Is the "GM Morning Sickness" that's causing my steering problem a safety issue?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1985 Olds Cutlass Ciera with a steering problem. My mechanic tells me
it's "GM Morning Sickness," where the steering is very stiff first thing in the
morning, but loosens up after five or 10 minutes. I got a free "Car Talk Car
Report" from the Virtually Useful Data section of your web site
( and I see that many other Ciera owners have had the same
problem. I find that reassuring, and have decided not to spend the $600 to fix
it. But I wonder how safe the steering is. What do you think? Am I going to end
up a mangled corpse on a mountain road? -- Chris

RAY: That depends, Chris. How often to you drive on mountain roads first thing
in the morning?

TOM: Actually, I can understand why you wouldn't want to spend the money on this
car, but I'm going to recommend you either get it fixed or get rid of this heap.

RAY: Me, too. It IS a safety problem. Not in the sense that it's going to fall
apart or seize up while you're driving, but in that it threatens other people's

TOM: While it's true that the rack and pinion (the part of the steering system
that causes this problem) is fine once it warms up, what happens if you need to
make an evasive maneuver during those first 10 minutes or so of driving?

RAY: You may say "Well, I'm going to sit in my driveway every morning and wait
until the steering is warmed up before I go anywhere." But 10 minutes is an
awfully long time to sit around and twiddle your thumbs.

TOM: Especially in the dead of winter in a 13-year-old Cutlass Ciera!

RAY: So one day you're going be in a hurry and you're going to leave before the
steering has freed up, and something terrible is going to happen.

TOM: Right. You're going to be unable to swerve onto the exit for the donut
RAY: Seriously, you don't want to fool around with your steering. So if you
still like this car, spend the money and get it fixed. And if not, use this as
the excuse you've been looking for to dump it.

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