1992 Chevrolet Lumina: Fantastic car, except for alternator and brakes
I bought my '92 Lumina Euro 3.4 in November of '92, and I still have it 17+ years later. The car was previously used by the Minnesota Twins baseball team. I got the car with about 6,000 miles and six months of use on it already. I achieve between 25 and 26 mpg at a steady (cruise controlled) 80 mph on flat ground. The 3.1 might get better mileage still.
The car now has 119,000 miles on it. Aside from routine maintenance of fluids and filters (such as oil changes every 6,000 miles using synthetic oil) it has needed two replacement alternators (one of two "real" engineering problems with the vehicle); three replacement timing belts (but one of those belts was improperly installed by the dealership and only lasted 20,000 miles--it should have gone 60,000--so that's a dealership problem not a vehicle problem); a trunk light; a power window switch; a "multifunction" switch on the steering column; two exterior door handles; two sets of spark plugs; an oxygen sensor; a thermostat; one set of four tires; a set of intake manifold gaskets; and the worst issue of all: THE BRAKES. The front rotors can warp with ONE hard stop from high speed. Warped rotors result in brake pedal pulsation, steering wheel shake, and a "shudder" feeling when braking. The only cure is to resurface or replace the front rotors, and this I have done many times. Another issue with brakes is the power booster unit. The booster can partially fail, requiring high pedal effort to stop.
The alternator problem would not be an issue with the 2.5 engine or the 3.1 engine. The alternator is mounted in an accessible spot on those engines--the alternator itself is not too expensive, and on those engines the labor charge is not too bad either. The alternator is cleverly hidden low and to the rear of the 3.4 engine, though, and the labor charge is incredibly high to replace it. If you aren't buying a 3.4 liter engine, don't worry about the alternator.
Aside from the brakes and alternator this has been a WONDERFUL car. Don't let the number of replacement items I've listed scare you away--please remember that this is 15 years worth of repairs!
I would not--and did not--hesitate to buy another 90--93 Lumina--although I cannot recommend the 2.5 liter engine--it's just too gutless. The 3.1 is a nice unit; I prefer the performance and suspension upgrades of the 3.4-engined vehicles.
I did in fact buy a '93 Lumina Euro 3.4 almost exactly like my '92 about four years ago. Aside from brakes and maintenance it too has been a GREAT car. (149,000 miles total; I've put on almost 40,000 of those miles.)
There is often a "ticking" noise on the 3.4 engine--especially cold--and GM has a service bulletin for repairing it that involves the oil supply to the camshafts, but the parts are discontinued. The noise is an annoyance and does not "need" to be repaired--there's no actual harm being done.
Another known issue is intake manifold gaskets which leak coolant "out" and/or air "in" to the engine. My '92 needed those gaskets replaced--the '93 had that service done before I bought it.
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