View Full Version : 3.8L V6 Supercharged?

08-10-2012, 09:39 AM
Anyone have knoweledge of these motors? Are they worth a poop? Do they last? This car has 93k on it...

08-10-2012, 03:14 PM
Are you kidding me ? Next to the small block chevy, the buick V6 is one of the longest and most produced engine of all time and is sometimes referred to as the small block chevy of V6's. Seriously though, they are a rock solid engine and the only failures they suffer are usually due to the infamous plastic and neoprene intake gaskets that GM tried to use on just about everything. The supercharged engines actually had less problems with the lower intake gaskets compared to the N/A version. I could write a book on buick V6 engines and all of the in's and out's of them, but I'll keep it simple. The supercharged version was just as durable as the N/A version and will last just as long. 93k miles is not bad at all and if you cannot hear any audible engine noises then it's probably ok. All you need to do is just the typical visual inspection and test drive. Depending on the year model some issues are more common than others due to design differences, but all designs were fairly consistent about having common issues. I would advise taking off the radiator cap and looking for the typical mud buildup that would indicate coolant leaks and subsequent cooling system problems. You can expect the oil pan and valve covers to be leaking, but it isn't a big deal. Look at the ends of the lower intake where it meets the heads and look for signs of failed intake gaskets. Water pump failures were fairly common but cheap and easy to fix. The superchargers did have problems that developed with age, but they are repairable and the best place to get good priced parts is actually ebay. That's about all I got pertaining to checking out a used vehicle with the 3.8 in it. I can tell you, though, that they are a great running engine and get pretty good fuel economy too.

08-11-2012, 09:11 AM
the series 2 and some series 3 units seem to have an issue with self-immolation.... it only took GM ~10 years to admit it, and the fix they did during the recall apparently doesn't work, since there are still 3800s going up in flames on a regular basis.

they seem to run extremely high oil pressure compared to other engines? i'm not sure if it's actually necessary or not.

power steering pump is in a difficult place to reach, and as such, people let their pumps get low/go dry all the time and require replacement.

exhaust note.... well, you won't hear it in-car unless you go through an overpass or some other location to bounce the sound back to you, but unless you make it extremely quiet, it sounds horrible to everyone else.

specific output kinda sucks compared to some other(mostly non-boosted) GM engines introduced at roughly the same time... series 1 SC was introduced in ~1992 or so, made 205HP, the TGP turbo 3.1 made that in 1989. the N/A 2.3 quad4 made 180HP in 1990. in ~94, they updated to a ~225HP unit, the 94-95 N/A 3.4 LQ1 made ~210HP.

but no one mods a S1 engine anyways, it's all S2 and some S3 these days....

S2 N/A made ~205HP, introduced in 1995. the N/A aurora 4.0, also 1995, makes 250HP. the 96 3.4 LQ1, 215HP. 3400, 1996, 185HP.
S2 SC made 240HP, introduced in 1996. see aurora comment. for more pwnage, see 4.6 northstar, 1993, ~300HP.
S3 N/A made ~200HP, introduced in ~2004. also introduced in 2004, the 3.5 as found in the malibu/g6, ~200HP. 2.8 LP1, 2005, 210HP
S3 SC made ~260HP, introduced in ~2004. 3900 N/A, introduced in 2006, 240HP. 2.8 turbo LP9, 2005, ~250HP and upwards. 3.6 N/A LY7, 2004, ~250HP. LS4, 2006, 303HP.

notice, these are all from similar years and platforms....

the only reason the aftermarket was ever even developed for this engine was due to GM sticking a supercharger on it from the factory, if that wouldn't have happened, it never would have made it to the year 2000. stock, they're not actually that fast, they just feel like it. fastest stock quarter mile time i can find is tied between the 1997 grand prix GTP and the 04 grand prix, 97 is S2SC, 04 is S3SC, tied at 14.9. a couple of similar comparisons: 93 eldorado ETC(northstar) is 14.8, 06 monte carlo LTZ (3.9), 14.5, 06 monte carlo SS (LS4) is 14.0.

anyways, it's not the be-all, end-all answer that some people(and in some cases, entire forums) devote themselves to. like any engine, it has it's compromises and you'll have to decide what you'll like on your own.

08-11-2012, 09:32 AM
For many of the reasons that Robert posted, I am not a fan of the 3800, of any version.

08-11-2012, 10:38 AM
That's the kind of stuff I was worried about, take a good engine and screw it up.

I ended up getting a 1998 Chevy 1500 5.7L Vortec. Nice truck and will be a good tuning stepping stone, one year then a LS1 engine vehicle...

08-11-2012, 12:53 PM
That's the kind of stuff I was worried about, take a good engine and screw it up.

actually, considering it's a cast iron 90* block and heads V6, i'd say they were actually taking a bad design and sticking band-aids on to keep it acceptable. see: balance shaft, supercharger, crapton of emissions parts, etc...

08-11-2012, 01:08 PM
The silverado is a good choice regardless and will make for a nice vehicle. I am going to have to respectfully disagree with Robert, though. I would also like to mention that my wife's car is a 2000 Grand Prix GT with a series II 3800 that we've had for a couple of years now. I chose the car because it had the 3800 in it and wouldn't buy a w-body with the 60 degree V6.

The fire issue was never due to a design flaw and that is one reason GM didn't hurry to find a "fix". The circumstances that the fires occur under are all due to owner neglect and a lack of maintenance and are relatively rare because it takes a very specific combination of circumstances for the fire to actually start. The fires were actually happening after the valve cover gasket had been leaking for a very long time and the buildup of crud and oil saturation of the plug wires inside the retainers made for a very flammable situation. The fires still only occur mostly due to a stray spark from a degraded plug wire arcing inside or near the original wire retainers. The recall was nothing more than removing the original wire retainers that held the wires up against the front valve cover and installing a couple of generic wire retainers to hold the plug wires in place. Only the supercharged engines got the valve cover gaskets replaced and only the front gasket got replaced and not both. If the problem were truely a design flaw then the rear valve cover would the same exact issue, but the fires always occur at the front valve cover. This is because the plug wires just run across the rear valve cover and aren't held down with any retainers. The reason the fires still happen is because the valve covers are still leaking oil and the plug wires are still oil soaked and the jacket is compromised allowing for arcing to happen. Another contributing issue is the stupid plastic engine cover and the oil filler tube. The way the oil filler tube is situated allows for any oil spilled while adding oil will run down the filler neck and under the cover right onto the valve cover and over the plug wires. Most people will simply wipe off the spilled oil from the engine cover not realizing that most of the oil has run underneath. This whole situation has been blown out of proportion and I have yet to see a vehicle that has caught fire due to this problem.

The HP ratings are only half of the picture as you have to consider the RPM's that peak power is made and also the torque output. When compared to other V6 engines you also should consider the fuel economy and durability along with the power. There aren't any other V6 engines that have a better balance of all 3. That would be why the Buick V6 made it on the Ward's top ten engines of the 20th century list. I wouldn't even rank the northstar based engines in the same category due to the fact that the expense of acquiring and maintaining one is astronomical comparatively speaking and also because the odds of experiencing a head gasket failure are greater than 50%. 1/4 mile times are the same and I would like to add that the only comparable engine would be the 3900 which still doesn't get any better fuel economy even with variable cam timing and displacement on demand. The original 60 degree V6 now dubbed High Value V6 the and the High Feature V6 introduced in 2004 are both great engines and I'm not trying knock them at all. But they both have their own drawbacks as well and neither has seen a production lifespan close to the Buick V6 which spanned from 1962-2008. I would also like to add that the aftermarket was making performance parts for the Buick V6 family long before the supercharged version was introduced. Also, the 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am (equipped with basically the same turbo 3.8 as the Buick Grand Nationals) was the first Indy 500 Pace Car that didn't require a significant amount of performance upgrades. The only modifications made to the cars were the lighting and safety equipment.

All-in-all, the 3800 in all of it's many forms was a pretty good engine that a few engineering mistakes led to it's less than great reputation. Of the numerous simple-but-expensive problems I have personally experienced with my wife's car none of them were engine related. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a vehicle equipped with any version of the Buick V6 and have owned several. In fact, the Series II is pretty popular among GM technicians because it is so easy to buy a car for next to nothing that the engine has hydro-locked the engine due to the upper intake failing. You can find them this way for a couple hundred bucks and get them on the road and running great for less than $1k total purchase price and parts. As with any egine, it isn't perfect and has it's drawbacks and I'm not trying to say otherwise. But, I feel that like many other engines, it has gotten a bad reputation due to the people that have owned them and not it's flaws.

08-12-2012, 01:32 PM
I lost intrest real quick in the 3.8 SuperCharged engine in a 2005? MonteCarlo SS when I found they had come with a 6.0L LS 303 HP and a beefed up FWD. Now that would have been fun... but expensive!

08-12-2012, 01:38 PM
04-05 MC SS were the super 3.8, the 06-07 MC SS were the 5.3 LS4 w/303HP and ~320 lb/ft.

unfortunately, the LS4 cars tend to tear through 4T65E-HD transmissions. if i were to ever acquire one, step #1 would be dropping out the 4T65 and installing 4T80. why GM chose to use a 4T65 in an application that generated more torque than the highest output 4T80 application, i'll never know.

08-12-2012, 01:43 PM
opps, 5.3L...

I stopped looking at Camaros and Trans Ams when my back went out, been a couple years and I forgot how much that limits mobility... plus having 3 back surgeries plays a role... then I found the Monte Carlo SS was easy to get in and out of... but then saw the prices and I got a truck... :rolleye:

08-12-2012, 02:39 PM
As for GM deciding to go with the 4T65E-HD trans over the 4T80E in the LS4 equipped W-body cars, that is a mystery that has always baffled me as well. The only reasons that I could think of would be the size and weight of the 4T80E. They are monsters and weigh a ton ! That is the only rational reason that I can come up with. Those cars are absolutely a beast to drive compared to any other production FWD car I have ever seen and are a ton of fun to play around in. I worked for Cadillac for 5 years and got plenty of seat time in the high output versions of the Northstar and they are fun to drive, but still not as fun as the LS4 equipped cars. The unfortunate reality is that they are quite pricey due to the relatively short production run they had. A good bit of news is that GM will be reintroducing the Monte Carlo SS name back into the line-up and it is rumored that they will be LS-powered RWD cars similar to the law enforcement-only Caprice. Of course, I'm sure the price tag will be much less exciting for most of us.

08-12-2012, 02:58 PM
I think I would sell the house and be homeless if they came out with a new LS 9C1 car... just drive day and night... ooo a 9C1 station wagon so you could take a nap! :jfj:

08-12-2012, 04:24 PM
Not sure about a station wagon, but there is speculation of an El Camino ! All of these vehicles are Holden-based platforms anyways and they still make an El Camino type Holden and also a station wagon. The current U.S. model Caprice PPV looks like a cross between an Impala and Malibu up close. The subtle styling makes it an excelent sleeper and cop car because you'd never suspect that it's packin' 361 ponies under the hood all directed to the rear wheels. While the current Caprice PPV (Police Patrol vehicle) in the U.S. is equipped with the 361hp L77 6.0 liter LS style V8. The civillian versions will have a few engine options ranging from something from the High Feature V6 line up in base models to something along the lines of the 436hp 6.2 liter LS3 in the top level and SS models. The civillian versions are expected to be available in late 2013 as a 2014 year model. The styling of at least the uplevel and SS models will be a lot sportier than the plain-jane cop cars as well. If you want a decent idea of what to expect just visit Holden's website as most likely there will be very little changed.

04-24-2015, 06:06 AM
Has anyone mentioned the Buick GNX? Had the 3.8 also, and Ran the quarter in 13.2 sec. And 0-60 in 4.3.

04-25-2015, 10:24 PM
While it's in the same engine family, the LC2 is not in the same series. Not like it matters anyway, the OP has lost his battle with cancer just a short time ago.