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New to me 95 Lumina, lots of probs

I bought this car used from my trusted mechanic. Originally the AC wasn’t working, and after a couple different things they put in two different compressors and it was working. These are its current problems. Please work with me as I have no experience with how to fix cars, but I do feel like I have the worst luck with cars.

Problem 1. The AC isn’t working, again. It only worked for about a month after this second compressor was put in.

Problem 2. Once the gas tank is below half a tank the needle will go up and down on the gas gauge as I accelerate, decellerate.

Problem 3. And this one just started lately, the car will vibrate, not much but enough to make me nervous that I am going to stall at any moment.

Problem 4. The car will stall. It happened one time on a regular road, it stalled, restarted, then lost power again, and after about a minute it restarted again. Another time it lost power on the highway. It didn’t end up actually stalling, but I kept pressing the gas and it just kept losing more and more speed, until after a couple of seconds I had to pull over because I thought it was dying, but just as I pulled over, it regained power again.

Problem 5. I took it in for an oil change today and it stalled three times (after vibrating all the way there) trying to get it into the oil change bay. The guy actually suggested I not get an oil change and take the car to my mechanic for a look over and an oil change. In the meantime, he did say that the fluids all looked fine and said that the problem could be 101 different things. No check engine light is on.

Please help, I am clueless. I appreciate any advice or suggesions. Like I said, I just bought this car in April (its now early July) and I am terribly afraid that I bought a big old lemon.

Wow. I’m really sorry to hear of all your problems with this car.

I strongly recommend that you take the car to a well-reputed independent mechanic for an assessment of all of the problems that you reported. It is very possible that you have bought a “money pit”, and while it would have been much better to know this before purchase, the sooner you find out the real cost of a decently-performing car, the better-off you will be.

Maybe you can resolve these problems for a reasonable cost, or maybe it would be better to get rid of the car, but at this point–especially from afar–it is difficult to know what is necessary to restore this car to proper operating condition. Hopefully it just needs maintenance (spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, new PCV valve, cleaning of Mass Air Flow Sensor, etc.) in order to rectify the performance issues. However, the A/C problems could be more expensive to remedy.

An independent mechanic (NOT a chain operation like Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, etc.) is your best bet to have the problems taken care of at a reasonable cost.

Good luck, and please post back with the results of the mechanic’s inspection of your car.

Thanks for the information. As a follow up question: Since I bought the car from an independant mechanic who I have used for about 5 years, and my family has used for much longer, should I just have them do that assessment? When I bought the car in April it had a 30 day guarantee, and part of the purchase was that they would inspect the car and fix everything that is wrong, and make sure all is well before they sold it to me. It sounds like the maintenance things you mentioned (air filter, fuel filter, etc.) should have been part of that initial pre me buying it overhaul of the car. Now, when I took it for the oil change today (which they declined to do) they said that the coolant was dirty and that the car needed a radiator flush, which is something I will definately bring up to my mechanic. The oil guy showed me the coolant holder was all nasty inside.
I don’t think that the mechanic will do any more repairs for me for free, but I am hoping that they will be decent about giving me more than fair pricing, but at this point, I am losing faith in them.
So my mechanic or a new machanic?
Thanks again, Chrissy

Just as an addendum, the mechanic who I bought the car from got 8 great ratings on this site. I just checked!

Stay with the same mechanic,you are considering switching without giving him a hearing. Explain to him how you felt the car should have been “up” (at the top level) of its maintence schedule.

The idea that the car is running poorly due to a maintiance issue is only a idea,not at all certain.

You can have a dirty coolant bottle and still have clean coolant. This would be the mark of a sloppy job as cleaning the bottle is part of a coolant exchance. many times the bottle is stained and will not come clean (appearence issue only).

Explain that if the car is a DexCool car you want it changed to “normal green” coolant.

On the 95 I would just change the O2 sensor, as it can make you lose power while trying to cruise at a constant speed. The vibration and shaking seems like it could be a bad engine control module, ECM. Stalling too.

No. 1. Two different compressors. New or used? Sounds like a leaking A/C system.
No. 2. Faulty gas tank sending unit more than likely.
No. 3. Vibration (assuming at idle?) ignition miss, engine mount, or worse; an engine mechanical fault. Compression test first.
No. 4. Failing fuel pump.
No. 5. It sounds like the oil change facility does not want to touch your car due to the problems you’re having. They are afraid of changing the oil and getting the blame for problems over which they have no control. And believe me, this happens every minute of every day. Not saying you would do this at all; just pointing out what actually does happen and the viewpoint of the oil change facility.

Lemon? No. It’s a 15 year old car and any of the problems are likely to be either normal or caused by lack of maintenance.
Your “trusted” mechanic sold you this thing and the part I wonder about is why he threw a number of parts, including 2 compressors, at the car in an attempt to fix the A/C.

Thanks for all this info. everyone, I really appreciate it. The compressors were both used, but before they put in the first used compressor, they did check for leaks because they told me they put something in, told me to drive around for a bit until the AC stopped working again, and then bring it back. They discovered no leaks.

Would putting in some dry gas help at all? A friend told me I might have water in the gas line. Sounds like a cheap remedy? Would that help with a failing fuel pump?

Also, my next question, is the car okay to drive? I am terrified of breaking down along the side of the road alone. Maybe its time to get some AAA before I do have this problem actually now that I am thinking about it. I have about a half hour commute each way. I try and avoid driving my car as much as possible but as of next week, that isn’t going to be possible.

Also, with all of these possible solutions. How do you know which is actually the real problem and what is the correct solution? Is there a test or something that they can do? Or is it trial and error coupled with experience?

Installing a used compressor is always a crap shoot. A 1 or 2 year old, low miles compressor is worth a shot. Anything over that means at a minimum the compressor shaft seal (the usual leak) should be replaced BEFORE a used compressor is installed.

If the system is low or out of refrigerant then there is a leak, no matter what they say. They should do a better job of finding it. It sounds like they added dye when they probably should be using an electronic sniffer to find the leak.

Any gas additive is not going to help a failing fuel pump. The only thing that will cure that is a new pump. And since you have an iffy gas gauge the entire pump module should be replaced as this will also have a new sending unit for the gauge.

As to the diagnosis, that could be a bit tough. The codes could be pulled to see if anything is present. Other than that, it’s going to require a bit of diagnosis when the car screws up or when it fails and stays failed. The former is preferable.

As to vibration (rough running?) that will also require a bit of diagnosis. The first step there should be an examination of spark plugs/wires along with a compression test.
Wished I could be of more help but there’s simply not enough info known to get real specific.