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Old 01-24-2021, 11:07 AM   #1
partchanger123
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Default Brake/Engine Problems

Greetings, my question is rather long so I apologize if I miss pieces of the puzzle or don't make perfect sense.

The cars is a 2001 Saturn SL1 with 1.9l and non anti-lock brakes. 180,000 miles. One morning I started it to go to work, and it didnt seem to be running quite right. I thought maybe it was a slight fuel issue and would come out of it, but no such luck; within a mile it was sputtering and missing terribly and the check engine light was flashing. Checking the codes later, the only code that it showed was 0300 (Random Misfire). Doing minimal research and having had a Saturn prior to this one, I assumed it was do for an intake gasket and that was the cause. However, further inspection (tear down) revealed that the intake gasket had been replaced prior and was in fact just fine. In that process however I noticed that the vacuum line connecting the brake booster to the intake had signs of moisture. Further inspection revealed that the brakes were now spongy and the fluid reservoir was nearly empty. Now my thought is that the seal went out in the master cylinder and is dumping brake fluid into the intake, simple enough fix. So I installed a new master cylinder (bench bled before putting it in). I know I will probably need to bleed out each line for everything to be perfect, but I wanted to see if the engine would run normally first. Upon starting the engine, it seems to run a little smoother, but still misses and stumbles even after spraying some cleaner in the intake and working it a little, and continues to rethrow the 0300 code. Also, my brakes are still not operating properly; with the engine off, the pedal firms up after 1 pump and is rock hard. With the engine running, the pedal will go right to the floor no matter how many times you pump it. The vacuum line from the intake to the booster is definitely pulling a vacuum; if I remove it from the booster with the engine running, the engine will idle faster. And if I plug it (place my finger over it) it will kill the engine. After a fair amount of brake pedal pumping and idling time the master cylinder is still full, and no new signs of brake fluid on the floor.

After doing some research, I am guessing my rear brakes may be out of adjustment (and shot) enough to cause the issue with my brake pedal operating differently with the engine on or off. I have put 30,000 miles on the car without looking at them, so they are probably due. Does it sound like I am on the right path there?

If I am on the right path regarding the brakes, any ideas or recommendations as far as the engine still sputtering? If I remember correctly these cars dont have a mass air flow sensor, they have a intake pressure sensor. Could that sensor be gummed up or wrecked from the brake fluid? With the engine running and revving it up I did spray some brake cleaner into the intake, but didnt want to get too carried away.

Hopefully I explained it well enough to make sense without writing a 300 page book. As my name implies I am a plum alright parts replacer, but would not consider myself worthy to be called a mechanic. Thank you in advance for any help.
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Old 01-24-2021, 12:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

I doubt the rear brakes could be out of adjustment enough to make the symptoms you describe, but set the hand brake on and see if there is still a difference in the pedal "feel" with engine on and off. Setting the hand brake on will take up all "extra" travel in the rear brakes that may be there from poor adjustment; will get that (adjustment) possibility out of the equation for now.

Not enough time to to fully mull this over right now, but I am suspecting the power-brake booster.
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Old 01-24-2021, 12:36 PM   #3
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

Hi, and welcome to the forum.

I don't think your P0300 code and brakes are related at all. There is really no way for brake fluid to be sucked out of the reservoir and into the booster.

So first, the brakes. Most likely you have a leak somewhere. If you are in the salt belt at all, it is common for the brake lines to rust. I would refill the master, pump the brakes a lot while parked somewhere you can see puddles, and find the leak. Poor rear brake adjustment is unlikely to do much except make the parking brakes work poorly. It might make the rear brakes work poorly also, but they add so little compared to the fronts that you probably wouldn't notice.

Next, the P0300 code. There are a few suspects here and they are not usually too hard to track down. Generally that is an ignition problem. First take a look at the plugs. Are they done? If so get some plain old NGK copper plugs, BKR4ESA11. Generally the fancy plugs don't work well in the S series though a couple of members have had luck otherwise. How are the wires and coils? One thing to try is look at the coils & wires while the car is running in the dark. See if you have any arcing. You shouldn't.

I had to replace coils on both my Saturns. Here was the '98:
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...&postcount=213

Here is a recent thread on replacing brake lines. I think the original poster did his own thing but you will find a lot of good links to both this forum and Amazon for parts:
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=267927

Good luck!
...
Bryan Cotton
'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 01-24-2021, 12:51 PM   #4
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

You're dealing with more than one problem now. After replacing the brake master cylinder, the entire brake system needs to be flushed of old fluid since its presumed this vehicle never had brake fluid flushed. New brake fluid in the master cylinder but old fluid and air remains in brake lines. Before mixing problems of erratic engine ring with brake pedal going to the floor, finish brake service first. This will be either a one man or two man procedure.

It's wiser at this point to flush and bled all brake mines. With cap off, top of the master cylinder and have someone pump the brake pedal while you open a brake bleed valve starting in sequence; passenger right rear, driver left front, passenger left rear, right front. When the pedal is firm, open a bled valve to expel old fluid and air. As the pedal falls to the floor, hold it there while closing the bleed valve. Release pedal slowly. Check fluid level and continue topping it off as new fluid flows into each line with old fluid coming out the bled valve. Repeat; pump pedal until firm, hold, open bleed valve to expel fluid and air as the pedal falls to the floor, hold pedal down until closing the valve then release pedal slowly. Repeat until fresh new fluid flows out and zero air occurs. Move on to the next brake until all four brakes are flushed and bled of old fluid. This takes about one quart of DOT-3 brake fluid. Always check the master and top off. If fluid drops low enough, air will get sucked into the pistons and you'll have to bleed the master again the restart the entire brake flushing/bleeding routine again.

The reason the pedal falls to the floor is power assisted braking from the lat brake unit operating on engine vacuum. Power brakes multiplies leg power so women can drive and stop on a dime in high heels without effort. Men with weak leg muscles too. If power brakes didn't exist there might be less drivers on the road as they're unable to use enough leg muscles too generate hydraulic brake pressure. You felt the difference but only when parked. If you dared to drive right now, you'd know in a second how useless brakes are, with or without power assisted braking. You may feel a solid pedal while parked with engine off but try driving without the power brake unit (disconnected and plugged vacuum line) in your present condition. I doubt brakes are working. The entire brake system must be bled to finish after replacing the master cylinder. Your life and others depends on you performing correct brake repairs.

The engine running odd may be due to other issues. Was the coolant sensor ever replaced? Original sensors are round nose plastic, cracking and creating many issues. Replacement sensors are flat nosed brass.
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Old 01-24-2021, 06:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

I was also thinking the booster was the culprit until I read a thread on this forum:

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=109521

I have replaced the plugs and wires fairly recently with Delcos I believe, but have not touched the coils. I believe the coolant temp sensor to be replaced since factory, because the wires appear to be spliced (in an unfactory way).

I will try the brake pedal with the park brake on as said and see if that makes a difference. I will also try to properly bleed every line, but may have run too low on brake fluid to complete that tonight.

Thanks!
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:13 AM   #6
me.theuser
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2002 SL1
2001 SL2
Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

Agree on brake booster but these cars usually have drum brakes better check the wheel cylinders when you take the drums off

pretty easy to replace but a PITA to get the old ones off usually

misfires could be as simple as a coil or non copper spark plugs, bad wires

flaky coils, cps, or even some worse engine issue
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Old 01-25-2021, 03:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

Update: I have bled every brake line completely using a vacuum pump by myself, every line is 100% new fluid and no air. I am on a concrete floor, and have no signs of any leaks (blown out lines) besides where I have made a mess myself.

The brake pedal continues to act the same as before. With the engine off, it will stiffen up after just one pump and be rock hard; by myself and without driving I cannot know for sure if this actually applies the brakes, or is just rock hard because the booster is not assisting me. With the motor running, the brake pedal will go straight to the floor with little or no resistance no matter how many times you pump it. It acts the same regardless of the position the park brake is in. As I think I have said, the rear brakes are likely due for tlc, but applying the parking brake at just the first 'click' will lock up both rears pretty hard (and both drums drag very very slightly with no brake pressure as I believe they should), so there must be something left in there. Similar to the last reply, I am curious if the cylinders in the rear drums are acting properly; especially since to my knowledge that is really the only difference (as far as the rear axle) between applying the parking brake and pushing the brake pedal. But I am also not terribly excited to take the rears drums off for a look, in my experience on older vehicles in the rust belt that usually leads to replacing everything inside. I also see the logic in fixing them to know they are good, but don't believe the rear brakes really do a lot on this small of a car; and as I said the parking brake will pretty well lock them both up on the first click.

I am back to thinking the brake booster is bad, or has a seal blown out; but my head is worn out from thinking and diagnosing is not my strong suit. One user said there is not connection between the master cylinder and booster, to get fluid into the booster. Are you sure of this? On all the old Chevy pickups I have been around ('89-'99) when the master cylinder goes bad, it loses all the fluid through the booster and burns it through the engine. I fully understand this car is no Chevy pickup but thought the basics of the brake system likely similar. And this car emptied the master cylinder rather quickly when it started acting up, and where the vacuum hose (from the intake) connects to the booster is awfully wet with what I assume has to be brake fluid. Also, now I show no line leaks that would have emptied the system. I am thinking the master cylinder seal went out and dumped fluid to the booster, and said fluid may have well got hard on booster internals.

The engine will idle relatively well now, and pushing the brake pedal will change the rpms up and down. The engine doesn't really sound like a 'miss', just stumbles. This also leads me to believe its the booster. When I have time I may try clearing the 0300 code and just let the engine idle without touching the brakes, and see how long it will run without throwing the code.

I am all for fixing things right the first time, but also like to try and diagnose the real culprits so as not to 'fix' things that aren't broke, and also not put anymore time or money into a cheap car than it really needs.

Again thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 01-25-2021, 03:33 PM   #8
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

How does a guy 'check' the wheel cylinders inside the drums on the rear axle?

In my minimal and simpleton experience my memory tells me a bad wheel cylinder leaks, and neither of these have any signs of leakage on the outside, but I have not removed either drum yet.

Thanks in advance
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Old 01-25-2021, 04:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

Generally you back off the adjuster star wheel if needed with a screwdriver in the slot on backside of brake plate under the rubber plug..

Hit the drum with some penetrating oil and maybe some heat right around the mount flange and proceed to bash them back and forth from top bottom side and front face till they break loose ( ONLY the drum don't hit studs or the backplate, put lug nuts on the ends if you can't control yourself :P )

boots on wheel cylinder should be intact and dry.

If you attached the vacuum pump to it and it didn't leak down I'd go after the booster or master cyl
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Old 01-25-2021, 04:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

I am still thinking you have a leak somewhere. Keep the MC full, pump the brakes hard with the engine off, or run it if you prefer and pump the brakes a lot. Sometimes it takes a while for brake fluid to make it to the floor.

There is no way for a vacuum booster failure to make the brakes go to the floor. That is either air in the system or a lack of fluid because it is leaking out somewhere.

I'd honestly do this before messing with the rear brakes at all.
...
Bryan Cotton
'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 01-25-2021, 04:15 PM   #11
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Default Re: Brake/Engine Problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by partchanger123 View Post
One user said there is not connection between the master cylinder and booster, to get fluid into the booster. Are you sure of this?
Check out this summit racing link:
https://help.summitracing.com/app/an...ake-booster%3F

The booster has a seal to keep the vacuum inside. The MC has a seal to keep the brake fluid in. The connection is mechanical - the pushrod from the brake pedal through the booster to the input of the MC.

I use a vacuum bleeder but in conjunction with a helper to pump the pedal. Or with the motorcycles I can generally reach both the bleeder and the brake controls and am able to do it solo. I am not sure how good of a bleed you will get if the MC is in the brakes off position and you are just trying to pull fluid through with vacuum.
...
Bryan Cotton
'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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