Question about 2001 Saturn S-Series

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Lots of problems...

I have a 2001 Saturn SL1. It's been a great car as far as, it's stayed working... but there has been a problem with it for a couple years now that seems to be getting worse... or maybe it's a different problem all together?!

At first, whenever I would come to a stop (for example, at a stop light) and the vehicle started idling, it would idle slightly above 1000 rpm, but then it would slowly drop down below 1000 until it hit around 500 and then it'd "sputter" and jump back up over 1000 and then continue this process. I took it to 2 separate mechanics and they both said that it looked like a vacuum leak but they couldn't find one after searching all over.

One of the mechanics did more looking into it than the other. He found that all the spark plugs had proper compression and were getting proper sparks. But he said that one of the spark plugs (can't remember which one now...) was not actually igniting anything. It wasn't getting fuel I guess. So he replaced the corresponding fuel injector. Nothing changed.

I then looked up online at some Saturn forum that my year/make/model car had a common problem that they were shipped out of the manufacturer with a fold in the intake manifold gasket and that it caused that problem around the same amount of miles that I had. So I bought one of them and had him replace it. Nothing.

Well... that went on for a while, but for the last year what it's been doing is idling high (2000-3000) and so I haven't had to worry about the previous problem... just the really high idles! On top of that, it "burns" oil. I check my oil every 500-1500 miles and it's needing a quart added to it. It's also really black.

Replaced the PCV valve and that did nothing. It was cheap and I could do it on my own, so I said what the heck.

I would probably just replace it except that it's paid for and it gets really great gas mileage (38 mpg in my city!).

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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  • eromrab Aug 13, 2008

    Hey, no my gas mileage is still good. Still sitting at 38! I don't get it at all. Both mech's searched up and down for a vacuum leak, but i'll shoot some brake cleaner back there and see if anything happens. But regardless, I had them replace the intake manifold gasket already because I had found that online where it said that was a common problem. Argh.

  • eromrab Aug 13, 2008

    ****. I had this whole thing written up and it didn't go through. Argh! Anyways, I had the intake manifold gasket replaced because I saw online that was a common problem. Didn't do anything. They sprayed all over looking for a vacuum leak, but I'll get back there and do it myself soon. Hopefully! Thanks!

  • eromrab Aug 13, 2008

    Ooops, guess it did go through!

  • Anonymous Dec 22, 2008

    Same car, same problem. Saturn dealership replaced the intake manifold.... no difference. It is now Dec and my car burns oil on cold starts, idels up as high as 3500 rpm at times. I have been dealing with this since 2004, will not buy another Saturn.

  • Trippster14 Feb 02, 2009

    I have the similar problem but i have no idea what the solution is or what to do. I have a 2001 saturn sl and its about 200 from hitting 100k. I live in Virginia so it doesnt get to cold. But every morning i go to start my car up it idles real high and the exhaust smokes alot. Ill start it up, drive for about 5 miles and itll smoke then all of a sudden it stops. My car burns alot of oil but it has always burned alot of oil, but its really unusual. Its burning completely dry about every 500 miles. Please help. I have no idea what to do and im a college student so i dont have alot of money to have some mechanic look at it. And im not from around here so i dont want to take it to anybody i dont trust. If anybody has any solutions please help. Thanks



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I just went through the same ordeal with my 2002 Saturn SC-1. I don't know if your SL1 has a 1.9 Litre engine, but if it does then maybe my ordeal will help you.
My SC1 was getting great mileage until it started idling above 2,000 RPM. I'm curious if you are still getting 38 mpg because my gas mileage went down the toilet!
Initially I thought my problem was electrical, so I changed all the plug wires and changed out no 1/4 coil because my code reader said I was getting a misfire on No. 1 and 4 cylinder. That didn't change so I replaced the the Ignition Module, still high idle. Then I replaced the Idle Air Control Valve; still no change. Next I pulled off all the fuel injectors and sent them to Witchhunt to have them cleaned. Still no change. Still idling at 2,000 to 3,000 RPM. I happened to read on the Saturn Forum Website that if an Intake Manifold Gasket is faulty, just spray some brake cleaner on the backside of the motor and if it stumbles, there's your problem. If you've eliminated all the possible variables than that had to be the problem. I changed the gasket and it runs great! I'm back to 38-40 MPG and I idle at 700 RPM. I would try the Brake Cleaner on the backside of the engine and see if it stumbles. If it still does, then your mechanic didn't do a good job or you can easter egg like I did!

How many miles do you have on this engine, and when is the last time you changed your oil? You might want to add some Rislone to your oil and that will get rid of some of the carbon build up after your next oil change.

Posted on Aug 12, 2008

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Replace coolant sensor and thermostat together..The original thermostat has a rubber seal that fails...The temp switch also has been known to fail....Engine will run lower in temp...PCM thinks car is cold...Will increase Idle....

Posted on Feb 12, 2010

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Replace the temperature coolant sensor. about $10.00

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

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Rpms race up then no power it has to cool then it will go again please help

Posted on Jan 15, 2009

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