Question about Saturn L300

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I have a 2002 L300 Saturn w/ a 3.0 L V6 engine. Had a major engine failure without warning going down the interstate. There was the sound of a vibration under the hood. The engine died within 30 sec to a minute of this sound. I coasted the car to the emergency lane. The car has 123,000 miles on it. The timing belt (chain) had never been replaced. The car ran good, so I didn't see the need to have that $750 to $900 job done as recommended by the Saturn dealer when my odometer turned 100,000 miles. Well, according to the GM dealership that I had the car towed to, it was the timing belt and it had apparently (according to the mechanic) did unrepairable damage to the engine (just in 30 sec. to a minute as described above). The service rep said that the way this particular engine is designed the key motor parts are built (or molded) as a larger whole and the parts of the block, heads, etc. could not be salvaged to repair. Does this sound feasible? If the engine blew, there was not smell of burnt metal or loud noise or explosion or loss of oil on the ground. I just understand how it could have done such irreversible damage. I was told I had only two choices to fix the problem--buy a used engine (no warranty) and have installed by the dealership. Estimated cost of used engine was around $1500 with about $3500 for labor and miscellaneous--$5,000. The other option is to have installed a remanufactured engine with a 3 yr. or 36,000 mile warranty on it, but the cost of engine plus labor, etc. was quoted at $8,500. As best as I can tell the car (before this engine failure) with the number of miles, at most was worth only about $4,500 at best. I love my Saturn. In your opinion would it be worth it to spring for the $8,500 option or the $5,000 option (provided the dealer can find a salvaged used engine.) Not sure I want to throw good money after bad with the $5,000 option with no warranty. The $8,500 sounds like a lot of money to put into this, also. That much would go a long way to buying a good newer used car. Another thing. Do you have any idea what the salvage value of this car would be (minus a working engine). Any advice would help. Thanks!! Mike R.

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  • mdrbama Apr 29, 2010

    Thanks for your advice. It helps me with my decision.

    Mike Riddle

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Hello Mike,
Well to start with, the timing chain involves more than just a chain, there are gears, tensioners and guides. When these wear out, it causes the engine to jump time, or stop all together, and this happens fast and with no warning. The chain runs around the crankshaft and the cams, as the cams turn, they open the valves at the proper time. When there is a problem with the timing chain, the cams open the valves at the wrong time, or leaves some valves stuck open, which then the pistons comes up and hits the valves and bends them, they call these engines interference fit motors, when the chain goes, it bends the valves, which then involves removing the heads and fixing the vavles, as well as repairing the original problem, the timing chain. If the vehicle is in overall great shape, it would be worth at least getting a used motor, $1500.00 is not a bad price for an used motor, if it has low miles, preferablly, under 80,000 miles, some used motors might have a 30 day or 6 months warranty, but their labor is WAY out of line, maybe a $1000-1500, but not $3500!!! I would check some other shops. A remanufacted motor such as a Jasper's motor with 3 year 36,000 mile warranty would run around $3000, same labor. I wouldn't put more than $5000 in the whole job, because you are talking a big chunk of money, that could be used for a nice down payment. If you put that into the vehicle, you should be able to get it back out of the vehicle at resale or trade in time, it will then have a good running motor, not a boat anchor. The best from a salvage yard might be $250-$500. To me, it all comes down to how much you like the vehicle, and also consider other problems you could have in the future, e.i. transmission, differential, suspension, brakes and so on. So, all and all, if you can afford the new car payment, I'd go with the new car, because you are going to get a new car, plus the new car warranty.
Thanks, I hope this helps,
Jim

Posted on Apr 29, 2010

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