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Old 03-22-2018, 03:39 PM   #1
lectric95
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Question New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Hello everyone, new to the site and to Saturn's in general and have a few questions.

Just picked up a running, driving 95 SL2 for $500, drove it home, but it was running rough when accelerating, and idle was a little low. 186k miles, in relatively nice condition (for a 23 year old car), for the most part everything seems to be working.

Started with replacing plugs and wires, but found that #2 and #3 tubes were quite full of oil, so valve cover gasket this weekend. Plugs are AC Delco coppers, NGKs weren't available locally. New plug wires were installed and after a bit of smoking, she won't move. My guess is I'm still dealing with the oil in the tubes, so I'm keeping it parked until I have time Saturday to replace the head gasket. Anything else that anyone can think of that I need to check that would cause rough, powerless running?

Next up, after getting her running with new plugs as I was trying to burn out the oil in the cylinders, temperature climbed on the gauge and the fan failed to kick on. After reading the commonality of the fan motor failing, that will also be a Saturday operation. I also noticed on the trip home that the temp stayed extremely low, so I'm guessing the thermostat is stuck open, and I'll replace it this weekend as well.

Outside of the sticky information, trans doesn't seem to slip (automatic), nor does it seem to be sluggish, but it's odd to see the RPM climb and physically feel the trans shift down as I'm coming to a stop. Is this normal behavior? I've never seen this with any other automatic I've owned.

Thanks in advance for any help and advice anyone can give me, this is my commuter car, so budgets are pretty important.

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Old 03-22-2018, 08:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Cant really help with the rest, but when I slow down in my 99 Sl2 Auto, it does indeed downshift at least once, exactly how you describe it.

...
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Old 03-22-2018, 09:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

That downshift is normal for Saturn. Will downshift and kick up the RPMs around 30+ ish, totally normal.
Check the ECTS on the drivers side of the head, y'all may need to replace that since the old round plastic tip cracks and you need to replace with a brass tipped one ($15 max) at any autoparts store. Also be sure the ECTS connector is clean inside, and no coolant or corrosion. If you find stuff in it, replace and be sure to only solder the connections (cover with shrink tubing). Do not use any other method to secure the wires or else you may reduce the 5vdc signan and/or find yourself redoing the connections all over again.

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Old 03-22-2018, 09:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Bad ignition coils could cause rough running, and being a 1995, it will NOT throw a "Service Engine Soon" code for cylinder misfire.

1995 is still OBD-I, which has only the bare minimum codes and engine sensors.

With 186,000 miles, I would keep a very close eye on your oil consumption. Being a Twin Cam, the valve stem seals and rings are probably toast. Idle speed, when at temp(about on the gauge), is 850rpm in Park/750 in gear.25rpm

The condition of the plugs will be telling as to the overall engine condition, and #3 cylinder is usually the first cylinder to fry the rings, and wind up with oil-soaked/fouled plugs.

Check the backside of the block, under the intake manifold, between the #3-#4 cylinders. The head gaskets are prone to cracks in this point, which will cause coolant to leak and occasionally oil to leak with it.

And worst case scenario, you could have a burnt valve.

You may want to do a compression test. You sound fairly competent to handle some basic troubleshooting, and compression tests are very useful for finding problems with rough running.

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

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Old 03-22-2018, 09:38 PM   #5
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
Bad ignition coils could cause rough running, and being a 1995, it will NOT throw a "Service Engine Soon" code for cylinder misfire.

1995 is still OBD-I, which has only the bare minimum codes and engine sensors.

With 186,000 miles, I would keep a very close eye on your oil consumption. Being a Twin Cam, the valve stem seals and rings are probably toast. Idle speed, when at temp(about on the gauge), is 850rpm in Park/750 in gear.25rpm

The condition of the plugs will be telling as to the overall engine condition, and #3 cylinder is usually the first cylinder to fry the rings, and wind up with oil-soaked/fouled plugs.

Check the backside of the block, under the intake manifold, between the #3-#4 cylinders. The head gaskets are prone to cracks in this point, which will cause coolant to leak and occasionally oil to leak with it.

And worst case scenario, you could have a burnt valve.

You may want to do a compression test. You sound fairly competent to handle some basic troubleshooting, and compression tests are very useful for finding problems with rough running.
I'm going to put the old plugs back in, as they were NGK's and didn't appear to be fouled at all. I was a little surprised, which leads me to think the saturated wires were the biggest issue. I will gap the old plugs then re-install tomorrow morning before work. I will run a compression check this weekend while I have more time to work on it.

I will say I don't see any smoke when it first fires up, with the exception of the smoke I saw after changing the plugs. I'm not really seeing the typical oil smoke when starting, let alone while running, so I suspect the seals and valves are good.

What really threw me was the fact that it would smooth out for a bit, but was rough at idle and accelerating. I will check the head gasket leaks, as I've dealt with this on other GM products, so it's good to know where the common issues are.

I haven't really checked idle speed until I can get it to run smooth, it was a bit high at 1k idle while warm. I'm hopeful that getting the oil stopped in the spark tubes, cleaning them out well, then using the old plugs will get me back mobile. This really was/is planned just to be a beater car, so any major repairs are simply out of the question at this point.

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Old 03-23-2018, 09:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Gap is .040" .001".

The factory gaps on NGK(I have installed 2 sets, now.) is .044" and is too large for the ignition system.

If your not seeing smoke, still check your oil at each fillup/once a week, as these engines will not smoke until you get below 1qt/500mi of consumption.

As far as the idle, once the ECTS has been verified to be the brass replacement, maybe ohm test the injectors(1.5-2.5 ohms is the tolerance).

Replace the fuel filter, and check the TPS resistance while moving the throttle cam open and closed. 1k is unusually high for warm idle, which may also be a MAP sensor of vacuum leak.

What color were the spark plugs, when you pulled them?

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

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Old 03-23-2018, 09:05 AM   #7
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

When I burnt the valves in my #3 cylinder, I had terrible idle, which progressively got lower(as the plugs built up with gas), poor acceleration, but would cruise smoothly above 2000rpms.

https://ssch.com.au/trade-news/a-bas...valve-failure/

Like I said, this is a "worst-case" scenario.

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

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Old 03-23-2018, 09:11 AM   #8
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by lectric95 View Post
Started with replacing plugs and wires, but found that #2 and #3 tubes were quite full of oil, so valve cover gasket this weekend. . . . My guess is I'm still dealing with the oil in the tubes, so I'm keeping it parked until I have time Saturday to replace the head gasket.
Wait, are you replacing the valve cover gasket or a head gasket?

Quote:
Anything else that anyone can think of that I need to check that would cause rough, powerless running?
I'd start with the ECTS (the 2-wire one in the head) check. Checking is free

Quote:
New plug wires were installed and after a bit of smoking, she won't move.
Won't start? Or is sluggish, or won't move at all in Drive?

Quote:
Next up, after getting her running with new plugs as I was trying to burn out the oil in the cylinders, temperature climbed on the gauge and the fan failed to kick on.
on a 1995, your fan will not turn on until the temp gauge is roughly at 3/4.

Checking the fan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4pSWFE4kdQ

Fan troubleshooting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E6vbQoXSqQ

Quote:
Outside of the sticky information, trans doesn't seem to slip (automatic), nor does it seem to be sluggish, but it's odd to see the RPM climb and physically feel the trans shift down as I'm coming to a stop. Is this normal behavior? I've never seen this with any other automatic I've owned.
Can't speak to how a Saturn auto trans feels as I have never had one, but an ATF /trans filter is easy on these cars. There is a drain bolt, and a spin on filter, just like an oil change. Avoid Dex VI. Unless you know when the fluid was last changed and with what, that is the first thing I would do on a Saturn auto trans.

...
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Old 03-23-2018, 09:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Wait, are you replacing the valve cover gasket or a head gasket?

I'd start with the ECTS (the 2-wire one in the head) check. Checking is free

Won't start? Or is sluggish, or won't move at all in Drive?

on a 1995, your fan will not turn on until the temp gauge is roughly at 3/4.

Can't speak to how a Saturn auto trans feels as I have never had one, but an ATF /trans filter is easy on these cars. There is a drain bolt, and a spin on filter, just like an oil change. Avoid Dex VI. Unless you know when the fluid was last changed and with what, that is the first thing I would do on a Saturn auto trans.
It will start, but spit, sputter, and die when placed in gear. Plugs were gapped to .040. And I'm doing valve cover gaskets.

ECTS will get checked this weekend.

Fan should run when AC is turned on, but I'll text the motor this weekend. I know the thermostat has failed open, so I only got it warm when idling.

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Old 03-23-2018, 10:09 AM   #10
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Always start with the simple stuff.

Run a compression test. Nothing else matters if the compression is down. The SL2 are bad for a burnt valve in cylinder 3. Others will tell you it needs to 200-220 but mostly you are looking for them to be close to the same.

While you have it apart spark check the coils by pulling the wires and having someone else crank it while watching the spark between each of the two towers on each coil. Should look like a lightening bolt between them and best viewed in the shade or dark. If they are yellowish or spark off somewhere else the coil is bad.

ETCS can be an issue and is a 10 min $13 fix. Your 95 has 2 sensors in the drivers side of the head. Make sure you replace the correct one. The other is for the fan. Personally I'd replace both.

Fan is easy to test or replace. Be sure to test it before you replace it though, could have something else going on.

A good throttle body cleaning is probably in order as well. Taking it off and removing the IAC valve is the only way to do a real good job. While it's off check the port where the exhaust gas enters the intake. IT will be on the lower left as you look in the intake.

Clean the EGR valve as well. Make sure it moves freely. If it's bad it will throw a code but not for all the same stuff like an OBDII car will.

Check the seals around the injectors for leaks between the injector and intake. Have had an issue here myself. They are another cheap easy fix.

The valve cover is a super easy fix. You can buy the gasket or do like the factory did and just use a good rtv sealant. I've done both with good results. A real plus is you should have the aluminum cover unlike the plastic covers on the later model cars.

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Old 03-23-2018, 11:35 AM   #11
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by lectric95 View Post
Fan should run when AC is turned on, but I'll test the motor this weekend.
Right, as long as it is over 45F or so. Forgot about that as I don't think we will be that warm up here
But you might live somewhere nicer

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Old 03-23-2018, 06:31 PM   #12
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Just a bit of background on myself, I've been working as a mechanic for more than 20 years. I've done it all from engine rebuilding, trans rebuilding, to the minor stuff like this appears to be. I have tons of tools at my disposal, including a borescope I'll be running to check the internal condition of the cylinders.

I didn't do anything on the car this morning before work, since it was raining.

Current list for this weekend is:

Check ECTS to ensure it is the metal tipped
Test fan motor and replace if needed
Replace valve cover gasket, I hate RTV
Replace thermostat
Re-install old plugs
Clean throttle body and IAC
Check compression
Test injectors
Oil change
Scope the cylinders to look for valve and other issues

As of now, the air filter is new, I can't see any vacuum leaks to concern me, and I think I should be able to get it running good saturday.

If there's anything I've missed, I will be checking this thread as I'm out in the garage (once I can actually get it into my garage). The important thing is that it runs decent as it will be run until something big breaks then junked. Right now my commute is about 150 miles a day, so unless I can manage 300k+, it's likely going to be dead within a year unless it shows the same reliability I've gotten out of other GM products in these years (300k+ several times).

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Old 03-23-2018, 08:57 PM   #13
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

So I can say that in my experience and also from k owing other high mile saturn folks, if you all the things on your list you should have great luck. My 1997 sl1 has 270k on it and it runs awesome. I am so pleased with that car. The issues I have had have been minimal. I actually got it for free essentially. I have had to replace the air conditioning compressor, windshield wiper motor, fixed a small exhaust leak and I have replaced the clutch. That's literally it.
My 1995 sw2 had 246k when I sold it and the guy who bought it says it's got almost 500k now.

My friend has a 2000 sl2 that is about to turn over 300k any day now.

You should have it for a long while if you treat it welland it sounds like you're on the right track.

...
Past:
1995 SW2 - Cynthia - sold 246K
2000 SW2 - Ruby - sold 165k
2004 Vue - Jade - traded in
1996 SL2 - Ursula - sold 223K

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1997 SL1 - Cinnamon - 270K

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Old 03-23-2018, 09:05 PM   #14
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

For reference I also drive a lot too for work. I have a "brand new" Dodge Grand Caravan that I have already put 50K on it since I bought it last May. I drive between Eugene and Portland Oregon on a regular basis (100 each way basically) so you should be fine

...
Past:
1995 SW2 - Cynthia - sold 246K
2000 SW2 - Ruby - sold 165k
2004 Vue - Jade - traded in
1996 SL2 - Ursula - sold 223K

Current:
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1997 SL1 - Cinnamon - 270K

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Old 03-23-2018, 09:19 PM   #15
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

I've had great luck, and I've owned a lot of manufacturers, but it's good to know that people are seeing miles like that. I'm hopeful at least a year out of this car, which would put it at about 230k. If it will keep running, I'll keep running it.

I expected issues with a cheap car, so this post was designed to get ideas for the things I know are wrong, as well as the quirks specific to Saturns. Every vehicle has quirks, like the mid 90's to early 2000's GM intake gaskets and Dexcool. Glad to see so many knowledgeable people here willing to share experience.

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Old 03-24-2018, 05:29 PM   #16
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Getting stranger today. So, I tried to fire it up and it won't even start today. Not even a sputter or cough.

Pulled the plugs and checked spark, I'm getting spark to the plugs, at least outside the engine. I'm going to try putting the old wires back in, maybe the new wires have too high resistance? Just seems more like it is somewhere else.

Checked spark at the coils by pulling the wires and cranking, seems a bit weak looking, but it is jumping a lot further than a plug gap, just seems like a very thin spark between the posts, certainly not what I would think of as a lightning bolt. Just a weak static spark look, at least to me.

Edit: does anyone have video of a good set of coils firing with no wires that I can view for comparison?

At this point I am going to test fuel pressure, then I'll decide how to proceed. This is an odd one since it did actually run after the new plugs and wires were put in, but after sitting a couple of days it won't start at all. I'm leaning towards ignition coils, but want to rule out fuel issues before trying to grab another set of coils.

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Old 03-24-2018, 07:35 PM   #17
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

I'm an idiot, learn from my mistake,I don't even know how it was originally running. The firing order on the ignition coils was wrong, so when I swapped them it was still wrong. Found the correct order on the board and she seems to run smooth. More work to go.

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Old 03-25-2018, 01:22 AM   #18
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

As it stands right now:

Starts right up cold, runs high rpm nice and smooth at about 1500 rpm. Cold start enrichment stops, rpm drops, idle becomes rough. Take offs are sluggish until rpm climbs, then it smooths out. Cruising at around 35 mph it acts like it's missing unless I kick it down to 3rd manually, which puts the rpm above 1500 and again it runs smooth. I'm thinking throttle body cleaning and possibly IAC valve issues.

ECTS has been replaced and rewired (soldered) at some point, and appears in good order.

Fuel pressure was good with no bleed. Running some Sea Foam through the next tank of ethanol free.

A lot of carbon buildup, more than I expected. Going to fog the neighborhood next weekend to help clean the engine before I change the oil.

Still need to replace the thermostat, and cooling fan tomorrow. I just ran out of time today. Also need to replace the tensioner pulley, but I'm out of funds for the week. Also need to replace the muffler next weekend before my neighbors really start hating me.

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Old 03-25-2018, 01:47 AM   #19
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Just pull your exhaust manifold, now, and check the exhaust ports for "wet" looking ports, particularly the #3 cylinder.

In fact, try unplugging the #3 cylinder and see if your warm idle changes from "rough" at all...

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Old 03-25-2018, 02:01 PM   #20
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Default Re: New to me 95 SL2, few issues

Pulled #3:

A. Won't start
B. Engine runs extremely rough if removed after start.

After trying to start without #3 it took an extremely long time to get it to start again(upwards of five minutes, not continuously cranking). It wouldn't even try to start for a long time, and some pumping of the skinny pedal. Once I placed it back in, after pulling it while running, idle smoothed out to about 1200 with an occasional misfire noticeable. Acceleration still sluggish, even in park. A couple of quick restarts yielded the same relatively smooth idle with occasional misfires, and sluggish acceleration in park, sounding like lots of missing.

It's got me wondering about the CPS, it's a cheap and easy part that may be causing the issues. Thoughts? Unfortunately it's snowing here today, and I'm tied up with family, so any other work is likely going to wait until morning.

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