Cadillac Catera - An Epic Adventure in the Caddy That Zigs...

Cadillac Catera

Cadillac Catera
The finest car of the 1990's!

On the occassions when the Catera actually works...


a car you
love & hate

The Cadillac Catera has the most-elegant & comfortable interior and the most-refined ride handling of any car built in the 1990's and yet every Catara to roll out of a Cadillac dealer ends up back at Cadillac for repairs at an alarming frequency. During my Catera's brief life of just 74k-miles, it averaged a significant repair every 2,000-miles!


Repair log

  • 10 miles - the first problem (I kid you not) loose item replaced
  • 4.5k miles - Engine oil pump replaced
  • 5k - Catera is inoperative & towed to Cadillac - battery cables replaced
  • 20k - Crankshaft harmonic balancer replaced along with ashtray and cup holder
  • 21k - Both left & right foglight assemblies replaced along with the windshield (glass formed a stress-crack) and left headlight assembly & frt-rt window switch
  • 22k - Both left & right foglights replaced again plus vacuum control valve, sunroof switch, passenger seat recliner motor & frt-rt door lock actuator
  • 24k - Left headlamp & both foglights replaced again along with the A/C module, repaired lower dash vent leaking water into Catera footwell
  • 25k - Repaired rattle under dash, shift linkage & loose rear-view mirror control contacts - lightbulbs in both foglights were replaced along with sunroof motor and switch, instrument control panel, light behind heated-seat button, shift controller, left sunvisor, seat motor, leaking weather-seal in passenger footwell and again the frt-rt door lock actuator (lock was binding and would not unlock via electric or manually, passengers would get trapped in the car!) My complaint of a "weak-battery" just above the red-zone were confronted with "above the red is within spec, nothing to worry about..."
  • 27.5k - Catera battery is dead, car inoperative - battery jumpstarted, alternator replaced along with both foglight assemblies again and now the tailight assembly too, gas cap retainer strap broke but Cadillac decided to discontinue the straps so they simply trim off the remaining plastic with scissors, they also claim nothing is wrong with the passenger door and I am told that being trapped is not considered a serious safety issue to them because the car has other doors! It never occurred to them that not all my passengers are able-bodied enough to climb over the center console...
  • 27.8k - That didn't last long - replaced battery. Door is still trapping people inside, ftr-rt door lock latch assembly replaced as well as driver seat recliner - Catera is returned to me with a drivers seat that is now visibly cocked-and-bent and a passenger and now the door that won't open from the outside door handle. They take another shot at repairing both items while I wait another 2-hours at the Cadillac dealer.
  • 27.9k - Side mirror gets shattered while vehicle is parked near a baseball field Cadillac dealer charged me $535 to replace damaged drivers side mirror.
  • 29k - Replaced seat memory system, seat cushion and seat frame
  • 29.6k - Replaced seat frame, re-calibrated seat-recline electronics, repaired black-grease coming out of shifter knob, while doing the repairs they damaged the seat leather with a tool, repaired while I waited a few more hours.
  • 29.9k - Horn bracket corroded and the horn fell off under the car (replaced), replaced seat cushion
  • 30k - front tires worn so far that internal-belts have become visible on the bald tire surface, replaced + alignment = $400
  • 33.6k - Catera completely dies while I am 130-miles away from home - Cadillac towing service brings vehicle to Condor Cadillac who diagnosed a seized timing belt and all valves are bent - replaces the entire engine, 3-weeks later I drive 130miles to pick the car back up only to find 400-miles added to the odometer! and the following issues that lead me to drive 130miles back home in the loaner car:
  • 34k - A/C and traction control don't work, drivers window only goes full-open or closed (won't stop in the middle), 10-days later they replaced A/C "plate tube", knock sensor wire connection and a "burnt-out" window switch and I drive another 130miles to pick up the car
  • 34.1k - Check engine light goes on after 100miles of driving, not even home yet...
  • 35k - Replaced cracked air hoses (yes, on an engine with only 900miles on it) and reported a missing engine mounting bracket and misrouted wiring harnesses but refused to fix Condor Cadillac's poor workmanship. Somehow North Bay Cadillac cannot replicate that the check engine light is on?! They must have hit the reset function when they plugged in the OBDII...
  • 35.1k - Catera is inoperative - roadside assistance replaces battery
  • 36k - Drivers-door won't open more than a few inches! Replaced door-hinge reinforcement bracket
  • 36.1k - Front seat heaters replaced with inferior units, roughly 25% heating temperature of the original untis, also adjusted misaligned windshield wiper arms and replaced fuel filler cap, remote transmitter and lt-rear door panel trim
  • 36.4k - Drivers-door panel trim separating, replaced along with door handle-trim and the heated seat elements that also stopped working - check engine light on, North Bay Cadillac refused to fix under warranty claiming the fault of workmanship by Condor Cadillac which is 130miles away, what should the customer do about it?! Cadillac customer-care towing service chose to tow the totally-inoperative Catera to the closest dealer which was Condor.
  • 37k - Frt-rt headlight inoperative, replaced
  • 37.2k - Replaced door lock plastic facade (it fell off), replaced keyless remote transmitter (inoperative)
  • 39k - Car Cash offers to buy my Cadillac Catera for $6,500, price new after taxes $39,000 - Catera depreciates $0.83 every mile driven!
  • 42k - Catera is inoperative yet again - new battery installed roadside
  • 42.5k - Windshield wiper motor replaced- before this the Cadillac dealer insisted that the slow wipers were due to old blades and replaced them charging me $55 for the pair of wiper blades, "tightened" the gas cap in response to check engine light being on, replaced timing belt, tensioner, pulley and coolant
  • 43k - Wheel alignment, check engine light is on, brake rotors severly warped (replaced), replaced seat-heater switches (apparently they pried them out with a screwdriver as it left marks in the plastic bezel), rt license plate bulb replaced along with high-mount breaklight lamp bulb and light behind traction-control button
  • 43.2k - replaced rear tires - $300
  • 44k - high-mount breaklight assembly replaced but they installed a supposedly-new unit with a crack in the plastic, replaced engine wiring due to check engine light on, replaced drivers side-mirror - charged $540
  • 45k - water entered through the crack in the high-mount breaklight and shorted it, replaced it with a "real" new unit
  • 45.5k - Front brake pads and rotors replaced - charged me $400
  • 47k - HVAC stops working - repaired loose electrical connection - charged me $100
  • 49.1k - No air coming out of HVAC system - no defroster means no vision driving when it is humid & raining - replaced fuse
  • 49.2k - Still no air coming out of HVAC - replaced blower motor and fuses - charged me $450
  • 49.9k - Still no air coming out of HVAC - replaced fuse for blower motor - charged me $70
  • 50.1k - Still no air coming out of HVAC - replaced fuses again and a $200-resistor for the blower motor, while repairing this they bent the passenger-airbag cover, so replaced that too - charged me $270 with labor
  • 50.2k - Still no air coming from the HVAC and now the glove box rattles, rerouted the HAVC control assembly & electric harnesses and reinstalled the glove box
  • 52.2k - A/C & defroster blows room-temp, wire harness mysteriously torn out of compressor?! - went to a local garage and had compressor replaced as well as front sway bar links ($60 x2 + $40 for 30-minutes labor - Cadillac dealer misdiagnosed the sway bar issue as either ball joints or tie rods, a $600+ job)
  • 52.7k - Replaced idler arm - this is my last trip to the Cadillac dealer and from here on the issue frequency and severity is dramatically reduced. What is the likelyhood that this is just a coincidence?
  • 54k - Add freon to A/C
  • 60k - Wheel alignment and 4-new tires
  • 65k - Leaking tire valve replaced, all 4-sets of brakes/rotors replaced
  • 68k - driver-memory system stops working, pressing any of the memory-preset buttons while driving makes both outside mirrors point downward which is quite scary while in heavy highway-traffic (yes, I tried to reset the memory settings only about a hundred times, it is indeed broken)
  • 71k - Flat tire - upon tire removal the rear hub rotates closing off the bolt threads, AAA comes to my aid, releases the parking brake to be able to adjust the hub and then the car falls of the jack and flattens the 3-ton jack like a pancake.
  • 71.5k - Car frequently stalls while moving resulting in sudden loss of power-brakes and power-stearing - replaced mass air flow MAF-sensor
  • 72k - Excessive engine squeal, replaced serpentine belt and belt tensioner pulley
  • 72.1k - No brakes! - leak in the driverside-rear brake line repaired and both rear brakes bled
  • 73k - Driving is now an odor-full experience, alternating between the sweet smell of steaming coolant and the horrific stench of burning oil - neither of  two different repair shops could find any oil or coolant leaks
  • 73.5k - Driving over bumps makes the car jolt violently either left or right (unpredictable direction), it is now a challenge to keep this car within its own lane - lower control arm bushings completely worn out (no rubber left at all, just a gap where they used to be), did not get a chance to repair this before the final blow-
  • 74k - Huge amounts of steam began shooting out of what appears to be a seam-separation in the radiator and the car overheats and stalls frequently, upon adding more coolant after this incident it is discovered that both the coolant reservoir and the oil-fill tube are filled with a mayonnaise-looking goop indicating a blown head-gasket. Compound that with a failed radiator + no control-arm bushings and this is beyond reasonable repair.

    After 13-years, 2-engines and a mere 74,000 miles, the $39,000 Cadillac Catera is out for the 10-count and sold for $800 to a scrap-yard for parts

Catera city: 13MPG

Catera hwy: 22MPG

Handling dry: 8.5/10

Handling snow: 0/10


0-50mph: 8 seconds

50-80mph: 3 seconds

Tire width: 225mm

Tire price: $150/ea

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