I'm looking at buying a 350/V8 Caprice with 160K miles on it. It sits
parked where it was towed becuase of transmission failure. Apparantly
it does not go forwards or backwards now. The body is in good shape, no
wrecks. The owner removed the radiator and will put it back to show the
Sooooo, it is my hunch that he took the radiator out becuase of a
coolant to transmission cooling loop leak in the radiator, thus causing
the transmission to fail. I believe this car has the TH700R4
transmission in it.
My question is how much damage is this transmission likely to have
sustained if coolant is inside? Is it possible that a good draining and
replenishment of the fluid might make it run or will it need to be torn
down? I was thining that an intermediate step with WD40 would dry
things out. Is this wishful thinking?
After an accident with my 73 Impala in 1980, my radiator suffered
internal damage where the transmission oil & antifreeze mixed together.
A few days after the wreck I was at my uncles house, the car was running
on the street and smoke or steam poured out of the hood vents. Quickly
opened the hood to discover oil & anitfreeze shooting out the trans
dipstick filler tube.
Drove home ( 5 houses away ) parked it in the garage. Pulled the
radiator out & sent it to be repaired, drained the trans oil and my dad
drilled a hole in the torque converter to drain in. Put in a pipe plug
to seal it. After the radiator was fixed I drove it for a day and re
drained the trans & converter. I didn't have any trans trouble, but of
course it may of only run with antifreeze for those few minutes it was
running in front of my uncles house. Were really not sure.
1991 Pontiac Bonneville LE
Wouldn't it be easier to find a car with a good trans in it? An '86
Caprice is not a keeper. No real value.
If coolant gets in the trans, it's a complete rebuild. All gaskets and
seals need to be replaced. You might as well throw a remanufactured trans
in. Coolant in the trans destroys the rubber stuff in the trans. It's shot.
There is no fluid you can pour into the trans to save it.
Why bother? You'll never get your money back.
I just checked www.car-part.com. Prices average about $400 for a used
700R4, and another couple hundred for a quality new (Modine) radiator. You
can probably use this website to find a local yard, and get both there. Or
call around your area and get one cheaper. Make sure there is some sort of
warranty (at least 90 days) Me personally, I would spend $600 to get a
decent running, decent looking, reliable daily driver fixed than take a
chance on a new car. Plus your taking a chance either way. Junkyard tranny
could be crap, new car could end up being crap. Saving grace...350 motor
with 160K on it. I would lean on fixing the car especially if is going to
be around for a while.
Thanks to all who replied. I looked on eBay and there are some transmission
folks there who sell the THM700R4 transmissions rebuilt and guaranteed for
around $500. Advanced Auto has an imported radiator for $90 that will fit the
car, or a transmission cooler could be added and the transmission loop plugged.
I've had good luck with that aftermarket radiator though there is quite a bit
less copper in it than the original part.
I realize that the B-body cars are not collector's items and 160K miles is not
exactly new. But I have a Caprice of that era with 225K miles (also bought at
160K miles). It's cost me less than $4000 total for these 65K miles, a price
that is difficult to beat. When something goes wrong it's not nearly as
disappointing as buying something brand new, just to find out it is fraught with
issues. I like the ride of these older boats since I have chronic pain. The
sportier harsh ride a collector's item muscle car dishes out is too much for
these old bones.
The last vehicle I bought brand new was a 1982 Dodge pickup with the slant six
motor. The slant six had a reputation for running 250K miles in taxi cabs and
going some more after a rebuild. Dodge destroyed the design for 1982. It was
assembled loose, emission cam installed, leaned out carter carb thrown on top
and a spark control unit that is always confused was thrown if for good
measure. It pings on premium gas and has been a great let down. It burned
plenty of oil, right off the showroom floor. The carb shakes apart every year
or two and needs to be rebuilt/reassembled. It takes several trys to pass
emissions testing too. When it was brand new and in the Dodge dealership the
eighth time for engine predetonation becuase of the "lean burn" crap, the dealer
shop advisor said "why don't you just drive it?" After thinking about his
statement, I decided that this was the best way to retaliate with Detroit for
selling a vehicle with such poor mechanicals, so I keep repairing it and keep
driving it. The truck now has 150K miles on it. It's got rust issues too,
Something the GM's in 86 and later don't seem to have.
The 96 Taraus my wife bought used beats the hell out of me. There are no grease
fittings. The ball joint is serviced by replacing the entire steering knuckle
assembly. There is no drain cock for the cooling system, so one gets antifreeze
everywhere while pulling hoses off it to drain it out. The brake rotors won't
stay true. (One visit to a tire shop with an impact wrench is all it takes to
permenantly warp them. It's not very repairable without lots of special
tools. Even replacing the radiator is a major debacle compared with the 45
minutes it takes to swap out the radiator in the Caprice.
This Caprice is a gamble because it can't be test driven. It might be a better
buy because of that though, because the transmission will be a known quantity
once replaced. About the only other serious problem would be the 350 engine
mechanicals. The car shows no signs of accidents. Brakes, shocks and the like
are fairly inexpensive. The front end parts actually have grease fittings,
unlike the newer Taraus where a "sealed" ball joint is serviced as an assembly
including the steering knuckle.
It could turn into a money pit though. Kind of like the old story about the
fellow who threw a $20 bill down the outhouse hole after dropping a quarter.
His reasoning: "You don't think I'm going down there for a lousy 25 cents do
So, GMdude, if you have some comments about other pitfalls I'm listening. I
realize that the impala/caprice is not a collector's car and restoring it won't
make it valuable to anyone else. That is not my concern, really. If I can
plunk $2000 into this ride and get 40K comfortable miles out of it, I would
consider it a bargain.
Hopefully I can tell something about the engine and the A/C when the seller
finds the keys and pops the radiator in long enough to watch it run and look for
Did GM get away from using the nylon timing gear on the 350's by 1986? What
other weak areas might this car have?
I have an 85 Caprice with the 305 engine, not the 350. 350,000 miles on it.
Valve covers have never been off. Only problems were the external stuff like
gas pump, alt, power steering pump, etc.
Bought it in 89 with 57,000 miles. Have almost junked it a few times when
mechs told me it needed major work, like the time I had blue smoke, which
turned out to only be a $12 choke pull-off valve, not a rebuild !! It just
keeps running. I have a bad trans fluid leak, and some a/f leaks from the rear
intake manifold, but I just live with it.
Of course this is the 305, not the 350...
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