1989 Buick Century Noise

Tiny
METALISAAC
  • MEMBER
  • 1989 BUICK CENTURY
  • 3.3L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 142,698 MILES
When the car is on and its idle, it makes this squeaking sound. I think it's the timing belt
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Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 AT 9:17 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I suspect it's not the timing belt because they very rarely make noise of any kind, ... But also, your engine uses a timing chain, not a belt.

Serpentine belts DO often make noise. First, sight down along all the pulleys to see if the belt is tracking off-center on any one of them by as little as 1/16". That can be hard to tell, but if you see it obviously off-center, that pulley or the one right before it is tipped or turned. That will set up a belt squeal because the belt slides across the pulley as it goes around it.

To verify it's the belt making noise, dribble a little water onto the smooth back side of it as the engine is running and the noise is occurring. If the noise changes, it's something to do with the belt or pulleys. Do not use any kind of belt dressing or lubricant on a serpentine belt. Those are for the older V-belts. Dressing on a serpentine belt will cause road dirt to stick to it and soon the noise will be much worse. The only fix for that is to solve the original problem, scrub all the pulleys with soap and water, then install a new uncontaminated belt.

If the noise gets worse when you add a little water, stop the engine and check if the belt is loose. You should see the spring-loaded tensioner move and let you pull the belt up quite a bit. If you can't, the tensioner is likely rusted and stuck so it can't maintain tension on the belt. If the noise goes away with water, the cause is usually a tipped pulley, and that is most often caused by worn bearings in one of the idler pulleys.
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Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 AT 9:52 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
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A bad harmonic balancer is fairly common on this engine also.
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Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 AT 2:22 AM
Tiny
METALISAAC
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So, if the noise changes its bad, if it stops its bad, and if it gets louder its also bad. It sounds like its not safe to drive anymore. I don't have the money to spend on this car anymore besides oils and gas. I've already spent twice as much as I bought it for, and I don't think it's a smart idea to keep it.
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Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 AT 6:57 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You haven't really said anything we can use to judge dollar amounts, but you can run into the same costs with any car. Some people bail out of a car that has had multiple, but different problems, then the next person who buys it drives it for years with just regular maintenance. Some people trade off a car at the first sign that a problem might turn serious, and end up with one that's much worse. This is why I'm happy to not be a salesman. They get blamed if you end up with a car that costs a lot in repairs, regardless if they talked you into trading for a newer one or keeping your old one and spending the money in their repair shop.

A squealing belt is hardly a reason to trade a car or be afraid to drive it, especially when 99 percent of the causes are easily fixed. Wrenchtech mentioned the harmonic balancer, (aka vibration damper). That is usually relatively rare, but while it is probably the most expensive cause of a squeal, it is hardly a reason to get rid of the car unless you expect to start having more problems in the near future.

Normally I'd suggest getting a used balancer from a salvage yard, but if this is a somewhat common problem on this engine, I suspect a new one with a warranty and labor would be less than around 300 bucks. A lot of people spend more than twice that amount twice a year for one repair after another.

As far as being safe to drive, that depends on your tolerance and what you're willing to put up with. To me, the least trustworthy car is a new one that has no track record and no history. My cousin has a GM truck that developed its first small problem at 80,000 miles. A neighbor needed a new engine in his two year-old GM truck. My daily driver Grand Caravan is so rusty, the carpet is what's holding the front and rear together. THAT, to most people, is unsafe, but it keeps going and going. I have a newer Grand Caravan that I won't drive any further than I'm willing to walk back home. It has never let me sit or needed more than new tires, but I don't trust it, so is it "safe" or not?

I went on a road trip three days ago with a friend of my mother's, and she almost had a mental meltdown because I let the gas get down to a quarter tank. I often carry a can of gas with me because I zip past all the other gas stations and try to make it to the cheapest one 30 miles away. I run out on the side of the road about two times a year, but only when I'm alone. We took her car on that trip. It's a late '90s Buick, ran perfectly fine, is comfortable and quiet, but now she's all upset because in the middle of winter, the windows fogged up a little. I tried to explain that she never gets it out of the city, and never gets it warmed up, but she's obsessing about trading it in. I tried, but I couldn't pound any logic into her head.

Another neighbor just traded a two-year-old Ford after its third very expensive electrical repair, which is all too common. So far, their new 2014 Explorer has needed to have two computers replaced in the first four months. They haven't stopped to think what that would have cost them if it wasn't in warranty, and what it's going to cost them in future years.

My point is there's a wide range of what can be considered "safe", and until you can tell me otherwise, what you've described so far is something that needs a live person to look at so you can make an informed decision. We deal with belt squeals all the time. They've become common on all car brands since the 1980s when they started using the current "serpentine" belt design.

Sorry for rambling on. The water test I mentioned is just to prove whether or not the noise is indeed related to the belt. If water causes a change in the noise, it's something to do with the belt. It's more involved, but you can also remove the belt, then run the engine long enough to see if the noise is gone. That will tell you if you have to look someplace else, or if the belt tensioner and pulleys are involved.
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 AT 4:05 PM
Tiny
METALISAAC
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Very interesting stories, I know people have car problems a lot. They're inevitable. I think the main reason why I want to get rid of it is because of the miles per gallon. I'm also aware that the radiator has a bad leak in it. It's basically turning the radiator green. After I drive it for 10 miles when I get out and stand by the hood it smells like burnt coolant. I was told that if I replace the radiator, I'll have to replace another part of the car that catches the coolant? I forgot what the guy at the shop said. Either he was trying to hustle me or it's true. Either way that's more $ for repairs. The car is also a leather top and the rubber that holds the windsheild is peeling off of the top of the windshield. I think this is causing water to seep into the car, creating mold on the passenger side carpet. I live in Washington state and right now it's cold so when the ice melts it's leaking right onto the interior floor. The muffler is old, the U shaped bolts are rusted on to the part that holds the muffler up. There's holes in the muffler and there's a hole on the cat converter as well. The engine has a leak somewhere too. I'm not talking about a hose leak, I mean the actual engine leaks from somewhere if not several places. These are all reasons why I want to get rid of this car and save up for a 95 Honda Civic DX.
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 AT 4:31 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You're describing the wrong vehicle. That's my van you're talking about! The only thing you overlooked is a deer ran into my driver's door two months ago. When I get rid of a vehicle, there is no value left in it other than for scrap metal!

By the way, one of my best friends has a son who started working for Boeing two years ago. He really likes it there, (company and the people).
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 AT 4:59 PM
Tiny
METALISAAC
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Really? What are the chances deer would run into your door haha that's crazy. I see them crossing roads and walking between houses in my neighborhood. Thankfully none have ran into my car! Yeah I heard Boeing is a good company to work for.
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 AT 5:11 PM

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