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Old 05-13-2020, 09:31 PM   #1
john92saturn
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Default 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

The flex pipe below the engine was open and loud, it was driven this for many miles. The driver got tired of the noise and replaced this and sealed the exhaust system with the necessary repairs back to the muffler. He Drove away happy with the quiet car, no issues, ok power. After 10 minutes city driving then 10 minutes highway driving the car lost power and 45 mph was the best it would give. But the car was needed for a 50 minute highway commute to work. This is a stick shift, so when it didn't make enough power to reach 70 to 75 mph it was pushed harder by down shifting. Max speed achieved was 45 mph. It was driven for 3 hours this way.
The Cat was pulled and bypassed, we were certain this was the fix. Indeed, the Cat was plugged badly, there was barely any visible light coming thru. The test drive gave poor results, the car smoked a lot and it had no power. The Cat bypass was no help.

Bad Rings?

ANY suggestions to rescue the motor? The motor has over 300k miles
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

I'm going to beat the normal compression test guys on the forum here and suggest a compression test. Also any codes?
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Begin this search by taking compression readings; and you can inspect the plugs at the same time.

If there is nothing obvious there, take fuel pressure reading with a gauge and with the engine under load.

Still no joy? Then look at live-data to see if all readings are reasonable. if you refuse to use live-data, then change the ECT sensor; that is a common problem that can affect power.

Lastly, open up the exhaust again (make it nice and noisy); see if that brings back the power. A chunk of the old cat may be jammed inside the muffler (not replaced, correct?) and choking the exhaust just like a bad cat would.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:33 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

My bet is on fuel pressure. You hit a wall much like that and the car will not go any faster regardless of engine revs.
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Old 05-14-2020, 01:55 AM   #5
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

It's an SL1.
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Old 05-14-2020, 11:57 AM   #6
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Ok will do a comp test and fuel pressure check.
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Old 05-14-2020, 11:59 AM   #7
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Lastly, open up the exhaust again (make it nice and noisy); see if that brings back the power. A chunk of the old cat may be jammed inside the muffler (not replaced, correct?) and choking the exhaust just like a bad cat would.[/QUOTE]

billr the Cat was intact - no missing chunks
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:22 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

It's a 2001 - check the pre-cat. Exhaust manifold will connect to a coffee-can looking thing, the innards could be clogged or broken off. This chokes the exhaust before the cat.

The fix is ramming rebar or something through it to clear it out. Don't breathe the dust, nasty stuff likely in there. Make sure you get all chunks so it doesnt clog again

edit: IIRC, some folks have pulled the front O2 off to test. They say to be sure teh O2 somewhere safe so it doesnt get contaminated, and put some kind of metal heat shield in front of the O2 bung so the hot exhaust does not melt plastics.
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:26 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Are you sure; did you cut open the old cat and inspect everywhere on the inner matrix? If nothing pops up with the other testing, don't dismiss the possibility of excess back-pressure from something.
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
It's a 2001 - check the pre-cat. Exhaust manifold will connect to a coffee-can looking thing, the innards could be clogged or broken off. This chokes the exhaust before the cat.

The fix is ramming rebar or something through it to clear it out. Don't breathe the dust, nasty stuff likely in there. Make sure you get all chunks so it doesnt clog again

edit: IIRC, some folks have pulled the front O2 off to test. They say to be sure teh O2 somewhere safe so it doesnt get contaminated, and put some kind of metal heat shield in front of the O2 bung so the hot exhaust does not melt plastics.
OMG I forgot that the Gen 3 has a pre Cat, I'm going after this 1st
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:06 PM   #11
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

The 1st Cat was gutted 5 years ago and I forgot about this. I removed the O2 sensor and ran a long coat hanger wire in to check - nothing. Also I looked carefully at the main Cat for missing pieces - it is completely intact, just plugged and black on the front side and gray on the back side.

Code P0341, so I changed the plugs, they were nasty black and eroded. Ran the car til it was warm - it did not throw this code again. No compression test because I had no helper to read the value while cranking. Little or no improvement.

Code P0404 EGR - did not have time tonight to clear the muck out of this. Will go after it tomorrow.

No change in the performance, it runs fairly strong while cold, when fully up to operating temp it bogs down when asking for power (accelerating) and the car will not go over 62 mph in 4th. It bogs down when you are accelerating giving it more gas to get more speed, pushing the gas pedal down a little more for more speed it stumbles and bogs down, let off on the gas and the engine smooths out but is weak.
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:53 PM   #12
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

I missed in the original post that power is OK when it is cold. You really need to use live-data to see what changes (or doesn't change... ECT sensor, hint, hint) when the engine warms up.
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Old 05-18-2020, 08:40 AM   #13
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

The EGR was stuck, that is fixed. Threw a code P0404, code is clear.
MAP was plugged, this is clear now. threw a code P0105, code is clear.
Currently no codes now except O2 sensor bank 1.
Replaced the plugs, they were black and lumpy with mess, gap was about .06 from metal erosion.

Comp test all cylinders
1 = 180
2 = 180
3 = 170
4 = 180

When doing the compression test I noticed The new plugs are black as well but not covered in mess. The motor runs rough at idle, a little better with the fresh plugs but is still weak, I got it up to 67 mph on a level road. It would go 80 mph before the exhaust was sealed tight and driven for 3 hours with a plugged Cat.
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Old 05-18-2020, 09:43 AM   #14
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
I missed in the original post that power is OK when it is cold. You really need to use live-data to see what changes (or doesn't change... ECT sensor, hint, hint) when the engine warms up.
billr when driven for 5 minutes, the temp gage on the dash rises to the left of middle on the gage, almost straight up. It seems to go thru a normal "open loop to closed loop" control where the car warms up after a few minutes and switches to closed loop. Again, it is a little stronger in open loop. It bogs down when the rpm's get above 3000 and you are pushing it.
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Old 05-18-2020, 06:42 PM   #15
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

Are you using live-data? It may not be the ECT sensor, I just homed on that because it is such a common problem. There are a lot of other things to observe in live-data. IAT, fuel PW, knock retard, over-all spark timing, MAP, etc.

Have you checked the fuel pressure while driving, with engine under load?
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Old 05-18-2020, 09:42 PM   #16
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

billr no, I do not have that tool. A friend of mine does, I will see if he can run this down for me.
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Old 05-18-2020, 11:27 PM   #17
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

A compression test can not ensure that an exhaust valve is inop (not opening). Compression will be fine, but the cylinder will be completely stifled because no exhaust can get out. It is a rare problem, but you might have to pull the valve cover to check if the (exhaust) valve stems are all being depressed properly.
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Old 05-19-2020, 12:04 PM   #18
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

If you have some way of blowing compressed air into the cylinders you can check that way too. The hard part is knowing where in the cycle each cylinder is so you know where to expect the air to come out of and know when it should be "missing" vs when it is actually missing. Before someone freaks out....the cylinder is designed to hold 200+psi and your standard air compressor won't do much over 120psi.

More complicated than just replacing the valve cover gasket but an option if you don't have RTV handy.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:23 PM   #19
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

I would bet that the open exhaust caused the engine to go lean during all the time that the exhaust leaked.

This lean condition caused the FRONT O2 sensor to get very hot and lose it's sensativity. And now the O2 isn't reacting propperly. You're simply not getting enough fuel to run at higher RPM's.

The blackend plugs seem to indicate poor fuel metering, and that's controlled by the O2.

Don't ignore a plugged up muffler either. If those catalytic convertors broke up and disintegrated, that broken ceramic had to end up somewhere. The front catalytic's debris ends up in the back catalytic. And the back catalytic's debris ends up in the muffler.

I had a 5.0 Litre Ford Fairmont that performed like a small V6. I removed the catalytic to try and improve performance with no gains at all (the catalytic was hollow). But when I replaced the muffler with a THRUSH glass pack, that car felt like I had bolted 150 horsepower under the hood. AMAZING difference. Seems the guts of the catalytic had plugged the muffler.

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Old 05-20-2020, 09:36 PM   #20
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 Stick Shift No Power

I'm not sure on the manual shift Saturns, but if there's a switch to sense when the transmission is in neutral, that switch or it's wiring could be bad. That might also apply to the clutch pedal switch.

If the computer thinks the car is in neutral or the clutch pedal is pressed, it won't let the car go down the road very well. In either case, the computer regulates the engine for IDLE conditions such as low emissions and smoothness. Those conditions aren't exactly correct for power and acceleration.

I had a Ford Escort with a neutral sensing switch from which the harness got disconnected. So the computer thought the car was always in neutral, and power suffered greatly. It would go down the road, but felt like I was riding the brake pedal. It took forever to figure that one out. In another case, a GMC van had a bad park/neutral switch on the side of it's automatic transmission. Even though the transmission would go into gears, it wouldn't go over 30 MPH. The computer thought that the transmission was in neutral and controlled the engine accordingly.

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