1987 Buick Century Custom 4D 2.5L from North America


A good first car, but don't push it too hard


I owned this car for a little more than one year. During this year the car had the following problems:

- about one month and 1000 miles after I bought it, while driving on the freeway the engine simply died. I had the car towed to a garage and they noticed that the timing gear was completely worn out - it simply had no teeth left on it! (this engine, also known as "The Iron Duke" does not have a timing belt, but a timing gear instead). The required valve job cost about the same amount the car was worth (in working condition). I could have abandoned it and bought another similar one for the same price. I decided to give this car a second choice and had it repaired. It may have been my fault: the maximum speed on the odometer is 85 mph, but I was driving way faster (at least 95, if not 100 mph). So maybe I abused the engine too hard and that's why that gear remained toothless. This was a very costly lesson I learned from this car...

- after another 3 months the battery light came on: the alternator had just died. Fortunately, the previous owner had a lifetime warranty on the alternator. I got a "new" refurbished alternator for free and installed it myself. After only one week the battery light came on again - alternator dead again! I went to Kragen again and got (again) a "new" refurbished alternator for free (no questions asked) ; and I installed it myself, again. After I installed it I went to a garage and had the electrical system of the car checked thoroughly - no problem was found. This alternator was still working when I sold the car.

- after 9 months of ownership the battery died (it was old, though, and the previous owner told me about it). Replaced with a new one.

- after another month it refused to start. I found a disconnected wire in the engine compartment and it started immediately. The retaining tab of that plastic connector was simply too small to keep the wires together (bad design?). I put some electric tape there to keep it together.

- leaked oil all the time (not too much, though)

- rough paint everywhere

If it had not been for the valve job, I would say this could have been a pretty reliable car. It may have been my fault for that problem - it can be said that I abused the car. However, I abused my 1988 Dacia 1310 in Romania much harder and for much longer than this Buick, but no such serious problem occurred!

The stories with the alternators cannot be blamed entirely on the car (the electrical system was OK all the time). All three alternators were refurbished ones - and I really don't know how good they are. However, the original alternator died before I bought the car at only 40,000 miles (according to the service record of the car, as kept by previous owners) - and this is a serious reliability issue. All four alternators that have been on this car were manufactured by AC Delco (the refurbished ones were also AC Delco and had obviously been broken before being refurbished). Before moving to the US me and my family drove millions of kilometers on Romanian cars only (Dacia and Oltcit) and never ever *ever* had a problem with the alternators. Maybe AC Delco should learn from Electroprecizia Sacele how to build a reliable alternator.

The dead battery is more of a maintenance issue - it will eventually happen with any battery.

After the valve job I drove the car much more carefully and it almost redeemed itself - it cost me only $50 (the new battery) to keep that car running (ahhh, but those alternators...).

General Comments:

It is a slow car. The 2.5 l engine is simply not powerful enough to move such a big car. Acceleration is sluggish and merging on the freeway can be pretty scary sometimes. But the good thing about this engine is the fuel efficiency: about 25 mpg in the city and about 30 mpg on the freeway. For a car of the size of the Century this is really good. Oh, and I always put in it the cheapest gas in town.

The seats are very comfortable - I loved the bench in the front and the armrest was absolutely wonderful. But whose idea was it to make the seats non-reclining??? Buick is not an entry-level car, but reclining seats were available only as an option. Even my grandfather's 1966 Dacia 1100 had standard reclining seats...

The suspension of the car is very soft. This makes the ride very smooth and comfortable, but body roll in corners is significant. The power steering is overpowered and does not provide the driver with any feedback from the wheels (am I losing grip or not?). The automatic transmission shifts very smoothly and downshifts exactly when it is supposed to. I really liked the way the transmission worked.

The car has a shape that comes from another century - very outdated and kind of ugly. It looks older than it actually is and makes the people inside look older than they actually are. The ultimate girl repellent.

The interior of the car is also of a very outdated design - straight lines only! However, it is very practical. The materials used are sub-standard, especially the foam on the wheel is awful. The dash rattles on multiple tones when the engine is idling - not very well screwed together, it seems!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th May, 2002