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Old 06-12-2011, 05:03 PM   #1
Blacktree
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2001 SL1
Default The Daily Driver Project

I recently bought a 2001 SL1 to use as my daily driver. I got a good price for it, since it had some maintenance issues. But I'm a mechanic. So I can fix it up.

I don't have any plans of turning the Saturn into a show car, or "pimping it out", or anything like that. My main interest is just to keep it in good running condition, with a presentable appearance.

This thread will be a journal of sorts, where I record the issues I run across while owning the car, and how I address them. Since this is my first Saturn, I will need to negotiate a learning curve. But I can handle it. And with the forum's help, I'm sure me and my Saturn will get along just fine.

I'll start off by describing the car. It's a 2001 SL1 with the SOHC 1.9 and 5-speed manual transmission. It had about 166K miles when I bought it. It does not have very many options... no power door locks or windows; no powered seatbelts; no ABS. It's simple and to the point, which is exactly how I want it.

When I bought the car, I noticed a few issues:

-- Front suspension clunk
-- Grinding noise during turns
-- Second gear tends to grind
-- Noticeable vibration from engine
-- Windshield washer tank doesn't hold liquid
-- Battery goes dead after awhile
-- Front marker lights are damaged

After buying the car, and getting a closer look at things, I noticed a few other issues:

-- Spare tire is damaged
-- Mounting hardware for spare tire and jack is missing
-- Spare tire cover is damaged
-- Rear trailing arms are bent (both of them!)
-- Slow oil leak from back of engine (probably rear main seal)
-- EGR solenoid is bad

The GOOD things about the car (and what convinced me to buy it) are as follows:

-- Engine runs smooth, and doesn't visibly burn oil
-- Interior is in very good condition
-- Chassis is practically rust-free
-- Body is in very good condition, with recent re-paint
-- Window glass is immaculate, no chips or cracks

Now, let's get on with the project!

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Old 06-12-2011, 05:18 PM   #2
Blacktree
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

After buying the car, I was able to fix most of the issues I mentioned above:

Front Suspension Clunk -- This was a combination of things. First of all, the sway bar endlink bushings were shot. So I replaced them. Second of all, the front struts were toast. I replaced them with Monroe SensaTracs. Now, the car rides nice and smooth.

Grinding Noise During Turns -- The power steering fluid was low. Easy enough.

Noticeable Vibration from Engine -- The upper engine mount was in two pieces. and the bottom transmission mount was trashed. I replaced 'em both. Problem solved!

Windshield Washer Tank Doesn't Hold Liquid -- It had a small crack near the bottom. I fixed it with a little bit of JB Weld.

Battery Goes Dead Overnight -- The trunk light stays on. For now, I just unplugged it. I have to check and see if the trunk light switch is adjustable.

Front Marker Lights are Damaged -- I couldn't find good replacements in a salvage yard, so bought new ones on eBay. They were only about $20, with shipping.

Mounting Hardware for Spare Tire and Jack is Missing -- Found the parts in a salvage yard

Rear Trailing Arms are Bent -- Found replacements in a salvage yard

EGR Solenoid is Bad -- Found a replacement in a salvage yard

So currently, the only maintenance issues left are the A/C, oil leak, crunchy second gear, spare tire, and spare tire cover. Some of those will be addressed soon.

Last edited by Blacktree; 06-12-2011 at 05:24 PM..

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Old 06-12-2011, 07:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

I was going to mention junkyards, but you've already been there and done that

I know the plastic (composite) cam/valve covers on teh DOHC engines tend to leak from the left rear corner - usually a gasket replacement solves it, unless the cover is warped. Not sure if the SOCH engines have the same tendency, but it might be worth checking - just wipe below the gasket with a clean paper towel, looking for fresh oil

If you do a lot of hwy driving, you will be impressed with the mpg. It's unusual for the timing chain tensioner to go bad unless the engine has been run low on oil, then there is unusual wear on the chain, guides, and sometimes tensioner.

...
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:57 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Your EGR should be a self-contained electric valve without a solenoid. And IIRC, there are GM look-alikes that are rated differently. Any idea what the donor car was?

If the oil leak is external, and esp. if it's on the back of the engine, it's probably not the "rear" (strange they still call it that....) main seal. Check the oil pressure sender, and, as said, a possible valve cover gasket leak. If it's the crankshaft main seal at the tranny end, it would show up as a "hemmorhage" leak at the engine/tranny seam at the left end, and alas, you have to consider the possibility of clutch surface contamination.

That infernal trunk light seems to be a common battery parasite lately. It's always the first thing recommended to check when someone reports a battery drain. (Glad I have a wagon.)

Gen-3 SOHC cars had a notorious issue with intake manifold gasket failure, around the #1 runner. If you encounter idle problems, or a mysterious P0301 (cylinder 1 misfire) code comes up, that's your prime suspect.

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Old 06-13-2011, 06:49 AM   #5
Blacktree
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Thanks for the info, guys. It's really appreciated.

The replacement EGR solenoid came from another Saturn (late 90s DOHC). It seems to be working OK... no trouble code, and no hesitation during acceleration. The old EGR solenoid did both.

I haven't looked yet, but is the trunk light switch adjustable? I noticed that if I press down on the trunk, the light will go out. It doesn't take much pressure, either. So the switch isn't bad. It just needs to be pushed a hair further to switch off.

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Old 06-13-2011, 08:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

+1 on checking the sensors on the back of the engine. Esp. the oil pressure switch - I don't think it has an O-ring or gasket or anything to seal it, you just have to get it on tight.

...
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Old 06-13-2011, 08:59 AM   #7
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Nice.

I just bought my SL2 to be used similarly- daily driver and slight fixer-upper. I think the days of "tuning" a Saturn are long gone- what aftermarket support there ever was is basically completely gone. And with gas prices the way they are, I'm thrilled to be driving my Saturn. My last tank of mixed city/highway yielded 37 mpgs. That's about 20 mpgs BETTER than my Explorer that I was driving daily before I got this.

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Old 06-13-2011, 03:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Ill second the recommendation to check the intake manifold gasket. Just spray some brake cleaner around the intake/head joint and listen for idle speed variation at cylinder #1 (passenger side). Better than 99% seem to be wrinkled in that area.

Check oil often and top off. Even 1qt/1,000 miles consumption is not uncommon, nor indicator of a serious problem in these cars. Don't panic, it's no big deal. Just buy oil at Costco.....

Expect your AIR system to be gunked up rather badly. Worth taking out the pipe between the pump and exhaust manifold and cleaning it with carb cleaner. Run the engine with it off to verify exhaust blows out the port. If not, you need to remove the exhaust manifold and scrape carbon off there too. If you care about emissions and the inevitable SES light.

OEM gas cap sucked on my 02. Triggered an SES for small evap leak. Cheap fix.

These are needy cars for TLC and maintenance. But they pay back at the pump. My 6 tank running average is 40mpg right now. Who needs a Japanese hybrid? I gotta Polish Hybrid: greats great mileage by burning gasoline and engine oil instead of gasoline and electricity....

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Old 06-13-2011, 06:40 PM   #9
Blacktree
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

The trunk light issue seems to be solved. The solution was simple.

The trunk latch has a tiny lever-activated switch inside, which turns off the light when you close the trunk. After being repeatedly struck by the latch hoop, the lever became bent. I used needle-nose pliers to carefully straighten it out.

I'm guessing that the bent lever switch was due to the fact that the trunklid was maladjusted. When I first bought the car, the trunk had to be slammed in order to close it. The repeated slamming must have delivered quite a pounding to the switch. I now have it adjusted so the trunk closes easily.

Problem solved!

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Old 06-15-2011, 07:46 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

The A/C is fixed. WOOHOO! Good thing too, because temperatures here in Florida are reaching the upper 90s during the day. For example, today it was 97F degrees, with a heat index of 103. Blargh!

Next up is the spare tire.

BTW, I'm pretty sure the oil leak is from the rear main seal, or the rear section of the oil pan gasket. You see, when I first bought the car, I degreased the engine pretty thoroughly. That was over a month ago. The only part of the engine that has oil on it now is the back end of the oil pan. Everywhere else is clean and dry.

BTW, the rear main seal got its name from the fact that it's on the "rear main", which is mechanic's slang for the rear-most crankshaft bearing journal.

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Old 06-15-2011, 10:02 PM   #11
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Good job so far, what's next on the list?

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Old 06-15-2011, 10:15 PM   #12
Blacktree
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Next will be the spare tire. It looks like something took a bite out of it.

Maybe I should take some photos...

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Old 06-16-2011, 09:43 AM   #13
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacktree View Post
You see, when I first bought the car, I degreased the engine pretty thoroughly. That was over a month ago. The only part of the engine that has oil on it now is the back end of the oil pan. Everywhere else is clean and dry.
Great job on that Really isolates the problem.

Might be worth checking the oil galley plugs and oil pressure sender back there. Also a quick wipe over the top of the drain plug; something funky about the washer set up. I've had brand new aftermarket drain plugs leak oil; ditto with an OEM plug and an aftermarket washer (not the fiber ones that OldNuc recommends, store was out). Drain plug leak was finally fixed with an OEM plug out of an oil pan I picked up for another saturn.

You need 15 posts to upload a photo directly or post a link, just two away

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7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 06-16-2011, 11:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Yeah Id like to see that photo,lol. I bet someone put it one and NEVER checked the pressure in it and it shredded.

...
94 SL1 5 Speed "Ruby" Sold...97 SL2 AT,97 SL1 AT
I believe the problem with the single cam is, that it's SOHC and it's two valves per cylinder, and it's a four cylinder

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Old 06-17-2011, 04:19 PM   #15
Blacktree
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

OK, here are a couple shots of the donut spare.





Unfortunately, the tire stores don't want to touch it. They say to get another one from the junkyard. But the junkyards are sold out.

So, uhh... you think a full-size spare will fit in the spare tire recess?

BTW, here are a couple shots of the car.





It's not anything special. But it does its job.

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Old 06-17-2011, 06:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

I also just bought a 98 sl2 for a daily driver. 134k miles. I'm curious as to how you'll approach the 2nd gear project. I also have a gear slipping but not reverse slam. I suspect the valve body or solenoid from my readings here.

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Old 06-17-2011, 06:52 PM   #17
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

It's a manual transmission. So I'll probably need to rebuild or replace it. Saturns are pretty common in the salvage yards around here. And the parts are cheap. So I'll probably just get another gearbox from the pick-a-part.

In the meantime, I just try to go easy on 2nd gear. If I take my time shifting up to 2nd, it usually won't grind.

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Old 06-17-2011, 08:04 PM   #18
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

That's a sharp looking car there, sounds like it will be a fine ride once the bugs are ironed out.

As for the T-spare, it doesn't *have* to be from a Saturn, anything with a 4x100mm and positive offset with the same(ish) size spare should work fine. Like a Honda Civic or an early Kia Spectra or Sephia or Rio. They're completely sold out of EVERYTHING?

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Old 06-17-2011, 08:20 PM   #19
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Yes, both junkyards said they were sold out of 4x100 donut spares, specifically because the import crowd snatches them all up.

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Old 06-19-2011, 01:22 PM   #20
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Default Re: The Daily Driver Project

Sounds like your well on the way to a great DD there. I also recently picked a 97 SL2 with a few minor bugs, one good weekend day and now almost like new! I love how easy and cheap these are to fix. How about just carrying a can of Slime or fix a flat in trunk? Saves the car from carrying extra LBS.

...
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I believe the problem with the single cam is, that it's SOHC and it's two valves per cylinder, and it's a four cylinder

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