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Old 05-18-2011, 10:26 AM   #1
Beachbaby902
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2007 AURA XE
1994 SL2
Mad Headgasket?

Today my aunt drove our 94' SL2 about 10 miles and the car had a burning smell to it and the temperature gauge was a little above the half mark. We were dropping it off at Good-Year for inspection so i couldn't check everything on it.
The other day though i checked all the fluids and what not, and it wasn't driven after that. Everything was fine.

But today it kinda made me think about if it the head gasket...the car for well over a year now would get hot in the summer if you wern't driving, if you stopped at a red light the temp gauge would slowly rise up, then go back down once we started moving.

The car also has a nice little cloud behind it of white smoke, but figured that was just the quart of oil every 150 miles that was doing it. (yes a quart every 150miles)

The car doesn't get driven much, usually on Sunday and about twice a month to go to the store and what not. My aunt is the one that usually drives it. We've owned it for 14 years and it only has 130,000 miles on it.

I was just wondering if there is a way to tell if its a blown head gasket or not...the car drives fine on the highway and in the city. Just in the summer tends to get very warm, and it always uses a lot of oil. (thanks to someone borrowing it for two years and going 40,000 miles without an oil change )
-The ECTS was replaced last summer.
...
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:39 AM   #2
BV22
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Ii believe that on a 94 model, the temp gauge will go well past 1/2, closer to 3/4 before the fan comes on. So your description sounds like normal operation. Oil consumption at that level will leave a white cloud. Does the cloud smell like burnt hydrocarbons or kind of sweet? That latter would be antifreeze.

Head gasket failures show several typical symptoms:
1. Coolant in the oil - a milkshake looking gunk on the dipstick, and everywhere else inside the engine
2. Oil in the coolant - gunk in the coolant reservoir, and everywhere else in the cooling system
3. Major oil or coolant leaks from the engine at the head to block interface
4. Loss of compression in one cylinder, or two adjacent cylinders - car would run badly and miss all the time

From what you describe, I doubt you have a head gasket failure, but you might check for oil leaks around the valve cover gasket. Any oil on the engine from leaks gets cooked when the engine gets really warm and might be the source of your smell.
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: Headgasket?

On 1991-1994's the temp gauge will go past 3/4 and almost touching the red before the fan turns on. This is normal operation.
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:51 AM   #4
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Burning oil usually exits the exhaust as a blue cloud. A blown head gasket burning coolant, turning it to steam will always exit the exhaust as white steam.

Do you know if the cooling fan turned on? A '94 cooling fan may be worn out. The quickest way to test the fan is wiring it directly to the battery other wise alternate methods require some other wiring to bypass either a sensor or relay. A worn out fan that should be screaming but running slow now may not be recognized and assumed running when its too slow to work effectively.
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Realized I left off coolant steam in the exhaust from my symptom list right after I hit "submit". In this scenario, coolant loss would be substantial, requiring adding of coolant somewhere between weekly and daily.
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Old 05-18-2011, 10:58 AM   #6
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Location: Pacifica by San Francisco – 5sp – Engine rebuild with the help of people here at 177K due to 500mi/qt oil consumption. After 2yrs I am back to 40mpg+ after discovering the refirb head I used was bad. Car runs better than a top. Now at 214k.
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Wrench Re: Headgasket?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachbaby902 View Post
Today my aunt drove our 94' SL2 about 10 miles and the car had a burning smell to it and the temperature gauge was a little above the half mark. We were dropping it off at Good-Year for inspection so i couldn't check everything on it.

…the car for well over a year now would get hot in the summer if you wern't driving, if you stopped at a red light the temp gauge would slowly rise up, then go back down once we started moving.

This is exactly what it is supposed to do. These cars are designed to run hot. The only thing you need to watch out for is that when the temp gauge hits just over 5/8? the radiator fan comes on. You don’t need to be driving the car to test this. Just idle it in the drive was with the hood up and let the temp creep up to 5/8? or over. It will probably take 10-20 to do this. If the fan comes on, your good to go. Give it a try and report back.

The car also has a nice little cloud behind it of white smoke, but figured that was just the quart of oil every 150 miles that was doing it. (yes a quart every 150miles)

You should be searching for oil leaks on the top side of the engine first like at the junction between the valve cover and engine head. Clean the seam, then to verify a leak you take toilet paper and dab at the junction between the two and look at the TP. If there is oil on it you will see it. The paper should stay oil free. Then search the bottom side and do the same for around the seam of the oil pan.

At the same time order a new PCV designed to reduce oil consumption into the intake($3) and then decide whether an MMO treatment is in order:
AC/Delco CV4000C
FRAM FV410
BWD PCV 484
Autozone PCV 1009


-The ECTS was replaced last summer.
Sounds like it behaves like it is supposed to in your description as well.
Let us know how things go

Last edited by ehunter; 05-18-2011 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 05-18-2011, 11:11 AM   #7
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Location: Pacifica by San Francisco – 5sp – Engine rebuild with the help of people here at 177K due to 500mi/qt oil consumption. After 2yrs I am back to 40mpg+ after discovering the refirb head I used was bad. Car runs better than a top. Now at 214k.
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1996 SL2
Default Re: Headgasket?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Low Saturn View Post
On 1991-1994's the temp gauge will go past 3/4 and almost touching the red before the fan turns on. This is normal operation.
I am curious what the situation is/was for 91-94.

I knew that at some point in 1996 and after, due to an overage of hot running car complaints, Saturn adjusted the needle back 1/8 to visually appease their customers.

So my understanding was 91-96 had a fan-on point of 5/8 and the 1996+ then began with the fan on point being 1/2.

So what was the situation from 1994 and before? Did the original Saturns have a fan-on at 3/4, and then they adjusted the needle back for 95-96 by 1/8? And then after 1996 they repeated the process by moving the needle back another 1/8?
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehunter View Post
So what was the situation from 1994 and before? Did the original Saturns have a fan-on at 3/4, and then they adjusted the needle back for 95-96 by 1/8? And then after 1996 they repeated the process by moving the needle back another 1/8?
My understanding is that the OBD-1 Saturns (1991-1995) usually tripped the fan near the hot line, and when more than enough customers complained about it, they fixed it for the OBD-2 Saturns (seriously? FIVE YEARS to remedy an issue? ), however the OBD-2 Saturns (1996-2010) trip the fan at 3/4 (or VERY close to it).

that being said, +1 to everyone else here. also, wouldn't a leak-down test confirm if a head gasket is about to go bad?
...
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
bilzhorse
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Default Re: Headgasket?

I'm new to Saturns: what is an "MMO treatment"?
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bilzhorse View Post
I'm new to Saturns: what is an "MMO treatment"?
wow, this came out of left field..

in any case, do a board search for "piston soak"; IIRC the S-series checklist covers the MMO treatment to _some_ degree, not too sure.
...
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Date Obtained: 5/30/07
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:33 PM   #11
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Default Re: Headgasket?

[QUOTE=adventureoflink;1746452]wow, this came out of left field..

in any case, do a board search for "piston soak"; IIRC the S-series checklist covers the MMO treatment to _some_ degree, not too sure.[/QUOT

ehunter mentioned it & thanks for the info.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:35 PM   #12
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Default Re: Headgasket?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bilzhorse View Post
I'm new to Saturns: what is an "MMO treatment"?
LMAO!
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00' SW2 170,000 miles
00' SL2 280,000 miles
11' Cruze LTZ 54k totaled
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:39 PM   #13
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Default Re: Headgasket?

We just got the car back from inspection, it failed miserably! Needs tire rod ends, brake light, exhaust work and rear brakes.

The valve cover does leak, the engine is a slight black color from it being so dirty. It doesn't leak into the spark plugs though, i've checked that a couple times because the 92's leaked into there pretty badly.

I just never smelled that smell before, but the car was sitting for a while so maybe since it hasn't been driven oil that did leak or what not burnt. I'm not sure.

I searched and saw someone posted pictures of a cracked head gasket so when i replace the valve cover gasket i'll try and see if i can see anything.

Wouldn't the Saturn's running hot end up causing damage? I don't see it being that normal to have the car running hot before the fan kicks on...
...
~My Running Saturns~
94' SL2 130,000 miles RIP (Tree hit it)
00' SW2 170,000 miles
00' SL2 280,000 miles
11' Cruze LTZ 54k totaled
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:43 PM   #14
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Default Re: Headgasket?

The car doesn't run hot before the fan turns on, it is just a gauge calibration issue. Most people are more comfortable with a temp gauge that reads around 1/2 during normal operation, but this was lost on the Saturn engineer who determined the gauge settings for early S series cars. Your 3/4 is my 1/2, but the actual temperature is the same.
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