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Old 09-23-2022, 10:10 PM   #1
sd_98saturnsl2
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Default 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Hi,

I have a 5 speed manual 1998 Saturn SL2 with about 210k miles. Recently it's acceleration has been extremely sluggish, especially when going uphill. On flat ground it can eventually get up to freeway speeds. It happens in all gears and maybe a little worse when cold, but occurs when the engine is cold or warmed up.

Based on other thread searches, I have tried the following with no significant improvement.

* Replaced the front O2 sensor and ECTS
* Removed, cleaned the EGR, and reinstalled
* Temporarily removed front O2 sensor. Car continued to idle normally and still had sluggish acceleration. I read in another thread that if this fixed the acceleration issue then it would have likely been a clogged catalytic converter. But, the acceleration issue remained for my car.
* Temporarily disconnected electrical connection to EGR. Car continued to idle normally and still had the same sluggish acceleration. I read in another thread that if the acceleration issue changed without the electrical connection, then the EGR may be bad. It didn't change for my car.

Additionally, the car had been idling high (~2000rpm) for a while until I removed and cleaned the throttle control valve about a month ago, prior to the extremely sluggish acceleration issue. The car now idles around 900rpm after warmed up, maybe around 1100rpm when cold.

Any more ideas of things to try to diagnose the issue? Or what else could be the cause?

Thanks.
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Old 09-23-2022, 11:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Take compression readings and check fuel pressure with a gauge.

Block off the EGR ports. Disconnecting the electric cable is not a definitive test. If disconnecting the cable does improve the engine power, then it shows the problem is probably EGR related; that is true. However, if disconnecting the cable does not change things, the EGR system may still be bad. You have not proven it is good, only that is not definitely bad, and is still suspect.

Likewise, that driving with the front O2 sensor removed is kind of iffy for proving this isn't a clogged cat/exhaust issue. Removing that O2 sensor provides a new exhaust path of only about 3/4" diameter, still not much for even a small engine like this. Removing the down-pipe and cat would be a more sure test, but quite a bit harder to do than just removing the O2 sensor. That said, R&R of the pipe and cat could be done in about 1 hour, if things go OK. It is not an unreasonable thing to try, if other easier stuff gives no joy.
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Old 09-23-2022, 11:45 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

I'm not an experienced mechanic and I don't have access to a gauge for fuel pressure measurements or exhaust R&R.

For reference, right after cleaning the throttle body valve about a month ago, the car passed a smog test.

When you say block the EGR ports, do you mean remove the EGR and cover the ports with some electrical tape or something? Then drive the car to see if the sluggish acceleration remains to eliminate a bad EGR as a possible culprit?

Thanks.
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Old 09-24-2022, 12:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

You would need to use a piece of sheet metal to cover the EGR port. A soup can makes a good donor.
...
97 SW2 5-Sp 372k
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Old 09-24-2022, 01:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

"Soup can" means you need to use a steel can, not an aluminum beverage can.
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Old 09-26-2022, 12:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Ok, I'll take off the EGR valve again and put a piece of metal covering the ports and reattach the EGR valve to clamp down on the metal. How should I expect the car to run when I do this? Especially compared to the current extremely sluggish acceleration. Basically, what am I expecting and what would indicate a bad EGR?

Any other ideas of what it could be?
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Old 09-26-2022, 07:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

If the EGR system is a problem, then blocking that should restore power to normal; a noticeable increase, at least.
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Old 09-27-2022, 01:22 PM   #8
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

I removed the EGR valve, put a piece of metal blocking the ports, and reattached it. There was no noticeable difference in acceleration behavior.

I also replaced the fuel filter since it had been a while. Also, no noticeable difference in performance.

For reference, the check engine light is not on normally. It does come on when I've done temporary things like removing the O2 sensor, blocking the EGR ports, disconnecting the EGR electrical, etc. And, as I said before it passed smog about a month ago.

Also, the car starts and idles normally at cold and warm. It had been idling high previously, but I removed and cleaned the throttle control valve about a month ago and the idling has been good ever since.

The acceleration is very difficult on even a mild hill. From a stop, as I let out the clutch and apply gas, it doesn't move at all initially, and then very slowly after a second or two. Eventually it starts to speed up to ~10-20mph with RPM up in the 3000-4000 range. If I shift to second gear and am still on a decent hill, it will stay around 20mph without accelerating even if I keep applying gas and keep the RPM in the 3000-4000 range. If the hill isn't too steep, it will go faster. And, similar behavior occurs at higher gears. If it's relatively flat ground, the car can get up to freeway speeds in 5th gear.

Any other ideas?
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Old 09-27-2022, 02:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Also, forgot to mention, but replacing the spark plugs was the first thing I tried, with no effect on the acceleration issue.
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Old 09-27-2022, 03:14 PM   #10
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Are you saying the engine rpm rises, up into the 3000-4000 rpm range, but the car barely increases road speed??? That isn't an engine problem at all, it is a slipping clutch.
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Old 09-27-2022, 03:24 PM   #11
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Yes, that is what is happening, most notably when going uphill. If not very steep or flat or downhill, the car will accelerate in any gear.
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Old 09-27-2022, 09:52 PM   #12
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Usually, a slipping clutch is first noticed in 4th or 5th gear. If yours is slipping in 1st/2nd, what about the other gears? Does the engine rev up in 3rd/4th/5th with little-to-no change in the car speed?

If you start reading about clutch issues here, you will find lots of mentions of the "hydraulics." A problem in the hydraulics almost always results in the clutch not dis-engaging; the opposite of what you seem to be describing. There is little chance any discussion of the "master/slave" system or the "wire-test" is applicable for a slipping clutch.

Do you know how many miles are on this clutch? How many mile on the car?
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Old 09-27-2022, 11:40 PM   #13
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

It has similar behavior in all gears. If it's on a hill it revs up high without acceleration. But, if flat ground it can accelerate up to freeway speeds (70mph+).

The car has about 210k miles and I don't know if the clutch has ever been replaced.
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Old 09-27-2022, 11:47 PM   #14
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Im guessing there's no relatively easy/cheap way to fix or extend the life of the clutch?

From what I've read a clutch replacement is probably beyond my experience level and difficult without an engine lift. And, it's relatively expensive to have done (~$1500 in San Diego). Might not be worth it given the age, condition and value of the car.
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Old 09-27-2022, 11:55 PM   #15
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

You don't need a lift, and the cost for parts was $100 each when I did two of them earlier this year. Think about giving it a try.
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Old 09-28-2022, 12:05 AM   #16
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

Do you know of any good resources/videos on how to do it?

And, what parts would be needed?
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Old 09-28-2022, 10:14 AM   #17
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

I was going to say, it's a slipping clutch as well.

When I owned my 94 SL2- The clutch went completely out on me.
I smelled a "Burning Brakes" metallic smell... and then shifting through all of the gears, I was only able to get the car up to maybe 35-40 mph...

Here is a visual video... with some descriptions in the description.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=equ2qVNcnCA

Good walkthrough video by Richpin- who is a member here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js4gl_set0E

Sachs, Valeo, and Luk clutch kits are all good replacements for the S-Series- regardless of the year.
...
Bryan

94SL2 HCE, "Pearl"

99 SL

94SL2 260K Miles
1/15

97SW2 266K Miles
2/15

Always
94SC1 340,501 Miles
Org. Engine/Auto Trans
2/97-10/08
Gone 3/12

92SL1
05VUE
91SC
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Old 09-28-2022, 12:09 PM   #18
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Default Re: 1998 SL2 Extremely Sluggish Acceleration

I used the LUK 04-115 kit, which includes the friction disc, pressure-plate, and throw-out bearing. The kit was $85 from RockAuto (now $90), so with shipping it was just under $100, if I recall correctly.

I did not replace either of the flywheels. They are relatively massive on these 4-cylinder engines, and can dissipate quite a bit of heat. If your clutch has been slipping for prolonged periods, it is possible your flywheel may need to be replaced, but I doubt it. Replacing the flywheel would add noticeably to the time, cost, and difficulty in doing the job; so I would avoid it unless the flywheel looks obviously bad when you get in there.

Waiting to get a flywheel, if needed, would delay the project; but i would not count on getting it done on any specific schedule anyway. Even for me, the second time, it was at least 12 hours of labor, and I had no extra difficulties or need to search for the right tool. And, no "learning curve". But yeah, I am 76, so not moving as fast as I used to.
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