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Old 06-18-2010, 11:18 PM   #1
Classic97Saturn
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Default I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Like most older Saturns, my 97 SL1 with 127,000 miles on it burns oil, about one quart every 1,000 miles, its the cost of running the car.

Two weeks ago I got the idea to try one of the stops leaks products for oil. A few days latter my coolant is low light came on. I added less than cup of radiator fluid/water and it was fine. The next couple of times I drove any distance the same thing occured.

Then I noticed the dreaded frothy light brown mixture in the radiator fluid that looked like a milk shake!!!

I hoped this was not a sign of the dreaded blown head gasket! But the car was not over heating and was not smoking.

At my first opportunity I changed the oil and oil filter. I drained the radiator, left the return radiator hose off and ran fresh water into the radiator reservour while the car ran for 15 minutes. I drained the water out and replaced with the normal radiator fluid/ water mix.

Since then I have been checking my radiator fluid levels and oil every day. So far so good.

What do you guys think happened?


This car runs pretty good for being 14 years old. It is a little slow on exceleration, but once it gets up to speed it runs well. It has been like that for several years.

...
97 Saturn SL1 127,000 miles

Born in September 96
Bought it November 96
It was my wife's car until she needed something bigger ( mom mobile Jeep Liberty)
Now it is my back and forth to work car.

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Old 06-19-2010, 02:24 PM   #2
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

What you might have seen in the tank was that ginger root mixture used from the factory as a small headgasket stop-leak, rather than the infamous milkshake. Saw it before in mine several times. either that, or someone may have mixed coolants.

also, you put stop leak for oil in the coolant? good thing you flushed it out.. bad enough we don't recommend stop leak in general here (except for the small ginger root stuff), but to use a stop leak designed for OIL leaks into the coolant? that may have triggered the brown as well.

...
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DOB: 3/19/97
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Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

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Old 06-19-2010, 02:33 PM   #3
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by adventureoflink View Post

also, you put stop leak for oil in the coolant? good thing you flushed it out.. bad enough we don't recommend stop leak in general here (except for the small ginger root stuff), but to use a stop leak designed for OIL leaks into the coolant? that may have triggered the brown as well.
The stop leak I used was for the oil, and was put in the oil.

...
97 Saturn SL1 127,000 miles

Born in September 96
Bought it November 96
It was my wife's car until she needed something bigger ( mom mobile Jeep Liberty)
Now it is my back and forth to work car.

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Old 06-19-2010, 06:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Classic97Saturn View Post
The stop leak I used was for the oil, and was put in the oil.
Oh. then I apologize for misreading your post.

even still, I'd get it out of there, PRONTO. those stop leaks tend to cause more problems than what they're worth.

...
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DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

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Status: Alive, no heat

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Old 06-19-2010, 08:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by adventureoflink View Post

even still, I'd get it out of there, PRONTO. those stop leaks tend to cause more problems than what they're worth.
I think I flushed the oil and radiator pretty good. Of course you are right, I'd rather burn a little oil, than damage the engine.

...
97 Saturn SL1 127,000 miles

Born in September 96
Bought it November 96
It was my wife's car until she needed something bigger ( mom mobile Jeep Liberty)
Now it is my back and forth to work car.

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Old 06-25-2010, 07:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Worst case scenario if the head gasket is blown, I've heard horror stories about how much it costs to fix. Probably more than a 14 year old car is worth.

I've seen ads for a product called "Steel Seal". It sounds to good to be true. At $45 bucks for the 4 cylinder size it is expensive, but much cheaper than a normal repair.

Has any one had experiance with this product?

...
97 Saturn SL1 127,000 miles

Born in September 96
Bought it November 96
It was my wife's car until she needed something bigger ( mom mobile Jeep Liberty)
Now it is my back and forth to work car.

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Old 06-25-2010, 04:57 PM   #7
manualman
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Pull the cap off your COLD coolant expansion tank daily and watch for even the smallest signs of oil pooling at the top of that tank. If so, you've got a crack in the engine head (not a head GASKET problem).

Heads can be replaced, but it is a big job.

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Old 06-25-2010, 08:55 PM   #8
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Are you actually seeing signs of oil leaks? That is, are there oil spots on the ground when you park overnight?

If not, the oil is burning rather than leaking and the stop-leak type additives are not going to help (they are pretty much useless for the most part anyway).

The oil burning has been discussed much here, and it is usually a result of the piston design - it had no drain holes in the lands like most pistons, and the reliefs get coked up so that the oil control rings can't do their thing.

Soaking teh pistons from teh top (using GM top end cleaner, Marvel Mystery Oil (MM), or a similar product) has helped some people to some extent. But you can drive literally several hundred thousand miles with your pistons as is with no problems, as long as you keep your oil level up. the How To library has details of the MMO piston soak.

...
...Wait, what, I actually won that eBay auction? Guess I now (12/2008) own a 1998 SL2, silver, 5 spd :p 102k @ purchase, now 169k
And now (7/2010), a Craigslist 1997 SC2, white, 5 spd

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Old 03-18-2014, 10:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

I have a 1998 Saturn SC2 with roughly 180,000 miles on it. I have had oil leak in the past, and im thinking it burns a little too.
But anyways, today when i went to take off, the low coolant light came on so i pulled back into the driveway and parked it. I shut the car off and opened the hood to see steam, not smoke, coming from the engine side closest to the firewall. After the steam had quit, i looked down that side only to see wet spots. I put the car up on jack-stands and crawled underneath the car to see wet spots in the gravel, the starter was wet and other places was wet. There is no oil showing in the cold coolant tank.

Can someone please help me? Can you tell me if it is a blown head gasket? Im hoping thats all it is, as the price of repair goes up from there

Thanks

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Old 03-18-2014, 11:23 AM   #10
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaturnUser18 View Post
I have a 1998 Saturn SC2 with roughly 180,000 miles on it. I have had oil leak in the past, and im thinking it burns a little too.
But anyways, today when i went to take off, the low coolant light came on so i pulled back into the driveway and parked it. I shut the car off and opened the hood to see steam, not smoke, coming from the engine side closest to the firewall. After the steam had quit, i looked down that side only to see wet spots. I put the car up on jack-stands and crawled underneath the car to see wet spots in the gravel, the starter was wet and other places was wet. There is no oil showing in the cold coolant tank.

Can someone please help me? Can you tell me if it is a blown head gasket? Im hoping thats all it is, as the price of repair goes up from there

Thanks
In your case it sounds like some type of cooling system failure, and it sounds like the cap was over pressured or simply just failed at normal pressures. But there are a number of possibilities, as once it overheats the fluid and/or steam can take strange paths and end up everywhere and anywhere.

Was the gauge giving any indication of hotter than usual running conditions? If not then the best bet is to clean things up well and get it dry, top off the coolant reservoir to proper cold level, and start the car and watch for where it leaks.

Reservoir cap, water pump, radiator, and any hose connection are the common areas. But it can end up anywhere. You should also check the small line that enters the passenger side rear of the reservoir for solid flow. This can be done with the cap off by peering into the reservoir. Or you can simply remove the line, but it in the top of the reservoir, then start the car.

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Old 03-18-2014, 11:30 AM   #11
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Signmaster View Post
In your case it sounds like some type of cooling system failure, and it sounds like the cap was over pressured or simply just failed at normal pressures. But there are a number of possibilities, as once it overheats the fluid and/or steam can take strange paths and end up everywhere and anywhere.

Was the gauge giving any indication of hotter than usual running conditions? If not then the best bet is to clean things up well and get it dry, top off the coolant reservoir to proper cold level, and start the car and watch for where it leaks.

Reservoir cap, water pump, radiator, and any hose connection are the common areas. But it can end up anywhere. You should also check the small line that enters the passenger side rear of the reservoir for solid flow. This can be done with the cap off by peering into the reservoir. Or you can simply remove the line, but it in the top of the reservoir, then start the car.
I had just started up the car so the engine was still cold and not made it more than 30 before the light came on.
The steam is from the "fluid" dripping on the exhaust. Yes it appears to be anti-freeze but it doesnt have the strong, sweet smell.

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Old 03-18-2014, 11:41 AM   #12
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

You will have to start it up and look to see where it is leaking. You may get lucky and find it is just a heater hose or clamp.

...
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Old 03-18-2014, 11:43 AM   #13
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaturnUser18 View Post
I had just started up the car so the engine was still cold and not made it more than 30 before the light came on.
30 feet? minutes? miles?

Trying to understand... exhaust got hot enough for liquid hitting it to steam, but engine still cold?

[quote}
The steam is from the "fluid" dripping on the exhaust. Yes it appears to be anti-freeze but it doesnt have the strong, sweet smell.[/QUOTE] Any chance it was a chunk of ice or snow?

I think you're going to have to feel along the lines, starting from the top and working down, for any wetness

here's a description of the cooling system, in OldNuc's gallery
http://www.saturnfans.com/photos/sho...hp?photo=48629

and pic of coolant flow from Barnowl's gallery

http://www.saturnfans.com/photos/sho...low-di/cat/500

...
...Wait, what, I actually won that eBay auction? Guess I now (12/2008) own a 1998 SL2, silver, 5 spd :p 102k @ purchase, now 169k
And now (7/2010), a Craigslist 1997 SC2, white, 5 spd

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Old 03-18-2014, 11:59 AM   #14
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

[QUOTE=alordofchaos;2052065]30 feet? minutes? miles?

Trying to understand... exhaust got hot enough for liquid hitting it to steam, but engine still cold?




30 feet, the gauge had not moved.

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Old 03-18-2014, 12:32 PM   #15
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Default Re: I thought my saturn had blown a head gasket, but maybe not?

Most likely a leak not related to pressure/temperature. Could be a hose, reservoir, water pump, radiator, etc.

In any case get it clean and dry, and figure out where it's leaking from. Short of replacing everything that might be the cause, this is the only way to figure out where the failure is.

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