How long will the mechanics of a 2002 Imapala LS (3800 V6) last?
January 14, 2004 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How long will the mechanics of a 2002 Imapala LS (3800 V6) last, considering normal upkeep such as oil, sensors, filter, etc? Who knows anything about the 3800 series motor?
posted by Keyser Soze to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
My Dad had a series of 3800-powered Oldsmobiles in the 1990's. They were all as reliable as the sunrise. It's an evolution of one of GMs older engine designs, based on an earlier 3.8 and renamed "3800" at some point. Years of refinement have made it pretty bulletproof and efficient.

I remember a column by an editor of Road & Track magazine (Egan? Swan? The guy who races cars and lives on a farm in Wisconsin somewhere...) in which he discusses his purchase of an old high-mileage Buick sedan with the 3.8/3800. He needed reliable and economical transportation while his project cars were all in pieces in the barn over the winter, and the Buick surpassed his expectations.

If I found myself in a bind needing cheap, economical wheels with some comfort and power as well, I'd go look for a $2000 Park Avenue or something similar with that powertrain. Your Impala should serve you very well.
posted by Tubes at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2004

A few things that one can do to ANY car to prolong its life: 1) keep the tires inflated to the correct pressure 2) Change the oil - many car manufacturers recommend 7500-mile intervals, but I'd stick with 3000 miles. Change the filter too. My ex-g/f has a Festiva with 250k miles on it; we both attribute its longevity to regular oil changes. 3) Wash the engine bay (wrap the distributor in a plastic bag) every season 4) put a bottle of fuel drier (HEET) in the tank once a month, except the winter (twice a month).
The 3800, as Tubes said, is a great motor. The SOB will run (albeit poorly) on two cylinders. They're relatively frugal with the gas (for a rather large engine), powerful, and they're not difficult to work on.
posted by notsnot at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2004

The 3800 Series II (that's in that impala) is one of the best gasoline engines GM ever produced. Even with half-hearted maintenance, not that it would be a good idea, expect impressive reliability for many years. Living less that 200 ft. from one of the testing facilities, I'm aware of at least 10 vehicles with the 3800 motor with at least 500k miles. One of them has never had an oil change, only topoff's.

I could go on and on but, you get the idea. Of course there are other opinions.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2004

There are going to be lemons in even the most carefully-built engines, as Dean_Paxton points out above. Given that, the 3800 V6 may be second only to the venerable Chrysler Slant Six in reliability.

The rest of the Impala...who knows?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:10 PM on January 14, 2004

It has something GM calls the "oil life monitor" that calculates when it needs an oil change. Sometimes it can go up to 5,000 miles before coming on. I wonder if I could further prolong the engine life by going 3,000 miles instead.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2004

My Buick has the same feature. I try to get to the oil within about 1k of it popping on... it's nice... keeps me honest.

I asked my mechanic, as well as several friends, what they think about that. Most of them say that it really depends upon your type of driving. Over the highway, long-haul type driving is easier on the engine and also require less frequent oil changes. Trucks measure milage for pay but, they measure engine life in hours for this reason.

City drivers should change the oil as frequently as possible. Pure and simple, it's hell on all systems of any vehicle.

I've used the 3000k rule of thumb for years with no additives, treatments, or special oils without problems. No matter what type of driving I was doing. The only time that I can think of where I laxed off on the 3k rule was when I was commuting 100+ miles (one way) each day. Then I fell back to 5-7k.

I always use the type of oil specified in the owners manual and I try to adhere to the rest of the maintenance schedules as well. My trusted and true mechanic mentioned that not using the proper SAE valued oil is the most common mistake and often causes more long term damage that neglecting the oil level and frequency of change.

You'd be suprised how many people think that adding a quart of 15W-40 instead of 10W-30 is better just because the number is higher.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 8:41 PM on January 15, 2004

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