We knew that our 2000 LeSabre was getting up in miles (140,000), so it was time to consider getting something newer. My wife liked the ergonomics and the 3800 engine, but didn’t like my 2007 Buick Lucerne. OK, so what’s next. She didn’t want an SUV either, so that ruled out most of what is on the market today.
On our annual trip to Florida, I looked at Craigslist among other sites to see if we could find a senior owned, really low mile LeSabre. A lot of seniors move permanently to Florida and their cars don’t see much mileage. When they either pass on or move back home, the relatives usually dump the car for a good price. The lowest mileage I could find was in the 75,000 mile neighborhood. I did find a Buick Park Avenue at a Kia dealer in Naples that had 22,000 miles, but the price was high and the dealer wanted almost $900 in dealer fees. No thanks. So we didn’t buy a car in Florida to bring back home.
One morning after returning home, I was looking through CarFax and found a 2001 LeSabre with 14,000 miles. It was two and half hours away in Kent, Ohio. I contacted the dealer and he told me that the car was fully loaded and in excellent condition. I told him we’d be down in a couple of days to check it out. Set a time and date to look at it and off we went. When we got to the dealer, we saw the car being driven away with temp license tags on it. The salesman apologized that when he made the appointment, he didn’t know that another salesman had sold the car and failed to note that fact on their records. Rats! The salesman did offer to compensate us for gas and tolls to get there, so all was not lost.
OK, so we were close, but no cigar. The next week, I was searching the local Craigslist at home and found a 2001 LeSabre with only 28,000 miles. Just posted that morning! New Michelin tires and new brakes on all four wheels. Limited model which was only missing the sunroof. Called the number, but got a recording that it was not in service. So I emailed the seller, who just happened to be on line. He put the wrong area code in the ad. He gave the correct information and I called him immediately. Told him we’d be there in about an hour (50 miles away). We got there, looked the car over, took it on a test drive, and told him we’d take it. My wife was smiling from ear to ear by the time we got home.
Turns out the car was his father-in-law’s and had been driven only 14,000 miles in the 14 years he owned it. Stored in a heated garage during the year. The seller’s daughter needed a newer car for her new born baby, so she acquired it when Grandpa decided to stop driving. Her dad added the tires and brakes to make sure the car was safe. The daughter racked up 14,000 miles in the year plus that she owned it, so it was still a new car.
In the year and a half that we’ve owned the car, it has needed nothing other than gas, oil, a battery, and the left rear window regulator. The old battery was still good, but it was 16 years old so why push your luck. The cable on the left rear window regulator decided to break one day and drop the window into the door. Found a new one on-line and only had to spend about an hour to replace it. Thankfully, I had experience on replacing three of them on our 2000 LeSabre.
Note: This fender looks better than it originally was, as I pulled it out at the back and away from the door
Earlier this year, my wife went to visit her sister in Ohio. The LeSabre was parked in the driveway away from everything, but my sister-in-law was still able to find the front left fender with her Honda CRV. The damage above is the result. As there were hundreds of thousands of LeSabres manufactured from 2000 to 2005, I figured that I should be able to find a clean fender in the same color at the pick-n-pull. The yard I favor has a computerized inventory on-line, but it doesn’t tell you what shape the part is in. Most of the fenders were either rusted out at the bottom where it connects with the sill or were smashed in whatever accident caused them to be junked. On my fourth visit, I found the ones listed on-line and each had an issue. No sale. I decided to wander through the rest of the GM section just for kicks and what did I find? Another silver LeSabre with a fender in good shape. Other than a small dent over the wheel opening, it looked much better than what was on the car. 20 minutes and $35 later, it was mine.
Note: There is a Toro “curbside classic” snowblower in the upper right. Future post?
This LeSabre is a fantastic car that we will keep for many more years. The 3800 engine runs like a top and it gets an average of 22 MPG in town and 31 MPG on highway trips. Great interior room, great visibility, and huge trunk. What else can you ask for?
140,000 isnt what I’d call high mileage on a 3800 V6 we had a small fleet of old Holdens with that motor as runarounds on the milk contract last year they all had north of 400,000 kms on them and providing the inlet manifold gasket is sound they run for basically ever and of course the trans gets serviced occasionally, only one car died last season and when signing another contract this year I noticed those same old Commodores are still around and in use.
This may be an old, tired question, but intriguing to me as a non-mechanic. What are some of the key factors in making an engine like the 3800 and other successful motors so long-lasting? Relatively low running temperatures, good lubrication, quality materials?
Nice article as well; glad you found another Buick in such great shape.
Relatively low running temperatures, good lubrication, quality materials?
Yes, all of that. But also low piston speeds, mass balancing, conservative ignition timing, high torque delivery at low rpm, and electronically controlled fuel injection. That last part plays a huge roll regarding longevity because too much fuel will wash the oil off the cylinder walls.
I also agree that 140,000 is nothing on a modern engine, cannot speak for any post 1980 US engine but I would expect an easy 200,000 plus out of any European or Japanese engine
My current car has 174 000 miles and runs fine.
Touchy subject about attitudes to maintenance as the US seems to expect cars not to need any, but what I do is:-
Upon buying the car, always used but driving well, I allow a few £100 to get it up to par
Change all fluids and filters – engine oil, gearbox, antifreeze, and brake fluid, using good quality synthetics were possible, I swear by Fuchs Titan Super Synth 5W40 and it only costs £22 for 5 litres
Change the sparkplugs for Bosch Super 4s or similar high quality plugs, not seen a carbon clogged engine for years
Check condition of all coolant hoses, the quality of modern synthetic hose is excellent so its really just looking for abrasions
If I there is no evidence of recent cambelt change, I change that as a precaution, and the fan belts and the water pump if any sign of leakage (otherwise change that with the cambelt around 140000) and check the rad, I have only had to replace one rad so far
I hate brake judder so will replace discs and pads if they are not in excellent condition, also any brake flexi that looks slightly perished , they are only a few quid each
Don’t need AC, I can open the windows, so if it does not work I cannot be arsed to fix it or waste £50 worth of fluid to have it leak away
Once that is done , the car is set for the next few years , tyres, battery and exhausts are consumables like petrol
Regular maintenance is pretty much keeping the fluids full and clean, but it is regular engine oil changes makes all the difference and I usually do that at 6 – 8000 intervals
Cam belt changes are done earlier than the makers recommendation, usually every 60000 miles, if that breaks you might was well throw the engine away
Use long life anti freeze to prevent head corrosion and change that after 5 years , otherwise every 2 years for the ordinary stuff
This is all the “fussy” maintenance I do to get complete reliability, high mileage and good fuel economy.
There is an infrequent mindset among Americans about maintenance that is typified by my father – my car is supposed to work for me, not me work for my car. That is rare. However, saying all Americans are that way is about as safe as saying everyone from England, Australia, France, Belgium, etc is _______. Whatever that may be.
As for American engines, in my experience they aren’t any different than any other. My father-in-law had a carbureted 1985 Escort that was still going strong at 259,000 miles when a Jeep hit him head-on. He also got 177,000 miles from a Cadillac HT4100 that if you believe all the internet chat that engine should have consumed itself by 65,000 miles.
My sister in law had 250,000 on a Dodge Neon when she sold it.
I’ve routinely seen fleet vehicles at work with 200,000 very hard miles and they are still running like new.
Perhaps the highest I’ve seen is a 4.6 liter Ford Crown Victoria with 650,000 miles.
If you really want to see something interesting, go to http://www.millionmilevan.com This guy got 1.3 million out of a Ford van that he barely maintained (how about 50,000 miles between oil changes?). It’s captivating reading.
Like with anything else, there are outliers. A coworker has an ’08 Toyota whose engine self-immolated at 155,000 miles. Should I assume that is typical? It was maintained, so I’d say it isn’t.
While I’m speculating on this, perhaps one key element factoring into the different perceptions is miles driven annually. I don’t know what is typical where you live (England, isn’t it?) or what you normally drive in a years time. The typical average here is about 15,000 miles annually.
Again speculating, if a recommended oil change interval is 5,000 miles, changing the oil thrice annually may not seem like much but it rolls around quickly. In turn, the same will go for all other maintenance items. One can do it themselves, but many will take it somewhere. In turn, this can present a big hassle and time drink every time.
I don’t know if this provides any insight or not. Your “fussy” maintenance is more than what most do but if it’s working for you, that’s great.
I also have a very busy life, do not work on a fixed site and depend on my car to get me and my gear to my clients.
Cover around 25-28000 miles per annum driving in Wales, England, occasionally Scotland; and France, Denmark on all kinds of roads
I do change the oil roughly every 4 months, mostly to keep the oilways clean rather than the oil has broken down. I use a vacuum pump and it takes all of 20 minutes, I enjoy maintaining it and get to look the car over to see what is wearing out It give me piece of mind when driving to know what state its in
Consider the cost and time a good investment as It is very inconvenient to break down and not to mention expensive both in lost revenue and repair costs, especially in mainland Europe when it could have been prevented. I wouldn’t like to be stopped by the German police on a spot check without the car in good shape as they are very strict, and rightly so.
The reference to US maintenance habits has come from quite lively previous post responses which certainly implies that the US expects their cars to continue without attention.
I took a look at that million mile web site, quite a few things had been replaced as it went along, and a fair number of fluid changes of all sorts, I am not saying it isn’t impressive but it was clear he kept his eye on it which is what I advocate.
My point is that the modern engine , no matter what the design, if the oil film breaks down the bearings are ruined in seconds, and if it overheads because the head is corroded or a hose has worn through and the head warped, it is a major / expensive problem.
If you take care of things then its just bloody bad luck that the engine dies before 200 000
Where I live 140,000 miles is nothing, but I can drive at 50 mph for miles and not have to stop. In a metropolitan area a car can run for an hour and cover a very short distance due to traffic. I really think it’s time for car makers to install hour meters. They give a much truer indication of how a car was driven.
Get the dexcool outta there!! And yes, window regulators in these H/G/K platform cars are almost wear items. Also, stock up on plastic upper intake manifolds and hub/bearings.
And an extra rear K frame might not hurt to find. They were made out of painted rust to begin with.
Have been keeping my mom’s 2001 Aurora in good nick for years.
83 LEBARON: I definitely have soft spot for the 3800 powered GM models. That drive train makes up for many other short comings such as failing window regulators or lousy interior quality. My favorite body style is the Olds 88. That was a fantastic job of hunting down a near new condition LeSabre to make your wife a happy driver!
I have a nearly identical Lucerne as yours. Like your wife, not a fan of driving it. Quality is light-years ahead of the LeSabre, but I hate driving it. Terrible seating and visibility. I had to drive a loaner LeSabre recently and was reminded how much I love that platform–what a zippy, maneuverable car. Huge soft spot for LeSabres; I want one again.
My Dad was an old school mechanic and always said oil to an engine was like blood to our heart. If it was kept as healthy and clean as possible then then the motor (ours or the cars) would run forever.
I run all of my cars (except one) on Mobil 1 and change it every year. I insist that none of them leak anything and that they are all tuned regularly. Brakes are always kept fully functional and tires are inspected once a year for dry rot during the rotation/balance cycle at the tire shop.
I do not have a problem driving a car with 200,000 miles on it as long as it has been maintained. It has to be safe and reliable. My wife, like most women, tends to get nervous when the mileage goes over 100,000, In her case, it was due to the fact that in her early years of driving, her father insisted that she turn over cars every three years. After we were married and I took over maintenance of her cars, the hesitation is no longer present.
The 2000 LeSabre mentioned at the beginning of the post was retired to Florida when we found the low mileage 2001. Otherwise, we’d probably still be driving it here. I have maintained that car since it was new and it needs nothing. I don’t have much in the way of tools or facilities in Florida like I do at home, so I want a car that will require little work and run reliably.
I see that many have mentioned replacing wheel bearings. In all of the H bodies I have owned, which is seven, only one required replacement of the wheel bearing. That wasn’t because the bearing failed, but rather due to the failure of the ABS sensor. I replaced far more wheel bearings in all of the Chrysler K cars that I have owned.
I find this generation of LeSabre endearing. They look a bit chubby but not like a whale. I love that perfectly oval grill. I am currently on the lookout for one.
Parents last car was a ’93 LeSabre with the 3800, it had the trouble free aluminum intake manifold and conventional (green) antifreeze. It had good power and amazing MPG for such a large car. At 150k miles it was still running great.
But the transmission had to be rebuilt at around 100k miles, the AC compressor failed at around 130k miles and contaminated the whole system with metal shavings, a $2000 repair. I don’t recall how much the transmission repair cost was. It was a nice driving and comfortable car.
These were oh so common in the midwest until quite recently. They are now at anage where I only see two kinds – like new or rolling wreck. There seems to be no in between.
I commend you for staying “on task” in your search. Whenever I have set out to find a particular model, I invariably stumble upon something else. Like the time I was looking for a nice older low mile Town Car and came home with a nice high mile early Honda Odyssey.
Always a favorite, these cars are truly underrated and I hope it stays that way to keep prices down. The Toro is a great find but the Ariens behind the fender is gem too. Looks to be an early 70’s unit that may have been re-engined. Found my 1971 Arien’s on the curb 10 years ago. Still throws snow with authority!
In part I of your COAL, I posted about our experience with our 2003 LeSabre which we bought with 32,000 miles on it (from the proverbial little old lady).
Had anyone been able to fix its intermittent ABS issues, we’d probably still own it. Other than that, it was a great car.
In contrast to most, I have had abysmal luck with my 2000 LeSabre. It had 112,000 miles when we bought it, allegedly put on by the first owner for the most part, then added to for a year or so as a college commuter car. I knew it had some issues when we bought it (an A/C compressor pulley bearing, anti-sway bar end links, brake pads, etc.) but soon found out that older vehicles with extraordinary amounts of electronics tend to develop gremlins. In addition to Dan Strayer’s ABS issues, I had instances where the doors managed to lock themselves, when the stability and traction control systems acted strangely, when the transmission engagement delayed or when hard shifts would randomly come and go, and so on. The automatic level control for the rear suspension soon became a pain, the exhaust system failed, and the flange on the catalytic converter rusted so that I had to replace the converter assembly, not to mention the hard lines in the fuel system becoming so rusty that they needed to be replaced entirely, as well as the flex brake lines connecting the master cylinder to the ABS system and window regulator problems The engine so far is bulletproof, as I expected, but the rest of the car is so inferior in durability and practicality to the several Cutlass Cieras and Buick Centurys that we had previously that I became completely spoiled. I’ve pretty much sworn off American vehicles now for good. I had also owned a Subaru Forester which we loved until rust got it, and now have a Toyota Matrix which is a superb vehicle, and neither of them have the gimmickry that causes much of the day to day aggravation I experience with the LeSabre. I’m sure it seemed to the first owner to be a fine ($31,000 in 2000) vehicle, but as a used car, it just plain stinks.