mine is an 01. my problem started small (moderate to heavy acceleration where the temp would rise to the 220 line), started to progress to light to moderate acceleration, then completely overheated on the last time I drove it. After that happened I parked it and did not drive again until the water pump was changed out. All in all it took maybe ~ 10-15 short drives between starting to be an issue and completely failing.
its hard to say if your 97 could be affected by this. I was somewhat fortunate as this was a common problem with water pumps installed in 01/02 due to that manufacturing process change. So it was a pretty easy diagnosis for me in that I had prior knowledge in my corner.
I think you are right to keep your eye on it and cast a wider net when it comes to possible causes. best of luck!
did you get your temp issue sorted out? mine was definitely due to the water pump impeller spinning on the shaft. when i looked at the old pump it was clear that the impeller shaft area was chewing itself to bits, causing no freedom in rotation. as well, I could hold the impeller in place while spinning the pulley with my other hand, clear failure. new water pump installed and all is back to normal.
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