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Old 07-08-2011, 12:11 AM   #1
questionful
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2001 SL2
Default Scary Loud Engine Noise

I have a 2001 Saturn SL2 DOHC AutoTranny with 140k miles on it. My sister drives it and she doesn't take care of it. It has been driven with the oil level below the dipstick at least twice. A few weeks ago, I drove it again and noticed a noise that wasn't there before. The noise got quieter after the engine started, but persisted and got a tiny bit louder at higher rpm's. It was like a rattle that also got faster with higher rpm's. The noise seemed to come from the cam chain side of the engine. A few days ago, my dad started the engine with the hood open and it made the same noise but super loud and the engine shook pretty hard. He shut the engine off after a few seconds. I checked the oil, and the level was below the dipstick. I added two quarts, got a little over the full line, and my dad started it. The noise was a little quieter but still really loud and we shut the engine off after a few seconds. Today I popped the valve cover off and saw no obvious damage. The cams and rollers looked smooth, the cam chain looked taut and clean, there was no oil in the spark plug wells, and everything was an orangy color except the inside of the valve cover which was covered in a superthin layer of hard black grime which looked normal. In other words, it looked fine to me.

Can you help me diagnose the car? What do I check now? I will see if I have the tools to pull the spark plugs. Is it difficult to remove the cam shafts and check out the valves?

Thanks for any help.

Also, I went under the car to see if the oil pan drain plug was leaking. It didn't seem to be leaking, but the front of the oil pan was covered in black grime, as if a gasket above it was leaking and the oil that leaked out got cooked onto the metal. Might this be a sign of a leaky gasket? The oil level dropped a lot and I don't see any smoke come out of the exhaust pipe and the drain plug seemed sealed.

...
2001 SL2 DOHC AutoTrans 138k miles

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Old 07-08-2011, 02:12 AM   #2
Warshark73
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1995 SL2
Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

When you had the engine running, did you look at the drive (serpentine) belt tensioner to see if it was flopping around? Seems to be a fairly common occurrence. If it's not that, you might want to take the belt off and check the accessory pulleys and see if any of them are making a sound when you turn them by hand. At that point, you should check to make sure the accessories are properly bolted into place as well.

And the frustrating thing about engine noises is that a noise coming from one side of the engine can sound like it's coming from the other side of the engine. A $5 investment in a mechanic's stethoscope will do wonders in locating engine noises.

As for the grime, clean it all off with Simple Green (or some other de-greaser) and run the car for a while. Turn it off then check the area where you found the grime. If there's no visually noticeable leak, take a paper towel or napkin and wipe around the areas where the pan meets the block, the block meets the head, the valve cover meets the head, and the timing cover. If you find any area with what appears to be fresh oil, you probably found a leak.

...
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:42 AM   #3
holydiver
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

The last time I heard a noise like that on my car, I had spun a bearing on the crankshaft. This prompted an engine teardown and rebuild. I'm not sure about your case. Maybe if you record some audio or video and post it on someplace like youtube maybe I can make a better judgement.

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Old 07-08-2011, 11:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

It could possibly be a rod knock. How bad is the oil consumption anyway? And a video will help a lot

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Old 07-09-2011, 01:06 PM   #5
questionful
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

Should I run the engine to take a video?? I was scared that running the engine any more might cause further damage.

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Old 07-09-2011, 01:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

Sounds like the timing chain is done.

Running the engine with little or no oil doesn't allow the timing chain to be properly lubed...

You could probably run the engine to get a video, but the more you run the engine, the greater the risk that the timing chain could break.

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Old 08-07-2011, 08:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

I got a video! I rigged a home-made stethoscope to a microphone. Please tell me what you think.

YOUTUBE LINK

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Old 08-07-2011, 11:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Scary Loud Engine Noise

i vote for timing chain. U need to keep up with the oil level. it just like blood for our body going low will cause problems.....

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