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Old 09-09-2018, 04:16 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 1,404

2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Changed Pressure Control Solenoid - 2003 Saturn L300

Well after about 18 months of prevaricating I finally got a rush of blood to my head and changed the Pressure Control Solenoid on my son's 2003 L300.

This isn't an uncommon problem with these cars on the automatic transmission and usually manifests itself with hard shifting and the Wrench light coming on. Once you stop the car, turn off the engine and restart, all is well until the next time, which is usually about 10 miles down the road.

There are jobs I will do, jobs I will attempt and jobs I shy away from. This job fits in Category 3!. We'd taken it to an auto trans shop who checked it out on the Tech11 and told me that the tranny needed refurbishing and that will be $2000.00 thank you very much. So we walked away and have been living with this problem (well my son has) for about 18 months. He's away at college in Jacksonville which is about 180 miles from me, so not exactly down the road. When he's home, it's the height of the Florida summer, so temps are usually over 100 degrees daily.

He's gone back to college, but his elder brother has moved to do more college in NY and left his 2002 SL2 down here, with the aim of Dad selling it. So the younger son has taken the SL2 and left the L300 with Dad. As I'm on the wrong side of 65, I don;t do quick much these days, so he knew I would take my time doing it. It took me all labor Day weekend and I finished it yesterday.

The links below give some great advice based on doing the job themselves and my post is simply to bring them all together and for me to add my 5 cents.

First of all, it is not a technically complicated job, but it is a time consuming job because of all the components you have to remove to get to the solenoids. The location of these is down the side of the transmission on the drivers side and requires the removal of the following;

1) - Suspension Strut
2) - Drive shaft & Brake Caliper
3) - Battery & Battery tray
4) - Lowering of the Sub-Frame

Although his car resides in central Florida it started its life somewhere up North, so when we bought it we gained a no cost optional extra of rust! I was not looking forwards to the lowering of the sub-frame which necessitates the removal of the 5 bolts on the drivers side. However, I did some prep and kept giving them a doing of PB Blaster almost on a daily basis. I was also fortunate that it was going in to my indi garage for replacement of the metal brake lines at the front, so whilst it was on the 4 poster, I asked my mechanic buddy if he could loosen the bolts with his air wrench. Suffice it say they all came out in one piece and then after liberally coating them with anti-seize he popped them back in a tightened them back up but not too tight.

I wanted to keep costs down on this job, so worked out what I could borrow from my mate, which was another jack, 2 axle stands and a set of ramps I had given him a while back. I also have another pair of these ramps which I bought from HF some while ago and whilst plastic, these p[articular ones can be split to remove the ramp part, leaving just the plinth.

So using the jacks and stands in combination I was able to raise the car up onto the plinths. That gave me great working space underneath and a great feeling of safety. For the drivers side, the plinth was moved out the way and that corner sat on an axle stand.

Removing the battery tray was a caffuffle as the fuse box sits there, occupies space and does its best to unfuriate you. I got it out. The next issue was removing the strut. Using my breaker bars I could not move the bolts, so I bit the bullet and bought the electric impact wrench from HF. It is priced at around $49.00, but with a coupon I got it for $34.99. I also picked up a set of impact sockets for another $24.00 less 20% coupon, so hopefully I could conquer anything now.

Praise to the electric wrench, it took the bolts out no problems and everything I had to use the wrench for lost the battle. It more than paid for itself already.

Removing the strut and driveshaft, and moving the caliper off to one side were easy. Some have moved these items to the side, but I chose to remove them. It also gave me a chance to look at the condition of the strut with it's no cost coating of northern rust (that's the next job!).

Using a jack to support the engine/tranny I removed all 5 sub-frame bolts and we were motoring. I had also removed the fluid pan and drained all the fluid as well (what a god awful messy job that was ( buy an S series with a spin on tranny fluid cartridge to see how it should be done).

Then came the frustrating aprt which was unbolting the side panel and getting it off. Most of the 13mm bolts are easy to loosen and remove, but one in particular was testing me. It's the one located right by the side of the neutral switch that sits on top of the tranny. Haynes gives sod all information about this component and how to remove it, so fater a while of wondering, I went for it and the thing was removed. There is a small pop off plastic button and the rest are 2 bolts onto the tranny casing and the main nut that is removed and the bracket lifts off. Once that was off, the bolts came out easily and I had also a little more space to work.

Once all the bolts were off, the side panel came off with a little wiggling and prying (there are 2 locating pegs, which seem to rust up so make getting it off hard.). I managed to move it outwards and upwards and was able to get to the pcs solenoid. I also chose to change out the 2 shift solenoids as well. The PCS solenoid is $35 from Rock Auto and the shift solenoids are $13.00. It was false economy NOT to change them. The solenoids are held in place by a small clip, which you remove with a hook tool and make sure you disconnect the electrical connector first. They are located in a socket which has a spring at one end, so you need to gently pull the solenoid out otherwise the spring will shoot it out. (The PCS did that, till I got wise). Putting the new solenoids was relatively easy, once I had worked out they have a small flange on them and the flange fits in a groove in the casing. It took me about 20 minutes to work that one out!

One glitch that happened that caught me out was inside the side panel where the drive shaft hole is resides a plastic thrust washer, or in my case it fell out and I had no clue what it was or where it came from. Once I had worked that out, I cleaned it up, placed it where it should go and just to be on the side of caution as I didn't want it falling out again as it just sits there, I held it in place with 2 small pieces of masking tape, which I was able to pull straight off just as the side panel was ready to be put back in place. Main task done!

Then what was left was simply putting everything back, installing the new filter, putting the pan back on and filling with new fluid. Once the drivers side work was complete, I put the tire back on, and sat it back on the plinth. That meant the car was raised and level on all 4 corners. For the method to check you fluid level, that is what was required, so for the first time I was bale to loosen the fluid check bolt and follow the instructions for putting the correct quantity of fluid back. Job done!

After that put the car back on terra firma and this morning went for a 15 mile drive and hey presto NO WRENCH LIGHT OT HARD SHIFTS. Whoopee!

Total cost for the job was $74.00 for the solenoids & filter and $23.00 for Decron 111 fluid. Walmart had some Supertech Dexron 111 for a little over $12.00 for a gallon, so I simply got 1 gallon and 2 qts. I suppose I should have just bought 2 gallons. Anyway, that's just about $100.00 to fix an issue the garage wanted to relieve me of $2000.00. So as Dad pays for everything with my lads cars, I'm a happy chappy.

So for all those suffering from Hard Shifting and the Wrench Light on, there is hope. If you take your time, and make sure you have the right tools (don;t go overboard), then you can fix this issue for $100.00.

Hope this helps!

Here are all the links I used for my research....


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