2004 Buick LeSabre - very different opinions from mechanics, who is right?

Our 2004 LeSabre has the following symptoms - there’s a clicking that occurs whenever the car is in motion, the car occasionally hesitates/bucks when shifting between gears (but not always), the radio sometimes does not go off when the keys are taken out of the ignition, we’re losing about a quart of oil about every 2500 miles but there is no sign of a leak on the ground, we also seem to have reduced mileage (using more gas).

In this corner, Mechanic 1 (high price) - replace front lower control arms, sway bar, and bushing, front end alignment, throttle body gasket and EGR tube, oil pan gasket replacement, ignition switch replacement, brake fluid and coolant flush. $1900

In the other corner, Mechanic 2 (low price) thinks it’s just the spark plugs and wires that need to be replaced, the wires, replace air and fuel filter, and PCV valve - $450

We had the oil changed about 2500 miles ago, replaced the air filter then. The oil change place suggested a coolant and brake fluid flush. I’ve used mechanic 1 in the past and they have replaced my head gaskets a couple of times and I suspect they are ripping me off.

Any idea whose estimate is more accurate?

Does the clicking vary with speed?

On the radio, will other accessories (wipers, etc) remain on after the key is removed too, or is it just the radio?

1 quart of oil every 2500 miles on oil is nothing to worry about, so I’d do nothing there.

Mechanic #1 appears to be selling stuff rather than addressing issues. But its hard to say for sure since I can’t look at the car.

As for mechanic #2 - all of that is just basic maintenance. How old are your plugs & wires & filters & PCV valve? All of those things are normal required maintenance and if you want to know whether they are due then compare what the service schedule (owner’s manual) is to your past maintenance work. Either way it can’t hurt to do them. They do not count as “repairs” but can help various issues.

What kinds of “mechanics” are these? If they are “Big Auto Care Chain Store” then forget about them and find a locally owned shop with a good reputation.

One quart of oil in 2500 miles is nothing. Many manufacturers will tell you that a quart every 1000 miles on a new car is within acceptable limits. I don’t really buy that, but your car is 10 years old. How many miles are on it?

Is your check engine light on? If so, then the codes were probably read and you need to report the exact codes (like “P0123”).

As for your list of issues - they are not related to each other. Clicking when the car is in motion is often described with a CV axle problem. (It is not usually reported with sway bar or control arm bushing issues). Bucking/hesitating is consistent with a lot of things, including old plugs and wires - or transmission issues - or lots of other things. GM radios typically do stay on after you remove the key…until you open the door.

As for the fuel economy, does the car’s temperature gauge go to its normal spot? How’s the heat doing inside of the car?

You need to say more about what has been done to evaluate a) the clicking; b) the bucking/hesitating. Those are your two real issues and they are not related to each other.

Thank you for these solid questions and comments. Some more info:

  1. Clicking seems louder when accelerating or deccelerating but I can’t say for sure whether it stops (or I just stop noticing it) when at a consistent speed. I’ll observe on the next ride. The clicking sounds like something caught in a fan, or a steady tapping.
  2. Both mechanics are local, independent shops with good reps.
  3. Check engine light is on - neither told me which codes were read.
  4. Temperature gauge goes to the normal spot and heat inside the car is normal.
  5. It has 115k on it.
  6. My husband says the other accessories turn off when the radio stays on, but I’m not sure. The radio will sometimes stay on after opening and closing the door. Mechanic 1 says this is related to the ignition switch.

The first mechanic is clearly selling things that are unrelated to the problem… and unnecessary. 2500 miles per quart of oil on a ten year old buggy is perfectly normal and not indicative of a problem. Therefore, the oil pan gasket is an unnecessary expense.

The brake fluid and coolant flushes are definitely valid recommendations and should be done… but the price is way high. Too way high.

The radio suggests that the key cylinder needs replacing. That’s legit. Uncorrected, it’ll probably cause other problems as it wears more. Typical would be intermittent starting or even intermittently shutting down while driving.

The clicking could be coming from the valvetrain, a wheel bearing, a CV joint (does it change when turning?), or even the ignition system (a reminder that you need a tuneup).

I kept the best for last; the Check Engine Light is telling you that it has been getting bad signals from the sensors and has stored “fault codes” to tell you what the problem might be. You need to find out what codes the shops read. You paid for them, they should be happy to tell you. Then post them here.

NOTE: the codes may or may not give you a clue to the source of the clicking. Clicking that corresponds with the speed of the engine or the car usually comes from things that are not monitored, like mechanical parts. You might get lucky too. The codes may send you to a failing alternator or something like that. The only way to find out is to find out what they are.

you do NOT need a new oil pan gasket.

you DO need a new key cylinder.

you should DEFINITELY get the coolant and brake fluids flushed with fresh fluid. Even though it’s unrelated to the specific symptoms, it IS important.

you need to find out the codes.

you need to bring all maintenance up to date. The new fluids aforementioned are a part of that.

The clicking sounds cannot be determined at this point over the internet without more information.

Post back. We do care.

Mechanic 2 has the right idea about getting the maintenance stuff out of the way first

10 year old car,see a lot of these Buicks setting around here with for sale signs in the windshields,go with mechanic No.2 especially,if He is used to Buicks,if this car is high mileage be wary of putting a lot of money in it,a qt of oil in 2500 miles is nothing-the clicking could be cv joints-Kevin

Thanks everyone! Here’s an update. Took the car back to mechanic #2 and he read the codes and looked at the car more thoroughly. He doesn’t think we should fix it - not the plugs, not any of the flushes, nada. Says there is only about a year left in the engine. The codes indicated a manifold intake gasket leak and a transmission shift delay. I’ve had those intake gaskets replaced 2x within the last 2 years already. He doesn’t think it’s worth fixing and we should start looking for alternatives.

What you need is a third mechanic. There is NO CODE that says the intake manifold gasket is bad. You were asked to post the actual code here and you need to do that, not the mechanics interpretation. We can’t give you good advice without the actual alpha/numeric code.

Neither mechanic is doing you right but mechanic #1 was really way off the mark.

I’d also be interested in knowing what the codes, what he attributed the noises to, were and in why he said the engine only has about a year to live.

There’s still way too much info missing for us to posit any meaningful guesses, but it sounds like you’ve chosen to accept the judgment of mechanic #2 and go looking for a replacement. Without knowing more, I think we’ll just have to respect your trust in the mechanic and wish you the best.

will see if I can get the exact codes and possibly a third opinion…

I would get the ignition switch replaced. It could leave you stranded.

Here are the codes:
one related to the engine, P0171
one related to the transmission, P1181
We’d like to squeeze as much life out of the car as possible so I haven’t turned in the towel yet.

The P0171 means that the engine is running lean. There are a lot of things that can cause this. You may have a vacuum leak from a vacuum hose or intake manifold gasket or a cracked intake manifold itself, which this engine has a history of. It could also be as simple as a dirty MAF sensor or could even be an early stage failure of the primary oxygen sensor on bank one. Could even be a clogged fuel injector.

Have you ever had the transmission serviced? That is a fluid and filter change? That might help if its not too late. Upgrade the ATF to Dexron VI.