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Old 10-24-2020, 02:15 PM   #1
Krakyll
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Default 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

My 2005 L300 Saturn has almost 110,000 miles on it. About a month ago, the car icon with the wrench lit up. I wasnít entirely sure what the light could be for and that light is notorious for disappearing after I turn off my car, so getting the code after I drive it to a shop was not going to happen. Looking into it, I figured that the transmission fluid could be low as the transmission seemed to be shifting harder than usual. The fluid was low and then topped off.

The light came back a few days later. A common problem with my vehicle is failing sensors. Iíve had the coolant reservoir sensor go bad, the MAF sensor (twice), and the camshaft position A sensor go bad. I assume that itís a sensor for the transmission. I think this because this light only comes on every other day or so. Itís at random times when driving and I canít force it to come on. Itís done this over five times now and I havenít picked up a pattern in my driving of what could be causing it to go off. When it turns on, the transmission starts shifting hard. Only when this light is on does it do so. Normally, I pull over somewhere and shut off my car to reset the light and the transmission behaves normally. 20% of the time, the light will stay on and Iíll drive home and let it rest to come back hours or a day later to the light being off again.

Iím curious to see if anyone else has dealt with this and what the problem is. If itís just the speed sensor, I could possibly just take it and replace it myself. Though I donít want to make a false diagnosis just because my car has a reputation of broken sensors. It canít be the fluid being low since it was just filled. Iíve never noticed a noise when the transmission shifts during this time; only that it jerks, mainly when going into park or reverse and from 1st to 2nd gear. Park and reverse are the worst jumps.

If anyone had any insight on this, Iíd love to hear it. Itís due to go to Midas on Tuesday, but maybe I could save the headache of labor costs if I could do it myself.
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Old 10-24-2020, 03:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

We need a vehicle maintenance history along with any error codes that came up otherwise it's a replace and part and see if this fixes it problem. No one two issues are the same causes that's why a "Check Engine" or "Service Wrench" codes if are given is need here. This will give others a better idea as to what might be happening. Some parts store can give free error code scanning if it error occurs for free to post what it is to others as well.

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Old 10-24-2020, 03:50 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Krakyll, as mentioned above, we have two indicators - the engine and wrench symbols, in yellow when on board diagnostics detects problems. All emissions related errors with codes turn on the engine light. Errors unrelated to emissions turns on the wrench light. All generic code readers decode check engine errors with many decoding abs errors. Unfortunately, wrench light and codes cannot be decode with these readers - they're manufacturer specific, not universal like emissions codes. Either GMs Tech II scantool or aftermarket scantools can decode wrench errors. Its up to each repair shop to carry several scantools or one expensive one to have capabilities of reading each manufacturer's specific wrench codes. In other words, if Ford has a wrench code for a faulty airbag, the same error code may for a faulty instrument panel for GM. Each manufacturer has their own scantool ($$$$) to service only their family of vehicles. There are less expensive clones to these readers/scantools/programmers available for anyone.

You'll need GM, repair shop capable of decoding GM wrench codes or your own aftermarket reader/scantool to read stored wrench code(s). Ask Midas up front if they're capable of decoding wrench light error codes. If they can, have them show you or print out any codes before committing to any repairs.

I bought VCX NANO (no testimonial here, there are others) for this purpose to program remotes and found stored wrench codes (even when the wrench light is off). In my case, erratic xmission shifting occurred after an hour of driving. Learning to stop and let the engine/xmission rest for about 20+ minutes would reset the wrench light and restore shifting to normal. The error code points to one of several xmission pressure control solenoids (P1811?). I'm reluctant to enter into xmission repairs until it worsens.
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Old 10-24-2020, 04:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Krakyll,
You have the classic symptoms of a bad pressure solenoid solenoid. In the transmission you have various solenoids including shift solenoids (2) and a pressure solenoid. Symptoms are the wrench light coming on and hard shifts both forwards and reverse. If this happens when you are are driving and pull over, stop, then switch off and restart, the symptoms will disappear and all will be well until the next time. That's what you said you had!

I have had the exact same issue with my son's 2003 L300 and several others have too. If you take it to a tranny shop, they will likely tell you it needs a tranny replacement or rebuild. I got told that at a cost of $2000, just after we spent $2100 buying the car. Thus a tranny job was not going to happen!

I asked the tranny guy what would happen if we drove it with the condition. His answer was that you could drive it for a long time on short journeys and it would just be an inconvenience. If you drove regularly on long journeys it may simply ended up putting the car into limp mode and then you have to get it fixed.

If you are reasonably confident of your own mechanic abilities and have somewhere like a garage to do the repair you can attempt it yourself. I did the job myself after reading a thread on this forum on the job. When I did the job, myself I posted a thread on how I tackled the job and cost. Here's my report on doing the job

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=235496

The car is my youngest son's and he's at college. When I decided to do the job, we had a spare car, so he took the spare car and I kept the L300 to do the job. I took my time as I'm no spring chicken and being in Florida, you always have Florida heat to contend with. I did it over 2 weekends.

The solenoids I changed were both shift solenoids and the pressure solenoid. They are quite inexpensive. They are located in a side pan of the tranny underneath where the battery sits. To get to it, you will need to remove the drivers side driveshaft and hub as well as the suspension strut. You have to remove the battery and battery tray and relocate the fuse box out the way (don't disconnect it, you just physically move it out the way as much as you can.) You also have to loosen the subframe bolts to allow the subframe to be lowered (using a jack to support it) to give you clearance space. Once you have done all that, you then have the task of unbolting the side pan and then moving it so it you can get access to the solenoids. I didn't remove the side pan, just moved it up and out the way to give me work space. Once you are in the end of the tranny, the solenoids are simple to remove and are held in with a small clips and are plug & play. Replacing the solenoids is the easiest part of the job. It's getting to them and then buttoning everything back up that is the ball acher. Before you start all that you will need to drop the tranny pan and drain all the fluid out and you'll be replacing the filter as well. As you may know the L series does not come with a dipstick. I guess Saturn were tight assed to spend $1.50 on a tranny dipstick. Anyhow the accuarte way to check tranny fluid level is for the car to be on 4 jack stands so it's off the fround and you can squirel under the car to check the fluid overspill using the overspill plug whilst the the engine is running. Saturn in their wisdom chose to locate this plug right next to the exhaust. SO BE CAREFUL as you check the level while the engine is running. I think the Engineers must have been smoking something when they designed that!

I did this job about 3 or 4 years ago and no problems at all since and on completion of the job, tranny moved as smooth as silk.

My description is a quick snap shot, but if you are put off by what I have described you can do and feel chuffed when you have done it. If you don;t feel comfortable, then either live with it or have a garage do it, but as you can see the labor charge will be heavy going.

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Old 10-25-2020, 10:47 AM   #5
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

First you should be aware that even if the light goes off the trouble code is stored for quite some time. So you can retrieve the code after the light goes off. Any decent scan tool will read the wrench codes. My sons $100 Actron does.
While having maintenance history is helpful,in this case I will bet that you get a P1811 code.
Which means the transmission took longer to shift than it was supposed to.
Its somewhere around .6 seconds.
So then the transmission reverts to full line pressure resulting in hard shifts.
As has already been stated, the most likely cause is the pressure solenoid.
I have been dealing with this issue myself. I too have found the transmission shops want to rebuild the entire transmission, and are not willing to just replace the solenoid.
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Old 10-25-2020, 11:49 AM   #6
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Some good posts here. Automatic transmissions have always been a magic show to most consumers and shops take advantage of that. Many repairs can be made with a proper diagnosis.
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Old 10-26-2020, 12:17 PM   #7
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Thank you all for the help.

Iím going to be asking Midas if theyíre able to read GM specific codes. Iím still fairly new to the automotive industry and getting my footing in UTI, but I donít believe Iím capable of replacing the solenoids myself. I drive about 200 miles a week, ~40 miles on days I have both school and work. These arenít very long trips; about 25 minutes each drive. Iíll be able to get away with how Iím handling it now, but pulling over somewhere and letting my car rest until the codes are gone. Iíll see if GM can fish out these codes and confirm anything, but the repairs may be on hold since Iím not eager for those labor costs on something that I can somewhat control, if Iím able to simply turn my car on and off again. It hasnít come on in a few days, about 3. Iíll see if it returns and look into the solenoid replacement more deeply if it turns out to be that.

Again, thanks for the help.
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Old 10-26-2020, 03:06 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Ask specifically if they can read wrench codes, not just check engine light codes. If the wrench light is off, they may simply tell you "if a light isn't on, codes won't be there..." If they're reputable and honest, they'll tell you if they can't read wrench codes.

There are several areas for codes; active ready/engine light on for immediate retrieval, engine light off but code retrieved as 'pending' relative to incomplete on board emissions self tests, zero codes with engine light off, wrench light on or off but wrench codes stored and retrieved by either GMs Tech II scantool or aftermarket reader/scantool.

Using my L300 as an example, the wrench light comes and goes during long drives (approximately 45 minutes+) before the wrench light turns on. When it resets after a break/engine shutdown of 10 minutes or so, the code remains when I get around to plugging in my aftermarket scantool (VCX NANO) long after returning home (days later). My scantool doesn't put a time or date stamp when errors are stored but they're retrieved only with VCX NANO. My go to reader cannot decode wrench errors as its a generic reader like 95% of general purpose readers. This general purpose reader for P type error codes was expensive and a gift. It was very good at helping me learn more about live sensor data, snapshots and ability to log data that became baseline info for comparison when problems occurred like a cold running t-stat, a member having trouble with his maf sensor, misfiring in my car resulting in replacing a coil pack, etc. Decoding P type error codes with live data helps but not if can't decode wrench light error codes.
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Old 10-27-2020, 12:40 AM   #9
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

We have the same issue with our transmission. My wife knows how to drive to prevent it from happening. When I drive it, it happens a lot. I drive like an old man and my wife laughs at me every time this happens to me.

You really don't want to stay on the gas while it is shifting hard. I always let off the gas to give the transmission a chance to shift. Having driven many manual transmissions, it is easy to predict when to help it shift. What we do is after the light goes ON, we try to find a place to park, shut off the engine and remove the key. If you simply shut off and restart too quickly, the problem does not reset. Removing the key from the ignition seems to help. We have been "managing" this problem for over 7 years or more, so you can continue to drive it as long as you don't drag race while the condition exists. You could do some serious damage if you don't baby it while the condition is active.

It normally happens while driving in town while accelerating too slowly around 22mph. My wife starts out slow from a stop, gets over 10mph and then guns it (firm acceleration), up to 35mph or 45mph whatever the speed limit it. She can drive for months and never have it kick the code.
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Old 10-29-2020, 04:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

The light very graciously came back today. I’ve since cancelled the appointment with Midas and have decided to simply deal with it. As far as I know, they can’t read wrench codes and it’ll be a waste of a diagnostic. When it came on, I pulled over in a neighborhood, shut off the car and removed the key from the ignition. I turned it back on and the light stayed on. I then got out of my car and removed the speed sensor and plugged it back in. Starting the car back up, the light was gone but I don’t know whether that was the cause of unplugging and replugging in the sensor or the fact that it got to sit for about two minutes.

With letting off the gas when shifting, isn’t the point of automatics not to do that? I’ve heard of a story where a customer complained about a clunking noise from the transmission and it was because he was driving it like a manual where he’d let his foot off the gas before it shifted. Can’t recall the car itself; just remember the story. I was cruising around 40-45 mph when it went off. It really is random since I’ve set it off by gunning it, but I’ve also set it off by going slow and easy or simply driving a stable speed. The more it happens, I may see a pattern but as of right now, it’s just a matter of not knowing when or if it’s going to happen. The light stayed off for four days, much longer than normal but I didn’t change anything in my driving habits.
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Old 10-29-2020, 04:34 PM   #11
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

The activation point is between 16mph and 22mph just as it hesitates to shift into another gear... that's when the light fires up.

To reset the light... you have to wait a bit with the key out of the ignition before restarting the engine. If you do it quickly the light will remain ON.

The purpose of the shifting is to take pressure off the torque inverter while the engine shifts. Now I say Torque Inverter because of the early years of working on Mustangs. Where whenever the modulator valve would die, the transmission would not shift. The Saturns use a similar technology, but do it with pressure sensors. One of these very important sensors is too high in the transmission and is rarely bathed in tranny fluid for cooling and therefore it heats up and dies over time. AS it goes out of spec... it causes the light to fire while taking too long to shift. The sensor is basically out of spec, not necessarily defective. As long as you can manage the "light" and clear it... the car will function normally. And, it will eventually teach you how to drive so it doesn't occur.

When I spoke about lifting your foot to help it shift... that is for when the light is ON and it is shifting hard and you don't have anywhere to park and fix it.

If you were to floor it while the light is ON and it is shifting hard... you could do some huge damage to you're transmission. So don't do that. Drive it like a turtle while the light is ON.
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Old 10-29-2020, 05:04 PM   #12
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Ahh, I see. Thank you for clearing that up. Iíll keep that in mind next time I canít pull over immediately. I do try to be a lot more gentle with it and try to let it shift as minimally as possible but Iíll see if I can make that work. Itís pretty easy to tell when my car shifts in general, even when it runs normally, so Iíll get that in my memory soon enough.
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Old 10-29-2020, 05:06 PM   #13
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

It doesn't matter how you drive, stop light racing with pedal floored then braking or granny driving with a light pedal. All electronically controlled automatics like our Saturns (and most likely other manufacturers) are electronically controlled. Gone are vacuum devices on older automatics. Hydraulic controls are handled by computer and pressure control solenoids. Many automatics in Saturns have issues with pressure control solenoids failing, faltering, becoming intermittent. When they act up, the default programming puts full hydraulic pressure to shifts resulting in harsh shifting. Defaulting when shifting is detected as unusual presumes full pressure shifts are better to reduce wear on clutch packs. Pressure control solenoids are neither always on or off. Automatics use computer shifting by pulsing solenoids as a way to control operating pressures allowing soft almost seamless shifting we're accustomed to. Pulsing pressure control solenoids is a way of life for operating automatics. When harsh shifting occurs, full pressure is used. Stopping for an indeterminate time usually allows the xmission computer to reset back to normal shifting. A xmission computer monitors itself with automatic diagnostic programs similar to engine computers when something goes wrong and turns on either the engine or wrench light. Xmission self monitoring with an error usually turns on the wrench light.

Allowing a cool down (of indeterminate time) usually restores shifting back to normal until a repeat event occurs that triggers hard shifting. As mentioned, wrench light/error code(s) are only decoded by GM, aftermarket scantool programmed for GM error codes from repair shops or diy purchase of similar scantools. You can always call or ask if a reader/scantool can read wrench codes before assuming repair shops charge a fee. Honest shops will be up front.

The hard shifts occur during up or down shifts and is not affected by pedal inputs once hard shifting occurs. I know because I've been there but have not decided on repairs yet.
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Old 10-29-2020, 06:10 PM   #14
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

I suspect most repair and auto parts places scanners will read "wrench" codes. As I stated before my sons $100 Actron scan tool does as well as my $200 Actron. Wrench codes arent that special !!
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Old 10-29-2020, 06:14 PM   #15
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

On my 03 LW300 you only have to turn the key off for approximately 30 seconds to reset the "wrench" code.
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Old 10-30-2020, 12:21 AM   #16
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Thank you for the explanation, fdryer. I at least wish it had a bit more of a pattern so I could be more prepared, although it isnít that much of a hassle to pull over for a few minutes. As others have said, theyíve experienced the issue after a certain amount of time of driving. I drive in about 30 minute intervals every time I do drive, and it doesnít seem to occur after a certain time/mileage. I donít recall the code ever coming up early in my drives. It usually takes maybe 15 minutes or so to appear, if it does at all.

With time, I guess Iíll see a pattern. Iíll search around for those who can diagnose GM specific wrench codes or my own reader. I plan on keeping my Saturn, even if it goes out of commission from some catastrophic failure, so itíd be good to get my own core reader, anyway. Again, thank you all for the help, shared experiences and input. Iíll get back to here if I ever get a diagnosis or if thereís a change related to it.
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Old 10-30-2020, 12:12 PM   #17
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

Krakyll,

We have pretty much told you that your symptoms is the pressure solenoid. There are enough members who have had to deal with the same symptoms and it is the pressure solenoid. No amount of nanny driving, dancing the viennese waltz on the accelerator pedal will change that. It is what we have said it is likely to be. If you don't feel comfortable that our long distance diagnosis is accurate, then please seek a diagnosis from a garage that can check the codes.

Do not rely on hearsay for conclusions and remember that your transmission is a 'modern day" transmission that is electronically controlled. It is not something from the 60's. Do not get paranoid that's it's gonna blow up either. It will not, unless you do something completely stupid like take the thing to a drag strip (LOL). You have embedded in your car and electronic Nanny. It's called Limp Mode. As I pointed out early on, the reputable transmission specialist I went to advised me that if the transmission was nearing a danger point, the car would go in limp mode. That means it restricts gear changes and speed. Enough to Limp Home.

So long as you know that when the wrench light comes on and if you stop, switch off and start again, normality returns (until the next time). At the end of the day your car is telling you it needs attention. You know what it is. It is for you to decided whether to run with it or fix it. It is really as simple as that.

You then have to decide if you can fix it yourself and save some money or you bite the bullet and pay someone else to do it for you. That's your money and your choice. You can live with the issue, but you can't ignore the issue.
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Old 11-08-2020, 11:38 AM   #18
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Thumbs Down Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

I am calling B.S. on this thread. I feel as if someone is wasting Florida's and Fdryer's valuable expertise and time.

I highly doubt you had:

a) Scheduled appointment with Midas (without knowing *anything* in regards to this).

b) "Happened" to have a speed sensor in your car

c) "Happened" to have jack stands in your car

d) "Happened" to have hydraulic jack in your car

e) Knew exactly where and how to replace this sensor "on the spot".

and finally,

f) If you truly had an L300 that continually had a reputation for "bad sensors". Then you know for certain that the only way to properly handle those sensors is to have a qualified Scan Tool to reset codes on the fly.

I won't be commenting again on this thread as I see continual waste of time of members here that I respect and have helped me tremendously. I know from experience this smells like fish!

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Old 11-08-2020, 01:28 PM   #19
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Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

I second these statements!

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~ U.S. Const. Amend. I.
~ State Constitutional Equivalencies.

As for the Saturn transmission issues. You can drive it as long as you know what to do and when. My wife has driven her Saturn for 7 to 10 years dealing with bad solenoids in her transmission. It works. If you decide to fix the problem there are excellent threads on this forum to do so. It is a lot of work and if you don't have garage space to work on it for an extended period of time... then you either pay a shop or drive it.

There is no more diagnosing to be done.
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Old 11-09-2020, 11:37 AM   #20
floridasl22002
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 1,548

2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: 2005 L300 occasionally shifting hard (bad speed sensor?)

I have no wish to get dragged into any debates on this BUT this Forum is about maintaining L series Saturn's. It is NOT a political platform and should not be used as such.

As a fellow member, I would accept that any member can pout whatever they want on their own profile so long as it is not discriminatory, illegal or abusive to any member or beaks any laws.

Brandon, you may want to bear in mind that whilst this Forum and whole site was and still is run by an American who worked for Saturn, many members here are NOT American. We have Canadians, I am both dual American and British.

From time to time we do have posters who begin threads and maybe what they say sometimes doesn't stack up, but that is not to say they are pot stirrers or trolls. Simply people who may not be able to express their message in the same way you or I can. We should not diss them off. You may like to re-read some of your own threads and see what some other members remarked about yourself. RJ being one of them.

There is a saying "people in glasshouse should not throw stones'. A perfect fit here.
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