Cadillac Catera: Great Idea, Awful Car.

Cadillac Catera

Cadillac Catera

I used to be a technician at a Cadillac dealer.  At the time, I was just out of school, and ready to take on the world.  Being the youthful new guy and getting paid by the hour (not by flat rate), I got all the jobs that nobody else wanted.  This period in time also coincided with what I like to call “the Cadillac Catera era”. Lucky me.

The Catera was a really great idea on paper.  It was a small car, with rear wheel drive, a DOHC V6, power everything, and it wasn’t even that bad looking. They had a firm ride, handled alright, and even had a cool winter driving mode that made driving in the snow slightly less scary. Although I don’t feel like it had any business being part of the Cadillac brand, it did have a lot of things going for it.

I was at the dealer when the Cateras started arriving on tow trucks, and I was also the guy fixing the majority of them.  Why were they on tow trucks, you ask?  Well, because the water pump and timing belt idler bearings failed.  The ball bearings would then sprinkle down onto the spinning crankshaft making the timing belt jump time, which then caused catastrophic engine failure.  Being an outsider looking in, it was pretty awesome to see.  It was especially horrific when this failure happened at highway speeds.  I would find mangled valve heads trapped in the catalytic converters, holes in pistons, and timing belt covers that looked like they were removed with a chainsaw.  I really wish I had taken pictures of some of it.

Unfortunately for the Cateras, their engines were not their only flaw.  For a reason that I still do not know, Cateras have tire issues.  The inside edges of the tires are always bald, every time.  An alignment to factory specs won’t help, so it’s no use trying.  You just have to learn to appreciate bald tires.  Once you get past the whole “driving on bald tires & catastrophic engine failure” thing, you have to think about the rear differentials, because they are weak and frequently spit parts out.  They don’t do this all the time, just most of the time.  I like to think that the differential is so disgusted with the engine that is powering it, that it logically removes itself from the Catera equation.  If the car does somehow survive the catastrophic timing belt failure, balding tires, and rear end gear shredding fiasco, there will always be dead coil pack, leaking hot water valve, and busted LED tail light issues to ruin your day.

With all of that being said, someday when I am bored and need a new challenge, I may pick up a Catera (After all, they are dirt cheap for obvious reasons).  Then I would just need to stuff an L92 in it with a t-56, and a solid rear axle.  That will solve the majority of the issues that the Catera was plagued with. The rest, I can live with.

Image borrowed from:

http://www.edmunds.com/

Top 3 Most Awesome Ways to Destroy Your Engine

Once you get past the whole “I completely horrified my engine” thing, catastrophic engine damage is really awesome to see.  Here is the Nutts & Bolts Top 3 Most Awesome Ways to Destroy your Engine:

1) Blowing pistons and / or connecting rods right through the engine block.

Typically when your internal engine parts forcefully become external, they do so for good reason. You likely built the engine wrong, over revved it, or had a complete lack of lubrication. What you may not realize, is that this seemingly negative action is a really just your car’s way of telling you it wants a more powerful engine.

2) Destroying your valves in epic fashion.

Whether it is losing your timing belt at highway speeds with an interference engine, or running lean enough to turn steel into magma, it sure is fun to see.  The grossest display of shared combustion chamber space that I’ve seen was a Cadillac Catera that I worked on many years ago.  It had broken the heads off the valves, bounced them around the cylinders, and then pushed them right back through the exhaust ports.  The inside of the engine looked as if it were trying to combust rocks instead of gasoline.  It was an epic win for shared space that day. Let’s not forget burned valves though, you get an extra points when the valves burn and destroy your turbo in the same instant.

3) Recipe for disaster: The automotive cocktail of destruction.

  • 1 Blown intake / head gasket
  • 1 Part Oil
  • 4 Part Antifreeze
  • 2 tbsp metal shavings
  • Mix vigorously
  • Cook at 220 degrees for approximately 3 minutes or until engine eruption is complete.
  • Enjoy automotive cocktail of destruction.

Bon appetit!