Last post on Jun 05, 2012 at 7:22 AM
You are in the Buick Century
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Buick Century, Sedan
#381 of 482 Used Century - recommendations?
Dec 30, 2005 (8:59 am)
Hi everyone. I'm considering buying a used Century, in the 2002 - 2005 range. Any recommendations as to what things to look for, or avoid?
Also, I wonder if I could get some feedback regarding reliability and durability (long-term) of the 3.1 engine. I know that the 3.8 in the Regal is a solid, workhorse Buick engine, but I'm not really familiar with the 3.1. Isn't the 3.1 a Chevy design, the same not-so-great motor they put in cars like the Corsica?
I've heard that these engines had a number of problems...main bearing oil leaks, melting heads etc. but haven't been able to back this up with any solid research. From what I've found on internet-based sources it seems to be regarded as an "OK" engine, but nothing spectacular.
If anyone can offer any long-term, anecdotal experiences & recommendations, I'd appreciate it. I'd get a Regal with a 3.8, but the Century can be had so much cheaper, and would suit my purposes as long as I can be reasonably confident it would give solid long-term service.
#382 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [barnee61]
Dec 30, 2005 (2:56 pm)
We have both the Century and the Regal in my family (I've got the Regal, of course!). The Regal is sportier and has more standard equipment, but if you find a Century Limited you'll have the same stuff with a softer ride.
The Century is a solid car, no doubt about it. Be advised, however, that Buick has been "de-contenting" their cars over the last few years, so things you thought were standard are now options. The best example of this is anti-lock brakes. They were standard on Century up to 2002, but then optional in 2003 and beyond. My youngest son bought a used 2003, and it took forever to find one with anti-locks. Every time we saw one advertised, it was sold by the time we called.
As far as the 3100 engine is concerned, the trick is to keep it well maintained. Sure, one can say that for all cars, but the 3100 does have a track record of failing head gaskets. One theory I've read a lot about concerns Dex-Cool. The owner's manual says you can go 5 years or 150,000 miles before doing routine cooling system maintenance, but many people think that means you can just ignore it entirely for 5 years. Not so. Dex-Cool still evaporates over time, and when air gets into the cooling system, the Dex-Cool turns into a foul brownish gel. So, always check the coolant level, and don't wait 5 years to have it changed out.
Otherwise, these cars are great, and a terrific bang for the buck.
#383 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [tsu670]
Dec 31, 2005 (8:01 am)
The engine family (GM 2.8, 3.1, and 3.4) had a long history of problems with intake manifold gaskets. Not with head gaskets.
The bad gasket costs only $40 to $50, but replacing it requires a lot of labor and costs $550 to $800. $550 or so at independent mechanics, $800 at dealers. On the other hand, some dealers replace it for free if the gasket leaks again.
The manifold is made of aluminum, engine is steel. Different coefficient of thermal expansion. A couple of years ago GM changed the part number for the gasket; I had read that the new gasket is made from a better material and does not leak as often.
I changed the DexCool before 5 years, and added it religiously. Still had the leak at 37k miles with my 98 Malibu with 3.1l engine, and again at 68k or 69k miles. After the second leak I trade the car in for a second Buick Regal GS.
By the way, some naturally aspirated 3.8l GM engines also had problems with a similar leaks. Their intake manifolds are made from plastic. However, supercharged 3.8l engines have steel manifolds and are free of the problem.
#384 of 482 Dex-Cool discussion
Jan 02, 2006 (8:45 pm)
Thanks Yurakm for the correction. Yes, I meant to say intake manifold, not cylinder head gasket.
There was once a website that showed what Dex-Cool had done to intake manifold gaskets on engines that had been disassembled. Unfortunately, I can't find it, but the point of the article was that the author believed it was the chemical reaction of Dex-Cool and air that was allowed into the system that was causing the fluid to change to a brownish gel, and the pictures clearly showed the erosion of the gaskets. You could actually see how gasket material was being chemically etched away. Yes, I understand GM has beefed up their gaskets, but they have also made changes to their radiator caps, and in some cars have eliminated the radiator cap entirely, presumably to prevent the possibility of air leaking into the cooling system inadvertently.
But your last posting was most interesting in that it sounds as if you did a more than honorable job in maintaining your car's cooling system.
So the discussion, and perhaps the confusion, continues...
#385 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [yurakm]
Jan 03, 2006 (12:55 pm)
Thanks TSU670 and Yurakm for your feedback. Have done a bit more research and it seems the 3.1 and 3.4 (and to a certain extent the 3.8) engines have a long history of both intake manifold gasket and head gasket failures. Yurakm's experience was especially revealing, two intake manifold gasket leaks despite religious (better than manufacturer recommended) maintenance....leading to trading the vehicle at only 69K.
Too bad because the Century seems like otherwise a pretty good car. Sealed for life automatic (Dextron III fill), stainless steel exhaust, double galvanized steel body etc. And they can be had at a very reasonable price on the used market (maybe this is why?).
#386 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [barnee61]
Jan 04, 2006 (5:29 pm)
Gosh, Yuriy, I think we scared him away! Maybe I should have emphasized that not every 3.1L or 3.4L engine has gasket problems. -- Ken
#387 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [barnee61]
Jan 04, 2006 (11:45 pm)
I traded my 98 Malibu at 69k not because of the gasket, but because it had many problems during the two previous years. New transmission, two big repairs of A/C (two halves of it separately), alternator, coolant tank that fell to pieces during a routine pressure test, and several smaller items, like weather stripping that had to be glued back to car.
The gasket was just the last straw. When our service adviser told that that the car needs a new rack and pinion AND the intake manifold gasket (the second time), my wife decided that enough is enough. Did not like to spend $2000-$2,500 per year on the car.
We would no trade it because of the gasket only, though.
Early Malibu had a lot of problems. Century are much more reliable.
#388 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [tsu670]
Jan 04, 2006 (11:45 pm)
#389 of 482 Re: Used Century - recommendations? [yurakm]
Jan 05, 2006 (5:52 pm)
Heh heh. Yes, I'm aware the problems don't occur with all 3.1 and 3.4 engines, or all Centurys. But they affect enough to make it a significant concern...a costly and aggravating repair to encounter.
What really bothers me is how The General responds (or does not respond) to these type of issues. How long have they been making these engines? How long have they been aware of the problem and allowed it to continue (the "improved gasket" semi-fix notwithstanding...it's a design problem that should be properly corrected).
I'm not a GM basher (I'll always have a soft spot for my 76 Camaro LT Sport Coupe...I loved my 99 S-10 pickup...and my 2002 Blazer is a pretty good truck, although not especially sophisticated...the 4.3 "Vortec" is basically the ancient small block Chevy 350 with a couple cylinders lopped off). BUT...a responsible manufacturer who actually cares about quality deals with this type of thing quickly, and definitively. They don't allow it to be a nagging concern for years and place the engine in a multitude of vehicles.
GM (and Ford and Chrysler) still have a lot of lessons to learn from companies that I'll refrain from naming here (however they rhyme with "Royota" & "Konda").
#390 of 482 Big Three Reliability - getting better
Jan 06, 2006 (7:11 am)
Barney, I think you hit the nail on the head. I've owned vehicles from all of the Big Three and can honestly say that I'm convinced more than ever that while their engineers might have their hearts in the right place, it appears they are quickly overruled by the bean counters. But it isn't just American makes. From what I've read (and heard from 2 friends who own them), it sounds like Volkswagen is the same way.
The East Asians seem to have a better response in fixing problems, but this is said in a general way. Some of the Korean makes still aren't up there with the Japanese yet.
Nevertheless, I still believe American build quality is improving, enough at least that nowadays I am comfortable at buying used ones. Buicks are my current favorite, but who knows down the road? I tend to keep cars for many years, and saving all that front end depreciation feels wonderful!