Cooling leak in engine, Cadillac Catera

I inherited the 1998 Catera with 16K miles in 2007. Since then, CD player stopped, one window does not go up or down, and the sunroof doesn’t work. I can live with these. Now the oil pressure light seems to go up and down a lot, depending on acceleration and there’s a little puddle of coolant on the ground. One mechanic showed me where coolant is slowly dripping out of the engine. The coolant light also comes on , but then goes off if I add water to the coolant tank. My choices seem to be: just keep the coolant topped off with water (I live in So. California), another said add Stop Leak, and a third said “gotta fix it” at about $800. Any advice? I now have 37K mostly freeway miles on the car. I know that Consumer Reports rated the 98 Catera as a “Car to Avoid,” but I was hoping to keep it running for another couple of years before getting a greener car. How does the coolant leak affect the oil pressure?

$800. is only about two car payments on a new car. I would not even hesitate to put $800 on a car with only 37K that cost nothing.

The coolant leak and the oil pressure fluctuation are separate issues, and not related.

Don’t add Stop Leak. Get another estimate about fixing the leak. Do you know which part is leaking?

$800 is not a lot of money to spend on a car these days. A set of tires can cost that, and you wouldn’t ride around on worn-out tires, would you?

I don’t like to drive cars on which things don’t work. I fix whatever needs to be fixed, and I suggest you do the same.

I worked for a Cadillac dealer in 99,the Catera earned the CR “avoid” rating.My area was light line and interior trim (also AC and electrical)so my comments come from working on these systems.Engine and driveability was not my area.

Should you avoid a car because it has more than allowed problems with these “secondary” areas? I say yes JMHO.

On “Yahoo” today a little story about cars that recieved “car of the year status” and the Cattera did recieve that honor,only now it’s ranking has been changed to “worst car of the year” along with my favorite the 1997 Malibu (I could not figure out why the Malibu got so “honored”)

Avoid the car if you want to buy one. It’s hard to throw away a free car. Replacement cost from a dealer is about $3700 for a 1998 Catera. That’s $3700 for repairs before it catches up with the CR recommendation.

It’s worth getting three estimates for the repair while the leak is small. That gives you time to consider your options before you get it repaired. You should also get an estimate to fix the oil pressure; probably a new oil pump. If you need the car for commuting, you should get both done at the same time. You might save a little by having the same shop do both together. Some of the disassembly/assembly is probably the same. If you don’t have a mechanic now, ask your friends, neighbors, and coworkers for recommendations.

The oil pressure situation has nothing to do with the coolant leak. The oil pressure is responding to the engine RPM, and low pressure at idle means this engine is almost worn out.

If you can get the coolant leak fixed for $800 on this car, do it. I’ve got 2 friends with these cars, and they are a major pain getting anything fixed on them. A coolant leak left alone will kill this engine. If you want it to last another couple of years, get it fixed.

If you see any oil getting into the coolant on this car, do not assume it is a head gasket. They put an oil cooler in the engine coolant underneath the intake manifold in between the cylinder banks, and it is known to leak and force oil directly into the coolant. GM has a $400 kit (parts only) to replace this cooler when this happens.

It’s a love/hate relationship with the Catera: fun to drive and lots of time in the shop.

Have you replaced the timing belt yet? These belts tend to break pretty quick. If it is still the original, you are due based on age. I would recommend getting rid of this car if you can. I would spend the $800 on a different car.