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Old 01-11-2016, 11:20 AM   #1
deident0687
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Default 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Hi Guys,

I have been completely frustrated by an intermittent high idle for over a year now. I have been searching all over the internet, and have seen two mechanics and still no solution to my problem. I hope maybe I can find some good luck here.

I have a 2001 Saturn SL1, manual transmission with 186,000+ miles on it. About a year ago the car began getting stuck idling around 2000 RPM whenever it was in neutral or clutched in. The car would idle that high almost 100% of the time until we did some work on it and replaced the intake manifold gasket.

Since then the problem has improved slightly from 2000 RPM's 100% of the time to 1500-1800 RPMs about 50% of the time. Another interesting symptom I have noticed is some hesitation/surging when the car is in 4th gear and I am attempting to accelerate at higher speeds, like around 40-45 MPH. An example would be when on a long on-ramp to a highway, slowing down by popping into neutral, then shifting into 4th gear to accelerate again and the car would feel some surging.

When I am either stuck in traffic, or at a stop light and the car is idling at 1500-1800 RPMs, I am able to quickly turn the key off and on and it will reset the idle to normal. I do not even need to wait for the engine to come to a stop, I can turn the key so fast, just the dash lights will flicker and everything will reset. This makes me wonder if it is an electrical issue. The car also seems to burn oil and needs to be topped off every 3-4 weeks.


We have changed the TPS, ECTS (twice) IACV, O2 sensor, MAP sensor, PCV valve, EGR, and have had the throttle body cleaned out twice.

I am kind of at a loss for ideas at this point.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!!!

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Old 01-11-2016, 11:29 AM   #2
saturny
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Sounds like classic TPS issue. Maybe try another one?

...
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Old 01-11-2016, 11:40 AM   #3
deident0687
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by saturny View Post
Sounds like classic TPS issue. Maybe try another one?
Perhaps... We have changed the TPS at least once in the last year, and I know the current TPS was tested by a mechanic and he declared it functional. Is there a chance the TPS connection could be bad? Are the wires easily changed?

What are the chances the computer has gone bad?

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Old 01-11-2016, 03:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Your '01 is still relatively 'new' compared to older S-series cars. They're just beginning to show signs of pcm failure but only in rare instances. As a rule, car electronics are built better compared to cell phones, laptops and most other electronics. When any considers car electronics are left in extreme temperatures (Arctic subzero to oppressive desert heat), rattled over every pothole man can design, crashed with impunity, can anyone say the same for cell phones/iPods/tablets left to extreme weathering? Before jumping on the pcm failure bandwagon, the majority of EFI system problems lies in wiring and sensors. Understanding how EFI systems work is no small feat. The same if engine fundamentals aren't understood to separate mechanical issues from electronics running the EFI system.

Its been said many times that OEM throttle position sensors are the recommended replacement part as members found after trying aftermarket tps'. Your choice. Your description of cycling the engine off and back on to reset high idling seems to point to the tps. If there are no vacuum leaks anywhere other than the intake manifold gasket, the tps may be the only part causing the random high idling. You're in the only position to determine no other vacuum leak exists that may cause this high idling.

When starting up, what's cold engine idle? Warm engine idle (when not idling high)?

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Old 01-11-2016, 05:08 PM   #5
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Thanks for the responses.

I paid attention to the RPMs today when I got back to my car after work. It had been sitting in 35-40 temperatures all day so it was cold when it started. When I started it, it idled up around 16-1700 RPM for about 5-10 seconds then settled down about 1200-1400. It would oscillate between the two numbers, especially if I was rolling and clutched in as I exited the parking garage. Once the car heated up after some stop and go high way traffic, it would sit consistently at about 1,000-1,100 RPMs.

I've had 3 mechanics (2 professional, one very knowledgable marine engineer) look at the car and said there was no vacuum leak. I've attempted the spray test of using break cleaner and spraying around the intake manifold and the vacuum hoses and didn't notice any changes in the idle RPM.

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Old 01-11-2016, 05:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Hello All,
I have a 2000 SL1 Sedan with 39000 original miles. I had a high idle issue 6 months ago and replaced the Throttle position sensor. It worked - but yesterday in the cold the car was started and was moved quickly without letting it warm up even a little. As it left the drive, the throttle was stuck wide open. Now the gas pedal will not return up. I spray cleaned the throttle body but it will not close all the way when I manually move it. Very strange and aggravating. Any one have this happen before - with the pedal? It starts but races to full rpm and the built in "governor" will not let it redline. Thanks!!!

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Old 01-11-2016, 05:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

deident0687, 1000-1100 rpm warm idle isn't normal. Normal warm engine idle is around 700-800 rpm. Something is telling the pcm to run a higher idle than normal. The coolant sensor and thermostat stands out. While the coolant sensor was replaced twice, no mention of the two wire connection was mentioned. A fouled connector is the same as having a faulty coolant sensor. Be sure the two wire connector isn't corroded otherwise replace the connector. The t-stat's sole job is to regulate coolant temps. If its worn out or the seal is damaged, a colder running engine is the result. While the correct coolant sensor and its connections may be ok, a worn out t-stat tends to run the engine colder than normal. A colder running engine is detected by the coolant sensor and informs the engine computer. The pcm reacts by maintaining a higher than normal idle as it tries to raise operating temperatures from rich to lean mixtures. If the pcm sees a colder running engine, it continues to run a higher idle, trying to get the engine to run warm. The best way to know what the engine operating temperature is to use a reader to display operating temps. An alternative is a meat thermometer in the coolant container. Normal operating temperatures are between 185F-195F. The temperature gauge is not as accurate but should show needle position between the 1/4 and 1/2 mark.

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Old 01-11-2016, 05:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

mdoogs, is your throttle stuck open or is the pedal linkage stuck? A cable operated throttle can be disconnected from the throttle body linkage to separate pedal/cable issue from throttle body. Once the cable is disconnected, a determination can be made to see if throttle or pedal/cable is stuck.

Are you in freezing weather conditions?

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Old 01-11-2016, 07:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Could this not also be the intake manifold gasket? I had one go bad once, had high idle and one of the spark plugs was a little more grey than the others from lean mixture.

I confirmed by spraying brake cleaner along the top of the intake manifold where it meets the head, with the engine idling. It returned to a normal idle for a second and then picked up again.

Replacing the intake manifold gasket fixed it.

I don't know if this is your problem or not, but testing for it is easy.

...
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Old 01-11-2016, 08:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

The gasket was replaced about 18 months ago, and there was some improvement in the symptoms.

Is there a thermostat other than the engine coolant temp sensor? Also, should I think about switching the wires to the sensors as well? Also switch the wires to the TPS?

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Old 01-11-2016, 08:46 PM   #11
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Only one thermostat is used per car. Three temperature sensors; one intake air, one coolant and one transmission temperature sensor.

A reader is better for displaying actual coolant temperatures instead of guessing on replacing wires. Guessing on tps wiring may be going too far unless you can prove a wire break exists.

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Old 01-11-2016, 08:59 PM   #12
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

I have a reader that I can use. What information should I look for?

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Old 01-12-2016, 07:27 AM   #13
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Coolant temperature

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Old 01-12-2016, 07:45 AM   #14
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

I used the scanner this morning for my commute in, the initial temp was 25F and when I arrived to my destination after 45 mins of highway driving the coolant temp was 176F. Its idle in neutral and rolling was consistently 1100-1200 RPMs with no instances of it getting "stuck" at a higher RPM around 1600-1800. When I parked at the end the car idled around 775.

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Old 01-12-2016, 08:06 AM   #15
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

I think I'd start with a thermostat.

Also check to make sure your throttle cable isn't hanging up on something. If you can catch it when you are stopped try wiggling the end of the throttle shaft to see if it will idle down.

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Old 01-12-2016, 09:12 AM   #16
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

I did notice the needle on the temperature gauge on the dashboard stopping at just above the first notch after the C and not making it all of the way to the center throughout the entire trip. I feel like in the past it would usually read right at the center of the gauge when the engine is fully heated up.

A picture of what I mean is here: imgur.com/Me3cZ7g

Just another clue/bit of information to help.

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Old 01-12-2016, 12:30 PM   #17
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

As suggested, replace the t-stat. 175F may seem close but not the operating temperature for a good t-stat.

Members posted what their t-stat looked like when it was removed. The rubber sealing ring deteriorates over the years and results in what you see, coolant circulating around the broken seal with the engine never at operating temperature. A cooler operating temperature is detected by the coolant sensor so the pcm tries to run higher idle and may richen the fuel mixture in hopes of getting the engine hotter. With a damaged sealing ring, this won't occur.
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File Type: jpg t-stat 1.jpg (119.3 KB, 4 views)

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Old 01-12-2016, 12:56 PM   #18
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Thanks for the advice. Would this also explain the intermittent high-idle situations where the car seems "stuck" at 1700 RPMs, and must be reset by restarting the engine quickly?

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Old 01-12-2016, 02:24 PM   #19
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

It may and may not as all EFI systems depends on an integrated system relying on every sensor. The downside is the possibility of one component affecting others and throwing off programmed diagnostics and symptoms. The best anyone can do is to try getting as much diagnostics as possible to narrow a problem down. Unfortunately, if symptoms are more unusual, there may be more than one problem to address. With info given about actual coolant temps, the first task is to replace the t-stat and move on from there. All the second guessing is great but may add idle speculation that can throw off changing symptoms like replacing the t-stat first. Others may throw in their opinions here but you're in the only position to decide on replacing a part now or continue discussing the what-ifs.

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Old 01-12-2016, 02:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: 2001 SL1 High Idle Problem

Well I can say we have never changed the thermostat so that is going to be a place to focus on when I have time to look into it. After some research on replacing the sensor, it does not look to be the most intensive project, either. It's definitely not something we have tried yet... the good news is it appears the part is not expensive.

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