Register and join the discussion

99 Saturn Sl - Blown Gasket ?


WOLLAM
02-09-2003, 06:27 PM
Auto repair is not my strong point, but here goes.
The vehicle in in question is a 99 Saturn SL, 4-cyl, 1.9liter, manual transmission with just over 42k miles.
I have followed the recommended maintenance, all performmed at he dealership, in Jan-99 and never had any major mecahnical problems. The vehicle currently has 42k miles. Two days ago the 'low coolant' light started to flash and the temperature guage was about one tick from the red area. I pulled over and waited ten minutes to drive again and when I did the engine was running hot but not to the level before pulling over. When checking the coolant level it was in fact very low and quite 'milky'. I added the proper water/coolant mix to raise the level and attempted to drive again. This time the same sequence of events occurred.

At this point I took the car to the Saturn dealer. The first service tech looked at the coolant level and affirmed the 'milky' substance. He immediately checked the oil dipstick to compare and it, the dipstick, did in fact have the same substance on it. His immediate reaction was one of two things: A) a blown head gasket or B) a cracked cylinder head or engine block. (On this last one is where my inexperience comes in because I'm not exactly sure of what he said.) Either one of these, he said, would coolant to leak into the oil and vice-versa. I'm a little puzzled on the cracked head as I reside in Las vegas, NV.

At this point the tech pulled out what looked like a flip chart from the manufacturer to explain that Saturn SL's, model years 91-97, have had similar problems.

Now I am looking for assistance on two issues. First, does the tech's 'diagnosis' sound correct. Second, if this is in fact the case, and the car is out of warranty, what course(s) of action are available to me? I have checked in with the various sites offering TSB info and have found nothing.

Lastly, as I stated earlier cars are not my specialty, but this does not sound like something that is a regular occurence for a vehicle that has followed the manufacturer's recommended maintenance and NOT been driven more than 1000 miles per month, in 4 years. Any help, guidance, or suggestions would greatly apprecited. Thank you.

bowtiebandit
02-10-2003, 09:04 PM
This is what the tech was probably refering to...

Engine Runs Hot and/or Engine Oil Mixed with Engine Coolant in Engine Coolant Recovery Reservoir (Replace Cylinder Head Assembly). This bulletin is revised to provide updated claim information as well as parts information about the release of a remanufactured cylinder head. This bulletin supercedes bulletin 96-t-65A, which should be discarded.
1991 - 1997 Saturn vehicles equipped with SOHC (LK0-1991-1994, L24-1995--1997) engines.

Condition
Engine may run hot and/or have engine oil mixed with engine coolant. This condition may be noticeable when checking coolant recovery reservoir level.

Cause
Some 1991-1997 SOHC engines may develop a crack on or near the camshaft journals and surrounding casting areas allowing engine oil to mix with engine coolant.

Correction
Refer to the following procedure to locate the area where the engine oil is leaking into engine coolant passages.

Procedure

Important
When required, refer to the appropriate year service manuals when performing the following procedures.


Remove camshaft from cylinder head.
Pressure test cooling system.






While monitoring the pressure gauge for air pressure drop, inspect all hose connections and visible joints for engine coolant leaks. Inspect the camshaft journals and surrounding areas using a bright light, to help locate hairline cracks. (Refer to illustrations for examples of area where cracks may appear.)

Important
Air pressure may drop slowly, depending on the severity of the crack(s).


If a crack is detected in one or more of the areas shown, cylinder head assembly must be replaced. If no crack is detected, proceed to step 5.
Remove cylinder head and gasket.
Proceed to step 6 and flush engine block and cooling system before installing new cylinder head and new cylinder head gasket.

Important
Engine block, radiator and heater core must be flushed before installing new cylinder head and new cylinder head gasket.


If pressure bleeds down, but no leaks or cracks are detected, remove cylinder head assembly and inspect the cylinder head gasket for damage between the oil and engine coolant passages.
If cylinder head gasket is damaged, remove and discard cylinder head gasket, and proceed to step 6.

Important
Engine block, radiator and heater core must be flushed before installing cylinder head and new cylinder head gasket.


If cylinder head gasket is not damaged, inspect engine blocks for cracks in the oil and engine coolant passages in the cylinder liner area. If cracks are detected, replace engine block.
Leave upper radiator hose connected to the radiator.
Remove and discard lower radiator hose.
Open radiator drain plug.
Insert a hose in the upper radiator hose and flush radiator with clean water until clean water flows from the lower radiator hose connection.
Remove and discard upper radiator hose.
Remove water inlet housing and thermostat and discard thermostat.
Remove engine cooling system drain plug, located at the right front of the engine block below the thermostat.
Remove and discard water pump.
Place shop rags in the exposed cylinder bores.
Using a hose, fill the exposed water jacket surrounding the cylinders with clean water until clean water comes out of the thermostat location.
Remove shop rags from cylinder head bores and apply a liberal amount of 5W - 30 engine oil to the cylinder liners to help prevent corrosion.

Important
Do not install thermostat at this time.


Install water inlet housing to engine.
Install engine cooling system drain plug.
Install new water pump.
Leave inlet heater hose connected to heater core.
Remove and discard outlet heater hose.
Insert hose into inlet heater hose and flush with clean water until clean water comes out of heater core outlet.
Remove and discard inlet heater core hose.
Remove and discard coolant recovery hose.
Remove coolant recovery reservoir and flush thoroughly with clean water.
Install remanufactured or previously removed cylinder head and new cylinder head gasket.
Install new radiator, heater and coolant recovery hoses.
Change engine oil engine oil filter.



Prepare a mixture of Calgon or equivalent (automatic dishwater detergent), and water at the rate of 59 milliliters (two ounces) (dry measure) to 3.8 Liters (1 gallon) of water. The cooling system holds approximately 7.6 liters (two gallons) of coolant.



Fill the cooling system with the mixture.
Run the engine for five minutes.



Drain the cooling system.
Repeat Step 29 through 32 until all oil residue is remove from system.
Fill the cooling system with clean water.
Let the engine run five minutes.
Drain the cooling system completely.
Install new engine thermostat.
Install cylinder block drain plug.
Close radiator drain plug.

Important
The vehicle must be level when filling with coolant.


Fill the system with coolant.
1991-1996 early vehicle equipped with "Green" Saturn non-phosphate ethylene glycol-base coolant, fill the cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of new Saturn non-phosphate ethylene glycol-base coolant (P/N 21030365, 3.8 Liter [one gallon] container).
1996 interim and 1997 vehicles equipped with "Orange" Saturn DEX-COOL extended-life engine coolant, fill the cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of new Saturn DEX-COOL extended-life engine coolant (P/N 21031164, 3.8 Liter [one gallon] container).
Start engine and check for leaks.
Fill the coolant recovery reservoir to the full cold line after the engine has run for two or three minutes. Install and tighten cap.

bowtiebandit
02-10-2003, 09:14 PM
Now I am not sure about Saturn's Policy And Procedure but I know at my dealership allot of things wat into weather or not we can get out or warranty repairs covered especially if it is a known problem and the fact that you've done your maintenance work there should play heavily into helping your situation. You may want to look in your owners manual for Saturn's Customer assistance number and see if they can help you out.

bobch24
05-07-2003, 09:56 AM
:mad:
I too have had the same problem, and it is getting fixed now. I am trying to find some way of geting some financial restitution from Saturn. My car is a '99 SL with 99,500 miles...all highway, and I have done the regular maintenance at the dealer (so they have all the records). I just made the last payment last September. I have had the car 4.5 years, and now this is breaking my wallet. Replacing the cylinder head is going to cost $2500. They just called me to tell me after they replaced the head, they found out my radiator is clogged (probably as a result)!!! more $$$...gotta replace the radiator. Their doing me such a big favor by reducing the price on the radiator, which is the least expensive of my concerns. B4 I knew about the radiator I was debating taking the repair cost and using it towards a downpayment for a new car. Which, BTW, would definately NOT BE A SATURN!!! The older models had many engin problems, including cracked cylinder heads and Saturn extended an engine warranty on SL models through 1997, with 1.9L single overhead cam. That's the same engine I have, but unfortunately that warranty does not apply to us.

If I don't succeed in getting financial assistance, I hope that at least my post hear will contribute to a buildup of complaints that may help out other Saturn owners.

.....:( .... I should've bought the Honda!!!

tomwhite56
03-10-2004, 02:55 PM
It's more likely that the clogged radiator caused the overheating that caused the cracked head. I spent 11 years in the automotive radiator business and my experience is that although, pound for pound, aluminum has the best cooling you can get over copper/brass, it's subject to special type of corrosion which is very difficult to remove with the normal methods (rodding out). (We used to clean the insides of motorcycle radiators with Lime-Away and hot water (soaking for 3+ hours) but on a regular sized radiator that's a lot of Lime-Away and the radiator's too old for it anyway.) If you went 99,500 miles without having your radiator cleaned you only have yourself to blame.

The stuff costs what it costs, man.

:mad:
I too have had the same problem, and it is getting fixed now. I am trying to find some way of geting some financial restitution from Saturn. My car is a '99 SL with 99,500 miles...all highway, and I have done the regular maintenance at the dealer (so they have all the records). I just made the last payment last September. I have had the car 4.5 years, and now this is breaking my wallet. Replacing the cylinder head is going to cost $2500. They just called me to tell me after they replaced the head, they found out my radiator is clogged (probably as a result)!!! more $$$...gotta replace the radiator. Their doing me such a big favor by reducing the price on the radiator, which is the least expensive of my concerns. B4 I knew about the radiator I was debating taking the repair cost and using it towards a downpayment for a new car. Which, BTW, would definately NOT BE A SATURN!!! The older models had many engin problems, including cracked cylinder heads and Saturn extended an engine warranty on SL models through 1997, with 1.9L single overhead cam. That's the same engine I have, but unfortunately that warranty does not apply to us.

If I don't succeed in getting financial assistance, I hope that at least my post hear will contribute to a buildup of complaints that may help out other Saturn owners.

.....:( .... I should've bought the Honda!!!

bobch24
03-10-2004, 06:49 PM
How does this equate to my fault. I take my car to a trusted dealer for regular mainenance. I'm supposed to know that they should clean the radiator within 100K? If something was wrong with the radiator, shouldn't they have identified it at an earlier date? I don't have ample automotive knowledge, but if a radiator is clogged, thereby limiting the amount of coolant flow, wouldn't some warning light come on? Also, would you expect the head to crack the first time the temperature got hot? If the temperature was an ongoing problem, beleive me, it would have been seen to. Thanks for the reply, but I disagree, Saturn is fully to blame!!!

It's more likely that the clogged radiator caused the overheating that caused the cracked head. I spent 11 years in the automotive radiator business and my experience is that although, pound for pound, aluminum has the best cooling you can get over copper/brass, it's subject to special type of corrosion which is very difficult to remove with the normal methods (rodding out). (We used to clean the insides of motorcycle radiators with Lime-Away and hot water (soaking for 3+ hours) but on a regular sized radiator that's a lot of Lime-Away and the radiator's too old for it anyway.) If you went 99,500 miles without having your radiator cleaned you only have yourself to blame.

The stuff costs what it costs, man.

jbunn22
03-15-2004, 01:53 PM
Same model, same situation. I went around and around with Saturn here and in Tenn. I finally got them to knock the price down. They gave me the head and everything associated with it but I still had to pay for everything else about $1000. I am seeing them in small claims court next week to recoup that money if possible. I am saying basically that everything I had to replace was because of the defective head that they are still having problems with. If the head would not have blown I would not have had to replace any of the parts. Their giving me the head I think admits they realize there is a a problem and they are liable. I will see what happens. My SL1 only had 60k, normal life of head should be 6 years, 100,000mi, which by the way is the warranty given to the models they ADMIT a problem with...the problem still exists!

slammed4door
03-28-2004, 12:07 PM
why dont you just go to a junkyard and get a bare head it wont cost that much and you can put it in yourself. all you have to do is get the haynes manual and that will explain everything you have to do. it wont take to long the only thing is you have to understand how to do timing but it would be cheaper to pay someone to time it than saturn wants to do that head. tell them you dont want that head thats not what you brought the car in for in the first place take it off and to stick up there as*.

i do agree with the other guy though about flushing the coolant sytem. negligence plays a big role in car problems. dont feel bad though i have been guilty of it as well as the rest of the world at some point in time. you just have to learn from it and hope it doesnt happen again.

sorry

Add your comment to this topic!