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Old 08-10-2020, 09:31 PM   #1
Upstate Saturn
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2001 SL2
Default Big clunk on start -up, and now won't stay running

I'm sorry to say I've heard the sound of a few dropped rods in my time, although never in a Saturn. But that's sure what it sounded like just now when I tried to start the old girl. It made a really loud clunk and didn't start. When I tried again, it would start but didn't stay running without a foot on the gas. When I had my foot on the gas, it didn't sound or feel right, not exactly missing, but definitely not right.

It was running fine before with no warning signs, and I had just checked the oil. It's a remanufactured engine with about 60k miles on it, and has always been well taken care of.

Is it possible for a rod to drop on start-up? I always assumed the engine had to be running first. Is there anything else you can think of that would make such a loud clunk and keep the engine from running?

The engine was cold and I'm happy to say I'm in my garage. There's no way I would try to drive it the way it sounds and feels, so the Saturn will be on a tow truck to the mechanic's first thing in the morning.

Although working on cars myself is no longer in the cards for me (I used to do all my own mechanic work), I still like to find out from all the knowledgeable people here what the possibilities are. Thanks.
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2001 SL2 manual - original owner - remanufactured engine at 228k miles, December 2015
1992 SL1 manual - bought used in '93, totaled in '00 at 170k miles, drove it cross-country a lot!
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Old 08-10-2020, 09:56 PM   #2
billr
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Default Re: Big clunk on start -up, and now won't stay running

"Is it possible for a rod to drop on start-up?"

Yes.
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: Big clunk on start -up, and now won't stay running

Thanks for the info that it's possible to drop a rod on start-up, now I have one more thing to worry about! But luckily this story has a happy ending.

The mystery has been solved by my excellent mechanic, who determined that there probably was a significant backfire that managed to blow the EGR tube out of the plastic intake manifold. The other problem that I was also having prior to the sudden loud noise was that the gas pedal was really sticky in first gear. I figured it was a gunked-up throttle body, and I was correct. The mechanic gave it a good cleaning, and his thought is that the build-up could have prevented the throttle body from working correctly, causing the backfire.

Because he's a really good mechanic and doesn't mind working on older cars, he managed to reattach the EGR tube to the intake manifold with a little craftsmanship and some serious adhesive. Lots of other places would have wanted to replace the whole manifold, so I'm happy. Over the years I've been seeing him, he's made lots of little oddball repairs like that.

The funny thing is that his shop is in the city about 15 miles from here, and I recently found our we're neighbors and live about two blocks apart! He recognized the Saturn when I drove by one day...
...
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2001 SL2 manual - original owner - remanufactured engine at 228k miles, December 2015
1992 SL1 manual - bought used in '93, totaled in '00 at 170k miles, drove it cross-country a lot!
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Old 08-13-2020, 01:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Big clunk on start -up, and now won't stay running

Awesome story, especially finding out you are neighbors!

Wish some of the shops around here would troubleshoot and fix things instead of just bolting on new parts.
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