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Old 04-13-2017, 09:21 AM   #1
cirdanlunae
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Sad Help save my Saturn?

Hi folks. I've been having some issues with my 97 Saturn SW2, and suddenly they just keep adding up. Here's what I've got going on:

I'm losing oil...a lot. I'm adding a quart almost every week...only about 500-600 miles before I have to add a quart. I know that vehicles burn oil, but not like this...

I'm also losing coolant...but that wasn't until lately. Back in February '16, I had my radiator replaced...poor thing cracked. After that, there was no issue with coolant loss. However, the coolant was getting really weird. It was starting to get foamy and orange. So, I had a coolant flush. After the coolant flush, I've been losing coolant slowly but surely. Just had the light come on today before I left for work...is it normal to lose enough coolant to go below "min" on the reservoir within a few months?

Car only has 125K miles

I really am trying to keep this Saturn alive as long as I can. It's so young mileage-wise. I don't have much technical know-how, and I don't want to take it to the garage to get a "We don't know what's wrong" and a $150 "diagnosis" where they just popped the hood and took a coffee break.

TL;DR: Help a noob find out why his coolant and oil is being lost.

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Old 04-13-2017, 10:07 AM   #2
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

600mi to a quart? Sounds pretty good to me. I've had a few that burned a quart per tank of gas (300-350mi)! lol

Check the coolant reservoir with the engine running, if there's tons of bubbles in it that points to a head gasket issue. There's a couple cheap tools for testing the coolant for exhaust gas's too, any car-parts store should have one.

Check for oil leaks around the valve cover, crankshaft and oil pan. Most common is the valve cover and it's pretty simple to replace.

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Old 04-13-2017, 10:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

I'll check for the oil leaks tonight when I get home. Got a ride to work today, so I can't go out and check now.

Should I start the car with the coolant reservoir open first? I know it's not the safest idea to open it while the engine is hot...just making sure I don't get hot liquid on my face.

Thank you fetchitfido for your input...I'm feeling a little better about this just by having people with more know-how giving me advice.

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Old 04-13-2017, 11:37 AM   #4
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Yes, take the cap off first, then start the car and let it warm up. You are wise to never remove the cap on a hot engine.

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Old 04-13-2017, 05:08 PM   #5
cirdanlunae
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Just added coolant today and did the bubble test. Started with a good many bubbles, but then even after revving, there were no new bubbles. Here's a video

youtu.be/6vFE2F0YpUg

I've gotta run to a rehearsal tonight, so I will check the oil leakage tomorrow morning. Thoughts on the bubbles? I'm fearing the head gasket...

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Old 04-13-2017, 08:52 PM   #6
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Can you do a compression test?

Years ago, I had a Toyota P/U (22R engine), it blew a head gasket about every 5 years. When it did, wow you would see tons of white smoke in your mirror. Also, the spark plug of the offending cylinder(s) were a tell-tale sign.

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Old 04-13-2017, 08:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Also the oil became that hideous caramel color- water mixed with oil.....

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Old 04-15-2017, 06:47 AM   #8
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
Hi folks. I've been having some issues with my 97 Saturn SW2, and suddenly they just keep adding up. Here's what I've got going on:

I'm losing oil...a lot. I'm adding a quart almost every week...only about 500-600 miles before I have to add a quart. I know that vehicles burn oil, but not like this...

I'm also losing coolant...but that wasn't until lately. Back in February '16, I had my radiator replaced...poor thing cracked. After that, there was no issue with coolant loss. However, the coolant was getting really weird. It was starting to get foamy and orange. So, I had a coolant flush. After the coolant flush, I've been losing coolant slowly but surely. Just had the light come on today before I left for work...is it normal to lose enough coolant to go below "min" on the reservoir within a few months?

Car only has 125K miles

I really am trying to keep this Saturn alive as long as I can. It's so young mileage-wise. I don't have much technical know-how, and I don't want to take it to the garage to get a "We don't know what's wrong" and a $150 "diagnosis" where they just popped the hood and took a coffee break.

TL;DR: Help a noob find out why his coolant and oil is being lost.
If you are adding a quart of oil per 500miles or lower, then your oil control rinfs have disintegrated, and your engine needs rebuilt.

Coolant losses are likely due to a cracked head gasket. GM Death-Cool orange has a bad habit of swelling the gaskets, which a cracked radiator will then run the engine hot, causing the gasket to get crushed.

I would start with the standard checks:

Visually inspect for leaks. The radiator hoses have clamps that wear out(they have a weird-looking "spring" on the inside of them). They are 1.5" diameter clamps. Check around you subframe for leaking coolant.

Check visible areas for oil leaks(which will most likely be your plastic valve cover, as they all warp and are all JUNK)

Pulling the spark plugs can POSSIBLY determine a cracked cylinder head or blown head gasket. The water being burned off will leave water marks on your spark plug, sometimes. Very easy to see on a pitch-black, soot covered plug, that is drenched in oil.

Even a novice mechanic can make most repairs to a Saturn. It seems intimidating, at first, but you will get good at repairing your vehicle with a little guidance and some scuffed knuckles.

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 04-16-2017, 03:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Haven't gotten to do a compression test yet...Going to get a kit from AutoZone tomorrow.

Oil/Coolant looks okay...well, decently okay. There's no "chocolate milk" oil or what looks like oil in coolant.

Touched up coolant Thursday, drove maybe 200 miles, and Saturday night, the coolant light came on. Coolant is down about an inch already. Added coolant to the reservoir, and it has not leaked...so it's something that happens when driving. No smell or smoke. The compression test should hopefully help me find the source.

Also, can I have you all's opinion? I'll be frank...I've not really been taking care of my car until last year after owning it for four. A lot of the stuff wrong with my car could definitely have been prevented, I'm sure. Anyway, I want to show you all what my engine looks like...is this where the oil's going?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_20170416_150649.jpg (186.5 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_20170416_150655.jpg (205.4 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_20170416_150703.jpg (207.0 KB, 21 views)

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Old 04-17-2017, 03:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Look up some old posts by a member here, Luke. Think he was burning a quart every 400 miles starting sometime around . . not sure, maybe 200k miles? He went on to put another 400k miles on the car, still burning a quart every 400 miles, until he retired the car with over 650,000 miles on it

Personally, I would not let the oil get that far down. If you are burning a quart every 600 miles, then every 50 miles, I'd put in 1/12 of a quart

Start using the extended length filter (holds more oil - I use PL20195, if you do a search on the part number here, you will find comparable sized filters).

Your picture shows old oil, hard to tell. Degrease/clean it, run it for a minute or two, then take a clean paper napkin/towel and dab it at the seam of the plastic valve cover and head, looking for fresh oil. Usual place to leak is the rear corner, driver side. Might be warped.

Check for leaks at the radiator hoses as suggested, as well as the radiator drain plug and block drain (right below thermostat, on the block). Check thermostat hoses, too, easy to mess those up and cause a leak.

You should lose zero coolant in normal operation.

...
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Old 04-17-2017, 03:42 PM   #11
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Thanks for the reply alordofchaos.

I'm having my car-savvy uncle take a look at my car with me tonight...I'm absolutely car-illiterate, so I'm hoping to learn a lot about the cooling system and what not tonight while I look at those places you recommended.

Best way to clean/degrease an engine?

I filled the coolant yesterday around 8AM, and by this afternoon at 1PM, not a leak had been lost...ran the car for a little today, and I'm going to check it soon (when it cools down) to see how much coolant I lost driving to the bank and back. Will report when I check.

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Old 04-17-2017, 04:24 PM   #12
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
Thanks for the reply alordofchaos.

I'm having my car-savvy uncle take a look at my car with me tonight...I'm absolutely car-illiterate, so I'm hoping to learn a lot about the cooling system and what not tonight while I look at those places you recommended.
This forum and the Saturn are perfect for the "car illiterate"

There are pictures in this thread but I can't see them because I'm at work and pic hosting sites are blocked. From what I remember, good pics
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=149734

Quote:
Best way to clean/degrease an engine?
One way to do it is to just get some paper towels and wipe around the black valve cover until it is clean. Basically, just has to be clean enough so that you can tell fresh oil from old. The other way is to buy a can of engine degreaser and follow the instructions (usually comes in a spray can, warm engine, cover electric connectors with plastic bags, spray on the degreaser, wait the time the can says, then hose off)

The place where the leak usually is, is in the back corner (green arrow in diagram attached).

Check for leaks at the hoses with red circles, then at the other end of those two hoses. Those are the ones most likely to be removed when flushing.

There's also a pic of the block drain from underneath, and the radiator drain from underneath (the plug might not be white colored, but they are always at the bottom of the radiator)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 2010-08-22_184153_cooling1.jpg (161.5 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg drain plug.JPG (33.0 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg radiator drain.JPG (27.6 KB, 8 views)

...
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Old 04-17-2017, 04:50 PM   #13
cirdanlunae
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Just checked my coolant after driving 10 miles (I know, not the farthest distance...), and I see no coolant loss at all. That was all in town. Will be driving to a rehearsal tonight and back, a distance of 80+ miles...that will probably be more showing.

Thanks for the pics! I'll take a look at this all and report back when I check. Maybe I'll learn how to work on my own car yet!

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Old 04-18-2017, 11:02 AM   #14
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
Just checked my coolant after driving 10 miles (I know, not the farthest distance...), and I see no coolant loss at all. That was all in town. Will be driving to a rehearsal tonight and back, a distance of 80+ miles...that will probably be more showing.
It's possible the place that flushed/filled your antifreeze somehow underfilled it.

As you can see in the diagram, the surge tank (reservoir) is one of the highest points in the system. It's a clever design, allows the system to "burp" itself (it eventually self-purges any air bubbles in the system), because an air bubble moves to the highest point and will end up going through the de-aeration line at the top, that feeds the surge tank. So, as air gets burped into the surge tank, it looks like your coolant level is dropping when it is actually air being moved into the tank.

Quote:
Maybe I'll learn how to work on my own car yet!
This forum is largely how I got started. It's very newbie friendly. There's a number of female Saturn owners who do their own work here.

I was doing minor things like oil changes already (cost of tools for an oil change is paid back in 2~3 changes when paying for someone else to do it )

But the Saturn I bought in 2009 needed more work than that. Found this forum, and its "how to" library
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/for...sprune=-1&f=26

Also, your new best friend richpin06a (just search for "richpin06a" and the name of the procedure you want to do or name of the part, and you will likely find a video)
https://www.youtube.com/user/richpin06a/videos

Low Saturn's tech articles
http://www.differentracing.com/tech_articles/index.html

PurdueGuy's web page
http://saturnseries.net/

...
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Old 04-18-2017, 06:42 PM   #15
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
Anyway, I want to show you all what my engine looks like...is this where the oil's going?
Oil control rings and valve seals are likely bad. You made it further than most, as the oil burning typically starts at about 60-70k miles(CONVENIENTLY just outside of the original warranty periods for these cars...)

Here is a YouTube video, that explains WHY these engines burn so much oil.

Currently, I have to add a 1/2 quart, every 100 miles. When it gets to the "FULL" line, I add 16oz. I have a 60-70 mile commute to and from work, so about 1/2 quart per day.

The car will continue to run perfectly fine, just check the oil level DAILY, and do NOT let it get to the "ADD" line for any reason(you will damage the timing chain and oil pump gears, as well as the timing cover, which drops your oil pressure FAST)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnblJ8VZtY

...
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:52 AM   #16
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
The car will continue to run perfectly fine, just check the oil level DAILY, and do NOT let it get to the "ADD" line for any reason(you will damage the timing chain and oil pump gears, as well as the timing cover, which drops your oil pressure FAST)
This makes me feel like I'm not alone. Thanks Saturn Night! I've honestly gotten to the point where I'm checking all my fluids daily...to others it seems silly, but it's better than blowing up my car.

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Old 04-20-2017, 12:54 AM   #17
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Did some work on my car today with my uncle. We found a large wet area behind the engine and found the ECTS to be the culprit...the entire sensor was soaked, even on the inside where it shouldn't be. Replaced it today with a brand new one. Let's see if this stops the coolant leak. I will be doing a replacement of the valve cover gasket soon...sadly, with my school's spring break ending soon, I have to go back to the real world, and I don't want to have my car's engine in pieces when I need to go to work.

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Old 05-08-2017, 12:20 AM   #18
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

www.car-part.com

Use this search tool, to find a decent price on an ALUMINUM valve cover.

The interchange years are 1993-1995 Saturn SC2, SL2, SW2.

The 1996-1998 years use a cheap plastic cover, which warps over time, and results are excessive oil leaks.

1993-1998 cylinder heads have identical bolt patterns, for the valve cover.

The aluminum cover will work, but you need to save the bolts.

Fel-Pro PermaDry valve cover gaskets, for the aluminum cover, retail for about $35. It comes as a kit, with new rubber grommets, as well as a lifetime warranty.

Fixed my 1995 Saturn SC2 valve cover, and haven't dripped a drop of oil EXTERNALLY since(though the INTERNAL burning of the oil has led me to believe my Saturn is actually a 2-cycle engine better suited for a dirtbike or ATV).

I think I am going to start offering "crop dusting" services, and just floor my Saturn through the farmer's fields a few times.

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 05-08-2017, 12:26 AM   #19
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Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
This makes me feel like I'm not alone. Thanks Saturn Night! I've honestly gotten to the point where I'm checking all my fluids daily...to others it seems silly, but it's better than blowing up my car.
I am with you, there. I would rather have my old Saturn and my old Grand Am get extra maintenance to keep them running, than be stuck with any of this new junk rolling off the production lines from automakers.

At least with older cars, you have some room to actually work on them and do not have to buy like $5,000 worth of "specialty" tools to perform the work.

And I definitely don't want to be without my car, hence why I bought my Saturn in the first place. The Grand Am is now my backup car, since the Saturn averages about 10mpg more than it does. Grand Am doesn't have an OD transmission, and a slightly larger displacement engine(2.5L Iron Duke).

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

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Old 05-08-2017, 08:06 AM   #20
trottida
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: North of North of Toronto, Northern Ontario, Canada
Posts: 2,220
 

1999 SL2
2001 SL1
Default Re: Help save my Saturn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirdanlunae View Post
Did some work on my car today with my uncle. We found a large wet area behind the engine and found the ECTS to be the culprit...the entire sensor was soaked, even on the inside where it shouldn't be. Replaced it today with a brand new one. Let's see if this stops the coolant leak. I will be doing a replacement of the valve cover gasket soon...sadly, with my school's spring break ending soon, I have to go back to the real world, and I don't want to have my car's engine in pieces when I need to go to work.
The ECTS sensors that were installed from the factory were resin tipped and they are known to crack and cause all sorts of issues. Replace with a brass tipped version and if coolant has leaked through it then it is likely that the 2 wire connector from the wire harness needs to be replaced too. Inspect it closely and if fouled replace with a new connector making sure to solder the wires rather than using crimp connectors. Crimp connections tend to fail within a short time frame for this application. New ECTS, new harness connector with soldered connections and you're good to go.

Typical issues caused by faulty ETCS and/or ETCS connectors are bad signals sent to the PCM causing a rich fuel condition which in turn fouls up your emissions components. Your temp gauge may read low too; if 1/4 or lower after looking after the ETCS then you likely need a thermostat too. Temp gauge should read approximately needle width below 1/3rd for a Gen2 and Gen3 (1996-2002)

...
2001 SL1 MT (423,500 km @ 10/2018)
1999 SL2 MT (267,940 km @ 10/2018)
2011 Suburban LT (116,506 km @ 10/2018)

Past Saturns
1993 SW2 AT
2001 LW200 MT
1992 SL2 MT

:canada:

Last edited by trottida; 05-08-2017 at 08:16 AM..

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