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Old 06-29-2022, 07:39 PM   #1
doyle524
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2003 L-Series 2.2L Wagon
Post 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventatively

Hey guys, new to the forum. I picked up a 2003 LW200, runs well with over 190k miles and most things work well. However, I do have some issues, and some were hard to find answers for on this forum and elsewhere.

First, I’d really like to know what I should check and replace with this car. I’ve already done the oil and filter plus the spark plugs (was developing an intermittent misfire), and plan to flush the coolant and brake fluid as well as the air and fuel filters. The belts seem decent, as are the tires. Are any of those hard to reach, or do any of them have any then to get hung up on? Is the automatic transmission sealed, or should I be looking to replace the ATF as well? Are there any other items that may need done preventatively before 200k?

Now to the issues I’m facing, and I’ll just list them here:

The car has a bit of a stutter when accelerating from a stop - it feels a bit like a misfire but only directly upon acceleration. This is most noticeable when the engine is cool and the air is hot - I’m planning to clean the throttle body and idle control valves with some carb cleaner, because I’m thinking it’s possible the throttle is a bit gunked up and slow to respond, but I’m curious if there are any common issues that could cause this.

The parking brake doesn’t appreciably slow the car - I had the front up on stands while changing the oil, and while I of course chocked the rear wheels and left it in park, the handbrake was fully pulled and had zero effect on the car, which rolled hard against the chocks (to the point of breaking one of the bricks I was using); plus I’ve pulled it at highway speed to minimal effect. This could be related to a creaking sound from the rear brakes upon pedal application that I hope to fix with the brake fluid change and a closer visual check on the pads and rotors.

There’s a small coolant leak I discovered while changing the oil, it runs down the back of the block and drips (slowly) further back than the oil pan, right around the heat shield. There is never a puddle under the car, but every few weeks the dash light comes on and it needs topped off. The oil I removed from the car was dark (and nonmetallic), so I highly doubt it’s the head gasket leaking - it’s seemingly more an annoyance than a problem, but I couldn’t trace it up, so if anybody has a list of places coolant might be leaking from where it would run down of the rear of the block, I’d love to stop it.

The HVAC is stuck on the defroster, while the other HVAC controls work. I found this post that seems to diagnose it as the mode actuator, so I’ll be checking that and looking for one from a junkyard: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho....php?p=2262505

The air conditioner doesn’t work - I believe the most likely cause would just be that it needs recharged, but again, if there’s a common issue, let me know.

And a final minor irritation (which seems to be common on these cars if the Regular Car Reviews episode is something to go by), the hinges in the interior seem weak and both the center console lid and one of the wings on the spare tire cover panel have broken off. Has anybody found a good way to fix these, or should I just trawl the junkyards or live with it?

Sorry for the huge post, and I appreciate all help!

Last edited by doyle524; 06-29-2022 at 07:40 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 06-29-2022, 09:05 PM   #2
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

I can address ac issues with other L200 owners hopefully addressing your list of problems.

Most vehicle owners assume their ac systems need recharging when loss of cooling occurs. This assumption is wrong. Service valves on vehicle ac systems are put there for the eventual repairs that comes from attempting to flex aluminum tubing from every pothole and corrosion occurring from unprotected bare aluminum fittings. If everyone can imagine repairing their refrigerators, freezers, central hvac and room ac units as impossible then the same consideration should be given to vehicle ac systems. All refrigeration systems, including vehicle ac systems are considered sealed from factory assembly and warranted under new car guidelines. If ac fails during warranty, dealers are obligated to repair and restore it back to factory condition. After warranty, dealers, repair shops and diyers with knowledge can repair them. Personally, 98% of all vehicle ac system problems is the leak no one wants to address but will run to the auto store for the refill kit(s) in hopes of a low cost repair (in a can), refilling........a leaking system. Most refill kits have sealer reputable dealers, repair shops and diyers will never use because it contaminates the system, rarely works and creates a large repair bill when repairs are needed that makes money for dealers and repair shops as a system is completely disassembled and flushed of refrigerant, oil and sealer. Damage from sealer use may require replacing the condenser coil, drier, txv and compressor - a very expensive repair that would have been less by a simple diagnosis; using an inexpensive uv blacklight to shine on every part of the ac system parts to illuminate factory installed dye, glowing greenish yellow in shade, indoors or after sunset. A simple use of a uv light should show where the leak occurred that released refrigerant. Sealer hasn't been overwhelmingly successful. Search these forums and any other car, pickup truck or suv forum and see if there's a positive consensus of ac sealer in a can. Ac mechanic in a can rarely works.

Spending 10-30 minutes with a uv light should make dye glow where invisible refrigerant leaked out along with oil. Dye glows when illuminated by a uv light. If you able to do this then you can decide which way to proceed instead of refilling a............leaking system. If you insist, waste a can of r134a (without sealer) and use the uv light. Good examples of dye; both service valves when caps are removed.
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Old 06-29-2022, 10:09 PM   #3
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2003 L-Series 2.2L Wagon
Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Thatís some excellent info, fdryer, thank you! I knew self-sealing products were bad news, because any air pockets will create solid blockages, especially in intricate fins etc. I was just going by what Iíve heard people around me talk about having their mechanic do when their ac stops blowing cold. Iíll grab a UV light and check it out rather than wasting refrigerant.
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Old 06-30-2022, 08:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
The car has a bit of a stutter when accelerating from a stop - it feels a bit like a misfire but only directly upon acceleration. This is most noticeable when the engine is cool and the air is hot - Iím planning to clean the throttle body and idle control valves with some carb cleaner, because Iím thinking itís possible the throttle is a bit gunked up and slow to respond, but Iím curious if there are any common issues that could cause this.
I cleaned the throttle body, which had a bit of buildup, but not much (the idle control valve proved significantly trickier to access, I couldnít get a firm grip on the Torx screw head with my Torx screwdriver or my drill with a Torx bit). I also cleaned out the air intake pipes and the air filter housing (donít have the new filter to swap in yet but the old filter isnít too bad) - crazy how much gunk gets in those pipes downstream of the filter.

However, the hesitation seems to have gotten a bit *worse* rather than better. Iíve narrowed it down to a hesitation when accelerating moderately or hard from a standing stop or thereabouts - a smooth gentle acceleration has no hesitation, and even a 5mph coast before acceleration prevents the hesitation.

Next guess is the throttle position sensor, assuming I can get to it - is there an easier way to reach the stuff around the throttle body?
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Old 07-01-2022, 11:47 AM   #5
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

My L300 has four wheel disk brakes. The rear discs are a top hat design; the disc has a hub that serves as a drum brake. The drum brake is very small and not designed for emergency braking by any stretch of the imagination. It's main purpose is hill holding as a parking brake. If your LW200 has rear discs then they're most likely designed the same way. L200s, LW200s and L300s share many parts.

Look up parts on rockauto for images besides comparing prices. With close to 200k miles, either ecotec engines last with periodic maintenance or break down at random like ignition coil or ignition control module failure. A search in forums of ecotec engines, the most popular being the 2.2L, should show a pattern of icm failures with the coil pack holding up. Putting the icm onto a cavity on the coil pack sitting over a hot engine can provide real world consequences of random failures or intermittent operation. Another possible issue may be fuel pressure requiring a pressure gauge borrowed from AutoZone or other big box store with a free loaners.
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Old 07-17-2022, 12:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
...First, Iíd really like to know what I should check and replace with this car. Iíve already done the oil and filter plus the spark plugs (was developing an intermittent misfire), and plan to flush the coolant and brake fluid as well as the air and fuel filters. The belts seem decent, as are the tires. Are any of those hard to reach, or do any of them have any then to get hung up on? Is the automatic transmission sealed, or should I be looking to replace the ATF as well? Are there any other items that may need done preventatively before 200k?
Wow, you've got a lot of stuff to do! FWIW, here are some thoughts:

Checking ATF: there is an 11mm head inspection plug on the transaxle located to the right of the vehicle's center near where the nose begins to extend out to the r/h axle. With the engine warm and running remove the plug. If no ATF runs out then begin to slowly add until you can see fluid exiting the inspection hole. There are varying requirements about when to replace the ATF based on the conditions one is regularly driving in. I drain the transmission at a 50K mile interval and it has never seen a repair. If one is queasy about being underneath a car with the engine running then a mechanic should do this to check the level of the ATF. Lastly, if you're draining the transmission the refill is officially at 6.9 quarts. One tenth of a quart is 3.2 fluid ounces. Put in a full seven quarts and don't worry about it. That minimal overfill will cause no problems. I've done it several times with no negative consequences. You don't even need to check the level after you're done!

Radiator flush: absolutely do not use tap water. The system requires distilled water only. Additionally, this job can get messy really fast! There are two points to drain antifreeze from - the drain cock at the lower right of the radiator and at the bottom of the water pump's rear cover. IIRC, the plug's head is 13mm and you need to use a wrench (not enough space for a ratchet and socket ). It is nearly impossible to drain this part of the system without causing a mess of some size. I've tried placing a small funnel beneath that spot with a hose attached, but have only had partial success at capturing the waste antifreeze. One can have more success if the correct size hose is attached to the drain cock nipple. Otherwise antifreeze will run easily along the sub-frame (engine cradle) past the R/F tire.


Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
The parking brake doesnít appreciably slow the car - I had the front up on stands while changing the oil, and while I of course chocked the rear wheels and left it in park, the handbrake was fully pulled and had zero effect on the car, which rolled hard against the chocks (to the point of breaking one of the bricks I was using); plus Iíve pulled it at highway speed to minimal effect. This could be related to a creaking sound from the rear brakes upon pedal application that I hope to fix with the brake fluid change and a closer visual check on the pads and rotors.
There is a nut located low on the parking brake assembly in the center console that needs to be adjusted from time to time, but not often. Remove the boot behind the handle to expose that adjuster and nut. The boot is press clipped it in place. Squeeze its base inward from the opening and lift it out. A medium sized screw driver will assist in gently prying the base out of the console opening. Additionally, you may need to directly adjust the parking brake shoes. That's a more awkward job, but doable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
Thereís a small coolant leak I discovered while changing the oil, it runs down the back of the block and drips (slowly) further back than the oil pan, right around the heat shield. There is never a puddle under the car, but every few weeks the dash light comes on and it needs topped off. The oil I removed from the car was dark (and nonmetallic), so I highly doubt itís the head gasket leaking - itís seemingly more an annoyance than a problem, but I couldnít trace it up, so if anybody has a list of places coolant might be leaking from where it would run down of the rear of the block, Iíd love to stop it.
A pipe runs from the back of the water pump beneath the exhaust manifold to a junction attached to the block and that junction- can't recall the proper name for it - is where the heater hoses attach to the engine. A large rubber O-ring seal is at both ends of this this pipe and is held in place by pressure against the water pump and the junction. A special rubber seal has a seat within junction and seals it against the block. This seems to be the area where you're leak is located based on your description.
...
378K miles - engine replaced (375K).
Biden/Harris predictions, '21 -'25: weak economy; weaker military; more terrorism; emboldened RED CHINA. Sadly, B & H are proving me correct.
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Old 07-17-2022, 04:19 PM   #7
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2000 L-Series 2.2L Sedan
Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Quote:
Originally Posted by pierrot View Post
A pipe runs from the back of the water pump beneath the exhaust manifold to a junction attached to the block and that junction- can't recall the proper name for it - is where the heater hoses attach to the engine.
Correct name the for junction: Inlet Assembly. The pipe is referred to as the Radiator inlet pipe.
...
378K miles - engine replaced (375K).
Biden/Harris predictions, '21 -'25: weak economy; weaker military; more terrorism; emboldened RED CHINA. Sadly, B & H are proving me correct.
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Old 08-09-2022, 10:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Thank you Pierrot, thereís so much useful information there!

I discovered a slightly more pressing issue, noticed while diagnosing my onset steering misalignment which changes depending on whether Iím accelerating or decelerating - Iíve got a big olí hole (pretty much turning the box frame into an ďnĒ-frame for about a 3Ē section of the frame) in the bottom of the front subframe on the passenger side (likely no thanks to the plastic shelf that has to collect snow, salt, and water and hold it against the frame). So with that context in mind, going from a straight steering wheel under acceleration to a good 30į of left hand down under braking (plus some visible camber difference vs the drivers side when stationary) is pretty alarming and seems to suggest an impending failureÖ

Are there any good resources that could help me find a clean(ish) front subframe? Iím in Ohio so I assume most junkyard models will have similar oxidationÖ GMPartsDirect has one listed, but at $1000 itís an absolute joke; I see a few on eBay for around $400-500 but Iím not sure how much I trust them, especially when theyíve been painted.

I assume Iíll need to support the engine to remove the subframe - can I just chuck a jack under the block or will that risk damage to the oil pan, and if so, what is the best way to support the L4? While I have it suspended, are there any engine parts to check or replace that might be hard or impossible to access otherwise? On that topic, what are the telltale signs of a healthy or unhealthy L61? If my car is out of commission anyway, I donít mind disassembling the block (within reason) to ensure the engine will last long enough to make a subframe repair worth it, since a replacement engine looks like itíll cost more than the car itself did.

What parts should I be looking to replace in tandem? Iím sure a lot of the bearings/seals/mounts/bushings etc will be old and in poor condition.

While Iím removing the suspension anyway, I might as well consider replacing some of the parts with new ones for better performance, longevity, and looks. What upgrades/replacements are most impactful on the front end? Are there decent coilovers, perhaps that lower the ride height a bit as well?
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Old 08-11-2022, 01:55 AM   #9
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2000 L-Series 2.2L Sedan
Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
Are there any good resources that could help me find a clean(ish) front subframe? Iím in Ohio so I assume most junkyard models will have similar oxidationÖ GMPartsDirect has one listed, but at $1000 itís an absolute joke; I see a few on eBay for around $400-500 but Iím not sure how much I trust them, especially when theyíve been painted.
Visit https://www.car-part.com/

to look for subframes (engine cradles to car-part) across North America and Mexico. There are many available. Read the website carefully to understand the part quality ratings. There are businesses which clearly state that they do not ship this part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
I assume Iíll need to support the engine to remove the subframe - can I just chuck a jack under the block or will that risk damage to the oil pan, and if so, what is the best way to support the L4?
Use an engine support fixture to protect the engine and transmission. I purchased one from Harbor Freight almost six years ago to assist in replacing the rack and pinion gear. Their unit was rather simple. Other styles are available and prices can vary greatly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
While I have it suspended, are there any engine parts to check or replace that might be hard or impossible to access otherwise?
No, I cannot think of anything in that way. It should be noted that the neither the FSM (Factory Service Manual) nor aftermarket manuals I own recommend any repairs to the engine while hung from a support fixture. Let the mechanic beware.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
On that topic, what are the telltale signs of a healthy or unhealthy L61? If my car is out of commission anyway, I donít mind disassembling the block (within reason) to ensure the engine will last long enough to make a subframe repair worth it, since a replacement engine looks like itíll cost more than the car itself did.
The only case I know of is my own and it was from oil blow-by reaching the intake manifold. The result was a slow loss of compression and therefore power. New engine compression is at 220 PSI. Check your engine compression to know where your engine's power is at now for comparison - when needed - in the future. I don't recall when I began seeing this, but I estimate that it may have been near 330K miles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
What parts should I be looking to replace in tandem? Iím sure a lot of the bearings/seals/mounts/bushings etc will be old and in poor condition.
My only experience really needing a tandem part replacement was with the front and rear transmission mounts (at the front of the bell housing, radiator side and firewall side). A bad front trans. mount is easy to see from below. It's not so easy to see if the rear trans. mount is bad. Nevertheless, both should be replaced at the same time because they experience the highest amount of rotational force against them. Replacing only the front trans. mount will result in premature failure of that mount. I know this from firsthand experience. My other two mounts are still factory installed parts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
While Iím removing the suspension anyway, I might as well consider replacing some of the parts with new ones for better performance, longevity, and looks. What upgrades/replacements are most impactful on the front end? Are there decent coilovers, perhaps that lower the ride height a bit as well?
I'm not of much help to you here as I prefer to stay with factory related settings regarding ride height and prefer also to use factory spec. related replacement products. However, if I wished to lower the ride height I'd rather do so by using lower and wider profile tires. They would also have the benefit of improving the vehicle's handling as well.
...
378K miles - engine replaced (375K).
Biden/Harris predictions, '21 -'25: weak economy; weaker military; more terrorism; emboldened RED CHINA. Sadly, B & H are proving me correct.
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Old 08-12-2022, 07:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

You (and the rest of this forum) are such a wealth of knowledge, especially for a brand thatís been buried for so long!

Got it up on a trusted shopís lift today, they agreed that everything else looks solid so Iím picking up the subframe this weekend, ordering some OEM control arms, and getting it all replaced.

And so the most pressing issue is, once again, the hesitation under strong acceleration. I replaced the fuel filter (think the one I pulled off may have been the original from 2003 - I certainly had to drill out the screw holding it in, so it hadnít been done any time recently) and it feels happier to rev as well as smoother on idle, but the hesitation is still there, so moving down the chain (and up in price) I believe the next potential culprit would be the injectors. I know I can buy aftermarket ones new, but I assume any injectors off an L61 will fit, and I bet there are some higher performance injectors that came stock on some GM cousins which I could pluck out of a junkyard for cheaper than getting an OEM spec set new, but itís hard to find specs even with the AC Delco part numbers. First, what injectors fit our configuration, and second, which are an upgrade over our stock ones?
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Old 08-12-2022, 11:50 PM   #11
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Default Re: 2003 LW200 nearing 200k - a few issues, and looking for what to change preventati

Quote:
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You (and the rest of this forum) are such a wealth of knowledge, especially for a brand that’s been buried for so long!
There are people here who do indeed have a wealth of knowledge which they are happy to share with us and it's a blessing!

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
Got it up on a trusted shop’s lift today, they agreed that everything else looks solid so I’m picking up the subframe this weekend, ordering some OEM control arms, and getting it all replaced.
Excellent!

Quote:
Originally Posted by doyle524 View Post
And so the most pressing issue is, once again, the hesitation under strong acceleration. I replaced the fuel filter (think the one I pulled off may have been the original from 2003 - I certainly had to drill out the screw holding it in, so it hadn’t been done any time recently) and it feels happier to rev as well as smoother on idle, but the hesitation is still there, so moving down the chain (and up in price) I believe the next potential culprit would be the injectors. I know I can buy aftermarket ones new, but I assume any injectors off an L61 will fit, and I bet there are some higher performance injectors that came stock on some GM cousins which I could pluck out of a junkyard for cheaper than getting an OEM spec set new, but it’s hard to find specs even with the AC Delco part numbers. First, what injectors fit our configuration, and second, which are an upgrade over our stock ones?
That information is not provided within websites like the one linked below. The fuel injectors which fit our cars, along with others using an L61 engine are listed on the following web-page.

https://www.gmpartscenter.net/oem-pa...w0LWdhcw%3D%3D

What we don't know - unless someone trusted can confirm it - is what other injectors can be used as performance part replacements in place for factory original style parts. In this case I'm only consulting factory replacement parts information. Before replacing fuel injectors I'd be inclined to use a good quality fuel supplement to clean them. I'm suggesting this since the replacement of the fuel filter appears to have generated signficant improvement in performance. I would do the cleaning through three tanks full of gasoline with a new bottle of cleaner each time and see if there's any improvement. If the hesitation remained then consider other alternatives to correct it. BTW, have the spark plugs been checked?
...
378K miles - engine replaced (375K).
Biden/Harris predictions, '21 -'25: weak economy; weaker military; more terrorism; emboldened RED CHINA. Sadly, B & H are proving me correct.
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