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Milestones of my 1997 ETC

Cadillac Jim


I'll edit this post as new significant events occur.

At about 20,000 miles, in the second year, the positive battery post pulled out. I noticed problems with the battery and found it looking at the battery terminal. When I found it, corrosion had attacked the battery cable and the battery box. I got a new battery, and the dealer got permission to compensate me for my expense.

In October 2000, I moved from the L.A. area to South Jersey. The car had about 45,000 miles on it at the time. In the spring of 2001 that replacement battery went dead on me. I had been having trouble with the battery cable since it was washed in acid in 1999 and carried a battery wrench in the glove compartment so that I could clean and tighten it when it caused problems, which was every few months. The dealer kept fixing it instead of replacing it until it went over 50,000 miles. I got a new battery from the dealer that is still giving good service in 2007.

In 2003, the A/C compressor gave out; the reed valves went. The ACM cut off the compressor with the message "Very Low Refrigerant -- A/C Compressor Off" when DTC B1347 was set. The dealer diagnosed the compressor and I bought one from them. It came with a lifetime warranty, parts and labor, which I used in 2007 (see below).

In 2003, with about 80,000 miles on the car, it suddenly developed an oil burning problem. I discovered Caddyinfo about this time through web searches on Northstar and oil burning. I quickly solved the problem by adding CD-2 detergent additive to the oil after it used the first quart after each oil change.

The car turned over 100,000 miles in October 2004. I tied an "Over the Hill" balloon on the phone antenna.

In late 2004, at about 110,000 miles, I noticed a flicker in the oil pressure light at idle when I would pull off the freeway and stop at a light. I figured that since I was running 5W-30 synthetic that everything was still in specification, and that the flicker would not be seen with 10W-30 oil and 5 psi at idle was OK. I have since found out from posts on Caddyinfo that my oil sending unit had probably started to leak and give false low pressure warnings. About this time, I had the dealer change the battery cable. I also got my second (!!!) serpentine belt.

I started getting my car oil changes at a mechanic instead of the dealer about this time. I could see that there was a lot of oil on the oil pan. There was none on the garage floor. This told me that the oil was coming from the O-ring, not the oil pan, since the dry garage floor told me that the leak manifested itself only when the engine was running. Posts on Caddyinfo told me that O-ring seepage was common, and that failure to the point that replacement was necessary is not uncommon at about 130,000 miles.

In January 2006, I pulled a hill on the freeway at WOT and, about 30 seconds later at a 70 mph cruise, I saw the temperature gauge spike to about 3/4. I had never seen it above 1/2 before. This was my first real warning that a head bolt had pulled out. I had been thinking 150,000 miles but my 5 years had been up in 2003, since my only coolant change was in 1998.

By June my high-speed 30-mile commutes were punctuated by two or three flash overheating episodes. Topping a hill could be counted on to bring one on. The engine became ready to overheat at the slightest provocation over 50 mph. My mechanic ran a pressure test and told me that there was head leakage but that I could probably drive it around town for another year without problems. Since my main use of the car was high-speed commutes, I started evaluating options. From information gleaned primarily from Caddyinfo, I decided on a Jasper remanufactured engine. The engine was installed by my mechanic at 116,600 miles. With it came new everything-that-is-old-and-hard-to-reach and a new serpentine belt.

In September 2006 I was rear-ended by an inattentive teen-ager. This caused deep scratches in my bumper cover and compressed my left bumper shock absorber -- and took out my exhaust system behind the rear Y pipe, including the tips on the left side. Cadillac was out of stock on the left muffler at that time but the body shop got 1994 STS tips from an auto recycler. Borla was out of stock nationally on the mufflers that I needed, but somebody I pinged online offered "equivalent" Borlas and I ordered them. As they came in, I found that they were ProXS series, and I opened the box and saw two inches of daylight through them. I held my breath but the car sounded just fine when I got it back. I also had the car detailed while it was in the body shop. With the Borlas I could hear a hiss at high RPM that told me that the cat was partly clogged; I had noticed that the torque curve seemed to move toward low RPM since I had the new engine. I got a 50-state OBD II certified high flow cat and the torque curve now feels much more normal. My mechanic said that he could see that many of the tubes in the old cat were clogged. Since then, I advise people who are replacing their engines or doing Timesert jobs to shine a light in the cat and check for clogging. The exhaust note changed -- it is now a very deep nonchalant rumble, increasing to a mild, deep roar at WOT.

In 2007, at 128,000 miles, the compressor that I had bought in 2003 was replaced. The clutch never did pull in well, and in the spring of 2007 it became difficult to work around. The clincher was two incidents, one was when the compressor did not come on to clear fog from the windshield after I had parked it hot during a rainstorm, and the other was taking a priest to lunch and subjecting him to July heat for 10 minutes because the compressor clutch would not pull in. The dealer was more than happy to replace it for free -- they had been asking me to bring it in for two years.

In late July of 1997 I got a Garmin 360 pocket navigation GPS with Bluetooth. I have found that its hands-free cell phone support rivals the OEM OnStar phone, and the Garmin is at least as good as OnStar directions in some ways. Since Cingular wants me to trade in my analog phone by July 31, the FCC does not require carriers to provide analog support past December 31 2007, and OnStar is now providing only installations on new cars and digital phone retrofits to cars of the 2003 model year and later, I may drop my car cell phone account after I get more comfortable with my Garmin and existing GSM cell phone. The car phone will still dial 911 whenever it can get a connection, and that's probably enough. It's not OnStar, but it is the future of this car whether I like it or not.

What's next? The brake lines show no sign of rust. At 130,000 miles it still has about 30% left on the front pads. I think I might look at the stabilizer struts and links when I have the time. When my current Michelin Pilot Sport A/S tires wear out, I will look at 18-inch rims and 245/45-ZR18 tires, which match the 26.6 inch rolling radius of the OEM 225/60-HR16 tires. Hopefully this will allow improvements in both ride and handling; I love the handling of the 225/60-ZR16 Pilot Sport A/S tires but they are hard as a rock. For fun I might scare my dealer to ask them to live up to Cadillac's 1997 promise to remove the 130 mph governor since I now run Z rated tires, but short of access to the Autobahn there is no real reason to do so.


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