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Old 04-22-2004, 08:33 PM   #1
katefan0
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Dizzy P0341 Problems -- and a bit of thanks to the saturnfans community

Hi all,

Well, this is about my second post here I think, but I've been lurking for a few weeks while waiting for my account to be activated.

So here's my situation. About a month ago on a particularly cold and drizzly morning, my '97 SC1 (manual, 94k) wouldn't crank. I'd turn the key and get a "click click click" and then the electrical system would blank. Sometimes if I waited with it engaged it'd come back on in about 10 seconds. I finally got it started, and for the next couple weeks it started fine. (Also dried up a bunch.)

THen one morning before work -- same cold, drizzly morning -- it did it again, so I had it towed in to my mechanic. I should mention that my SES light had been on for some time, but I'd done a good job of ignoring it (I know, bad me.) I hadn't noticed any performance problems so I blew it off. Of course, no sooner had it dropped off the wrecker than it started right up for the mechanic.

So he hooked it up and read the code and it came out P0341, the Camshaft sensor. He said the battery seemed fine, alternator seemed fine, so he recommended to change the sensor. At the time it sounded reasonable, my experience with sensors up until that point was the temp sensor which does go bad sometimes. So I said OK.

But I wanted to know what that sensor was b/c I'd never heard of it so I started poking around and found my way here and read up. By this time I'm starting to realize that this sensor trips because it's indicative of another problem, so I called back and told him to cancel the replacement and asked him what about the plugs and wires coils etc. He said he'd seen the same thing in his books about Saturn P0341 codes and that they all looked OK as far as he could see. I had some other work to do on the car so I left it in the garage until the next day.

Next morning he calls me and says now it's not starting again (same symptoms). And that suddenly the battery is completely drained. Now I don't knwo if this is true or not or if he just didn't check the battery level the day before but I have no reason to think he didn't. This garage has never steered me wrong in the past, I think they just are ignorant about this particular engine problem. Anyway, short story -- changed battery, tested eveyrthing (no other engine drain) so I took it home and it's been cranking fine and SES light hasn't tripped again even with some short highway driving. Thank God I didn't blow $120 on a pointless sensor replacement.

Well I'd read everything here recommending people change their plugs and wires. The guy quoted me $170 to change them out which I just do not have so I was determined to do it myself. I have a rudimentary knowledge of my car (I can change an air filter and some heater hoses and that's about it), and I'd never attempted any sort of repair work, so I was pretty apprehensive.

I went and bought a Haynes manual on my car and, after reading through all kinds of spark plug threads here, set out to change them myself. Most of the reason why I had enough confidence to try was because of people here, so thanks for that.

I got them out, and right back in, without too many problems. I hope I didn't crossthread them but I think they're OK (I used the rubber hose trick). No torque wrench but I snugged them and gave them an extra 1/4 turn like some here have said. Hopefully I'll be able to afford a cheap torque wrench soon and I can doublecheck. Got in the car, turned it over, purrs like a kitten.

Two questions -- The old plugs looked pretty good compared to the guide in the back of the book. All four of the long prongs over what I guess is the electrode were ashy grey-white, but not blistered, and the element underneath was not blistered. That mean anything particularly? Also my #2 and #3 plugs had some oil in the threads. It wasn't a lot and it didn't extend above to the ceramic, so do I need to worry about leaks? The #1 and #4 were bone dry and all the same brand so I don't think the oil was used to lubricate although I could be wrong. It didn't seem too fresh but then what do I know.

My car still doesn't like to start right away sometimes; sometimes it turns over on the 2nd crank, sometimes it takes 4-5, I can't see any pattern in it. Maybe the starter? It's been this way the entire time I've owned it, about 2.5 years.

Next -- I noticed yesterday (I changed my plugs this past weekend) that when I rev to 4,000 rpm while in NEUTRAL it pops/bucks/kicks and won't let go any higher. But while I'm driving (at least in 1-3rd gears), it passes 4,000 rpm just fine. Is that some kind of weird governor doing that or do I need to worry about my newbie plug installation somehow?

Next job -- the wires.

Thanks for reading this long message and especially thanks for everybody's help for a newbie car chick. Any and all thoughts much appreciated.

Kate.

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Old 04-22-2004, 08:57 PM   #2
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You nailed it - - in Park or neutral (I believe the vehicle speed also has to be zero) the revs are governed to appx. 4300.

Be careful when replacing the wires to maintain the correct order. The connections from the coil pack should be to cyls 4-1-2-3, with 4 being the cylinder closest to the coil pack (or driver's side). Use dilectric grease on the boots.

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Old 04-22-2004, 09:03 PM   #3
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Well, oil in the plug holes would be indicative of the valve cover gasket failing, its not too hard of a job, just time consuming to get the old gasket off. Do a search around the boards, there is lots of threads on it. If there was enough oil leaking that might cause it to be sputtering when it first starts.

About the reving thing, I have read that there is a rev limiter in nuetral at 4000 or so, but not while you are driving.

Congrats on doing the plugs yourself, it may seem small, but its a good confidence builder, i used to be scared to touch my car, even with 3 years of highschool mechanics. Now, with a lot of help from this website, i like to try and fix everything i can myself, it gets more and more fun with every project.

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Old 04-22-2004, 09:04 PM   #4
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Nice long post, we'll make you a seasoned DIY'er in no time!

First of all, the P0341 code. Saturns have no camshaft position sensor! However, this code comes up a lot because of corrosion on the coil pack towers, or where the spark plug wires connect to. Usually taking some medium grit emery cloth (or even sandpaper can work in a pinch) and getting off the corrosion from the contact helps as well as new plug wires because the old ones will more than likely be corroded. If you notice carbon tracking, which will show as black carbon lines running down the coil pack, its time to replace the coils. If you need that, ask here for recommendations, but I really doubt you'll need new coils.

Those prongs you mention on the plugs are the electrodes, a tan or grey color, even white looking without blistering, is normal. You say it takes several revolutions for the engine to start. Normal. In fact, putting new wires on and cleaning up the coils will probably help.

Two. If you look in your Saturn owners manual, there should be a statement that when the car is in neutral, it has a 4,000RPM rev limiter! It pops/bucks/kicks so you don't overspeed the engine. BTW, hitting the rev limiter is not a good thing to do a lot, but its better than revving too high!

Welcome to the boards Kate!

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Old 04-23-2004, 10:22 AM   #5
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Hey, thanks for all the good vibes and the answers. One question.

Since I have a SOHC, is there any way for me to tell whether that gasket spitting oil into my spark plug wells is leaking by sight, without trying to rip it apart? I don't think I'm confident enough yet for that sort of repair.

When I change my wires, I'll definitely take a look at the coils and see if I can't clean them. Thanks again.

Kate.

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Old 04-23-2004, 10:25 AM   #6
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Good job Kate!
I think you'll find with the help of these boards and a bit of common sense, these little plastic cars will go a LONG time for a pretty low cost of ownership.

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Old 04-23-2004, 10:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by katefan0
Hey, thanks for all the good vibes and the answers. One question.

Since I have a SOHC, is there any way for me to tell whether that gasket spitting oil into my spark plug wells is leaking by sight, without trying to rip it apart?
Kate.
If there's oil accumulating in your plug wells, the gasket is possibility 1 of 2. Possibility 2 is a cracked cam cover - - not too likely.

But either fix requires cam cover removal.

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Old 04-23-2004, 10:59 AM   #8
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I'll tell you what, my plastic car still looks brand new. It's one of the things that attracted me to the little beauty in the first place (college graduation present). Aside from a pretty bad scratch on the bottom of the drivers side door, its clearcoat is in extremely good shape. All clean and waxed, it looks better than most of the cars on the street -- even the ones worth 5x as much. (I live on Capitol Hill so there are lots of these sorts.)

Kate.

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Old 04-23-2004, 12:50 PM   #9
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Kate, it's time for me to change my spark plugs. I've never done it before, and I'd like to know what the "rubber hose" trick is?

I've got a Chilton's but no mention of any tips.

...
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Old 04-23-2004, 01:02 PM   #10
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Hey, I guess this is another milestone: my first piece of car advice.

Go get about a 8 - 12" piece of 5/18 rubber vacuum hose and put it over the ceramic end of your spark plug. Then ease the plug down into the hole. Using the hose, turn the plug counterclockwise until you feel the plug drop a bit (this means it's in the thread grooves), then start hand-tightening with the hose. You will know you aren't cross-threading because if it starts to cross-thread, the hose will slip b/c of the resistance.

That's it. Just a trick to keep from crossthreading. Once you've got it tightened as much as you can by hand, then tighten it the rest of the way with your wrench.

Kate.

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Old 04-23-2004, 01:49 PM   #11
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Its pretty difficult to crossthread by hand. I only use a spark plug socket and wrench to remove the plug and tighten lightly, using my hands instead of the wrench as much as possible. Oil dripping from the cam cover is 99.9% caused by the gasket (SOHC engines use an aluminum valve cover). If you wish to tackle that yourself, just ask or look for wolfman's How-To.

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Old 04-23-2004, 03:15 PM   #12
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One note -- that should be 5/16 hose, not 5/18.

Kate.

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Old 04-24-2004, 07:13 PM   #13
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Default Re: P0341 Problems -- and a bit of thanks to the saturnfans community

Quote:
Originally posted by katefan0
All four of the long prongs over what I guess is the electrode were ashy grey-white, but not blistered, and the element underneath was not blistered. That mean anything particularly?
4 prongs? There sould be 1. Sounds like someone put Bosch Platinum +4's in the car at some point. Those can be problematic and give misfire codes on many DOHC Saturn engines. You may want to consider replacing them with NGK Conventional (NON-PLATINUM) plugs in the near future.

...
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