A Purring Classic

Several years ago I learned that a car that is over 20 years old is a classic. The classic car club defines it a bit better by saying a classic is between 20 and 40 years. Over 40 and it's an antique. In either case, most people think a classic must be in good shape before it can pass junk car status. This week I've been working on our 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme to see that it stays in the classic category.

Warning: Boring car mechanic talk
Our 23 year old "Silver" still has dents in the body, but after a series of discoveries, it's now more reliable than it was just a few weeks ago. A year and a half ago we had some stalling problems. After taking it to the shop, we then had starting problems. At the conclusion of about a month in the shop, it was operational again. We still had some transmission problems, and supposedly some engine issues. Shortly after the shop visit, it started vibrating at certain speeds. We limped for months with those issues and then finally had the transmission replaced. That fixed some of the shifting altercations, but didn't stop the vibrating, grinding noises. At the time, we were told that the engine had problems and would probably need to have it rebuilt.

During the year following we managed with the motor and also saw declines in the mileage economy, down to 6-10 MPG. Finally, I did some research and decided to replace some parts. First, I replaced spark plugs with good/used ones I had kept. That helped only slightly. We could smell fumes, so I assumed the fuel system was working fine. The pump and filter had been replaced earlier. One of the ignition coils had been replaced, so I thought the problem had to be with the other ignition coils. We've had problem with the ignition control module on several occasions so I also ordered one of those. Then, to make everything new, I got new spark plugs.

I marked the plug wires so I wouldn't mess them up and then installed the ICM  and coils. The oil filter was in the way of the bolt holding the ICM bracket in place, so I changed that and the oil. The final step was putting the new plugs in. That is where I was fortunate enough to have two coil wires come apart when I removed them. I was fortunate because when I put the second wire back on I noticed that the wires had been crossed. They weren't crossed by me, though, since I had marked them clearly. They had been crossed by the last shop that worked on the car, a year and a half ago.

Following some research, double-checking the wires and triple-checking the wires (I couldn't believe a certified tech would do that) I took it out on the road. The only other fix was reconnecting some vacuum hoses, and over the last few days I've averaged 22 MPG in city driving. It's smooth riding and I think the motor may have another 100,000 miles in it. The best thing is there is no vibration or grinding noise. The idle is still a little erratic, but that's a minor problem in comparison and I have plans for that if I need them. Since I haven't driven it 50 miles, the ECM may still be in training. I would have had PepBoys set it for me but they no longer support that very first version of On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-1).

Given the condition of the body our "Silver" probably still looks like a junk car, but as far as I'm concerned I'm driving around a classic.

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