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Old 08-26-2010, 10:54 AM   #1
Thrashplayhere
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Default SL2 Coolant Issue

I have a 2000 Saturn SL2 with a coolant issue. 2 days ago my low coolant level light came on and I had to add water three times just to get home from work. I dropped off my car and my mechanic replaced the water pump, 2 main radiator hoses, serpentine belt and added new coolant.

Yesterday, I'm on my way home from work, I was sitting at a red light and the traffic was backed up pretty bad. I start seeing steam come out from under the hood about where the coolant reservoir is. It as iff the coolant start to boil and then slowly leak out.I had this issue once before about 7-8 months ago and my mechanic said my fan wasn't coming on and he replaced the fan motor. Obviously, it's something more than the parts I've already had replaced.

I want to assume it's the thermostat (which I can buy and replace myself) but, I wanted to see what you guys think it could be.

Thanks in advance!

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Old 08-26-2010, 11:19 AM   #2
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

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Originally Posted by Thrashplayhere View Post
my mechanic said my fan wasn't coming on and he replaced the fan motor.
Has the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECTS) ever been replaced?

It's a $10-15 part that tells your PCM (computer) the engine temp - the original resin-tipped one tended to crack and give low readings to the PCM. As a result, the temp gauge would read low (typically around 1/4 scale), the engine runs a little rich (can cause stalling or hard starts/restarts) and... the PCM does not turn the fan on because it thinks the engine is still cold.

The How To library has both the How To as well as links to richpin's videos on youtube showing how to find it and replace it.

The other likely possiblity is that the reservoir cap is no longer holding pressure. you could try a new or junkyard one, they are pretty cheap.

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Old 08-26-2010, 12:03 PM   #3
DonP
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

Welcome. As noted above:

The #1 thing to check is the ECTS, especially if the temp gauge was not approaching the red zone when it boiled over. Replace it if it is the old type, and check toe connector for possible corrosion taht coudl cause false readings. See the first few sticky threads in the How-to Library forum for more details.

The #2 thing to check is the coolant reservoir cap. It might not be on tight or might not be holding pressure resulting in a low boiling point of the coolant.

S-car T-stats usually fail open if installed correctly so that is not a likely issue.

Weak coolant can result in low boiling point, but not likely if your mechanic was any good.

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Old 08-26-2010, 12:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

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Weak coolant can result in low boiling point, but not likely if your mechanic was any good.
Good point - The OP mentions having to add water three times on the way home.

A 2000 should have had the antifreeze changed at least once and a lot of shops use 50/50 premix these days. So the antifreeze could have become a mostly water mix at the time he took it to the shop.

Next, the mechanic does his replacements - and as we know, there is about a quart of the old left over in the heater core area. So if the mechanic filled with 50/50 premix, it is likely that the actual concentration is lower.

And we have another unknown, altitude... all the charts are based on sea-level

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Old 08-26-2010, 04:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

I'll try the ECTS first. Never heard of it until now. <fingers crossed> I'll update you guys and let you know how it works out.

Thanks!!!!

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Old 08-28-2010, 04:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

Replaced my ECTS and coolant reservoir cap today, didn't seem like it was working at first but then, I forgot I had to disconnect the battery and allow the system and the sensor to reset. Reconnected and could literally hear the car systems resetting. Started up the car and let it idle for about 20 minutes in the driveway. Then, drove it around for about 15 minutes with the AC on high, Got back to the house and let it sit idle for about another 15 - 20 minutes...temp needle stayed pretty much right in the middle as it should.

Once I replaced the parts I refilled the coolant reservoir with water just in case the sensor didn't fix anything. Now, I need to figure out the best way to drain the water and replace it with real coolant...

But, THANKS a TON for your suggestions. It's hard to believe that such a major problem could be so easily repaired without a mechanic and for very little money.

I appreciate you guys and this site!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Old 08-28-2010, 07:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

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Originally Posted by Thrashplayhere View Post
Once I replaced the parts I refilled the coolant reservoir with water just in case the sensor didn't fix anything. Now, I need to figure out the best way to drain the water and replace it with real coolant...
Easy.

1. Undo the drain bolt at the bottom of the engine block (the Richpin video on thermostat replacement will show you where it is). Also undo the radiator drain plug. Drain everything into a bucket or drain pan. Redo both plugs.

2. Flush the system with some automatic dishwashing detergent (one tablespoon) and one gallon of distilled water.

3. Drain out the system.

4. Refill the engine with another gallon of distilled water. Flush (without the dishwasing detergent) again.

5. Drain, refill, flush (again, without the dishwashing detergent), and drain again.

6. Refill the system with 100% coolant of your choice (most people here use the green stuff). Run the engine and refill with enough distilled water to achieve a 57/43 mixture.

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Old 08-28-2010, 09:40 PM   #8
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

You put a gallon of undiluted anti-freeze to get a 57/43 mix. Coolant is whatever is in the engine at a given time, whether it's pure water, 50/50 anti-freeze/water mix, or whatever.

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Old 08-28-2010, 11:50 PM   #9
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

You want to use two gallons of water in the flushes. Otherwise, your system will be half full

about 1 qt of whatever is in the system will remain in the heater core area when draining. You need to either disconnect the hoses back there to get a complete drain, or do what most people do... flush several times with distilled water and factor in that qt of water in there when refilling.

When flushing, I would remove the thermostat and reinstall the hose. When running the engine, the water pump will circulate the coolant and not need to wait for the coolant to heat up the thermostat enough for it to open
Quote:
It's hard to believe that such a major problem could be so easily repaired without a mechanic and for very little money.
This is the reason we are saturnfans... they are tough buggers and easy to maintain

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Old 08-29-2010, 03:01 PM   #10
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

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You want to use two gallons of water in the flushes. Otherwise, your system will be half full
Oh really?

was gonna say I always put in the dishwasing liquid, put in a gallon of distilled water, run for ten minutes with the heat on high, shut off, let it cool, and drain.

refill the system with another gallon of distilled water, run for ten minutes, shut it off, let it cool, and drain. and do this all again one last time. then put in the gallon of anti-freeze (100%) then use another gallon of distilled water to refill the system till it's full...


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Old 08-29-2010, 03:01 PM   #11
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Default Re: SL2 Coolant Issue

You may as well change the thermostat while you are doing the coolant change.

Do you have the plastic intake manifold? They leak sometimes.

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