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Old 05-11-2008, 11:38 AM   #1
mams99
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Default 2000 LW1 Wagon - conflicting diagnosis and need help


OK, we have a 2000 LW1 with 76,480 miles on it. I took it into our trusted service station for our annual state and emissions tests, oil change and a 75,000 check on everything as well as reporting a recent development in the car just seeming to have much get up and go, especially while going up hills.

The check engine light had never come on, the engine never ran hot and no noises or clunking or rough engine sounds, nothing like that.

The service station did some checks and told us they did a back pressure test after discovering some misfiring codes and found our catalytic converter is clogged. They told us that the part ALONE was 1200 dollars and with labor it would be a repair over 1500! OUCH!!!!

Well, for some reason, I decided to call Saturn to see if indeed the part was that expensive and it is, but got pleasantly surprised when they told me that our catalytic converter was still under warranty as our car date was june 2000 and we had less than 80,000 miles (a 8 year/80,000 miles warranty is on emission parts). So, I pick up the car and drive directly to Saturn. They call me a few hours later and tell me it's not the catalytic converter, but that we have a cracked cylinder head on #3 (we have a 4 cylinder) and we need a new fuel injector. Price tag would be $3800!!! The car at this point is only WORTH $4000!!!!

Now totally discouraged and confused, I check around and decide to call a THIRD service station which we have never used before, but comes highly recommended (a family business where the dad has been working his whole life, the son for 31 years since he was 11 and now a third generation). Anyway, I describe to the mechanic what we were told and he asked some questions and then said he doubted the cracked cylinder head diagnosis, but even if it was, that no one repairs cylinder heads because that's the most expensive option. That it's cheaper to just drop in a whole new used engine. He figured worse case scenario would be the new engine and misc. parts possibly for $3100.

OK, so we take the car to them (after paying Saturn $232 for their diagnosis test). They ONLY thing on Saturn sheet says - performed general engine test, low pressure on cylinder #3, needs new cylinder head and fuel injector. The man at check out said that they had swapped out fuel injectors for the test and it still showed low pressure, so just changing that wasn't going to solve the pressure problem.

I get in the car at Saturn and it reaks of gasoline when I start up the car. I ask about it and the service guy looks at me like I am stupid woman and said, "well, you have a cracked cylinder head, you are leaking gas." I insist I've NEVER smelled it before and we JUST passed an emissions test, no way was this here before, but he said it had to be.

So, I drive the car with all windows open as it's HORRIBLE smell. I take it to this third mechanic and he ran tests next day. FIrst, he drove it as is and yes, no power. Then, he took the catalytic converter off and the car flew - no power supply problem at all. He then did a dry and wet pressure test on the cylinders. While checking he saw the Oring around the seal fo the Fuel injector to the cyclinder was hanging half out broken - Saturn had broken it! So, the pressure tests. They come back dry: 135, 138, 110, 175. Wet they are: 160, 165, 145, 180. Cylinder 3 is clearly lower, but the results between wet and dry are interesting too, but he says that he felt if I had a new cataltyic converter, within a week he would bet the pressure would equalize as it's messing the system up.

Alright, back to Saturn - two service stations now say they think it's the catalytic converter. Of course, the service manager wasn't there, but we talked with same game as before. He insists his guys are right and the other two are wrong. We ask for more details as the sheet is very little to go on as to HOW the decided it was a cracked cylinder head (we had done some reading online and it seems suspicious). He just insisted his guys work on Saturns all day every day and it's what they say it is. He DID admit that PERHAPS the catalytic converter is also clogged, but they didnt check it as they saw the pressure problem first and they won't replace a catalytic converter if there is a cracked cylinder head. He also admitted it was possible an O ring was broken and they would fix that.

We will go back on Monday to talk to the Service manager, but I'm so doubtful.... but what should I do? I want a better idea of HOW they diagnosed a cracked cylinder head. Everything I read leads me to believe it's NOT this at all. But maybe a piston Ring? or a valve? or could it be just a cataltyic converter? Again, no check engine light, no bad running car, never overheating and it just passed an emissions test a day before taking it to saturn... doesn't add up to me.

So help!!!!!

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Old 05-11-2008, 04:55 PM   #2
Ssicarman
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Welcome to the Board.

I have yet to see a problem with the #3 cylinder cracking on one of the 2.2LT engines. The #4 cylinder can have issues with coolant seepage on them. If the engine is running (idle) fairly well and smooth then I would put any cylinder issues on the back burner.

Is the engine running properly and smoothly at idle?

I don't know what lead the Saturn shop to do a compression test on the engine if your complaint was a lack of power driving. It would tend to be more to the end of a diagnosis for that compliant. If you went in and told them of the first shops diag of the converter along with the compliant of lack of power then that is what I would be checking first.

Have a civilized discussion with the service manager. If he is getting ready to go with the bad converter diag get them to replace it and repair the injector oring (why they would remove the injectors is beyond me. Injector balance tests can be done withe the tech 2 scan tool). Drive the car and see what it does from there.
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Old 05-11-2008, 07:36 PM   #3
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Thank you so much for the response. And yes, the car runs FINE on idle. The only issue it has is lack of get up and go. It just won't get up to speed when going up hill, but otherwise runs FINE.

The first place did give the diagnosis of the catalytic converter, but when I took it to the Saturn dealership/service they said they can't use other service stations diagnosis and ran their own. They came up with a misfire on cylinder 3 which is why they did the compression test. They never even checked the cataltyic converter. The service guy at Saturn said it wasn't the catalytic converter, but the guy yesterday at Saturn said they wouldn't look at the catalytic converter if they saw this problem first (cracked cylinder).

The third guy I took it too didn't even charge me. He said to march back to Saturn and demand my money back and to insist they deal with the catalytic converter. He DROVE the car and said it ran FINE just no power, then without the converter it had power fine. He ONLY did the compression test because I wanted to see what it was doing so I could figure out what Saturn was saying.

Now, there is a loss of compression on cylinder #3, but can't that be LOTS of things? They didn't even say HOW they came to that diagnosis except switching out that fuel injector to see if it was that, but the compression was still low and I would still have loss of power even with a new fuel injector, so I needed to fix the cracked cylinder.

I asked HOW it could be a cracked cylinder with no other symptoms??? but they insist.

But yes, a talk with teh service manager is warranted regardless, but I want more information. I get more information EVERYWHERE else. It's just too shady to me.

Melissa
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Old 05-14-2008, 06:54 PM   #4
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Just quickly - are you a mechanic for Saturn? Or have a lot of experience with them? I'm now so confused... our talk with Saturn was futile. I just emailed the whole history to the service manager (he works two different sites and just came off vacation). They did repair the O-ring problem, which is great, but we are still at NOWHERE with the power issue.

Melissa
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Old 05-15-2008, 03:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mams99 View Post
Just quickly - are you a mechanic for Saturn? Or have a lot of experience with them? I'm now so confused... our talk with Saturn was futile. I just emailed the whole history to the service manager (he works two different sites and just came off vacation). They did repair the O-ring problem, which is great, but we are still at NOWHERE with the power issue.

Melissa
Tech with Saturn, yes.

Set up a test drive with the service manager or at the very least the shop foreman if the shop has one so that you can show them the exact problem that the car is having. This way they know what you are experiencing and how to duplicate it.
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:57 PM   #6
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Well, this is how it is being resolved:

They say there is compression issues which they say is a leak and they believe it's a raw fuel leak which would lead to the catalytic converter and why it is dead. They did a drip test, and it's clean, so they think it's an internal leak.

However, he said to save face, they will replace the cataltyic converter and will even check our compression for us in a week for us for free if we like. he thinks we are putting a bandaid on a huge wound, but he also admits that maybe we'll be fine for another 40,000 miles or burn out a converter in a month - that you can't tell unless you open up the cylinder head and see what's going on.

But, they do agree the catalytic converter is terribly clogged.... I think we will take that and run and then get the minor things - new spark plugs, etc at our usual service station and see how it goes.... not sure if they are not wanting to admit to a mistake or trying to be nice just to not deal with me (and I used to be a mediator, so I know how to talk without getting all hot and bothered).

What do you think?
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Old 05-15-2008, 10:40 PM   #7
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Oh, should also add that he said "well, if you just want to put a whole engine in it instead, we can do that too and price match or even do better." Now WHY wasn't that even an OPTION before??? Or did they realize there was no way we would pay $3800 for an 8 year old car? I think they are trying to save face. I'll even buy that perhaps there is a crack, maybe, but we could have had it for 4 years and never known it too.

Melissa
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:19 AM   #8
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I am also a mechanic (ASE master tech), and if there is no coolant loss, no combustion gases in the coolant, a more likely suspect, if there is one at all, may be a burned valve (though that would have shown up in your emissions test, high HC content), or a worn cam lobe.
I would say let Saturn replace the cat, run it a week, and see what the tests show at that time. The ECM (in-car computer) may be changing the fuel trim (air fuel mixture, and injector pulse time) to try to get the car to run.
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:53 AM   #9
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With no symptoms other than the lack of power the conveter is likely the major or only real problem that you have.
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Old 05-19-2008, 03:35 AM   #10
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SO usually i dont post to threads referring to the L-Series, however this one i cant pass up.

based off your compression numbers--> not a cracked cylinder, or burnt valves.

loss of power but otherwise smooth running= clogged cat is the first thing to check

Replace the Cat first. Or, remove one of the o2 sensors before the cat in the manifold and see if the car runs better since it has another outlet to escape from. it may be loud and your SES will turn on because of the weird O2 sensor readings (since it wont be in the manifold) but this would give you a definite answer whether the CAT is clogged or not.
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