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Old 04-14-2012, 09:52 PM   #1
Sabi's-Saturn
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1994 SL2
Default Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

OK I know what ever is probably not good, but I am hoping (praying really), that there might be some other explanation for this, that isn't so expensive. I *love* my car. I do not want to give up on it.

Anyway, the car has about 203k miles on it. Had a re-manufactured engine put in 3 years ago (warranty expired last week of course). I have been pretty good about oil changes and all that. Hubby not as good but still within reason. I *just* put $800 into having the entire exhaust done after years of nearly going deaf. They also replaced a transmission gasket. I have noticed that the coolant light was flickering on now and then, figured it was a little low, and checked it this morning. The whole coolant over flow tank is filled with this tan peanut butter looking paste. I could not find coolant in it. Stinkit!

Here is a picture - (sorry had to cut the http off or it would not let me post links since I have not had 15 posts. Bah)
i1234.photobucket.com/albums/ff401/Somebirdy/coolant.jpg

And I checked the oil, the level is a little low and it is a bit overdue for a change but not to the 'add oil' area.
Here is a picture in there - (not that you can see much)
i1234.photobucket.com/albums/ff401/Somebirdy/oil.jpg

i1234.photobucket.com/albums/ff401/Somebirdy/underhood.jpg

Any other possibilities? Or are we for sure looking at head gasket?

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Old 04-14-2012, 10:11 PM   #2
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Welcome! But, sorry, that really doesn't look good! Since you're just a week out of warranty it couldn't hurt to check with the shop that did the replacement. Not likely after three years but, sometimes a really good place will cut some slack.

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Old 04-15-2012, 01:46 PM   #3
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Looks like either someone mixed coolants or it's the end result of the ginger root tablets...

Do you also get signs of blown head (gasket); overheating engine, sweet smelling white smoke cloud coming off the exhaust or underhood, coolant dripping out the exhaust with the engine off, etc?

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Last edited by adventureoflink; 04-15-2012 at 01:54 PM..

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Old 04-15-2012, 08:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

I have not noticed any performance issues or overheating with it at all. It is still the zippiest car I have ever owned. (Even my old Fiero couldn't keep up with it).

I have never added ginger root tablets, but perhaps someone at the shop did? I have actually never heard of them until this forum.

Do you think if I take it up for a coolant flush/cleaning, it might be ok? I was thinking of doing this since I would at least have a better idea of what was going on (Ie I could see oil in the coolant reservoir possibly).

My dad never let me rebuild a car like he did with my brothers, and it's always been a dream of mine, so this car is sort of my 'almost' project. I really don't want to throw in the towel, but I don't have any money left, so if it's a big $$ fix, it's gonna sit for a while again.

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Old 04-15-2012, 09:45 PM   #5
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Idea Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabi's-Saturn View Post
I have not noticed any performance issues or overheating with it at all. It is still the zippiest car I have ever owned. (Even my old Fiero couldn't keep up with it).
That's what my sister always says... (see signature)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabi's-Saturn View Post
Do you think if I take it up for a coolant flush/cleaning, it might be ok? I was thinking of doing this since I would at least have a better idea of what was going on (Ie I could see oil in the coolant reservoir possibly).
NO. Flushing at this point is just wasting money.

You already showed us pics of oil in the reservoir...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabi's-Saturn View Post
My dad never let me rebuild a car like he did with my brothers, and it's always been a dream of mine, so this car is sort of my 'almost' project. I really don't want to throw in the towel, but I don't have any money left, so if it's a big $$ fix, it's gonna sit for a while again.
No money and you want to rebuild a Saturn engine? Well, that's not going to work at all.

You're at least going to need $35 for the head gasket, $15 for enough RTV silicone to seal the valve cover and oil pan, and another $40 for oil + filter and antifreeze. That's $90 already.

Since this is a Saturn we're talking about, you likely need to replace both front and rear main oil seals (these tend to leak like crazy, also likely the cause of the excess heat that blew the head gasket in the first place) which will run you another $30 or more.

Also, since it appears you are doing like my sister and driving the car even though it has a blown head (BTW: Keep driving with a blown head gasket and you might blow a few pistons... like my sis.), you probably need to resurface the head because it's highly likely that it's warped. Most machine shops will charge $100 for that.

Total cost of repair (Assuming the resurfacing is the only thing you do not do yourself; and that you already have a torque wrench, breaker bar, and a crank pulley puller.) is about $220. I don't know about you, but I've bought running cars for about that much.

...
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Old 04-15-2012, 10:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Forgot to mention that to replace the rear main seal (if needed) you would need to remove the engine and separate it from the transmission. Rear main seal is behind the flywheel/flex-plate.

Of course to do all that you would also need an engine hoist.

If you have an oil leak between the engine and transmission, you likely need to replace this seal. Also, if it's a manual transmission and it occasionally slips or it seems to smoke a little when shifting gears, that's possibly a symptom of an oil leak.

...
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

I'm thinking head? You have oil in your coolant. Which likley means coolant in your oil. You could get a sample of your oil tested to see. But it sound like its time to take the head off and have a look?

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Old 04-16-2012, 12:59 PM   #8
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Put it this way, if there's oil in the coolant, you would be overheating. the OP isn't experiencing any kind of overheating, which is why I'm hesitant to say head (gasket)...

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Old 04-16-2012, 01:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

The tan peanut butter looking paste can only be oil as far as I can figure. Look in to overflow after it has cooled some, and stir it a bit, it is probably floating on coolant. If you use green coolant you should see green under the floating brownish sludge.

I've had cars run ok without overheating if an oil into coolant leak isn't super bad. But its not something that will get better on its own, teh leak would get bigger.

Maybe they used a cheap head gasket, maybe they didn't torque teh head down enough? Maybe on a cold startup in cold weather the car got revved to much and has a cracked head? Speculations

For sure I would go back to the shop that did the work and ask them for a free inspection at the least. Maybe they could pressure test your coolant system.

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Old 04-16-2012, 02:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Why not just drain the coolant, refill with water and some dish soap and run it for a little bit, and repeat until that crap is gone?

Then fill it with water again, thrown in some ginger root tablets, and see if the sludge returns.

It's almost free, and will tell you a lot. Binary testing, either a 0 or 1 -- it comes back, you might have a problem, if stays clear, then something foreign (green coolant into dex-cool?) probably got introduced at one point.

That's what I'd do, because I'm cheap.

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Old 04-16-2012, 03:17 PM   #11
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Default Re: Peanutbutter in the Coolant overflow - DOHC '94 SL2

Yeah either way a flush and fill will help diagnose it. If it is the best case scenario, which I think would be more than one type of coolant in there and they didn't play nice together chemically...then flushing it out and putting in all one kind of coolant with distilled water would fix it. Otherwise the problem will return and you will know it is something more.

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