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Old 07-13-2015, 02:28 AM   #1
Mister_Cee
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1996 SW2
Default Before I go to the local garage ...

I've learned much from reading comments and helpful hints, here. That said, I don't retain mechanical concepts well. Can someone explain how the ECTS and thermostat interact?

Symptoms: 1996 SW2

Upon cold start. RPM goes to 1600, immediately drops to 1200 and stays there. During this higher idle the car does not run smoothly like it does when the car is idling at 850+ after the car is very warmed up.

After driving 5 miles the idle might be down to 1000 rpm. The temperature gauge will be at a bit over 1/4 during by this time.

I'm fairly confident, from my readings here, that the high idle is normal in order to more quickly heat the engine to operating temperature. The black sooty substance around the exhaust pipe, cold start vibration and seeming low gas mileage of late (I haven't got gas in order to check it but my fuel gauge indicates poorer mileage than usual) makes me think that the PCM is instructing the engine to run very rich.

Which of the two (temp sensor or thermostat) is most responsible for relaying the proper temperature information to the PCM ?

I know that whatever controls the radiator fan is operational, at some level, as the radiator fan will automatically engage if I'm idling and the temp gauge ever gets to a bit over 1/2.

Because the temp gauge is not "stuck" at any particular reading and able to get to 1/2 (or maybe more) this also seems to indicate that it is cracking open, albeit slowly. Can a thermostat operate "sluggishly" or is one either 1)working correctly, 2)stuck open or 3)stuck closed?

Is the engaging of the fan reliant upon the thermostat (which is also controlling the position of the gauge's needle) or is the gauge just a "convenience" while the ECTS actually controls everything?

In other words, could the gauge continue to be wrong while the ECTS is really controlling everything normally? If so, could having only the ECTS replaced solve the problems while the temperature gauge still reads lower than normal?

Signed

Mechanically challenged lol

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Old 07-13-2015, 03:53 AM   #2
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

To boil down answers your questions..... (no pun intended)

The Thermostat mechanically stabilizes the coolant temperature via opening, closing and various locations in between.

Thermostats absolutely get lazy and is usually the 1st reason they malfunction.

Your cold idle RPM values are normal.

The ECTS is the electrical sensor that relays it's reading back to the computer for conditional adjustments.

Gauge "can" be wrong, but usually is not. It is there for your personal monitoring.

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Old 07-13-2015, 08:36 AM   #3
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

^^^ +1, with one exception:

The OP has a '96, so the dash gauge is controlled by info from the ECT sensor. If that is the original plastic one, then it has-or-will fail and the dash gauge will read incorrectly.

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Old 07-13-2015, 09:00 AM   #4
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

The gauge reports exactly the incorrect temperature values from a failed ECTS. If the Reservoir surface temperature is not compared to the ECTS reported value, as determined by scanner or the gauge, by use of a thermometer in the reservoir then you absolutely no idea as to what is going on in the cooling system. ECTS data must be verified. Replacing the ECTS and inspecting and correcting ECTS wiring anomalies is just the first step. The job is not complete until the direct reading of reservoir temperature is compared to the ECTS data.

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Old 07-13-2015, 09:27 AM   #5
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
^^^ +1, with one exception:

The OP has a '96, so the dash gauge is controlled by info from the ECT sensor. If that is the original plastic one, then it has-or-will fail and the dash gauge will read incorrectly.
Correct. It was early & I just woke up, lol.

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Old 07-13-2015, 10:41 AM   #6
J N Winkler
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

The strategy here is to replace the ECTS first, especially if it has not been replaced before:

* It is just a matter of time before the resin tip cracks.

* Symptoms (rich running, sooty exhaust, rough idle, poor fuel economy) are consistent with a failed ECTS.

* Even an OEM ECTS is slightly cheaper than a thermostat, with no potential wrinkles such as having to buy a new housing.

* Installation is straightforward, with no need to drain coolant.

It is entirely possible the thermostat is leaking and is contributing to poor fuel economy. That was my experience in the summer of 2014 when I was troubleshooting fuel consumption problems and replaced spark plugs (but not wires), ECTS, and thermostat.

Initially I thought the thermostat was the biggest contributor to poor fuel economy, but in the year since I replaced it, gauge behavior has been creeping closer and closer to what it was before replacement, while fuel consumption numbers have been holding steady.

In another thread you mentioned that you were in Washington state, far from home base. I would recommend that you get on the ECTS before it starts leaking coolant through the sensor body and ruining the connector. R&R of the ECTS itself requires just a socket, a ratchet, a screwdriver, and some paper towels, but soldering in a new connector--which is what you have to do when the old one is compromised--is a more involved job, requiring two power tools and teaching yourself how to solder and apply heat-shrink insulation if you don't already have those skills. When I did my own ECTS, the old one had just a hairline crack from the tip to the base, and I was still rather lucky not to have to do the connector as well.

If it is at all possible, I would postpone thermostat replacement until the car is back at home base, for the following reasons:

* You need to be sure the new thermostat you choose will fit in one of the housings you have available. This is a nontrivial job since some of the options for Saturns come with their own housings, which are not compatible with the Saturn OEM housing.

* A new thermostat will almost certainly cause the cooling system to run hotter and this by itself will push a worn or aged water pump over the edge. Water pump replacement is within reach as a DIY job, but is quite difficult to do on the road, and will cost around $450 at shop rates for the replacement itself plus ancillary services like a coolant flush and replacement.

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Old 07-13-2015, 01:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Holy Carp! $450 for a water pump? It's beneficial to have a good relationship with your local independent shop. I had my water pump replaced for $140 labor. Thank you Lee! I supplied the water pump (ACDelco) and new serpentine belt and distilled water (less than $40 thanks to Amazon).

I should have done the R/R myself but I needed it done ASAP at the moment.

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Old 07-13-2015, 02:35 PM   #8
J N Winkler
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by NWSaturn247 View Post
Holy Carp! $450 for a water pump? It's beneficial to have a good relationship with your local independent shop. I had my water pump replaced for $140 labor. Thank you Lee! I supplied the water pump (ACDelco) and new serpentine belt and distilled water (less than $40 thanks to Amazon).

I should have done the R/R myself but I needed it done ASAP at the moment.
Yes, $450 at the Sears Auto close to my house (which has since closed, as a result of Sears' financial problems). I had a catastrophic leak (big puddle under the engine about an hour after shutting it off), so taking it to Sears in the early afternoon the very next day to have the tires rotated and balanced was probably a bit more of a risk than I should have taken. Once they had it in the shop, they traced the leak to the water pump, indicated repair was urgent, and promised to have an OEM replacement installed and a coolant flush done by the time they closed for the evening. They were as good as their word; I arrived shortly before 2 PM and left shortly after 6 PM.

My original plan was to take the car to an independent shop, which has done good work on my car in the past, to have the coolant leak diagnosed and repaired. However, there was no guarantee they would have an OEM part in stock or be able to get to my car the same day. This shop also has a history of keeping my car longer than initially expected while waiting for hard-to-get parts. For example, I had to borrow another car to take a trip to Colorado and New Mexico when a radiator replacement went wrong and they couldn't get new transmission cooler lines before I was scheduled to depart.

When the water pump failed, it was a Thursday and I was planning to leave for a long road trip the following Tuesday. Therefore I did not have time to await delivery of a new water pump (OEM or otherwise), or study water pump replacement, which is not that easy to do even for experienced DIYers. At the time the learning curve would have been even more steep for me since I had not even tried to jack up the car and put it on a jackstand, let alone remove a wheel and the splash shields. I eventually worked out lifting and wheel removal when I started changing my own oil and replaced the alternator--but all of those were well after I returned from the trip.

I forget the exact breakdown, but I think the cost was $160 for the replacement water pump (shop rate for parts), $200 or so for labor, a fixed $60 fee for a coolant flush, and $30 for various odds and ends like hazmat disposal.

I don't know how much experience Mister_Cee has working on his own Saturn, but I am speaking from my own experience with the thermostat job and its downstream consequence (water pump failure) when I advise him to do the ECTS on the road but leave the thermostat alone until he is at home base.

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Old 07-14-2015, 05:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Just be easy putting the new ECTS in, easy to break off in the block. That's a real pain....

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Old 07-15-2015, 12:55 AM   #10
Mister_Cee
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Update:

As per (paraphrase of OldNuc) Reservoir surface temperature compared to ECTS reported value, as determined by scanner or the gauge, by use of a thermometer in the reservoir:


ECTS was found to be operating well within normal parameters. The thermostat, on the other hand, was responding in an extremely "lazy" fashion.

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Old 07-15-2015, 11:31 AM   #11
J N Winkler
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Default Re: Before I go to the local garage ...

Is this with a new ECTS? If not, are there records with the car indicating that the ECTS has ever been replaced? The motivation for replacing the ECTS is not just to ensure correct temperature is reported to the PCM; it is also to protect the ECTS connector from damage when a resin-tip ECTS cracks, as it inevitably will.

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