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Old 08-26-2017, 10:54 PM   #1
xSLx
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Default Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

I've run through the search for many hours here and believe I have an understanding of a few 'issues' the car has, or may have and just wanted to maybe got some confirmation on my "findings"
---

Coolant in the car is pink.
My understanding is this may be DEXCOOL (normally orange) turned to pink over time.
Or some new fancy GM Pink coolant.
Either way, should this be replaced with some Green coolant?


Using an OBD live reading scan tool, I can drive my commute, half city-half 75mph highway, and the coolant temp never rises above ~175 deg F.
Reading at first hash mark in gauge on dash.
Though sitting at idle for ~5 minutes it was observed at ~195 deg F

My assumption here is that the t-stat is stuck open, at least partially.
And to change it out for a stant 14279 when doing the coolant flush for the above question.


Lastly,

The transmission, an automatic, seems to be in great shape with only one oddity, to me at least.
When shifting out of reverse into neutral, on occasion is an audible 'clunk' type of noise accompanied by the engine's revs jumping up to ~1500. Then once clicked into drive, no clunk down to ~800rpm until brakes off and give it gas.

Normal? Maybe higher idle from car thinking it needs to warm up due to t-stat?

I appreciate anyone's help and insight.
I've only driven her for ~100 miles since purchase.
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Old 08-27-2017, 07:20 AM   #2
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

I'd buy a new thermostat, 1 gal of straight coolant, 2gal of Dexron/Mercron ATF and a transmission filter.

Flush the current coolant out, put the new thermostat in & refill. Needs a 75% mix though I generally fill with the straight coolant bottle then top off with water (distilled is best, especially if your tap water is "hard water").

Then for the transmission I'd just do a drain & refill and replace the filter while the fluid's drained out. Don't get Dex IV, V, VI crap, it's viscosity isn't high enough and the official bottles say not to be used in the S-Series anyway. The S-Series automatic is generally crap and if it's let go much more than 25k miles on an ATF change it starts slamming & clunking into gear. Sometimes it's fixable without changing the valve body, sometimes it's faster/cheaper to put a 5spd in and be done with transmission issues.
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Old 08-27-2017, 07:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xSLx View Post
Either way, should this be replaced with some Green coolant?.
Changing all fluids is SOP for a new( used) car unless there's absolutely no question of quality/cleanliness.
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

First off pat yourself on the back kfor getting a running vehicle for $150.
As for the pink coolant.
Yes it is Dex Cool. 1996 was the changeover point. It does NOT play well with other coolants. So you have 2 choices. Flush the system and use it again. Some folks think it's the death of engines. It's NOT. If you look carefully into the issues with it they are on engines GM has ALWAYS historically had the same issues with even before DexCool. So using it again is safe. The other option (also a safe option) is to flush and refill with "Universal" type coolant These coolants are safe to use with just about anything. The reason I am making these 2 recommendations is simple. DexCool's one HUGE fault is not playing well with plain old green. Odds of you getting all the Dex out of your engine? Slim and none. Hence my recommendation to do it safely. Of course this goes without saying to do AFTER you've put a new t/stat in it. I would also install a new brass ETCS (I forget on the 96 which of the 2 sensors it is)
Do a multiple drain fill of the trans (change the filter on the first one). The absolute closest (easily available) fluid to a TRUE Dexron III/IIIH (which is what GM spec'd for it is Valvoline Multi-Vehicle Import Synthetic in the Blue Bottle. This is made for Toyota, Nissan and Honda older transmissions that absolutely MUST have Dexron III/IIIH. Every Japanese automaker spec'd this fluid on their older 4 speed automatics. It is a higher viscosity fluid and works VERY VERY well in the Saturn and is easily available and relatively inexpensive. In my own SL2 either Mobil 1 or the Valvoline product(s) were all I used. That trans was at 220k miles and still working flawlessly when the car was totaled last year
Oh and BTW that "clunk"? It is normal. Over the years I have owned 3 different Saturn SL2s all autos. A 1996, a 1999 and a 2001. They all did this
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:51 AM   #5
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

welcome to saturnfans

Did you read the warnings about checking the oil at every gas fill, and making sure it does not drop below the top line at the FULL mark on the dipstick? This is not one of those cars where you can/should let it get down to the "add a quart" on the hashmarks to add oil
Quote:
Originally Posted by xSLx
Coolant in the car is pink.
My understanding is this may be DEXCOOL (normally orange) turned to pink over time. Or some new fancy GM Pink coolant.
Don't let alarmists concern you about Dexcool. Yes, there were some issues when it first came out, with certain engines. Saturn was not one of them, since it involved a new engine design with sealed cooling system

FYI, many car manufacturers use Dexcool/ dexcool technology, or a version of it. Toyota's version of Dexcool was pink, and one of the Euro mfrs also used a pink-colored version. I was living in a apt at the time, bought a brand new Toyota RAV 4. Took it into a quick lube place for an oil change, they wanted to change the antifreeze because it was all "pink and nasty" - car was 6 months old at the time, probably 5,000~8,000 miles on it

So, what you have in your car might be brand new coolant. Unless you know and trust the previous owner, no way of knowing, so as billysvue mentioned, fluid changes are a good idea on any used car you buy.

Quote:
Either way, should this be replaced with some Green coolant?
Don't judge a coolant by its color. Ethylene glycol and propylene glycol are both clear liquids with no color
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylene_glycol
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propylene_glycol

The color of antifreeze depends on a dye that mfrs add. They can make antifreeze literally any color of the rainbow. Ethylene glycol was generally green to make it visually distinct, but it could just as easily be dyed orange or pink, and vice versa with Dexcool, which can be green.

What you should look for are two things on your antifreeze bottle: universal (all makes and models) and long-life (100k150k miles)

To further confuse things, Prestone's universal long-life is a bright green-yellow color which is sometimes called green and sometimes yellow coolant.

+1 on distilled water. After you drain and remove the t-stat housing, leave it off, remove the top radiator hose, stick your hose into the head, and backflush until it comes out clear. I also rinse out the surge tank/reservoir, remove the aeration line at the back of the tank, and backflush that, too.

About a quart of water will remain in the heater core. Only two things you can do about it: remove the hoses to the heater core to drain it (which I have never done but seems to be a PITA), or dilute it.

I dilute it by putting the hoses back on, including the t-stat housing, but leave the t-stat out so that you don't have to wait for it to warm up and open to circulate. Then (after flushing) fill with distilled water, run for a minute, drain, refill with distilled, drain again. Virtually none of the hose water is left at this point. Then install t-stat, fill with 100% antifreeze, and top with distilled as fetchitfido mentioned. This gets you to the right concentration.

Also, take a look at the radiator's black plastic end tank on the driver side. If the ribs are cracked and getting close to the body, may want to replace it. If not too bad, it can wait a while if trying to keep costs down.

ShawnV started a good thread on the heater core in the How To library, link below

Mucho information in the how to library or by searching forums
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=26

I won't comment on your auto trans, since my knowledge of the Saturn is limited to what I read here. But you want an ATF that is Dex III, or marked Dexron/Mercon. As fetchitfido said, avoid the others. "Reverse slam" is what that is often called, there are a few things that can be tried, but a fluid /filter change is a good start
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Last edited by alordofchaos; 08-27-2017 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
in the heater core. Only two things you can do about it: remove the hoses to the heater core (which I have never done but seems to be a PITA)
It's even more of a PITA if stuck on the side of the road at night when/if they blow... AMending my original post,"
Changing all fluids and coolant hoses is SOP for a new( used) car unless there's absolutely no question of quality/cleanliness.
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Old 08-27-2017, 10:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billysvue View Post
Changing all fluids is SOP for a new( used) car unless there's absolutely no question of quality/cleanliness.
Well understood, I've been a regular purchaser of cheap cars for a long time, got a reputation, and that is how I ended up with my first Saturn.
Oil has been changed. PO was gifted the car from his parents as a car for his daughter. AT fluid, New exhaust from Cat back, the apparently pink coolant, 02 sensors, etc all done within the last 5,000 miles.


Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
First off pat yourself on the back kfor getting a running vehicle for $150.

Oh and BTW that "clunk"? It is normal. Over the years I have owned 3 different Saturn SL2s all autos. A 1996, a 1999 and a 2001. They all did this
The junkyard offered my friend, the PO, 150. He wanted his driveway space back. Win-win!

This will be the second automatic I've ever owned, so I figured it maybe be a simple 'normal' thing, as there is no clunking or harsh engagement from park or neutral into reverse or drive. Just reverse to neutral as I'm used to getting rolling in a standard shift car and putting the car into neutral as I roll back.


Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
welcome to saturnfans

Did you read the warnings about checking the oil at every gas fill, and making sure it does not drop below the top line at the FULL mark on the dipstick? This is not one of those cars where you can/should let it get down to the "add a quart" on the hashmarks to add oil Don't let alarmists concern you about Dexcool. Yes, there were some issues when it first came out, with certain engines. Saturn was not one of them, since it involved a new engine design with sealed cooling system
Yes sir, I sure did! I'm a do your homework type of guy.
I also downloaded the 'tweaked' FSM and will follow its guidelines for coolant flushes, and, well, most of the work I plan to do on the vehicle.


Thank you all for your insights.
Now just to figure out the strong wobbly-vibration I get above 65mph.
I have a feeling moving the wheels around may bring me an answer.
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Old 08-27-2017, 11:01 AM   #8
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

New tires always work wonders on my SL2. The control arms don't last forever though. They are worth looking at, especially if tires don't help. If you are handy and have the tools they are not bad to replace, though by the time you replace them and have an alignment done you will probably have doubled your $150 investment.

Congrats on what sounds like a great deal!
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Old 08-27-2017, 11:57 AM   #9
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
New tires always work wonders on my SL2. The control arms don't last forever though. They are worth looking at, especially if tires don't help. If you are handy and have the tools they are not bad to replace, though by the time you replace them and have an alignment done you will probably have doubled your $150 investment.

Congrats on what sounds like a great deal!
I figure I may replace every piece of the front end I can.
I'm amazed (coming from mainly european cars) how cheap parts can be.
It has a pretty wicked warped rotor on the front left that I'm guessing could be the culprit, though odd it would only effect the car at and above 65mph, and not below when not on the brakes.

I believe I just spent ~150 for rotors, pads, calipers, guide pins, grease, etc to rectify the problem. Which is just down right insanely cheap.
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Old 08-27-2017, 12:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xSLx View Post
Oil has been changed. PO was gifted the car from his parents as a car for his daughter. AT fluid, New exhaust from Cat back, the apparently pink coolant, 02 sensors, etc all done within the last 5,000 miles.
Sweet deal!
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Old 08-27-2017, 12:56 PM   #11
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Ah, excellent deal, and, you sir, seem to know what you are about

You never know, this forum runs between folks who have owned dozens and can rebuild the motors in their sleep, and folks who need to know what a socket is. Great thing about this forum is, we don't generally make fun of the folks who are learning unlike some places.

I'm also a buyer of cheap cars, though oddly enough, did not end up with my first Saturn until I was in my late '40s. Since then, the S-series has been the only cheap car I've purchased - the 3 listed in my signature are all still in the driveway and all run
Quote:
I'm amazed (coming from mainly european cars) how cheap parts can be
e.g., the Porsche tax
Take a $5 VW part, put a Porsche part number on it, and voila! It's now a $49 part
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Old 08-27-2017, 01:09 PM   #12
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Ah, excellent deal, and, you sir, seem to know what you are about

You never know, this forum runs between folks who have owned dozens and can rebuild the motors in their sleep, and folks who need to know what a socket is. Great thing about this forum is, we don't generally make fun of the folks who are learning unlike some places.

I'm also a buyer of cheap cars, though oddly enough, did not end up with my first Saturn until I was in my late '40s. Since then, the S-series has been the only cheap car I've purchased - the 3 listed in my signature are all still in the driveway and all run
e.g., the Porsche tax
Take a $5 VW part, put a Porsche part number on it, and voila! It's now a $49 part
Thank you
And most definitely. I ran a rather large e30 forum up until handing it off to its new owners when I left for college, so I can definitely understand that statement!

And yes the amusing game that is VAG parts. Same part and depending on VW, Audi, Porsche, hell even Skoda in Europe can be so varied.
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Old 08-27-2017, 02:37 PM   #13
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Many friends have questioned my sanity. Why rebuild a Saturn? Why not a Camaro or Mustang or Corvette? We are about $3K for our rebuild. Plus, when we are done it will be my kid's daily driver. We will get our $3K worth! I like the cheap projects.
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Old 08-27-2017, 03:09 PM   #14
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
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Many friends have questioned my sanity. Why rebuild a Saturn? Why not a Camaro or Mustang or Corvette? We are about $3K for our rebuild. Plus, when we are done it will be my kid's daily driver. We will get our $3K worth! I like the cheap projects.
I think a lot of it comes down to personality.

Do you need a fast loud toy? Or practicality?
I've had too many fast boy racer projects, and am enjoying the slow go cart feel of this SL.
The daily driver combines both fast(ish) and practical, but has no soul like driving a 21 year old car does.

P.S. I see you're in Poplar Grove, only ~90 minutes away from me. I've driven past a few times on the way to Dekalb for a concert/rock show.
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:56 PM   #15
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xSLx View Post
I've run through the search for many hours here and believe I have an understanding of a few 'issues' the car has, or may have and just wanted to maybe got some confirmation on my "findings".
Welcome to SaturnFans, and pat yourself on the back. You just bought one of the most reliable small, economy cars, that money can buy. Check your oil level DAILY, though. They are notorious oil burners.

Quote:
Either way, should this be replaced with some Green coolant?
Unless you want to replace your cylinder head gasket within the next 6 months, get a bottle of full strength GREEN, and top off with distilled water(which is like $1/gallon at any grocery store)




Quote:
My assumption here is that the t-stat is stuck open, at least partially.
And to change it out for a stant 14279 when doing the coolant flush for the above question.
This would be correct. You should also get e new Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor, as well. The stock units are plastic, and they crack. Then the idle, drivability become affected.
Lastly,

Quote:
The transmission, an automatic, seems to be in great shape with only one oddity, to me at least.
When shifting out of reverse into neutral, on occasion is an audible 'clunk' type of noise accompanied by the engine's revs jumping up to ~1500. Then once clicked into drive, no clunk down to ~800rpm until brakes off and give it gas.

Normal? Maybe higher idle from car thinking it needs to warm up due to t-stat?

I appreciate anyone's help and insight.
I've only driven her for ~100 miles since purchase.
This could be a result of a failing ECTS(see above), or an idle air control valve/TPS issue, but will likely clear up when you flush the coolant and replace the ECTS.
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Old 08-27-2017, 11:03 PM   #16
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

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Welcome to SaturnFans, and pat yourself on the back. You just bought one of the most reliable small, economy cars, that money can buy.
Thank you, and thank you for the advice.
I'll grab a t-stat, coolant, and ects from my FLAPS tomorrow and add along side doing the brakes tomorrow.
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Old 08-28-2017, 01:00 AM   #17
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Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
First off pat yourself on the back kfor getting a running vehicle for $150.
As for the pink coolant.
Yes it is Dex Cool. 1996 was the changeover point. It does NOT play well with other coolants. So you have 2 choices. Flush the system and use it again. Some folks think it's the death of engines. It's NOT. If you look carefully into the issues with it they are on engines GM has ALWAYS historically had the same issues with even before DexCool. So using it again is safe. The other option (also a safe option) is to flush and refill with "Universal" type coolant These coolants are safe to use with just about anything. The reason I am making these 2 recommendations is simple. DexCool's one HUGE fault is not playing well with plain old green. Odds of you getting all the Dex out of your engine? Slim and none. Hence my recommendation to do it safely. Of course this goes without saying to do AFTER you've put a new t/stat in it. I would also install a new brass ETCS (I forget on the 96 which of the 2 sensors it is)
Do a multiple drain fill of the trans (change the filter on the first one). The absolute closest (easily available) fluid to a TRUE Dexron III/IIIH (which is what GM spec'd for it is Valvoline Multi-Vehicle Import Synthetic in the Blue Bottle. This is made for Toyota, Nissan and Honda older transmissions that absolutely MUST have Dexron III/IIIH. Every Japanese automaker spec'd this fluid on their older 4 speed automatics. It is a higher viscosity fluid and works VERY VERY well in the Saturn and is easily available and relatively inexpensive. In my own SL2 either Mobil 1 or the Valvoline product(s) were all I used. That trans was at 220k miles and still working flawlessly when the car was totaled last year
Oh and BTW that "clunk"? It is normal. Over the years I have owned 3 different Saturn SL2s all autos. A 1996, a 1999 and a 2001. They all did this
As quoted, from this documented research by a mechanic:

"I have observed that head gasket failures are MORE LIKELY TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH DEX-COOL than the OE style conventional coolant."

http://www.zr1specialist.com/HAT%20W...d%20Gasket.pdf

The LT5 engine uses the exact same materials, for its head gaskets, as the Saturn S-Series 1.9L, and many other GM engines from those years. It is a steel core, coated with compressed carbon-fiber, fitted with steel sealing rings around the cylinders. They use these types of gaskets, because they are better suited to retain their seal on uneven mating surfaces(such as engine with aluminum, as it warps a few thousandths of an inch, over time)

Gasket swelling on GREEN is about 0.010". Engines with Death-Kill orange typically swell about 0.110", and the fibers get softened, which blows out the metal sealing rings.

And don't even get me started on how acidic it is or how it sludges inside your radiator, or the acid eating through your heater core....
...
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Old 08-28-2017, 10:07 AM   #18
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Central MI
Posts: 12,958
 

2002 SC2
1998 SL2
Default Re: Hello all, Just bought a $150 '96 SL, and have a few questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xSLx View Post
Thank you, and thank you for the advice.
I'll grab a t-stat, coolant, and ects from my FLAPS tomorrow and add along side doing the brakes tomorrow.
There's a good chance that your ECTS has been already changed by a previous owner. Doesn't hurt to pull it out and check it while the system is empty but keep your receipt (it's a pipe thread, so pipe dope or Teflon tape while reinstalling, and don't over-tighten - when it's fully seated, threads will still be exposed)

Of course, it also doesn't hurt to replace it, either. Low Saturn (of Different Racing) replaced his either yearly or at every coolant change (don't recall off hand). OTOH, the one in my '98 has 100k miles on the brass-tipped replacement, and on my '02 (which came from the factory with the brass-tipped ECTS), the ECTS is 15 yrs old and has around 125k miles
...
I'm not worthy to grovel in the shadow of Signmaster's wisdom

11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 151k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles
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