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Old 01-09-2021, 04:08 AM   #1
StephenB
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Wrench Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Hello friends, I recently joined this website because I need some help with my car. I have a 2004 Saturn L300 V6, Automatic, that my dad was using temporarily. One day he said he heard a “pop” and then it basically was rendered useless. What happens is that when i’m in park, it says it’s in 3rd gear. If i select any of the other gears, it says it’s in 3rd. It’ll only rev up to 2,000 rpm’s when in neutral or park. After it heats up for about 10-20 minutes then it starts to surge forward slowly. It’ll go forward like one foot, then stop, go forward, then stop repeatedly. I replaced the TCM with a used one with no luck. I checked my fuses to find none were blown. I replaced the neutral safety switch, with no luck. I can change gears but the light stays on 3rd and won’t move. I’ve searched and searched on these forums to find a possible fix but i either didn’t understand or tried the possible fixes. It has around 125,000 miles and drove fine for about 4 months since i owned the car, then all of a sudden, something went wrong. Also replaced the Cat, spark plugs, and ignition coil packs. I just step on the gas and floor it, and the car won’t do much. I’ll mostly sit idle and won’t rev much or at all. If anyone could help me, i’d appreciate it. I’m not the most savvy when it comes to the technological side of things but i tend to try to repair things myself before i spend the money to go to a mechanic that’ll only guess. (Which is what is happening lol) Thanks!

Last edited by StephenB; 01-09-2021 at 04:10 AM. Reason: Adding details
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Old 01-09-2021, 12:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

The transmission selector lever in the console acts on a shift cable that connects to a movable selector unit on top of the transmission. Using the help of someone, get them to watch the selector unit on top of the transmission, whilst you move the gear selector inside the car. If that unit selector lever is not moving, then it looks like the problem may be between the gear selector on the console and the selector unit on top of the transmission.

The unit on top of the transmission is triangular in shape and made of plastic. I has a movable arm to which the shift cable connects by a ball & socket. The ball & socket pop from one another and the selector unit can be removed from the tranny top, but note its orientation.

Couple of years ago, I had to work on my son's L300 transmission to swap solenoids. I had to remove his selector unit to get access to a bell housing bolt. The ball & socket were not exactly moving freely after sitting there for 17 years. I cleaned it up and greased it. When I came to restart the car for the first time, I couldn't even get it to start. I was thinking what the hell have I done. Then the light bulb moment. I had forgotten to reconnect the ball and socket. So although I was moving the inside selector, nothing was happening at the tranny end. Once reconnected, everything worked fine.

I'm not suggesting this is your problem, but if you are going to investigate, know how the gears are selected and work forward from thr gear selector inside the car to where it connects to the transmission. If everything is found to be fine, then the problem is most likely inside the transmission.

Good luck
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Old 01-09-2021, 09:45 PM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

I think the 4t45 defaults to 3rd gear when there is no power to the transmission. Try manual low and reverse. Manual low should give first gear and reverse should work if the transmission is mechanically sound. Drive will be third gear.
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Old 01-09-2021, 11:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

How would i do this? Just by putting the selector in 1st and reverse? When i tried those, i gave it gas but it doesnít budge. It moves slowly by its own power but if i try to give any sort of gas in any gear, it wonít do anything.
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Old 01-10-2021, 02:01 AM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

How is your car telling you its in 3rd gear?

1-If you can jack up each side of the front end, look for a broken half shaft. Front wheel drive uses two half shafts with flexible joints to allow up/down suspension while driving each wheel. When one driveshaft snaps, the xmission is disabled and cannot move the vehicle.

2-Is the check engine light on? If on, borrow a reader to decode any errors.
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Old 01-10-2021, 02:29 AM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

The light on the get selector stays on “3”, even though i’ll be in park or neutral or whatever else.

I’ll check the shaft thingy out some time during the week as it’s at my dads house. Any idea on where exactly it’s located under the car and what it looks like? Sorry, i’m just not sure what to look for. Thanks for the help

And when it’s stuck in 3rd, it doesn’t let me scan for codes. When it fixed itself for one day, i was magically able to scan for codes. So i’m not sure why it does that.
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Old 01-10-2021, 02:33 AM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Oh ok i googled it. Is it also called a ďCV AxleĒ? I know what to look for then
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Old 01-10-2021, 11:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

No. I can't upload a photo, Sorry about that.

If you look under the hood to the right side of the engine (the battery is on the right side). Between the fuse box and the right side of the engine, if you look down you can see the top of the transmission. You will see the colored plastic filler cap for the tranny. Up and to the left of that cap you will see the selector unit and the shift cable attached to it.
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Old 01-10-2021, 01:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Yes, constant velocity drive shafts. They're called many other names because each shaft is half the distance between xmission and wheel. One on the left front wheel, one on the right front wheel. Some have a metal shell on one side with a rubber bellows on the other end. When cv shaft snaps in half, it should be obvious as you can compare the damaged one against the other shaft that isn't damaged.

Have someone in the car move the shift lever as many times as necessary as you look in the engine bay for the other end of the shift cable linkage. If I'm not mistaken, turn the ignition switch to the first detent, ACCessary position, not ON. This allows moving the shift lever without depressing the brake pedal.
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Old 01-10-2021, 03:07 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

So my dad ended up looking at the axle(s) and he said they appear to be intact. So he doesnít believe thatís the issue. But he said heíll keep looking around because he also said thereís a small gap between the axle and the transmission on the driver side. Heís not sure if itís normal to have a small gap
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Old 01-10-2021, 03:29 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

This is what he sent me. Not sure what to make of this but if you look closely there appears to be a small gap between part of the axle and the trans. Hope i uploaded these correctly
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Old 01-10-2021, 04:29 PM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Although snapshots were taken at extreme angles, the cv joints appear to be intact. The gap between xmission and shaft may be a clue or nothing. In general, cv joints are secured on both ends The metal boot shown is where three ball bearings are allowed to slide in and out of the cover fitted snugly over them. The ball bearings are mounted to one side of the cvj with the metal cover mounted to a splined shaft that slides into the xmission. A circlip holds the xmission side of the cvj. The wheel hub side of the cvj has splines to match the cvj. The wheel hub side allows side travel of the cvj, not the xmission side. The majority of cvj angular travel doesn't allow the cvj to fall out unless the wheel hub is torn off in an accident. A slide hammer type of tool is needed to yank the xmission side of the cvj to overcome the circlip locking the shaft to the xmission.

There may be one more test to verify both CVJs are intact; shifting into drive with engine idling and in forward or reverse, checking both driveshafts aren't turning with brakes applied. If any one drive shaft turns in place, that cvj is broken. Two people should be performing this to ensure one has the brakes applied with xmission in reverse or forward while the other one looks at both driveshafts from a safe viewpoint. If you are assured both CVJs are intact then skip this step and move on to other troubleshooting.
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Old 01-16-2021, 02:49 PM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Ok so nothing seemed to fix it. I junked the car so thatís the end of that saturn lol. But i DO have a question about my 2004 L300 4 Cylinder Automatic. I needed an input speed sensor. Iím not sure of itís location though. Any help would be appreciated
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Old 01-16-2021, 04:32 PM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

I think you meant 04 L200 4cyl. Better to post a new thread of a suspected faulty input speed sensor and any error code(s) suggesting sensor fault.
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:41 AM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
I think you meant 04 L200 4cyl. Better to post a new thread of a suspected faulty input speed sensor and any error code(s) suggesting sensor fault.
All 04 L Series were L300's. They were level 1,2 or 3 with the Level 1 being a 4 cylinder.
More naming confusion from Saturn
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Old 01-17-2021, 03:21 PM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn Stuck in 3rd Gear

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All 04 L Series were L300's. They were level 1,2 or 3 with the Level 1 being a 4 cylinder.
More naming confusion from Saturn
That last sentence couldn't be more correct! We've run into this model identification issue with '04 L-Series car in older threads. I'm beginning to think that a "bean counter" came up with the idea to save some pennies on having one model name-plate, the L300, instead of two, L200 and L300. Did it help anything? Not as far as I can see. In '04 L-Series sales were tanking, leading to a very abrupt curtailment of production for the '05 model where only the V6 was available.
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