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Old 12-23-2011, 11:22 PM   #1
Thet
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Wrench 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Hello everyone! First time poster, 2nd time Saturn owner. My first car was a Saturn SC2 that my father gave me. I never had a single problem with that car until it got totaled from an accident.

My wife and I just bought a 1998 Saturn SC1 with 147,xxx miles about 1,000 miles ago to replace our 2005 VW Jetta (biggest POS EVER!) until we can get it fixed and get rid of it. We payed $1150, so for the price, it's a really nice car.

Recently, we started having some problems with it. It started to hesitate on take-off from a start in 1st, going into 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes even 4th, and especially 5th. If you drive it aggressively, letting it get higher in the RPM range than normal before shifting, it's not as noticeable in the new gear. The Service Engine Soon light also blinks when this happens. Doesn't really seem to stop when the engine gets warm either. When we hooked it up at AutoZone, it threw a code pointing to the EGR valve, so I purchased 2 used EGR valves from a junk yard off of 2 separate, relatively low mileage Saturns, but neither of those have fixed that issue. So that leads me to believe it is not the EGR valve, but being from 2 used cars, I can't say with 100% certainty.

But the other day, the wife calls me that the car is making a "ticking or knocking" sound. Back to AutoZone and it now throws the following 2 codes:
P0301 - Cylinder 1 misfire
P0404 - EGR system fault

Can anyone give me some insight on my problems and possible fixes? Any help is very much appreciated. I'm in the US Air Force and don't really have the money to pay a mechanic to do all this work when I can do most of it myself. I figure with my moderate car knowledge.

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Old 12-23-2011, 11:29 PM   #2
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Go get a loaner compression tester from Autozone or Advance and run a compression test. You can do this on a cold engine. Follow the procedure below.

If you want to obtain any compression test numbers that have any validity when relaying information in a forum environment crank the engine until the gauge quits increasing and compare both the final pressure and number of compression strokes to reach the max pressure, cylinder to cylinder. Any other method has no value for comparison in a setting like this. You can do this test either cold or hot or warm just mention it when stating results.

FYI if you find all cylinders produce a final reading of 200psi but the compression cycles are as follows: 1-8, 2-6, 3-8, 4-14 then it should be obvious that cylinder #4 has a serious problem with leakage past either the valves or compression rings. Attempting to compare your X number of strokes and a resulting pressure to what is expected is impossible.

FSM states the MINIMUM number of compression cycles is 10 and a Fully charged battery is required to obtain the full 250RPM cranking speed. The FSM also does not mention counting the compression cycles and recording them. This is because the high tech recording tester counts them for you and even a blind mechanic can see the differences on the chart. As most of us are doing this with a simple pressure gauge you have to count them yourself.

To prevent washing the cylinders down with fuel remove the PCM B fuse to shut off the fuel pump, injectors, and ignition before starting the test. Remove all spark plugs and block the throttle open. Use a low charge rate battery charger to fully charge the battery before conducting the test.

The 404 is an EGR code and specifically actual position less than commanded. First step is thoroughly clean out the valve. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt5lRTt6BsU

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Old 12-23-2011, 11:33 PM   #3
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Any replacement EGR that comes from a J/Y must be from a 95-99 Saturn or it will not work as the 00-02 are different.

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Old 12-24-2011, 05:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Can you explain why I would need to pressure test??

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Old 12-24-2011, 06:03 PM   #5
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

You mean compression test. You are showing a hard misfire and rough running. You need to verify you do not have a burned or sticking valve in the #1 cylinder and that you have relatively even compression across all cylinders.

Also need all of the following info.
Age and brand/type of sparkplugs.
Age of plug wires.
Have you changed the ECTS?

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Old 12-24-2011, 07:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Woops, that's what I meant. Haha

As I said, I've only had the car for 1,000 miles or so. So for all I know, the plug wires and all that jazz is still factory stock. (14x,xxx miles).

Would it be wise to change plugs, wires, and maybe distributor and see if that solves it?

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Old 12-24-2011, 08:09 PM   #7
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

There is NO distributor.
You need the following:
- set of 4 NGK BKR4ESA-11 plugs and no substitution. Advance usually has them.
- set of mid priced direct fit plug wires. No expensive wires, just plain carbon filament wires.
- a new brass ECTS. Engine coolant temperature sensor, STANDARD MOTOR PRODUCTS Part # TX73 or equivalent.
This is how to change the ECTS sensor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cucm7QGlsYs Be sure to very carefully inspect the inside of the connector also for any moisture or corrosion. To get the connector off you squeeze the ears on the sides. Do not try and just pull it off. It is in the left end of the head next to the radiator hose.

You can order this from RockAuto at considerable savings over the local prices. http://www.rockauto.com

You can hold off on a compression test until you have done all of these things first.

CHECK YOUR OIL LEVEL!

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Old 12-25-2011, 06:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Is that specific spark plug NECESSARY? The store I go to is out (as well as all surrounding places). Can I not get a bit more expensive plug and it do just as well?

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Old 12-25-2011, 06:22 PM   #9
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1998 SL2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

if you get a compression test done at a mechanic and its 150 across the board(which i heard means its a worn timing chain) and they tell you they put oil in all the cylinders and on the third cylinder its dry after they check, which part is the one thats faulty in that case? is that when its the piston ring that's bad? and as a follow up, doesn't that cause your engine oil to have more than normal gas in the oil?(which certainly isn't good!)

...
98 SL2
5th gear swap- .643 gear
245,000 miles
215/45 17"
I burn about a quart about every 1500 miles.

If it ain't broke, fix it some more.

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Old 12-25-2011, 06:43 PM   #10
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhonky View Post
if you get a compression test done at a mechanic and its 150 across the board(which i heard means its a worn timing chain) and they tell you they put oil in all the cylinders and on the third cylinder its dry after they check, which part is the one thats faulty in that case? is that when its the piston ring that's bad? and as a follow up, doesn't that cause your engine oil to have more than normal gas in the oil?(which certainly isn't good!)
Just follow the procedure I posted above for the compression test.

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Old 12-25-2011, 06:46 PM   #11
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thet View Post
Is that specific spark plug NECESSARY? The store I go to is out (as well as all surrounding places). Can I not get a bit more expensive plug and it do just as well?
Generally, yes. This will work though. Autolite 3926. Do not buy any type of platinum plug ever for that engine.

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Old 12-26-2011, 08:16 PM   #12
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Update:

Changed the ECTS, wires, and plugs. Gave the EGR a good cleaning. Added a bit of oil as it was low.

Still ticks at start up, but after it warms up that goes away. All lugging is gone (so far).

Any idea what the ticking is then? It sounds like it's coming more from the engine now than the exhaust.

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Old 12-26-2011, 10:42 PM   #13
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

From a cold engine take the belt off and start the engine and see if it still does it.

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Old 12-27-2011, 08:01 PM   #14
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Which belt do I take off? The one to the left of the motor that runs the alternator?

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Old 12-27-2011, 08:08 PM   #15
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Yea, that's the only belt on your car

edit: seat belts...

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:18 PM   #16
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
Do not buy any type of platinum plug ever for that engine.
Sorry to interject here, but what is the reason for not using Platinum plugs? I noticed, I believe in my manual shortly after purchasing my 98 SL1 that it said this. What's the reason, I've never heard it explained?

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:41 PM   #17
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

The ignition fires both plugs on a coil at the same time. Those plugs are in series through the shell. This results in the current flow from ground to th electrode on one plug and from the center electrode to ground in the other. This results in a very high resistance gap on the plug with ground to electrode plug. The platinum and other fine wire center electrodes only function correctly when the current flow is in the correct direction. The excessively high secondary circuit resistance results in an excessively high secondary voltage and a much higher arc temperature and unneeded stress on plug wire insulation. The high arc temperature rapidly erodes away the plug electrodes.

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:50 PM   #18
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Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Ha, I get it now, excellent, thanks for that.

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Old 12-30-2011, 04:44 PM   #19
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 1998 SC1 throwing P0301 and P0404 codes

Good!

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