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.
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