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Old 01-14-2007, 03:08 AM   #1
nikono
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Dizzy 93 SL2 failed smog test!

My '93 Saturn SL2 failed the smog test in CA with excessive HC output. Here are the results:

HC(PPM)
15 MPH: 88 (MAX: 93) PASS
25 MPH: 70 (MAX: 59) FAIL

15 MPH: %C02(14.6), %O2(.4), %CO(.16 MAX:.57), NO(PPM)(592 MAX:720)
25 MPG: %C02(14.7), %O2(.3), %CO(.55 MAX:.57), NO(PPM)(366 MAX:720)

The smog tester said that it was probably the catalytic converter, based on the gurgling/rattling noises.

About a week before I went in for the smog test, I added about 1 1/2 quarts of oil. I was worried that I might have added too much, because it ended up being slightly over the max line (maybe about 1/16"). Shortly after adding the oil, the car started making a loud ("voom!") noise every time I start the engine. It sounds a bit like a motorcycle. I also noticed that it makes sputtering noises and occasionally feels like it's going to stall, but usually only when starting to move forward in the lower gears, or at low RPM in the higher gears. For example, when starting to move forward in first gear, the car may sputter and shake at 1000 RPM and then jump to 3000 RPM and recover. The sputtering also always occurs when coming off of large speed bumps in first gear. I can also get it to sputter reliably when revving the engine hard in 1st gear. It seems to run fine on the freeway, and doesn't lack power.

In addition to the sputtering sound, I hear what sounds exactly like pebbles rattling around in a large can. After reading Wolfman's post that pieces of a destroyed catalytic converter plugging up a muffler would make the same noise, I tried the test of tapping the underside of the muffler with a rubber mallet, but didn't hear anything rattling inside.

After failing the smog test with high HC, I changed all four spark plugs with new NGK plugs. I also replaced the wires with AC Delco wires. This apparently made no difference at all. My old spark plug tips looked clean in general. #1 and #3 were slightly darker than #2 and #4, but not too bad.

This morning, I removed the intake from the throttle body to see if there was any blockage, but both looked clean. I also checked around the air filter and it looked clean as well. Since I added oil above the max line just four weeks ago, I figured that my oil level should be fine, but I decided to check just in case. It was about halfway below the bottom hashmark, so I had to add about 1 and a quarter quarts. So, I had to add almost 3 quarts in a single month. I checked for an oil leak under the car, but there was none.

About a year ago, my father replaced the ECTS sensor with new factory sensor and cleaned the EGR valve, and replacing the EGR solenoid about a month later cleared the SES light. I currently just get the 12 code from the OBD, indicating that no errors are detected.

I took the car in to the dealership a couple of days ago and they were going to charge $209 just for the diagnostic work, so I told them to stop the service. When the mechanic was starting the car and revving the engine in 1st gear, I saw some black smoke coming out of the tail pipe.

My father is a fan of this forum and said I should ask for help from Wolfman. So Wolfman, please help!

Thanks,
nikono

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Old 01-14-2007, 04:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

in regards to your throttle body.....to get the true picture remove the throttle body itself from the intake manifold(purchase a gasket for it ahead of time) and then look into the intake manifold and I bet you might be surprised how gawdawful funky that stuff is in there. The front of mine and even when the butterfly moved looked okenough.....it wasn't until I removed the throttle body(and iac valve) itself and saw the back end of it covered in what I would call BLACK MUD that I realised just how filthy it was( mine is a 96 SL2).....I don't know if it would help the emmissions problem alot or not but do a search on MMO soak......or purchase some SeaFoam from your local autoparts store.....follow the directions on it....introduce it through the vacuum hose that attaches to the pcv valve and watch all the lovely white smoke.....SeaFoam basically burns up built up carbon in your engine and may help your situation some....I'd go get another set of plugs....and keep the set you have....so you have a spare set if you seafoam again....the seafoaming burns off gunk but little gunky bits like to trap themselves on your plugs electrode and cause all sorts of fun for you......might not hurt to clean your EGR valve again(purchase agasket for in in advance)

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Old 01-14-2007, 02:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

I joined this forum last night to get answers for my cars problems, but thought I should chime in to help some other people out first. (Don't want to be a leech)

I am not a smog tech but did manage a smog test-only station in CA for 2 years. The techs & I would review peoples smog tests all the time seeing what mistakes they made in the repair process. As a test-only station we were not allowed to consult with them on it. Only give a pass or fail, their test results, and a list of licensed test & repair stations.

Some of this may sound basic to some on this forum, but I list it all for the benefit of those who may not know.

HC (hydro carbons) is unburned gas. When a Saturn failed at our shop this was the most common reason.

I don't know how old the cat is on your car but taping the muffler may not tell you if it's bad. The cat has a honeycomb like element in it that the emissions pass through. When the cat is good and hot chemical reactions help reduce the emissions. If the cat overheats the element can melt. This ruins the cats effectiveness and can clog the tail pipe. If the element is melted or shattered taping on the cat may produce a rattling noise.

Be careful, we saw the cat used as a band-aid to get cars to pass smog way too often. A lazy tech would throw a new cat on with out really diagnosing the problem. The car would fail, come back with a new cat and pass, but barely. This meant that the old cat may not have been operating perfecty but was certainly not the cause of the problem. The new cat is now handling a larger load than it should need to and all the catalyst inside will get used up quickly, making frequent cat replacements necessary to continue passing smog every other year.

I never had someone who got a new cat without any other work tell me that a cat efficiency test indicated it needed replacing. The cat efficiency test is basically a smog test with a probe inserted before the cat measuring the pre-cat emissions and one at the end of the tailpipe measuring the after-cat emissions. This test is as accurate as you can get in diagnosing how well a cat is working.

If your cat does need replacing, at least the OBD2 cat standards will not apply. Basically, you can buy a less expensive cat. It won't last as long but saves on cost for now.

If this sounds like a rant, it probably is. In 2 years managing that station I got sick of lazy techs slapping cats on cars without doing proper diagnostics. The car would fail a second time and the customer would assume that we must be at fault. After all, the cat is all that matters in emissions (sarc).

It sounds like you have plenty going on besides a possibly bad cat. Good luck.

Last edited by hipstershaun; 01-14-2007 at 03:02 PM.. Reason: typo

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Old 01-14-2007, 04:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Thanks for the responses so far. That's good information. I just wanted to add that my SL2 has a manual transmission. Also, does anyone know if a faulty O2 sensor is detected by OBD1?

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Old 01-14-2007, 05:30 PM   #5
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Default Driving in "field test mode"

Quote:
> Fm Nikono <
>Also, does anyone know if a faulty O2 sensor is detected by OBD1?<
Actually, Yes When I insert my 'reader', while driving, assuming that you are driving at normal operating temperature, the SES light should cycle on and off about every second. I found, that when that light would fall out of cycle, it had indicated that the O2 sensor was in the initial phase of failing.

Keep in mind, when the light stays on, this indicates that the engine is running richer, as in driving agresssivily from a stop postiion. Should the light not stay on, it suggests that the engine is running lean, as when you initially take your foot off the gas pedal.

It's the eratic blinking of the light, which indicates one has an O2 issue. I should note, it was a drop in my gas mileage, which alerted me to run the 'field test'.

(( I hope the above makes sense ))

...
> 95 SL 2 = 653,369 Miles 40.4 MPG, as of 5/20/11. My manual Radiator Fan Switch, courtesy of Wolfman's patient installation guidance, continues to be.......invaluable < The car was retired

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Old 01-14-2007, 07:01 PM   #6
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Luke,

Thanks. My SES light is off, and I haven't seen it blink, which hasn't been very helpful. But I'd like to get an OBD1 reader. Do you have any recommendations? We read in another thread that you had your cat replaced. I'm going to try the MMO soak first as Phredawgy suggested, and probably swap out some of the relevant sensors and valves before looking into replacing my cat, but could you tell me which aftermarket cat you ended up getting?

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Old 01-14-2007, 08:45 PM   #7
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nikono View Post
Luke,

Thanks. My SES light is off, and I haven't seen it blink, which hasn't been very helpful. But I'd like to get an OBD1 reader.
Your reader is a paperclip. Here is How To use it:

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...ighlight=obd+1

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Last edited by Tiger; 01-14-2007 at 08:58 PM..

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Old 01-14-2007, 09:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

A few other thoughts. If you need input from Wolfman, you may want to send him a PM. He retired, but still posts in some forums and is still reading his messages.

Second, it sounds like you have unburnt fuel. Black smoke, failing emissions, etc., but the question is why? Heh, I have been there in another car. Seems like you have adressed some standard things like plug wires, plugs, ECTS, etc. It is also common for the coil module to get corrosion, and cause a misfire condition. That may account for several of your plugs being a different color. Just a thought. I only threw one code, and the dealeship did diagnostics under extended warranty. Besides a weak O2 sensor, they got a code indicating a misfire. They showed me how to clean the coil module. Mine was corroded where it matted to the engine/transmission. Came here and found there was a How To describing the procedure for cleaning the coil module. They replaced the O2 sensor and the black smoke at the tailpipe was gone, and fuel economy was up.

Regarding oil usage, it is common with the 1.9 engine. What I have been told is the oil control rings. Some people do a MMO piston soak. The procedure is in the How To Library. Keeping your oil topped off is very important at this point. Running low on oil will make the problem worse. There is a lot of disussion on what to do if you do a search. But if you are having a lot of unburned fuel, it may be going past the rings and diluting the oil, and increasing oil consumption. Good luck, I am a novice. I work with people, not cars. There are a lot of intelligent/knowledgable people here. Welcome, and God speed!

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Old 01-14-2007, 09:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Some times the O2 sensor becomes just "lazy" as it ages, that is, slow to respond to changes in the exhaust, and that may not set an OBD1 code, but it will effect fuel economy and probably emissions. I do not now if the method Luke mentioned detects this condition.

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Old 01-15-2007, 02:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nikono View Post
...makes sputtering noises and occasionally feels like it's going to stall, but usually only when starting to move forward in the lower gears, or at low RPM in the higher gears...In addition to the sputtering sound, I hear what sounds exactly like pebbles rattling around in a large can....
You may have EGR valve issues. It may be failing to close at the lower speeds when the EGR solenoid gets the close command from the PCM. This would cause your low end stall/sputter. To verify, disconnect the vacuum line at the EGR valve and plug the line with something - golf tee or whatever. Drive it around at the lower speeds for a few blocks to confirm a change in engine response. If the sputtering/stall stops at the low end, you should consider replacing the EGR valve because the back pressure functionality of the valve is no longer working consitantly. There's a recent and somewhat entertaining post about this called "PCM or not" IIRC.

As for the pebbles rattling in a large can, it is most likely the catalytic converter honeycomb media that has shattered/cracked inside and moving around. The honeycomb is somewhat fragile and it can break apart sometimes from a large jolt to the car's frame, or bottoming out over speed bumps, pot holes, etc.

BTW, 1/16" above the full line won't harm the engine. Burning 3 qts in a single month is not good, and should be a priority to get diagnosed and fixed.

The black smoke you saw while the mechanic was revving the engine was most likely carbon being burned off the pistons, or dislodging from the catalytic converter. The carbon build up is probably due to a less than perfect mixture exacerbated by the oil getting into the combustion chamber.

If it is of any consolation to you, supposing your catalytic converter is indeed burned out or broken apart and you are burning as much oil as 3 qts in a month, your SMOG values don't look that bad.

Good luck to you.

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Old 01-15-2007, 12:27 PM   #11
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Quote:
Fm Nikono
I'd like to get an OBD1 reader. Do you have any recommendations?
Yes, rather than my trying to affect the "paper clip" effort, I picked up at PepBoys a Sunpro Code Scanner, Gm 1982 & highter - CP 9001. It's rather expensive, between 25 - 30 dollars, and is basically a housed paper clip, but it allows me to use the unit while driving = "Field Test Mode". I use it atleast once a week, and it sits in the pouch in the driver's side door.

Quote:
Fm Tiger
it sounds like you have unburnt fuel. Black smoke, failing emissions, etc., but the question is why?
Nikono could have what I have; Valve Guide Seals leaking, of which I believe they are the intake units from cylinders 3 & 4. This failure will result in a premature death of the cat converter. Yuo might want to consider this theory, but placing a white tissue, about 3-5 inches from the end of your exhaust pipe, shortly after starting your engine (((>the best time, would be after it's been sitting overnight, a good six hours, after being shut down <)))

Quote:
Fm Don P
Some times the O2 sensor becomes just "lazy" as it ages
And this will show up when performing a "field test", with a reader/scanner/paper clip, inserted while driving. The 'out of cycle' at random blinking of the SES light, will be your first indicaton. As I mentioned earlier, it was my decrease in my gas mileage, which prompted me to affect a "field test", and found the SES light blinking, outof sequence.


Quote:
My SES light is off, and I haven't seen it blink, which hasn't been very helpful.]
I neglected to mention, that the "blinking light" issue, would only show up, when one activates 'reading' the system with a reader/scanner/paper clip insert.

This is considerably different than having the SES light come ON, while driving; Such would indicated that a code has been 'set' and placed into memory.

...
> 95 SL 2 = 653,369 Miles 40.4 MPG, as of 5/20/11. My manual Radiator Fan Switch, courtesy of Wolfman's patient installation guidance, continues to be.......invaluable < The car was retired

Last edited by Luke; 01-15-2007 at 12:41 PM..

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Old 01-15-2007, 10:49 PM   #12
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Thanks everyone. Here's an update. I did an MMO soak overnight. That seems to have improved things a little. When I'm idling at a stop light, there's hardly any vibration, where before I did notice quite a bit of shaking. The sputtering problem seems to have improved somewhat as well. It seems like I have to give it a bit more gas in 1st gear to hear the sputtering from the exhaust, but the problem is still there.

In the afternoon, I removed the vacuum hose from the EGR valve and put a golf tee in it, as suggested. I drove it around the block a few times, but didn't notice any difference. However, right after reconnecting the vacuum hose, I started the engine again, and was shocked to hear what sounded like a healthy start. I shut it off and tried again and it sounded good again. However, the third time, it was back to the way it was. We suspected that the PCM may need to be reset, so I went ahead and reset it. This time, when I tried to start the engine, it made a louder noise and stalled. Now, it's back to the "normal" loud start.

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Old 01-16-2007, 12:16 AM   #13
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

You're onto something related to the EGR valve so removing it and cleaning the valve may fix one issue. Its a little confusing to have one result and then another with inconsistency especially since you only tried experimenting with one part, the EGR valve. It may be that the valve has some carbon particles keeping it open, when at idle it must remain closed, the perfect idle you encountered. After cleaning it see if the intake area the EGR valve is mounted to has any exhaust debris that might keep the valve open and clean it off before re-mounting. Leave the vacuum line off temporarily as it won't harm anything. The EGR valve is used to allow exhaust into the intake manifold only when at part throttle operation, closed at idle. The part throttle operation allows exhaust to help dilute the air/fuel mix cooling the resulting combustion for the catalytic converter. Leaving the vacuum line plugged preventing the exhaust from entering the intake won't harm your converter since you've failed anyway but more importantly need to isolate the EGR valve from any other possible problems. If the engine finally runs at idle w/o a miss and smoothly for several starts and a day or two then replace the EGR valve and re-connect the vacuum line.

I know the engine coolant temperature sensor was already replaced but are you sure its the brass one? Check anyway as the only clue that it is the correct one is the lack of high idling stated from all your posts. Re-check the two wire connector also, for corrosion that might interfere with proper signals since these signals are low voltages (0.1-4.9vdc).

The loud noise on start-up is a mystery. Loose air cleaner filter box allowing unfiltered air past someplace? Any flexible intake air couplings cracked leaking air?

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Old 01-18-2007, 11:01 PM   #14
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Just to chime in, I found this thread because I was doing a search for High Hydrocarbon emissions. I have failed the NYS emissions twice this week and I have until Tuesday the 23rd to get Beastie to pass.

My HC are high. On initial testing, it passed NOx and CO, but HC came in at .99 with .80 being passing. I was told to change the plugs, which I did. The old plugs had 30K on them and were a bit on the dark side, cylinder 3 had an oil aura on the porcelin. I put new NGK v-powers in on Wednesday night, in the dark, at 25 degrees....brrrr. I brought her in this morning and the NOx and CO improved, the HC improved to .90, still above the margin. I'm going to hit the Saturn dealer before work (parts opens at 7:30 AM) for a new Saturn PCV and air filter, hopefully that will do it.

The mechanic was going to check tomorrow for a lazy O2 sensor. I thought it might be a plugged cat but he said the results show the cat is working. The O2 and cat are original, 240K on them. Luke, will this only test the O2 sensor, or do I have to short other terminals besides A and B?

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Old 01-19-2007, 09:22 AM   #15
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Per information put out by Bosch on varisous web sites, high HC and CO are common problem associated with a lazy O2 sensor. Quote: "A study by Sierra Research Inc., an air pollution consulting firm, indicates half of vehicles that fail an HC or CO emissions test have one or more worn-out or inoperative O2 sensors." As a maker of O2 sensors, they suggest replacing non-heated type every 30k-50K miles. That sounds a bit early for routine replacement to me, but I replaced mine at ~120K and noticed immediate improvements in MPG, and no doubt will see it on the emissions report at the next test (if for no other reason than I am buring less fuel).

That is not to say a new O2 sensor is a cure-all, but at 240K miles is is a good place to look.

A below normal operating temp engine (e.g., bad thermostat) can also contribute to a high HC test.

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Old 01-19-2007, 11:34 AM   #16
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Quote:
Fm Bgates 2b 93 SL2 Smog failing
The O2 and cat are original, 240K on them.
I have considerable questions regarding the affectiveness of the O2, with it being original & 240,000 miles on it. As to the CAT, I simply cannot accept that it still has the affectiveness it should. With the mileage on the car, those two units should have been changed.
Quote:
Luke, will this only test the O2 sensor, or do I have to short other terminals besides A and B?
Yes, that is all you have to do. Grounding A & B, while driving [in field test mode] will allow you to read just what the O2 is doing. I "plug" mine in atleast once a week.

...
> 95 SL 2 = 653,369 Miles 40.4 MPG, as of 5/20/11. My manual Radiator Fan Switch, courtesy of Wolfman's patient installation guidance, continues to be.......invaluable < The car was retired

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Old 01-19-2007, 03:06 PM   #17
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

I give up.....according to the computer, the EGR valve works fine, the O2 and CAT are both coming up good. Yet the computer has a high load miss that is dumping fuel into the exhaust.

Any other suggestions?

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Old 01-19-2007, 03:18 PM   #18
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Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

Well the first place to look for a miss is ignition. Have you done that?

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Old 01-19-2007, 03:21 PM   #19
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2007 AURA XR
1994 SL2
Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

New plugs, wires are good.

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"Congratulations on your brand new 2007 Acura" - Tenisha, the On*Star rep that handled my call during the Aura's delivery

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Old 01-19-2007, 03:56 PM   #20
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2007 AURA XR
1994 SL2
Default Re: 93 SL2 failed smog test!

OK, now I feel sleazy....on the shops recommendation, I threw a bottle of CRC GUaranteed to pass and filled her up with premium. Everything is checking out, the pulled the plugs, the wires are good, the EGR tested OK, NOx are low so Cat is good, O2 sensor tests good, pulls 17 inches Vacuum.

It's failing because of the mileage; too much carbon in the cylinders. Anyone know if it would hurt it to run Seafoam down the PCV while that other stuff is in the gas?

...
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