'93 Ciera makeover project
1993-vintage Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera sedan, purchased with only 63K on the odometer at an estate sale. Powered by a GM 3300/3.3L LG7 V-6 engine and coupled to a 3-speed tranny.
More background info: even though no maintenance history was available, the Ciera's drive train appeared to be in good shape. Surprisingly good body, too. On the other hand, being a northeast U.S. rust-belt car, some items did need attention: holes in muffler & exhaust pipe; rattling catalytic converter; more exhaust leak noise due to burned-through exhaust flange donut/gasket just downstream of O2 sensor; rusted/flaking brake lines & aging brake drums, rotors, pads, shoes & hardware; corroded lower coil spring perches on dummy rear axle; corrosion on battery tray; corroded fuel tank, metal fuel lines & fuel filler neck; corrosion on engine cradle/sub-frame, control arms & tie rods. Front struts ok. In addition, the Ciera had worn tires, a fallen-down rear-view mirror hanging from the inner windshield by its electric wire, mismatched wheel covers, leaking heater core flowing dirty coolant containing sediment; worn/leaking rear shocks and cracked rubber shock mounts; dry-rotted rubber vacuum lines; original PCV & grommets; so-so air filter & stuck trunk lock. Power door locks work ok but the RR power window is inoperative and the LF driver's window motor weak. The headliner is starting to sag in spots. The hood needs to be repainted. Paint is fading in a couple of other spots, notably the trunk lid. The a/c doesn't work. After being driven for a while, the car developed an engine misfire and the fuel pump began to act up, causing intermittent stalling. A couple of small dents mar the roof, courtesy of some flying branches during a sudden summer storm. The harmonic balancer/dampener rubber is cracking as are all the door window belt weatherstrips. Though still minor, a couple of coolant leaks are now seeping past the intake manifold gaskets. So what's a little work? All in all, nothing some elbow grease and a little TLC won't fix .
I'm finally getting around to posting some pics, courtesy of Turbokinetic's Photobucket tutorial. (Thank-you, David!) Had to reload a couple of times before I got the hang of it. The 'net in general and this forum in particular has been really helpful to me, so I hope my work as a newbie gives back to someone else who needs help or info or is just interested in looking around. I've got a lot of pics so I'll be uploading them gradually.
Last edited by 93CieraDude; 03-09-2017 at 03:40 AM.
Nice looking car, I love the color. 1993 is a really good year, and the last for the 3300. Does it have an driver's air bag and anti-social brakes?
Has driver's side air bag, but no ABS. Nice not to have to fool with ABS when I replaced all the rusting brake lines.
Air bag label on driver's side strut tower.
Last edited by 93CieraDude; 03-06-2017 at 02:18 PM.
Good job my friend looks great
Problem: the car came with mismatched wheel covers with cheap-azz plastic faux covers on the rear wheels and OEM wire covers on the front wheels.
An aftermarket plastic wheel cover, which, due to its design, obstructed the tire valve - made it a PITA to top-up the air pressure.
Genuine GM OEM wire wheel cover. I've seen these wheel covers for sale on ebay.
Comparison of wheel covers with and without center cap in place.
Color-coded plastic locking nut in its place in the wheel cover. The cut mark indicates that someone previously used a sharp instrument - probably a chisel or screwdriver - in an attempt to force-turn the nut when it was stuck and wouldn't yield to the special key wrench. I have had success in freeing up a stuck lock nut by tapping on a slightly oversize deep socket and turning the socket with a breaker bar. I have also successfully used a pair of locking pliers to do the job.
The business end of a lock nut.
Replacement key wrench kit I purchased on ebay. The car did not come with the original wrench, which was probably lost.
The ebay seller gave me an extra key wrench.
Curiously, the two green plastic key wrenches differ in the tips used to pry off the center cap to access the lock nut. The wrench on the left has a metal tip, the wrench on the right, plastic. Must have been two different production runs, or manufacturers. The key wrenches and lock nuts that came with my wife's old Delta 88 were all metal, thus more durable than these plastic ones.
The cams on the used key wrenches show some prior distortion from over-torqued lock nuts. To avoid this problem, I dab a little Sil-Glyde silicone-based lubricant on the lock nut threads and apply just enough torque to do the job.
The lock nuts spin on to the FRONT wheels by means of a threaded axle stub.
The lock nuts spin on to the REAR wheels by means of a threaded stub mounted to a metal plate held in place by three lug nuts. The plate at the top of the image has separated from its threaded stub and is useless.
Mounted on a wheel is a newly-cleaned OEM-style wire wheel cover, sans years of baked-on brake dust. After a preliminary soak with cleaner, it took a lot of scrubbing with a small engine cleaning brush and an old toothbrush to restore the shine.
Last edited by 93CieraDude; 03-06-2017 at 03:48 PM.
Problem: heater core coolant leak.
Not a good sign: coolant on the front floor carpet, passenger side.
Follow the green trails back to the source.
The heater core cover is full of coolant.
The guilty party exposed. Note the presence of coolant along the bottom of the heater core. Replacing the heater core was not a fun job. Being all contorted up under the dash is hell on your neck, arms and back.
What the heater hoses are hidden under. Ugh!
To access the heater hoses, I had to move the power steering pump out of the way and then remove the HVAC blower motor. I also decided to remove the serpentine belt tensioner for even more room.
Heater hose-firewall junction.
Getting the serpentine belt tensioner off is a real bugger. There's a threaded bolt/stud that sits behind a metal hook affixed to an adjacent coolant pipe. That bolt has to come out to free up the belt tensioner. The purpose of the hook is to stabilize the coolant pipe. I used a mirror and discovered that I could pry on the hook and bend it enough to get to the bolt behind it. After I finished the job, I was able to bend the hook back without breaking it.
Wrench on the bolt behind the hook.
Hook now appears bent after prying with a long pick and screwdriver. The bugger bolt is now exposed.
No escaping me now. A wrench is coming to get you.
Free at last!
These wiring grounds sit on the stud end of the threaded bolt in front of the hook. The grounds are secured by a nut. The nut has to come off first before bending the hook to get to the rest of the bolt. I made sure the grounds were clean and tight upon reassembly.
Serpentine belt tensioner removed - now there's lots more room to work!
Result of draining the coolant before removing the heater hoses: dirty coolant. Who knows when it was changed last?
Close-up of coolant reveals a considerable amount of debris and sediment, the result of neglected maintenance.
Heater hoses removed. Stubs of heater core inflow and outflow pipes sticking out through their respective holes in the firewall under the evaporator case cover. The rectangular piece of gray foam seals acts as a weather seal.
I didn't have time to replace the heater core right away, so I rigged a spare coolant hose to the ends of the heater pipes coming off the engine to serve as a bypass. For stability, I looped the hose around the right front strut tower. Since the drained coolant was so dirty, I ran a cleaner with distilled water for a considerable number of driving cycles with the bypass setup in order to thoroughly flush the system. With all the crap that was in the cooling system, I didn't want to subject a new heater core to any of it.
South-of-the-border aftermarket heater core box label.
Original OEM heater core at the top of the image, new aftermarket replacement heater core on the bottom.
I had a lot of trouble getting the new heater pipes through the firewall. Not wanting to risk breaking the pipe joints by bending the pipes a little more, I ground down the the black plastic just inside the holes behind the firewall metal a little with a rotary tool to provide more clearance. I then did a lot of tugging and wiggling to finally get 'em to come through all the way. I assume the black plastic was likely the rear of the heater core case in the dash.
New heater core in place.
Lower hose back on.
Upper hose back on. I lubed the insides of the ends of the hoses to make it easy to twist them off again should they ever need to be removed in the future. You can see my flex-cable hose clamp tool on the tangs of the top clamp. That tool can get into all kinds of tight spaces - don't what I would do without it.
All buttoned up.
Last step: flushing one more time and installing new coolant, then burping the air out of the system.
Last edited by 93CieraDude; 03-11-2017 at 02:11 AM.
Problem: exhaust noise and leaks. First up: exhaust pipe and muffler replacement. Mike Rowe, this job's for you.
One source of exhaust noise was this hole in the exhaust pipe just aft of its flange mating to the catalytic converter pipe flange. The muffler was on its last legs, too.
New aftermarket Walker exhaust pipe.
Walker tailpipe part number.
New aftermarket Walker muffler and tailpipe assembly.
Walker muffler part label on box.
Muffler/exhaust pipe clamp part label on box.
Exhaust pipe flange gasket.
Flange gasket label.
Trial fit of exhaust pipe to muffler/tailpipe assembly.
The worst part of this job was dealing with the rusted fasteners securing the two flanges between the exhaust and catalytic converter pipes. To get the flanges apart, I used an electric cut-off wheel to cut the exhaust pipe flange away from its pipe. With the exhaust pipe now out of the way, I drilled and punched out the fasteners holding the two flanges together. It was not fun. Here is the flange that I cut off.
Back end of the catalytic converter pipe flange after removing the exhaust pipe flange.
Other side of the catalytic converter pipe flange. With this freed up, I was now able to install the new exhaust pipe.
New muffler installed on hangers. I loosely hung the muffler and the exhaust pipe on their respective hangers, not snugging up any hanger bolts yet. Keeping everything loose is key to aligning the exhaust parts correctly. To ease installation, I lubed all hanger rubber parts with a silicone-based lubricant.
I then inserted and clamped the muffler over the new exhaust pipe.
Next, I inserted the new exhaust flange gasket between the flanges of the new exhaust pipe and the old catalytic converter pipe and secured the connection finger-tight with stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers. After I was satisfied with the alignment of all the parts, I snugged up all the fasteners.
Exhaust pipe flange hanger under the center of the car. Supports the approximate mid-point of the exhaust system.
Exhaust pipe in place.
Job done! Time for a cold one.
Next up: Can you see the hole that was the source of exhaust noise in the front of the car?
Close-up view of blown-out exhaust flange gasket/donut between rear exhaust manifold and down-pipe. I could feel the exhaust with my fingers.
To remove (and later reinstall) the spring bolts clamping the exhaust down-pipe flange to the exhaust manifold, I cobbled together a wrench/socket setup that worked for me: a 1/2" drive ratchet wrench, two extensions, one flexible u-joint adapter and a socket. Having several joint connections like this creates some "slop" and provides enough flexibility to wiggle up and into the cramped location where the spring bolts live from underneath the car.
Spring-bolts removed. You can see little remains of the gasket/donut towards the left.
What a difference between old and new gaskets/donuts. No wonder there was a leak!
New exhaust flange gasket/donut.
New donut in place.
I smeared anti-seize on the spring bolt threads before reassembly.
Spring bolts reinstalled, flange connection secure. No more leak and no more noise!
Last edited by 93CieraDude; 03-15-2017 at 01:43 AM.
Good job man !!!! I like the walker fx muffler . They used that company through the 86.92 gm with the 2.8,3.1 Pontiac 6000 had that muffler but dual tip . Gives it a throaty sound to it thumbs up !!.
Thanks for the compliment! I ate some rust on that job!
Originally Posted by Keiths1976
Good job indeed. I like to see these cars receiving the love they deserve.