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Old 06-12-2008, 10:39 PM   #1
Lsportline43
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Question Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

So I just bought a 1996 Saturn SL2 automatic transmission. I'm posting some questions about my particular situation.

First off, I have read about the temperature gauge on the 1996s reading high and making owner's worry about overheating. In the threads I have read it seems that the radiator fan turns on right before the motor is about to overheat. This brings me to my first question/issue.

One day I was driving my SL2 and the temperature outside must have been 85 to 90F degrees. So it was pretty hot. On top of that I was driving in stop and go traffic. At the time I thought the radiator fan was broken. As in it did not turn on. Anyway the temperature spiked to more than the half way point. I eventually reached my destination and shut it down.

This is where I believe my case must be different from everyone else's. I turned it off and left it for about 10 minutes. Came back and tried to start it. It would not start. It would hesitate while the starter tried to crank it and just shuts down. Eventually it starts and I try to make it home. I try to keep the car moving since it seems to stay cool while the radiator has air moving to it.

Anyways I make it home and eventually figured out that the radiator fan turns on whenever the A/C is on. So I turn on the A/C to see if the radiator fan would turn on. And it does. So I was going to get the garage to take a look at my SL2, but have been holding it off since I needed to save for repairs.

So I have been driving around the heat with the A/C on to make sure the radiator fan is on to keep the motor cool.

I personally do not think this can be a properly functioning radiator fan. The coolant temp. should reach a point and stay at that point constantly. So what do you guys suggest I do? I need to also get my brakes done, get the A/C recharged, probably get some engine work, coolant flush, etc. What to do first?

Any other comments/suggestions on what I should do with my SL2.

More information:

It has 165,500 miles on it. It was purchase from the previous owner in 2005. 20,000 miles have been put on it since that purchase. I plan on putting 6,500 to 8,000 miles on it every year. I commute to school and work, so I need this car to be reliable. How can I get to this level?

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Old 06-13-2008, 08:15 AM   #2
JerryHughes
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1997 SL
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

The temperature gauge getting to the half way point is nothing. Your car not starting had nothing to do with the gauge getting to the half way point or your car over heating because it didn't. In fact, being close to the half way point on your gauge is where it should be. It's scary watching the needle on the dash go past the 3/4 mark but again, this is pretty normal for your Saturn. As long as the fan does kick on before getting close to that "red zone"---you should be okay.

You should list what you have done to the car, as far as maintenance and even what the previous owner had done, before any advice is given on what needs to be done. But if you need to get the brakes done, I'd start there!

Jerry

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Old 06-13-2008, 09:56 AM   #3
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Actually, '96 was the year they recalibrated the gauge; your fan should kick on at around 3/4 or less.

But your gauge reading is probably wrong. The gauge in your '96 is driven by the ECTS, which also controls the fan. And your ECTS is probably failing, sending a falsely low reading to the PCM, which is in turn making a falsely low display on the temp gauge, and simultaneously not turning on the fan when it should. It's a known-to-fail part, and the replacement is an improvement which should last the life of the car. Visit our How-To Library and follow one of the "sticky" threads near the top, for all the sordid details. You can change it in your driveway in minutes.

Your starting issue is separate, and your description is a little confusing. Was the starter having trouble turning the engine? Was the engine turning, but it just took inordinately long to catch?

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Old 06-13-2008, 12:58 PM   #4
Lsportline43
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

As long as I had the car it has ALWAYS started right up. When it supposedly overheated it would not start up. That is the only time it would not start up. I do not see how it wouldn't be related. The car's temp was high and then the car wouldn't start up. To me it seemed like there was some sort of safety mechanism that prevented the motor from damaging itself because of the heat.

To my knowledge there has not been much work done on the car. I'm thinking it is probably time to change drive belts and coolant hoses. How about timing belt/water pump? How often does that need to be done?

As for the ECTS, I would imagine mine has the non-brass one. I will put that on my priority list to get replaced.

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Old 06-13-2008, 01:30 PM   #5
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1997 SL
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

There is only one drive belt, a "serpentine" belt.
As for hoses, check them, if it's been a while or if cracked or bulged, yes, change them.
There is no Timing Belt. These cars are driven by internal chains. One big reason I bought a Saturn. The chains last a long time, and warn you before they fail. Of course, their life depends on clean and filled oil.
Do the water pump if it's leaking or makes noise.

...
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Old 06-13-2008, 06:05 PM   #6
Lsportline43
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Oh no timing belts... so how often does the timing chain have to be changed? Mine has 165,500 miles, so when should I expect to get it done?

Just noticed that there's this squealing type noise that lasts for a few seconds when I first turn the A/C on. Sounds like the belt making the noise...

Besides these issues the car has been GREAT. I've driven it on the freeway for over 30 miles and it runs fine. I definitely want to have this car last for me, so I am on a mission of finding out what maintence I need to perform.

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Old 06-13-2008, 06:47 PM   #7
virnin
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1995 SL2
1995 SL2
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lsportline43 View Post
As long as I had the car it has ALWAYS started right up. When it supposedly overheated it would not start up. That is the only time it would not start up. I do not see how it wouldn't be related. The car's temp was high and then the car wouldn't start up. To me it seemed like there was some sort of safety mechanism that prevented the motor from damaging itself because of the heat.
While it sounds like an interesting idea, the S-series PCM has no such mechanism.

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Old 06-13-2008, 06:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Starting fuel enrichment is adjusted by engine temperature, among other parameters.

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Old 06-13-2008, 07:04 PM   #9
JerryHughes
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1997 SL
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lsportline43 View Post
As long as I had the car it has ALWAYS started right up. When it supposedly overheated it would not start up.
Well, if the car still has the problem, when hot, after changing the ECTS I'd change the Crankshaft Position Sensor. Not starting after heating up is a classic sign of a bad C.P.S. Both procedures can be found on Richpin's site here---- http://www.youtube.com/profile_video...richpin06a&p=r But before "assuming" the C.P.S. is bad, follow Richpin's video on testing it. But if it's been so many miles, I'd simply change it anyway.

Jerry

Last edited by JerryHughes; 06-13-2008 at 07:11 PM..

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Old 06-15-2008, 02:29 AM   #10
Lsportline43
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Thanks for the advise about the CPS. This seems to be highly possible because the scenerios match up.

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Old 06-16-2008, 03:57 PM   #11
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Key question (and always good info to provide the FIRST time you report a no-start): what kind of no-start? Does it crank the engine, but not start? Or is the starter not even cranking the engine?

The timing chain, provided proper general maintenance and responsible use, should last the life of the car. I believe Luke is on his original timing chain, at what must now be well over 500,000 miles. The timing chain is one major reason it's CRITICAL to have good oil, and enough of it, in your engine at all times. As one of our alumni would say, CHECK YOUR DAMN OIL, at EVERY gas fill-up. And change it on schedule.

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Old 06-16-2008, 06:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Change your ECTS to the new brass design. Sensor+teflon tape+5 minutes with a socket

The falsely low reading is causing your engine to mess up the ammount of fuel it needs, so its flooding a warm engine when you try to start. I had this EXACT same problem. Also, check to see if maybe you need a new battery, it wouldn't hurt.

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Old 06-16-2008, 07:43 PM   #13
Lsportline43
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Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Thanks for all the advice. Where do you suggest I get all this work done? Should I go to a private garage or Saturn Dealership? Or maybe a chain garage such as Pepboys or Aamco Transmissions?

I'm college kid, so the least of savings would be appreciated.

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Old 06-16-2008, 09:22 PM   #14
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1995 SL2
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

I'm playing the broke college student as well, so I just do the work myself.

Pre-Saturn, I've never worked under the hood of a car, but with the help on this forum I had an easy time with:

ECTS
PCV Valve/Hose/Grommet
EGR & Throttle Body Cleaning
Spark Plugs and Wires
Valve Cover Gasket
Manual Radiator Fan Switch (Just because our cars lack toggle switches!)
Serpentine Belt and Tensioner
Oil Change (Mobil 1 0w-30 and Motorcraft FL-400S filter)

This whole mess cost me about $150, and my dealer parts were quite a bit more expensive than what was posted around here, (ECTS was $20).

Sure, it'd be simpler taking it to a shop, but it just doesn't get cheaper than doing it in a driveway.

Besides, it's summer, so you ought to have time. I worked it around my seasonal 8-6.

AC work you might want to save for someone who knows what they're doing, but general maintanence is pretty quick and easy.

...
1995 SL2; 205,000 miles and counting...
I think it's the green fur interior that keeps it going!

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Old 06-17-2008, 09:33 AM   #15
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Just bought 1996 Saturn SL2... questions.

Best place is your driveway, or wherever you park the car off-street. ECTS can be done in minutes, with a 13mm (?) deep well socket. An inch-pound torque wrench is recommended, but if you have a gentle hand, you can use a plain ratchet and be careful about torquing it down.

Serpentine belt takes a 14mm combination wrench and some rope. Replace it first, for the belt squeal. If it persists, you probably need a tensioner. Provided the bolts aren't seized (rare, but it happened to guess-who), it's another job you can do in your driveway, in an hour or so.

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