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Old 10-14-2018, 10:34 PM   #1
Mystic_Cobra
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2000 SL2
Question 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

Troubleshooting the wife's SL2 (DOHC) with 145,000 miles. Auto trans.

She drives the car every day but her commute is only 3 miles each way to a metro station. Only a couple times a month does the car take a trip longer than 10 miles or 15 minutes. It takes about 9 months to put 3000 miles on the car. Oil/filter changes are every 3K. She is the original/only owner! Nothing major has ever been done to the car.

For several years, there is yellow gunk that appears under the oil cap. I see it often since I add oil regularly. I always wipe it out. I assume this is condensation mixing with the oil since the car almost never gets hot.

A couple months ago, it developed an issue where it would idle around 2000 rpm. After cleaning the TB, IAC, that went away.

The current problem: The engine cranks fine. When you crank it, it is tough to start. It takes a couple times to get it to fire. When it does fire, it blows dark smoke and chugs and struggles to get the rpm up. After a few seconds it starts running better. It does this almost every time but if you start it while its still warm or if it hasn't sat long, it starts fine. Occasionally (twice in 2 months), she has been unable to start it. Both times I drove to her, pulled the air intake tube of the TB, held it wide open, she cranked it and it fired up. It still huffs and puffs and smokes but it runs. Once it is running, it runs fine.

She said she cranked it 4 times with no throttle before cranking it with WOT. I'm not 100% convinced she had it at WOT.

My theory is that oil is draining down into the chamber and causing the hard start.

I have a data logging scanner and I'm going to go log the ECT.

Ideas?

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Old 10-14-2018, 11:03 PM   #2
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2000 SL2
Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

I plugged in the scanner, set it to data log and turned the ignition to Key On, Engine Off. ECT read 32 F (!) but the ambient temp outside is 56 F and it was in the 50s and 60s today. Car had been sitting several hours. It hasn't been below 40 yet this fall.

I monitored the ECT as the engine warmed up and it warmed up fairly consistently. At about 100F the temp gauge needle started to move. It warmed up to about 108 in about 4-5 minutes before I shut it off. IAT was showing 79 F just before I shut it off.

Is the ECT bad?

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Old 10-14-2018, 11:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

You should be a full time Saturnfans consultant...........since you solved two issues very few here have been able to figure out.

1-You're absolutely right about yellow sludge buildup from condensation with a car driven daily less than 10 miles or less than 20 minutes. The engine never warming up is still running rich in the three mile drive each way. To make matters worse is the common coolant sensor failure of every original one from the factory along with damaging the thermostat.

2-By using a reader on the car and observing incorrect sensor temps vastly different from ambient temps before startup, you basically verified the sensor failed. The two wire connector may contribute to erratic sensor operation too as signal levels are between 0.1-0.4 volt. All temperature sensors are accurate to + or - 3F. The temperature you observed on your reader points to a faulty sensor or poor connections. The intake air and coolant sensors are the same and one way to compare one with the other on a cold engine relative to ambient temps within a few degrees of ambient.

Another clue to verify the coolant sensor is the original one and faulty, remove it for examination. Original sensors are round nosed and made of resin that deteriorates in cooling systems. The redesigned sensor is a flat nosed brass one. One result of faulty coolant sensors is they allow the engine to overheat while the temperature gauge never goes above the 1/4 mark, ruining the seals in the thermostat. This results in the engine running cooler than normal with a melted rubber seal. Overheating occurs in summer heat as the cooling fan is never turned on since the engine computer never sees correct coolant temps.

Was the coolant sensor ever replaced?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg plastic-brass cts.jpg (82.3 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg t-stat 1.jpg (119.6 KB, 4 views)

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Old 10-15-2018, 07:46 AM   #4
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2000 SL2
Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

I don't think I've replaced the thermostat or ECT on this car. Should I start with the ECT or go ahead do both. If the thermostat is fairly easy to access, I'd rather knock them both out at the same time.

Is there a brand I should look for or stay away from? I usually look for AC Delco parts for this car.

thanks!

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Old 10-15-2018, 08:39 AM   #5
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1997 SL2
Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

I'd definitely go and replace both. The ects is definitely easiest to replace. The thermostat just requires you to drain the coolant first so if you haven't changed/flushed your coolant in a while, you might as well do it when you change the thermostat.

The ects brand doesn't much matter as long at its not plastic. I think I got mine at autozone. The thermostat people like to use is the Stant 14279

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Old 10-15-2018, 09:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

I'd vote ECTS. If it runs at the right temperature no need to replace the thermostat.

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Old 10-15-2018, 11:03 AM   #7
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2002 SL2
Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

By all means make all the repairs and adjustments to the car BUT unless you drive this car more than you are doing, then problems will simply begin to accumulate.

Cars were not designed or built to spend their life in a car park. They need to be driven regularly. If they are not, you will have issues. Simple as that.

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Old 10-15-2018, 11:36 AM   #8
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Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

Quote:
Cars were not designed or built to spend their life in a car park. They need to be driven regularly. If they are not, you will have issues. Simple as that.
True, yet she has made it to 145K and 18 years! Not bad for that commute.

That is the perfect commute for an electric car.

...
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'99 SL2, 5SP bought new
Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
'98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018

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Old 10-15-2018, 12:07 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

If both parts were never replaced, start with the coolant sensor sold in auto stores. They're generic and virtually identical in design since the main component is a thermistor made by the billions and used everywhere for temperature sensing. If prices vary, buy the mid priced one. Examine the two wire connector for corrosion. Some sensors leaked coolant and fouled the tiny connectors, rendering them poor conductors of low voltage signals, compounding the problem. If you're lucky, the connector won't need to be replaced. Once the coolant sensor is replaced, plug in your reader before engine startup, note your new baseline temperature, compare it to the intake air temperature sensor, ambient temperature and startup. Drive and observe when operating temps stabilize. The temperature gauge needle should be between 3/8ths and 1/2 of scale deflection. Your reader should display around 195F. If below 180F, replace the thermostat. Your reader is more accurate than the analog temperature gauge. Another way to tell if the t-stat failed - lack of interior heat when needed. Failed t-stats provide tepid heat. Heater coils are always circulating coolant - no shutoff valve. The temperature selector adjusts a deflector door in the hvac box to divert incoming outside air thru the heater core. Normal t-stats will bake interiors since waste heat is free when needed during cold weather.

Condensation forms the sludge buildup from frequent short trips. The remedy is oil replacement intervals every 3-6 months since mileage is very low per year or take the car on an hour drive or more once a week to get operating temps running a minimum of 15 minutes, long enough to boil out moisture mixed in motor oil. Frequent short trips requires more frequent oil changes since the engine never runs longer than 15 minutes per trip. Driving an hour once a week avoids replacing oil to reach either self imposed oil change intervals or abide by the OCI (oil change indicator - oil can symbol). GM developed the oil change program philosophy with several parameters that allows each vehicle determine when oil and filter need changing. If your OCI doesn't turn on, the very short trips are still taken into account but not yet trigger the oil change indicator. Your choice to wait for the OCI, drive an hour once a week or change oil based on a 3-6 month schedule.

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Old 10-21-2018, 10:37 PM   #10
Mystic_Cobra
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2000 SL2
Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

According to my wife, we already changed the thermostat once on her car. I swapped the ECT sensor yesterday. The car now starts easily and purrs with NO smoke! yippee!

thanks for the help, gang.

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Old 10-22-2018, 11:58 AM   #11
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Default Re: 2000 SL2 Hard Start, Dark Smoke, No codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystic_Cobra View Post
Troubleshooting the wife's SL2 (DOHC) with 145,000 miles. Auto trans.

She drives the car every day but her commute is only 3 miles each way to a metro station. Only a couple times a month does the car take a trip longer than 10 miles or 15 minutes. It takes about 9 months to put 3000 miles on the car. Oil/filter changes are every 3K. She is the original/only owner! Nothing major has ever been done to the car.

For several years, there is yellow gunk that appears under the oil cap. I see it often since I add oil regularly. I always wipe it out. I assume this is condensation mixing with the oil since the car almost never gets hot.

A couple months ago, it developed an issue where it would idle around 2000 rpm. After cleaning the TB, IAC, that went away.

The current problem: The engine cranks fine. When you crank it, it is tough to start. It takes a couple times to get it to fire. When it does fire, it blows dark smoke and chugs and struggles to get the rpm up. After a few seconds it starts running better. It does this almost every time but if you start it while its still warm or if it hasn't sat long, it starts fine. Occasionally (twice in 2 months), she has been unable to start it. Both times I drove to her, pulled the air intake tube of the TB, held it wide open, she cranked it and it fired up. It still huffs and puffs and smokes but it runs. Once it is running, it runs fine.

She said she cranked it 4 times with no throttle before cranking it with WOT. I'm not 100% convinced she had it at WOT.

My theory is that oil is draining down into the chamber and causing the hard start.

I have a data logging scanner and I'm going to go log the ECT.

Ideas?
Replace the ECTS sensor, as it is cracked. Replace the spark plugs and wires, as they are likely fouled out and well past their lifespan.

Dark smoke is carbon build-up in the cylinders. This is a symptom of running to rich, which causes the spark plugs to get contaminated. Pulling a plug and grounding it will produce an orange spark, when this happens. Spark should be purple-ish blue in color for a healthy plug.

Spark Plug replacement should be done every 30-months or 30,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

Transmission fluid and coolant are the same service interval period for Dex-Cool, and universal coolants.

If you still have green coolant, the service interval for green is 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

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

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