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Old 03-22-2011, 03:44 PM   #1
frozenrotors
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Default Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Hello All,

I am relatively new to this forum and was hoping I could gain some insight from the Vets on here.

I acquired a 1999 Saturn SL1 (1.9L SOHC Automatic Trans) about 2 years ago after down sizing from my 06 Jeep SRT8. I have been very pleased with the car except for one aspect. I'm not so sure that I am getting the gas mileage that I should be getting.

I purchased the vehicle with about 120k miles on the clock and she is clocking about 150k miles today. My average gas mileage is running around 20mpg and I use the vehicle about 50/50 city/hwy and drive the vehicle very gently, however I am not a 80 year-old grandma either, so not too gently. I know that I would be insane to think that I could get 40mpg like some of you claim on here because the vehicle is not a manual trans, but I would like to get closer to a 30mpg average that I believe this car is fully capable of.

About 3 weeks ago I went over most of the vehicle and replaced most of what I thought would help. This indluded; full switchover to Mobil 1 fully synthetic high mileage 5w-30 motor oil and new trans fluid with spin-on filter, fuel filter, EGR valve, PCV valve, ECTS, AITS, TCTS, Spark Plugs, higher temp thermostat with all new engine coolant, top side engine mount, catalytic converter, up-stream and down-stream O2 sensors, outer tie-rods w/ allignment, 2 cans of sea-foam through 2 altering full tanks of gass, and an air filter.

This made a HUGE difference especially since now the engine temp will actually get up past 1/4 (which is nice here in northern Minnesota). Also the car idles silky smooth now at about 700rpm and the fuel economy did improve a bit after these replacements (about 15mpg to current 20mpg)

The vehicle is in overall great condition (Old GE Capital Lease vehicle). The tranny has zero leaks, however it does hesitate every so often between 2nd and 3rd gear depending on the load of the engine. The motor has a small oil leak somewhere around the head gasket and consumes/leaks about a quart of oil every 1k miles, which I keep an eye on.

All this said, any ideas for how I could possibly push a few more mpg's out of this engine? Like I said earlier, I would like to get closer to the 30mpg mark instead of the 20mpg I'm getting right now. Any suggestions would be great! MAP? Throttle Body? I'm kinda stumped here.

Cheers!
FrozenRotors

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Old 03-22-2011, 04:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

It is COLD in Minnesota, so I've heard , which will affect MPG.

Did you clean the throttle body?

Looks like you caught the #1 culprit (ECTS) (although 1999 might have been brass ones from the factory)
Did you replace the T stat? Once you replace the ECTS and T stat, the temp gauge should be about 1/2 way. If it is running too cold, it will waste gasoline.

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Old 03-22-2011, 04:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Easiest thing to do to increase gas mileage (which you have not mentioned) is to increase PSI in your tires. I keep mine around 37 PSI on all fours. I found that ALONE got me two to three extra MPG. Ride is a bit rougher, but I don't mind.

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

^^^^
Quote:
Originally Posted by frozenrotors View Post
About 3 weeks ago I went over most of the vehicle and replaced most of what I thought would help. This indluded; full switchover to Mobil 1 fully synthetic high mileage 5w-30 motor oil and new trans fluid with spin-on filter, fuel filter, EGR valve, PCV valve, ECTS, AITS, TCTS, Spark Plugs, higher temp thermostat with all new engine coolant, top side engine mount, catalytic converter, up-stream and down-stream O2 sensors, outer tie-rods w/ allignment, 2 cans of sea-foam through 2 altering full tanks of gass, and an air filter.
Do you have any DTCs that are showing up?

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

It seems you've done most everything. Never mind running tires at ridiculous pressures though. Not a good idea on this car. It's WAY too light. Anything over 32 front and 28 rear is a waste of time and air.
As for your mpg last year I was working in Minnesota. There is something about their winter blend gasoline that truly "sucks". My car (99 SL2) did much the same thing. Once I got it back here or ran it on summer blend gas MPG went right back to the 35 to 38 norm.

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:41 PM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
It's WAY too light. Anything over 32 front and 28 rear is a waste of time and air.
.
Based on tests you performed? Can I see the results?

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

low tire pressure means more of the tire will be in contact with the ground = higher rolling resistance. High tire pressure = lower rolling resistance = higher mpgs.

Boom-shaklaka

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

20mpg from a somewhat babied SOHC? Something's gotta be broke. Is the transmission going through all 4 gears (been told it could feel like 5 with the torque-converter locking up)?

I'm getting close to 30 with my '96 SC2 and I don't drive it like grandma...as the mods kinda indicate

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Old 03-22-2011, 05:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

i know you said you changed the sparklplugs but to what type?i noticed a big difference when i changed mine from champion to the ngk that everyone recommends.i hope u get the results that u desire.

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Old 03-22-2011, 09:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeNW View Post
It is COLD in Minnesota, so I've heard , which will affect MPG.

Did you clean the throttle body?

Looks like you caught the #1 culprit (ECTS) (although 1999 might have been brass ones from the factory)
Did you replace the T stat? Once you replace the ECTS and T stat, the temp gauge should be about 1/2 way. If it is running too cold, it will waste gasoline.
I was wondering if the cold weather affects the mpg because just in the last few days it has warmed up to above freezing and I have noticed a slight gain in fuel economy.

I did not clean the throttle body! Could this make a difference in MPG? If so, any good threads on here for this operation?

My car had the plastic/ceramic tip ECTS which was cracked so I replaced with NAPA brand brass tip design. After replacing the T-stat I now run between 3/8 to 1/2 on the temp gauge.

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Old 03-22-2011, 09:58 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by TXSaturn02 View Post
Easiest thing to do to increase gas mileage (which you have not mentioned) is to increase PSI in your tires. I keep mine around 37 PSI on all fours. I found that ALONE got me two to three extra MPG. Ride is a bit rougher, but I don't mind.
I keep my tires at about 35 psi in all four corners. This is especially important here in MN because the air temp fluctuates quiet rapidly here. Also the tires are brand new BF Goodrich (replaced in January) I check my tire pressure and oil level every time I put a full tank of gas in the tank.

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:05 PM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexofNazareth View Post
^^^^


Do you have any DTCs that are showing up?
In the last two years of owning the vehicle and putting 30k+ miles on the odometer I have only had one DTC light up on the dash. This happened after I replaced the fuel filter. I think the code was something like a P0404 or something like that. Anyway it had to do with the EGR valve. So I ran the two cans of sea foam and then replaced the EGR valve with a brand new one from NAPA and the DTC went off after about 10 miles and has not ever come back on. I'm sure that what happened was that some debris was knocked free when I replaced the fuel filter and it got caught in the EGR and threw the code. I probably could of just cleaned the EGR with some carb cleaner but I figured I would just replace it because of my deep discount on parts through NAPA. Other than this one time, the car has never thrown the SES light.

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:09 PM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

+1 for getting rid of the Jeep!!!

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:09 PM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
It seems you've done most everything. Never mind running tires at ridiculous pressures though. Not a good idea on this car. It's WAY too light. Anything over 32 front and 28 rear is a waste of time and air.
As for your mpg last year I was working in Minnesota. There is something about their winter blend gasoline that truly "sucks". My car (99 SL2) did much the same thing. Once I got it back here or ran it on summer blend gas MPG went right back to the 35 to 38 norm.
I think that you may have a valid point here. I noticed this back when I had my Jeep! Also it is worth noting that I usually run 89 octane in my Saturn. The kwik Trip gas stations here in MN sell 89 for the same price as 87 octane so I run the 89. However I have noticed that it seems to get a bit better fuel economy on regular 87 octane. Any opinions on the subject of 87 vs. 89 octane?

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:15 PM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by frozenrotors View Post
I think that you may have a valid point here. I noticed this back when I had my Jeep! Also it is worth noting that I usually run 89 octane in my Saturn. The kwik Trip gas stations here in MN sell 89 for the same price as 87 octane so I run the 89. However I have noticed that it seems to get a bit better fuel economy on regular 87 octane. Any opinions on the subject of 87 vs. 89 octane?

89 octane that sells for the price of 87 octane, will have more ethanol. Because ethanol has less energy content that regular gasoline, you will have decreased mpg.

I drove a 50/50 mix and even in the heart of winter, I don't see less than 28-29 mpg. I am awaiting the summer gasoline blend that arrives right before ac season (maximum mpg time).

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:30 PM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
20mpg from a somewhat babied SOHC? Something's gotta be broke. Is the transmission going through all 4 gears (been told it could feel like 5 with the torque-converter locking up)?

I'm getting close to 30 with my '96 SC2 and I don't drive it like grandma...as the mods kinda indicate
I believe that it is shifting through all 4 gears. she runs at about 2,000rpm while on flat road at 55mph.

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:34 PM   #17
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoggman View Post
i know you said you changed the sparklplugs but to what type?i noticed a big difference when i changed mine from champion to the ngk that everyone recommends.i hope u get the results that u desire.
I replaced the spark plugs with brand new Champion Copper Plus. I also made sure to check the gap on all four plugs. What style of NGK is recommended?

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:41 PM   #18
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

Quote:
Originally Posted by frozenrotors View Post
I was wondering if the cold weather affects the mpg because just in the last few days it has warmed up to above freezing and I have noticed a slight gain in fuel economy.
Colder air is more dense and takes more fuel too burn, but I think the main factor is the blend of gasoline distributed during the winter months.

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:42 PM   #19
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

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Originally Posted by Midnight13 View Post
+1 for getting rid of the Jeep!!!
I miss my Jeep like crazy but decided to go back to school. At $600 per month plus $100 for insurance and about $500 in fuel, she had to go. I purchased this saturn for $1,200 a little over two years ago and I pay $35 per month for full coverage insurance and that's it. Good Lord is it nice to not have that monthly expense hanging over my head anymore

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Old 03-22-2011, 10:45 PM   #20
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Default Re: Saturn SL1 Gas Mileage Concern

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89 octane that sells for the price of 87 octane, will have more ethanol. Because ethanol has less energy content that regular gasoline, you will have decreased mpg.

I drove a 50/50 mix and even in the heart of winter, I don't see less than 28-29 mpg. I am awaiting the summer gasoline blend that arrives right before ac season (maximum mpg time).
Good to know! I will switch over to 87 for the next few tanks and see what that does for me. I think this could actually be my main problem. I am anxious to see what she will get this summer with summer blend 87 octane vs. the winter blend 89 octane that I have been running. Cheers!

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