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View Poll Results: Did I get a good deal?
Paid way too much!! 10 12.35%
A little high 29 35.80%
Just about right 28 34.57%
Great Deal! 15 18.52%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 81. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-03-2014, 01:26 AM   #1
Chris Arnold
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2002 SL2
Default New to Saturn

Hi everyone,

I just bought my first Saturn today. I hope I did well, and feel like the price was fair from a dealership... maybe a bit high compared to a private party purchase.

2002 Saturn SL2 - Listed for $4,300. Bought it for $3,300 + tax/tag/title/Documentation fee (roll eyes). Total out the door $3,608. I could have done better from a private party, but I've been looking for the right car for a month (4 cyl compact w/ legroom, low mileage, manual tranny, cruise, fold down seats), and the search was not as easy as I'd imagined. NADA Retail was $3,750 & clean trade in was $2,275. KBB private party in Excellent/Very Good/Good condition was $3,017/$2,868/$2,793. KBB suggested retail/Fair Purchase Price: $3,833/$3,508. I feel it was right in the range.

Facts:
- Curb Weight ~2,400 lbs
- DOHC 1.9L 4cyl w/ 124hp
- 5 speed
- updated EPA fuel economy ratings: 23 city/34 highway
- Pretty loaded for the platform (cruise, power locks/windows/mirrors, traction control, ABS)
- Mileage: 71,788 miles
- 1 owner car from NY, clean title, carfax verified

Issues:
- Right rear window doesn't roll up (dealer said it was a clip and gave me the part)
- Horn switch, wiring, or fuse malfunction. The horn itself functions when tested directly, but can't be used from inside the car
- Dash cluster needles difficult to see at night - they don't illuminate, and although the back-light for the RPM and speed is there, there should also be an overhead lamp in the dash cluster illuminating them. No biggie to me. So probably not going to fix soon. Just a little harder to see.
- squeak from tensioner or accessory belt - annoying. Will fix ASAP, but doubt anything serious
- Driver's mirror power adjustment only works left to right, but not up and down. (just use the ol' thumbs for that adjustment ;-)

Recent repairs (according to dealer):
- Top motor mount replaced
- New front pads/rotors, turned rear drums and pads
- Maaco paint job
- Other stuff didn't matter to me
- "Wheel cylinder" WTF?

Pros:
- Love the fuel economy, which is higher than all the other cars on my list except the Corolla
- Twin-cam motor actually feels as punchy as the old BMW 318i that I had in Germany
- Happy to have fold down rear seats for extra storage room.
- Price in comparison to other vehicles
- A bit more leg room than the 318i should help on longer trips, though it is still not a car I can stretch out and really feel comfortable in. I'm 6'3" w/ a 36" inseam.
- Twin-cam's extra power and reputation as a little less problematic than the SOHC 1.9L is worth the 2 mpg difference
- Timing Chain (hate timing belts)
- Polymer body panels will never rust. (Still have to pay attention to undercarriage, but they are not prone to)
- I like the way it rides. The suspension seems tight and there are no abnormal noises.

Cons:
- Rear wheel drums (oh well... I'll have to live with them until my next DD, I guess)
- S-series cars are prone to burn oil
- Styling is bland and interior is cheap, but seems reasonably comfortable
- No Aux cable input for stereo (will upgrade ASAP)

I have pictures.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Exterior_Driver's_Front.jpg (138.5 KB, 132 views)
File Type: jpg Exterior_Front.jpg (133.7 KB, 86 views)
File Type: jpg Exterior_Rear.jpg (122.6 KB, 65 views)
File Type: jpg Trunk.jpg (130.5 KB, 61 views)
File Type: jpg Interior_driver.jpg (120.6 KB, 112 views)
File Type: jpg Interior_Center_Console.jpg (129.6 KB, 109 views)
File Type: jpg Interior_Rear_Seat.jpg (129.4 KB, 62 views)

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Old 09-03-2014, 02:42 AM   #2
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Congrats on your new SL2 and welcome to the forum. With a little regular maintenance it should last a long time. Check to see if you have the proper spark plugs ( regular copper not platinum ) Most of us use NGK BKR5ESA-11. I would change the oil to full synthetic asap. Read this http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=177672 if you haven't already.

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Old 09-03-2014, 09:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: New to Saturn

I say a 'Good Deal' - considering you purchased from a Dealer and you picked a really good car brand. 71k is just the beginning of this car's reasonable life. Best advice I can give you is to put Full Synthetic oil in the engine as soon as possible and check the oil level at every fill-up.

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2004 Ion3 new 11/2003 (totaled) 11/2011 -23 mpg
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* 1986 Yamaha ce50 Jog -100 mpg

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Old 09-03-2014, 11:31 AM   #4
Chris Arnold
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Thanks, guys! The information thread looks very helpful. I'll read it closely and heed the advice of the guys that know these cars.

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Old 09-03-2014, 11:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: New to Saturn

A little high, but a fair price, IMO. I wouldn't hate myself in the morning

If you do any of your own work or are interested in learning, it's a great car for that

If you're more interested in MPG than cruise, there's a 5th gear swap which will get you into the mileage of the SOHC cars (but you'll lose cruise control, if you do this)
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho....php?p=1827234

Removing the cluster to replace bulbs (looks worse than it really is)
http://www.differentracing.com/tech_...02cluster.html

DIYguy's seat extending, for tall people
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=187697

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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 141k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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Old 09-03-2014, 11:54 AM   #6
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Default Re: New to Saturn

You probably do not need to change out the ECTS as the 2002 models came with the brass tipped one, but you should at least check the wiring and connector for any corrosion. What does your temp gauge read when fully warmed up ? Thermostat failure is common on Saturns

...
97 sl2 a/t 104 K
1989 GMC 3500 454 129 K, 1969 442 455 rat rod

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Old 09-03-2014, 02:01 PM   #7
Chris Arnold
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Quote:
Originally Posted by el diablo viejo View Post
You probably do not need to change out the ECTS as the 2002 models came with the brass tipped one, but you should at least check the wiring and connector for any corrosion. What does your temp gauge read when fully warmed up ? Thermostat failure is common on Saturns
It was somewhere in the middle of the gauge. I saw the mention of the t-stat concerns about being stuck open. I'll take a closer look next time I go for a spin and report back.

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Old 09-04-2014, 01:35 PM   #8
Chris Arnold
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Sweet. Right rear window fix was easy as pie Total cost - $0.00

Next up, I will diagnose the squeaking accessory/pulley/belt.

To answer the question about the temp gauge: During the warmth of the day, it stayed a tad less than halfway between the 1/4 and 1/2 lines on the temp gauge. So, basically a bit less than 3/8s, even though there's no 3/8 line. At night, it dropped a bit to just a bit over 1/4. Any issue there?

Chris

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Old 09-04-2014, 02:24 PM   #9
Chris Arnold
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
A little high, but a fair price, IMO. I wouldn't hate myself in the morning

If you do any of your own work or are interested in learning, it's a great car for that

If you're more interested in MPG than cruise, there's a 5th gear swap which will get you into the mileage of the SOHC cars (but you'll lose cruise control, if you do this)

Removing the cluster to replace bulbs (looks worse than it really is)

DIYguy's seat extending, for tall people
Thanks! Your links are fantastic. However, I'm not an electrical guy, and though I'd do the 5th gear swap in a heartbeat, I'm not willing to lose cruise or to spend another $250 on aftermarket cruise systems.

I've saved the cluster bulb replacement link. I'm not in a hurry on that one, but if I ever tire of squinting at the instruments, I'll jump in there.

The seat extensions are cool to see. I'm happy with the legroom at the moment, though.

Anyway, if they ever find a simple fix to the cruise issue, I'm in for the 5th gear swap. It looks surprisingly easy.

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Old 09-04-2014, 05:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: New to Saturn

I think that's a fair deal. I bought my 1999 SL2 auto in January for $2200 with 115K on it. Your exterior is much nicer. I've had to do the usual fixes - wrong spark plugs, water pump, t-stat (was stuck open in winter) ETCS just for fun, O2 sensor. Actually not a lot of $. I just re-shoed it for $250. Runs great and gets a real 33 mpg (distance / fuel used). Mine is getting close to 130K - I drive it a lot - work is 42 miles one way. I'd like to drive a nicer car (I have nicer cars) but the mileage kills and gas isn't cheap. And I did switch to full synthetic which seems to help. I tried a couple of top end cleanses. Go synth now to keep the rings from sticking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Arnold View Post
Sweet. Right rear window fix was easy as pie Total cost - $0.00

Next up, I will diagnose the squeaking accessory/pulley/belt.

To answer the question about the temp gauge: During the warmth of the day, it stayed a tad less than halfway between the 1/4 and 1/2 lines on the temp gauge. So, basically a bit less than 3/8s, even though there's no 3/8 line. At night, it dropped a bit to just a bit over 1/4. Any issue there?

Chris
My temp is 3/8 for normal. When it gets to 1/2 (stuck in a drive thru) the fan kicks on.

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Old 09-04-2014, 10:21 PM   #11
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Arnold View Post
Sweet. Right rear window fix was easy as pie Total cost - $0.00

Next up, I will diagnose the squeaking accessory/pulley/belt.

To answer the question about the temp gauge: During the warmth of the day, it stayed a tad less than halfway between the 1/4 and 1/2 lines on the temp gauge. So, basically a bit less than 3/8s, even though there's no 3/8 line. At night, it dropped a bit to just a bit over 1/4. Any issue there?

Chris
That all sounds about right, your tstat should be ok.

...
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1989 GMC 3500 454 129 K, 1969 442 455 rat rod

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Old 09-05-2014, 12:48 PM   #12
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Forgot to mention, some people have said they could replace the two top bulbs (referred to as the opera lights?) without removing the instrument panel, just taking the top dash shelf off.

...
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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 141k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 09-06-2014, 01:51 PM   #13
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Default Re: New to Saturn

An example: 98 SL2 .. 135k, seems to have every option besides power driver side mirror.. rear disc, moonroof, cd, traction control, auto, cruise, bought in Washington........ $2500

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Old 09-06-2014, 05:40 PM   #14
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Default Re: New to Saturn

About fair for a dealership. You have a great car now that should last another 200k miles with synthetic oil changes on time. Eventually it will begin to use some oil so keep an eye on levels always It's still hard to beat 30 TO 40 MPG on a non hybrid. That EPA adjusted is not even close to real world experience on these.

Last edited by climbski; 09-06-2014 at 05:46 PM..

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Old 09-07-2014, 08:24 AM   #15
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Quote:
Originally Posted by el diablo viejo View Post
That all sounds about right, your tstat should be ok.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Forgot to mention, some people have said they could replace the two top bulbs (referred to as the opera lights?) without removing the instrument panel, just taking the top dash shelf off.
I'll look into that. If you have a link on a how-to, I'd appreciate it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by heykenny View Post
An example: 98 SL2 .. 135k, seems to have every option besides power driver side mirror.. rear disc, moonroof, cd, traction control, auto, cruise, bought in Washington........ $2500
Pretty cool. The only thing I didn't get in this car that I was hoping for in my next car was rear discs. Is it a straight forward swap from the older platform? Would I lose ABS doing it? By the way, I'm glad I'm without the moonroof, as I don't really like them and eventually they start leaking or rusting in most cars. Also, there are lot of these cars in the $1,400-1,600 range around here, but they are all really high mileage cars. I'm talking 160-190k. Some have even more. I wanted to start out with one in near mint condition, because I've found it's easier to fix one thing at a time and "keep up" with repairs than it is to take a car with a list of problems and make it mint again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by climbski View Post
About fair for a dealership. You have a great car now that should last another 200k miles with synthetic oil changes on time. Eventually it will begin to use some oil so keep an eye on levels always It's still hard to beat 30 TO 40 MPG on a non hybrid. That EPA adjusted is not even close to real world experience on these.
Thanks, even though I've failed to do so at the last two fill-ups, I'm going to get myself back into the habit of checking every time I fill up.

What is the consensus on the cheap "full synthetic" parts store brand oils? Is any synthetic as good as the next?

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Old 09-08-2014, 12:18 AM   #16
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Default Re: New to Saturn

I've never replaced the top bulbs myself, and I have a 2nd gen rather than a 3rd gen like yours, though I did pull out instrument panel to replace the odometer bulb

This is actually the guide to replacing the bulbs with LEDs:
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=152386

If you want to give it a shot, just follow the first step of removing the top dash pad. The link above has a great picture showing the back of the bulbs so you have an idea of their location. Once the dash pad is off, you just reach back there (the OP of the other thread mentions using a screwdriver), press in the two top bulbs and give them a quarter turn. They'll pop out.

video guide to removing the instrument panel. I'd forgotten richpin did one for 3rd gen S series (he usually does the videos on a 2nd gen)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5araI3Lu6OE

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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 141k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 09-08-2014, 12:05 PM   #17
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Default Re: New to Saturn

Wow. Ok. For some reason I got the impression that the cluster had to come out completely to get to the bulbs, but if it's just the dash pad, that's pretty simple. I'll go ahead and do it. Thanks again man!

On another note, I tried diagnosing the squeaky accessory by spraying WD-40 on each pulley separately, but that didn't work. In the past when I got to the squeaky one the WD-40 would temporarily silence it, which would let me know which one was squeaking. It didn't work this time. Just by the sound, I think it may be either the A/C or the tensioner. Aside from trial-and-error replacement, is there a better way to diagnose?

Back on the 5th gear swap: I really hope that there's a cheap fix for the cruise with the 5th gear replacement. That's been on my mind since I saw the other thread. I'm not an electrician so anything other than simple soldering is out of the question. I'm surprised it's such a PITA to get around the problem. I love the extremely tall 6th gear in the T56 in the Corvette (.50:1), because even with such a big motor I can still get over 30mpg on the highway. So, I'm sure I'd like the taller 5th gear from the 2nd gens in the Saturn. It definitely has my interest. Hopefully someone comes up with a simple cruise fix soon.

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Old 09-10-2014, 11:53 PM   #18
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Got some things done!

1. New accessory belt fixed the squealing sound.
2. As ordered by the forum members here, I ditched some perfectly good conventional oil for synthetic. I'm bucking conventional wisdom a bit by going with a thicker weight than the OEM recommendation. I chose Mobil 1 0W-40. Maybe it won't make a difference, maybe it'll slow the oil burning progression down a bit. I feel it won't hurt, and I'm going to give it a shot.
3. Installed an aftermarket stereo head unit with Aux, USB, and Bluetooth inputs. This is my first hands-free calling capable car. My Galaxy S3 synched right up without hassle.
4. Replaced the cluster illumination lights, the ones on the front that allow you to see the needles at night, not the gauges' back lights. The dash pad didn't even come out, just the plastic front trim. yay!
5. Tapped into a "hot" wire behind the stereo and routed it up the A-pillar and through the headliner to my Escort 9500ix GPS-enabled radar detector. The only problem is that the wire for it, and for the head unit's microphone rattle while going over rough or bumpy roads. I should have taped it down to prevent that. It's not too bad, though. So, I'll probably just find out if I actually care over the next couple of drives.
6. I had the A/C serviced. It was bringing temps down to a comfortable level at max, but in 80 degree weather, I expected better. It turns out that it only had .6 gallons of freon in the system instead of 1.6 gallons. Now, the A/C is giving me frostbite ;-)

All that really remains to do is to replace the horn/airbag. The dealer said he'd put it in the mail today.

I religiously fill up on Fridays. Last Friday I'd only driven 130 miles on 4.3 gallons for 30.2 mpg. This week it's looking a bit worse. I'm at 255 miles and it's hanging just under 1/4 of a tank. I'm pretty sure that's because I taught my girlfriend to drive with a manual transmission. She did great, but she wasn't comfortable driving at speed in higher gears, yet. So, I'm expecting something south of 30 mpg, this Friday.

So far, I'm loving the car. It was pretty much everything I hoped it would be, and the more I dig in, the more happy I am with the overall deal.

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Old 09-11-2014, 02:17 AM   #19
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When you change your oil next refer to this list http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...05#post2075405 to get the longer filter don't worry they all fit. Keep up the good work!!!

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Old 09-12-2014, 09:35 AM   #20
alordofchaos
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Join Date: Jan 2009
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2002 SC2
1998 SL2
Default Re: New to Saturn

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Arnold View Post
Wow. Ok. For some reason I got the impression that the cluster had to come out completely to get to the bulbs, but if it's just the dash pad, that's pretty simple.
Glad this worked for you without having to pull the cluster

The bulb that seems to go out the most often is the odometer bulb at the bottom, which is probably more difficult to reach

About running the aftermarket stereo and radar unit... this might be worth a read (on 2nd gen interior cars, 1995-1999, the F5 circuit can get overloaded. On 3rd gen cars like yours, it's a different junction, think it's F2, but same issue)
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=173989

...
I'm not worthy to grovel in the shadow of Signmaster's wisdom

11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 141k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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