Common possibilities: Spark Plugs & Plug Wires. If plugs/wires have more than 80,000 miles on them, consider replacing them.
Warning!... use only GM supplied AC-Delco spark plugs. The 32-Valve Northstar engine is very particular about the special dual-tip, dual platinum spark plugs they were designed with.
Yes, they're expensive (about $6 each from local autoparts stores), but they last a long time which offsets the price. I replaced mine at 100k, and they were just beginning to act up.
Any others will MOST LIKELY result in misfires (like you're experiencing now), reduced gas mileage, and short life.
Plug wires can be upgraded with high-performance 8mm helical core wires, but stick with top-grade Bosch or Borg-Warner Select wires. Factory wires are always a safe-bet, but 'can' begin to degrade after 50k miles in high-heat conditions.
Side note: As with many late model cars, these cars use half as many ignition coils as there are spark plugs... in a system called Waste Spark ignition, where a single coil fires 2 (opposing) spark plugs. If one spark plug wire is bad, you actually lose full spark power on TWO spark plugs, as they are connected in series. (This is why an engine can begin to run so poorly when just one spark plug wire goes bad, especially on 6-cylinder engines!)
This also means that half of your spark plugs are sparking from center-to-ground (normal), and the other half are sparking from ground-to-center (abnormal). This requires that the "Platinum" spark plugs have platinum on both the ground electrodes, as well as the center electrode so that they last as long in either position.
Bosch platinum spark plugs are notorious for not working well in waste-spark ignitions, as they (at least, in the past) have not had platinum on their ground electrodes. Half of your plugs would be fine, half would go bad... quickly.AnswerCould also be, and likely, the plenuem backfire relieve door seal leaking. See the response in regards to reasons other then sparg plugs and wires for missing.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: Idle Speed Sensor/Selenoid. Does this happen when the AC is on?? I love your car, it might have been the most beautifull American car of the last 25 years. Its a shame about Olds demise.....
I had the same symptoms. I changed the plugs & wires nothing different. It ended up having a bad ignition coil.
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