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Old 02-23-2018, 10:32 PM   #1
Inspecta
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1997 SL
Default Bought a beater

I just purchased a 97 SL 5 speed from a buddy. It seems to be in good shape for having 173k on it. I plan on doing a tune up: plugs, wires, fuel filter, valve gasket, pcv, oil/filter, and air filter. She may need a new set of tie rods and control arms too. Clunky on the front end.
I am thankful for this forum so far and all of the knowledge.

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Old 02-23-2018, 10:52 PM   #2
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1999 SC1
Default Re: Bought a beater

You will probably appreciate how little time it will take you to do the tune up. Really easy car to find stuff and work on. You will like the gas milage too. The SOHC is a bit on the sluggish side, but the manual transmission wakes it up some.

Im using NGK v power spark plugs and this is what everyone recommends.

Keep an eye on your oil level, as these cars burn oil and yours probably is. Keep it topped off and dont let it operate under full for a long time.

I have been running castrol GTX magnatec full synthetic in my SC1 and i can get it for about 17 dollars for 5 quarts. Not bad to me.

...
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Old 02-24-2018, 07:06 AM   #3
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2001 SL1
Default Re: Bought a beater

Nope, V-power plugs are not what everybody recommends.
Plain old copper conductor spark plugs work best in this waste-spark type system and these are the best recommended plugs for Saturn engines.

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Old 02-24-2018, 11:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Hi and welcome.
I have the same car and have loved it for over a decade! A couple of things about this 97. There is a type of "check valve" at the fuel pump, inside the gas tank that is faulty, from design. You will notice that usually the cranking time is a little long before the car starts, especially when the car is cold. Do not bother to fix! There is no fix for this. If you install a new valve at the fuel pump, it, in time will just go bad again. The work-around to this is that before you start the car, turn the key to the "On" position, without cranking the engine and leave it there for about 3 seconds. You will literally hear the fuel pump "hum". Then, go ahead and turn the key the rest of the way to start. This saves extra work on the starter and all will last longer.

If the previous owner has not changed the ECTS (Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor) this is a MUST and change it now. This will make car operation much, much better.

With my 97 I also had to change the shift lever "bushing" and you are probably due. Otherwise you may find yourself sitting on the side of the road with a "limp" shifter.
Here is a great link to a check list of things that you can do to recondition your Saturn. http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=177672
These are great little cars but drink oil like tea. Get used to checking the oil often until you see a pattern of usage in the city AND on the highway. There is a difference. Biggest reason for killing these Saturns is this low or no oil issue.

You will have to, periodically, clean the EGR valve. You'll see all kind of "soot" inside and this will affect your performance, etc. Cleaning the throttle body is key to performance too. Do those on a regular basis, when you see the performance dropping off. I usually do both at least a couple times a year.

I'd have a talk with the previous owner to see exactly what he's done to maintain the car. Good luck and enjoy your Saturn.

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Old 02-24-2018, 11:20 AM   #5
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1997 SL
Default Re: Bought a beater

Oh, here are the plugs you should use if your Saturn is running "normally". NGK BKR4ESA-11 (Stock number 7755) A GREAT source for Saturn parts is rockauto.com Good luck..

Last edited by JerryHughes; 02-24-2018 at 11:27 AM..

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Old 02-24-2018, 10:25 PM   #6
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1995 SC2
Default Re: Bought a beater

Welcome to the forums.

These cars are extremely easy to work on and service.

I recommend that you monitor your oil consumption, on a daily basis, for the first month. Due to a flawed piston design, these cars burn oil and it can get really bad with lack of oil changes.

My 1995 SC2 had a factory Saturn oil filter on it, when I bought it. So, it had not had an oil change in at least 6 years. This was confirmed when I did the valve cover gasket and looked at the sludge on the surfaces of the cylinder head.

Typical consumption will be between 1qt per 500 to 1,000 miles. Severely abused engines, such as mine, will burn 1qt per 100-200 miles of driving and excessively blow out blue smoke on takeoffs/high revs.

For a single cammer, make sure you run 60/40 GREEN coolant. There is a casting flaw that leads to the cylinder head cracking, at its #5 camshaft journal.

Do NOT wait 5 years or 100,000 miles, before flushing the Dex-Cool. The Maintenance Schedule calls for the cooling system to be flushed every 36-months or 36,000 miles(on 1996-up S-Series). This is confirmed by my Official Saturn Maintenance Schedule in my glove box, that was pulled from a 1996 SL2 at a wrecking yard, and is completely unmolested or marked on.

Running GREEN coolant will prevent the head gasket from failing and the 60/40 mix seems to help in preventing the head from cracking, prematurely. It is well-documented how the orange coolant causes head gasket swelling and premature gasket failures in GM vehicles.

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-25-2018, 02:47 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Well, i have seen NGK standard or V-power used. So either or. Ive put 20k on them so they do work. Im probably going to replace them soon though. Will try out standard and see if i personally notice anything.

The original 4 looked nasty and the car definitely smoothed out after getting rid of them.

...
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Old 02-25-2018, 10:55 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonasan308 View Post
Well, i have seen NGK standard or V-power used. So either or. Ive put 20k on them so they do work. Im probably going to replace them soon though. Will try out standard and see if i personally notice anything.

The original 4 looked nasty and the car definitely smoothed out after getting rid of them.
I tried the V-Power in my Twin Cam. I ran too cold(Heat Range 6), for the amount of oil I am burning. I did not experience any adverse effects, from the V-Power tips. Fuel economy was between 30-32mpg, which is what I was averaging with standard NGK plugs.

Switching to E3 Diamond Fire can get me up to 35mpg, sometimes 37-38mpg on the highway.

Running V-Power plugs will not hurt the engine, any. Try indexing them, and you should smooth out your engine a little more.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-25-2018, 12:10 PM   #9
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1995 SL1
Default Re: Bought a beater

Saturns are often good as the "beaters" that are easy to maintain and have easy to deal with common problems. The SOHC isn't going to impress with performance, but does great with commuter duties and giving a good MPG return in pretty much any conditions.

As for the common problems, oil consumption is up near the top of the list, so check the oil frequently until you know what the consumption specifics are. Tie rod ends and control arms are fairly easy to do on these cars. Small changes make a lot of difference in handling when dealing with the front end, so just make sure to get the alignment right after doing the work.

As for plugs, the vast majority of them will work just fine, but a few of the fine tipped precious metal plugs sometimes do not. I've run the factory delivered AC Delcos, NGK, Denso, Champion, and now Autolites in my SL1. All of them worked fine and the car ran great. Some fouled quicker, some gave better MPG, some pushed timing and the knock sensor a bit more often, etc. But in the end the ones that worked best for my car and specifics of driving style, weather, etc, might not be the ones that give the best return for the next set of circumstances.

Don't be afraid to try something other than what the vast majority use. The vast majority don't drive your car.

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Old 02-25-2018, 03:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bought a beater

You know, just thinking----when my car had "around" your mileage, I started having problems shifting into gears, especially the lower, at first. Shifting was "stiff" and I actually had a harder time getting the car into gear. A simple, clean, trans fluid change cleared up the problem. It did take a few miles to gradually clear it up and make the shifting smooth and since then I changed it out again. Just a thought, in case you want to even put that much effort into your Saturn.

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Old 02-25-2018, 08:59 PM   #11
Inspecta
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1997 SL
Default Re: Bought a beater

WOAH, what an awesome amount of response! I plan to learn quite a bit with this car.

-I'll have to exchange the bosch plugs I picked up for the copper NGKs
-My buddy gave me a set of wires for a DOHC, even though they are 7mm is
it not ok to use em on the SOHC?
-Continually check the oil (my 93 miata never burned or leaked) LOL
-Jerry, I have noticed the start up issue that is great info
-we ran the motor for an hour with a scanner and there was no over heating
issue, fan kicked on just shy of 3/4 and brought temp back to 1/2 quickly
(from what I read this sounds normal) I will do a flush though
-I'll check the trans fluid and see where it's at and how it looks
-I ordered the lower control arms and inner/outer tie rods
-I will also be replacing the motor mounts and tran mount
-Any other suggestions

Jeez this list makes it look like I am going to treat it better than a beater.

...
Maybe it wonít break down but donít count on it.

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Old 02-25-2018, 11:02 PM   #12
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Unless you are buying an expensive set of high-performance plug wires, 7mm was the factory diameter. The DOHC wires will NOT fit on a SOHC engine.

The SOHC has angled holes drilled into the head, like an overhead valve engine would. The plug boots for the SOHC plugs are different, as the DOHC plugs are set at the dead center of the combustion chamber, and have a longer plug boot to compensate for how deep the plug is down inside the head/valve cover.

Standard OEM-style wires will be more than sufficient, as the SOHC has a static compression ratio of 9.3:1

If you want to use the money for an upgraded ignition system, you can purchase Accel coils, Magnecor or Granatelli Motorsports wires(Thundervolt sells wire stock to make your own wires as well), and run hotter plugs.

Do NOT run Bosch Platinum(or ANY platinum) plugs in these engines. Aside from the many threads, of owners that found themselves with misfires and drivability issues, it has been my own personal experiences with Bosch Platinum plugs to the tune of them being bad for every engine I have ever put them in EXCEPT the Oldsmobile 2.3L Quad 4 engine.

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-26-2018, 03:34 PM   #13
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1998 SL2
Default Re: Bought a beater

Oh, boy . . . spark plug debates, coolant debates . . . can we talk about what the best oil is?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inspecta View Post
-we ran the motor for an hour with a scanner and there was no over heating
issue, fan kicked on just shy of 3/4 and brought temp back to 1/2 quickly
(from what I read this sounds normal) I will do a flush though
If you haven't found it, read why using pre-mix is bad.

Nutshell: flush leaves about a quart of water in the heater core that does not get drained out (unless you go under the car and remove a heater hose). Adding premix leaves a weaker solution, may not be too bad in a warm climate, but could be rough up north.

Saturn Night loves his green, I never cared about the color additive, but looked for any long-life, universal coolant.

Quote:
-I'll check the trans fluid and see where it's at and how it looks
Auto trans? there is a lot of discussion about avoiding Dex VI fluids (marked as compatible for all Dex 3 usages, but there was some fine print saying, "except Saturn auto trans" or something). Several discussions about better fluids to use.

Quote:
Jeez this list makes it look like I am going to treat it better than a beater.
Welcome to saturnfans.

I bought an $800 Saturn beater, sight unseen, off ebay back in 2008. Usually, I drive a beater a year or two, then replace it with another.

I drove the Saturn beater for 9 years, 100k+ miles, and became a fan.

Added two more Saturns along the way (I still have the original beater, the gray thing in my avatar pic with the duct tape, and it still runs great)

...
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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 124k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 02-26-2018, 08:45 PM   #14
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1997 SL
Default Re: Bought a beater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
Unless you are buying an expensive set of high-performance plug wires, 7mm was the factory diameter. The DOHC wires will NOT fit on a SOHC engine.
It just looked like the previous owner was using the DOHC wires on my SOHC it looks funny but is not running horrible. I did buy the correct wires (and plugs) though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Oh, boy . . . spark plug debates, coolant debates . . . can we talk about what the best oil is? If you haven't found it, read why using pre-mix is bad.
I done did it!

...
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Old 02-27-2018, 07:59 AM   #15
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Default Re: Bought a beater

I'd skip the fuel filter change unless you are having an issue. First it is a major pain to replace and do so with less than a wix filter can lead to fuel pressure issues. Many of the cheaper replacements won't hold the correct fuel pressure which can lead to burned valves. It's less common in the SOHC but still not something you want to deal with.

A good start would be to read the "New and returning Saturn owners" sticky thread.

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Old 02-27-2018, 11:59 AM   #16
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Highmile View Post
I'd skip the fuel filter change unless you are having an issue. First it is a major pain to replace and do so with less than a wix filter can lead to fuel pressure issues.
OP has a '97 - integrated pressure regulator came in '98.

But yeah, I don't know that I've ever had a problem with a fuel filter. I've changed two just as preventative maintenance, but had my license since about 1978, owned over 35 different cars, and no fuel filter issues, ever.

...
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7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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Old 02-27-2018, 07:53 PM   #17
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post

Saturn Night loves his green, I never cared about the color additive, but looked for any long-life, universal...
You spelled "Head Gasket" wrong.....

...
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Old 03-03-2018, 03:41 PM   #18
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Well... I have replaced a few things this week on the SL.
-Plugs and wires (the ones removed were autolites with DOHC plugs)
-new felpro valve cover gasket
-pcv valve and grommet with tube
-motor mount, dog bone mounts and trans mount
-fabricated a new muffler strap (didnít want to pay 25$)
-oil and filter change
-sprayed the lower control arms and tie rods with pb blaster in preparation for replacement sometime soon.

It now runs and idles smoothly. Hopefully it doesnít blow up soon.

...
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Old 03-03-2018, 09:54 PM   #19
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Just pay attention to what I stated about your engine coolant and it won't blow up.

Disregard what I have said, and we will be reading a thread about overheating, boiling coolant, or something along those lines within a shorter-than-normal specified timeframe.

Highmile has a SOHC, at 651k miles, to give you an idea of how they CAN last when they are well cared for and maintained.

Running Orange Death-Kill will make it a race to see which cracks first: The Head Gasket or The Cylinder Head

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 03-04-2018, 11:42 AM   #20
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Default Re: Bought a beater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
Highmile has a SOHC, at 651k miles, to give you an idea of how they CAN last when they are well cared for and maintained.
And the neat thing is, Highmile doesn't have the most miles, though AFAIK, he is quickly moving up to #2 and may be there already. Luke retired his car several years ago.

I'm hoping that Low Saturn runs into that guy that had 883k miles, about 5 years ago or so, and takes another odometer pic for an update. By my calculations, that guy would have hit over 1m miles a couple of years ago.

Low said that car was immaculate, and for Low to say that, is really something. The guy changed his ATF in his auto trans every 10k miles and was on the original engine and trans, with no rebuilds.

Low Saturn's site, if you are interested
http://www.differentracing.com/

...
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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 124k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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