like it's firing evenly but it's kind of hard to tell because it has an exhaust leak at the right manifold (that I knew about when I bought it). It definitely has some sort of a knock, though. It's worst right at startup and then goes mostly away in about 10 seconds but is still sort of faintly there. If you bring the RPMs up it seems to go away. It doesn't sound quite like rod knocks usually do, but that's still my best guess. Almost sounds like it's in the top end, though.

I haven't drained the oil or driven it yet. Will see what comes out of the crankcase (it looks clean on the dipstick) and if it looks perfect I'll put some 20W-50 in it and if the knock goes away it's probably a rod.

Has anybody done rod bearings in one of these without pulling the motor? If it is a rod knock, it's not bad yet, so it's possible the crank is still fine and this could be fixed by replacing rod bearings. Hey, I can dream, right?

On the other hand, if the crank is wiped out then I'll swap in the motor from the black car, and will probably put new rod bearings in it as a preventative measure.

Doug
 

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'97 Catera x 2
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Discussion Starter #18
Oh, oil pressure was about 25psi at idle, which might be a little low at a cold start. Based on experience with the black car, however, I'm not convinced the oil pressure gauge is hooked up to reality so I may put a mechanical gauge on to test.
 

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Catera 2001
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343 Posts
Oh, oil pressure was about 25psi at idle, which might be a little low at a cold start. Based on experience with the black car, however, I'm not convinced the oil pressure gauge is hooked up to reality so I may put a mechanical gauge on to test.
You are very knowledgeable but if it helps,


  • Noise at start is probably drained and partially lifters/valves. If the engine was cranked a lot of times without start this could have similar effect as turning the crank manually albeit a little faster. When I changed my timing belt and turned the crank manually few times I got such noise. Couple of quick oil changes and Rislone engine treatment fixed the issue with patience.
  • Oil pressure you are absolutely right about bad pressure indication. You can clean tand re-install the sensor or replace it for peace of mind as it appears a very common issue with age of these cars. Lot of mechanics jump to the oil pump but I have not seen any posts which proved that to be the case. Oil pressure sensor so easy to replace too.
Good luck.
 

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'97 Catera x 2
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Discussion Starter #20
The plot thickens.

I moved the gold car over to the lift yesterday, and I noticed a puddle of oil where it had been previous sitting. Investigation shows that a previous owner has bypassed the oil cooler. He cut the lines right above the oil filter and looped a piece of hose between them, and this is leaking pretty seriously when the car is running. The rest of the oil cooler lines are nowhere to be seen, so I don't know if the oil cooler has been completely removed or not. Yikes.

I have a feeling that the deeper I get into this motor, the more problems I'm going to find with it. I'm going to cut my losses at this point and transplant the engine (and freshly rebuilt transmission) from the black car. I'll do some freshening on that motor before it goes in.

Here's my tentative list of what I should do to freshen that motor. Comments welcome.

timing belt
timing belt tensioner
water pump
rod bearings?
main bearings?
oil cooler?
misc (plugs, wires, belts)

What do you all think? Anything else that really should be replaced while the motor is out? The motor currently has 137k on it. Keep in mind that I plan on selling the gold car when it's finished so I don't want to go overboard. But at the same time I want to sell a car that is in very good condition to the best of my knowledge.

Three questions for those that have pulled the motor:

1) Does anybody have a picture of the engine lift mount brackets? I'll need to make some.

2) The factory service manual has you remove the transmission and then the engine. Is this necessary for clearance, or can the motor / trans come out together?

3) Is it possible to remove the motor without opening the A/C system? IE, unbolt the compressor from the block and move it out of the way?

Doug
 
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