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Old 09-04-2010, 08:23 PM   #1
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Beautiful little car...but...

I bought a 2001 SL2 10th Anniversary Edition (with A/C, power windows, power trunk, keyless locks, security system, the works), with stunning "teardrop" stainless wheels (I constantly get compliments on them), luxurious quality black leather upholstery, and a still gorgeous glossy silver exterior.

This is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful small sedans EVER designed (and I've been a car design fanatic since the 1950's). Admittedly, I bought it purely for its visual appeal. It is aerodynamically wedge-shaped and super-sleek, with so many fine artistic features in its lovely contours.

Unfortunately, the mechanical aspects inside this gorgeous body are, by comparison, primitive and disappointing. The engine is noisy and vibrates badly when the car is stopped in drive at a stop-light (automatic tranny) - even though I've had ALL the engine mounts replaced and the engine rocked and balanced by experts - twice - by different mechanics! The CD and cassette players have both died for no apparent reason. The sliding sunroof/moonroof has broken plastic runners and can no longer be opened - I pulled the fuse and just consider it a moonroof.

All of the above I have since learned is true for many 3rd generation SL's. This may seem a cruel thing to say, but this inattention to engineering refinement and quality is enough "bad karma" to set up the demise of Saturn as a company. It is a crime to design such a beautiful body and equip it with such primitive or defective engineering.

Ironically, I had a 1995 Saturn SW2 that was superior in engineering to this 2001 SL2 in every way. Unfortunately, my '95 SW2 was destroyed by a falling tree. Otherwise, I would still be driving it!

But one last thing in this '01 SL2's favor. It has almost 135,000 miles on it and it is still a great car on the highway. It cruises effortlessly at 80 mph. If I only had a CD player that worked, an operating sunroof, and no engine shuddering at a stoplight, then I would be a very proud and happy camper.

I can still be proud that my SL2 LOOKS so beautiful...in spite of some of its crude engineering.

...
SG

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Old 09-04-2010, 08:55 PM   #2
mr18436572
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2000 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Thats why I went Japanese

I do love these cars and how reliable and inexpensive they are, but as far as refinement, they were never quite there.

...
2000 SL2 auto - 167k - sold
1996 SL2 auto - 161k - sold
1997 SC2 auto - 105k - sold
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Old 09-04-2010, 11:24 PM   #3
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mr18436572 View Post
Thats why I went Japanese

I do love these cars and how reliable and inexpensive they are, but as far as refinement, they were never quite there.
So sad, but so true! Saturn engineering did not improve with time - it actually deteriorated - no refinement whatsoever - in the third generation, it was actually worse. Tragic, considering that Saturn's artistic design was reaching a peak, which suddenly plummeted in 2003 to totally boring. I could see the end of Saturn coming in 2003, when the Ion (pronounced "yawn") replaced the sadly unimproved S-series (generic clone replacing a striking little car with so much undeveloped potential).

Speaking of Japanese, before my '95 Saturn, I had owned a 1970 Celica (hot little booger!) and then a 1982 Celica (a beautiful, slick, classy black coupe w/squared T-bird roofline, and a killer sound system), both of which I drove "into the ground" with nary a complaint (but lots of grieving afterwards).

My 1995 SW2 was a definite step in the bourgeois direction, but it WAS buying American, and it was a very practical, useful, dependable, economical car - it hauled furniture, a new oven, new lawn mowers, dogs and cats, a soccer team, you name it - and very cheaply so. Yeah, it was never as suave and "cool" as my '82 Celica, but it was cute, and the engine didn't vibrate at a stoplight, the cassette player worked until the car was destroyed, and nothing else failed to operate - as has happened with my beautiful but problematic 2001 SL2.

Kinda makes me think of my printers at work - I have one old dinosaur laser that's been printing just fine for 12 years. And the one I bought 2 years ago is already busted.

...
SG

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Old 09-05-2010, 08:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Any Service Engine Soon light? Codes?

One thing that is commonly missed when replacing the top motor mount is loosening and retightening the two 15mm bolts for the lower mount. It's something you can do yourself if you are inclined.

I'd go back to the receipts - count how may mounts they list as being replaced. Should be 4 of them iirc.

Once you get the vibration issue sorted, CD replacment is really easy. Or if you are not inclined, a lot of places will install for free if you buy the unit from them.

You are right, GM put very little money into Saturn, which is a shame.f

...
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Old 09-05-2010, 08:58 AM   #5
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1998 SC2
1998 SW2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Gray View Post
...I've had ALL the engine mounts replaced and the engine rocked and balanced by experts - [I]twice - by different mechanics.
x-spurt:
x = unknown quantity
spurt = a drip under pressure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Gray View Post
...I can still be proud that my SL2 LOOKS so beautiful...in spite of some of its crude engineering.
Agreeabsolutely

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Old 09-05-2010, 09:19 AM   #6
ratwhisperer
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1997 SL1
1994 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Sadly, I think you're right.

I owned a 95 SW as well. It was probably my favorite car that I have EVER owned. I loved it so much. I was so impressed that it ran so well at 246K with not much more to fix than the regular maintenance, etc. Other than regular maintenance I only ever had to replace the muffler, motor mounts and the CV joints, oh and a bumper from the pick and pull because I got rear-ended by a taxi.

I even got $1100 for it in trade after buying it for $1500 six years previously, and it got a 'good' rating. I see it toodling around town all the time. The way I can tell it was my old car is because of the mismatched bumper. The bumper is the same color but from a different and older model of S-series (a 1991 SL I believe).

I traded it in for the 2000 SW2. I do really love my car, and in many ways it's the same car, only it looks so much fancier, and it's a beautiful cranberry red. It's still fun and comfortable to drive and gets super gas mileage. I can haul a ton of stuff in it. However, I agree with you that the mechanical engineering is not the same. This car requires so much more maintenance, TLC, and part replacement, and I'm only at 146K. I hope to keep it as long as I can, but honestly, in some ways I'm tempted to buy a second older Saturn to get my fix.

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Old 09-05-2010, 02:21 PM   #7
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Any Service Engine Soon light? Codes?
Yes, you must be psychic!

But it has come on only in the past few weeks: Code 0410, air pump? But I can hear the pump running at startup and all the connecting hoses all look clear of carbon inside. If I disconnect the battery for a few minutes, the SES light goes off and stays off for several days. Then it will come back on maybe a week or so later unpredictably. The engine seems to run the same as always, regardless of the SES light.

HOWEVER, the SES light and the vibration don't seem related in any way. The vibration in drive at a stoplight has been there since I bought the car last year, with never any Service Engine Soon light. I thought, "I love this car. It probable just needs a tune up or engine mount to stop the vibration." (Thinking back to my wonderful '95 SW).

Two different repair shops verified that the engine was in great shape, compression good and equal in all 4 cylinders, etc., etc. So I decided the vibration must be the engine mounts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
One thing that is commonly missed when replacing the top motor mount is loosening and retightening the two 15mm bolts for the lower mount. It's something you can do yourself if you are inclined.
  1. First shop (well-known, good rep, BBB) installed 3 new mounts and said the 4th (on tranny) seemed to have been replaced recently and it didn't need replacement. Vibration still there.
  2. I took the car BACK to first shop ONLY to have the mounts loosened and let the powertrain settle, just as you describe. (I got that advice from this forum.) Vibration still there.
  3. THEN, I took the car to the Chevy dealer (where former Saturn mechanics now work), and they too loosened the lower mounts, settled the powertrain and retightened. Vibration still there.
  4. A veteran Saturn mechanic now working at Chevy said that this was just typical vibration for this model - he wished they could do more for me. I suggested replacing the 4th mount (since the vibration feels stronger on the left side of the car), but he was skeptical if it would help (so he wasn't trying to get more money out of me).
  5. I brought the car BACK to Chevy dealer and (my decision) had the 4th (tranny dogbone) mount replaced. My bill states specifically: "replaced transaxle dogbone mount", "loosened all mounts", "let powertrain settle", "retightened", "vibration not much better".

The vibration is indeed the same as the first day I bought it, but I'm out several hundred dollars trying to fix it in vain. I've given up in sad disappointment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Once you get the vibration issue sorted
As you can see, don't think that's gonna happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
CD replacment is really easy. Or if you are not inclined, a lot of places will install for free if you buy the unit from them.
It's sad, though, because the original sound unit looks so nice in the dash. Any replacement is gonna LOOK like a replacement. But with this vibration issue unsolved, I think I'm going Japanese too. I looked at my friend's Honda engine idling cold and it was visibly vibrating all over the place, but inside the car you couldn't feel a thing!! My Saturn engine hardly shows any movement at all, but is apparently transferring everything into the chassis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
You are right, GM put very little money into Saturn, which is a shame.
Well, a grief shared is half a grief, I guess. Thanks, everybody, for letting me vent about my SL2!

...
SG

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Old 09-05-2010, 02:43 PM   #8
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1997 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

first problem with saturn: there was only one model series for its first ten years or so. Then everything else came in...

IMHO, sounds like typical G.M. work.. you get a bunch of customers complain about a problem, and they either won't do a damn thing or will do it, just a bajillion years later (see: temperature gauge re-calibration in '96 and brass ECTSes in 2002).

To those who wanna go to the land of the rising sun: have fun with your appliances..

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

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Old 09-05-2010, 04:15 PM   #9
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Dazed Re: Beautiful little car...but...

I was talking with a fellow beemer owner Friday at work. He has a 2007 or 2008 5-series. I have a 1993 7-series. As we compared notes it had a strikingly familiar tone compared to this thread.

I have owned mine since 1997. He has owned his about a year.

While it is true that I have had my share of troubles with mine, his has been in the shop about a dozen times in the year he has had it, and has been in the shop for the past week or more. Despite being under warranty, he is fed up with it. He says flatly that he will never buy another BMW again (neither will I for that matter). When the warranty expires, so will the ownership of his car.

The newer ones are NOT more reliable, and are far too complicated for their own good. BMW corporate does NOT listen to owners complaints, habitually blames things on the owners, and does whatever the heck they want to do design-wise and "the customers will just have to follow" (prime examples- The Bangle Butt, iDrive, and lack of dip sticks, which are all "what were they thinking?" items).

So GM is hardly alone in their corporate arrogance and planned obsolescence it seems. Oh, and we have various Japanese and Swedish vehicles in our extended family. For the most part they are no better either, IMHO.

It simply seems to be the corporate mindset. The Japanese are learning it from us, and fast. Just ask Toyota. No matter why Priuses accelerate uncontrollably and kill people, the cover up and blame game that surfaced in the Senate hearings are good indicators of what Toyota really thinks of their customers. Don't kid yourself believing otherwise.

To the point of the thread- He asked me how I liked my Saturn. I told him I love it, and we went out to the parking lot to look at it. He liked it too.

But when he asked if I thought he should get one for his daughter, I had to say "no". Why? Because neither he nor she work on cars themselves. So I can't recommend them.

And that is just sad.

...
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:16 PM   #10
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but... [workaround fixes]

For any other poor owner of a '01 SL2 w/automatic:

1. Just keep slipping the gearshift into neutral at stoplights. (I know! Maybe harder on the transmission, but it keeps the nerves down.) Funny thing - it doesn't vibrate when stopped in reverse - yeah, that makes me feel a whole lot better...not.

2. Think I solved my SES Code P0410. Watched the video link from this site and I found that the metal pipe from the air valve to the engine block was filled with carbon. Took a clothes hanger wire and reemed it out. SES hasn't come back on. (Chevy dealer wanted to put on a new air pump and charge me around $300 for the trouble. The old air pump still runs!!!)

I think you're right about how GM addresses long-standing mechanical issues. But as for having one model for 10 years, that should have allowed Saturn to perfect this model in every little way. Sadly, they did the opposite. Still, I think the design is a classic - and each of the 3 generations has its own "look". (...I sure miss my '95 SW! )

...
SG

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Old 09-05-2010, 09:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DIYguy View Post
The newer ones are NOT more reliable, and are far too complicated for their own good. BMW corporate does NOT listen to owners complaints, habitually blames things on the owners, and does whatever the heck they want to do design-wise and "the customers will just have to follow" (prime examples- The Bangle Butt, iDrive, and lack of dip sticks, which are all "what were they thinking?" items).
That's nothing. How bout the whole "close everything off under the hood design" game? And take it to the extreme with Lexus... SERIOUSLY?! even something as simple as fluid/oil checks, let alone WINDSHIELD WASHER refills dealer only? SERIOUSLY?!!! UGH!!!!!!!!!!



WHY OH WHY do they EFFING do this!!

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

Last edited by adventureoflink; 09-05-2010 at 09:55 PM..

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Old 09-05-2010, 10:49 PM   #12
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Roll Eyes Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Totally agreed. But the $64 question is- did Lexus learn it from BMW or did BMW learn it from Lexus? Lexus does seem to copy-cat everything BMW does including the butt-ugly Bangle Butt.

Or did they all meet at some posh resort somewhere wearing cheezy disguises and all decide to cut the home mechanic out once and for all to support their network of stealers? Maybe it's their grand plan.....

And some of my co-workers wonder why I don't buy new-er cars (they know that with the exception of my wife's truck, I will not waste the first year depreciation on a brand new one).

At least I can fix the older cars myself (even the beemer, virtually every sub-system of which I have had apart at one time or another including the much-fabled 5HP30 transmission which has no dipstick).

...
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:54 PM   #13
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1997 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Wow, I think you've pretty well eliminated any TAM components as the cause.

How is your transmission fluid level?

Any change in vibration characteristics if you have the car in Drive, foot on the brakes, bringing idle up to 1500 or so?

That level of vibration really doesn't sound normal to me, especially since it is not the usual suspects.

...
I'm not worthy to grovel in the shadow of Signmaster's wisdom

11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 124k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 09-05-2010, 11:11 PM   #14
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Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DIYguy View Post
Totally agreed. But the $64 question is- did Lexus learn it from BMW or did BMW learn it from Lexus? Lexus does seem to copy-cat everything BMW does including the butt-ugly Bangle Butt.

Or did they all meet at some posh resort somewhere wearing cheezy disguises and all decide to cut the home mechanic out once and for all to support their network of stealers? Maybe it's their grand plan.....

And some of my co-workers wonder why I don't buy new-er cars (they know that with the exception of my wife's truck, I will not waste the first year depreciation on a brand new one).

At least I can fix the older cars myself (even the beemer, virtually every sub-system of which I have had apart at one time or another including the much-fabled 5HP30 transmission which has no dipstick).
I'm not sure who started it, but all I know is when one started, the others basically followed suit, to _SOME_ degree. Remember, even newer appliance/boring cars have that sh itty close off everything under the hood bit too, but at last they're a tad more forgiving.

this is one of the many reasons why I CANNOT for the life of me (with VERY FEW exceptions) stand Chryslers (counting their family of brands as well). And right now that hate is building towards Lexus, and apparently BMW, as well. Also, any other brand that wants to try it.

Hey Mike: Question.. does your Aura have that stupid close everything off under the hood bit to some degree?

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

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Old 09-05-2010, 11:42 PM   #15
mr18436572
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2000 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by adventureoflink View Post
To those who wanna go to the land of the rising sun: have fun with your appliances..
I'm having a blast with mine

...
2000 SL2 auto - 167k - sold
1996 SL2 auto - 161k - sold
1997 SC2 auto - 105k - sold
2000 SC2 auto - 117k - sold
1996 SL2 auto - 250k - sold
2001 SC2 5sp - 160k - sold

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Old 09-06-2010, 05:10 PM   #16
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Wow, I think you've pretty well eliminated any TAM components as the cause.
Thanks for affirming that! That helps me let go of that and move on to another approach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
How is your transmission fluid level?
With transmission hot and in park, on a level surface, the dipstick (which I'm now so thankful to have after learning so many new cars don't!) shows slightly overfull. The fluid is crystal clear, slightly reddish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Any change in vibration characteristics if you have the car in Drive, foot on the brakes, bringing idle up to 1500 or so?
I still think you're psychic! Amazingly, when I rev the engine to 1500 rpm, transmission in Drive, car stopped with foot on brake, the vibration disappears!

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
That level of vibration really doesn't sound normal to me, especially since it is not the usual suspects.
Eagerly awaiting your conclusions, with appreciation!

...
SG

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Old 09-07-2010, 12:46 AM   #17
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Your '95 wagon had the exact same powertrain mounting system as your 2001 car. Your wagon was not available with a sunroof, but if it were, it would have been the exact same sunroof your 2001 car has. There's nothing superior about the engineering of your wagon; it's virtually the same, underneath, as your 2001.

Loosening the mounts won't fix the vibration problem. You need to loosen the BRACKET to which the lower engine "dogbone" mount strut is attached. Instructions here: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=73563 . The mounts aren't on fasteners that are "adjustable". The bracket is.

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Old 09-07-2010, 06:55 AM   #18
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1998 SC2
1998 SW2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Gray View Post
... I think I'm going Japanese too. I looked at my friend's Honda engine idling cold and it was visibly vibrating all over the place, but inside the car you couldn't feel a thing!! My Saturn engine hardly shows any movement at all, but is apparently transferring everything into the chassis....!
You can't be serious (insert 'barf' icon here)
(My Honda CR500R and CR250R vibrate like crazy at all speeds. It is terribly upsetting)

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Old 09-07-2010, 08:22 AM   #19
irish56
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Location: Columbus, OH
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1999 SC1
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Forgive me if I missed it in this thread - but do you know what BRAND of mounts the shop used when they replaced your factory ones? I have not yet found a good aftermarket one. With a replacement Saturn OEM TAM, our '01 SL2 is vibration-free at idle, even though the other three mounts are original.

It has been a reliable little car, but I have to agree that the S-series felt "cheaper" over time, having owned at least one of each generation.

...
'95 SL1 auto (RIP)
'98 SL2 5sp (RIP)
'01 SL2 auto (RIP)
'99 SC1 auto (Mom's...keeps on truckin')

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Old 09-07-2010, 02:47 PM   #20
Silver Gray
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2001 SL2
Default Re: Beautiful little car...but...

Thanks for the info that the engineering is the same as my '95 (though it looks different under the hood), and special thanks for the info on adjusting the bracket. I printed it out, and whenever I get the time and gumption again, I'll take that info to the mechanic. Sure hope this one stops the vibration. I've tried everything else I could find and spent more than I can afford.

Thing is, I had mounts replaced on my old 95 Saturn, and NEVER had this problem - always smooth as silk. But recently a used car dealer (with an '01 SL2 on his lot) and then a Saturn mechanic each told me that vibration in drive at a stop was common in my particular model.

As for the brand of the engine mounts, three are now aftermarket (I don't know the brand), and the 4th, the trans. dogbone, is now Saturn OEM. However, the vibration, stopped in drive, was the same before any of the mounts were changed.

Sorry for causing stomach upset by mentioning the "J" word. I'm just at my wit's end, wanting to keep this car, but this vibration mystery is making me nuts. No...make that despondent.

...
SG

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