Life of GM's 3800 V6.
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  1. #1
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    Life of GM's 3800 V6.

    Golden Oldie
    Flint-built engine is aging but still in the running
    FLINT
    THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
    Sunday, February 27, 2005
    By Todd Seibttseibt@flintjournal.com • 810.766.6315
    FLINT - Numbers don't lie.
    General Motors' 3.8-liter V-6 engine, built exclusively at GM Powertrain Flint North by members of UAW Local 599, is fading away, based on any objective measure.

    Since 1998, according to the closely watched and independent Harbour Report, GM has slashed production of the long-lived 3800 engine by about 32 percent, from nearly 800,000 engines a year to fewer than 542,000 in 2003, the latest year available.

    In that same time frame, nearly 300 jobs have evaporated from the engine line at Flint North, about 18 percent of the total.

    And the bleeding isn't over: One shift was cut last year, and some Flint North workers fear more cutbacks are looming.
    That's because the 3800 no longer will be the supercharged engine in Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo SS models, two high-volume sellers for GM that were given new designs and new engines for 2006.

    So, the 3800 is down - but don't count it out.
    The engine seems to have more lives than cylinders. It is now the base engine in the all-new 2006 Buick LaCrosse and Buick Lucerne.

    As recently as the North American International Auto Show in January, GM's powertrain czar, Tom Stephens, declined to write off the 3800.

    "I've been in too many of these discussions (about when the 3800 might go out of production)," Stephens said. "I've learned to keep my mouth shut."

    Two decades ago, people were saying the 3800 was on its last legs, Stephens noted. And yet it motors on.
    The sturdy 3.8-liter engine is a consumer favorite and industry award winner, and constantly has been updated over the years, making it a leaner, meaner, more efficient machine.

    But there is simply no denying the 3800's age. GM has been steadily phasing in more modern, adaptable and powerful engine designs, supplanting the steadfast 3800.

    The new kids on the engine block include the so-called "global" 3.6-liter V-6 to be built at a new facility attached to GM's Flint Engine South, at the corner of Van Slyke and W. Bristol roads.

    In contrast to the 3800, the new engine is almost a Mr. Potato Head power plant: Parts can be snapped and slapped onto it to transform its displacement and powertrain configuration for a wide variety of vehicles. GM is building it in 2.8 liter turbocharged trim, has turned out a concept 3.2-liter, and could build it as a 3.8-liter version, if it wanted.

    It can go front-wheel-, rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive. And it can be used in hybrids.
    The 3800, by comparison, is used to power front-wheel-drive cars, and comes in two basic flavors: Normal and supercharged.

    Don Wilson, shop chairman of Local 599 at GM Flint Powertrain North, acknowledges that the 3800 is approaching the end of the road - but it's not there yet.

    "As GM phases it out, and puts in newer-style engines, it's just going to eventually put us completely out of the business with the 3800 engine," Wilson said.

    That means that Local 599 officials and members have to work harder than ever to win new business, especially as a components supplier, feeding GM transmission, pistons and other parts.

    GM Flint Powertrain North, adjacent to the old Buick City, also includes a passel of component factories.
    The site has a high average seniority level, Wilson said. The majority of Local 599's members started working for GM in the 1970s, Wilson noted. Some autoworkers date to the 1960s, while some started as late as 2000, he added.

    They have proven that they can adapt to changes, from the International UAW and the corporation alike - even as they build high-quality products, Wilson said.

    Meanwhile, Wilson does see encouraging signs - like the "take rate" on the 3800 in the Buick LaCrosse. Many buyers are opting for the 3800 because it's less expensive than an uplevel 3.6-liter.

    And GM product experts say consumers are responding well to the 3800 in the LaCrosse, which they find quieter and more competent than they remembered. In addition, the base V-6 compares favorably with other cars in the class, which typically start with a less powerful four-cylinder engine.

    GM honchos haven't said when the 3800 will officially retire. Publicly, the automaker says the 3800 remains in production plans through 2009.

    Wilson said Local 599 will have a better idea of any potential production cuts about the middle of March, when GM conducts a "state of the business" meeting.

    But while Flint North dwindles, Flint South gains. A $300-million addition at South, which already builds 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engines for midsize sport utilities, should start building global V-6 engines in about a year. (South was built in 1999 for about $500 million.)

    At full production, the new V-6 addition will take about 350 workers, drawn from other area plants, GM says.
    There currently are about 765 employees at Flint South, where hourly workers are represented by UAW Local 659.
    South has been a significant success for GM, the UAW and Flint. The smooth and powerful 4200 has been named one of the world's best power plants four years running by Ward's AutoWorld.

    But a modern engine plant comes with a modern dilemma: It takes fewer souls to assemble a similar number of cylinders.
    For example, South's 765 hourly and salaried workers kicked out 468,936 engines in 2003, Harbour reported.
    At North, using much older equipment in a much older factory, it took 1,296 workers to build 541,908 engines, Harbour said.

    Which means in about a year, when both engine lines are humming at South, there will be about 1,100 workers building two completely different types of engines - nearly 200 fewer workers than North used to build a single engine type in 2003.

    South is not home free, though. Just last week, it announced about 75 indefinite layoffs to adjust volume to meet market demands.

    Ironically, the new Buick LaCrosse and Lucerne both offer the 3.6-liter engine as an upgrade. That engine at present is built at plants in Canada, Australia and Japan.

    So, theoretically, when South's 3.6-liter line ramps up, two Flint-built engines could one day be competing for the hearts and minds of modern Buick buyers.

    Not to mention the jobs of Flint-area residents.
    Plus, since you guys are so well liked by me, a brief history of said engine and what it's been in...though they left out the camaro for some reason...

    The 3800 family is a large V6 engine used by General Motors. The name refers to the 3.8 in bore of the cylinders, not the 3.8 L displacement of the most popular variant of the engine. The block is made of cast iron and all 3800s use 2-valve pushrod iron heads.

    The series began in 1962 with Buick's 198 in³ engine, the first V6 in an American car. Because it was derived from Buick's 215 in³ V8, it has a 90° bank between cylinders.
    1 Series I
    1.1 198

    The cast-iron 198 in³ Fireball Buick V6 was derived from their innovative aluminum 215 in³ V8. It debuted in the 1962 Buick Special.
    1.2 225

    The bore was increased to match the 340 in³ V8 for 1963, increasing displacement to 225 in³. Since the engine was similar to the popular small-block V8, the engine was made cheaply at the same factory with much of the same tooling.
    1.3 Dauntless

    In 1965, Kaiser began using the Buick 225 in Jeep CJs. It was known as the Dauntless 225 and used a much heavier flywheel than the Buick version for increased torque. Buick sold the tooling for this engine to Kaiser in 1967, as the demand for the little engine was waning steadily in an era of V8s and muscle cars. When American Motors bought Jeep, they began replacing the earlier engines with AMC designs, so the V6 was no longer needed.
    1.4 231

    The fuel crisis of the early 1970s prompted Buick to buy back the design in 1974 and re-introduce the V6 in certain models. The bore was enlarged to 3.8 in (thus the 3800 name) to match Buick's 350 in³ V8 for a total of 231 in³ displacement. The engine, as it had since its creation, had problems with roughness due to the uneven firing pattern inherent in this engine's design. In 1977 Buick devised an innovative redesign of the crankshaft, flywheel, and distributor which greatly alleviated the problem, creating a new even-firing version of the engine. Due to difficulties with the new fuel economy and emissions standards, the engine produced just 110 hp.

    This engine was used in the following vehicles:

    * 1975 Buick Skyhawk
    * 1975 Buick Apollo
    * 1975 Buick Century
    * 1975 Buick Regal
    * 1976 Buick LeSabre

    1.5 LD5

    In 1978, GM began to market the 231 as the 3.8 liter as metric engine sizes became common in the United States. The RPO Code was LD5, though California-emissions versions were called LC6. Starting in 1979, the engine was used in the front wheel drive Buick Riviera, though still with a longitundinal mounting. Larger valves and better intake and exhaust boosted the power output for 1979. Port fuel injection was added in 1984 and improved to sequential for 1986. A turbocharged version was introduced as the pace car at the 1976 Indianapolis 500, and a production turbo arrived in the 1979 Buick Riviera S Type.

    The turbo 3.8 was used in the following vehicles:

    * 1979-1985 Buick Riviera S Type
    * 1980-1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
    * 1980-1987 Buick Regal and Grand National
    * 1989 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo

    1.6 3.0

    A small 3.0 L version was produced for Buick's 1980s front wheel drive cars. Introduced in 1982, it was designed for transverse application in the new GM X platform cars like the Buick Skylark.

    1.7 4.1

    In response to rising gas prices, a larger 4.1 L version of the 3800 was briefly produced. This was found in many large rear wheel drive Buicks and even some Cadillacs.

    1.8 3800

    A supercharged 3800 installed in a Buick Riviera for 1995, the last year of Series I production. Power is 225 hp for this version.

    In 1986, the engine was modified for transverse-mounting in smaller, FWD vehicles. About this same time, the 3800 designation was introduced, and these engines would later be considered the Series I. This generation continued in use in several GM products, including Australian Holdens, into the 1990s. It produced 170 hp when it was replaced by the L36 in 1995.

    The turbocharged 1986 Buick Regal Grand National was called America's quickest automobile, and the model continues to be collected and appreciated today.

    The supercharged version appeared in 1992 on the Buick Park Avenue Ultra.
    1.9 3300

    A smaller 3.3 L 3300 was introduced in 1989.
    2 Series II

    Introduced in 1995, the Series II is quite a different engine. Although the stroke for the 3.8 L engine remained at 3.4 in (86.36 mm), and the bore remained at the eponymous 3.8 in (96.52 mm), the engine architecture was vastly changed. The piston connecting rods were 1 in (25.4 mm) shorter, so the crankshaft was redesigned. A new intake manifold improved breathing, and a new cylinder head had larger valves. The result was 205 hp and 230 ft.lbf, better fuel economy, and 26 lbs lighter overall weight.
    2.1 L36

    The L36 was the first Series II version of the 3800. It has a 96.52 mm bore and 86.36 mm stroke for 3.8 L (3791 cc) of displacement. Power is 200 hp (150 kW) and torque is 230 ft.lb (312 Nm). It was first introduced in 1995.

    This engine is or was used in the following vehicles:

    * Buick Park Avenue
    * Buick Le Sabre
    * Buick Regal
    * Buick Riviera
    * Chevrolet Impala
    * Chevrolet Lumina LTZ
    * Chevrolet Monte Carlo
    * Pontiac Bonneville
    * Pontiac Grand Prix

    2.2 L67

    The L67 is the supercharged version of the Series II L36 and appeared in 1996. Power is up to 240 hp (180 kW) and 280 ft.lb (380 Nm) of torque. The engine is built in Flint, Michigan. The engine was certified LEV in 2001.

    This engine is or was used in the following cars:

    * Buick Park Avenue
    * Buick Regal
    * Buick Riviera
    * 2004 Chevrolet Impala
    * 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
    * Pontiac Bonneville
    * -2003 Pontiac Grand Prix

    News reports have indicated that it will also be added to the SS versions of:

    * Chevrolet Monte Carlo
    * Chevrolet Impala

    3 Series III

    The Series III motors include many changes. The intake manifold is all-aluminum. Electronic throttle control is added, as is returnless fuel injection. Emissions are also reduced.
    3.1 L26

    The L26 is the Series III version of the 3800. It is still a 3.8 L design.

    This engine is used in the following vehicles:

    * 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix
    * Buick LaCrosse

    3.2 L32

    The L32 is a supercharged Series III.

    This engine is used in the following vehicles:

    * 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

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  3. #2
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    It's a great engine. I had one in my first car-1989 Buick Reatta, and while it was not as powerful as I like, it was the best, most reliable part of the car. I blew 3 transmissions on that car (the last prompting me to purchase my Passat) - it had 249,000 miles and I had only replaced the timing chain (electrical was another story with that car).

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    Reilable my ass...there was a big problem with the intake manifold in the late 90's. We're talking a $1200 job here. Went at 30K. We also had a company van that is an 01 just spend $600 to get the intake manifold gasket replaced. I think the general consensus is that is was a design flaw, but GM refuses to pay.

    It would seem that you are taking your changes with this engine because GM was not upfront about whether it was fixed or not.

    Just my critcal opinion...

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antoddio
    Reilable my ass...there was a big problem with the intake manifold in the late 90's. We're talking a $1200 job here. Went at 30K. We also had a company van that is an 01 just spend $600 to get the intake manifold gasket replaced. I think the general consensus is that is was a design flaw, but GM refuses to pay.

    It would seem that you are taking your changes with this engine because GM was not upfront about whether it was fixed or not.

    Just my critcal opinion...
    You're not taking your chances with this engine. There was a Recall about the warping, btw. They had to drill a few extra holes and add in some more bolts. Anyway, the design flaw was the plastic intake manifolds that everyone has been trying. Didn't work in dodge, doesn't work in ford, didn't work in GM, and GM went to a metal one again..aluminum to be exact. Anyway, the intake manifold gasket wasn't the issue. It was the plastic intake. What happened was, the coolant would eat away at the plastic, cause a small hole, and that would get bigger, and bigger, etc.

  6. #5
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    Remember I said the most reliable part of the car - this was a Buick Reatta after all. That said, I had no repairs with that engine, just maintenence. The tranny, however - ugh! What a piece of crap!

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    Quote Originally Posted by wheresjim
    Remember I said the most reliable part of the car - this was a Buick Reatta after all. That said, I had no repairs with that engine, just maintenence. The tranny, however - ugh! What a piece of crap!
    Well they fixed that!! 33% torque management on the 04+ GTP's...pisses me right off. That's ok. PCM retuning this summer will take care of THAT...and my transmission's life span...all at the same time lol

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    I am just sour on that engine because of the $1200 dollar bill after 30K miles. And the assurance by the tech that they put back on the same design part and it could happen again. $1200 ever 30K miles sucks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Onyx Dragon
    You're not taking your chances with this engine. There was a Recall about the warping, btw. They had to drill a few extra holes and add in some more bolts. Anyway, the design flaw was the plastic intake manifolds that everyone has been trying. Didn't work in dodge, doesn't work in ford, didn't work in GM, and GM went to a metal one again..aluminum to be exact. Anyway, the intake manifold gasket wasn't the issue. It was the plastic intake. What happened was, the coolant would eat away at the plastic, cause a small hole, and that would get bigger, and bigger, etc.
    BMW uses them (plastic manifolds) without issue

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by scotty_passat
    BMW uses them (plastic manifolds) without issue
    So does VW.

    Just, Germans aren't dumb enough to run coolant through plastic en route from the heads.

    The 3.3 is a great engine too. I was glad to see it mentioned.

    Also, I never knew the 4.1 V-6 was a Buick motor; I always thought it was a Chevy. That would make a great engine for a lot of things....

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharky
    So does VW.

    Just, Germans aren't dumb enough to run coolant through plastic en route from the heads.

    The 3.3 is a great engine too. I was glad to see it mentioned.

    Also, I never knew the 4.1 V-6 was a Buick motor; I always thought it was a Chevy. That would make a great engine for a lot of things....
    Exactly. The coolant was the issue. And yeah, 4.1 was a buick engine They made several engiens from the 3.8 Grand Am's even had a variant in them when they ran 3.3's for awhile.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antoddio
    I am just sour on that engine because of the $1200 dollar bill after 30K miles. And the assurance by the tech that they put back on the same design part and it could happen again. $1200 ever 30K miles sucks.
    Well, that's the incompetent tech's fault. Should have beat him with the manifold.

  13. #12
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    I give the american cars credit for building a nice ENGINE ONLY. Everything else might have problem but I know those engines are bullet proof.....well almost. But I guess I can't say too much since I drive a 1.8T.....hehe




    Josh

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