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Old 04-21-2009, 07:28 PM   #1
Redlined
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Default 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

Hi everyone, I'm new here and was wondering your thoughts.
I'm looking at purchasing a 1997 Sl with a blown head gasket. Are these models known for head gasket failures? If not, what could some probable causes be? For a do-it-yourself mechanic with better then average abililty, is this an overly difficult task? And finally, what would the approximate cost be doing the labour myself?
I appologize for the many questions, just trying to make the best informed descision I can.
Thanks for any help, great site!
Red.

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Old 04-21-2009, 07:46 PM   #2
My95Sl2
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

Extreme overheating could be one possibilty, preignition and detonation problems have also been known to lead to head gasket failure on some automobile models.

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Old 04-21-2009, 07:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

Cracked head is the more likely scenario. Who diagnosed the blown head gasket?

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Old 04-21-2009, 08:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

The guy who is selling it 'diagnosed' the problem by telling me he saw coolant running down the side of the engine. He also informed me the car had 301,000 kms which is more than I would like for something I'm going to invest my time and money in. Asking price is $500.

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Old 04-21-2009, 08:07 PM   #5
My95Sl2
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

Coolant running down the side of the engine could be coming from a few different places such as the water pump weephole or in my case a bad clamp on one of my hoses was shooting coolant all down the side of my motor.....

Can you tell if you have water(coolant) in the oil or vice versa,,,seems to me that would surely be a giveaway the head gasket is blown for sure.....

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Old 04-21-2009, 08:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

^^^^ +1. There are a LOT of ways that coolant can leak externally, most of which aren't even close to a blown head gasket.

300,000 km (180,000-ish mi) is either "middle-age" or "way over the hill" for these cars, dependent ENTIRELY on maintenance. Alas, a car coming from someone who (1) allows an external coolant leak, and (2) probably has no idea where it's coming from, and is pulling ideas for it out of his tailpipe, probably means it fits the latter category.

Thing is, it could be a simple fix, but if it hints at the car's provenance in general, it could be the start of a very long list of surprises. If you feel like a project, explain how major a project that coolant leak / "head gasket" issue is gonna be, and you're gonna have to pour a lot of money into it, yada yada. Bring two or three engravings of Mr. Franklin, and.. oh, wait, you guys have Maurice Richard and the guy who invented the Thermos on your money, or some such. Well, bring 200-300 of whatever you're printing/minting these days (is that Gordon Lightfoot on the tenner?).

Coolant and oil commingling doesn't always mean a blown head gasket. And the converse isn't always true as well. For example, if it blows between a coolant jacket and a combustion chamber, you'll get coolant in the exhaust, and possibly exhaust gas in the coolant, but no impact on the oil. If it blows between adjacent cylinders, compression in those two cylinders will be lower, but there's no other symptoms. The head gasket separates coolant passages, oil passages, combustion chambers and "the outside world". Depending on how/where it blows, it could commingle any two or more of these, each with its unique suite of symptoms.

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Old 04-21-2009, 08:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn Sl Head Gasket

Have him point out where on the side the coolant was running. The head gasket can seep and the manifold gasket can leak. Look inside the neck of the coolant reservoir see a nasty bathtub ring in there? Is the rest of the coolant clear and clean looking? Does it run and idle smoothly? If its a real blown gasket it will not idle smoothly as you will have one or more weak cylinders. And I agree with Madpouge, 1/2 to 3/4 ther asking price and be prepared for a bit of a project. A cracked head or a real blown head gasket is an excuse for an engine swap or overhaul. And neither of those is cheap. However, when you are done you art through with engine problems. What does the rest of the car look like? Manual or automatic?

Last edited by OldNuc; 04-21-2009 at 08:39 PM..

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