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Tristan

Our "new" Oldsmobile 88 (but it needs some work)

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My dad just purchased a 1997 Oldsmobile 88 from my great grandfather (same one in profile picture) for me to use when I get my license (We do still have our '85 Ford F-150 but my parents wanted something a little safer and more reliable). It nice because I would rather drive a somewhat old car than a new one. (I don't know mabe it's just me)

But it does have a problem and I wanted too see if anyone could help us figure it out. On the test drive it was having a problem Accelerating, we floored it and it was maxing out at 50 mph. We have a repair list from a local mechanic that says the head gasket and oil pan gasket needs to be replaced. Can that cause the problem?

Thanks for the help and pictures and background tomorrow.

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Not enough info to help you. Go to local auto parts store and have them check for codes. If "check engine" light is on, you have an active problem. Too vague to guess whether it is engine related or not.

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To elaborate:

 

The oil pan gasket has exactly zero effect on motor performance (well, at least until all the oil leaks out...).  A head gasket COULD cause a performance problem, but so could about a thousand other possible causes.  Some will set a code, some will not.  Without understanding exactly what the mechanic told you or what he did, we cannot provide useful info.  For example, the problem could be dirty injectors, clogged fuel filter, ignition module, plugs or plug wires, crank sensor, EGR valve, worn cam, worn timing chain, etc, etc, etc.

 

Your car has the 3.8L V6, by the way.

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Thanks joe padavano!

Wayne, I believe that is was suggested after my aunt took it in to be looked at after the check engine light when on, the said the gasket needed to be replaced. But I'm not 100% sure

Edited by Tristan (see edit history)

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If it's running smooth ( on all cylinders) , the things I would check first are fuel filter ( can you blow through it with your mouth)?

Obstruction in the exhaust system( this can be checked by your mechanic by removing the before cat O2 sensor and installing a pressure gage) 2 Psi is about the max acceptable.

Also make sure the air filter isn't extremely dirty.

An engine is a pump

If it can't suck it won't pump

If it can't pump it won't suck

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Thanks rp1967! it doesn't seem to run very smooth. It might be the fule line or the fule filter (it sat for a few years).

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After 15 years on top of that hot engine the spark plug wires are the first suspect.

 

So you can get an early start, avoid the terms "my mechanic" and "my mechanic said" search the forum and you will find those phrases in the longest and most entertaining threads.

 

Be a stickler for details. The correct sentence should read "The local mechanic did a compression test and found two adjacent cylinders low on compression. Then he pressurized the cooling system cold and warm. The pressure bled off in just a couple minutes."

Tools and test equipment; you gotta have it.People have always looked for divine inspiration for troubleshooting and "the laying of hands" for repair. You know, 8 hours of labor and no parts, if that doesn't work bring it back.

 

My wife is a young adult librarian, the kind that works with Middle School and High School readers. They always give an award of a dictionary to students who volunteer and attend programs in their Senior HS year. She thought that was kind of lame in the age of spell checker and asked my help in picking an award book for a young man. He got this at the awards: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/automotive-mechanics-william-h-crouse/1101458599/2688929024925?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Marketplace+Shopping+Textbooks_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP20456&k_clickid=3x20456

 

He was a happy gearhead!

 

Another caution, many large shops pay the service manager a base salary and a bonus based on the added work beyond the initial service request. Mechanics can be penalized for not giving the bill enough bump. Watch out.

 

Hey! 1991 cars are 25 years old now and eligible as antique cars. It goes by fast.

Bernie

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A check engine light may or may not lead you down the right path.

If it's missing on a cylinder or cylinders you will need to find out why.

Coil pack burned open

Plug wire open

Spark plug cracked

Injector plugged

Low compression etc. etc.

There have to be YouTube videos on tracking down an engine miss that will do you better than 3 or 4 pages of text that I could write.

Good luck.

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A check engine light may or may not lead you down the right path.

 

This is exactly right.  The computer system is not very smart.  It can only report on what the limited number of sensors on the engine tell it. Often, a problem not directly monitored by a sensor will cause some other measurement to exceed pre-programmed limits, setting a code.  Unfortunately, the primary cause of that code may or may not be directly related to the failure that caused it.  This is where a skilled mechanic who understands how the systems function will use the computer data and other measurements to find out the exact problem.  Sadly, most "mechanics" today are simply parts-changers.  They will read the code and replace the part that is the most likely cause, with no further troubleshooting. They then clear the code and you drive off, only for the problem to reoccur a hundred miles later.  Of course, they get paid by the hour and you don't get a refund for the initial incorrect diagnosis.

 

I'm skeptical because in your case, there is no way that reading any computer code will tell you that there is a bad head gasket (FYI, there are TWO head gaskets on your engine...).  If the mechanic actually did perform a compression test, or better, a leakdown test, that would be important info to know, as suggested above. A more likely problem on these 3800 motors is a bad intake manifold or gasket.

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If it's trying to run on 15-year-old gas there's the biggest part of your problem. It's turned to varnish and is steadily clogging fuel filters, injectors etc as the engine runs. Get rid of it quickly and try running the engine on fresh premium gasoline before troubleshooting further.

 

Once you have clean fresh fuel, you can make a more educated repair.

 

If this car is an 88 LSS, you have a great automobile.

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Thanks rocketraider, 60flattop, Joe Padavano and rp1967 for your advice!

We ended up being able to pick up the car today and had an interesting ride home. Like the test drive earlier in the day we had trouble accelerating and getting up to highway speed took some time. During the ride home we noticed a few sparks fly out the back but it only did it once so we continued on and made it home safe and sound. When we got home we checked under the car and saw a section of the exhaust glowing hot red. It cooled down quite fast but I sure it's not suppose to do that. So 1 could that be part of the engine problem and if it is the problem how do I fix it.

Thank you hall for your helpful advice!

Tristan

Edited by Tristan (see edit history)

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It turns out that the glowing red hot part is the catalytic converter so could that be our mystery problem?

Thanks for your help,

Tristan

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It turns out that the glowing red hot part is the catalytic converter so could that be our mystery problem?

Thanks for your help,

Tristan

If the cat is clogged, that could very likely be the problem. Note, however, that another problem (like an injector sticking open) may have caused or contributed to the overheated and melted cat, so again, diagnosis needs to account for all possible causes.

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You need to find out what the trouble codes are first, Seems like they could be the effect of a restricted exhaust, Could even have a mouse nest clogging things up. 

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Thank you all for your help and advice!

Some background a pictures, it's a 1997 Oldsmobile 88 LS with just under 60,500 miles. It was purchased by my great grandfather 1 year old with a little over 23,000 miles. Now that he can no longer drive we've bought the car so I can use it as my main car. It's pretty much all their it just needs some mechanical fixing (window won't go down ect).

Thanks again every one!

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Edited by Tristan (see edit history)

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You express yourself very well for a 15 year old. Your family should be very proud of you. You, young man are the future of our hobby. Keep doing what you are presently doing. Best of luck, Wayne

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With only 65,000 miles I would first do a fuel pump pressure test to be sure it is operating at a proper range. If memory serves me right, It needs to be above 37 Pounds. I had a bunch of trouble with my 1996 Buick Century a while back and low fuel pressure was part of the problem. Also I had a faulty wire in the wiring harness that fed the fuel pump relay but I would think this is not your problem as my fuel pump would not run at all until that problem was corrected. The car now has 85,000 on it and has run well since the repairs I did about 3 years ago. The "Experts" said my car was not even suppose to run, but it did, and like crap. After going though two fuel pumps, (One was junk right out of the box.) the second one had it running like a champ. Also, as others have said, do some code tests to see what comes up. I had to change the spark plugs in it also. This car sat for a long time and some of the plugs had a white powder on them that looked like oxidized aluminum. This caused them to short and not burn correctly especially on a damp day on startup. My Car had 37,000 original miles when I bought it about 7 years ago. Dandy Dave!  

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)
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Another problem with that particular year of 3800 is that they routed the EGR exhaust gasses through the plastic plenum .

It will ( not may) but will eventually burn through and fill the cylinders with coolant.

60,000 miles is a little early for this but not unheard of

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With only 65,000 miles I would first do a fuel pump pressure test to be sure it is operating at a proper range.

 

It won't hurt, but if the cat really is running hot, it's a clogged cat that is causing the performance problem.  Why the cat got clogged is a different question, but probably not from low fuel pressure. 

 

Rather than shotgunning every possible flaw with the 3800, prudent troubleshooting would start with the most likely cause given the observed problems.  "Red hot" cat and no performance above a certain RPM USUALLY means a clogged cat. Checking the codes is obviously also necessary, but one needs to understand what codes are set due to the clogged cat and what codes might be from the cause of the clogged cat.  Of course, the right answer is to get one of these:

 

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Removing the pre cat O2 sensor and taking a test drive will tell you if the cat is truly plugged

Gives the exhaust gases somewhere to go.

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