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What to Look For During Pre-Purchase Inspection: 1990 LeSabre


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I'm supposed to look at a 1990 LeSabre sedan this week.  I have a car coming off lease and have decided to live without a car payment for a while.  The article about later model Buicks in the January 2020 Bugle inspired me to look for one of these cars as a replacement for the leased car.  The seller advertised the car as having 55,000 miles so I'd at least like to look it over.  What are potential problem areas to look for when checking out this era of Buicks?  Thanks in advance for information and advice.

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I can tell you from experience to have the under body / front sub frame checked out thoroughly.

My son bought a 94 LeSabre used several years ago and being in the Slat Belt here, should never have been given a pass on the Safety Check (required for insurance and ownership).

It was so bad that he lost steering control two blocks from home when the body welds let go at the firewall!

Can't say it is a common issue but... it is something to be aware of with all unibody vehicles.

Good luck on your purchase.

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Also look for rust problems in the "A" pillars.  Sometimes the sealant holding the glass in will be compromised from age/heat/whatever, and in the 2 door cars (especially)  there may be water infiltration resulting in rust evidence near the top door hinge.   I have also seen evidence of rust problems at the door latch on the B pillar in the 2 door cars.  I have not seen this type of damage in the 4 door cars, and I have no explanation why there is a difference.  It's just what I've seen. 

 

You always want to check that the boots on the front CV joints are intact. If not you are almost certainly looking at replacing front axles and wheel bearings.  Might still be the case if they are intact.  No guarantees on these parts. 

 

While inspecting the engine compartment,  look closely at the power steering fluid line just inboard of the drivers side wheel.  Sometimes they will rust and leak at that bracket. And also look at the series of 4 lines under the drivers side floor boards.  Two fuel lines, two brake lines.  Negotiate a lower price if these have serious surface rust.   

 

Another thing to be aware of is clunking in the suspension.  In the case of each wheel, the suspension consists of a shock tower with integrated spring and a separate bearing plate on top of that.  The clunking comes from the bearing plate.  I have never heard of one falling apart.  I would not want to be the one to first experience that.   Otherwise a 3800 from this era and it's matching transmission /drive train, are exceptionally reliable units.  My 92 Century wagon is a pleasure to drive with 186K on the clock now.  

 

Future things that could go wrong include the fuel pump, which is labor intensive to replace as it is inside the gas tank.  I try to keep the tank filled when I hit a half tank in-order to keep the pump submerged in gas.  That helps to keep it cool.  I have never had to replace one on my cars.  However, my sons, who did not heed that advice were not so lucky. 

 

Good Luck

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My 1986 Park Ave has 56,000 miles. It was garaged and reasonable well cared for all its life.

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Low miles over decades means a lot of sitting around. I bought the car in 2011. Name a mechanical part, I bet I put a new one on mine. I did it because I wanted to keep THAT car, the top goes down.

 

As logical as it seems to have a nice old car, a five to ten year old one that has been in regular use may be the better buy in miles per dollar cost.

Bernie

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