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Old 02-16-2017, 07:45 PM   #1
schleprock
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1996 SL1
Default overheating SL1

My car overheats. It is not losing engine coolant.

I had another problem, bad water pump that was leaking coolant, and while I was troubleshooting the overheating due to loss of coolant problem I was told that my heat sensor could be bad. I replaced the heat sensor. Also, I know that fan works.

Would a bad relay work when the engine gets super hot, nearly to the red on the indicator on the dashboard but not work at normal operating temperatures.

My car overheats when I am sitting in traffic and I never hear the fan come on. If I can get my vehicle above about 15mph it cools right down.

How do I know it comes on when it gets really hot? My Saturn always takes 5 or so miles of running to get the engine coolant to get rid of the air in the system. During this process I heard the fan come on, when I could see the indicator inside the cab was on red.

Could the relay only work when it is super hot. Or do they either work or not work. Or what might be happening here. In the summer this is going to become a big problem when I get stuck in traffic.

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Old 02-17-2017, 06:47 AM   #2
underthehood
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Default Re: overheating SL1

If you constantly get "air in the system" you need to have the cooling system sniff tested. Air pockets around the ECTS can cause the fan to malfunction. That being said I don't think I read what year car it is. If prior to 2001 (IIRC) it has the poorly designed resin tip sensor. The new sensor will be brass tipped. Once you have that in there, see how the engine/fan behaves. If it still does this try turning the AC on which will force the cooling fan to come on. If the engine cools down than it could be the relay. Don't rule out a bad fan motor though

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Old 02-17-2017, 08:15 AM   #3
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Default Re: overheating SL1

Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
That being said I don't think I read what year car it is. If prior to 2001 (IIRC) it has the poorly designed resin tip sensor. The new sensor will be brass tipped.
Mid-year 2001. Hence, some 2001 models came with the brass tipped sensor and others did not.

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Old 02-17-2017, 09:08 AM   #4
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Default Re: overheating SL1

OP appears to have a 96 SL1 per profile. On a 96 model, the gauge will approach 3/4 scale before the fan kicks on. It should not go up to the red zone.

As stated above, if the car has functioning a/c, turning it on should result in the cooling fan running constantly. This is an easy way to check if the fan is working. It can also be used to cool the engine when sitting in traffic.

When you say heat sensor, do you mean engine coolant temperature sensor? If that has been replaced with a new one, the replacement was likely a brass tip version.

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Old 02-17-2017, 03:17 PM   #5
schleprock
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Default Re: overheating SL1

It is a 1996 SL1. Sorry I forgot, that was a pretty stupid thing to leave out.

I will try the fan on the A/C and see what happens.

(last time we poked to probes into the wire and the fan turned on)

I only get air in the system when I change the coolant. For instance, when I changed the water pump the coolant came out. When I replaced that coolant it took a few miles to burp out the air bubbles.

The sensor was replaced and I am pretty sure it was the brass tipped one. I replaced it about 3 months ago.

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Old 02-17-2017, 03:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: overheating SL1

I gotta ask... If it isn't losing coolant, why do you think it is overheating? The dash gauge is far from being a precision instrument. Are you using live-data or an actual thermometer in the coolant? What actual temps (in F or C) are you reading?

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Old 02-17-2017, 04:49 PM   #7
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Default Re: overheating SL1

^^ what he said 1+

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Old 02-17-2017, 09:41 PM   #8
schleprock
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Default Re: overheating SL1

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
I gotta ask... If it isn't losing coolant, why do you think it is overheating? The dash gauge is far from being a precision instrument. Are you using live-data or an actual thermometer in the coolant? What actual temps (in F or C) are you reading?
I only have the dashboard temperature sensor so nothing else confirms the heat.

I think it gets hot when I sit in traffic because the fan is not coming on. As soon as I pick up speed to about 15mph the engine goes back to normal levels of heat.

Normally my SL1 1996 heat gauge shows between 1/4 and 1/2 (but closer to 1/2). If it goes over 1/2 something is not working right but it is still OK. Sitting or barely moving in traffic it goes up to 3/4 or even a little above. That is too hot and I think it is because the fan won't turn on when the car is going to slow to cool itself off.

Is that reasoning not right? I dont know, I am not very mechanically inclined.

As I have a new heat sensor, and my fan works (I saw it in action when I turned on the A/C) I was wondering if it could be the relay.

Thanks everyone for helping with this. I really don't know a lot about cars.

Last edited by schleprock; 02-17-2017 at 09:50 PM..

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Old 02-17-2017, 10:18 PM   #9
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Default Re: overheating SL1

Does the fan finally come on when temp hits the "3/4+" area; then cool it back down to what you like? That is probably normal. A lot of folks get worried seeing the gauge up toward the top reading, but many engine-types are designed to operate that hot.

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Old 02-18-2017, 12:50 AM   #10
schleprock
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Default Re: overheating SL1

The fan comes on when it gets really close to the red. So the needle is between the 3/4 mark and the red area of the indicator.

When I was getting the air out of the system, after I switched out the water pump, I let it get really close to the red line and the fan did come on.

I have not allowed it to get that hot since then. (but the fan works because it comes on when the A/C is turned on)

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Old 02-18-2017, 01:28 AM   #11
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Default Re: overheating SL1

See if you can borrow a scanner to see the actual temperature when the fan is commanded on. It should be around 220F.

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Old 02-18-2017, 08:35 AM   #12
underthehood
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Default Re: overheating SL1

ON the 96 I had, with a properly working ECTS, proper t/stat and everything clean and solid the temp gauge always sat pretty close to 1/2 and the fan did not turn on until it was almost touching red. When I first noticed it I was a little concerned. So I used an actual thermometer in the tank to see when the t/stat was doing it's thing. The actual temps were rather surprising. When it was almost touching red the temps were only about 200-220. Did the same test on my 99 and at just about 1/2 (about the time the fan would kick in) same temp.
The gauge on the 96 is a little wonky IMO. Get yourself a meat thermometer (one with a probe and separate "head") drop it in the tank and let the car idle. Watch it compared to the gauge I think you'll see the gauge will be pretty well over 1/2 before the stat even opens up. Report back the temps you see

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Old 02-18-2017, 09:31 AM   #13
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Default Re: overheating SL1

Fan on temp 222f '91-'02.
Fan on position of the gauge:
  • '91-'94 just before red marks
  • '95-'99 most of the way between 3/4 and the red marks
  • '00-'02 around 3/4

The fun part is normal temp is 195f (+/- 5f) which is
  • '91-'95 around 1/2 (+/- a couple needle widths)
  • '96-'02 around 3/8 (+/- a couple needle widths)
So 0f to 200f is nearly 1/2 gauge sweep while 200f to 222f is ALSO nearly 1/2 the gauge.....point is it's not nearly as hot as it looks and based on what you've posted...is working normally. Unless it's loosing coolant still or the interior heat isn't working.
How do you know there's air in the system? 5-6 miles sounds normal to get up to temp in the cold for a SOHC...all my DOHC's would take 3-4 miles of flat roads to even get the gauge to move below 32f (which seriously sucked when I worked 6mi from home).

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Old 02-19-2017, 11:16 PM   #14
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Default Re: overheating SL1

Quote:
Originally Posted by schleprock View Post
The fan comes on when it gets really close to the red. So the needle is between the 3/4 mark and the red area of the indicator.

When I was getting the air out of the system, after I switched out the water pump, I let it get really close to the red line and the fan did come on.

I have not allowed it to get that hot since then. (but the fan works because it comes on when the A/C is turned on)
Then the relay is fine. If the relay is bad, the fan will NOT kick on even when A/C is turned on.

A "relay" does exactly what its name implies. It relays the signal from the computer to the fan motor.

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