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Old 10-08-2013, 04:39 PM   #1
Texas_North
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2002 SL2
Default Loss of Power

Hello SaturnFans, this site has helped me fix and maintain my car for a few years now, and has been an invaluable resource. However, this is the first time I haven't found a solution from old threads.

While going to work the other night, I stopped at a corner store. Everything was normal, but on restarting the car I had absolutely no power. It wasn't stuttering, bucking or sounding weird. There was no misfire- it just felt like the clutch was slipping or something. Even more weird, when pushing full throttle, the car didn't even sound like I was putting the spurs to it, it would just slowly gain speed. I would suspect the catalytic converter, but it was 100% normal before restarting the car- like the computer is retarding ignition or something odd like that.

It was normal on the drive home, so I added this problem to the "things to deal with when I have more money" list. But it started happening again, on a smaller scale. The car will stall very easily and needs a generous right foot.

I drive a 2002 DOHC with the 5 speed, 111k. Throttle body is clean, ECTS and thermostat are good. I'm thinking I'll try replacing the fuel filter, as it's doubtful the previous owner ever did it, but I'd like the forum's input before I go spending money. I'm no master mechanic, but I can follow richpin videos OK.

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Old 10-08-2013, 05:11 PM   #2
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1999 SC1
Default Re: Loss of Power

It's probably not the fuel filter, and that's a semi-expensive part. The '98+ S-Series fuel filter has an integrated pressure regulator, and is rated for 100k miles, but often lasts 150k or even closer to 200k before having issues.

Being an '02, it should already have a brass tipped ECTS from the factory, but they can still fail. Have you ever replaced the ECTS? It's a ~$12 part, and easy to replace, and can cause symptoms like you describe.

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Old 10-08-2013, 08:52 PM   #3
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1995 SL1
Default Re: Loss of Power

To confirm or deny the thought of the converter going, take out the O2 sensor and go for a short loud drive. If the cat is clogged the reduction in backpressure will make the power change obvious.

Since you also mentioned timing, it's possible you have a knock sensor that cries wolf and actually does retard timing too often. You could disconnect it and give it a try...

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Old 10-09-2013, 05:25 AM   #4
Texas_North
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Thanks for the replies. The thing that gets me is that the problem is intermittent- the car was totally fine driving home today, but felt like it was down 50 horsepower on the way home.

The ECTS/ t-stat are fine- they were the first things replaced when I bought he car- and the temperature shows the correct 3/8. Would a knock sensor retarding timing cause the engine to run rough or misfire? Because it sounds normal when it has this problem, it just drives extremely sluggish.

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Old 10-09-2013, 10:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: Loss of Power

If the cat matrix is breaking up, a chunk can go back and plug the cat outlet. How well it plugs it can vary every time the engine is started, or even if you go over a bump in the road and shake the car.

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Old 10-10-2013, 11:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
If the cat matrix is breaking up, a chunk can go back and plug the cat outlet. How well it plugs it can vary every time the engine is started, or even if you go over a bump in the road and shake the car.

Well that seems to fit the symptoms the best, but it's not what I want to hear. Looks like I'll be biting the bullet here pretty soon. I suppose it's not that much worse than the price of the fuel filter.

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Old 10-10-2013, 11:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Loss of Power

It's not that hard to get that cat and forward pipe out; how about removing it and taking a peek? You can shake it and turn it with outlet down to see if something is loose. If it is, take a piece of steel, like concrete re-bar, and poke it around to break the matrix all up so you can dump it out. That will keep the engine running fine (may set some cat-codes, of course) until you are ready to change the cat.

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Old 10-11-2013, 12:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
It's not that hard to get that cat and forward pipe out; how about removing it and taking a peek? You can shake it and turn it with outlet down to see if something is loose. If it is, take a piece of steel, like concrete re-bar, and poke it around to break the matrix all up so you can dump it out. That will keep the engine running fine (may set some cat-codes, of course) until you are ready to change the cat.
I was under the impression it would require welding- its it just a few rusty bolts?

Honestly I'd just run a straight pipe if the government didn't take extreme offense to such things. Inspection is quite a ways a way, however, so removing the matrix for a paycheck or two would be great.

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Old 10-11-2013, 10:20 AM   #9
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Default Re: Loss of Power

I can't say for sure about your '02, but yes, it's just a few nuts to remove the whole assembly on my '94/95 SL2s. When it comes time to replace just the cat, that will require welding.

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Old 10-14-2013, 02:57 PM   #10
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Finally got a day off to check- yes, it was the cat as billr said. The matrix was loose, and probably moving around as I drove. Not sure how this didn't set an SES code, but whatever- now I know.

Thanks all.

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Old 10-15-2013, 03:50 PM   #11
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Um... is it "free-flowing" now; is power back to normal?

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Old 10-17-2013, 08:58 PM   #12
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Default Re: Loss of Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Um... is it "free-flowing" now; is power back to normal?
Power's back to normal, just don't tell the EPA.

I'll be replacing it soon though.

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