Early ecotec motor issues

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In another thread, I asked whether to repair or replace my truck after a tree fell on it. My insurance company totalled it and decided it was worth $6000--not bad considering I paid $5500 for it four years ago! After the deductable I've got $5000. The damage was a lot worse than it initially looked like and repairing it myself and pocketing the difference isn't practical considering my time and space constraints. I've been looking at smaller cars with good mpg and durable engines, preferably for under $4000. I'd like to be able to save some of the insurance money and set it aside into savings since I really have no emergency funds available. A few cars in particular I've looked at all have the 2.2 ecotec motor. From what I've read they're pretty dependable motors but had some timing chain issues in earlier model years. The cars I'm going to check out tomorrow are a 2003 Alero with 89k miles, a 2003 Cavalier with 121k miles, and a 2005 Malibu with 120k miles. The Alero is the least expensive and looks to be in great shape, but I'll see in person tomorrow. The Cavalier doesn't have a price listed but I'd offer $3k or so. The Malibu is just a touch under $4k, but of course thats open to negotiation. So any input on the ecotec for these model years? I just need something to last a couple years til I finish college and can get a real job.
 
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Don't limit your choices to those generation GM vehicles! The particular vehicle that I'd be looking at would be a LeSabre.
 
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My son has a 2003 Cavalier with 137,000 miles - so far he has replaced spark plugs, serpentine belt, front wheel bearings and the fuel pump, that's it. Just did the rear brakes a few K ago, they were original. Reliable boring cars. He has seen over 40mpg on highway trips. He uses M1 5W-30 and changes it every 8-11K.
 
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Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Don't limit your choices to those generation GM vehicles! The particular vehicle that I'd be looking at would be a LeSabre.
I like this idea. Unless you have an aversion to the larger cars, you can likely find good examples of the larger models, like the LeSabre, Grand Prix, Intrigue, etc. The 4T60 transmissions weren't necessarily bulletproof back then, but I don't think the smaller FWD units were a whole lot better. I could be wrong, though.
 
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Cars you mentioned will have front wheel bearing issues, lower control arm bushing issues, sway bar ends will break, timing chain tensioner problems and key/cylinder/security problems. All easy fixes. Also the 4T40 in them will often have a sharp upshift- doesn't seem to affect their longevity though. Personally, I like the Alero out of the bunch. Seems to be decent looking, comfortable and have decent handling. I also second investigating the Buick angle. The Park Avenues and LeSabres can be had cheap, found in good condition, ride like a full size couch and return about 30mpg on the highway. Problem areas- lower control arm bushings, sway bars, key/cylinder/security, intake gaskets, cooling system elbows and a somewhat weak transmission. Some of it's problems (P1811) can be fixed with a TransGo shift kit. If I found a Buick, the first things I'd do was service the transmission with some Dex VI and replace the lower intake gaskets, the upper intake, the cooling system elbows with GM OE parts (not Dorman JUNK), the thermostat and do a full on tune up- plugs, wires, air, fuel filters, PCV valve and so on. Don't be too worried about the transmission. They're capable of going the distance. My wife has a 4T60E (which the early version of the 4T65E found the Buicks) in her '95 Grand Am (sold to her son) that has 291,155 miles and is still ticking away- only the occasional filter/fluid service has been done for maintenance.
 
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http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/3332074/7 BIL had a cavalier with a PS pump driven off the cam. It threw a timing chain on a zero degree start. I wonder if the stress of thick PS fluid was the last straw. Saturn Ions and then Cobalts went to electric power steering, FWIW. "They" say the timing chains got better in 04, and this cavalier was an 04, but it had junkyard crayon on its 2nd (but not last) engine, so IDK what year it was from.
 

ls1mike

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Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Don't limit your choices to those generation GM vehicles! The particular vehicle that I'd be looking at would be a LeSabre.
The 4T60 transmissions weren't necessarily bulletproof back then, but I don't think the smaller FWD units were a whole lot better. I could be wrong, though.
That's good because they use the 4T65E (again not bullet proof) smile laugh Seriously at that price point I would be looking at condition and then what service records were available.
 
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Got an 05 Malibu with 145k (bought with 20) and with the exception of a front steering rack (single unit, electric, known issue that was corrected) I have never had any issues. Average roughly 30 MPG combined with smooth shifting transmission and decent engine. The 2.2s arent exactly race cars but they get the job done and I couldn't be happier.
 
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Daughter has 2003 Grand Am 2.2 engine. Original owner,no major issues, easiest car ever to change oil, trans fluid was in good condition when I changed it at 90k, now has 115k. I would put these engines in the category of bullet proof with normal maintenance. I would have no problem buying another.
 

01rangerxl

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Originally Posted By: eljefino
I wonder if the stress of thick PS fluid was the last straw.
Could be. GM offers a "Cold Climate" power steering fluid that was part of a TSB (no particular model listed). The TSB says that leaks could be caused by higher pressures caused by thicker fluid in cold temps, but also vaguely says the thicker fluid can "damage various components." I have seen a number of older Ecotec cars with junkyard engines, but none of them looked like particularly well cared for cars anyway, so I would guess that maintenance was a major contributing factor in those cars. Especially ones where the last oil change sticker was from years ago and permanently encrusted on the windshield, the filter was collapsed, and the car itself looked like it had been pulled out of a junkyard and taped back together. I'd look at the Alero first.
 
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Nick1994

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I'd stay away from any GM with a 3.1L or 3.4L. If you're going to get anything GM get something with the bulletproof 3.8L. Look for a Camry. Buy back your truck anyways, it'll be about $300 for the buy-back and you can resell it for more. Somebody will buy it for $800 or more
 

slowdime

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Originally Posted By: 901Memphis
Can't find a Honda or Toyota for that price?
I can but either with an absurd amount of miles, a salvage title, or it's riced out beyond recognition.
Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
I like this idea. Unless you have an aversion to the larger cars, you can likely find good examples of the larger models, like the LeSabre, Grand Prix, Intrigue, etc. The 4T60 transmissions weren't necessarily bulletproof back then, but I don't think the smaller FWD units were a whole lot better. I could be wrong, though.
I found a good looking Impala with a 3.8 and 89k miles for $4300. My only aversion is gas mileage. I'd like to get something small and reasonably cheap to maintain and operate, at least until I graduate and get a better job. But... if I find a well maintained one for the right price I'd seriously consider it.
Originally Posted By: Nick1994
Buy back your truck anyways, it'll be about $300 for the buy-back and you can resell it for more. Somebody will buy it for $800 or more
They offered $900 to buy it back, I thought about it but it really wasn't worth the headache of having it towed and dealing with craigslist flakes for a minimal profit. I'm about to head off to class and go searching for cars right after that. I talked a dealer out of one of his own cars yesterday believe it or not. He was pretty high on selling me on it before I started poking under the hood and scrutinizing it. Burnt ATF, spongey brakes, and an odd sound from the trans made him shut up about it real fast. That was a 2007 Cobalt.
 
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Saturns and Hyundai/Kia are quickly depreciating brands which lead to good used purchases. Kia Spectra5 or Hyundai Elantra GT are neat hatchbacks. 2004+ should be plenty reliable, but have timing belts to have changed.
 
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Originally Posted By: slowdime
Originally Posted By: 901Memphis
Can't find a Honda or Toyota for that price?
I can but either with an absurd amount of miles, a salvage title, or it's riced out beyond recognition.
Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
I like this idea. Unless you have an aversion to the larger cars, you can likely find good examples of the larger models, like the LeSabre, Grand Prix, Intrigue, etc. The 4T60 transmissions weren't necessarily bulletproof back then, but I don't think the smaller FWD units were a whole lot better. I could be wrong, though.
I found a good looking Impala with a 3.8 and 89k miles for $4300. My only aversion is gas mileage. I'd like to get something small and reasonably cheap to maintain and operate, at least until I graduate and get a better job. But... if I find a well maintained one for the right price I'd seriously consider it.
Originally Posted By: Nick1994
Buy back your truck anyways, it'll be about $300 for the buy-back and you can resell it for more. Somebody will buy it for $800 or more
They offered $900 to buy it back, I thought about it but it really wasn't worth the headache of having it towed and dealing with craigslist flakes for a minimal profit. I'm about to head off to class and go searching for cars right after that. I talked a dealer out of one of his own cars yesterday believe it or not. He was pretty high on selling me on it before I started poking under the hood and scrutinizing it. Burnt ATF, spongey brakes, and an odd sound from the trans made him shut up about it real fast. That was a 2007 Cobalt.
The Impala gets surprisingly good mileage. I had a 2004 with the 3.4, and it always got 30+ on a trip. A lot of times I would check it and it got 34.
 

Nick1994

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Seriously consider a car with the 3.8L. They get upper teens to 20 mpg commuting and around 30 mpg highway. These cars have the 3.8L, although some may have another motor as an option, so double check before you go look for one: 1996-2005 Buick Le Sabre 1997-2005 Buick Park Avenue 1996-2004 Buick Regal LS 1995-1997 Buick Riviera 1996-2002 Chevrolet Camaro 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala 1997-1999 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ 1998-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (Z34, LT, SS) 1995-1999 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight 1998-1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue 1996-1998 Oldsmobile LSS 1996-1998 Oldsmobile Regency 1995-2005 Pontiac Bonneville 1996-2002 Pontiac Firebird 1997-2003 Pontiac Grand Prix
 
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The best GM to own on a budget is a Buick, also the easiest to find used in good shape since most owners are pretty elderly.
 
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