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Marty Roth

1995 Roadmaster Limited - Buy It??

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I've know of a local, garage-kept 1995 Roadmaster Limited showing 57,xxx miles. This could be a really nice weekend driver.

The owner would like $5K, and I could probably get it for about $4K or maybe a few bucks less.

It needs some repairs:

1. He knocked off the driver side mirror, and put it back on with clear tape - the adjusters (electric) not functioning and the miror is held in place with siliconed wood wedges. ($400 - 500?)

2. Tires (Nail-Guard) have good tread, but are at least 4 years old, and at least one appears to be separating - will have to replace all 4. ($500 -600?)

3. Radio works, but tape player does not. (hate to go modern, but ($300?)

4. Scratches on lower left quarter panel (minor, but noticeable). ((paint or wax?)

5. Horn pad not working, but accessory button is operable - horn works. ($300 ?)

6. Pulls to right - alignment? tire pressure? What kind of expensive front-end work might be needed prior to alignment? ($100 - 3,000)

7. Brake pedal pulses upon deceleration - probably could use new front brake rotors and pads ((300?), and check out rear (???)

I would appreciate your thoughts -

What are these cars worth, especially a southern car, garage-kept, and with 57,xxx miles??

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This car, as you may know, probably as the LT1 engine; the same that was used in same vintage Corvettes, the mid '90s Impala, and others. If you can get it for about $4500, I would go for it.

Tires shouldn't be more than $450. I put a set on a '94 Roadmaster wagon for about that. Just look for a decent set of Uniroyal Tiger Paws.

The mirror should be pretty easy to replace. Just go to your local junk yard and look for '95 and '96 Buick Roadmasters, and Chevy Caprices (sedans and wagons). They should all have the same mirror. And if you can't find one, I've gotten a quote for a new one at about $175 I believe.

Not sure on the otehr things, but I wouldn't bother with the tape deck. Would you ever use it? why fix it?

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Mirror and such? Salvage yard items. I suspect there are several years which might be the same items.

Radio? Autocraft Electronics in Addison, TX is an ACDelco radio repair station. They might have some "warranty exchange" radios they might sell from their stock OR repair yours. They used to also do repairs if you brought them the vehicle. There should be a 1-800 number for them somewhere. Sometimes, the tape decks were places where things "got put" by younger passengers. Worst case scenario is that the tape deck part might need to be replaced if it's not cleanable or repairable (remember "drive belts"?).

Unless those 57K miles were all on rough roads, there probably should be little in the way of needed suspension repairs. Remember, that B-car chassis was also under the beloved Caprice police cars, so it had to be somewhat tough to tolerate that kind of use.

Some high-quality new tires might well fix the braking pulsation situation, plus the "brake pull" issue. It migiht be good to get a fresh alignment with the new tires, though, for good measure.

Horn pad not working? Perhaps I'm thinking of the fwd Buicks, but I am thinking about two horn "buttons" or designated places on the center horn pad itself. The contacts are only at the edges, as I recall. Still, I don't recall any issues of that nature on those cars. Might also be just a turn signal switch (which has the contacts for the horn circuit in it) or the turn signal "cancelling cam", or the other intermediate contacts in the steering wheel horn circuit. Be sure to check the horn relay, too. Observe any precautions regarding the "air bag"!

Only issue with the LT1 engine is the "OptiSpark" distributor, which runs off of the nose of the crankshaft. It can get oil inside of it and that can cause problems, but replacements are available from ACDelco/GM and some aftermarket ignition sources. As a related issue, the spark plug wires are "a harness" and can be expensive to replace as they all come made together.

Be sure to run a fuel pump pressure check, another "insurance" move against future problems.

To me, the worst thing about those particular Roadmasters (cars and wagons) is that at some point in time, the thick vinyl part of the stainless steel body side mouldings will "delaminate" from the base stainless steel moulding. At the time, it had to have been a very expensive and high-tech thing to be able to do that, BUT with time and age and heat, the vinyl will shrink and come off. NO trim adhesive will reattach it. Even using 3M Molding Tape will need to be re-done every so often, but that seems to be the best and most cost-effective way to do it. When the cars were newer and the moldings were available from GM, they were about $200.00/door, so many owners chose not to replace them back then. Seems like the earlier ones with the black vinyl came off quicker than the later gray ones did?

As for the paint issues . . . you might check with your local car dealers to see who they use for their "airbrush touchups" on trade-in vehicles. Many times, these are independent contractors who work out of their own pickup truck or might possibly be a part of a local entrepreneurial repair group. They'll come to you or you might be able to meet them at one of their local clients' dealerships.

VERY nice cars!

Enjoy!

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)

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I have a '96 Impala, mechanically very similar to this. A very reliable drivetrain, comfortable ride, easy to work on, and GOBS of off-the-line torque.

Check out the Impala SS forums on the web for an idea of how much after-market support there is on these cars.

I say go for it!

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Marty,

I have owned 4 of these 95-96 "B" and "D" cars - Chevy Police Caprice, Impala SS, Cadillac Brougham, and Roadmaster wagon. All use the same LT-1 drivetrain although the Caprice and Impala are beefed up in transmission, axle ratio, and brakes. I loved them all and felt the Caprice was the best "beater" I have owned in my life. I'm sure new parts availability is starting to dry up especially on trim stuff but with the total numbers built and the cross-make interchangability of mechanical you should not have much trouble keeping one going. From my experience plan on the brakes and some front end work plus upgraded shocks - and be sure it runs and drives well at highway speeds. The low mileage sounds good but could be a problem if the car has been left sitting for long periods. These cars were designed from the best police package GM ever had and they are capable of high mileage use with minimal maintenance. Good luck!

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Thanks Guys -- Great comments,

Horn works, but bad horn pad, and mechanic - friend is not happy about changing, even if we can find a good one in correct color, because he thinks that even with battery disconnected for work, might go off when re-connected. There is a tiny button above the pad which does operate the horn for now.

The brakes do stop the car straight - no brake pull to either side - but pulsating from warped rotors, I think -- No vibration or pulsing as if from bad tires -- only pull is to right at speed, even against the crown of the highway. Car runs nicely at 60 mph, and has good acceleration. Cruise control works.

There is another Roadmaster Limited: This one is a 44K or 45K mile 1996 -- 3 of the 4 windows have either bad motors or risers, and the thick vinyl body mouldings have fallen off the doors and quarterpanels - this one also has a pull to the right when at speed, but not when braking -- the owner wants $4800, but this is not a garage-kept car, and shows it.

We bought a '91 Caprice Classic for daughter (neighbor's car with low mileage) in 2001 - had 5.0 Litre engine - A/C was biggest repair cost - bad evaporator --- too bad the car went under water in Hurricane Katrina.

Bought a good, 52,xxx mile 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in July, 2005 - now has 115K miles, and replaced 2 radiators, had to drop the gas tank to replace the fuel pump and sending unit, self-leveling shocks and tubing (now bypassed) radio died immediately, and they do not offer replacements to fit the '94 dash - Car still drives great, and makes 17 city / 24 highway - I would like to find the stainless trim for the left quarter panel, and the rub strips for the bumpers (or even a full front bumper - ours has a small crack in the center).

While the '96 is the last of the breed, is newer and lower miles, the '95 seems better cared-for, and might be the better choice.

So many cars -- so litte cash

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)

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Marty,

One advantage to the 95 is it was the last year for OBD1 Emission control programming, less chance for smog check problems than the 96 up OBDII. The side windows can be a problem on all these cars, they come out of the tracks due to a defective OEM plastic roller. Improved replacements are available, I've done the fix at least 4 times! When you do the brakes, pay the price for genuine GM rotors, do NOT use the parts store Chinese junk.

Don

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I have owned 3 Buick Roadmasters, 2 1992 and 1 1993. All were purchased with 100,000 and all driven to at least 200,000 miles. They are the best crusing cars I have ever owned.

Very simple to work on, low maintenance costs.

Your pulsation is due to bad rotors.

If the car feels like it is "floating" look at the ball joints. Also tie rods.

Radios are common as are mirrors. Easily available at any salvage yard.

I have gone into the air bag pad numerous times to repair the horn buttons. If you disconnect the battery your mechanic should have nothing to fear. After I did my first horn buttons, I never disconnected my battery again to do horn pad work.

The one thing with these 5.7 motors is that the intake manifold gaskets will give way [happened on two of my three Roadmasters] and start to leak antifreeze onto the top of the motor. A relatively inexpensive repair [less then $500.00] and all is good.

Being an inline power train, EVERYTHING is easy to get at. Serpentine belt, alternator, starter all easy to get at and R & R.

If you can buy one that is as nice as you think this is I would jump on it.

Also remember that the towing capacity on these cars is at least 5000 lbs. On straight highway driving you can expect gas mileage at 24 miles to the gallon. Towing a 4000 lb boat with a family of four with luggage etc. gas mileage will still be a respectable 12 miles to the gallon.

I went from Roadmasters to Reattas, love the Reatta, but miss the Roadmaster!

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My grandfather's '96 Impala has well over 250k. Still runs like new.

He's just recently bought a '94 Roadmaster wagon, and a '95 Caprice classic sedan.

He's owned the Impala since new, and both the new cars have under 100k.

these cars last forever.

Buy the '95. It's virtually the same car, and much better condition.

DAVES89, You've never had the joys of driving a tuneport 5.7. The throttle body doesn't have near the power.

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GREAT COMMENTS -- THANKS !!

I for got one IMPORTANT thing -- the "Check Engine Light" in the 1995 has been on for probably a long time, and when we passed by an Autozone for a free check, they cannot scan it because it is too old - their equipment will only do the OBDII, not OBDI - might be minor problem, might be something I should know about.

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Guest pfloro

OBD I is much simpler than II. All you need is a paper clip bent into a 'U' shape to place the primitive computer (ECM) into diagnostic mode. The Check Engine light will then 'flash out' any stored error codes.

GM 1983-1995 OBD1 Decoder

OBD I is primitive so the codes will only point you to a general area of trouble. The hardware wasn't fast enough nor the software smart enough to decipher sensors which were 'starting to fail' or identify intermittent issues. It's basically only good at sensing hard failures of sensors, open or shorted circuits, etc...

FYI: This primitive computer technology was the reason why the Cadillac V8-6-4 (1981 ONLY) was a failure. The system couldn't respond quickly enough to real world driving conditions and deactivate/re-activate cylinders fast enough... That 368 cast iron V8 was a good engine even with the rocker arm cylinder deactivation mechanicals. Customers were SO displeased with it's operation that dealer service departments would cut one ECM wire and lock in all 8 cylinders...!

After working with OBD I on my '84 Toronado for 27 years, I can say without a doubt that it was an amazing GM engineering feat. It's simple, reliable and it gets the job done.

Don't let it throw you...

Paul

Edited by pfloro (see edit history)

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Paul,

I would disagree that OBD1 was primitive. You just need the correct scanner to read the codes and data stream information. Data stream information from the vehicle can be read from 1980 1/2 to about 1995 depending on the vehicvle.

The reason for OBD1 change to OBD2 was the feds wanted some common standards between automakers. The orignal service thought was the jumper to read the flashed codes. By'82 there were scanners on the market that enabled you to read live data stream information. The culmulation of that work was the release by GM of the Tech 1 scanner. Here is one that will help you find out easily what sensors are in range along with reading the codes.

VETRONIX Tech 1A DIAGNOSTIC SCAN TOOL w/massstoragecard - eBay (item 330520188743 end time Jan-23-11 11:29:47 PST)

The next generation of scanner from GM was the Tech 2 which allowed 2 way communication with the vehicle and more extensive applications including brakes, transmission, SIR system, etc.

The next generation interface is MDI.

Regards,

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)

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Guest pfloro

Larry:

No disrespect intended to GM. My use of 'primitive' is relative to the very fast & intelligent engine management systems of today... In the early '80s, GM's CCC was very sophisticated. OH..., I had forgotten about the serial data stream which could be read from the ECM.

Can you elaborate on MDI?

Thanks,

Paul

Edited by pfloro (see edit history)

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MDI stands for Multiple Diagnostic Interface It hooks up to the vehicle and can be used as a wired or wireless connection to a computer that has the diagnostic software to scan the vehicle. The GM software package is called GDS, Global Diagnostic Software. That is where the software that was in the Tech 1 & Tech 2 software now resides along with other information. As I understand it, the MDI is like a router with some software and information that allows the computer & vehicle to talk to each other.

Here is the GM kit

Tech 2 Flash General Motors MDI for Tech 2 OTC 3845 - GM MDI Multiple Diagnostic Interface for Tech 2

Here is the Bosch version of the new scanner system.

Mastertech VCI Trio Package

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From what I understand, OBDII uses the same codes for all makers of vehicles, no matter what, rather than the model-year-specific AND manufacturer-specific codes of prior systems. Much more of a "help" to the private repair shops than the dealerships . . . be that as it may.

The other difference is the use of TWO oxygen sensors to measure catalyst efficiency. OBDI only had the pre-cat sensors to regulate the fuel injection system. NOT to forget that in some states, OBDII only gets a code scan for the state emissions inspection rather than having to do a "chassis dyno" (aka "treadmill") emissions test. In other words, if no Check Engine light is illuminated, it "passes". It still costs more, but it's easier to do.

The GM Tech 1 "scanner" (the original version) could do "snapshot" views of what each sensor in the emissions system was doing at what time. This can be a BIG help in watching particular sensor values in narrowing things down during diagnostic procedures.

Many people believe that just getting the codes in the computer can tell them the correct parts to get to fix a "Check Engine" light situation. This is NOT completely true, or as completely true as many might desire to believe. Just like in prior times, you have to know how the various systems inteact. ONE problem can set not only the basic code, but also cause others to be set, too. IF you start chunking parts at the problem (as indicated by the codes), you'll usually spend much money and not get the original problem repaired.

So, "old tyme" knowledge is still necessary to work on modern vehicles. Ignition issues can cause codes to set which can also lead to fuel system issues . . . just like always, for example. You've still got to know what you're looking at to do the most efficient and cost-effective repairs--the first time.

The TPI motors do run a good deal better than the earlier TBI motors, but then the earlier TBI motors were not from the LT1 family of small block Chevy V-8s.

On the issue of the LT1 "OptiSpark" system. The earlier distributors ran off of the rear of the camshaft, via the oil pump drive shaft interface. When the TPI and OptiSpark came online, a dummy shaft was used to keep the oil pump shaft in place in the place of the distributor itself. Therefore, removing this "plug" (held down via a bracket and bolt) will allow the use of a normal distributor. Similarly, the FI system can be replaced with a normal carburetor and intake, but still have the benefits of the LT1 engine's other design attributes. BUT the timing accuracy will be much higher with the OptiSpark system as the rear-mounted distributor situation allowed all of the "flex" harmonics of the camshaft to affect what the distributor did.

Just some thoughts . . .

NTX5467

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For OBD2 codes, not all vehicles and manufacturers have the same total code list. What OBD2 did was to create a core number of codes that all manufacturers had to have in common. After the core codes, the manufacturers could put other diagnostic information into the list.

NTX5467 is correct that OBD2 did put a post catalytic converter oxygen sensor into the exhaust stream. The computer would look at the oxygen sensor values before the catalytic converter and also the oxygen sensor values after the converter and compare the two values. The comparison determined if the catalytic converter was working to proper efficiency.

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In the case of GM, after the main "core" codes which are readily-available, there are "other" codes which are only known to particular operatives (from factory service reps down to some dealership operatives). These would be codes which can determine "how" the vehicle might have been driven (seems like "Over Torque" was one?), but just as the data recorder for the supplemental restraing system can "snapshot" the few seconds before an airbag deployment, the vehicle's computer can do similar, which can be very interesting in some cases.

In later automatic transmissions, there are also speed sensors to determine internal slippage just as the two oxygen sensors compare the "input" and "output" of the catalytic converter.

Generally, though, the "core codes" are what everybody knows about and use to determine "failed operation" issues.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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I am the BCA 1991-1996 BCA Tech Advisor. I liked reading the string of messages.

The Roadmasters are great cars. I have a website, Untitled Document, that I never got going very well. It does have a link to the Impala SS Forum and they include, Roadmasters, Fleetwoods, Caprices, and Old Custom Cruisers. It is a very active forum. Any question I have ever had was answered there. There is a for sale section and the prices of these cars has been coming down, even the Impala SS. The newest model is 14+ years old now and "modern" cars do not age well. Up here in the rust belt, western New York, things are getting bad. Even a clean southern car still has routine expendables to be concerned with. Tune Ups are due every 120,000 to 150,000 miles. They are $600 jobs done right. The ABS and brake line replacements can cost twice as much or more. Anyone who has replaced the rear brake hose on one of these cars has a story to tell, and at 15 years that and a lot more needs replacement. Rust behind the rear wheel openings is common as well as floor rust.

My first suggestion would be to avoid the analytical buying process. The cost of any car is the "entry fee". Additional repairs are always more than calculated. Buying an old car SHOULD be a no brainer. Buy it with feelings and not common sense.

If I can walk away from a car and look at things objectively I know it's not the car for me. The one I want leaves me in fear that someone will buy it while I am scraping up the money. My best cars have been the ones that turned my stomach in knots because I wanted them so bad. My 1964 Riviera was one of those cars during the three days it took to purchase in 1978. Every illogical car purchase I have made has been exciting. I don't remember the analytical ones.

My answer to the first question would be to walk away. As soon is you buy it the one that drives you nuts will come along; Too many cars, Too little money.

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60FlatTop,

Are you saying that I should not buy the 1995 Roadmaster Limited garage-kept Louisiana car with 57,xxx miles, if I can get it for less than $4,000 because of the maintenance and repair costs?

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are telling me.

Besides my Suburbans (and a Turbo-Diesel 4WD Excursion) for towing, I also have a '95 Fleetwood Brougham for pleasure, and a '95 Grand Marquis for every day traffic. All are dependable drivers.

I thought that the '95 or '96 Roadmasters would be a great highway car, as well as a backup for when the Mercury someday bites the dust.

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I have had many classic cars. My last love was a 69 New Yorker, with the famed 440. That is love. But to the point: I just had a 92 Roadmaster Limited that I cleaned up from bumper to bumper, and loved it. Had some problems with the distributor as outlined above, and then again in the 95 that followed... about 1500 worth of work .... both times. BUT, the car is an absolute Aircraft Carrier to travel in. We parked our Rendezvous luxury SUV and took the big one every time. Advice: whatever the cost of repairs, if the outside and inside are excellent, go for it... I am looking at this very moment for another.... Roadmaster... thinking hard about a 1995 Limited... BECAUSE. Love conquers all. I made that up. But I am serious about the 95 Roadmaster Limiteds!

Dr. E

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I have had many classic cars. My last love was a 69 New Yorker, with the famed 440. That is love. But to the point: I just had a 92 Roadmaster Limited that I cleaned up from bumper to bumper, and loved it. Had some problems with the distributor as outlined above, and then again in the 95 that followed... about 1500 worth of work .... both times. BUT, the car is an absolute Aircraft Carrier to travel in. We parked our Rendezvous luxury SUV and took the big one every time. Advice: whatever the cost of repairs, if the outside and inside are excellent, go for it... I am looking at this very moment for another.... Roadmaster... thinking hard about a 1995 Limited... BECAUSE. Love conquers all. I made that up. But I am serious about the 95 Roadmaster Limiteds!

Dr. E

where are you located? I know where there's a nice '95 limited. upper 70s in milage, new tires nice inside and out. Send me a PM if you're interested.

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