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Old 03-27-2010, 06:01 PM   #1
asmjpro
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Unhappy 1997 SL2 vibration, low mpg, starting & stalling issues


I recently purchased a 1997 Saturn SL2 1.9L MPFI 4 door with 134k miles. It is the first Saturn I have ever owned so I do not have experience with this make of car.

Initially I knew that it sounded a little loud (exhaust and whine) and that it had more vibration (from the engine) when running than I would consider normal far any car. I have checked the mileage and I am getting about 25 mpg with an even mix of city/hiway. From listening to other Saturn SL2 owners I was expecting it to be around 35mpg

Anyway, my real issue is that I have put about 400 miles on it and have begun to experience the following problem. It is getting more difficult to start after it has set and is at ambient temperature, maybe 40 F. It just turns over and over. In order to get it to start I have to hold the gas pedal down and turn the key, It will then start but I have to work the pedal just right and rev it just to get it to stay running. After that it will run ok when driving but when I idle at the first few stop lights then press the gas to go it wants to hesitate and (so far) almost die. It does that briefly then takes off.

Some other information: After I bought the car it did set for about 4 months with very little driving, but it always would start up when I did occasionally drive it. I then recently filled the tank and drove it until the low fuel light came on in order to verify the light worked and to see what kind of mileage it was getting.

To help this issue I just put in a new air filter and spark plugs but that did not help at all. After changing the spark plugs I started it (had to fight it to get running) and it ran in idle for about 10 minutes and there was more than normal amount of exhaust smoke the entire time (idle around 1K rpm). I then took it for a 15 minute test drive and parked it again and ran it at idle (still 1K rpm) but there was no visible smoke. I stopped and started the engine 2 or 3 times while it was warm and it starts with no issue when warmed up.

So my question is..
1) What can I do to make it start reliably when at ambient temp
2) What will stop it from hesitating and almost dying at stop lights (when hit gas) before it is fully warmed up?
3) Why would it have so much vibration from the engine? Top engine mount?
4) Why does it idle at 1000 rpm when the spec is 500-600.

Since I posed the questions above I have changed the fuel filter. No difference.
I have done a fuel pressure test at the Schrader valve; it was 34psi (spec 31-36) so it is good.
A pressure decay test (5 minutes after car shut off) it was still 34psi. So this is good.
Checked voltage on Idle Air Control = 10.99Vdc (spec 1.5 – 10.5) Assume this is OK?
Removed and cleaned the throttle body, the “butterfly” valve in the throttle body, the three vacuum ports, and the pintle and seat on the Idle air control valve. All these had a lot of black soot on the intake manifold side of the butterfly valve. The side of the throttle body from the air filter was clean. I did all this and now the starting issue and the hesitation/idle issue when accelerate from stop actually seem worse.
I also used a screwdriver to listen to the 4 injectors, I can hear them all clicking, though one does not seem as loud but it is on the passenger side of engine where vibration is worse.
Please help

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Old 03-27-2010, 07:50 PM   #2
saturn_man
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Replace your ECTS, PCV anc clean the EGR. Also have your starter tested and make sure that it does not require excessive amperage to turn over, and make sure your battery holds proper voltage. Look at your upper motor mount, there should be about 1/2 inch or rubber around the mount bolted to the motor and the metal strap that mounts it to the body. That is most likely where the vibrations are comming from.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:05 PM   #3
asmjpro
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Default Some more questions

Saturn man, thanks for the reply, but I guess I have some dumb questions.
What is the ECTS? I do not see it in my manual.
As far as clean the EGR, are you referring the the intake between the throttle body and the injectors?

Top motor mount, there is about 3/4 inch of clearance between the rubber and the strap over it on each side, in the middle there is about 1/2 inch because the rubber part is convex shaped from front to back. So I should replace it?
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:16 PM   #4
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Welcome to the Board.

As saturn_man said the ECTS (engine coolant temp sensor) should be replaced. The connector for it should be checked for any wetness or corrosion in it. Replace if there is any at all along with the sensor. Good chance that at the very least the tip of the sensor is the older plastic style and is crakced. This will lead to the symptoms that you have.
The upper engine mount is the leading cause of excess vibration and it sounds likes your is collapsed.
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Old 03-31-2010, 12:17 PM   #5
asmjpro
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Default Thank you Saturnman for the great information

The ECTS was the problem, it was the original plastic end type and it was cracked. I changed it ($11) and now it is like a different car, starts easy, runs great, idles @ 700 rpm (not 1000+), shifts better. I also changed the upper engine mount and between runnig better and the engine mount the vibration is virtually gone. Amazing!
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Old 07-15-2010, 12:31 AM   #6
velocitaco
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I've been bumping around the site for a little bit & this thread describes my problem exactly. I registered just to say thanks. I'm sure I'll be using this forum frequently.
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Old 07-19-2010, 09:46 PM   #7
woweejp
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Default Help

Hi all
I have had this same problem and i changed the ects and it seemed to fix the problem for about 3 months but now it is back to stalling at stop signs and sometimes starting hard. The check engine light rarely cmes on. It is my wifes car so i havent had a chance to pull the codes yet but i am wondering if you have any ideas. Could it be the ects again?? Like i said just changed it about 3 mos. ago. I have been running Amsoil PI through it about every 2-3 thousand miles so the injectors should be clean but besides that haven't done much since it started relapsing. plz help
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