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Changing From 1989 to 1996. Is it worth it?

Started by Dennis DiNorcia #19071, January 10, 2008, 02:26:53 PM

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Dennis DiNorcia #19071

I am the second owner of a 1989 Sedan DeVille with 109,000 miles on it. The car is in great shape for the year and runs great but I'm having a recent problem with the battery draining when the car sits for a few days in the cold weather. I have a chance to get a one-owner 1996 Sedan DeVille with 111,000 miles on the Northstar engine. It is at a local used car dealer and the car was garaged kept and in mint condition. He wants 2995.00 for the car and I may be able to get it down and possibly trade in my 1989. Is it worth it to trade for a 7 year newer car with 2,000 miles more, or do I keep my 20 year old car that might be showing signs of it's age?

Jack McClow CLC #15840

Hi Dennis,

I bet you will be getting some interesting opinions on this post.  All I can help you with is to let you know I had a '96 Eldo and I was warned that the Northstar engines had the potential to develop very serious oil leaks at the point where the bottom half of the engine bolted to the top ........ I was told this would often occur in the 70 to 80 thousand mile range ....... and it was no cheap fix as the engine had to be pulled from the car to replace the seal ...... at a cost of $1,500 to $2,000.  So maybe you will be able to find out if the '96 you are looking at has had that seal replaced ........ or maybe it was one of the Northstars that would not develop that problem ....... later Northstars, I was told, either didn't develop the problem or were able to be repaired with the engine in place; I'm pretty sure 1996 was the last year it was something to be overly concerned about.  For sure, I would take the car to a Cadillac dealer you have a relationship with and spend the $100 or so to have it thoroughly inspected ...... ask them to inspect it as if they were considering taking it in on trade to be put out on their own lot ...... and have them run a history check on the car ....... if it's been serviced at any Cadillac dealership during its lifetime, you will then have the full history to review ....... and,if it's been serviced regularly by a Cadillac dealership, that alone, along with the service history printout, will tell you more about the car than anything else you'll be able to learn.

Good luck ...... and let us know what you decide to do.  And keep checking ....... I bet you will be able to find a newer model Caddy than the '96 with many less miles for not that much more money.


The Tassie Devil(le)

G'day Dennis,

From all the stories I have heard on this Board regarding the problems with the Northstar, and the expensive replacement parts of components within the later model cars, I think I would be sticking with what you have.

Once the current leakage problem has been overcome, you should still be way out in front.

Bruce. >:D

PS.   But, it is nice getting into a newer car sometimes.
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
'02 VX Series II Holden Commodore SS Sedan
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Past Cars of significance - to me
1935 Ford 3 Window Coupe
1936 Ford 5 Window Coupe
1937 Chevrolet Sports Coupe
1955 Chevrolet Convertible
1959 Ford Fairlane Ranch Wagon
1960 Cadillac CDV
1972 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe

Rusty Shepherd CLC 6397

I would leave well enough alone and stay with your current car, particularly considering the propensity of Northstar engines of that era to burn and leak oil.  If the '96 had far fewer miles, it might be worth considering the trade.

TJ Hopland

Thats a typical price for what you describe around here.  With those miles on a northstar I would want to know its history, especially who worked on it.   With the right tools and parts updates and repairs can be long lasting.   That old I would guess that most dealers try to avoid because I dont think GM still does swaps on that vintage and since most dealers dont like to take motors apart (especially that motor since the head bolt threads pull out most of the time) that leaves 'other' people to work on them.  I helped a guy work on one that had chronic head gasket issues because of the poor workmanship on the initial repair.  It looked like the first guy just hacked a couple of heli coils in the holes that completely pulled out.  There is a Timesert set that has special step drills and inserts for most areas of that motor and it seems that most of the time you are better off to do them all when you have it apart.  So its all in the workmanship and materials that were used.  No matter how you crack it they are expensive to work on.  The 4.5/4.9's were not cheap either but at least they were not as complex as the northstars.
StPaul/Mpls, MN USA

73 Eldo convert w/FiTech EFI
80 Eldo Diesel
90 CDV
And other assorted stuff I keep buying for some reason

Guy Moore

I own a 1989 de Ville I have had since 10/89 and a 1994 Concours I have had since
3/95 and I like the 1989 much better than the 94.  I have spent far less money on the
89.  To me it is a better looking car, rides better and has been a far better car.  It has
129,000 miles on it.  I traded a 1983 Fleetwood with the infamous HT 4100 that I
drove for 12 years and I had less trouble with that than this 94 Northstar.  In fact,
the 83 is still running and I wish I had it back.

Dennis DiNorcia #19071

I decided that I will try to go for a 2000 or up even though I do like the 94-99 styles better.



Have you attempted to diagnose the battery drainage issue?  Are there other problems with the '89 DeVille?  If the only problem I had with the car was the battery drainage, I would try to fix that rather than taking the plunge into the unknown with potentially another set of problems.  For all we know the '96 Sedan DeVille will exhibit a battery drainage problem under some condition?

My advice is to stay with the known until it becomes unbearable.  In the meantime save the unspent money for a better next car somewhere down the line.  If the real issue is that you just want a new car, then ignore my advice completely.  New car lust overrides everything else that might seem logical.

David Whittaker
CLC #20768

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
1958 Cadillac Series 70 Fleetwood Eldorado Brougham
1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

Rusty Shepherd CLC 6397

I had a battery drainage problem on my '96 (one of its many electrical gremlins and probably the easiest to solve). If the car sat for three or four hours, it would turn over slowly, but start.  If it sat over night, it was almost completely dead (dim lights, but usually enough juice to activate the "shift lock" so it could be put in neutral and pushed out of the garage).  It turned out to be the climate control blower not shutting completely off and running on low all the time.  It was so quiet at its lowest speed that I didn't notice it until the dealer diagnosed and replaced, under warranty,  the module that controls it.

Dennis DiNorcia CLC 19071

I decided against the 96 and I sent my car to an electronics specialist today but I haven't heard from him today. I don't know if that is good or bad. Today I test drove a 1998 Sedan DeVille (Northstar again) the was a Florida car with 75,000 miles and the car is absolutely mint and running perfect. The only drawback is it has cloth interior. that would not deter me from buying the car but again Northstar. I could get the car for $5,700.00 with a 30 day guarantee. I bought another car from this same place and the owner is a no push salesman. What are the thought on the 98 Northstar? I do not know when they cleared up the leak and head gasket problems and maybe 98 is still to risky.


There are a whole lot of Northstar engines out on the road that have run millions of miles without a problem.  They are used as power for off-road, track racing and drag racing.  They are a proven, quality engine that have stood the test of modern road conditions.  I don't know how much oil the car you're looking at will consume.  My '97 uses a very predictable quart every 2000 miles.  That's a bit more than is common on some cars today, but isn't a great expense or bother.  It doesn't matter whether you use a heavier or lighter oil, the consumption will be the same.  I've been told that it's something related to the sealed crankcase ventilation system that somehow sucks a small amount of oil, so it's not engine wear.  If the car is a good one, drive it in style and pleasure, and pay the couple of bucks a quart every few thousand miles, if that's necessary.  It's a great car.