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Old 05-10-2018, 09:28 PM   #1
pgagl
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Default Why are the L-Series so bad?

Hey Everyone,

I found a Saturn LW-300 listed online for sale with only 84k. Looks pretty clean and its a wagon.

I've always had a soft spot for L-Series wagons, but I've never heard one positive thing about the L-Series.

Why were they so bad? Why does everybody hate them? Why did the lemon-series get a bad rep?

I personally think they don't look bad at all.

By the way, I would never sell my Sl2 for this, so don't worry

Here is the ad for the wagon:

https://philadelphia.craigslist.org/...584145415.html
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Old 05-10-2018, 10:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

I almost went for an L-series wagon myself but went with my 1997 SW2 instead.

I didn’t know the L-series cars had a bad reputation.

Do they?

Hey, they have plastic body panels.
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Old 05-10-2018, 11:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

If you're not interested in 4cyl power and want a little more, the V6 is the next step up unless you can find a turbo 4cyl that doesn't have a worn or blown turbocharger for extra power. 182hp may not be a lot by today's standard but it has more power than a stock 4cyl of the year. Unless you can prove the L-series, 4 or 6 cyl, are dogs, you may be reading hearsay. Beware though, the L300 V6 uses a timing belt that's due for replacement at 100k miles otherwise losing the belt is almost a guarantee of engine damage. Timing belt and water pump at the same time because the pump is hidden behind the timing cover so its wise to simply replace it with the belt.

You may be able to using the timing belt as a bargaining chip for a lower price as the car probably doesn't have its timing belt/water pump replaced yet and being unloaded for that reason. Costs may run between $700-$1200 by repair shop, much less if diy and using ideas from members here to lock camshafts and crank shaft in place when replacing the belt. I'm being as impartial as I can. You are ultimately the person to choose whatever Saturn suits you, not opinions from here since no one can inspect a vehicle in person to make any real assessments.
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Old 05-11-2018, 07:51 AM   #4
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

The 4 cyl eco tec used in those is the same one in early Vue's. GM did a dumb design idea on it. They made what SHOULD have been a timing belt engine into a timing chain engine. However they used the chain to drive the water pump. This is a common thing in a belt engine but NOT a good idea for a chain engine. Water pump bearings have a tendency to not hold up well and begin to get slightly loose. Also WP will tend to "weep" slightly for a VERY long time prior to it's demise. A belt drive can absorb these little flaws a chain system cannot. So the earlier eco tecs had a series of catastrophic timing chain failures which typically took out the entire engine. I saw a LOT of them. GM than got the bright idea a new oiler would work. It helped SLIGHTLY if at all. In about 2008 IIRC gm moved the pump to the accessory drive externally and it became a damn good engine
The V6 is another dog. One of the worst engines to work on ever made. BTW it's an Opel engine as is the L series (Opel Senator IIRC). Yeah either way they're not great vehicles due to bad engine design more than anything else.
BTW there was never a turbo version made as the L series was dumped from GM lineup when Saturn division was dumped
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Old 05-11-2018, 08:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

I had leased a 2001 LW200 with the 2.2 ltr and manual transmission. I liked the car except it had a vibration in the steering wheel at highway speed that the dealer could never figure out and it spent too much time in the shop for that reason.

It was a known problem with the L series at the time and there were a few TSB around it. They balanced tires, replaced tires, sent it out for special on car wheel balancing and added shims to the front suspension and nothing seemed to work.

Shortly after the 80K km warranty expired the steering rack failed needed to be replaced. The cost was $1200 and I had to escalate the issue up the chain. After lots of tooth pulling Saturn Corp provided a goodwill gesture and paid half the bill. I still don't know if that was the cause of the vibration or was a result of the vibration. I returned the car at the end of the 4 year lease less 6 months.
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Old 05-11-2018, 01:24 PM   #6
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

To be fair, some flaws are in every car including Teslas.

The S-series; infamous coolant sensor failure in every model until the line ended in '01 and I suspect the main reason for damaging thermostats and severe oil consumption issues with coked piston rings, valve body failures with various pressure control solenoids, faulty throttle position sensors, idle air control valves, egr valves, timing chain issues, throttle body pressure regulator failure, TBI leaking injector, etc..

The L-series; early model battery cable failures, early oiler issues in the 2.2L engine resulting in timing chain failures from lack of lubrication, early L300 models with leaking oil coolers, both models suffering bcm failures, etc..

Every cat model has its problems some or later. Some were born with faults like the infamous coolant sensor fiasco. Every car, truck and suv suffers ac failures. We pick the vehicle based on many factors and accept faults whether we like them or not then either replace the vehicle and move on or deal with each problem and learn to live with them.

Even Teslas have their share of issues. YouTube is the avenue for Tesla owners to brag and complain of build quality, stupid videos that get them tagged by police and barred from driving for 18 months, autonomous driving mode not quite error free, etc.. There isn't a vehicle in the world that is free of issues.
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Old 05-11-2018, 01:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

They weren't bad cars but a lot of the interior parts weren't different enough from an s-series. it also got overhyped with talk of "european handling" which it did not have. even though it undercut its competitors' prices by a fair bit, the sort of people who were still buying midsize sedans/wagons in 99/00 were generally in a good position to spend a couple more bucks a month for toyota perceived reliability and pseudo-luxury. the s-series wasn't known as a reliable car and the l-series suffered from that.

it was the right car at the wrong time. if it had come out in 94/95/96 when saturn asked for it and at the peak of saturn's popularity, I thnk it would have done much better.
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Old 05-11-2018, 02:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

The L series was derived from the European Opel Vectra, which was rebadged and sold as a Vauxhall Vectra in the UK and a Holden Vectra in Australia. The underpinnings were also used in the Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5. The V6 engine known as the Ellesmere engine as it was built in Ellesmere Port, UK was used in the Saturn L300, the Opel/Vauxhall/Holden/Saab variations as well as the Cadillac Catera and it's successor the CTS. Small differences being Saab stuck a turbo on the V6 and Cadillac did work on improving the engine for the CTS.

I come from the UK and can tell you that the Vauxhall Vectra is the staple diet of the business fleet markets for the likes of Sales Reps. They are a demanding bunch and want the cars to fast, comfortable and good looking. In the the UK they sold the Vectra's by the truck load to business and one thing to remember is the parts market in the UK is so much better than here. So for example you want rear suspension bushes for the L sereis, buy them from the UK and save a chunk compared to the identical Saturn variety. Brakes are identical to the Saab 9-3 and 9-5. On the V6, go to the Caddy dealer some engine parts. The Euro and UK cops use the Vectra and its successor the Insignia as the bench mark for their cars. If they didn't handle well, or could not stand up to the wear & tear, they wouldn't buy them.

The L series is essentially a Saturnized version of that Euro Vectra that is geared to American roads and American drivers (softer ride & handling). Like the S series, it was also seen as a competitor to the Japanese imports.

From what I have read the only major issue was with the 2.0 liter 4 pot engine which had a timing chain issue. There hasn't been any other issues for the L Series to my knowledge.

The youngest L series is now 13 years old and like the S series is an orphan, so its market value has dropped as a result. Spares are becoming more difficult as OEM parts dry up and the aftermarket doesn't fill the void.

The problem with car reputations is whether they are gained when new or developed as they become used cars. The problem with the latter is the biggest variable is the owner. We all know someone who rags the hell out of their car, never maintains it, the interior looks like a garbage can and who then complains about the car when it breaks down.

I bought my 2 son's Saturns as their first cars at high school and to see them through college. The eldest we got him a 2002 SL2 which was always a Florida car with not a drop of rust and really clean underneath. Since getting it in 2013 he's put 50,000 miles on the clock. It has never let him down and R&M costs have been so loooow, I tell him it would cost more to walk. By contrast his younger brother got a 2003 L300, which we later found out was a northern car brought to Florida. It brought with it rust! That said, since 2015, he's put on just a tad over 25,000 miles. It too has never let him down. BUT it has cost more in R&M than the S series. In the main, because it's a more complicated engine, in some areas it is beyond my skills so has to into the indi garage I use. When we bought it, it needed the timing belt changing and a new AC pipe installing that runs from the front all the way to the back.That was costly. Other than that, it has had the usual suspects changed such as battery, tires, etc

Having driven them both and been a passenger in both, the L series is the more 'grown up' car. More space, better fit & finish and in the V6 version it has good get up and go.

Saturn's are little different to other GM cars of the time. They were built by bean counters rather than engineers and suffer for that in nickel & diming.

The ONLY advice I can give to anyone considering any used car is to check it history of ownership and maintenance. If it's been looked after, then it should be OK, but remember that anyone selling any car is selling it for a reason. The real reason may not be given by the seller.

Oh and by the way, this thread should really be in the L series forum. Most S series owners see the S series as the holy grail and everything else is a poor second (LOL)

Hope this helps and good luck

Last edited by floridasl22002; 05-11-2018 at 02:43 PM.
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Old 05-11-2018, 02:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commeatus View Post
it was the right car at the wrong time. if it had come out in 94/95/96 when saturn asked for it and at the peak of saturn's popularity, I thnk it would have done much better.
A lot of first time buyers apparently liked the S-series but when they wanted to buy a larger Saturn . . . there was nothing. So they went to a different brand of car.

I remember seeing a number of S series commercials on TV. I recall one where they showed things hitting the door panel (Frisbee, baseball, etc)

The only L-series commercial I recall seeing featured some guy in a Honda Accord. Half the time, it's on the guy with the Accord and you only see the Saturn for a few seconds. It told me nothing about the car or why I should want it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFjgz6n7FZU
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Old 05-12-2018, 07:22 AM   #10
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Years ago some pilots who favored antiques had a saying - " real planes have two wings and round engines".


Saturn freaks?

Real Saturns have plastic bodies and 4 cylinders.


All the rest are just GM' s with a Saturn nameplate.
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Old 05-12-2018, 09:05 AM   #11
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Years ago some pilots who favored antiques had a saying - " real planes have two wings and round engines".
Years ago? Not in my neighborhood.
https://www.youtube.com/user/flyc77

My parents offered us their L Series at a good price. If I needed a car I would have grabbed it. Maybe not everything is as awesomely affordable and reliable as the S series, but that doesn't make everything else had.
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Old 05-12-2018, 09:45 AM   #12
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dummo View Post
I almost went for an L-series wagon myself but went with my 1997 SW2 instead.

I didn’t know the L-series cars had a bad reputation.

Do they?

Hey, they have plastic body panels.
The L200 models have the 2.2L SCRAP-O-TEC boat anchor, that snaps the timing chains by 80,000.

The L300 models have a transverse-mounted, castrated variant ot the early VUE engine(fortunately WITHOUT the 4-piece intake manifold setup), that is derived from the Cadillac Catera 3.0L DOHC boat anchor, and is known for both blowing the head gaskets(thanks to Orange Dex-Cool) & blowing the timing BELT tensioner before 100,000k.....
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Old 05-12-2018, 10:30 AM   #13
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
but that doesn't make everything else had.
Everything else bad that is. Autocorrect just tried to 'fix' my correction again.
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Old 05-12-2018, 12:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

I own a 2002 lw200 4cyl auto. 188k miles. Runs flawless. All original. Reg fluid changes is all she had .. I'm the 2nd owner. The car was regularly serviced at saturn and then Kia after saturn went out of business. They are great if maintained. Would I risk a 6cyl? Not a chance. Those engines are to risky. Just my 2cents.
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:17 PM   #15
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by timl865 View Post
I own a 2002 lw200 4cyl auto. 188k miles. Runs flawless. All original. Reg fluid changes is all she had .. I'm the 2nd owner. The car was regularly serviced at saturn and then Kia after saturn went out of business. They are great if maintained. Would I risk a 6cyl? Not a chance. Those engines are to risky. Just my 2cents.
I seen a 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais, with the LG0(High-Output), 2.3L Quad 4 engine, in Idaho for sale. It had 250,000+ miles on the odometer.

ONE case of such anomalies means it was an "exception", not the "rule"....

A simple Google search of "Quad 4 Engine Problems" will show that the water pump failures of 2.2L Scrap-O-Tecs would not be the FIRST time GM has dealt with a bad design of water pumps being driven by timing chains......
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Old 05-12-2018, 06:56 PM   #16
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Interesting, sales data shows the chevy malibu and pontiac grand am outselling the L-series by 2 to 1 or more for the L's entire run. By 2000, the s-series had lost a third of its total sales from the 94/95 peak, when it was outselling the civic. I think that waning interest had the biggest effect. Without a solid reputation behind the brand, the L-series had little else to differentiate itself from its GM competitors.
Notably, the hyundai sonata sold a bit less than the L-series and the Kia optima, brand new for 2000 and the "budget" option, sold less than half as well. the compact car sales from those companies combined were half that of the s-series At the same time, the Cam/Cord duo dominated the midsize market, outselling all other competitors combined by a factor of at least 2.

after looking at all that, I'd say the biggest reason the L-series failed was there wasn't a market for it in particular. it didn't have anything to draw customers from japanese brands that its GM counterparts didn't also have in better established names, and it probably mostly sold to people who otherwise would have bought an s-series.
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Old 05-12-2018, 09:04 PM   #17
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Say Onlinebiker, you said "Real Saturns have plastic bodies and 4 cylinders."
Perhaps you did not know the L's had plastic door panels just like the S, and my LW200 was a 4 banger. Albit a dog, but 4 cyl nevertheless.

But yes, it was a GM car, made in MD, not TN.
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Old 05-13-2018, 07:39 AM   #18
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by timl865 View Post
I own a 2002 lw200 4cyl auto. 188k miles. Runs flawless. All original. Reg fluid changes is all she had .. I'm the 2nd owner. The car was regularly serviced at saturn and then Kia after saturn went out of business. They are great if maintained. Would I risk a 6cyl? Not a chance. Those engines are to risky. Just my 2cents.
So you're the one?! Honestly you're lucky. I saw so many of these with blown engines it's not even worth joking about most with not even 100k on them. All due to timing chain issues thanks to that damn water pump location.
The later version of this engine with a "normal" WP drive can take some awful thrashing with no issues
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Old 05-13-2018, 08:10 AM   #19
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by toggenburg View Post
Say Onlinebiker, you said "Real Saturns have plastic bodies and 4 cylinders."
Perhaps you did not know the L's had plastic door panels just like the S, and my LW200 was a 4 banger. Albit a dog, but 4 cyl nevertheless.

But yes, it was a GM car, made in MD, not TN.
Lol.

I did not know that.

I prefer to stick with one basic platform. I have passed up many nice S series cars because the original owner cheaped out and bought the single cam engine.

IMHO - that could be the only reason for doing so.

For me - a DOHC S series is the only" real" Saturn.


Your experience may differ.

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Old 05-14-2018, 04:06 PM   #20
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Default Re: Why are the L-Series so bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commeatus View Post
Interesting, sales data shows the chevy malibu and pontiac grand am outselling the L-series by 2 to 1 or more for the L's entire run. By 2000, the s-series had lost a third of its total sales from the 94/95 peak, when it was outselling the civic. I think that waning interest had the biggest effect. Without a solid reputation behind the brand, the L-series had little else to differentiate itself from its GM competitors.
Notably, the hyundai sonata sold a bit less than the L-series and the Kia optima, brand new for 2000 and the "budget" option, sold less than half as well. the compact car sales from those companies combined were half that of the s-series At the same time, the Cam/Cord duo dominated the midsize market, outselling all other competitors combined by a factor of at least 2.

after looking at all that, I'd say the biggest reason the L-series failed was there wasn't a market for it in particular. it didn't have anything to draw customers from japanese brands that its GM counterparts didn't also have in better established names, and it probably mostly sold to people who otherwise would have bought an s-series.
Interestingly enough, we also sold replacement, used engines for the 2.4L Twin Cam/3400 SFI V6 at about a 2:1 ratio out of the salvage yards as compared to the boat anchors used in the L-Series........

I wonder if "bad engine designs" may have really been the culprit to GM going bankrupt, the L-Series(and eventually the Saturn brand) failing, and many other issues that GM faced during those years of lost market share(while imports were reveered for thei relaibility back then and low upkeep/repair cost).
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