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Old 02-22-2018, 01:28 PM   #1
NewSaturnSW2
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Default Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

So I just got a 1997 Saturn SW2 automatic 4 Cyl as part of a trade and am having a few problems.

The acceleration is almost non-existent. In order to get up to speed (especially on hills) I have to floor it and push the RPM's up to 4-5K. After gunning it if I release the pedal and it will shift into the next gear and drive at the 2-3k RPM it should. Once I get to about 50-55 it has no problem keeping the speed.

Fuel economy is way down and it takes at least 30 seconds to get up to 50mph. There is a slight knocking or clunking noise coming from where the transmission or left side of the motor (only when moving).

The car sometimes lunges forward in low gear and, does not sound like it but, almost feels like it is misfiring.

-No oil leak or foam in coolant
-Not overheating
-Check engine light NOT on
-Fluids are all at proper levels
-250K miles, 65k on the transmission
-Just changed air filter, performance/power improved marginally

Thank you all for any help or advice

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Old 02-22-2018, 02:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

I bought a new air/fuel downstream sensor and will be replacing that on Saturday as I was told it could be the issue.

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Old 02-22-2018, 03:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

Are you referring to the second (of two) oxygen sensors?

Just removing the front O2 sensor and running it up, should verify is the Catalytic converter has gotten plugged up. If the car runs freely then the cat is suspect.

The clunking? You might want to check and verify the wheel bearings, tie rods and axle shaft stuff is all OK, even the strut & it's mounting are suspect. You don't say where you live, but if in the rust belt, with that many miles on it, you may have summat rusted underneath and causing issues. Even a clunk can be as simple as having someone improperly routing the brake caliper hose from front to back......

I would also like to know the condition of the transmission fluid level, it's color (should be bright red) and smell sweetish (not burnt in color or odor).
These transmissions run only on Dexron III (or compatible), not ever Dexron IV or VI. Also, the spin on filter (really quite accessible!) and fluid should be changed like every 30,000 miles (or sooner if necessary).

Your comment "it takes at least 30 seconds to get up to 50mph" reminds me of the 2003 Saturn LW200 (a real dog car) we had. But seriously, your '97 SW2 should spin tires and accelerate with the best of any 4-cly around.
Mileage should be up 30-36 mpg on average from what I used to get with my '98 SW2 automatic. Once it hit 42 on a sustained 60 mph trip up into NJ.

Last edited by toggenburg; 02-22-2018 at 03:18 PM..

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Old 02-22-2018, 07:13 PM   #4
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Default Re: Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

Toggenburg,

I will run it with the O2 sensor out this afternoon to check that.

I live in the CA Bay Area, but not near the coast so I cannot imagine there has been too much exposure to salt or moisture.

The fluid is exactly where it should be and bright red, that's what made me think it was not a transmission issue.

This is my first Saturn, my other two cars are a '56 Chevy and '74 CJ-5 so I do not really have experience with computer controlled cars.

I know this car can haul, since my friend used to have one and never had a problem spinning tires with 5 of us inside. I know this car still has some really good life yet, and was owned by a commuter so most of the miles are good highway.

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Old 02-22-2018, 07:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

With two similar opening posts, one member suggested an important item all new members with S-series cars aren't aware of when asking about problems - the infamous engine coolant temperature sensor, ECTS. Every S-series engine was/is plagued with the original faulty round nosed plastic sensor. Cracking creates a false signal sent to the engine computer that richens fuel mixtures all the time. Starting can be difficult, flooding at times, overheating with the incorrect signals never informing the pcm correct coolant temps to turn on the cooling fan. Remove yours, next to the egr valve and examine it.
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Old 02-28-2018, 02:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: Shifting Problems, Bad Fuel Economy, No Acceleration

If you run with the O2 sensor out make a hit shield out of a metal can otherwise you will melt the plastic

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