Pontiac Bonneville

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Auto Defects > Pontiac

March 2000

Dear Consumer:

Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) about your General Motors H-car (Buick LeSabre, Oldsmobile 88, Pontiac Bonneville). Introduced in 1982 and redesigned in 1991, these are some of GM oldest models. GM dropped the Olds 88 after 1999 when it redesigned the LeSabre and Bonneville for 2000.

Before 1991, defects such as paint peel, seat belts and steering loss and automatic transmissions failing plagued these cars. Since 1993 the quality has improved but numerous problems remain. The H-car has been recalled 5 times for head lamp or lighting problems and GM has issued many technical bulletins addressing numerous electrical defects. Crash tests are mixed, with the 1998-99 H-Cars receiving a Good Frontal crash rating and a Poor Side crash rating by The Car Book.

Power steering loss when cold was a common problem in 1985-91 vehicLeSabre . In May 1989 GM, in a "secret warranty", announced it would cover repairs for the defect on 1985-88 cars for up to 5 years/50,000 miLeSabre , but failed to notify owners. Nearly all H-cars manufactured from 1987 to 1996 have the poorly designed door-mounted automatic seat belts. When left connected, as they should be, they make entry and exit awkward, especially for older and handicapped people. Even worse, the belts can't keep occupants inside the car if a door opens in a crash. In 1990, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) refused CAS' request to investigate this belt problem.

Paint peel or delamination has been widespread on many models. In 1993 at CAS' request, GM agreed to pay for complete repainting for paint peel or delamination through six years and unlimited mileage. In March 1995, GM secretly cut the policy to 5 years, but if pushed, will honor the 6-year policy and even pays beyond 6 years if sued in small claims court.

You'll find information on these and other H-Car defects below and what you can do about them plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against GM on the defects we know about and help us spot new ones.

We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible and entitLeSabre your to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $35 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Ultimate Car Book, by Jack Gillis. Every home should have this invaluable consumer guide.


Clarence M. Ditlow
Executive Director

Oldsmobile 88, Pontiac Bonneville, Buick LeSabre

Automatic Transmission[AOD]: Cold start rattle 1991-97 All (57-71-06A); Intermittent neutral/loss of drive at high speeds or from 4th 1995-97 All (67-71-64); Transaxle whine between 20-40 MPH 1995-97 All (77-71-55); Powertrain control module error 1995 All (95-C-11); Replace transaxle wire harness 1991-93 All (37-71-36); 2nd gear vibration at 3-5,000 RPM 1991-93 All (37-71-38A); 440-T4 AOD problems range from fluid leaks to no-shift conditions; repairs often exceed $1,000. For more information, see the GM Transmission page.

Brakes: Buzz/rattle when pedal depressed 1995-97 All (73-50-19); ABS & traction off indicator lamps come on 1994-95 All (53-50-15); ABS pulsation at application 1991-92 All (10-50-02); Intermittent pull with hard brake 1986-91 All (31-50-04); Faulty ABS main relay/pump relay 1991-94 All (43-50-03); ABS-TCS indicator lamps/false ABS/ABS-TCS cycling 1992-94 All (43-50-04); ABS pulsates when applied All to 1993 w/ABS (105002)/1995 & prior (43-50-09).

Electrical/Instruments: Poor keyless entry system range 1996-97 All (73-9-15); Inadvertent trunk opening w/remote keyless entry 1996-98 All (73-90-16); Fuel level sensor replacement 1997-98 All (83-83-07); Battery drain/dead or low 1995-98 88 (73-81-53); Inoperative P/door locks 1991-97 All (63-10-41B); Fuel gauge responds slowing after refueling 1996-97 All (73-83-15); Heads-up display & instrument cluster speed differences 1992-97 Bonneville (10-81-50A); A/C odor at start up 1993-96 All (53-12-12A); Intermittent A/C thump on start up 1995-97 All (73-12-07); Inoperative P/seats &/or door locks 1992-93 All (53-81-28); Dead battery/no start 1985-91 All (91-6-46); Loss of drive/electric shifts 1992-94 All (477121); Fuel gauge reads empty when tank full 1992-93 Bonneville (93-8-10); Erratic operation of fuel gauge 1991-95 All (53-83-17); Cruise control drop/fail to set/resume All to 1992 (92-9-19); Headlamp lens distortion 1996 & prior All (63-81-11); Intermittent drop out of cruise 1991-95 All (63-90-02).

Engine: Oil leak at rear near flywheel cover 1995-97 All (77-61-16A); Oil leak at oil pan sealing flange 1995-97 All (77-61-22); Pop/thump at left rear 1996-97 All (73-63-12); Idle surge/ increased idle 1992-95 All (77-65-15); Driveline vibration over 37 MPH 1994-95 All (53-65-06A); Pop/flutter/tick when driving 1995-96 All (47-60-06D); Knock in front of engine 1992-94 All (30-60-01); Exhaust pipe knock 1985-93 All (43-66-02); Supercharger oil leak 1992-95 All (47-60-02); Miss/hesitation/roughness from pierced wires 1984-93 All (93-6-8); Cold engine tick/rattle after start-up 1990-94 All (476115); Misfire 1992-93 All w/3.0L engine (93-6-38); Light acceleration boom 1992-93 w/3.8L (93-6-42A); Coolant leak near throttle body 1993-95 All (57-61-04); Chuggle above 36 mph w/torque converter clutch engaged 1993-94 All (376517A).

Paint: Bumps/rust colored spots in paint due to rail or iron dust 1994-99 All (43-17-01B); Paint peeling from muffler 1993-98 All (33-17-01A). Paint peels due to omission of primer layer. GM extended warranty to 6 years then reduced it to 5. For more information, see Peeling Paint Woes.

Steering/Suspension: Steering column snap/click & pop 1994-96 All, 1992-93 All (56-32-02B, 33-21-10A); Reduced p/s assist at low temps. 1994 & prior, 1986-91 All (03-32-06, 91-3-12); Slight torque steer during acceleration 1991-92 All (92-6-12); Clunking in front suspension 1992-93 All (93-3-19). Secret warranty for loss of power assist when cold through 1988 model year, go to GM P/S Loss.

Copies may be obtained by calling NHTSA's Technical Reference Division at 202-366-2768.

Brakes: 6,004 1987 LeSabre - Loss of fluid & rear brakes (87V-093); 1,889 1987-88 LeSabre - Hydraulic unit separation/loss of brake (88V-067); 1,000+ 1992 Bonneville, 1991 LeSabre /88 - Parking brake failure (91V-167); 200+ 2000 LeSabre - Pedal assembly comes loose (99V-238); 1,000+ 2000 LeSabre, Bonneville - Internal fluid leaks in ABS hydraulic modulator (00V-114).

Electrical/Lights: 500+ 1994-95 Oldsmobile 88 - Head lamp switch spring fails & prevents lamps from staying on (94V-138); 10,000+ 1987 All - In-line fusible link melts, fire (87V-135); 5,162 1987 Bonneville - Headlamp failure (87V-103); 1,000+ 1986 LeSabre - Headlights flicker/go out (86V-131); 500+ 1995 Bonneville - Loss of head & parking lamps (94V-190); 10,000+ 1995 LeSabre - Wrong headlights (95V-158); 20,000+ 1996 All - Damaged alarm, lighting & locking module (95V-204); 35,725 2000 LeSabre - Incorrect head light aiming instructions (99V-355).

Engine: 200,000+ 1996-97 LeSabre, 1996 Bonneville, Oldsmobile 88 - Backfire breaks upper intake manifold (96V-116); 5,000+ 1986-87 LeSabre - Sudden acceleration (89V-102); 1,000+ 1987 Bonneville -Throttle stays open (88V-080); 1,655+ 1989 All - Fuel spillage in rollovers (88V-143).

Seat Belts: 34,754 1987 LeSabre - Owner's manual seat belt info (88V-006); 10,000+ 1997 LeSabre - Belt buckLeSabre (96V-044).

Transmission: 99,269 1999 All - Transmission in different gear than shift lever (99V-089); 1,000 1991 Bonneville - Engages wrong gear (91V-198); 400,000+ 1992-93 All - Cooler line fires (96V-015.002).

Other: 352 1999 Bon - Wheel stub breaks (99V-072); 200+ 2000 LeSabre - Tie rod separation (99V-301)

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