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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello all! First post, new member. (sorry in advance.)
2009 Malibu Engine 4-146 2.4L
Mileage 145k
Based out of Houston, Texas, Suburban area.

So I just got handed the vehicle by a friend who decided it was too much trouble to service the vehicle. He paid a low sum for it initially, and gave up on it in less than a year - doesn't help that a local mechanic quoted him 3k+ to "repair" it.

To my infinite regret, I know nothing about the vehicle's history. It was secondhand when my friend bought it, and that guy knew nothing about it either. Maintenance history is a complete unknown. I'll know more about the condition of the vehicle in the coming days as I evaluate and breakdown suspect components.

I apologize in advance for throwing out a lot of info, but this seems to be the most prudent way of addressing multiple issues without reviving years-dead threads. I have searched the forum and found quite a few people having similar issues, which is both a relief, and a bit worrisome. I acquired the car, after weeks of discussion, this evening. I will begin the deep-dive tomorrow and see what I can come up with. I have strong doubts regarding a local mechanic's diagnosis - more on that later. Thanks for stopping by!

First and foremost - the reason they have given up on the car is due to two engine codes that popped up after the vehicle abruptly lost power and shut off. Upon restart, it generated codes p0014 and p0013; both relating to the VVT solenoids, as near as I can tell. With respect to this issue: the mechanic told them (without inspecting the timing chain, mind you) that the chain needed replacing, along with both solenoids. I performed some research on these codes and learned from other posts on the forum (please, correct me if my info is bad!) that the VVT solenoids rely on oil pressure and flow to perform their job correctly. I only checked the oil level after driving it ten miles to my home and discovered that it is greatly overfilled. Definitely all oil, no coolant leakage or indications of a head gasket failure. Would overfilled oil cause these codes, and if so, can it also cause damage to these solenoids? I Cannot determine how delicate / sensitive they are. --- Vehicle drove perfectly fine on my maiden voyage. Engine shakes a bit, almost like a slight misfire. Beyond that, I have seen little evidence to indicate a loose timing chain. More puzzling is a note from the mechanic: "Oil leaking from everywhere." ... I did not see even a drip on the bottom of that engine. Hmmmm. Anyways, any input here is appreciated.

Next up, same mechanic says the a/c compressor is shot. I'll perform some tests tomorrow and try to gauge if he overfilled it to intentionally induce failure, which is a common tactic around here. The system is certainly holding pressure, but without my full kit I was not able to get true pressure readings.

And now we get into the really fun bits.. First: Electrical issues with the door locks (I found a post here detailing common issues relating to leakage into the switches themselves, as well as a possibility that the door open/close circuit is shorting out.) The door locks cycled constantly as long as there was a charge in the battery. This constant cycling kills the battery in a day or two. I pulled the fuse for the door locks, as well as the onstar system just for grins, and both of these fuses show evidence of heat damage. At least, that is my interpretation of the discolored contacts, edged in black. This discoloration was not seen on any of the other fuses I pulled.

Next up for electrical issues is the low-beams. Fuses came back fine. The relay clicks as if it is cycling (at least, receiving) power on/off, but I cannot get at the bulbs. Trying to make sense of what I am seeing in some places... Do I really have to remove the bumper to get at the headlights?? Friend states that they changed both bulbs after they stopped working, to no avail. Hi-Beams work, DRLs and low beams do not. All other lights - signals, brakes, reverse, all work. Any suggestions here are greatly appreciated. Hunting down gremlins is the bane of my existence. After having to build a wiring harness for my '82 motorcycle -from scratch- I swore off electrical troubleshooting. Persistent, yes. Patient, no.

All that out of the way, I am really looking forward to driving this car. The short trip endeared me to it quite a lot - very comfortable, better handling than my other vehicles, very responsive acceleration. I have a special place in my heart for chevy's - I still drive my old work truck, an '01 Silverado 2500hd with 8.1L engine. 380K miles, split about evenly with my padre, and still going.. well, not exactly strong, but it's going ;)

Any info, guidance, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. If someone knows a way to regulate power to those headlights, please point me in the right direction. I see many folks here, and elsewhere, who claim that their bulbs blow for no apparent reason, well within the expected lifetime of the bulbs. My only experience with power regulation was to install a series of resistors on a vehicle with vaguely similar issues. In that instance, I was provided with step-by-step details, as well as the exact resistor needed to remedy the problem. Again, automotive electrical work isn't my strongest area.

I know it's my first post, and I am sorry for the wall of text right out the gate. Happy to be here - this forum is already proving to be a treasure trove of useful info. Thanks, everyone.
 

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Sounds like a flood car. It doesn't take much water, BCM is in the bottom of the console.
You need a manual to diagnose it properly, I use alldatadiy.com for a online factory style complete manual for my fleet. Worth the fee .
Yeah bumper cover has to come off to access headlight bulbs.
 

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09 Malibu, 2.4L Engine, 6T40 Transmission, LT Package - Retired Fleet Vehicle
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sounds like a flood car. It doesn't take much water, BCM is in the bottom of the console.
You need a manual to diagnose it properly, I use alldatadiy.com for a online factory style complete manual for my fleet. Worth the fee .
Yeah bumper cover has to come off to access headlight bulbs.
Cheers, I spent several hours this evening trying to find a manual online. It looks like I can get a Haynes manual pretty cheap, do you recommend that for this vehicle or is it garbage? I've had some bad luck with chilton-haynes, I just like being able to carry it around and have something tangible in front of me.

That said, I assume alldata lets me print pages? If so, based on your recommendation that might be the way to go.

I had just finished reading a post about the headlights that confirmed it for me... it did at least provide a handy youtube link for an 'easy' way to go. We shall see! And I thought Ford cornered the market on inconvenient designs...

Also, I was afraid someone would say flood damage... Harvey was unkind to many vehicles. God, I hope it's not flood damage...
 

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Alldata has zoom and print options on their diagrams also. I use it when needed instead of having my laptop on top of the motor.
I have a subscription for all the vehicles in my fleet listed in my signature line.
 

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2016 Malibu 1LT 1.5T/6-speed 6T40
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Alldatadiy also has a total new redesign for new subscriptions that is wonderful. I have the "classic" for a few cars and argued my way to transfer to the "new" and it has even more info and newer pics. Price went up a bit but so much better than a Haynes manual.
 

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09 Malibu, 2.4L Engine, 6T40 Transmission, LT Package - Retired Fleet Vehicle
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Alldatadiy also has a total new redesign for new subscriptions that is wonderful. I have the "classic" for a few cars and argued my way to transfer to the "new" and it has even more info and newer pics. Price went up a bit but so much better than a Haynes manual.
That's good to hear, I guess that clears that up! Thanks guys, I'll check it out. For now, I am going to crash. Should not have spent all night chasing forum threads and reading fixes for problems I don't likely have. I'll likely update tomorrow when I know more about the status of the car.

I'm going to look very carefully for signs of flood damage. I am not enthusiastic about my prospects if this thing was underwater.

Cheers
 

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2011 Malibu LTZ 3.6L V6 Red Jewel Tintcoat
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For the headlights, here's my take on what to do and get it done in the least amount of time:
  • Swap the low beam relay with the high beam relay. If the low beam turns on, replace relay.
  • If only 1 low beam turns on, swap the 2 low beam fuses. If the other one turns on, replace the bad fuse.
If you still have no low beams:
  • Drop bumper to ground with bottom-center fasteners still attached, or remove it completely - your choice.
  • Remove two 10mm bolts in headlight housing, push down, then toward front of vehicle to un-snap it from the car.
  • Unplug the low beam on one side, turn the headlights to low, and use a test light or voltmeter to determine if you get power to the bulb or not.
  • If no power is present, disconnect master plug at housing and test for power to any pins.
    • There should be power to low beam and parking light, so 2 pins should have power.
  • Turn off low beams but leave parking lights on.
    • Test again for power to those 2 pins, noting which one is now "dark". That is the low beam.
    • You now can look between the master plug and the low beam pigtail for the issue.
  • If there is still no power to the low beams at the master plug, The issue is between it and the fuse box.
    • Look for rodent activity or overlooked electrical issues after body repairs.
    • At the fuse box, find the 2 wires for the low beams and test for power.
      • If present, cut the wire and run a new wire to the master plug.
      • If no power, disassemble the fuse box and look for issue internally.
I've attached electrical diagrams for a 2008, but it's still a Gen7 and I have used them to modify my 2009, first 2011, and second 2011. Very few changes between them.

If you drop the bumper, once you get power to the low beam pigtails, consider replacing the low beams, turn signals, and side markers. High beams pretty much last forever due to very little use, but those others are just as inconvenient to replace, so "while you're in there" seems to be a good idea.
 

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09 Malibu, 2.4L Engine, 6T40 Transmission, LT Package - Retired Fleet Vehicle
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For the headlights, here's my take on what to do and get it done in the least amount of time:
  • Swap the low beam relay with the high beam relay. If the low beam turns on, replace relay.
  • If only 1 low beam turns on, swap the 2 low beam fuses. If the other one turns on, replace the bad fuse.
If you still have no low beams:
  • Drop bumper to ground with bottom-center fasteners still attached, or remove it completely - your choice.
  • Remove two 10mm bolts in headlight housing, push down, then toward front of vehicle to un-snap it from the car.
  • Unplug the low beam on one side, turn the headlights to low, and use a test light or voltmeter to determine if you get power to the bulb or not.
  • If no power is present, disconnect master plug at housing and test for power to any pins.
    • There should be power to low beam and parking light, so 2 pins should have power.
  • Turn off low beams but leave parking lights on.
    • Test again for power to those 2 pins, noting which one is now "dark". That is the low beam.
    • You now can look between the master plug and the low beam pigtail for the issue.
  • If there is still no power to the low beams at the master plug, The issue is between it and the fuse box.
    • Look for rodent activity or overlooked electrical issues after body repairs.
    • At the fuse box, find the 2 wires for the low beams and test for power.
      • If present, cut the wire and run a new wire to the master plug.
      • If no power, disassemble the fuse box and look for issue internally.
I've attached electrical diagrams for a 2008, but it's still a Gen7 and I have used them to modify my 2009, first 2011, and second 2011. Very few changes between them.

If you drop the bumper, once you get power to the low beam pigtails, consider replacing the low beams, turn signals, and side markers. High beams pretty much last forever due to very little use, but those others are just as inconvenient to replace, so "while you're in there" seems to be a good idea.
Thank you very much - I am going to wait for a break in the rain to begin switching relays and fuses. I'm getting periodic cloudbursts today. Short but fierce.

Thank you for the info; saving this to print out later so I can add it to my folder for this car. Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, I had a brief respite from the rain and went after it with a voltmeter. I checked fuses 7 and 9, for the 2 low-beam lights. The following readings return the same for both hi-beam relay swap and the original low-beam relay.

Fuse 7 returns a healthy 11.98v (engine off.) Fuse 9 returns 6.86v.

Regrettably I am being called on for assistance - I and my shovel are needed elsewhere. I will have to resume my tests and investigation later. It was a good three minutes while it lasted. I'll puzzle over why I get roughly half the expected voltage at that light. Makes no sense to me if power delivery through the relay is healthy. I'll test the relay socket next...

Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
All right... I was able to get the bumper off and pull the lights in between fits of rain.

Both low-beams are blown, and the plug for the left-side shows evidence of overheating; melted plastic stuck to the harness-side connection in addition to a heat-discolored terminal on the bulb. I rigged up a connection for a 55w 12v spare and ran it at idle for a moment. I can see the light visibly 'surge' for very brief moments.

Raining again, was trying to get a video of that happening.

Thoughts on what may cause power fluctuations? May be worth noting that the original Lo-Beam relay is in place.

Cheers!
 

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I've never been a fan of the small wiring GM decided to use for the lights and so many other high-amperage circuits. Size matters. Larger conductors suffer less voltage drop over any distance.

If I had kept the halogen bulbs in my 2011, I was planning to add my own pair of relays, one for low and one for high, with 12 or 14 gauge wire from the battery to the new relays, and from the relays to the headlights.

Instead, I reduced the current by switching to LEDs and haven't looked back. (Pun intended. ;)) The LEDs consume about half the current that the halogens do and provide a much better light source for driving. If you're interested, I'll share what I'm using.

The alternator's output is controlled by the BCM, which might be part of the surging, but probably not. Look for good connections for both power and ground from the alternator to the battery. Its output is routed to the starter motor, then gets to the battery via the large starter cable. "Good connections" mean clean as well as tight. Grounds included. Everywhere: battery to chassis, chassis to engine (multiple), and battery to engine if possible.
 

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Melted headlight housing sounds like someone used that silverstar high output garbage.

P0013 and P0014 just mean the car needs new VVT solenoid actuators. Buy the ACDelco brand. The cheap aftermarket ones are junk parts and will fail again rapidly (if not immediately).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Instead, I reduced the current by switching to LEDs and haven't looked back. (Pun intended. ;)) The LEDs consume about half the current that the halogens do and provide a much better light source for driving. If you're interested, I'll share what I'm using.

The alternator's output is controlled by the BCM, which might be part of the surging, but probably not. Look for good connections for both power and ground from the alternator to the battery. Its output is routed to the starter motor, then gets to the battery via the large starter cable. "Good connections" mean clean as well as tight. Grounds included. Everywhere: battery to chassis, chassis to engine (multiple), and battery to engine if possible.
Actually, yes - please! I was just sitting down to begin the process of researching LED upgrade for the head lights. Your guidance would be greatly appreciated. On that note - are the headlight lenses, the housings themselves, designed to direct and focus light appropriately? I have a difficult time putting this into words, I will try my best to explain. EU model vehicles (and more and more US models) use a specially designed lens to prevent light scattering, as well as to focus it at the ground. Generally this creates a light spread with a visible 'cutoff' if you direct your lights at a nearby wall. I have managed to track them down for all my previous early model vehicles, but I am very new to the scene with the malibu and as such I am completely unfamiliar with these systems.

Edit: Projector housings! That's what they're called...
Melted headlight housing sounds like someone used that silverstar high output garbage.


P0013 and P0014 just mean the car needs new VVT solenoid actuators. Buy the ACDelco brand. The cheap aftermarket ones are junk parts and will fail again rapidly (if not immediately).
Ah... Well, it's good to hear that you don't suspect some other malicious grelmin lurking elsewhere. That's a relief. I'm planning on going back in with LEDs. The trick will be finding a 'plug and play' setup that does not require the use of resistors to fool the computer. Do you happen to know if this is something I can easily get away with?

Indeed, my reading on the topic of -0013 and 14 seems to suggest as much. I was hoping it was as simple as an oil change and correct oil level... I can't find much info on the exact dynamic between the oil level and pressure and how it affects the solenoids. As previously stated, the oil is current overfilled.

I am curious about that combination of codes. To your knowledge, do they often appear paired like that? A local mechanic used his "intuition," to put it generously, and told the previous owners the timing chain needed to be replaced. I'm going to be doing a deep-dive and teardown, so I may as well replace the timing chain anyways... right? Or is this one of those situations where I need to leave well enough alone?



Cheers folks, thanks much for the info and input!
 

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The LEDs I've used and found to have a nice cut-off line are equally capable.

Of the two, I would buy the Morimoto again, but not from Headlight Revolution or The Retrofit Source. Why, you ask?

I bought the 9007 version of the Morimoto 3.0 for my Xterra. They have the fan recirculating the air on the inside of the housing rather than the outside. They are designed with an adapter ring to go into the housing and then the bulb inserts into that. The adapter ring allowed the bulb to wallow around in the housing and did not properly locate the bulb. I contacted HR and they said to try their red-neck fix by using the o-ring from the original halogen bulbs since it was thicker. Still no joy. So they told me to return them, which I did, and they kept 20% of my money!

"Hold on!" I told them. I opened only one box and never plugged in the bulb I had tested! I merely tried fitting it into the housing and discovered that it was not suitable for use. The design is defective (for the 9007, anyhow), and since I never opened the second box, it is still in the retail packaging and they could pawn that off on the next unsuspecting customer. They decided to return half of the 20%, making it so they kept "only" 10% of my money. I told them that since it was not suitable for use, it wasn't that I didn't want them, but that they were defective. They did not listen, so I'm voting with my money and buying elsewhere.

Those two companies are one and the same. I know that because my refund came from TRS, not HR.

"GTR" is an in-house brand for HR, and therefore for TRS as well.

So, if you can find them, buy the low beam H11 and high beam H9 LEDs elsewhere. Both brands have a small module inline between the bulb and the plug.

FIRST CHOICE:
Morimoto 2 Stroke 2.0 — see that cap on the end? That's just a representative image. It isn't there on the H11/H9.

71375




LAST CHOICE:
GTR Ultra

71376
 

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I only use fanless LED's . Currently only using them in fog lights in my automotive fleet. I prefer HID for the better matched beam pattern in halogen housings.
Ran them in my old '09 and my '15 low beams.
Beamtech LED in one of my snowmobiles needed resistors to get the high/low to function properly. They did step up and sent me the kit to correct the issue though.
Only went with LED there as they are H4 and the HID are the ones with the ''shutters'' for high/low and can't find any good bulbs or ballasts anymore.
 

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Indeed, my reading on the topic of -0013 and 14 seems to suggest as much. I was hoping it was as simple as an oil change and correct oil level... I can't find much info on the exact dynamic between the oil level and pressure and how it affects the solenoids. As previously stated, the oil is current overfilled.

I am curious about that combination of codes. To your knowledge, do they often appear paired like that? A local mechanic used his "intuition," to put it generously, and told the previous owners the timing chain needed to be replaced. I'm going to be doing a deep-dive and teardown, so I may as well replace the timing chain anyways... right? Or is this one of those situations where I need to leave well enough alone?
It's entirely possible the previous owner just continued driving after the first solenoid failed and the second one caught up to it. The VVT solenoid actuators are wear and tear items on the 2.4L engine, you can change them in the driveway in 20 minutes.

Change the oil to something good like Mobil 1 and change the VVT solenoid actuators and see where you are. That's low cost maintenance that could put you well on the way to sorting the car out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The LEDs I've used and found to have a nice cut-off line are equally capable.

Of the two, I would buy the Morimoto again, but not from Headlight Revolution or The Retrofit Source.

So, if you can find them, buy the low beam H11 and high beam H9 LEDs elsewhere. Both brands have a small module inline between the bulb and the plug.
Thank you very much! I have seen the name Morimoto before, never used their product. This looks very promising. I am truly sorry to hear about the issues you had with the vendor... That sort of thing makes me quite angry.

I only use fanless LED's . Currently only using them in fog lights in my automotive fleet. I prefer HID for the better matched beam pattern in halogen housings.
Ran them in my old '09 and my '15 low beams.
Beamtech LED in one of my snowmobiles needed resistors to get the high/low to function properly. They did step up and sent me the kit to correct the issue though.
Only went with LED there as they are H4 and the HID are the ones with the ''shutters'' for high/low and can't find any good bulbs or ballasts anymore.
Interesting - I have been avoiding HIDs due to the alleged scattering of blinding light; if you're running a fleet with them, it would seem the problem has been exaggerated... Have you had issues with overheating, lens discoloration, or - well, any issues with your HID setup? I will return HID to the table for consideration.
When I shopped HID/LED for my last two cars I found some info that discouraged me from pursuing HIDs including: short emitter liftetimes, very high temperatures, heat damage to lenses and housings, uncontrolled high-power light emissions blinding other drivers, etc.

Out of curiosity, what's the reason for your preference to fanless LEDs?

Cheers, thank you for your input!

It's entirely possible the previous owner just continued driving after the first solenoid failed and the second one caught up to it. The VVT solenoid actuators are wear and tear items on the 2.4L engine, you can change them in the driveway in 20 minutes.

Change the oil to something good like Mobil 1 and change the VVT solenoid actuators and see where you are. That's low cost maintenance that could put you well on the way to sorting the car out.
That's great news, thank you. I'm compiling a list of known and discovered issues and an associated list of parts. They're on the list now.

Is Mobil 1 proven to be reliable for use in these cars then? I have been using Castrol and Royal Purple in my other 2 cars based on user feedback. The oil viscosity+brand debate gets especially fierce in some places... lots of helpful info, but some of those folks defend their position to the death. Again, we're talking about -automotive oil.-

Cheers
 

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I had begun the process of modifying my headlights from halogen to HID, but I'm not so good at like I thought I might be, so I bought another set of halogen housings and went with LEDs. The only thing that HIDs might suffer from is being turned on when you're parked in the shade and the key goes to ON, then they turn off to start the engine, then back on, and then when you drive out into the light they turn back off.

Cycling them can shorten their lifespan. I modified my car so the auto-lights no longer turn the headlights on or off. I have to manually do it. Now that I'm back to lights that don't mind turning on and off, I might un-modify the lights to go back to automatic. Maybe. Someday. I've gotten used to it, but it is a nice feature.

Properly done, HIDs don't blast light all over the place. Based on what I've learned about @repairman54 on here, his HIDs are not blinding other drivers.

So the choice is whether to go LED or HID. Whatever you do, you'll never go back to halogen!
 

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That's great news, thank you. I'm compiling a list of known and discovered issues and an associated list of parts. They're on the list now.

Is Mobil 1 proven to be reliable for use in these cars then? I have been using Castrol and Royal Purple in my other 2 cars based on user feedback. The oil viscosity+brand debate gets especially fierce in some places... lots of helpful info, but some of those folks defend their position to the death. Again, we're talking about -automotive oil.-

Cheers
Mobil 1 is the best bang for the buck oil, IMO. It meets all of GM's Dexos 1 standards and doesn't cost that much. It is the official oil of Corvette racing and GM's go-to brand outside of their generic Dexos oil.

All I'm saying is don't use junky conventional oil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Properly done, HIDs don't blast light all over the place. Based on what I've learned about @repairman54 on here, his HIDs are not blinding other drivers.

So the choice is whether to go LED or HID. Whatever you do, you'll never go back to halogen!
That's good news - It certainly gives me more options. Thank you!

Mobil 1 is the best bang for the buck oil, IMO. It meets all of GM's Dexos 1 standards and doesn't cost that much. It is the official oil of Corvette racing and GM's go-to brand outside of their generic Dexos oil.

All I'm saying is don't use junky conventional oil.
Good to know, you answered a question I hadn't gotten around to posting elsewhere yet - that of the preferred oil for these cars. I never run conventional if I can help it. I have a surplus left over from a friend's... "misadventure," which I use to flush engines during oil changes. Rather have a small qty of fossil oil left over than a lump of sludge, metal filings, etc.

While we're on the topic, are there any 'best practices' or suggestions for these cars - relating to an oil change? Do these engines handle engine flushes well - products like seafoam, lucas, etc?

I'm trying to determine how thorough I need to be with my cleaning the first go around. Again, maintenance history is a complete unknown... A little worried about the transmission. A brief inspection of the seals shows the pan has not likely been dropped in a long time. In any case, it has been long enough to allow considerable road film, debris, and gummed oil to gather over the seal. I'll know more eventually...

Thanks guys. Been a very long day, haven't had much time to poke around the car. I've got a checklist to get through - hopefully tomorrow.
 
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