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DriverDave, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Cadillac
Satisfied Customers: 88
Experience:  29 Years Experience, Engine Performance, Driveability Expert and Advanced Level Smog Diagnosis
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1994 Seville STS 214,000 miles. The service ride control message

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1994 Seville STS 214,000 miles. The service ride control message is on. The car lurches/lags/sputters going uphill like the transmission is slipping or something. How long should the 4 speed 4T80-E transmission last before a rebuild or major servicing?


Do you have the Northstar engine or the 4.9L?

Will be back in AM, CA time.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
It's the Northstar.

The service ride control message is one thing, a performance problem is another.


If the engine is not performing properly it can also effect the way the transmission shifts.


Let's start with some basic information.


Does the check engine light ever come on while driving?


Has the vehicle been serviced, when was it tuned up, fuel & air filters changed, etc?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Turns out the guy I bought it from never serviced the transmission. I just did all of that today, oil change, fuel filter and transmission flush and refill. Didn't do the air cleaner yet. I thot perhaps the service ride control message and performance (shifting slip?) were tied together vis a vis all the sophisticated electronics. I always thot the Northstar system and transmission to be bullet proof. Are the transmissions problematic at 200,000+ miles?

If the transmission was never serviced as you say it's really amazing it's lasted this long. Even if it was serviced on a regular basis there is no garantee it would last as long as it has.


If the transmission was in fact slipping, servicing it at this mileage may not be the best idea. If you explained to the technician that you suspected a problem with the trans, at this mileage, it would be best to give the vehicle a test drive to see if the trans is operating properly. Servicing a trans with high mileage that has symptoms of slipping or other problems would not be advised. Sometimes a trans with problems will get worse or fail completely after being service. This is due to the fact that the old fluid gets a varnish or sticky, thick quality and tends to hold things together.


How is the performance now?


Any change?







Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Wel, at least it appears he hadn't, and yes, the fluid was bad, thick and sticky. If it needs to be service/rebuilt, it would need so whether or not i had fluid changed, right? So, it's smooth as glass right now, but I have have not really accelerated it. It shifts great. Yet, it still has this rattling sound coming from the under carriage - like somethings loose, but I can't see anything loose. It's annoying more than anything at this point. I just don't want to get stick somewhere with a tranny failure. That's why I wanted your expert opinion on the expected life of the transmission. You sound surprised it's lasted over 200,000 miles. That makes me nervous. Do you advise I have Cadillac look at it then, or a good GM mechanic? Can they run diagnostics to se how it's performing?

No, i would just keep an eye on it for symptoms of slipping more than anything else. If nothing changes in the next week or so it should be fine.


You are correct, if it is damaged the service might only speed up the process. And servicing the trans if it's healthy is the best thing you can do.


A transmission can fail at 20,000 miles or 400,000 miles. Normally when it happens is a slow progression with slipping and either sloppy or harsh shifting. Most automatic transmissions do not last this long and who knows, maybe it has been worked on before. That said, just beacaus the mileage is high is no reason to repair it if it does not display any symptoms of failing.


The rattle under the car could be the cat converter braking apart inside. You can tap on it with a rubber mallet to listen for that. That can also cause performance problems if it restrict the exaust flow.


If you are inclined, here is a link to a article on how to retreive and clear the trouble codes from your vehicle. If you get frustrated trying to do it just turn the key off and back on and start over. Once you do it a few times you will get familiar with the process.


I would try to clear the codes and see if they return.


The website also has alot of info and forums that could help you.



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