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Old 03-13-2014, 08:38 PM   #1
My1stSaturn
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Default L100 Transmission hard shift question

Hey guys, I'm new to this forum and also to being a Saturn owner. I have a couple questions on a Saturn L100 (only 90k!) I purchased from a family friend.

The transmission shifts hard from 1st to 2nd when I accelerate moderately fast from a stop. It will also shift very late, 4.5k rpm late if I'm getting on the highway and then a bang or a slip. Typically anything over 3k rpm and I get a knock. Now, if I'm accelerating slowly, it shifts normally. So if I'm just driving around town, it's not even noticeable. Basically whenever I put the pedal down it'll spaz out.

It also seems a bit sluggish, albeit it could just be that it's a 4 cylinder.

SO what have I done and in the process of doing (related and unrelated):

-Changed the oil
-Cleaned the throttle body
-Added a good injector cleaner
-Changed the air filter
-Started to replace the pads and rotors
-Calipers are being replaced tomorrow, both have torn piston seals
-This weekend I planned on changing the transmission fluid (yay GM's user friendly transmissions)

I was eyeing the throttle position sensor as a possible culprit or the catalytic converter.

Any helpful insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
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2002 Saturn L100 2.2L 90k
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:08 PM   #2
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Forgot to mention, I'm not pulling any codes.
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Old 03-13-2014, 11:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

If the engine starts up and runs well without issues, gets up to operating temperatures, checking xmission oil level would be the next step.
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Old 03-14-2014, 10:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

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Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
If the engine starts up and runs well without issues, gets up to operating temperatures, checking xmission oil level would be the next step.
Sounds like what is said there low tranx fluid but if you fill it up to normal level and it still does the problem then one of two possible problems a bad solenoid is the cause if not then a tranx rebuild the the next stage and that will be costly. I had my Saturn and my parents solenoid replaced and mine is running smoothly and no more "Service Engine" all shifts engage firmly without any loose slams.
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Old 03-14-2014, 10:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Well I spent the afternoon draining and refilling the transmission along with replacing the calipers. From my understanding the transmission takes 7 quarts if your just dropping the pan. Which is what I did, and then refilled it with exactly 7 quarts. Let it warm up for a good 15-20min, the temperature gauge never got to the middle, close enough I figured. When I opened the screw, it spewed maybe .5-1 quart back out which didn't make sense to me.

I've actually only driven this car maybe 5 times. Come to think of it, I don't think any of times the temperature gauge was in the middle. The antifreeze looks good. But I guess the t-stat could be stuck partially open.

I did take it for a spin after the fluid change. I stomped on the gas a few times and it seems to be better. I'm crossing my fingers. I had to bring it back due to my poor brake bleeding job.

I thought about the solenoids as well. I have no interest in tearing into that this weekend. Hopefully the fluid fixed it.

Btw, I will be building wood ramps. Jacking up all 4 wheels is a pain in the butt. Not to mention praying it doesn't fall on you...
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Old 03-14-2014, 11:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Temperature gauge needles on Saturns never hover over the 1/2 mark. For whatever reason, needles are closer to 3/8ths, between the 1/4 and 1/2 mark. To know exactly what coolant temperature is would be connecting a reader to display temps as seen by the engine computer, 185F-195F.
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Old 03-15-2014, 02:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

That makes sense then. I checked it with my scanner before checking the fluid level, it was reading 190 at like you said the 3/8 mark. My other car usually runs 200-210, where I got confused.

I took it for a spin again today and I'm still getting some clunking. It's not as bad, but it's still there. I plan on driving it to work for the next week and seeing if it progressively gets better. I just found out today that the car sat for literally a year without being started. That was probably 2 years ago and the problems started after that.

We'll see and I'll post my findings. Thanks for the help!
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Old 03-15-2014, 04:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

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Originally Posted by My1stSaturn View Post
That makes sense then. I checked it with my scanner before checking the fluid level, it was reading 190 at like you said the 3/8 mark. My other car usually runs 200-210, where I got confused.

I took it for a spin again today and I'm still getting some clunking. It's not as bad, but it's still there. I plan on driving it to work for the next week and seeing if it progressively gets better. I just found out today that the car sat for literally a year without being started. That was probably 2 years ago and the problems started after that.

We'll see and I'll post my findings. Thanks for the help!
How do you mean clunking? Can you be more specific when does it do that and what does mean clunking??? But if it still shift abruptly into gears and your service engine lights comes on that would indicate bad solenoid and that will require tranx work to replace the solenoid at that point in time.

Last edited by Russet; 03-15-2014 at 04:58 PM. Reason: revise
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Old 03-15-2014, 11:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Russet View Post
How do you mean clunking? Can you be more specific when does it do that and what does mean clunking??? But if it still shift abruptly into gears and your service engine lights comes on that would indicate bad solenoid and that will require tranx work to replace the solenoid at that point in time.
Maybe clunking isn't the most universal way of describing it. There isn't a smooth transition between gears, it's more of a bang when it switches in higher RPMs. By no means am I racing this car. Just when I'm trying to get up to speed on the highway on ramp. To reiterate, it only happens at higher RPMs. The service light isn't coming on at all.

But like I said in the last post, I plan on giving it a week to see if it clears up. The car sat ideal most of it's life, so maybe a little driving it just what it needs.
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Old 03-16-2014, 12:18 AM   #10
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

The car may need a little TLC driving for the next few days to let the EFI system adjust parameters for engine and xmission shifts. Refrain from jack rabbit starts temporarily. If shifts don't improve in two days or so you can try an engine computer reset to force everything back to factory defaults as a do-over and allow the engine/xmission another try at adjusting engine/xmission parameters while driving another few days. Disconnecting battery negative for a minute will reset the computer.
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Old 03-16-2014, 11:11 AM   #11
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
The car may need a little TLC driving for the next few days to let the EFI system adjust parameters for engine and xmission shifts. Refrain from jack rabbit starts temporarily. If shifts don't improve in two days or so you can try an engine computer reset to force everything back to factory defaults as a do-over and allow the engine/xmission another try at adjusting engine/xmission parameters while driving another few days. Disconnecting battery negative for a minute will reset the computer.
True, but if I at this point considering the slam of tranx am leaning toward the solenoid is in need of TLC. I hope I am wrong on this point but if not might be some work for you. Another way to tell is shine a bright light on the IP where the "Service Engine light" is at and make sure the bulb behind the "Service Engine light" is working. So at this point in time if it was mine and doing this I would check the IP lights and see if not bulbs were dead so that all the Idiots lights are working to tell what the problem is. IMO and not calling the seller bad or anything like that but check before because a Tranx work can be expensive if gears are to be replaced.
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Old 03-16-2014, 11:56 AM   #12
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Russet View Post
True, but if I at this point considering the slam of tranx am leaning toward the solenoid is in need of TLC. I hope I am wrong on this point but if not might be some work for you. Another way to tell is shine a bright light on the IP where the "Service Engine light" is at and make sure the bulb behind the "Service Engine light" is working. So at this point in time if it was mine and doing this I would check the IP lights and see if not bulbs were dead so that all the Idiots lights are working to tell what the problem is. IMO and not calling the seller bad or anything like that but check before because a Tranx work can be expensive if gears are to be replaced.
The bulb is good, I tripped it a few times bleeding the brakes. I paid $500 for this car, so it's not getting real transmission work. I have no problem testing and if necessary changing the shift solenoids, I think they're a whole $20 a pop. Just not this weekend and probably not next. I'll give it some time and see.

Thanks for all the input!
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Old 04-17-2014, 05:30 PM   #13
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Well I've been driving it for a few weeks now and so far the issue hasn't cleared up. So what have I done?

-Drove 400 miles
-Replaced TPS Sensor (no change)
-Changed plugs (obviously no change, was still hoping)

So my question would be, can the shift solenoids go bad without tripping a check engine light? Or some sort of wiring harness shorting. I really don't think it's anything to do with the gears. Sometimes it'll shift perfectly, you won't feel a thing.

There's also still a overall lack of power, it really feels like it should be faster.

Also, would a clogged/restricted cat cause these symptoms and once again is it possible the computer wouldn't detect it?

I plan on tearing into the solenoids next weekend. I was going to buy a back pressure tester online to at least rule the cat out.
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Old 04-17-2014, 06:34 PM   #14
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

There is nothing "written in stone" about error codes and having them for every problem. The service engine soon light was mainly designed to be the first indicator for emissions related issues. A parking brake failing due to a rusted cable disintegrating completely won't turn on the check engine or wrench light - both diagnostic programs depend on electrical/electronic sensors or signals to allow a software program to turn on a light. A rusted cable falling off doesn't have a sensor - periodic maintenance and state inspection usually reveals mechanical faults. The same can be said of many other areas of our cars. A damaged catalytic converter falling apart internally and blocking exhaust flow may or may not cause an error light.

The oldest forum here with cars built back in '91 have more mileage issues with long term maintenance, one being a worn out or damaged catcon. Other than visiting a muffler shop for troubleshooting exhaust problems, members here with 4cyl engines are suggested to remove the pre-cat O2 sensor for a LOUD local drive and if engine power suddenly improves the catcon is likely blocking exhaust flow. A constipated exhaust system can be difficult to troubleshoot. V6 engines may have two pre-cats and a main catcon, presenting a challenge to troubleshooting. Dismantling parts of the exhaust system is one way to examine for damaged catcons. Thumping converters by hand should not reveal loose cat guts. Blocked exhaust systems can cause unrelated error messages unless enough symptoms are taken into perspective to put together odd error codes with a partially blocked exhaust system.
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Old 04-18-2014, 03:38 PM   #15
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

You have a restricted exhaust, most likely a plugged catalytic converter. The 2.2L L-series with automatic transaxles act this way every time a cat gets restricted. Don't bother doing anything with the transaxle yet. You can do one of two things to verify this problem. Either remove the front o2 sensor and take for a test drive or, take your car to an exhaust shop and have them check back pressure in the exhaust.

The key to recognizing the cat as the issue is the way the car shifts based on the amount of throttle input you give it. Lightly accelerating causes it to shift normally. When you give it half throttle or more, the rpm's go way up and the transaxle slips bad. That is the telltale sign of a bad cat on the 2.2L.
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Old 04-18-2014, 03:48 PM   #16
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Alright, just left work when I got the text "your package has arrived". So I ended up cancelling the order for the back pressure tester and buying an O2 sensor socket. Guess I would have needed it anyways as none of my wrenches could get it off.

Did the test, and it did seem quicker, much quicker. It was still shifting a bit funny. I floored it and it got stuck in 3rd at about 4k rpm until I let up (which was maybe a half a second). However, that was really the only really bad shift.

What do you think, install a new cat then do a computer reset?

I already have the part sourced and ready to order.

BTW, VERY loud. Glad I tested when everyone was still at work. Did get the stink eye from one of my elderly neighbors while she was checking her mail.
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Old 04-18-2014, 04:56 PM   #17
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Just remember that the alternate smaller exhaust outlet still restricts the exhaust system if flooring the engine for testing, just not as severely restricted. Not a good idea if you're testing for a blocked catcon. Simply driving with dramatic engine improvement is all you need to see a before/after test of bypassing the exhaust system using the front O2 sensor hole as another exhaust path. If you feel another test is needed but drive in normal mode to verify restored engine performance, replace the catcon.

A reset isn't needed after catcon replacement. All OBD II systems run every time the engine is started, car driven until engine shutdown. Any error halts emissions self testing until the error is corrected. On the next engine start the emissions self tests resumes from where it left off and detects a change to turn off the light or keeps the light on for three engine cycles to ensure the repair is correct and not someone resetting the error light. Small errors that are corrected turn off the light on the next engine start while more serious errors may take up to three engine cycles before turning off the light. If you are due state inspection requiring emissions testing, refrain from manually resetting the check engine light as the entire emissions self tests require at least 50 miles of varied driving before all emissions parameters are met. This can prolong/delay inspection when leaving the OBD II system to reset itself/continue from where it left off and complete testing sooner rather than later.
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Old 04-18-2014, 05:42 PM   #18
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Well, ok I didn't exactly floor it, I was in my neighborhood after all. Just pressed more than I would have normally. I did drive it around the neighborhood twice driving normal. I did a lot of stop and starts to get it to shift harder and it didn't seem to. The overall pickup was definitely improved.

I put in an order, found one for $112 (using a 10% off coupon) free shipping and a 5 year 50k warranty.

It'll sit in my driveway for now. Excited for it to come.
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Old 04-26-2014, 04:17 PM   #19
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Update:

I got the Cat Thursday and I got it in Friday night. The bolts that attached the cat to the resonator were nearly gone. Took much longer than I care to admit. Lets just say, Liquid Wrench, an electric impact, a MAP torch couldn't do it. I ended grinding the nuts off with a dremel and then punching them through.

It's not totally done yet, the bolts I got for the cat/resonator flange were too big so I ended up putting some smaller ones in until I could get up to Home Depot Sunday.

A few issues:

1. One of the studs came out with the nut on the exhaust manifold end and will not go back in. There didn't appear to be any damage on the stud. I can get it on a few threads then it just comes loose (annoying). I was going to re-tap the hole. Gotta buy a kit though. Does anyone know the actual size of the bolt? I found the bolts online, but it doesn't give a size, just a part number.

2. I got some penetrating oil on one of the o2 sensors a few days ago when I did the pressure test. The car spazzed out in the morning with the engine revving at stop lights and shaking violently while driving. I actually had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting someone at a light. It seems to have burned off and I'm now getting a pending random misfire error.

3. I also have a p0171 error, which I would guess would be from the missing stud, I can hear it leaking when I open the hood. And the cooling fans are running on high when I turn on the car. They then stay on for maybe 5-10 minutesm I assume this is related to the code.
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Old 04-26-2014, 05:01 PM   #20
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Default Re: L100 Transmission hard shift question

Does this help? If the drawing doesn't show (sent a pm to the Admin about this) I'll try another way to post the cylinder head drawing. The pdf shows the stud size as M8 x 1.25 mm. Check this with someone that knows how to match your stud with replacements.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg ch.jpg (38.8 KB, 7 views)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf thread size.pdf (66.3 KB, 2 views)
File Type: pdf Service Information.pdf (128.8 KB, 7 views)
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