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Old 05-14-2009, 09:47 AM   #1
cboss
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Default Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

Its been a long 6 months trying to solve some serious problems with my Saturn. I believe I have found the main cause of my problems (thats another story in another thread).

I have had to learn to become an expert on my Saturn in short order and have learned a number of lessons that may be helpful to others.

Here they are: (posted below)

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Old 05-14-2009, 09:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(1) Fast way to change the oil filter.

After you have drained the oil, turn the steering wheel as far as possible to the left (as if taking a left turn).

You now have access to behind the passenger side wheel (theres plenty of room to get your hands in there).

There is a plastic cover behind the wheel (actually two side by side). There is a small plastic clip near the bottom left side of the plastic cover. You can use a screw driver to pop out the center of the clip and then simply pull the clip out.

You can now remove the plastic cover.

You now have access to the oil filter.

There is no need to jack up the car or crawl underneath this way.

Fast and easy.

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Old 05-14-2009, 09:59 AM   #3
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(2) 1996 or later. Your cars best friend. OBDII scanner.

If you don't have one yet, I strongly recommend buying an OBDII hand scanner. I bought mine for about $70 online ( http://www.diydiagnostics.com/index.html ).

Make sure you get a scanner that displays "Live Data" which is data about the engine in real time (while it is running). Also make sure it can display a Freeze Frame for when the SES light comes on.

It is always good to have good tools for working on cars, but the electronics part is often skipped. Todays cars are computers on wheels and the hand scanner is critical to diagnosing problems. $70 is cheap and affordable.

Some valuable "live data" your scanner can display is:

Fuel Trims (short term and long term)

This tells you how well the engine is running as far as fuel and air mixtures.

MAP sensor

This is like having a vacuum gauge on the computer and is also very useful.

O2 sensor (#1)

This tells you how well your car is running as far as emissions.

There is a lot to learn about how to use these scanners, but it is well worth the time and effort.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

dood, jacking up my car is way easier than trying to pop those friggin plastic tab thingies. my car is so old and those tab things are a friggin pain!ive taken off and replaced many a pannel and wheel well, trust me, jack that beast up! and to do yer electronic diagnostic, i use a 3 inch piece of wire and watch the lights blink, check the code in my chiltons, and then fix what is needed. thats just me tho.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:07 AM   #5
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(3) Better than a Mechanic. A Vacuum Gauge!

Mechanics today often aren't very good at diagnosing serious problems.
There may be some, but many simply don't know how to track down problems by diagnosing symptoms correctly.

Worse yet, is when a mechanic tells you that your car needs major work particularly the internals.

A vacuum gauge is a cheap tool ($20 range), yet it yields a ton of information about the internals of yout engine and how well it is working.

It is a bit of an art to learn how to read the meaning if what the gauge is telling you. You can search the internet for all sorts of tutorials on how to use a vacuum gauge and what its readings may mean.

If you learn how to use a vacuum gauge effectively you can diagnose many complex problems.

Also the vacuum gauge helps you verify the MAP sensor readings, which is useful.

The vacuum gauge can also warn you of simple, yet elusive problems like vacuum leaks.

It can also tell you something about the condition of the valves and pistons.

Buy a vacuum gauge today and start learning how to use it.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(4) Spark Plugs and Wires.

This forum has often highlighted the need to stick to the NGK plugs and stay away from platinums. Very useful info.

But of more concern is the layout of your plug wires.

The #1 and #4 wires (first two on left side coil, looking from the front of car) are critical that they be perfectly parallel to each other up to the valve cover.

The Saturn does not have a CAM position sensor. It does a wierd trick by using the wires for the #1 and #4 cylinders to "calculate" the positions of the Cams (TDC for each pistion). If you don't get the wires layed out correctly, you will have real ignition problems.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(5) Cheap repairs that keep your car in good running order.

There are a number of simple cheap repairs that can be done for little or no cost, that really do make a difference.

I'll list some of them here (search the forums for more info on each).

1. Clean the Trottle Body.

Remove the throttle body and clean all the carbon gunk off it and off the pintle on the Idle Air control (richpin has some great videos).
Make sure you install it with a new gasket, which is only about $2.

2. Remove the MAP sensor and spray some carb cleaner in the hole to clean it out. Replace the silcone gasket to the map sensor (it only costs about $6 at a GM or Saturn dealer)

3. Clean the Ignition module. Remove it and clean the bottom and all the contacts for the coils. Clean the bolts well. Reinstall it.

4. Clean the EGR valve pintle. Remove the EGR valve abd carefully clean the pintle (lots of carbon on it). Install a new gasket (about $5)

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(6) Alternative to a MM or Sea Foam piston soak.

I have found a slightly different piston soak method which may be useful if you have not had much success with MM or Sea Foam.

Pull the spark plugs.

Using a small 2 to 2 1/2 oz cup (I bought a pack of stainless steel 2 1/2 oz cups at walmart for $1) and mix the following in it:

50% Sea Foam
50% CD2 Oil Detergent (you can buy this at Advance auto)

The CD2 Oil Detergent is what really does the work. The Sea Foam simply thins it down so it will drain (as well as cleans).

Pour the mixture into spark plug holes and let drain overnight.

A couple soaks may be necessary for best results.

Both Sea Foam and CD2 are oil additives, so I doubt they can cause much problems with the oil. I don't even drain the oil out afterwards (just don't do too many soaks before changing oil, since it will thin it). I just wait until the oil is low and then do the soak and afterwards top the oil off.

No guarantees here, but if you haven't had success with either MM or Sea Foam it may be worth a try.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:32 AM   #9
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cboss View Post
I have had to learn to become an expert on my Saturn..
I've been working on these car's for 16+ years and have done just about everything imaginable to them. Even some firsts several years ago that have become common place today.

That being said, there is always something new to learn and something that will stump you.

...
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-1991 Turbo SL2 - Gone, but not forgotten.
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www.differentracing.com

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-2011 Rally Yellow Chevrolet Camaro 2SS RS

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(7) Over looked problems.

Some times things break, of which you are simply not aware because you don't see them. Here are some problems which may occur more often that you might expect.

1. The vacuum line to the evap solenoid goes down the back side of the engine and is out of view. When you pour oil into the engine, you may spill some and it drips down right on top of the evap solenoid. The rubber connector for the vacuum line breaks down with all the oil on it and it gets slippery. It just slides off and you get a vacuum leak (albeit a small one, but one non the less). You may need a new rubber connector for the vacuum line and clean it up good.

2. Underneath the battery is a nipple coming out of the transaxle. There is a rubber hose that is connected which runs up to a clip on the front engine ground. There should be a plastic plug in the end. This is a vent for the transaxle. The rubber hose tends to be restricted under the battery and with time may crack and break. You will now get some ATF (tran fluid) spilling out on the tranny at times. You may think it is oil, but it is ATF and it gets dirty with time (needs a good cleaning). Remove the battery and its holder to see underneath and check the hose for damage.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:45 AM   #11
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(8) Excessive Oil consumption.

The best advice I got was from OldNuc to buy an engine cleaner gun (less than $10) from Harbor Freight. It connects up to an air compressor and has a hose that dips into a bucket of any water based cleaner you like.

First step with oil usage is clean the engine until it shines.

Before assuming the car is burning oil, make sure it isn't leaking it.

The oil pan is one area of concern (gasket material/RTV breaks down).
The valve cover gasket is another cause of leaks.

One problem I never though of is the valve cover warping.

Thats my problem. Even with a new valve cover gasket, a warped valve cover will still leak and it will leak terribly.

You can move the valve cover and put a straight edge on it to see if it is warped. If so, get another one.

I posted above an alternative to the MM or Sea Foam soak. It has cleaned up the top of my cylinders quite well. I first used the CD2 by itself (which east up the carbon), but it is too thick and it gets thicker as its east up the carbon. The Sea Foam thins down the CD2 so it can do its work, but not turn into sludge.

If you haven't gotten the oil usage under control, then clean your engine, check for leaks particularly the valve cover, check for a warped valve cover and then try the CD2/Sea Foan soak.

I would be interested to here from others, if this tip helps at all.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:53 AM   #12
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(9) Tools, Tools, Tools!

I know many are on a budget, so buying lots of tools may not be possible.

Here are some tools for working (or diagnosing) on your Saturn that I feel are a must and are not too expensive.

1. Buy two Torque wrenchs. One for foot/lbs and the other for inch/lbs.
This is a $50 investment but worth it.

2. For diagnositics: Buy a Fuel Pressure gauge, a Vacuum Gauge and a Compression tester (about $70 total)

3. My favorite and a life saver. At AutoZone I got a magnetic pickup tool, which has a magnetic head with an led light built in with a flexible handle (about 3 feet long). It was cheap (about $8) and is definitely a must. Not only can the light be used to see hard to see places, but there are many tight spaces on a Saturn where you can drop things. This will save you many times when that happens.

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Old 05-14-2009, 11:03 AM   #13
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

(10) Timing is everything! Got wierd problems with no answers ?

Have you beed trying to track down the cause of really wierd problems with fuel consumption, poor compression, low vacuum, strange ignition advance ?

One consideration, which may be mentioned but possibly rarely examined is a skipped timing chain.

Especially on the DOHC (SL2), this can pose a problem and the car may still run quite well.

There are two Cams on the DOHC and it is possible for just one Cam gear to be skipped a tooth on the changing. The symptoms for the intake valve timing being off may be different than when the exhaust valve timing is off.

You can check for a problem, buy removing the valve cover. Remove the spark plugs and rotate the engine clockwise to TDC for cylinder #1. The two Cam sprockets (gears) should line of the alignment holes with the holes in the head (a 3/16 drill bit will fit into it). If either one of the gears off alignment, then you will have problems, wierd problems.

If you have been unable to track down the cause of wierd problems (mentioned above) for months without results, then maybe it would be good to double check the timing chain to make sure both Cam gears line up properly.

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Old 05-14-2009, 06:47 PM   #14
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

Yeah I've been working on my car for 5 plus years and still get stumped quite often!

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Old 05-14-2009, 11:48 PM   #15
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

And last but not least?
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

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Old 05-15-2009, 08:34 AM   #16
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

My tips:

1) search the forums. Search is your friend
2) Ask after searching.
3) After you've searched and still have questions, don't tack on your question to the end of an old previous thread. Start your own post, quote an old post or link to the old thread if you need to reference it.
4) if you are trying to describe what something looks like, take a picture. Use an image editor; even something as lame as Windows Paint is useful for drawing arrows or circling something.

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Old 05-31-2009, 12:42 PM   #17
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Default Good stuff, thanks! I'll add two "newbie" tips

I want to get a vacuum gauge now, thanks for the write up! FWIW (for what it's worth) I'll add these two things I've learned or can recommend:

1) Nasty bolts + PBBlaster + overnight wait + 6 point sockets + steady increasing torque with a long handled breaker bar = nice clean bolt removal

2) By middle age we all have more than enough stuff. For Christmas or birthdays you really don't want more crap that womenfolk and well-meaning kids *think* you'd like. So let them know that interesting hand tools are always welcome. In this way I've been gifted long needle nosed pliers with unusual angles, various grabbing tools, and funky snake lights etc that have all proven highly useful at least once.

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Old 05-31-2009, 04:50 PM   #18
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

I do agree about those plastic clips being a pain to remove. I changed my tensioner. It took 10 minutes to remove the clips and 5 minutes to replace the tensioner. Oil will be changed from the bottom due to those pesky plastic clips.

My Lessons learned working on my Saturn:

1. Turn signal (rear bulb) goes in only one way.
2. You cannot substitute a turn signal bulb for a brake light bulb. (don't ask me how I know).

This was a nice summary. Keep up the good work!

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Old 08-04-2009, 11:47 PM   #19
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger View Post

2. You cannot substitute a turn signal bulb for a brake light bulb. (don't ask me how I know).
I do know how you know.

When you press the brake pedal, the dashboard and instrument lights dim a little. And until you figure it out, it will drive you crazy.

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Old 08-05-2009, 12:49 AM   #20
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Default Re: Lessons learned. Tips on working on Saturns.

#1) ramps are easier still, IMO, but this is often an area where different people have different preferences.

#2) In most areas, you can borrow an OBDII scanner at the parts store (usually just to take out in the parking lot & bring right back in). This is a great way to save that $70 it would cost to buy the scanner. Especially worthwhile if your car doesn't have issues very often, so you just need to check codes on rare occasion. Some areas don't seem to have this option, though - a friend was trying to fix a car to sell in Cali, and couldn't find any place to borrow a scanner. Worth checking, though.

#4) I have a hard time believing that the wire position matters if you have quality plug wires. Properly insulated wires shouldn't be influenced enough by the other wires to cause issues. I think the real lesson is to avoid cheap spark plug wires.

#5) I personally feel replacing the throttle body gasket every time it is removed is just wasteful and overkill. I have removed and reinstalled many throttlebodies, and have never had leak issues. I could see replacing it the first time you remove the TB after buying a used car, but then it should be in good shape for a long, long time.

Overall it's good info tho.

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