I own a 2000 saturn sl1 and recently my idle has been slower/rougher than normal (sounds like it is missing about every 3rd fire) but the problem goes away as it increases in rpm's. my service engine light came on the other day and the mechanic tried to tell me that my intake gasket is leaking, but that only ONE of my four cylinders is causing the problem so it's okay to drive on it; but that the problem will spread. i was told by another mechanic that a leak is a leak and if it's my intake gasket it needs to be fixed asap (he couldn't help me out more than that because the first mechanic had cleared the codes). any thoughts or suggestions? i'm still in college and commute daily so i would like to be thrifty but still have a reliable car. :S
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Re: slow idle, possible intake gasket
On the only Saturn I'll ever own (even if someone offered me one free), I had to replace the ignition wiring at the age of two years.
If you have any kind of multimeter, check all ignition wires, you should have readings of < 15,000 Ohms and new ones will measure ~ 7,000.
Mark them so you can put them back where they belong, then remove them one at a time, measure from end-to-end and flex each one to make sure it isn't accidentally conducting at the moment.
A small deviation from the norm is OK but you will likely have wild swings and that is NOT ok.
My problem started with one cylinder only but quickly progressed to 2, then three and the description you gave sure sounds like it could be as I described.
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i actually had the same problem when i got my 2000 saturn sl1. after much research i found that it was the intake gasket. The problem is usually a folded corner on the gasket. if you try spraying some carb cleaner around the base of the intake while it is running it will run like it is choking. hope this helps.
I have had this happen on saturns before and it has turned out to be a bad intake gasket. The gasket cracks allow extra air to get into the engine causing it to idle high. It also will normally have the check engine light come on indicating a cylinder misfire. 4 thumbs up is appreciated if this helps
reasearch "intake manifold gasket". i have the same car, and the same problem, and everything ive read so far points to the intake manifold gasket. apparently during production there was an error that caused the original gaskets to crease. i would suggest taking some brake or carb cleaner and spraying it around intake #1 while the car is idling in park, this should cause the engine to idle rougher. if it does the gasket is your problem.
here's a link to another thread that sheds a lot of light on the issue, and even has some instructions on how to repair.
You could try replacing the idle air control valve but I would obtain one from a local salvage yard, its cheaper and you are not certain if thats the problem, another thing i would check is your intake manifold gasket where it meets the cylinder head, if tha gasket is cracked or leaking it will allow excess air to enter the engine and make it idle higher, the easiest way to verify this is get a can of carb and choke cleaner and spray it all around the intake gasket area, if the engines idling characteristics change drastically then the gasket is bad and needs to be replaced if theres no change in the idle I would start looking for vacumm leaks and the idle control valve issue, which you specified.
the intake manifold gasket at cylinder #1 shifted over and is causing a vacuum leak,,,,,if its a SL1,SC1,SW1,,the single cam engines only had this issue not the twin cam,you need a new intake manifold gasket,gasket is like $20-$40,,but labor is about $450 unless you can do it,but its very involved
the intake manifold gasket at the #1 cylinder shifts over and causes a vacum leak which causes a high idle and sometimes a p0157 code with the ses light,,,,you will need to replace that gasket like a $500job,fairly involved,,,,with the car running spray water DIRECTLY at the #1 intake port area the one closest to the belt and see if it runs rough,,,,
replace the coil it is most likely bad. observe the engine at night or in a dark environment and proceed to use a spray bottle to lightly coat the coil pack for that cylinder number 3 and if you see an arc at the coil or any where else this will confirm a bad coil but even if you don't see any arcing it still may be a weak coil.