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Saturn S-Series



  • Are there other high-odometer Saturn owners in this group? I am the original owner of a 1995 SL 5-speed and have driven it almost 180,000 miles with relatively few problems. Although I may be buying a new Saturn, I may be keeping my 95 SL for a while longer as it still drives well although it's noticeably noisier than the newer SL sedans.

    My 95 has had a few glitches (like the passenger-side seatback anchor failing, needing a $200 repair, and the oft-cited problem of leaking oil gasket seals) but this has been a very dependable, economical, safe and high quality vehicle overall. Any thoughts out here?
  • The Saturn SL/SL1 from the early-to-mid 1990s used a somewhat obscure tire size, 175/70 R14. The original tires were Firestone FR480s, which were basically competent and quiet, adequate but not fantastic in wet weather traction and snow/ice. I did drive them 84,000 miles and they still had adequate tread, so they were surprisingly durable.

    The replacements I selected were Toyo 800 Ultras, and I heartily recommend them. These are not heavily advertised products, but on the small 1995 Saturn (with limited sound insulation) the Toyos provided about a 6-db reduction in road noise compared with the Firestones, generally better roadholding and cornering, noticeably improved braking, and dramatically improved driving in rainy conditions. I had some exceptionally positive experiences driving the Toyo 800 Ultras through snow and ice conditions, they are in my view a genuine "all season tire", not just "kinda-sorta all season".

    One caution though: DO NOT substitute a different tire size for the 175/70 R14 on the mid-90s SLs. If you use a 185/70 R14, the front tires may produce a low-level audible scraping against one of the pieces of the tire wheel well when you execute sharp turns, and your tires will wear excessively. Insist on the exact 175/70 R14 tire size even if it means shopping around for a tire store that carries this size.

    Fortunately my Toyo dealer (Les Schwab) was very cheerful about giving me full credit for the incorrect tire sizing and giving me the correct size. My present Toyo 800s have given me excellent performance for 90,000 miles and there's still enough tread for about 5,000 to 10,000 more good miles if I want.
  • It sounds like you answered your own question. I can't think of a reason NOT to buy this SL you are looking at. You are correct about the noise as it was 1998, I believe, when they changed the engine; and, they upgraded the sound insulation in 1999. The newer ones will be much better in this regard.
  • sounds like a very good deal.

    My 94' SL2 auto has 119,000 miles on it. I bought it in 98' with 58,000 miles on it.

    it has needed alot of work but runs well and handles great and the polymer body looks fantastic for a 8 year ols car.

    Alot of the problems with my SL2 have been fixed since 94' by Saturn. After 12 years they should have the SL perfected by now.

    I wan't to replace mine in the fall/winter. I wan't to wait for the ION to come out. But I am keeping my options open. I don't wan't another SL just because I wan't a change. I am just hoping my A/C last thru this summer!!

    My saturn dealer already told me my lower front control arms are loose and it won't pass state inspection when due in Novemeber. Dealer cost to replace them is $600!

    It's been a decent car but....has needed a ton of work to keep it going. Since I got it with 58k miles.

    New altenator, top engine mount, engine temp sensor, struts (all four), muffler & hanger, water pump,serpetine belt & tensioner.
    And it is starting to use more and more oil.

    The repair cost have been off set by the low insurance cost though. we have the highest insurance rates in the country here in NJ. Proably due to the most people per square mile of any state in the union and the most lawyers per square mile!!
  • From what I have gathered from prior messages, the timing chains generally last as long as (or longer than) the engine, but there may be a timing chain control arm or tensioner that wears out and causes excessive noise.

    My 95 SL (with almost 180,000 miles) tends to make a knocking-like sound under hard acceleration, and it doesn't seem to relate to gasoline at one time I tried using mainly premium gas in my car, it made a minor difference. A Saturn tech says it's the timing chain but his estimate for the repair work is around $700, mainly in terms of labor. I do have a reputable independent shop which could do the work, but want to know what others' experience has been related to Saturn timing chains.
  • I'm surprised your 94 SL2 has required as much servicing as it has. Maybe it was abused by the previous owner/drivers.

    I've had slow oil consumption problems from the gasket seals ever since the car was new, and the Saturn facilities kept claiming that was a normal consumption level. It is my understanding that if I had been more assertive during the warranty period (i.e. gone through the complaint process) it might well have been remedied, and I understand newer Saturns have improved gasket sealants.

    My car has the original struts, original alternator, original exhaust system including muffler and hanger. I've had to replace the water pump at 140,000 miles, the serpentine belt & tensioner at 170,000 miles, the battery at 120,000 miles, the clutch at 100,000 miles, the engine temp sensor at 155,000 miles.

    It's been a VERY reliable car, overall. Maybe that's an advantage of having bought it brand-new, in that I wasn't inheriting a previous drivers' erratic or careless driving and usage style on the car.

    Cheers! Seattlenative
  • A few months ago, the latch assembly for the passenger-side front seat started failing, not properly locking into place and intermittently falling backwards when a passenger sat in it.

    A Saturn facility replaced the ratchet assemblies for a cost of $197. I now have learned there may have been a recall (or a technical service bulletin) on certain 94 and 95 Saturn SLs for this issue. Is there any way to find out if my car's VIN is included in the recall series, and if so to obtain a refund if this was a repair included in the recall?

    That was the only other really major complaint about my history with my 95 SL.
  • Recalls are more important. They have to be fixed by Saturn, at no charge to the owner of that vehicle that is affected. TSB's are a big gray area. Some dealers may inform and have the work done for you, others not.

    I was surprised at all the work my SL2 needed also. I have taken it back to my dealer every 3,000 miles for service letting them do pretty much whatever they thought was needed. i bought it as a used certified saturn from my dealer. it came with a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty from Saturn. The altenator went out during warranty but everything else went within the last year.

    Luck of the draw I guess. It still has a fun to drive aspect to it though. Proably more than other compacts from 1994. With all the work it's had it is running smoother then ever before but having it since 98' I am ready for a change.

    As for recalls check with the NHSTA. They have a website but I don't know the address.
  • jeff186jeff186 Posts: 95
    Yes, I got suckered in by the cheap monthly lease deal, $0 down. Thought this car would be a good around town grocery-getter and occasional highway ride. I was wrong. Slow off the line around town and rattle-y interior. As for the highway, the buzzing of the engine is constant and annoying. A huge dissapointment. I should have had the guts to negotiate for a Sentra or Corolla.
  • Jeff186: which Saturn model did you buy? Is it a 5-speed manual or an automatic?
  • In previous years, the Saturn S-series earned very high marks for product quality and new-car freedom from defcts (i.e. JD Powers Index) but doesn't show up as high now. Any comments on Saturn's quality control on current or recent S-series cars?
  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    Are just technical service bulletins which tell techs how to fix common problems. If they occur while under warranty and are a warranty covered item, then they will be covered. Not all cars are affected by problems in TSBs so there is no recall and there is no reason for your car to be checked for them unless there are symptoms of a problem.

    Problems which are deemed dangerous or very common will end up as a recall in which case all affected vehicle owners must be notified.

    There is no grey area. TSBs are just helpful fixit hints.
  • I'm assuming you have a SL1 with automatic to feel this way. The SL1 does seem pretty weak with the automatic, IMO. I'm sure you would have better feelings had you bought a manual transmission or SL2. My manual tranny SL2 is plenty peppy for "grocery getting." Sorry you are unhapy.
  • jeff186jeff186 Posts: 95
    the engine is anemic, though I knew it was 100HP going in and more modern cars in this category have 130-140 HP. Just drove a Sentra GXE and the difference is amazing. Sigh...only 37 more months to go.
  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    The S series has a history of oil consumption in the 1.9L engine. Can any owners of recent S-series comment on whether the issue is still there? I was hoping the ION would be a good car this fall but it is almost as big as an L-series and has funny centre instrument panel, non-independent rear suspension, etc. so now I'm thinking an SL2 might be a better choice, as well as a better buy with rates being good right now. My main concern is that the car might still have the oil consumption problem -- I guess I could lease it. Any comments appreciated!
  • Saturn is starting to toss out equipment packages on the S series in it's swan song.
    The 2002 I drove for a day while my L300 was getting the oil cooler coolant leak fixed. Was a much smoother engine than my 94 SL2. It diddn't have the performance/normal switch on the automatic like mine does which does do alot for quicker throttle response. Actually I notice a big diffrence. I do use oil in the SL2 but I just add a 1/3 of a quart usually on fridays just to make it a habit so I don't let it go to long. But I drive alot each week.

    As for the single cam engine with auto. We took a bath when we traded in our SW1 for a L300 but the power of the V6 L is fantastic. I am never at a loss for power in any driving situation.

    With the SW1 you got going ok but once we had to slow down , then get back on it it just made noise. it was downright dangerous, we just couldn't live with that car anymore although it was very reliable.
  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    or SL1. Even with a manual tranny, a friend has a 5-speed LW1 and I find it noisy and it doesn't have the performance I want. If I get an S-series it'll be an SL2 DOHC 5-speed.
  • Good choice. I have a 5 speed SL2 and it is fine. You're not going to win any drag races, but you move around town more than adequately, IMO. Mine is a 1999 model with almost 48,000 miles--and I burn no oil. I check it every other fill up, and the dipstick always says it's full.
  • danili19danili19 Posts: 7
    Hey everyone, I have a '96 SL2 5-spd. with around 84k. I bought the car last May and have had numerous problems with it since. I'll try to keep this short..I'm just trying to see if these are common problems, and exactly what they might be. I put in an aftermarket intake mf'd by Hotshot for SPS (saturn performance specialists) and it's awesome. BUT, my car eats through a quart of oil just about every 1200-1400 miles now. Before, it'd be half a quart low at oil changes, and I don't drive my car hard or ever bring it past 6100rpm. Also, in warm weather, there's a squeal coming from a belt, I'd imagine. I had the drivebelt and drivebelt tensioner replaced 10k ago, so do you have any idea what it might be?? Also, if I try to accelerate quickly in anything but 1st gear (once already in motion), there's a muted 'tapping' sound that sounds like it's coming from under the hood or the driveaxle. I hope it's not the pistons....anyway, any advice? Similar prob's? Thanks!
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