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Old 07-20-2014, 04:10 PM   #1
Loddi
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Question Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Hi Saturn enthusiasts,

I have a 1995 Saturn SL2 and have to get a SMOG check soon.
In preparations for it I have the following preparations lined up but I am not sure what the optimal order is and was hoping to get some advice from you.
  • Oil and oil-filter change
  • Engine Sea-Foam treatment (through air-intake)
  • Change old autolite spark-plugs to NGK nickel V-Power plugs
  • replace air filter

In particular I am not sure if I should do the oil-change before the sea foam treatment. Can sea foam residues stay in the oil and mess up exhaust readings during the smog test?

Lastly, do you have other advice on preparations to pass the smog-test?

Thanks a lot,
Loddi

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Old 07-20-2014, 06:21 PM   #2
wingsauce7
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

If you're doing the Seafoam, do it before your oil change. Sounds like you have some good prep.

...
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Old 07-20-2014, 06:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Check compression, if that is poor you will at least know it is going to be a battle, and it is easy to do while the plugs are out for changing. The EGR valve is really easy to R&R, it might be worthwhile to remove it for inspection of it and the passageways in the head. How deep do you want to get into this? With just an electrical multimeter you can check the ECT and IAT sensors, as well as verify proper operating temp is being reached. If it is an electrical EGR valve you could check for its opening/closing and feedback signal. Probably most meaningful would be to check the O2 sensor to see if it is "toggling" above-and-below .45 V every second or so, indicating closed-loop PCM control is active. Changing oil and filter will have no effect on emissions. Does this have auto or manual trans? What state are you in?

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Old 07-20-2014, 09:00 PM   #4
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Changing your oil before your car is tested is one of the BEST things you can do.

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Old 07-20-2014, 09:14 PM   #5
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by wingsauce7 View Post
Changing your oil before your car is tested is one of the BEST things you can do.
...and drive the car pretty hard to get it warmed up nicely before the test. Let it idle while you're waiting, a warm car can pass if otherwise marginal..

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Old 07-20-2014, 09:23 PM   #6
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Check compression, if that is poor you will at least know it is going to be a battle, and it is easy to do while the plugs are out for changing. The EGR valve is really easy to R&R, it might be worthwhile to remove it for inspection of it and the passageways in the head. How deep do you want to get into this? With just an electrical multimeter you can check the ECT and IAT sensors, as well as verify proper operating temp is being reached. If it is an electrical EGR valve you could check for its opening/closing and feedback signal. Probably most meaningful would be to check the O2 sensor to see if it is "toggling" above-and-below .45 V every second or so, indicating closed-loop PCM control is active. Changing oil and filter will have no effect on emissions. Does this have auto or manual trans? What state are you in?
Thanks for all the advanced advice billr. It's a manual. I had problems with the EGR valve before, the valve-head sometimes got stuck which led to low idle rpm whcih in turn stalled the engine when I was hitting the clutch for breaking in front of lights for example. I "cleaned" it with carbonizer spray and twisted the valve head for a while which helped so far (although the valve head still gets stuck when fully opened by hand while cleaning).

I have a multimeter but for the pressure test, I assume I need a special tool, right? I guess I check everything I can with the tools I have. After all I don't expect it a battle to get the smog certificate but the car was in a minor accident not long ago which is why I want to be as prepared as possible.

I am in California. Will read up on testing the ECT, O2, and IAT sensors.

Thanks a lot,
Loddi

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Old 07-20-2014, 10:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

I always send in the fees- first- followed by the test.
DOn't want to be late.

...
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Old 07-20-2014, 10:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by wingsauce7 View Post
...and drive the car pretty hard to get it warmed up nicely before the test. Let it idle while you're waiting, a warm car can pass if otherwise marginal..
Thanks Wing, will do that for sure.

Best Loddi

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Old 07-20-2014, 10:29 PM   #9
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by billysvue View Post
I always send in the fees- first- followed by the test.
DOn't want to be late.
Don't know if I understand that correctly Billy, what fees do you mean?

-Loddi

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Old 07-20-2014, 10:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

"but for the pressure test, I assume I need a special tool, right?"

Are you talking about a compression test? Yeah, you need a tool there. A compression test is one of the most basic things to check for just about any engine problem. If you are at all serious about vehicle DIY repairs, a compression gauge should be on your "short list" of things to get; but you don't have to do that that test right now.

Testing the O2 sensor operation is pretty easy. Just connect a long wire to the O2 sensor at the connector about a foot away from the sensor, you can leave the sensor connected to the harness or disconnect it; either way. Run the other end of the wire inside and connect a DC voltmeter between it and a convenient chassis ground. Just run the wire outside, maybe taped to the windshield to keep it from flapping in the wind; this is temporary, don't make it too complicated! After the engine is warmed up and you are driving around the voltmeter reading should go back-and-forth above and below .45 V, at a cycle of once per second. If you have disconnected the harness, then an O2 sensor code will have been set, just clear that by disconnecting the car battery briefly. Note that this test does not ensure the cat is working OK. It shows that the PCM is running the engine "closed loop", applying fuel trims to keep the fuel mixture correct. It also pretty much verifies the O2 sensor is working correctly.


There are several tests that can be done for the EGR valve, but they get kind of complicated to describe. (Not really so hard to do, though). I wouldn't bother with those unless you fail NOX. I think it is more practical to pay for a re-test than to do every possible test of the car before-hand.

I have been tripped-up a couple of times by cracks in the PCV hoses, even the one between the valve cover and TB, that really has no effect on emissions. Check those right-angle boots, twist and bend them a bit, and make sure no cracks open up. If there is any hint of tape or RTV to seal those things, no matter how effective, you could (will?) fail the visual inspection.

With a manual trans it seems like these cars do best using 2nd gear for the 15 mph test and 3rd gear for the 25 mph test. Use of those gears is allowed by CA, but 2nd and 2nd is the by-the-book default. So, the test tech has a certain amount of discretion in how to do the test to either help or hinder it passing. Do not piss them off!

How close are you to ZIP 94596? I have a scanner that will connect to OBD1 and show live-data, maybe I could save you some time in checking this.

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Old 07-20-2014, 10:49 PM   #11
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Sea Foam is just a pretty show, does not do much.

Change oil, oil filter, and air filter.
This is a pre ODBII car, so no computer check possible.
Shove a shop vac up the tail, blow air into exhaust pipe, look for leaks with soap and water...
Oil in the cat is a major problem, wrap cat in fiberglass insulation from exhaust manifold to cat to heat. Wrap aluminum foil around pipes first to keep glass from melting, secure with stainless steel wire.
Remove before test.
Is the cat heat shield intact? And the outer casing on the cat? If not, an aluminum roasting pan works, with a little bending, use stainless wire to secure.

5 gallons E85 in the gas tank, (don't exceed 40%), urea and limestone chips in the muffler, (eats NOx, SO2)...

Change thermostat, Advanced Auto house brand is a rebranded Stant 195...

Is your ECTS reporting a correct temp to computer? Look at gauge in dash...
Some have two, one to computer, one to dash....

Change the plugs was already mentioned...

...
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205/60R15 "H" rated tires, 5mm spacers rear...
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Old 08-05-2014, 12:52 AM   #12
Loddi
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Default Re: Order of smog-check preparations for 1995 Saturn SL2

Thank you for all your replies.
I wanted to follow up and let you know that I passed the smog test today . Here are the steps I've done in the order listed:

1. Sea foam (spray can) application through air intake, followed instructions on bottle, which said use half bottle then switch ignition off and wait 5 mins. I did it twice in a row, so used up the whole can, then drove ~10 miles to clean out everything. Make sure the engine is at normal operating temperature before application. (cost: ~$15)

2. oil and oil filter change (cost: ~$20 + ~$5)

3. spark plug change (cost: ~$10)

4. air filter change (cost: ~$10)

5. checked tire pressure and adjusted to factory recommendations

make sure engine is at normal operating temperature before the actual smog test

Hope that helps,
Loddi

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