new to J-bodies,need an education. - First Generation Forum

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new to J-bodies,need an education.
Sunday, December 15, 2013 7:36 PM
A couple of weeks ago I bought this 1986 cavalier cl. After a new distributor and some fuel pump work I'm now driving it to work. I'm wanting to find what common problems these first gen's have.I'm from the GM truck world so these are new to me.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Sunday, December 15, 2013 8:17 PM
Welcome Aboard Thomas!!

Nice to see a 2 toned Sedan on here

These are well built long lasting machines. I'm going to assume you have the 2.0 4cyl. there aren't any badges on the fender for a clue.

The OHV engines are simple and durable. The 4 cyl. models don't have a lot of power and are great in bad weather and snow!!

Transmissions are pretty bulletproof. If your Lockup Torque Converter gets stuck if you have the Automatic it will stall out when you come to a stop. Simple solution to get it home is you got to floor the gas and drop it in drive - allowing the tires to break loose and get you moving before the engine stalls. Once home dissconnect the plug near the Battery tray that plugs into the transaxle - that is the Lockup Solenoid connector. The car will run fine without this and will not throw a code. You just wont have that feature.

You've got the fuel pump done so that is out of the way.

Check your ground wire off the battery and make sure the connections at the body and engine are not corroded. This is a potential trouble spot.

Alternators on these cars sit right above the exhaust Manifold and suck in that hot air - they will fail at times. When replacing just get one with a Lifetime warranty.

The Rack and Pinion are known to leak and sometimes the internal seals give out. Symptoms will be low fluid of course. Internal failure causes a delay in power assist when you first start up in the morning. Eventually that lag will get longer and longer till you have no power assist, and have to replace it. The main soures of leaking will be the input shaft seal . This is where the steering column connected the the rack. There is a post on this in the 1st Gen Section where I've had to replace the rack. (On both my J's I might add).

I notice some rust which is common. Need to look underneath and make sure the brake lines are in good shape. I've had one blow out out on me and of course it had to be going at the bottom of a hill at a Red light. Not Fun!!

Your Coil is buried underneath the intake manifold and is all but impossible to see and get at - you probably know this tinkering on the dizzy.

Cat Convertors are known to clog up since they are so old.

These are ODB 1 generation so it basically takes an act of Congress to throw a Hard Code. Electronics are very simple by todays standards. I urge you to pick up a Factory Shop Manual off of EBay. They are inexpensive and well worth the money!!

Lastly parts are pretty easy to come by if only usually special order at the local car parts stores. Most parts are inexpensive compared to modern stuff. Old Parts cars, however are drying up. Many salvage yards have crushed up any inventory. If you come across a parts car better consider snatching it up!!

Well that is all I can think of. I'm sure Ron can help out here. He is the Go To Man if you are in need!

Lots of helpful souls on here and Plenty of Enthusiasm....

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Sunday, December 15, 2013 8:48 PM
Thanks for the welcome! I forgot to add that it is a 2.0 autotragic. I wish it was a 5 spd but oh well. It sat in a been for 5 years before I picked it up for $380. This week I'm planning on changing the transmission fluid and filter. I'm experiencing some power steering trouble so I will have to check out the rack, it was completely out of fluid when I first started it.
I know my way around 80's GM tbi systems so the engine side I'm covered, I've just been trying to learn what to expect.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Sunday, December 15, 2013 10:19 PM
Well welcome to the board.I will be short tonight I drive a tractor trlr and today was the 530 mile day.Tired indeed.I could list a ton of things to check and be aware of but short it will be in this post.I probably will throw some things out probably more like wed -fri my days off and fresh in thoughts.And if you do need something part wise that you can not find just let me know.I do have stash of parts some I will let go some I want.Anyway being your just starting out on the update status take time and do each step right to save the headaches later.Ok Ron

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 3:46 AM
from personal ep if the transmission hasn't been flushed according to its requirements, flushing the tranny now does more harm then good. i have 2 cars that i need new trannies for because i had them flushed thinking it will help. just my opinion... welcome to the J-body world nice to see another 4-door.
Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 11:53 AM
A flush is different than a pan drop. A flush replaces all the fluid with a machine and will break loose any varnish deposits in the valve body. It does this because of all the new fluid with fresh detergents. Dropping the pan will only replace 4-5 quarts depending on the car, this only slightly increases the detergent amount and will slowly remove varnish deposits. I've always had good luck doing pan drops on my pickups so we shall see, I've rebuilt a 125c / 3T40 in school so worse case I get to relearn everything haha.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 11:55 AM
This would probably be great for another thread - but actually I was thinking of dropping my pan and changing the filter on my Auto also next year. My wagon is suffering from a healthy lag before it will engage into drive if it has sat for several days. Not there if run often. Just figured it could use the pan cleaned out.

Aaron , are you suggesting this is not a good idea? There is the simple filter change and then there is the trip to the lube shop where they drain out the fluid and replace as the engine is running - which I've heard bad things about.

If the filter change is just going to lead to transaxle problems I'll just live with a little lag.

Am interested in hearing more of your experiences


Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 1:15 PM
I've never heard of anyone having major problems with dropping the pan, replacing the fluid and filter, and replacing the pan; but I've heard so many problems regarding the flush, I wouldn't do a flush ever.

I figure if you change it every 50k anyway, how bad can that be.
Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 5:56 PM
Developed a miss today, assumed the plugs needed changed and picked some up. It didn't fix the problem, turns out its running lean,I think the fuel filter is plugged. I did my best to clean the tank but there's still crud in there. Anyway, thought you guys would like to see these plugs,apparently they aren't a popular size in my little town.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Monday, December 16, 2013 7:40 PM
Just a heads up Thomas:

AutoZone sells a new tank for $128 at my zip code. You can order this online and have it shipped to home with free shipping and take an extra 20 percent off right now to boot!

I cruddy tank can make a new fuel pump - old - in no time....LoL

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 10:29 PM
Ok now with some sleep caught up and day off in a mode to advise.These cars are simple and do have the general wear issues and the best rule is keep it stock.I am not against updating things just not adding features that are over complicated for a 80'scar.I would be checking your rear shocks and brakes for the simple push down rear quarter bounce test.One bounce down and up (good) the wavy ocean motion time to replace.Your springs are probably ok,however I replaced mine just due to resto work and age.It made a big difference.Same test for front struts as you know.Things like the instrument cluster bulbs(yeah there important) and if you pull it make SURE you unhook the speedometer cable on the trans first.So once you take the plastic out,dropping the steering column bolts out (either the main bracket) or loosen for slop the cluster comes out much easier.The speedo cable has some slack but,not enough to remove the cluster out for the new bulbs.The heater hoses are simple and can be done with ease from firewall.Exhaust manifold is not bad just lube the hardware a day before so no breaking bolts and the 2.0 engine does NOT use a gasket of any kind it soley mates metal to metal.The oil pan gasket umm.I have done this and had some issues.The key here is use the cork gasket with some permatex (The right stuff gasket sealer) the BEST ever,on the sides of the pan and use the half moon rubber at the trans end with yes gasket sealer both sides of rubber these do leak there,and on the crank end NO gasket just run two beads of the said sealer and install pan.I hand tighten the bolts evenly then go back and and hand tighten to seat the bolts.I do not torque these inch lbs it is so little a good snug fit is best by hand imo.The key is brake clean the crank with pan removed and make sure it is super dry and oil pan stupid clean as well.Next is our cars have fuseable links all at the starter and if one goe out replace with the same amp link.If your blower motor goes out our cars have two different resistors.One is for cars with AC and cars WO/AC and NO auto store carries this in stock on the with for cars with AC in stock.I had to order online thru autozone to get the right blower motor resistor for my ac car and this was the ONLY way to get the part.I could not even order in the store to get it(idk why but was the case) for me couple years back.As for the factory tires in the 13 inch a lot of places do not carry these in stock or limited choices and I have checked just last wk.As for carpet you can buy this from companies like ACC auto custom carpet or other sources.The window sweeps for the outside against the glass NON existant as oem reman so far.Most tbi kits and parts are available and wear out parts.I could go more but,this is just some of the things that come to mind in my abundant amount of things I know about the first gens and I have replaced my intake gasket and coil and do run the standard ac delco plugs nothing else.I do want to update my wires to a heavy gauge set bc the cheapo brand sets do not last and buying some good accel 7 or 8mm wires are the better choice and yeah you have to buy a set for a v8 being no 4 cyldr set is made anymore unlike in the late 90s.I hope you do not fall asleep reading this just some things I had the time to share and not worn out from work as usual.Ron

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Thursday, December 19, 2013 9:32 AM
Thanks for all that Ron, I've driven this car 300 miles since my first post. Almost everything works except the radio, cruise, windshield washers, air conditioning and my coolant tank is cracked so I need to pick one of those up. After some difficulty finding good 13 tires,I have decided to upgrade to 14 inch and have two new ones just waiting on the next paycheck for the others.

Hoping to get some work in on it this weekend but I hit a deer with my truck so it needs some work too.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Thursday, December 19, 2013 1:26 PM
Just a heads up.

Check on EBay for your tires Thomas. I have even found 175/80/13's on there. I think they are running $260 for a set of 4 with Whitewalls too boot. Make sure you do not buy trailer tires on there, as there are a lot of them for sale too in that size. But there are passenger car tires on Ebay in 13's

I'm hoping to pick up a set myself next year!


Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:20 PM
Ok good to here that.If you cannot source a coolant tank I several extras but these do vary on certain yrs,models.If you can pop up a pic of yours up close I can check the spares I have to see if I have a match to sell to you for low cost plus shpg (I use fedex ground and average cost is 10-12) depending on location shpd to.keeping it short for now.

Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Friday, December 20, 2013 6:08 AM
Here's what I've found for tires, but I'll be going up to 16" rims for my ride.
Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Friday, December 20, 2013 4:11 PM
Napa makes a nice set of wires..
just installed some
Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Friday, December 20, 2013 6:25 PM
The "old school" size 13's.|Aspect+Ratio%3A80|Rim+Diameter%3A13&h ash=item53fd4ea529&vxp=mtr

I am running 185 70 13's on the Pontiac and they leave a horrible gap in the wheel wells. At least , I guess I don't have to worry about the tires rubbing anything..... LoL


Re: new to J-bodies,need an education.
Saturday, December 21, 2013 11:10 PM
Well as for tires I am going with the size I have 195/70/13 firestone makes a primewell that they stock! I am not going to do this soon just doing some checks bc my tires are drieing out due to age and being in the garage and these are over ten years old.One more tip or two and this concerns the oil pressure sensor.These are prone to leak directly from the sensor bc it has plastic/rubber over it and as it ages loses it ability to seal.I had mine blow out two quarts riding down the road.I stopped quick cleaned up the mess and added oil and made it to a place that was a shop and ironically they had my sender in stock(WOW).Anyway your oil pressure sender is a two prong plug the other sensor directly across from it is the oil pressure light (idiot light on dash) and I have already replaced all my sending units on the engine years back.If you run into any issues with the map,or tps I can give you checks to determine if these are bad using a multimeter in minutes.No more for now long day and this was on my mind for a day or two.

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