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Old 01-21-2010, 12:09 PM   #1
Christina
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Mad Before I junk this car...

I have recently acquired a 1996 Saturn SC1 with around 140,000 miles on it. It belonged to my roommate, who knows absolutely jack about cars. I myself own a 1996 SC2 and know more than the average bear, but am not a mechanic. Roommate calls one day and says he was getting gas, and as he began pulling out of the gas station the engine started running very rough, so he stopped and popped the hood. He and the gas station attendants told me that the engine was making "a lot of noise" and was "all over the place" and then suddenly died and would not start again.

We had the car towed back to our house, and here's what I have observed:

The starter turns and turns just fine, but there is not the slightest hint of spark. The engine itself does NOT turn at all, though the serpentine belt spins around while the starter turns. One of my roommate's friends insists it's a blown head gasket. Another insists the timing chain is broken. Neither is a mechanic. So...

Is there an easy, surefire way for me to test this car to see if the timing chain is broken? I have read through a lot of posts here, and from what most of you say, it is very hard to break the timing chains in these little cars. Then again, my roommate is a pizza delivery driver who took lousy care of this car. When I checked the oil, there was barely a drop of black sludge on the dipstick, and honestly I can't remember him taking it for an oil change in the last year and a half. I take good care of my SC2, so for me this whole drama over his car has really been pissing me off. Car's been sitting here over a month and the guy hasn't touched it or even tried to have it towed to a mechanic. I suggested replacing the CPS and even bought the part, but he says his "friend" already told him the timing chain is broken and replacing the CPS is a waste of time, so he won't even try that. If it is surely junk, I'm just going to take the A/C compressor off of it, as the bearings on mine went out this last summer and I had to bypass it with a smaller serpentine belt.

Any advice is appreciated, and thank you all in advance!

--Christina
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
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Old 01-21-2010, 12:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Honestly, from what you have described it could be any number of things and since its obvious he does not care at all about the car, just take his compressor and you will have your A.C. back for when Al Gores global warming summer comes back with a vengeance this year Since he obviously does not even care about the car, I doubt he will notice and if he does just tell him its a fee for him parking it at your place for a month with no interest in fixing it. Its sad to see a Saturn go off to the jy but by the sounds of things, if he does not care about whats going on under the hood, I am willing to bet the outside and inside of the car isn't a prize winner either. Hey, at least you will have your A.C. back!
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Old 01-21-2010, 12:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

If it was run for any length of time with no oil then the engine is shot. I'm in Oregon and buy junk Saturns so If you want to get rid of it please send me PM with a phone# and I'll call you. Maybe I can help you figure out what is wrong with it. -Hein
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:04 PM   #4
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

If the belt is turning then the motor is rotating.
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:12 PM   #5
Christina
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesl2 View Post
If the belt is turning then the motor is rotating.
One of the roommate's friends pulled the oil cap off, had him turn the car over, and looked in the hole as it turned. He said "the hydraulic lifters are not moving, so the timing chain is broken."

???
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:22 PM   #6
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Bingo.

Serp belt might be turning but that doesn't mean all is well. Starter -flexplate - crank - hub - serp belt turns.

Doesn't really explain the no spark problem...??
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:37 PM   #7
Christina
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

About 6 months ago his fuel pump went out and was replaced (of course I had to set up a mechanic to do the job & find the part, roommate didn't do ***** in that case either). I wonder if maybe it's just not getting fuel?
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

.....I really hate to see the car get junked too, especially if it turned out to be a minor problem. Although I would love to yank the AC compressor off it and be done with it, it still bothers me not figuring out what's wrong with the thing. I hate not knowing, ya know?
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

We can only assume, you gotta go rip into it and figure it out eventually.

If you're not seeing movement in the head while its cranking, you got big problems. Valve cover takes all of about 2 minutes to remove. Yank it and take a peek. If there's no chain on your cam gears, the head is probably FUBAR, the pistons may have been scarred too and/or damaged beyond use.
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Old 01-21-2010, 01:55 PM   #10
Christina
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Yeah, today's my day off. I was thinking about taking the valve cover off today... already have the AC bolts soaking in Liquid Wrench to make removal easier. A friend of mine already broke two of his 10mm sockets trying to loosen them LOL. This engine is blackened and F I L T H Y dirty. In response to an earlier post, the outside of the car is crap, as is most of the interior. The only thing inside the car that I am taking is the stock stereo, which I gave to this guy a couple years ago when I put a new CD player in my SC2. Might as well take it back.
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
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Old 01-21-2010, 02:15 PM   #11
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

I have 2 or 3 good compressors in storage. I'd be happy to trade you one plus some cash for the whole car. Provided you are not too far. Where in Oregon are you located?

I'm not trying to take advantage or rip you off. Just trying to help and would totally understand if you were not interested.

Thanks,
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Old 01-21-2010, 02:34 PM   #12
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
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I have 2 or 3 good compressors in storage. I'd be happy to trade you one plus some cash for the whole car. Provided you are not too far. Where in Oregon are you located?

I live in Southern Oregon, Douglas County. Technically the car is still my roommate's car, but he has said that he doesn't give a crap what parts I take off the car for myself. His plan was to let a friend tow it to the junkyard and just take whatever cash they give him for it. He says he doesn't want to bother with parting it out. If it is for sure junk, I don't really care what happens to the rest of the car after I get the couple of things I want off of it.
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
1996 Saturn SL2 - bought March 2011
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Old 01-21-2010, 02:43 PM   #13
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

You could drain the oil to see how much was in the car. It can be down over 2 quarts, well below end of the dip stick, and still be pumping enough oil to reach the critical engine parts. (But that says nothing about the condition of the oil that is in in the car ro how long it has been that way.) Many s-cars that age would not go much more that 1500 miles (and maybe a lot less) before the oil pump starts to suck air.

Have not gone trough a timing chain problem yet, but as I understand it the car will likely make a relatively unmistakable noise as the chain starts to go bad.

And a number of other issues could cause similar symptoms.

As suggested above, pull the cam cover and see what is going on inside, then you can make a more informed decision based on the condition of the car, you need for it, its market value, and the resources you are willing to commit to it.

BTW: Who holds title and any liens on the car? Before you cannibalize it be sure that is clear and signed over to you..
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Old 01-21-2010, 02:46 PM   #14
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christina View Post


The starter turns and turns just fine, but there is not the slightest hint of spark. The engine itself does NOT turn at all, though the serpentine belt spins around while the starter turns. One of my roommate's friends insists it's a blown head gasket. Another insists the timing chain is broken. Neither is a mechanic. So...


--Christina
If the belt is turning when you turn the key to the start postion that means that the starter is working and cranking/spinning the engine.
This means that the engine is not siezed (so far) despite the lack of oil.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Christina View Post
One of the roommate's friends pulled the oil cap off, had him turn the car over, and looked in the hole as it turned. He said "the hydraulic lifters are not moving, so the timing chain is broken."

???
You can't see the vavle train of the engine when you remove the oil fill cap. There are baffles in the way. The cahin may be broken but if it was the engine would be cranking/spinning faster than normal.

Main normal cause of no spark is the crank position sensor. If all of the fuses in the car are good then replace the sensor as a first step in the repair.
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:05 PM   #15
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christina View Post
I live in Southern Oregon, Douglas County. Technically the car is still my roommate's car, but he has said that he doesn't give a crap what parts I take off the car for myself. His plan was to let a friend tow it to the junkyard and just take whatever cash they give him for it. He says he doesn't want to bother with parting it out. If it is for sure junk, I don't really care what happens to the rest of the car after I get the couple of things I want off of it.
That's a little too far for me. I'm in the Hood River area. Curious what color it is. I am needing some red rear fenders for my 95 SC.
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:06 PM   #16
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssicarman View Post
You can't see the vavle train of the engine when you remove the oil fill cap. There are baffles in the way. The cahin may be broken but if it was the engine would be cranking/spinning faster than normal.
KEY information here. (I wasn't sure if the SOHC cover had a baffle as well; now we all know ). Plus, unless there are multiple issues, a broken timing chain wouldn't cause a no-spark. Maybe the armchair quarterbacks were thinking about an ignition system run by a cam position sensor, or even an old-school distributor run off a timing chain or the camshaft itself. This is why people who don't know the basics of Saturns shouldn't try to diagnose them.

Quote:
Main normal cause of no spark is the crank position sensor. If all of the fuses in the car are good then replace the sensor as a first step in the repair.
Q for the OP -- how was spark tested?
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:28 PM   #17
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Another faster test: As someone turns the key and tries to start it, put your hand over the exhaust pipe. Stillnes = broken chain, Air movement means chain is still intact.
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:45 PM   #18
Christina
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonP View Post
BTW: Who holds title and any liens on the car? Before you cannibalize it be sure that is clear and signed over to you..
My roommate holds the title to the car, which is now sitting on my kitchen counter ready to be signed away. There are no liens on it; he bought it from a wrecking yard for $500 about four years ago.
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:48 PM   #19
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hein View Post
That's a little too far for me. I'm in the Hood River area. Curious what color it is. I am needing some red rear fenders for my 95 SC.
It is hunter green. You say you buy junked Saturns? My 96 sc2 needs the lower front end nose piece. Had a nice big chunk taken out of it by a 1971 Chevy P/U. How much would that typically go for?
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: Before I junk this car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Maybe the armchair quarterbacks were thinking about an ignition system run by a cam position sensor, or even an old-school distributor run off a timing chain or the camshaft itself. This is why people who don't know the basics of Saturns shouldn't try to diagnose them.

Q for the OP -- how was spark tested?
I myself have not tested the spark... just noted that there is not the slightest "catch" at all as the starter spins and the belt turns. Pumping the gas pedal or holding it down to the floor make no difference here. Q - if I am pumping the gas on it, shouldn't I SMELL gas? I noted that there was no smell of gas at all while trying to turn it over.

Honestly until right now I have made little effort to try to diagnose this car. I have intentionally distanced myself from it and kept my mouth shut about it in the hopes that my friend would get off his rear end and at least TRY to do something with it himself. I have fixed this car for him in the past (replaced water pump once, ECTS another time...& diagnosed fuel pump issue after that) so I think he was sitting around waiting for ME to take care of his responsibility, and that's what makes me mad. I don't like the feeling that my friend is taking advantage.
...
Christina

1962 Chevy II (Nova) - My first car (still have it)
1996 Saturn SC2 - 2000 - present
2003 Saturn VUE AWD (CVT) - RIP @ 103,321 miles
1996 Saturn SL2 - bought March 2011
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