I just purchased my 95 Grand Am a few months back, and just got done trying to repair it with no luck.
When I bought it, it was overheating to about 220 degrees; not too high, but enough to back it up into the reservoir and make it overflow. I was told it was the water pump so I replaced it. Then I replaced the thermostat and still no luck.
I got tired of playing the guessing game, so I rebuilt the whole top end, head gasket and up. And to my amazement it still overheats! Now could a clogged heater core be my problem? I checked the radiator and it seems to be flowing OK (I did this out of the car with a hose). I am totally confused on what it could be, and quite frankly I am tired of working on it already, but I do like the car. I only bought it for 300 and only put about $100 into it. Any suggestions? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks.
1995 Grand Am, 3100 V6 - Lessons Learned:
Diagnosing spiking temperature/overheating problem. Start the engine when cold, and as the engine starts to come up to temperature, shine a bright light against the side of the coolant reservoir (works better if it's dark outside). If you see air bubbles streaming back into the reservoir at the area where the small hose enters, this is a good indicator of a head gasket leak. The kind where the air under compression in one or possibly more cylinders is forced past a weak spot in the head gasket and into the cooling system. Consider that cooling systems at temperature run at about 17 psi, and cylinder pressure is a minimum of about 150 psi. With this type of leak it is unlikely that you will see any oily residue in the coolant or coolant in the oil. What you will get however is a big slug of air in your cooling system that will cause engine overheating.
You can also identify this by turning the heater and fan on high in the panel position, and when the engine shows it is overheating, the dash vents will be blowing cooler air or the heat will seem to just go away as the engine temp spikes.
If you rev the engine in neutral, it may force the slug of air/overheated coolant through the cooling system, but this is only temporary. The head gasket and possibly even a cracked head that can occur from repeated episodes of overheating will have to be replaced.
I bought a 95 Grand Prix, and it has been good. 116,000 miles for $650. Good gas mileage. I have a foreign car too, that has more issues, and uncomfortable to sit in for long periods. The Grand Prix is very comfy, and I enjoy driving it.
Repairs I have made; normal brakes, serpentine belt as a precaution, fluids. I re-filled the A/C with refrigerant that turned the compressor on - and have had A/C ever since. Now the bearing went out on the A/C compressor. That is the biggest problem I have had. New bearings, 27, replacing it, hard.
I have a 95 Grand Am SE. Bought it in 2000.
Replaced battery and alternator (after jumping starting another vehicle).
I replaced the oil every 3000 km, do coolant flush once a year, regular tune-up and maintenance.
The car is now 14 years old. This car has been wonderful up to now.
In the last little while, the passenger windows don't want to go up (apparently the tracks like to bend so we can fix that).
A rattle has developed under the hood, which is supposed to be the compressor bearings that need tightening - 2 minute job.
A leak has developed where water is on the driver's side door. I will be putting silicone sealant around the windshield rubber and checking for rust holes.
I replaced a coil last month because of poor running after 80 km an hour. Engine runs great after that.
Yesterday my signals stopped working, so we will be checking the multifunction switch on the steering column as well as fuses.
I do confess that in the morning when I back up, there is a grinding noise in the rear brakes (dirt getting in there?). Goes away in a couple of brake applications.
A lot of these problems are manufacturer's stuff, but a lot of new cars are developing problems too. I have a friend who dumped a 2005 Volvo because every time it went in for a warranty oil change, it cost 1000. If you pay 500-1000 for a vehicle, expect at least that in immediate repairs. That's the way it goes.
Hey, I bought my 1995 Pontiac Grand Am 2.3 16 valve DOHC quad 4. My car has 112,687 miles on it, haven't had any problems but overheat and leaking anti-freeze, and it was only a 35 dollar fix. It was an O-ring thermostat and thermostat housing!!!
One giant thing to watch for is the heater hose, heater core coolant circuit. GM redesigned how coolant flows through these engines (2.3 Quad Fours). If you start to experience an overheat problem and it seems to get worse with the heater/defroster on, which should actually help cool the engine in this case, it could be a plugged heater core.
My car would run fine, then the temperature would creep up until the gauge was just shy of the red area. At this time the engine would get sluggish, but strangely if you would then downshift and start to drive it like you stole it, the temperature would drop back to normal, then start to creep up once again.
What is happening is the thermostat has got to have coolant supplied to it that gets circulated through the heater core. Once your heater core plugs, this circuit is defeated, and your thermostat basically goes brain dead and doesn't know what to do. If you pound on the car hard, the water pump will force enough water through the defeated circuit to activate the opening sequence and voila! The temp drops immediately.
I am afraid to wonder how many mechanics replaced heads, head gaskets, water pumps, radiators and so-forth, only to have the poor suckers paying the bills for repairs that did not need to be done, and worst of all, still had the same problems as before they shelled out tons of money.
Ironically I made the same mistakes as a lot of mechanics made, but I figured it out prior to pulling the head to check for cracks or a head gasket issue. The biggest single factor that convinced me as to it not being a head gasket or crack, was I had no indication of air bleeding back into the coolant reservoir or external coolant leaks or any oil coolant slug issues.
I replaced the radiator first, did not help, thermostat was replaced right before I got it, thought maybe it was installed upside down, but it wasn't, Ran some (snake oil) coolant leak repair fluid through it, another $50 thrown out the window. Could hear a gurgling noise coming from the dash and a smell of something hot, but never any dripping of coolant under dash, although the carpet was wet, another common problem!
So finally the weekend came that I was dreading, down to the auto parts store to get my parts, new heater core was about $35.00, not too bad, lower hose another $40.00 or so, pretty expensive I thought, upper hose about $14.00 then the heater hose assembly / valve system, $78 bucks, holy crap!!! I thought at the time... But guess what... It fixed it, no more sporadic overheat condition, great window defrost heat now, great floor heat and a steady temperature gauge, just clicked off another 29+mpg... no payments, and I will run her for another couple of years.
Again, most mechanics are misdiagnosing the overheat condition, and by thinking it's what you would normally assume, are costing people a tremendous amount of cash outlay for nothing. That is just WRONG! I do not make my living as a mechanic, but I think many mechanics dive into this issue without doing their homework first. I hope this helps everyone out.
My car is a 1995 Grand Am SE 2.3 quad four 5 speed.
Grand Am's have a problem with the firewalls rusting through. This will eventually affect your steering rack too.
You sound like you know what you are talking about with this car, and I've had the same problems with windows etc, but when it rains, my floors get flooded? Hoping it could be something simple. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Just finished repairing the rusted out firewall sheet metal on my 1995 Pontiac Grand Am.
Both the driver's side and passenger side had completely rusted away, leaving a wide open space for water to enter the vehicle and soak the carpeting.
Had to remove all carpet, floor pan deadners, firewall deadner, center console, heater core and related dash parts in order to install new sheet metal. Not a fun job and lots of time spent.
I wouldn't worry about some rust here or there. Any vehicle that's almost 20 years old is bound to have some rust. Just be careful not to off road it too much and get water splashed up on the underbody.