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Old 01-24-2004, 09:39 PM   #1
dtro
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Default head gasket "special policy"

Let me start off by saying that my wife, up until now, has loved her saturn and she hated to see it go.

Let me start off by saying that my wife loved her Saturn and she was sad to see it go. I thought she might cry.

The car is a 95 SC1 with 109k miles. Tues night she was driving home and she called me at home to say her heat wasn't working (-10 degrees here). I told her it was probably a thermostat or a cooling issue. I would check out when she got home. She called me back a few minutes later saying the overheat light came on and she had pulled over. To make a long story short, the head gasket failed which caused a crack on the head. Estimate $2500.

I just wanted to know if anyone else has pursued Saturn to compensate for this. I realize a special policy was released extending the warranty to 6/100, but come on. They knew there was a problem why no recall? My dealer pretended not to be aware of it when we went there the next day. His answer was, that if it would have exhibited the problem they would have looked into it. Yeah right, and they would've kept looking till the warranty expired.


My wife and I are pretty upset about this and like I said up until now we recommended Saturn to friends/family. However the only Saturn to adorn my driveway from now on will be the one sitting there now, with a fryed head.

Oh by the way, maintenance was all done on schedule and I am a strict 3000 mile oil change guy. It just happened out of the blue.

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Old 01-24-2004, 09:52 PM   #2
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That quote sounds high for just a head. Check out OE prices at saturnparts.com.

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Old 01-24-2004, 10:00 PM   #3
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actually the quote was for everything Saturn recommened on the special policy.
Replace head and gasket.
Flush cooling system and replace all radiator hoses.
etc. etc,

I guess I'm just frusterated as to how the car was marketed. Like when our salesman said "look over here this Saturn has 300k miles on it, take care of it and it will go nearly forever"

Well your (Saturn) design flaw killed my car.

Oh well I digress.

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Old 01-24-2004, 10:42 PM   #4
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Read through some of the posts here on the topic of cracked heads on SOHC engines. Unless you're in one of the highest cost areas of the country, it seems you could get the job done for about half that, perhaps getting a used head that's been checked out by a machine shop. Look for the posts that indicate what year they fixed the head cracking problem (98 or 99, I believe) and get one accordingly. But even brand-new (improved design) can be had for just over $500. Doing it yourself can save a lot, but so can an independent shop instead of the dealer.

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Old 01-24-2004, 11:51 PM   #5
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You have had a car that you "loved" for over 100K miles and are now ranting like a lemon owner that it has let you down? It was NOT a "design flaw" nor was it a "head gasket" that prompted the special policy from Saturn regarding SOME 95'~96' SOHC cylinderheads. A casting error due to a metalurical mix error resulted in the POSSIBILITY of approx. 1.5% of SOHC cylinderheads installed during THOSE TWO MODEL YEARS ONLY developing cracks. Saturn extended the warranty VOLUNTARILY when THEY discovered the problem for 6 years or 100K miles from the original in service date. (Find another manufacturer that would have done that!) While I feel for you regarding your current situation, Saturn already went well above and beyond anything they "had" to do regarding this issue. A used or reconditioned cylinderhead can be had for FAR LESS than new, and installed by your choice of competetant mechanics for FAR LESS than $2500. Even replacing the timing chain componants as well for good measure, this is a $1000 repair MAX. That will net you a car that will be trouble and payment free for another 100k miles and beyond.

...
Old Saturns never die, people KILL them, so check your damn oil!
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Old 01-25-2004, 08:54 AM   #6
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Having been on the receiving end of irate customers with cylinder heads that were beyond the "policy", my standard answer was this:

"Sir/Ma'am, I'm sorry about your car, and I will do everything I can to make this repair as economical as possible, but you have to realize that your car is now close to 10 years old. It's not out of the ordinary for cylinder heads from any manufacturer to crack given that time and mileage. In my experience, Chevrolet, Ford, Isuzu, Chrysler, Hyundai, Saab, (and likely others I have not had the pleasure of having to repair) have all had models "prone" to head/gakset repairs, and none of them ever had a policy as comprehensive as Saturn's or never had one at all."

10 years (95 - bought in 94) to get to your first major repair, is above average (not biased) compared to most people. And given the proper repairs, your Saturn will indeed go 30ok miles (and beyond) if you so choose.

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Old 01-25-2004, 09:38 AM   #7
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I would rather not get into an agruing match about whether Saturn make good cars or not. I realize every manufacturer has their problems.
Saturn-eh, you make a valid point, but in essence are saying I should expect a head failure in any car with 100k miles. I hope thats not the case.
Wolfman, from other threads it shows you are very knowledgeable but also very BIASED. Saturn (this car) HAS let me down. Whether is was a "design flaw" or "casting error" is not my fault. What would have been my fault is lack of maintenance.

My car fits the description of this policy to a T. Funny how they did this "voluntarily" and "went well above and beyond" yet I was never notifed and the service manager "didn't have a clue" about the special policy or what I was talking about. Hmmm, maybe that's why it's also known as a "secret warranty".
I guess the problem I have is that Saturn admits there was a problem, which confirms it wasn't my fault. It should have been a recall. What they are saying is "yeah its our fault, but too bad, its too late" If they hadn't admitted it, I would've just chalked it up.

I appoligize if I offended anyone by saying a bad word about the beloved Saturn. What I was trying to find out, is if Saturn has compensated anyone beyond the expiration.

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Old 01-25-2004, 10:03 AM   #8
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Stuff happens. If you're someone who plans to keep a car for 300,000 miles, you have to figure on one or two $1000+ repairs along the way. The estimate you have sounds way high, even if it does include some deferred maintenance (like replacing the original hoses). Maybe the maintenance hasn't been particularly zealous.

A failed head gasket generally doesn't cause a crack in the head. Ignoring the loss of coolant caused by the failed head gasket, and continuing to drive the car under those conditions, that's what causes the cracked head.

I've owned Saturns for less than a year, and I'm no Saturn apologist. I am a realistic car owner with 35 years of experience. I generally buy new and drive 'til it dies at a ripe old age. The Sattys for my kids were an exception.

I don't know of any car maker (or aftermarket, either) who sells an extended warranty that goes past 100k. I think there's a message in that fact.

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Old 01-25-2004, 12:36 PM   #9
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I agree, and I don't have any problem with paying for parts that wear out (water pump, timing chain, alternator, belts....etc.).
But when Saturn admits there was a problem with the heads cracking and mine cracks. Isn't that a manufacturing/design issue that I should be compensated for?
Realistically all cars are going have problems and I'm fine with that, but Saturn admits it. They made some bad heads.
I know, I know they did the special policy, but again, it should have been a recall. Nobody will address that issue.

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Old 01-25-2004, 12:59 PM   #10
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Recalls are required for safety issues.

Your problem may not even be caused by the cracks that those heards are notorious for, if, indeed, the head gasket went first.

I'm curious as to where you would draw the line on what you see as Saturn's responsibility. 150,000 miles? 200,000?? 300,000???

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Old 01-25-2004, 01:29 PM   #11
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Recalls are required for safety issues.

Your problem may not even be caused by the cracks that those heads are notorious for, if, indeed, the head gasket went first.

I'm curious as to where you would draw the line on what you see as Saturn's responsibility. 150,000 miles? 200,000?? 300,000??? Ever???

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Old 01-25-2004, 02:02 PM   #12
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This is how I think it should have been handled.
1. Saturn identifies the problem.
2. Saturn determines the cause of problem.
3. Saturn identifies vehicles involved. (In this case I believe specific vehicles, or specific batch COULD have been identified)
4. Saturn notifies owners.
5. Saturn replaces faulty head.

As far as drawing the line. There shouldn't have been a line to draw. Saturn should have notified the owners and if someone tried to claim it two years later, Saturn would have some sort of proof of notification.

I mean really, I wouldn't have known about this if I hadn't had done some research, as my dealer didn't even know about it.

Again "secret warranty"

As for the head gasket failing? Who knows, but it did literally happen overnight.

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Old 01-25-2004, 02:32 PM   #13
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And for the customer who continues to drive the vehicle after substantial coolant loss (as first indicated by "no heat" condition and reinforced by "overheat" light)? No expectation of reasonable steps (Pull over, stop car, turn engine off) to prevent severe damage??

It's a fact of life: head gaskets go, especially on cars with aluminum heads.

In any case, I don't think you're doing yourself any favor with you plans to make it into a driveway sculpture.

What really ticks me off is all the vehicles, like my Ody, that have SCHEDULED maintenance at 100,000 miles requiring replacing a timing belt for around $500.

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Old 01-25-2004, 02:47 PM   #14
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In all fairness, I think you are being too hard on Saturn. If this had happened at 59k, I'd feel for you, but after 100k, you have to expect to put a fair amount of money in to any car. While a bad head gasket on a car with over 100k is not guaranteed, it is certainly not unusual. For comparison, I'm not planning on my alternator failing at 109k, but if it does, it certainly won't shock me.

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Old 01-25-2004, 06:56 PM   #15
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Bad head gasket caused a cracked head? According to your own words, the "service bulletin", or "recall" would not apply to you.

For some reason or another, the vehicle was overheated, which caused the head gasket to blow, and a cracked block.

You may attribute this problem to bad cylinder heads from Saturn, but you're terribly wrong. Cracked blocks and blown head gaskets happen all the time from people overheating their engines.

This is an aluminum head here, which makes it even MORE prone to warping (which leads to head gasket failure) and cracking. This isn't typical to just Saturn motors, but practically every cylinder head, especially aluminum ones.

Having paid attention to the temperature gauge, one would realize that the coolant was dangerously hot. When there is no more coolant left to work the heater, you can be assured that the car was overheated FAR beyond design specifications leading to the failures you mentioned.

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Old 01-25-2004, 08:22 PM   #16
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My question is, if the car overheated where was the coolant? Sounds like something was neglected. How could she all of a sudden have no heat. Something was running empty.

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Old 01-25-2004, 10:09 PM   #17
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"You may attribute this problem to bad cylinder heads from Saturn, but you're terribly wrong. Cracked blocks and blown head gaskets happen all the time from people overheating their engines. "

Have you read the special policy? How could I be terribly wrong?


I fully expected to get attacked about maintenance and neglect. Like I said in a previous post ALL maintenance was done, and also like I said my wife called me and then pulled over immediately.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it may change if you were on the other side of the fence, as mine probably would if nothing had have happened.
At least if this post keeps getting bumped maybe someone will see my original question.

Has anyone been compensated past the expiration?

I guess this isn't a tech talk issue anymore huh?

I appreciate everyones honest replies. I sure my "anger" will be subdued as the days go by.

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Old 01-25-2004, 10:36 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by dtro
This is how I think it should have been handled.
1. Saturn identifies the problem.
2. Saturn determines the cause of problem.
3. Saturn identifies vehicles involved. (In this case I believe specific vehicles, or specific batch COULD have been identified)
4. Saturn notifies owners.
5. Saturn replaces faulty head.

As far as drawing the line. There shouldn't have been a line to draw. Saturn should have notified the owners and if someone tried to claim it two years later, Saturn would have some sort of proof of notification.

I mean really, I wouldn't have known about this if I hadn't had done some research, as my dealer didn't even know about it.

Again "secret warranty"

As for the head gasket failing? Who knows, but it did literally happen overnight.
Hoo boy! Pissing match indeed... I can see why Wolfman seems to be wisely abstaining from further comment.

I worked for two Saturn retailers over the course of eight years, so you can consider my comments to be as biased as you wish.

Yes, having a head crack is a crappy thing to happen to anyone, statistically, this particular "design flaw" (if one is to call it that) affects less than 5% of cars. Would you have Saturn replace the other 95% of heads on the possibility that they could crack? Or perhaps warrant them for the life of the owner? Sorry for the sacasm, but no manufacturer could do what you ask and remain financialy viable.

As for the "secret warranty" - many manufacturers have these hidden warranties (or don't ask don't tell policies if you prefer) , Saturn however is the only one I have ever seen that outwardly notified every owner it in its customer database that owned a potentially affected car. The only owners that were omitted from this notification were those purchased resale, and never registered their car with Saturn.

For some comparison: On vehicles of similar vintage, Chrysler couldn't make a transmission last more than 50k miles on Caravans in 95, and Ford couldn't make head gaskets fast enough to supply the 3.8l tauruses (taurai?), windstars and mustangs that were spitting them out, again from vehicles of the same vintage as yours. upon failure, both of these examples result in repairs as catastrophic (read expensive) as yours. Neither of these manufacturers issued any kind of notification to their vehicle owners, and even then, the policies that did exist were not as comprehensive as the one from Saturn.
There are other manufacturers out there that made vehicles where certain heads could/would crack at far earlier mileages than yours (Hyundai, Isuzu, Chevrolet to name some that I am familiar with) again, no outward notification to owners.

Nothing I can say will sway you from thinking you got the short end of the stick in this situation. Given broader perspective, it is not the case.

In any case, as mentioned in some of the posts above, repairs to your car can be made far more economically than the quote you received. No need to dispose of a perfectly good car because of a cylinder head.

As far as being compensated past the expiration, I have "gone to bat" for customers who were far closer to the policies expiration. (like ~1600km over, but still within time) and I can honestly tell you from experience that there is very little (never say never) chance of Saturn considering your case.

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Old 01-26-2004, 12:46 AM   #19
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gripe about the warrant?. 6 years was up 2,3 years ago on the car.

...
98 SW2 214000miles
07 Aura 19500miles
/////Alpine inside!

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Old 01-26-2004, 03:03 AM   #20
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Shame the problem occurred but not much really to do except make the "repair or replace" decision.

Joe Cutrone at www.6thplanetusedparts.com can ship a low mileage or rebuilt engine to you or your mechanic. If Joe rebuilds it, you can even get high performance enhancements added if you desire them.

Best thing here is to evaluate the condition of the rest of the major systems in your Saturn. If they seem good and you like the car, might pay to just swap in a rebuilt from Joe.

If you're near his shop in FL, he can install the engine for you.

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