'00 Lesabre high mileage maintenance

I’ll be taking my 2000 Lesabre in for an oil change in a few days, and I’d like some advice on any maintenance I should prepare for, and if there’s anything I should have checked that doesn’t come up in a typical inspection, considering what I’ve been putting it through recently.

In October, I towed a trailer half-full of furniture from Indiana to Texas, and in November I got a job delivering pizzas, so I’m putting on 100-200 miles a week now. I’m currently at about 96700 miles on the odometer.

When I had the oil changed in May, Midas asked me to let them “refurbish” my transmission and brush rust out of my gas tank, and I didn’t accept that, but I should probably give some attention to the transmission.

I’m also encountering a groan when I turn the wheel at low speed, like when parking or pulling out of a parking space, changing pitch with speed. Would that be likely to be something in the suspension, the power steering, the tires, or something else?

You were very smart to decline Midas’ “suggestions”. Their only purpose was to clean out your bank account. And there’s no doubt in my mind that they would have cleaned out a few grand with the transmission refurbishing recommendation. I would not return there. Find a reputable independent garage to service your vehicle. And brushing rust out of the gas tank? Now there’s a deep hole waiting for some sucker to step into it!!!

The groan is most likely coming from low power steering fluid (do you know how to check it? Instructions are in the owner’s manual, or we can help if you’re uncertain), a failing PS pump, or maybe a loose serpentine belt (read: possible tired belt tensioner). Your new shop should be able to advise you on this.

The power steering pump and its attached fluid reservoir are located on the end of the engine with the serpentine belt that drives all the accessories. It is low on the engine, at the back near the firewall. It’s a little hard to see. The black cap with a scalloped edge is about 2" in diameter. The cap has the reservoir’s dipstick attached to it. Unscrew it to check the level. It probably needs to be topped off, but it may not need much. Have you noticed anything leaking under the car? You’ll need a long plastic funnel, about $1 at WalMart.

Speaking of that serpentine belt, at nearly 100K and 15 years, it is due for replacement if it has not been done already. If it shows a lot of cracks on the side with the ridges, get a new one. I think the spec I read was no more than seven cracks in an inch, but I’ve seen a lot more still running. (?)

Your transmission dipstick is marked as such. Check the level with the car warmed up, and in park. The fluid should be red, not brown, and not smell like burned toast. If it is brown, it is due for a change. If it smells like burned toast, your transmission may also be toast.

Brushing rust OUT of a fuel tank is a new scam to me. I’m glad you dodged that bullet. Many discussions about “chain store” shops are found on this site. (Midas, Meineke, Firestone, Iffy Lube, etc.) For the most part, they are to be avoided. See: http://community.cartalk.com/discussion/2301734/chain-auto-repair-places-and-varying-quality-of-each-location/p1 as an example.

Ask your friends at work who they use for mechanical work. You should also click on Mechanics Files at the top of this page to see what shops are suggested there. Note that I have never seen a shop bad mouthed on the site.

By the way, 97,000 miles on a 3.8L LeSabre is NOT really high mileage. I’ve seen some of those cars with 300K and many with 200K. Keep it maintained, and yours may do that too.

I agree with MG, 97,000 is low for a 15 year old car, that’s like 6500-7000 miles a year. Somebody must have baby’d this car for the first part of her life, until she became the pizza delivery express. I drove one of those back in '01 and I remember the same groan, maybe it’s nothing to worry about. Anyway, my two cents . . . change all of the belts (as MG suggested) and all of the fluids, PS, brakes, AT fluid, oil, whatever. Cheap insurance. For only a few bucks you can have peace of mind. Good luck, Happy New Year! Rocketman

Check the Mechanics Files link above for someone in your area. Have them check over your car. Also, get the tranny serviced, brake fluid, radiator. Fluids are the life blood of your car. Keep them fresh and the car will last

I really doubt that they can clean rust out of a plastic gas tank. Red flag, don’t walk, run away!

You’d probably serve your own interests best by following the manufacture’s suggestion for routine maintenance, following their repair intervals. Keeping all the fluids clean and at their proper level does wonders for cars. If you want to be extra careful, since the stop and go of delivering pizzas is indeed tough on a car, no harm done to change the oil and filter every 3,000 miles. And again, if you want to be super diligent, assuming you have an automatic transmission, you might consider to have the pan dropped, cleaned, filter replaced, and filled w/ fresh fluid.

I was going to get the oil change and maintenance at the shop I found on Mechanics Files when my rear passenger power window’s cable broke, but everything else I’d planned to do last week on my days off was closed for New Year’s and I figured the shop probably was too, so I ended up getting the oil change at Walmart, intending to take anything extra they wanted to do out to the shop this week, but they didn’t want to do anything else. Very streamlined, not a fleecer. Normally good news.

They claim to have checked the power steering fluid as part of the service, but I’m not sure I trust that.

I’ve started to notice a slight groan element when I’m stopped at a light as well, so I’m getting kind of worried about the belt. A few more days shouldn’t hurt though. Might be nothing.

My concerns about the transmission include that aside from the refurbishing (for yes, a thousand or two), Midas wanted to replace a gasket (for a couple hundred) that they said was cracked, and then when I got the trailer hitch mounted for my thousand-mile move, UHaul had me sign a waiver saying that I knew they recommend installing a transmission cooling unit but I hadn’t bought one. The tachometer only went up a little under 1K over whatever was normal for any activity though, but it was for many hours at a time.

“And again, if you want to be super diligent, assuming you have an automatic transmission, you might consider to have the pan dropped, cleaned, filter replaced, and filled w/ fresh fluid.”

Please heed this advice. I would call this a must at this point.

@insightful Yes, far more cars go to the scrapyard because of failed transmissions than because of failed engines.

A friend scrapped a perfectly good Mazda 6 with less than 90,000 miles on it because of a neglected transmission. The car was only 11 years old and had no rust.

Finally got to my shop yesterday. The groan was indeed the power steering fluid. They could tell there was a leak somewhere, probably in the pump but they’re not sure. They gave me a quote on replacing the pump.

I also mentioned that I’d been told the transmission should be checked on, and he gave me the standard maintenance service that’s recommended at 50k and every 30k after. I don’t know when it last had proper transmission service, but it certainly wasn’t at 80k.

@pawood If you’re going to get your transmission serviced . . .

Do not let them flush the transmission, because in all likelihood, they’ll probably want to do it, without replacing the filter and gasket

Keep it simple. Drain the fluid. replace the filter and gasket. Fill up with new fluid

Dexron 3 is fine. No need for the newer and more expensive Dexron 6, in my opinion

I’m kind of confused . . . if they’re not sure the pump is leaking, why are they giving you a quote to replace the pump? Seems kind of risky to me

I’d want to make sure it’s not a power steering hose, line or seal, before condemning the pump

Are they sure it’s not the power steering rack itself that is leaking?

+1 to db’s post.

Spark Plugs. Although This 3.8 Is Just Getting Broken-In…
If This 3.8 Calls For The AC Delco Iridium Plugs And You Can’t Recall Replacing Them, It’s Probably Due At 100,000 Miles.

No Owner’s Manual To Refer To? Consider one.


If they replace the pump, make sure they replace the hoses too. It will save you time and money in the future