Reliability of High Mileage 3.8 V6? - LS1TECH



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Reliability of High Mileage 3.8 V6?

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Old 08-16-2006, 07:32 PM   #1
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Default Reliability of High Mileage 3.8 V6?

I'm looking to buy a Grand Prix GTP for a daily driver. The ones I've seen online so far range from 65,000 miles to 210,000 miles. How dependable are these engines after that much driving? I'll probably be putting 15,000+ miles on it each year.
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:06 PM   #2
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As long as it's been taken care of it should be just fine. My dad had a '92 Olds sedan with an N/A 3.8 and it went well over 300K. If you get a higher mileage GTP check for signs of being previously modded/returned to stock. Take a look at the supercharger snout and pulley to see if there's been an sign of removal. If you find one that the blower makes a little bit of a rattle/knock noise you might be able to haggle the price down a bit. Especially if the owner doesn't know what it is. There's a plastic coupler inside the blower snout that is cheap and fairly easily replaced that usually causes the noise.

All in all the 3.8s are damn good, reliable motors. Even if the motor winds up in trouble there are literally 1000's available for next to nothing. I forget when Buick started using that motor, but I know it was in the 70's.
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:20 PM   #3
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Series I/Series II 3.8L V6 motors are some of the best that GM has ever built. They will run forever.

I have two of them at the moment ('96 Bonneville and '02 Monte SS). Neither are high mileage yet, but I've seen dozens that are and they still run great.

Keep up on the basic maintenance and they'll treat you good for as long as you want them. Only chronic issue I've ever heard about was alternator failure on the older Series II motors with the older alternator design. Not sure what year they updated the design, I know my '96 still has the old design and my '02 has the new design. Not sure when it changed though.
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:24 AM   #4
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Those 3800's are army tanks running off of 6 cylinders. I don't know of a single person that's ever blown a 3.8 (unless it was something stupid, like driving through a river.) I've heard of the alternator issue on those engines, but other than that no real mechanical issues. I had my 3.8 v6 camaro for about a year and put about 9k on it and it still ran just like the day I got it. Don't let high-milage discourage you if you find one at a good price, good luck!
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Old 08-17-2006, 12:06 PM   #5
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I personally have a '96 Bonneville as my winter car. It now has 184,000 and runs like a top. there are two main things that traditionally go wrong with them that I have seen.

1. The intake manifold is known to warp
2. Starts to leak oil at the oil pan gasket, and the rear main seal.

I lose about a quart of oil every 2000-3000 miles. It isn't that big of a deal to just monitor it, rather than putting a band-aid on the old beast. hope this helps
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Old 08-17-2006, 03:20 PM   #6
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3800 SII is a great motor. Check here for specifics.

Also, in the unlikely event that it kicks, it does not cost 3k to replace.
More like 600-800.
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Old 08-17-2006, 04:24 PM   #7
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just steer clear of anything with the 4.3L and you'll be set.
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Old 08-17-2006, 09:07 PM   #8
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How are the series III 3.8's compared to the series II reliability wise?
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Old 08-17-2006, 09:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airattack111
How are the series III 3.8's compared to the series II reliability wise?
The series III is probably too new for any real long term reliability data. Not sure what exactly makes them a "III", but I'd bet that they'll be strong as well in the years to come.
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Old 08-17-2006, 09:30 PM   #10
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Thank you everyone for your help. Hopefully I'll be picking one up next week.
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Old 08-19-2006, 08:41 AM   #11
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I have a customer with a 3.8 V6 camaro, he has had some minor problems but not with the motor. It's his daily driver, and has 126,654 on it.
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Old 08-19-2006, 09:14 AM   #12
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We have two of 'em in my immediate family ('02 Impala LS and '03 Monte SS) and have had absolutely no engine trouble at all. It makes more power than you would expect from a 231 inch engine. The blower, if so equipped, would be the weak point. BTW, Buick originally sold the first design of this engine in the 60's, sold the design and tooling to American Motors, then bought it back in the early 70's and started selling it in midsize Buick Century and Regals. It was nowhere near as powerful then, with a 2 barrel carb and 70's smog plumbing...
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Old 08-19-2006, 09:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sssmokin99
It makes more power than you would expect from a 231 inch engine.
This is what I tell people too. It's actually surprising how good the acceleration is on my '02 Monte SS for around town driving. Of course, when accelerating from a high speed roll (like on the highway) you notice the lack of power compared to a V8, but at lower speeds it's geared very well and is very responsive. Actually I think the car is a lot of fun to drive; the suspension and steering are a nice blend of performance and street cruiser, and the handling is much improved since I ditched the stock wheels/tires in favor of some 17X7s with 245/50 rubber. I love the interior layout and the overall style of the car.

It's not like driving my Z28 at all, but it's still fun in a different way. If it was a V8/RWD I think I'd like it basically as much as my Camaro.
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Old 08-19-2006, 10:04 PM   #14
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I just got home from buying one. It's a '98 with 161,000 on the clock. It does leak oil from around the edge of the pan. It does make a plastic rattling sound under the hood. But it made the 3 hour trip home with no problems. I love it. It's too dark to get any good pics, so here are the one's from the AutoTrader page:



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Old 08-19-2006, 11:46 PM   #15
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Looks nice.

Silver is one of my favorite colors for cars. I beleive that all the silver Grand Prixs from '97-'03 were called Galaxy Silver Metallic.

Have fun with the L67 supercharged motor. It's got more punch than the L36 NA motor in my Monte SS, and it's easy to add more boost with a simple pulley swap.

Congrats on the purchase.

PS. I wouldn't worry too much about the oil leak. My Bonneville does that, I just have to add a little oil every so often. No big deal.
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Old 08-20-2006, 10:12 AM   #16
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I've had threeof the 3800s; 89 & 91 Bonneville and 02 Impala. Loved 'em.
The '89 had 300,000 last I heard. The '91 was at 100,000 when sold, and the Impala is still home with 100,000.
I bought an '05 Bonneville with a Northstar. Love the car, but should have got the 3800 instead of the Northstar.
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Old 08-20-2006, 10:15 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeeVert
I bought an '05 Bonneville with a Northstar. Love the car, but should have got the 3800 instead of the Northstar.
What makes you say that? I've considered replacing my '96 Bonneville with a Bonneville GXP when the time comes, so I'm curious about why you don't like the Northstar V8?
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Old 03-06-2017, 06:34 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airattack111 View Post
How are the series III 3.8's compared to the series II reliability wise?
The series 3 and series 2 are the same engine but the series 3 has had all of the bugs worked out and is perfected. Ex: plastic intake upgraded to metal, higher quality water pump(more rings, extra bolt, iron instead of aluminum) I have seen one on a Lacrosse with 380,000 miles from 2005. It's perfected. Infact too perfect. Thats why GM killed it off.
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Old 03-06-2017, 07:49 PM   #19
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You realize this thread is like 10 years old????????
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Old 03-07-2017, 01:44 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockinWs6 View Post
You realize this thread is like 10 years old????????
Hey, maybe now we can answer the reliability question of the series III!
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