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'96 Century general project thread

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  • '96 Century general project thread

    Hey all. I figure it's probably time I start a proper project thread for my 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. I've done lots of things to it over the nearly three years I've owned the car, not all of which I have documented here. So I'll start at the beginning. As always, you may click on any image to enlarge it.

    February 28, 2013, I brought the car home, and immediately put it to work, assisting in moving from a small apartment to, for the first time in my children's lives, a house, with four bedrooms, a back yard, and a two car garage. Here is George with some new dressers.


    Five days later, the thermostat stuck closed and blew the upper radiator hose, which, in turn, popped the head gaskets.


    I spent the next ~5 months rebuilding the top end. You can find the thread here.


    Not long after, the rear brakes fell apart. I guess they didn't like having the parking brake engaged the entire time I was fixing the engine!

    Then, the transmission decided it would no longer shift out of park properly. If I put it in park, it would engage the pawl, but shifting out of park would engage the gear but leave the pawl stuck in place, so the car would not move! The only way to get it unstuck was to shift to neutral and rock the car back and forth until it popped free. It would also do that if I tried to shift from forward to reverse, so I essentially couldn't use reverse. Rather than do that every time, I just left it in neutral, set the parking brake, shut the engine off, yanked the key out of the worn-out ignition, and locked it up. If I wanted to go backward, I would have to push it myself.

    In March 2014 I picked up a junkyard transmission from a place in southern California, which was the closest I could find one. One thing people don't tell you about the '96 cars is that lots and lots of parts are one-year-only on them, including the transmission. It took me a couple months to save up the money for the fluid, filter, torque converter, and mounts needed to do the swap, but I did it over the course of a few days during Memorial Day weekend that year, with a little help from a couple friends and my dad.


    Here is a link to an album of all the pictures taken during the job. (I'm lazy and don't want to do all the markup for 130+ images at once.) (imgur is being shitty at the moment. will add a link later.) Now I could reverse again!

    Once that was done, I took it out to the drag strip to see what was what. It wasn't that great. I ran something like 18.34 @ 75 mph in the 1/4 mile, which is rather embarrassing, frankly. Me on the return road after racing a friend in his HHR, which ran 17.99.


    Video of our race (boring):
    https://youtu.be/ycPXb2L8lmI

    After that, things ran fairly smoothly. My legal courier job kept me quite busy, especially around Christmas when I had to pick up well over two hundred "gifts" from one of my clients to distribute to their clients.


    I also don't know how to properly install shocks.


    January 31, 2015 saw the procurement of 15 inch steel wheels and extra load tires, along with Cadillac Deville pie plate wheel covers, in preparation for a cross-country trip.


    I also had a trailer hitch and external transmission cooler installed, so I could tow a trailer full of my mother-in-law's stuff from Kansas back to Vegas.


    The car did amazingly well. It got 28 mpg on the way there, and 20 on the way back towing that trailer. I challenge any truck to get 20 mpg towing anything on the highway.

    George continued being awesome. Wagons gonna wag.


    Then in June someone stole the car from my own driveway. I recovered it a week and a half later, with a ruined steering column and ignition.



    Which brings us to today. I went to the junkyard today and got some small things.

    In their infinite wisdom, GM decided that the Century would use a strut to hold the hood up. These invariably fail after a decade, and you end up having to use a pole or ax handle or whatever to hold the hood up. The Cutlass Ciera, however, still used a proper hood prop.


    And it bolts right on to the Century header panel with no fuss, no muss. The Century hood doesn't have a dedicated hole specifically for a hood prop, but there's one that works well enough in the same general area.


    I also snagged this vacuum line.


    It goes from the back of the intake manifold to some tiny little line that ends up controlling the HVAC blend doors. The stock one was in terrible shape, and leaked like crazy. If I accelerated briskly, or had to climb a hill, the air would stop coming out of the front of the dash and instead blow out of the defrost vents.

    Original:


    New one installed. It's just to the right of the alternator and the power steering hard lines.


    Also, at some point, the ABS wiring on the front passenger side ripped itself apart.


    So I got a new wire.


    And put it on.


    Definitely worth the trip.
    Last edited by LeftVentricle; 11-02-2015, 04:21 PM.
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

  • #2
    This is a good why not topic, so you know I'll be reading and watching. There will be more to come right?
    95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
    High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
    Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

    Comment


    • #3
      Eventually, yes. I plan on doing some more stuff tomorrow, and will make a post.

      There is an upgrade path for these cars, believe it or not. Setting aside the obvious LX9 swap, suspension, steering and brake parts from the U platform vans bolt on without modification. I've already done one of what I like to call the Big Three, which is the van front sway bar, on the white wagon, but I picked up another bar yesterday at the yard, and will be installing it on the yellow sedan seen in my sig. I will document the swap here. It's not difficult at all.

      Other plans for this car include the aforementioned LX9 swap with some WOT-Tech goodies, like a torque cam and ported top end, a 3.33 transmission from Triple Edge to replace the stock 2.97, and a tuneable 1997 computer from Milzy.
      Last edited by LeftVentricle; 11-02-2015, 04:33 PM.
      Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
      Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
      Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

      Comment


      • #4
        For sure going to watching close now. Like the swap and also like small upgrades to make it a little better. It's much like the work that I've done and still have to do on my car. I'm happy with my 3.33FDR, but kind of wish I'd gone for the 3.43FDR(oh well).
        Can tell you that poly bushings on the sway do help, took years to just up and do it. No regrets and just a few head smacks for not doing it sooner. Is there a strut tower bar that works from another car?
        95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
        High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
        Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Purple pit View Post
          I'm happy with my 3.33FDR, but kind of wish I'd gone for the 3.43FDR(oh well).
          I've gone the other way, having a 3.33 re-chained to 3.73 in my old Celebrity, and I ended up not liking it. Even with the old 2.8 doing only 98 hp at the wheels, it would burnout quite easily, but my highway fuel economy suffered greatly. I went from a consistent 29-30 mpg down to 25-26, both at 65 mph. With a 3.33 and 25.5 inch tires, the engine will be spinning right at 2000 rpm at 65 mph, right in what I would consider the "sweet spot" for a 3500 with a torque cam.

          Originally posted by Purple pit View Post
          Can tell you that poly bushings on the sway do help, took years to just up and do it. No regrets and just a few head smacks for not doing it sooner.
          Would you happen to remember where you got poly bushings? I'm having trouble even finding regular rubber bushings for the bracket that bolts to the control arm for the '96 van bar I picked up. I can get some for the Century, but they apparently don't even exist for the Trans Sport.

          Originally posted by Purple pit View Post
          Is there a strut tower bar that works from another car?
          Not really. Someone over at a-body.net modified one of the C/H platform bars, but to my knowledge there isn't one specifically for the A-body.
          Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
          Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
          Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

          Comment


          • #6
            Was thinking that the Le Sabre strut tower bar would fit. Sounds like that is a no. On the bushings they were universal , links were on the shelf at Advance Auto and the frame to bar was from Summit(just had to find out the size in mm).

            Wow 3.73 is a bit much. Looks like you have the cruise RPM about right with the 3.33.
            95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
            High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
            Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

            Comment


            • #7
              Installing the U-body van sway bar on my '92 sedan ended up being a bust. I spent the better part of three hours fighting it, and ended up just throwing the stock bar back in. The bar-to-control-arm brackets just would not line up with the studs on the arms. I would get one side loosely bolted on, then the other would be 3/4" off. It wasn't a problem at all when I did the swap on this white wagon. I'm left scratching my head a little here.

              As for the van brakes, there is a laundry list of parts that one has to acquire. The majority of them can be bought new, but the steering knuckle, as far as I can tell, is NLA, so you have to get it from a 92-96 van at a junkyard. The brake components (pad, rotor, caliper) you buy new, specifying for the van. You can even get drilled and slotted rotors and carbon-ceramic pads if you want! Then you have to use van ball joints, tie rod ends, and rubber brake lines, since the stock car lines are about 5/8" too short. The hub must be used from the A-body car. Then it's just a matter of screwing everything together. Once you do though, you won't be able to use your stock 14" wheels anymore. You will have to move up to 15" at minimum.

              According to most sources I've found, the U-body van shares its front brakes with the C, E, F, G, H, and K platform cars. Year ranges vary, but it's generally mid-90s.

              Then there's the van struts. Someone over at a-body.net found that the van strut is the same physical size as the one for the car, but the damping is much stiffer, since the van that weighs something like 500 pounds more. Then you just bolt on the spring and mount from the car, and slap the whole thing back in to place. Using the van spring will raise the front of the car a bit, but I'm not sure how much.

              You can also use Lumina APV cargo van rear springs if you wanna stiffen up the rear. I don't plan on doing that anytime soon though.
              Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
              Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
              Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

              Comment


              • #8
                Going to say that the van springs will raise the front a bit too much. The only other thing you can do with springs is have a spring shop test the stock ones. Then they can try and make some replacements or a bit stiffer springs(if later you would like to have the APV rears). The brake upgrade would be a great idea as newer cars have much better brakes and stop much shorter.

                Not sure what is going on with the sway. Some sort of change between the years?
                95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
                High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
                Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Purple pit View Post
                  Not sure what is going on with the sway. Some sort of change between the years?
                  I don't rightly know either. You may be right. The white wagon is a '96, while the yellow sedan is a '92, and I got the bar from a '96. I don't really see GM changing the positioning of the sway bar mounting studs for no reason. I think the control arms are even shared between car and van. But no big deal. The stock one bolted back in.
                  Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
                  Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
                  Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Guessing that you don't have end links on these cars.
                    95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
                    High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
                    Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No. End brackets bolt directly to the control arms. Phone posting right now. I'll post a picture later.

                      EDIT: Click for larger.
                      Last edited by LeftVentricle; 11-05-2015, 10:23 PM.
                      Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
                      Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
                      Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Wild, almost looks like a rear bar.
                        95 Beretta 3100 with 3400 intakes and TCE TB
                        High flow cat and a Magnaflow muffler
                        Grand Prix trans with 3.33FDR

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          w-bodies are similar in that they also bolt directly to the control arm. that looks like the bottom side of the control arm though?
                          1995 Monte Carlo LS 3100, 4T60E...for now, future plans include driving it until the wheels fall off!
                          Latest nAst1 files here!
                          Need a wiring diagram for any GM car or truck from 82-06(and 07-08 cars)? PM me!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It is the bottom of the control arm. The A-body also does not have a rear sway bar. Addco makes one. It requires holes be drilled in the body to install it.
                            Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
                            Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
                            Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Bad tidings with the white wagon. A few weeks ago, the transmission started slipping very badly while driving. Within a half mile, it had gone out of gear completely. A quick under-hood inspection showed large amounts of trans fluid had leaked out, and splashed about the driver's side of the engine bay, the subframe, the inner CV, the underside of the car, and the exhaust. I got the car home, and was so angry that I just left it there on the street in front of my house. After putting it off for going on three weeks, I finally just broke down and crawled under it to find out the cause of the enormous transmission leak. Click for larger, please.



                              As some of you may recall, earlier in the year, I took a trip to Kansas and towed a trailer full of my mother-in-law's stuff back to Las Vegas. Naturally, I had a hitch and external transmission cooler installed by U-Haul at the same time. The image above is the meeting between the stock trans cooler line and the hose going to the external cooler. What appears to have occurred is the metal tube joining the two hoses popped out, and the trans oil pump dutifully pumped most of the fluid onto the street while I was driving. As you can see, the end of the metal tube is not flared, so the hose clamp had nothing to hang on to. What's surprising is that it lasted this long.

                              I brought this to the attention of the manager of the U-Haul store. He was skeptical at first when I showed him that picture, but when I removed the hose from the car and presented it to him, he was incredibly accommodating. Since he is not a mechanic, he said to take the metal bit to a shop and have it flared (I don't own a flaring tool) and bring him the receipt, and I will be recompensated. I did just that, but the flared end ended up being too large to fit back in the rubber hose. I then went to a hardware store and purchased a barbed fitting, 5/16" on each end, which solved the whole leak problem.

                              It took six quarts to bring the fluid back to a useable level. I have driven the car about 40 miles, including steady highway cruising, and it seems to be mostly okay. However, I believe it may have sustained some damage in this whole thing. The shift from first to second is not the same as it was before. It slips more, behaving much like the old transmission this one replaced did. I considered adding some Lucas additive this morning, but the fluid level is good, and I don't want to overfill it.

                              I asked the U-Haul manager what steps we would need to take if damage had occurred to my transmission. His response was that "U-Haul Legal" would then have to be involved. I think U-Haul Legal may have to be involved.
                              Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 213-SFI. 182k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
                              Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 108k miles. Will be the wife's car soon.
                              Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for the L27.

                              Comment

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