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1999 Malibu Delemia; experiences & opinions please!

1006 Views 15 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  jmtinmi
Please give your advice or opinion regarding this vehicle. Here is the history.

My brother has sold me this car and is willing to take payments. Which is probably the top reason why we purchased it from him.

This Malibu has a 2.4L 4 cylinder engine with a 'T' in the VIN (Mechanic said that the T tells you kind of motor??) It has/had 160K, new brakes and good tires. The timing belt(chain?) & water pump were just replaced, and it had a safety inspection & oil change. My brother even paid for the timing belt repair and sold us the car for $1200.00. We are planning on selling something to pay him ASAP, otherwise I will be able to manage only $50 a month as we are in emergency mode in this Michigan economy.

I drove the car for errands right out of the mechanics driveway and was home several hours later. I've been without a vehicle for many many months, so I was giddy with freedom! When I arrived home, the whole family piled in and we took it to get a car wash. On the way home it started loosing power, making horrible noises and we barely arrived home.

It is back to the mechanic and he said the the bearing is gone, and it needs a new engine. We thought we could find a used one with lower than 160K for under $500, but it looks like even used engines are well over $1000+.

This is well out of our budget but we need some opinions and advice on whether to cut our losses or invest some more money (that we don't have!) into it. At this point any data points would help us achieve an informed decision.

I should mention that we trust our mechanic, as he has treated us well for the past several years. But I am willing to hear any and all opinions regarding your experience with the year and model of this vehicle.

Thanks in advance.
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Get a second opinion!!
Without hunting up specifics, is this that Oldsmobile made dual overhead cam 4cyl engine. Horrible thing far as durability and very, very pricey to rebuild. Its not worth replacing if it is and you probably wont find a good used version of it unless some junkyard has one from a car that crashed leaving the dealership.

Gotta do your homework BEFORE you buy a car. Dont trust ANYBODY selling a used car. There is for sure lot info out there on internet. Some models, its hard to find a bad one, others its hard to find a good one.

Ok, looked at and there are a few of these engines listed as good and under $500 though maybe not near you, figure minimum of $200 freight shipping if its any distance. I still wouldnt throw good money after bad. And if you are determined, think you might find a rebuilt version of this engine less than $1500. Probably better bet than an under $500 used one. I still say this thing will just become a money pit but your call.
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A 99 Malibu probably weighs 1.5 tons. Not exactly sure what scrap steel is at now, but at $250/ton your at $375 for the car. Tires, battery, cat converter and whatever other parts you can sell before scrap, and you could turn your car into $500+ fairly easily... more if you can find someone who needs that model car for parts, as they'll pay more than scrap value. Obviously, you'll still be out money.

I don't know much about the Malibu, but I'd agree with HermitJohn, in that if this is a vehicle which is known to be troublesome, and it does look that way from glancing at I'd cut my losses.

Added : also agree with whoever said "get a second opinion"... ya never know.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. Desperation will lead you to take chances you normally wouldn't consider.

My brother will do the honorable thing, and so will we. He doesn't even know what has happen yet. I imagine he'll just want us to pay him for the recent repairs, and then we'll be square. If he still wants the full $1200, then we'll pay it. A car or $1200 isn't worth losing a brother.

We purchased a 2000 Malibu that has a lot of damage up front Here is a link that you might be able to see

We hope to put the 2000 engine into the 1999 car, transmission and all. The 2000 engine isn't the 4 cylinder, but a six cylinder. The engine in this car still turned over, but we know it will need work. It has a rebuilt transmission, new struts, and the body style are the same~~so lots of parts for future repairs. Got it for $450, so we figure we can part-it-out for at least that if our plan doesn't work.

DH has a history with auto body work, and knows his way around a car. Our mechanic is willing to field questions, suggestions, and knowledge to help with the process. We are hoping to salvage this situation.......still.

Willing to hear suggestions and opinions on the new plans. Your comments, links and opinions are considered and appreciated. Thanks.
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I would get another opinion on your original problem. Not too many cars leave a shop after a repair and then fall to pieces and it's not related to the work just performed. I have been a tech for too long to count and was a GM dealer tech for years. I wouldn't even attempt to convert a 99 Malibu from a 4cyl. to a 6 cyl, not worth the effort.
To convert you would need computer and wiring harness, along with engine from the donor car. It would be heck of a lot of work, not worth paying somebody to try and figure it out, but if you want a long term hobby maybe.... Get a couple rolls of masking tape and a sharpie pen, you need to label whats what. Take lots, LOTS of digital pics so you know where everything goes and can refer back to the pics if any question of where something goes or connects. Dont depend on manuals. Modern cars are quite complex and no way to remember everything without pictures, labels, and notes. Replace anything questionable like engine mounts and seals and such.

Again IMHO there are better vehicle choices to spend time and money on, but good luck. It will at minimum be a learning experience. Hopefully a positive one. You will feel quite good if you can make it work.
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I have been a gm tech myself for 20 years.
I would get a second opinion.
The quad 4 motor. Your motor, does have a bad reputation. My wife had one in a 1997 grand am we drove for 240k miles before I sold the car.
The motor has a timing chain that is just as long as it would be if it was a timing belt.
The cams need to be held in place by 2 special dowel pins when the chain is replaced. I have seen some mechanics try to line the cams up with drill bits and various other methods. Some work some don't.
You also have 2 differant types of chain tensioners for that motor. {A first design and a second design can not tell which one you might have with out disassembly}There is some special things that need to be done for the tensioners also.
If the chain tensioner did not get reinstalled correctly. That could be the source of your noise and lack of power. By it allowing the cam timing to get off.
Is the noise a deep knuck, knuck sound? Or a rattle, clattery sound from the front of the motor. {passenger side}
I have put these motors back together my self and not reset the timing chain tensioner correctly. They will clatter bad. Don't know how they drive like that. It never left my bay. I simply pulled it back down reset every thing and it was good to go.
I am betting you will find something like chain guide, or tensioner isn't right.
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Thanks 62flint and HermitJohn,

I will pass this on to my DH!

I just spoke to my DH, and he said it is definitely the bearing. Metal shavings, etc. Also, I picked up the car right from the mechanic and it was running great, no clanking or klunking until several hours later, after we took the car out for a car wash.

I really appreciate all of input and opinions. I am finding them helpful in determing our course of action.

I'll try to keep you updated.
Since you have the doner car it will have the computer(ECM) for the 6 cyl engine. It will also have the wireing harness and the rebuilt trans.
I see no problems to large to get around.

:D Al
You will find that most of the engine compartment needs to be stripped and then substitute all the v-6 wiring, computer, etc. It will all fit...

Problem is you won't know if the interior half of the wiring harness, where it joins the outside half, will match. some of the pin locations will be expecting corresponding hookups from the removed 4-cyl harness and MAY not work correctly.

This is not impossible to overcome but may be difficult for a rookie...

You may need to spend some time w/ the schematic of the 4 cyl looking for things located at different places on the 6 cyl harness...Could be a lot of time or you may get lucky...hard to tell until you are elbow deep.
So can you just change the sheet metel out on the 2000?

:D Al

The game plan is to pull the engine out of the '99. Then pull the engine on the '00 to see if switching will be doable. My DH is pulling the engine today, so we'll know more soon. There is a possibility of having another 4 cylinder engine with about 80K on it that we are checking into.

If that happens we will be parting out the 2000 to recoup our money and hopefully decrease our repair costs.
Update: The '99 engine has been pulled and it is pretty much toast. My DH knows all of the technical jargon, but I just heard the prognosis. With the tranny having 160K on it, we really don't want to risk putting so much money into this.

We don't have the '00 Malibu yet (seller is still working on the title), but still plan on pulling the engine/tranny out of that and seeing if it can be put into the '99. We know it is a long shot, but feasible. We will have to pull the engine out of the '00 anyways to sell it. After the final option is fully explored and/or discarded, we will then be selling and scrapping to recoup as much $ as possible.

Thanks again for all of your help and opinions. It has certainly been educating!
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