'98 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ - Not sure of the issue...Alternator, Gasket, Both? Been scammed by the repair shop.


Asked by Aug 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM about the 1998 Chevrolet Lumina 4 Dr LTZ Sedan

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My '98 Lumina LTZ wouldn't hold a charge from a jump.  It was shaking, emitting white
smoke from the back, and didn't even make it a 1/4 mi before dying.  I wasn't able to
restart.  Battery is is about 8 mths old and I only do minor in town driving.  Still going
to have it tested tomorrow though...it's just a HUGE pain to get to.  Someone
mentioned alternator and someone mentioned head gasket.  It's sitting at my church
right now...since it's my only transportation and I'm on my own I haven't been able to
get back to it to check on the quality of the oil, coolant, etc.  I did check the coolant
tank a few days earlier though and it was fine except it looked nasty on the sides.  
Maybe gooping up and caused a clog?  I was told a radiator crack sealant was used
last year.

I've been scammed by the auto shop I took it to a year ago.  Paid to have it checked
over and AC fixed...they did neither.  It ended up going in many times for things that
they should have known if they had checked it out.  It had a gas leak...that's a pretty
urgent thing to fix if you ask me.  I'm on my own with 3 kiddies here.  They won't help
at all...even after I filed a BBB complaint.  Next step is a lawsuit I guess...is that a
possibility?  Brown's Automotive in Shelby, NC...never go there.  :(

Does anyone know what happens to this car when you try and run it on a dead/dying
battery?  The smoke smelled like a cigarette I think...and it was pretty white.

Sorry I don't have a better photo!  Thanks and God bless...Tanya

9 Answers


It sounds like you have multiple problems, it may not be worth fixing. First thing is get the battery recharged and tested, then if possible get it to a good shop for diagnosis of the charging and a block check for a blown head gasket. Using a sealant in the cooling system is never a good idea as it can plug up important passages in the engine and cause a real problem and that is what it sounds like what has happened to your vehicle. Hope I have given you some idea what you need to do.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

If it's to the point of shaking the car when it runs with the white smoke you have quite abit of coolant entering the cylinder(s). ''98 LTZ that will be the 3.8 series 2 right. Could be lower intake manifold gaskets, head gaskets, cracked head or cracked block. Hope there is no cracking. Won't know untill you start digging into it. As for the altenator , worry about that later the coolant leak is the primary concern. If you can jack it up at all in the parking lot you may be able to see how bad the coolant leak is. Drain a small amount of your engine oil into a clear container. If it's been sitting for a while the coolant/water would settle under your oil. If you have water in your oil do not run the engine.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Thanks for the suggestions and info! A friend of mine who is a lot more car savvy than I is going to help me out today. I've forwarded your responses...I really appreciate it thanks! :) Tanya


Doesn't hurt to take it apart to see what your dealing with. Use a camarea to document part locations and label wiring/fasteners. If it turns out to be gaskets it is fixable, not easy but fixable. If it's a cracked head or block you might want to look at used motors, the 3.8 series 2 should be very easy to find, everyone wants the supercharged motors the n/a ones go cheap.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

My step-dad mentioned that it sounds like the car might have "jumped time". I've only heard of this term once before. Could that be a possibility as well? It very well could have more than 1 issue. The car had been sitting for a long time when I purchased it. The coolant take was gunky...then I found out something was put in the radiator. About a month after the last oil change it looked like it was 1/2 qt low. The Low Coolant light would some times come on but the tank would be fine. It did sometimes overheat when stuck in traffic...but the temp gauge never went past the 3/4 spot. No matter what...it was only $1800 and has lasted over a year. Even with all the shops garbage...we've enjoyed having it. Hope and pray it's something minor...don't get me wrong...LOL. That's our 1 and only car with no obvious way to get another any time soon...so I will be jumping for joy if it's a simple fix. :) Thanks again and God bless...Tanya


Typo there...should be The coolant TANK was gunky...

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

There is only one thing that causes both white smoke and rough running and that's coolant in the cylinders. If there was no smoke it could be a possibility. Check the bottom of the oil pain, water will indicate where your issue is. If it's the LIM gasket you shouldn't have to remove the belt side of the motor. But if it is the heads, head gasket or block you will have to access the timing chain anyway, it can be checked then.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

The car's been towed to a friend of a friend. No matter the outcome I need to sell it and get a larger vehicle with AC and Heat. Summers and Winters here do get intense some times...and we need protection. Since I'm on my own here and the auto shop and tow comp still aren't stepping up to take responsibility and do the right thing I started a fundraiser. Thank you so much for the advice and help...I really appreciate it! Would you please share the fundraising page if you can? Prayers are powerful and if that's all a person can do that's wonderful...God Bless! Tanya http://www.gofundme.com/safetransportation

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Good news! Car's repaired and I'm picking it up tomorrow afternoon! It was an intake issue. Lots of water I'm told. And lots of things replaced...cost is $500 though so it's not too bad. :) I'm sorry I meant to update sooner but my mom passed away on the 11th and I've had to drive from the West area NC to the middle of FL twice this month. It's been rough and I think I'm still in shock. But thank you so much for your input, advice, and everything! Hope you had a great weekend...God bless! :)

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