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Old 05-05-2021, 02:42 PM   #1
Steve4637
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Default 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Hello ---- I'm hoping to get some help/ answers here.

I have 98 SL2 5spd.... I've had it 5 years.. and honestly been one of the best cars I've owned in 40 or so years

Just this morning after driving about 45 miles to an appointment, I got back into the car to drive home....and when I started it up and put it in 1st gear and let out the clutch, it felt like I was almost in 2nd or 3rd gear and it took off really slow. The car drove home fine, shifting through all gears, one to five with no problem and no clutch slippage...but once again, pulling off the interstate at a stoplight and going back to first gear....it takes off slow again like it's in 2nd or 3rd gear. The car has 280k and had the clutch changed at 242k

Can any of the gurus here give me an idea of what might be happening? I really like the car and have become a little attached to it as it's never let me down.

Thanks in advance!!
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Old 05-05-2021, 02:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Maybe you have a shift cable failing - and you are getting 3rd instead of 1st. I'd pop off the console and have a look.
...
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Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
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Old 05-05-2021, 03:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Watch the tach to see if it really is going into a gear other than the 1st intended; or if the engine is running weak but the trans is properly in 1st.
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Old 05-05-2021, 03:10 PM   #4
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Watch the tach to see if it really is going into a gear other than the 1st intended; or if the engine is running weak but the trans is properly in 1st.
I will take a look at the tach....but I was driving back at 80mph passing easily.....so the engine has tons of power and no noises or slippage.

When I replaced the clutch at 242k it was slipping in every gear. This feels like a whole different problem
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Old 05-05-2021, 03:30 PM   #5
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Is the catalytic converter original?
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Old 05-05-2021, 04:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Power at 80 (I assume that isn't in 1st!) isn't important. We need to find out if the problem in 1st is because of a wrong gear or because of power loss. We will be looking in totally different directions, depending on the answer to that.
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Old 05-05-2021, 08:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Is the catalytic converter original?
Yes it is the original...and it actually has the check engine light on with a code saying the converter is a problem. But it's been like that for about 7 months and never caused any drivability issues.
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Old 05-05-2021, 08:58 PM   #8
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Thanks for all the help so far!!
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Old 05-05-2021, 10:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

The catcon can disintegrate internally, blocking exhaust flow intermittently or continually. Goggle catcon design, a high temperature porous ceramic substrate. An expensive porous brick to convert exhaust gases until it falls apart. Some hear rattling like marbles, others rap it and hear loose cat guts when it's not supposed to have anything loose within.

The simple test at home is to remove the upstream exhaust manifold mounted O2 sensor for an alternate exhaust path before the catcon. You might have to use a temporary soup can diverter to divert hot exhaust gases away from plastics or radiator. Exhaust will be loud but if power returns suddenly after sluggish acceleration, this can help verify a damaged catcon. Ignore the error code generated from the sensor.
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Old 05-06-2021, 12:21 AM   #10
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

If it's got power at 80, it is unlikely to be the catcon. I'm still predicting shift cable issues.
...
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Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
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Old 05-06-2021, 05:50 AM   #11
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
If it's got power at 80, it is unlikely to be the catcon. I'm still predicting shift cable issues.
Hi Bryan --- You very well could be correct as it truly feels like I am taking off in 2nd gear instead of 1st.

Also I've had the car up to 90 in the last two weeks and 80 yesterday.....so it definitely has tons of power

Is the cable problem an easy fix?
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Old 05-06-2021, 10:27 AM   #12
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Steve,
Search for "shifter cable bushing" on the forum. I've not had to do it yet but others may chime in.

One cable works left to right. If it breaks you only get 3rd and 4th. Or if the cable/bushing are compromised you may get loss of motion and that could be why you are not getting first.
One cable works front to back. That lets you shift 1-2, or 3-4, or 5, or R depending upon the left-right position.

You have to take off the console to look at the shift tower and the related bushings. Just a bunch of screws.
...
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 05-06-2021, 08:34 PM   #13
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
Steve,
Search for "shifter cable bushing" on the forum. I've not had to do it yet but others may chime in.

One cable works left to right. If it breaks you only get 3rd and 4th. Or if the cable/bushing are compromised you may get loss of motion and that could be why you are not getting first.
One cable works front to back. That lets you shift 1-2, or 3-4, or 5, or R depending upon the left-right position.

You have to take off the console to look at the shift tower and the related bushings. Just a bunch of screws.
Bryan --- Thanks buddy. I now believe you are correct. I drove the car today and I'm almost 100 percent sure that I am some how starting off in second gear, while the shifter is actually in 1st gear. Something definitely wrong. I am going to have someone a lot more mechanically inclined take a look
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Old 05-08-2021, 10:48 AM   #14
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve4637 View Post
I am going to have someone a lot more mechanically inclined take a look
For the mechanically uninclined, Saturn S series owner let me introduce you to your new best friend, richpin06a.

Step by step showing how to remove the center console and replacing the shifter bushing (if the bushing turns out to be the problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI3h7uSTvAI

richpin has a ton of videos, very thorough, that includes info like tools needed, where to find the part, what you need to remove to get to the part, etc. (a lot of places start off with closeups of the part, all the stuff already removed, and you have no idea where to begin to find the part)

I've seen a video of his where he just shows the shifter being shifted through each gear but couldnt find it

Saturnbushingman (Jerry Borshard) on ebay has delrin and stainless options on ebay, also goes by saturnbushinghennie and saturnbushing(something, dont recall off hand) for lower cost options.

alternate video by jungleking
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=XFdEt6POnco
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Old 05-08-2021, 04:57 PM   #15
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
For the mechanically uninclined, Saturn S series owner let me introduce you to your new best friend, richpin06a.

Step by step showing how to remove the center console and replacing the shifter bushing (if the bushing turns out to be the problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI3h7uSTvAI

richpin has a ton of videos, very thorough, that includes info like tools needed, where to find the part, what you need to remove to get to the part, etc. (a lot of places start off with closeups of the part, all the stuff already removed, and you have no idea where to begin to find the part)

I've seen a video of his where he just shows the shifter being shifted through each gear but couldnt find it

Saturnbushingman (Jerry Borshard) on ebay has delrin and stainless options on ebay, also goes by saturnbushinghennie and saturnbushing(something, dont recall off hand) for lower cost options.

alternate video by jungleking
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=XFdEt6POnco
Thank you.

I actually had it semi-repaired this morning. It definitely was the cable, but it was the cable bushing next to the transaxle instead of the other end under the console.

The guy who fixed it says I should get new shifter cables as he said they are worn out. He recommended I find some new cables instead of used ones from a wrecking yard. He said I also need a new clamp

Has anyone used any aftermarket cables, like those from RockAuto?
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Old 05-08-2021, 05:26 PM   #16
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

I've heard the aftermarket ones are low quality, and used ones from the junkyard is the way to go.
...
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 05-08-2021, 07:45 PM   #17
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
I've heard the aftermarket ones are low quality, and used ones from the junkyard is the way to go.
Bryan --- Do you know if the bushing is the same for both ends of the cable?

I also read about a guy named Hein that makes new cables -- is there any way to contact him?


Thanks
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:40 PM   #18
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Heins 's website is here:
https://diyvan.com/

I thought he was done with Saturns though.

I think the ends are different, but it has been a while since I played with them.
...
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 05-08-2021, 10:07 PM   #19
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
Maybe you have a shift cable failing - and you are getting 3rd instead of 1st. I'd pop off the console and have a look.
That would be hard since the gate is in the transmission. I doubt youd notice that you moved a bit to get to the gate.
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Old 05-08-2021, 10:08 PM   #20
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Default Re: 5spd Transmission problem 1998 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
I've heard the aftermarket ones are low quality, and used ones from the junkyard is the way to go.
True. I tried the aftermarket steal bushing snd had several fail. Got a junk yard one and its great. Looked newer.
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