GM's 3800 Series II reliability

devil_tazdevil_taz Member Posts: 21
edited March 2014 in Buick
How long can the engine last (typically?) with proper maintanance? 250 000kms?

My mechanic said that I needed to replace the seal around the engine oil pan because it was leaking. Is it a common problem for this engine/vehicle?
My coolant level is also low, at the 'COLD' level even though the engine is warmed up (driven for more than 15kms). No signs of leak on the ground. I have to fill it up everytime I change my engine oil.

Any Ideas?



  • racer_x_9racer_x_9 Member Posts: 91
    They are known to leak on that engine. The upper intake is plastic and can warp.

    Good luck!
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    the 3.1 (for sure), and 3.4 (I believe) do. The 3.1 manifold is not plastic. The latest 3.1's have plastic valve covers which (drum roll) leak.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    We used to have an '87 Cutlass Ciera with the 3.8 before it became the 3800. It loved to eat alternators, and after it passed 60k miles it would stall on a regular basis.
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    Has been getting fat eating alternators for years and years and years.......
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,656
    ...between GM alternators and Chrysler starters, Detroit has been sitting pretty for quite some time now!
  • devil_tazdevil_taz Member Posts: 21
    Thanks for the reply guys!
    I think my alternator is starting to go down south. If I had the rear defroster on, my turn signals would slow down by about 1/2 a second between intervals. It couldn't be he battery because it was replaced about two years ago.
  • teoteo Member Posts: 2,508
    The 3800 Series II engine is a very reliable, efficient, smooth, durable and reliable engine as pushrods go.

    The alternator issues with the old 3.8L GM engines is no longer case. Now it seems the new host of chronic alternator eating is the Olds 3.5L DOHC V6 engine.

    Current 3800 Series II V6 engines are ULEV certified since the 2000 model year.

    With proper care and maintenance, you should be able to get out 200K+ miles out of your 3800.
  • deepdivotdeepdivot Member Posts: 13
    I seem to recall someone rating the 'best' engine's of all time, and the 3.8 liter was on the list. It's been a real workhorse.
  • devil_tazdevil_taz Member Posts: 21
    I saw it somewhere on the net. I think it was Wards Autoworld's 10 best engines award.
  • wtdwtd Member Posts: 96
    We have the 3800 in our 98 Pontiac Grand Prix GT and I think its a great engine. It feels more powerful and smooth than the 5.7L V-8 in my 98 chevy truck.
  • teoteo Member Posts: 2,508
    The 3800 Series II V6 was awarded "Ward's 10 best engines in the world title" for 3 years in a row: 1995,96 and 1997. This engine was awarded the same category as Nissan's 3.0L DOHC V6 engine from the Maxima.

    It lost its title in 1998 to Oldsmobile's 3.5L DOHC V6 engine found in the current Olds Intrigue and the 2000-2001 Olds Aurora 3.5 sedan.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Member Posts: 647
    I believe in 98 or 99, the 2.5L Duratec in the SVT Contour also found it's way to that list.

    Who has both a 3.8L GM and the 2.5L HO Duratec :D
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    Was a very advanced engine for '87. Not so much the basic mechanicals (ie pushrod) but the fuel and ignition controls. In the summer of '89, I took a Ciera from Austin, TX to Tulsa OK at an average speed of 60MPH (which means highway runs in excess of 70) with the a/c on and got 30.5MPG. That, and the engine has enough low end torque to light up the FRONT tires in a full throttle take off. When we sold the car it had about 40K miles, burned no oil, still averaged over 30MPG on the highway, and ran like a scared rabbit. The second owner still has the car, 90K miles, but has done almost no maintenance. Sad that such a fine engine is not taken care of. The only problem that plagued these when they first came out was intermittent crankshaft position sensors. Be driving along and -click- just like you turned off the key. The secret was that if you tried to turn the key to start it wouldn't. But if you turned the key to off, waited about ten seconds, then back to start it would kick right off. The ECM would clear the "no-crank" condition. Eventually the sensor would go full fail and would have to be replaced, but a lot of good mechies went nuts before this one was figured out.

    Short version; great engine. enjoy it.
  • teoteo Member Posts: 2,508
    Yep, you are right about the SVT Contour engine.
  • oldsman01oldsman01 Member Posts: 1,203
    Had the 3800 V6 in an 89 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Touring Sedan and it still purred like a kitten when I sold the car at over 115K. From what I've read, those are very durable engines. I never had any major problems with the T-sedan and only had to replace the alternator once at 95K. One thing about the 3800(even the current application) is that they are relatively easy to service should something need to be done. Can't quite say this about the 3.5 liter DOHC V6 in my Intrigue as it is packed in the bay very tightly. What really amazes me still is the power output and mileage ratings despite it's "low tech" design that dates back to the 1960s.
  • longo32longo32 Member Posts: 81
    Had the 3.8 in a 1990 Pontiac Bonneville SSE for 135,000 miles before
    my mechanic said that for all the trouble it would be, not too, at that mileage, I should change out the timing chain. Did so, and it was on its last legs, did the water pump as well. And yes it would eat the odd alternator like all the GM's and come to rest waiting for the tow truck, anywhere it happened. (usually right at an intersection) Now have the 3.8 Series 2 supercharged engine in a 97 Buick Park Ave Ultra, and it propels that 2 ton of chrome and leather, like a V8! Also gets better mpg's In one of GM's Stupid Engineer Tricks, they buried the power steering pump under so many lines and so deep at the back of the engine bay that you need a map and a flashlight to find it. Then when you do, an extra joint in your arm to get the top off. I pull out the old contaminated P/S fluid with a little pump and change it every other Motor Oil change. For a few bucks worth of fresh P/S fluid it's money in the bank to me. I have had to change out 2 complete P/S systems over the years, because of rack wear, and I have said 'never again'! GM says "just top it up and , don't woory, be happy'....don't believe it....get that dirty oil out of there, and suck out the 8 oz.'s of GM's " special oil" in the supercharger as well and get rid of all the filings from the gear and bearing wear. You will have to buy 2 little 4 oz bottles of new supercharger oil at a GM parts counter every now and then (say 30,000 miles) , but better that than a $2000.00 Eaton Supercharger R&R
  • blueskiesblueskies Member Posts: 16
    My '96 Regal now has 52K miles and the 3800 Series II seems to get better as the years go by. I'm in the market for a new car and have driven a Camry, Accord, Maxima, and some other sedans, all nice cars, but then I get back in the Regal and tool along at 70 mph while the engine loafs, very quietly, at 2000 rpm (compared with about 2600 in the new cars) and I appreciate the smooth ride, etc., and wonder why I should bother trading it. I've literally driven it 80 mph all day on Interstate trips, and it's performed perfectly.

    In 6.5 years, it's never failed to start, even in sub-zero weather.

    Here's the repair sheet so far: at 29,000 miles, water pump and throttle body; fuel filter at 39,000; injector service, PCV valve, alternator, fan belt at 44,000.

    These things don't seem out of line to me for almost seven years of service, but I'm no mechanic.

    Bottom line: to me, a great engine, strong, quiet, utterly dependable. One of the things, along with the transmission, that GM does right. If only the suspension and steering were more responsive -- that's mainly why I'm in the market for something new.
  • hengheng Member Posts: 411
    Then don't look at Buicks. You can get the 3800 normally aspirated or supercharged in a Grand Prix or Bonneville. The GP is a decent handler yet 1200 mile weekend cruises are not punishing. In fact the taut suspension and steering lets the car track without constant correcting at the steering wheel.
  • tdi90hptdi90hp Member Posts: 20
    I am no GM big fan but I have a VERY good friend with a 1990 Buick Park ave Ultra with 470,000 kms on his motor. Runs like a clock. Been a GREAT engine for him. Thought all you fans might want to know. These are tough units. (My 1992 camry 2.2liter 4 cylinder has 535,000kms and me and my friend are quietly racing along till one of the motors pukes!!!).
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