General Question

Fred931's avatar

Would anyone know how to fix any of these automotive problems?

Asked by Fred931 (9409points) August 28th, 2010

I’ve got my heart set on a 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo, and since GM was never perfect with reliability, there are a few niggles in the package. None of these are seemingly detrimental to the mechanical well-being of the car. If you know how to fix any of the following, drop a line:

1. The up & down switch for the automatic side mirrors will only work after each mirror is moved left, then right, and then either the up or down button is pressed repeatedly and quickly.
2. The low coolant warning light comes on almost every time the car starts, though the coolant level is fine. (I haven’t checked it personally because I can’t see anything on the reservoir that indicates where the fluid should be, but current owner says that he has checked the coolant reservoir whenever this has happened to find that there was plenty of 50/50)
3. The gas gauge warning light is always on.
4. The Check Gauges light is always on, and this is probably caused by #3.
5. The driver’s side power window motor is incapable of moving more than an inch without human support.
6. The RESET button on the informational console is broken, meaning that the service reminders on the console cannot be reset. That was kind of a given.
7. According to the current owner, if the battery is disconnected and there is no charging-battery-thing plugged into the DC socket, something to do with the computer, timing, etc. will be reset and do not correct themselves for months. Short answer; get a charging-battery-thing, but I would like to know if this can be fixed.
8. The physical speedometer is 5–10MPH optimistic, though the electronic speedometer in the HUD is correct.
9. The seatbelts usually feel slackened at the shoulder. I’m skinny and small, so the fix is probably to eat at McDonald’s for a year or three.
10. The lower front bumper (the very bottom piece which a lot of TGP owners nick by hitting a sharply-sloped entryway) seems to be separated from the main part of the front bumper at the far corners.
11. The rear bumper sags where it meets the trunk lid at the right side corner.
12. The clear-coat on the top of the rear bumper has been partially consumed by the sun.
13. The clear-coat on top of the side mirrors is also corroded.

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17 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

I had similar problems with a 1990 Volvo with respect to gauges, etc. and the electrical wiring harness had to be replaced; It was an aging thing on the car.

john65pennington's avatar

If i had this list of problems with any one automobile, i would either junk it or forget it. you may have your heart set on this vehicle, but you had better also get your billfold ready to shell out some heavy-duty cash. a much better investment would be a Honda Civic or a Toyota Solara. you are looking at dependability and reliability in both of these automobiles, where the Pontiac will just drain you dry with constant repairs. from the get-go, you already have a laundry list of problems…..even before the car is in your driveway. my advice, look for something else. sorry.

jerv's avatar

Electrical problems are second on my list of reasons to leave a car on the lot, the first being transmission problems.

Body work and non-electrical engine issues are no problem to solve, but this thing… jeez!

If I ran across a Nissan Skyline R34 (my dream car) with that list of issues, I would walk away unless it was literally free since that sort of list will take more time and money to repair than my last three cars combined cost to purchase and run for a few years.

Ben_Dover's avatar

1. Check contacts inside the mirrors’ switch mechanism.
2. Ignore the coolant light and simply check levels and keep on eye on temp gauge.
3. Ignore gas warning light, reset trip meter everytime you fill up, and be aware of how far you can travel on a tank of gas.
4. Check your gauges
5. a) Check driver side power window switch connections. b) Replace driver side power window motor.
8. Use the HUD display for accurate speed info. Check the physical connection from the wheel to the speedometer in the engine compartment (usually found on the driver’s side.
9) Pull the seatbelt slightly and see if it will adjust itself.
10) Reattach the lower front bumper. If it isn’t dragging or causing any problems, ignore.

Scooby's avatar

Never let your heart rule your head, first lesson in love, this is gonna end in one them love-hate relationships!! it’s just not worth the hassle or the money, find another motor… I would.. there’s plenty more fish in the sea! Lol… ;-)

jerv's avatar

Regarding #7: It is normal to lose the injector and ignition timing info after pulling the battery. You often lose some power and MPG while it re-learns.
But that relearning should only take a week! If it takes months then the engine is so far out of whack that there are more issues than the seller is letting on about, and it’s possible actually, likely that they know so little about cars that they are clueless about maintenance as well.

Fred931's avatar

@john65pennington @jerv @Scooby I don’t care whether or not there are any of these problems because they don’t affect the actual performance of the car. Besides, the purpose of the question was to see if anyone would know what it would take to fix the problems listed, not gripe about whether or not this is a good choice. The vehicle is listed in the NADA buyers’ guides as a classic auto and the rest of the car is perfect.

@john65pennington Aside from the water pump breaking and one of the brakes locking up, both of which happened a while back and were fixed properly including the cooling system being updated to post-1994-spec R-134a, these are the only problems. The car has 72,000 miles, and most TGP’s have more than that.

@jerv The previous owner would be ashamed of you. The current owner is a family friend since god-knows-how-long-ago and also knows every little foible in the vehicle. He’s told me everything I need to know about the car and definitely wouldn’t lie to me.

@Scooby On the subject of fish in the sea, GM only made 3,750 TGP’s.

@Ben_Dover A few of those are unhelpful, especially your answer to #4, which is caused by #3. Some are unhelpful because they come with no instructions. (#1, #5, latter part of #8, #10) I’ll try the ones that are self-explanatory.

Ben_Dover's avatar

The power mirrors and the power windows are operated by motors controlled by switches. Inside the switches you use to open and close the windows and to rotate the mirrors are wires. The wires have connections. If you remove the cover of the switches you then check the connections for breaks or for disconnected leads.

The speedometer connects to the driver side front tire. Generally on the wheel well under the hood is a unit where the cable connects from the wheel, and then another cable goes from the unit to the speedometer. Check that the cables need grease.

jerv's avatar

@Fred931 Well then, either the engine no longer matches the specs that the ECU expects (whether to to damage, wear, neglect, or modification) or the ECU is shot.

I have no doubt about their honesty, but that little “foible” is far from normal, and I would find it intolerable especially since it affects the longevity of the engine even if it doesn’t seem to affect performance.

I am all too familiar with the things that can go wrong with the GM W-body rigs. It’s a pity since the Grand Prix are not bad cars until they start to break. Actually, pretty much any GM from the late-‘80s to mid-‘90s is a nightmare when it come to upkeep and repair. Even when they seem fine, they may crack a block or throw out a torque converter just because they can. And don’t let the low mileage fool you; they are as ornery at 70K as they are at 170K.

If you really have your heart set on this car then replace the entire electrical system since it seems like the whole thing is either kaput or about to be. You definitely have two bad sensors under the hood. Seatbelts are another item that generally are replaced rather than repaired.

While I personally have nothing against repairing a rig, this one seems like more of a restoration project than just a case of “TLC required”. Just be aware of that and don’t slap band-aids on it when it really needs surgery.

And since you are asking, your best bet is to put it in a garage and throw money at it since it needs work that you don’t know off the top of your head how to do, and a bit that most shade-tree mechanics don’t have the equipment for.

Fred931's avatar

@jerv I’ll double check with him and see if he really said “months” instead of “a week or two.”

jerv's avatar

@Fred931 That makes a huge difference. Of course, it may have taken him months since it generally takes about 200–300 miles, which is less than a week for me, but a while for someone you has only 70K on a 1990.

After 20 years though, wiring can (and often does) do funny things. And by “funny” I don’t mean stuff that will make you laugh. My ‘85 Corolla has enough “foibles” that I am glad that it has a carb and distributor so that those quirks don’t really affect the engine. I won’t even get into the “joy” of the electrical systems on older VW Golfs.

Fred931's avatar

@jerv That could also be the case, because he very rarely takes the car out.

jerv's avatar

@Fred931 To recalibrated the ECU requires a varied driving pattern. I had it easy since my commute had slow city streets, fast highways, and any sort of hill you want (plus a couple you don’t) so the ECU would experience all sorts of loads in a single day.
Of course, that same learning meant that whenever my wife dove that car, it’d take a day or two for it to unlearn her driving style…

Fred931's avatar

Just an update: #1 has fixed itself and #9 isn’t a problem if I buckle up, open the door slightly, and close it again, which makes the automatic seat belt function properly (MW ‘90 was right about this seat belt being annoying).

jerv's avatar

#2 is a sensor and #3 sounds like a sending unit. Either of those alone would cause #4.

john65pennington's avatar

I have a 2000 Toyota Solara with 254,000 miles on it and have only changed the timing belt. your vehicle has only 72,000 miles with a long list of problems? there is no comparison.

jerv's avatar

@john65pennington I know that you’ll be trading that Solara in for a Ford first chance you get.

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