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 Post subject: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:16 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm
Posts: 6
Location: PDX
Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Hi everyone! I used to post here ages ago, but when I lost my job (no money for car parts) and my apartment (no garage to work on car), I kinda disappeared. Luckily, things are better now, and I still own my beloved Bonnie.

tl;dr: My car has been lagging like it's down a cylinder or two since I got it back from an oil change/transmission flush/radiator top off, and a subsequent full replacement of the upper manifold, upper and lower manifold gaskets, spark plugs, wires, and one of the thermostats. I've taken it back to my mechanic, who I trust, and he says everything is fine. All ECU values are in the middle of the expected ranges, and he says he's driven it and it feels fine to him. In fact, he said it could easily dust his Mazda, and he was impressed. I still say it feels like I'm driving through peanut butter. Help?

Context below:

Problem: I didn't have much money for a long time (as in, up until about a month ago), so some repairs and maintenance had to be put on hold while I cleared out more pressing debts. I took my Bonnie in for an oil change at a middle of the road quickie place. Yes, bad me, but I had a short lunch hour and couldn't get it out to my mechanic and make it back on time. They did a standard oil change with synthetic oil, ran my transmission fluid through transmission dialysis, and filled my radiator because it was leaking due to my manifold gaskets falling apart. Known issue, of course, but one I didn't have enough money to fix.

When I drove out of the oil change place, I noticed she felt a little laggy, like I had to push harder on the accelerator to get her to go. She's always been a snappy car, but I figured with new fluids and all, it might take a few miles to get things settled. Came back the following day to have them make sure nothing was leaking (had to get the radiator fluid in the reservoir topped off again, but not a full system pressurization), asked about the sluggishness, and they shrugged and said it didn't sound like something that they would have caused.

Took her to my proper mechanic a few days later, who's done service on her before, to get everything sorted out. I'd had him look at the manifold gaskets last fall, and he said they were okay but probably needed replacing within a year. Diagnosis was that both upper and lower gaskets needed replacement, plus the upper manifold itself was warped and needed replacing. They also found a $17 thermostat that was dying and replaced it since the engine was already taken apart. They also noticed the plugs and wires were corroded and causing it to idle rough, so they swapped them out for high quality wires and slightly nicer grade new plugs.

Got her back, took her for a spin down the backroads, and again, it feels like I might as well get out and push compared to how she used to feel. It's like I'm driving my dad's 4 cylinder Subaru with a load of wood in the back. It's ridiculous and upsetting.

Took her back to the mechanic again, but he only had time to drive her around the block and came back saying she felt fine, but if I wanted another diagnostic pass run, I could bring her back during the week. Did so. Got a call yesterday saying every code they read came back normal, and three guys in the shop drover her and said nothing felt off to them. I got a little, uh...crabby (girl gearhead here, I tend to be defensive) and he offered to run her over to the transmission guy across the parking lot and get a transmission diagnostic done. Just got called back, and apparently the transmission diagnostic also came back normal. He says without having driven her before, he can't tell if she feels different, and apologized for not having more concrete info. He did say everything is fine by his assessment and she's definitely not broken or at risk of anything breaking if I drive like normal.

She's also started making a tapping noise under the hood when she starts up cold, but it stops abruptly after about 5-10 minutes. As long as everything stays warm, the sound doesn't come back. My mechanic said he didn't hear it, but he did hear the gurgling sound the fluids tend to make when it first starts, which has been happening forever.

So, what gives? I don't get to pick her up until tomorrow morning, so I don't know if she randomly feels better after all the prodding. I'm a bit of a novice at engine diagnostics and repair, but I'm good with tools and electrical testing equipment if someone can suggest places to look for issues. Also, if anyone knows a Bonneville or 3800 II expert in the Portland, Oregon area, I'm open to trying another mechanic. This is really weirding me out. Plus the timing, ugh. My parents just offered to sell me their Subaru two weeks ago, and I turned it down because I'm saving up for my dream car...and then this crap started going wrong. I would still rather keep my Bonnie, but if she's going to drive like this, I'd rather sell her and drive something...enjoyable. I'm a small car gal, so the fact that my Bonnie goes like a son of a gun has been what keeps me from wanting to sell her. Well, that and the sentimental value, since she was my grandpa's car. But anyway, if I can't fix this, I'm liable to ragequit and get a rice rocket off Craigslist.

Okay, not really, but you get my point. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them! Thanks everyone :)

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1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:42 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm
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Location: PDX
Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Actually, it kind of sounds like this case:
1992/topic45762.html

A couple summers ago, when I had a long stop-and-go commute and it was over 90 degrees air temp (never mind the temp on the tarmac), I had that problem where my engine would surge, sputter, and die without warning. It only happened a couple of times, and only if I was in slow moving traffic for a long period of time in the heat. Hasn't happened since then, but it does sort of feel like I have to nurse the accelerator as I slow down to keep her from dying. Reminds me of driving a stick shift at too low a gear...

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1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:55 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:47 pm
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Location: Fort Madison Iowa
Year and Trim: White 1994 Pontiac Bonneville SE, 3800 Series 1.
Could be catalytic converter is getting plugged.

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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:51 pm 
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My first thought, if the engine feels like it's running smooth, is that there is a torque converter problem, or it's starting off in second gear instead of first. Check the trans fluid, it might be low, or if it's already dirty again that could be a sign of a TCC issue.

Other possibilities are sticking calipers/drums, a bad MAS or weak coil, or as mentioned already a plugged converter.

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Runs:
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'97 Chevy Camaro - 3800 supercharged, T5, T-tops
'05 Cadillac STS - V8, AWD, her DD
'92 Olds Trofeo - Fair weather DD
'84 GMC Sierra Classic - Twin turbo 3800
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'92 Pontiac Bonneville SSE future project

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'87 Buick LeSabre T-type - future victim
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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:32 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm
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Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Thanks for the suggestions! The engine is running smoothly, and now that you mention it, she does feel a bit like my dad's old pickup did when I tried to start moving in 2nd gear. The transmission fluid levels are fine, and the fluid itself is a lot clearer than it was before the flush. Is there anything obvious to look for if it's a TCC issue, or should I take it to a gearbox specialist?

I cleaned out the catalytic converter, and the brakes look okay. Haven't checked the airflow sensors yet. I tried unplugging the MAF, but it just made the engine idle erratically until I plugged it back in...

_________________
1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:04 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm
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Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Dang, definitely feels like it's a gearbox issue. I took her out for a highway drive, and the engine is fantastic (my MPG is dramatically better), but there are definitely shift issues happening. About a third of the time, upshifts make a ka-clunk, especially going from 1-2 and 3-4. A few times it also clunked coming down from 4 to 3, but mostly when going up a steep hill in traffic where it was shifting from 3 to 4 and back several times in a few minutes. It's super slow to get rolling from a dead stop almost every time.

I just put over a grand into getting the engine fixed, so I'd rather keep fixing things if it means she'll stay driveable for another couple of years. Does this sound like a total rebuild/replacement, or is it something that can be fixed with some parts and TLC?

EDIT: I checked the transmission fluid -- levels are fine, and it's a nice shade of red, but there's a bit of metal that wipes off on the rag along with the fluid. Is that grime from the dipstick itself, or is it more likely to be gunk in the fluid?

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1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:37 am 
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Has the trans fluid ever been changed? It would be good to drop the pan and see what's going on in there.

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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:52 pm 
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Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Yeah, I just had the fluid flushed during an oil change recently. Probably the first time the transmission's been serviced at all during the life of the car. I had an evaluation in early 2013 after I moved to Portland where the technician said the fluid was dirty, but not so dirty it needed immediate service.

The problems started right after the transmission flush. The leaky gaskets were found during the oil change, so it all kind of happened simultaneously, but it was definitely right after the transmission flush that the sluggishness started.

_________________
1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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 Post subject: Re: Sluggish Performance
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2015 4:06 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm
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Location: PDX
Year and Trim: 1999 Bonneville SE
Dammit.

Got my answer. Finally got the car out to my roommate's mechanic, who drove it with me and said it feels like the transmission is shot. Never should have had that [expletive] transmission flush, but I was in a hurry to get back to work and didn't bother looking it up before saying okay.

I can't afford another $1800 repair, and, despite the sentimental value, don't really want to put more than the value of the car into repairs. I'm also pissed at the mechanics who told me it drove fine, said they took it to a transmission guy, and didn't actually diagnose a *dang* thing.

Thanks for the help, everyone. Guess I'm off to find a new daily driver while I look for someone who needs a Bonnie for parts.

_________________
1999 Bonneville SE
106,000 miles. Blaupunkt Hamburg MP57 running JBL rear speakers and a Kenwood KSC-WA82RC subwoofer. Cleared corners. ScanGauge II. Android tablet with Bluetooth ECU connection and Garmin HUD. Short ram air intake.

Siren: "If they can't handle the bass, they shouldn't be in your car."


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