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Saturn S-Series



  • I bought a Saturn four years ago because I was impressed with the "Different Type of Car / Company" creed. The dealership was great and super-sweet to me until I started having problems with the car. My alternator went bad at about 23,000 miles and was replaced under warranty. After about 30,000 I seemed to be constantly adding oil and my saturn dealership said that was normal. I felt as if they were just dismissing what I had to say without really listening. Still, I figured that they knew what they were talking about and went on my way. Now that the car is no longer under warranty, my dealership informs me that the motor needs to be rebuilt. They say it is probably my fault for not maintaining the car properly. I changed the oil every 3,000 miles and had all the required maintainence done on schedule. I contacted Saturn and explained the situation. They also told me that "a car is a machine" and there was nothing they could or would do to help me. I feel angered and betrayed. I am in the market for a new car now. It wont be a Saturn.
  • Reg

    I do have an LS1 - now L200 in the family and I love it. The handling is superb, engine is quiet, and seems like a very solid car. I do not own one because at this point I have better things to put my $$ towards like mutual funds, stocks, etc, and prefer not to buy a midsize car since I have no need for one at this time.


    I do not recall ever being "Seriously" disatisfied with my car or the service my retailer provides me. Granted, no retailer or car is perfect and things fluctuate from time to time, but over all I am pleased with it and do intend to aquire another S series in 4-6 months.


    I am very sorry for your loss, it really shouldn't happen however Saturn makes no more lemons then any other american car company. Situations like yours as you claim, are exactly the reason why I lease cars, and because I can barely stand having a car for more then 3 years. You have a right to be angry, and betrayed for having Saturn supposedly treat you in such a manor as you stated.

    AFK X said something along the lines that "Saturn owners have tremendous owner loyalty , and the one's who happened to get a bad Saturn often cry louder and longer because of the image Saturn has of high customer service. Definitly true.
  • Just to clarify the point, I never said that you were seriously dissastified with the service from your Saturn retailer. What I said was that, in the LS forum you appeared to be somewhat dissastified with your service and were contemplating writing a letter to Saturn about it. I am sure you must recall posting that. If not, it is in the LS forum archives.

    Either way, I am glad that overall you are content with your service since that is what is important in the long run. It is also refreshing that you are responding in a much more sympathetic and civil manner to those such as ohiolady who do not share your enthusiasm.
  • Fred

    Well, that is why I put the seriously in quotes to signify the difference. Just wanted to clarify, and I also mentioned that things do fluctuate from time to time and things are not always perfect at my local retailer. However, they have come through for me in ways Im sure other dealers wouldn't and overall I am more then satisfied. I wish all Saturn owners could have the same results, but Saturn retailers vary depending on the owner.

    In 1999 when Saturn's customer satisfaction scores slipped five spots to number 6, Saturn Corporate enacted a corporate buy back of un friendly Saturn retailers to continue with industry leading customer service, and on a personal note, in my area they are soon to start building a new kind of Saturn retail facility which includes an even more user friendly atmosphere, fire place near customer seating, internet hookups and a coffee bar, not to mention an automatic car wash. Im seriously Looking foward to it.
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    If you indeed have all the service reccords, you may be able to get Saturn Corp to help you. I am sorry to hear about your situation, but most of the time when Saturn engines go bad it is because they have not been maintained properly. I am not suggesting your was not taken care of well, only helping you understand why your Saturn dealership told you that.

    I would suggest you go over to and post your message there and ask them for suggestions. There are many helpful people there, and are experts in the subject matter.

    Good luck!
  • Well I just have to disagree with the statement that most Saturn engines go bad because of poor maintenance. I personally know of 2 that needed rebuilding, my wife's for one, and both were well maintained. Saturn's "excuse" for me was high mileage and Saturn records showing excessive mileage between oil changes. As for the mileage, I have discussed it before, 83 K is NOT a lot of miles. As for the oil, I change it myself every 3,000 miles, Saturn only sees the car for major service and repairs, more often the later. The other rebuild was for compression rings. This according to the Saturn service tech. is a problem with 95 and 96 Saturn's. All engines blow given enough abuse, but a well maintained engine by today's standards should be good for 150 K unless there are quality issues.
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    But the majority of problems still occur when a car doesn't have proper maintincence.
    (oil changes)

    The two cars you brought up are exceptions rather than the rule.

    I owned a 86 Civic, the engine "drank" about 2 quarts of oil between changes. This was when the car was 8 years old, with 86K milage. It had its oil changed every 3000 miles.
  • Howdy---

    I'm about to purchase a '98 SL2 from the dealer, 63,000 miles. It seems lower on power than the 2000 I rented to check the model out, and has one minor rattle in the dash, but that's about all I can see in terms of flaws. Is there an easy way to see if the car has mechanical problems? Saturn owners seem to either think their car is God's gift to humanity or the blackest pit of hell, very little in between. I love the way the car handles, shifts, doesn't dent, etc. but the naysayers worry me: I accelerate and brake hard, hence the sport model, and I don't want to wind up with an oil-burning, rotor-warping nightmare.
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    Get the VIN number from the car and have a Saturn dealer run a universal history for the car. You will be able to see what kind of service was performed at any Saturn dealership. This will tell you if the car has been a problematic one.

    If you are getting that SL2 for a good price (under 10K depending on equiptment) then you really can't go wrong. Its a lot of car for the money.
  • You may want to update your profile since you claim to be shopping for a VW (costly car to own btw) One of the great things about Saturn is Low cost of ownership. Hence, ratings. Also the 1998 Saturn S Series was one of the least problematic years, which has had lower problems then the VW Golf GTI, and NISSAN SENTRA SE in 1998. It scored in the top three in best initial quality by for 1998. As long as the price is good, and you have it checked by an authorized Saturn retailer, I say go for it.
  • We purchased our 1993 Saturn SL1 used with 63,000 miles from a dealer. We also purchased a 2 year warranty that included the drive train. After driving 2000 miles we checked the oil and found it to be low. This observation was repeatedly found every 800 to 1000 miles. We brought it back and the response was that it was still running and couldn't honor the warranty until the engine failed or we could prove that it was about to fail. A Saturn dealer told us that one of their customers was successful in hounding the company about fixing their oil burning engine (replacing the engine) but not without a real lot of time, aggravation and effort.
    I can concur through our experience and others that I have talked with on the runarounds with the Saturn customer service people. We feel that they are put there to be nice but don't know anything beyond that and will not help with anything that is real.
    But back to the oil problem;
    the warranty ran out,
    went to the Saturn dealer - was told the engine might have been improperly honed during manufacturing,
    we still change the oil frequently,
    we add oil every 700 miles (around town driving),
    I looked into the one of the cylinders with a flashlight when I replaced the spark plugs and observed cross marks in the cylinder walls thereby concluding the oil consumption problem area,
    we also did a "leak check" unlike a "compression check" which checks for any leaks in the engine cylinders and found that all cylinders were more leak that they should be but mostly worst from left to
    right as you face the engine,
    We now have 201,000 miles on the engine and it is still running great but we still need to check and add oil every week or two,
    we can also say we have had very little else go wrong with the car - the dealer has always been fair - however,
    We want a bigger car - the seats are too small!
    There, I think I have said enough!!!
    Anybody else have similar comments?
  • At the very beginning, I said I would keep people posted on my saturn sl2 bought new in april 1999. So far I have 42578 miles on it. I am using mobil 1 and change the oil and filter at 12000 miles with a fliter and top off at 6000 miles. Have had two warranty repairs, exhaust that had stress cracks and a outer door panel. Only other problem is the replacement transmission filter works loose and have to retighten and top off with trans fluid. The trans fluid and filter were changed around 33000 miles. Will put new plugs and plug wires at next scheduled oil change and air filter. So far no other problems but will agree with others that the front seat cushions could be a bit longer. If you have long legs, it doesn't fully support them. Still plan on putting 150,000 miles on it before getting another vehicle. How the vehicles I will be choosing from compare to each other determines what I will replace the saturn with.
  • It sounds like I'm having the same problem as you. I was wondering what dealer said there was a known problem with 95 & 96 Saturns. I am going through a major engine problem now and Saturn is blaming the problem on poor maintenance. If I could get the source of where the info came regarding the "known problem" with the 95 & 96 Saturns it would be very helpful to me in my fight for repair work being paid for by Saturn.
  • Im not sure off hand but go to the messege board. There are many knowledgeable people there regarding Saturn.

    I can tell you that Saturn offers a hidden extended warranty on Saturn single cam engines up to 100,000 miles or 6 years if yours qualifies. Thier may be info at however Saturnfans is my best bet
  • Is there some similar warranty on '95 twin cams?
  • I may be wrong but I was only aware that the hidden extended warranty only covered the single cam engines.
  • j_colemanj_coleman Posts: 143
    My wife has a '96 SL (SOHC) and we got a letter years ago from Saturn saying the engine could experience a cracked cylinder head or something like that. Haven't seen any symptoms yet but the engine only has about 50K miles.
  • I am going to get a new car. I am thinking about a Saturn SL2, a Honda Civic EX, or a Ford Focus ZTS. Any suggestions?
  • Luckily, I haven't had the engine problems discussed by many visitors. I too change my own oil every 3,000 miles, and have had to add 1/2-1 quart of oil beginning around 50,000 miles. My 94 SL-1 has 148,000 miles.

    I purchased the car in part because it was plastic and would not (presumably) rust. The metal parts of the doors (painted black) are rusting on the inside and outside of the car. I've never had a car with rust around the inside of the windows. The top of the car is also rusting. So much for the plastic.

    The car constantly needs brakes, although I drive very conservatively. I have to have the rotors and pads (4-wheel disc, ABS) replaced every 10-15k because the rotors become warped. We had a Nissan Sentra (1990) which we drove 55,000 miles without having to even have the brake pads replaced. Same with a Chevy Cavalier.

    Many of the plastic pieces on the interior of the car are breaking including the armrest and various dashboard pieces.

    I see why Saturn sales have consistently declined each year after 1993-94. They had the best marketing and nicest people in the dealership. If those people could chauffer me around, I'd say they had a great product. People figured out that the cars aren't so great. Unfortunately, GM missed the boat and provided a product with much hype but little relative quality and value compared to other small vehicles, especially the imports. It's too bad--they had a pretty good idea.
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    My co-worker has a 1992 Saturn SL2 and has never had a problem until recently. Other than the regular maintinece the car has needed nothing. His recent problem was a leaking gasket which cost 90 to repair. His car has 196K miles on it and it runs and looks fantastic.

    For every Saturn owner with problems there a ton with none.
  • j_colemanj_coleman Posts: 143
    Our Saturn has 50,000 miles with the original brake pads. (disc front, drum rear, no ABS)
  • It may be prudent to mention that in Daniel's case, even he stated himself that

    "My 94 SL-1 has 148,000 miles."

    What does that tell any of you? Well, it says that while his car has had some problems it has lasted near 150,000 miles. He has started a crusade against Saturn in his mind, and has posted his "SOB" story on other well known Saturn sites. Somehow I fail to feel sorry for someone who's car has lasted near 150,000 miles and can't think of anything to complain about except plastic trim, etc.

    For someone to think a car will be flawless at that mileage is clearly smoking something illegail. The easiest thing for him to do which anyone with an ape's intelligence could have figured out is simply get rid of your oh so problematic car, or deal with it. A smear campain from one person will do nothing other then prove that some cars are not perfect, doesn't prove anything with real data nor facts.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    I have noticed that it doesn't matter what car you have, how dependable the whole industry says it is or what owners say, someone hates it. Edmunds forums are no different. It doesn't matter if it is a Toyota, Honda, or Volvo someone was driving one home and it quit. Saturn was the biggest gainer last year for GM. So to say they have declined when they posted a 17.90% increase, seems more of an opinion than fact. Posting a gain a bit higher for Honda was Acura so I guess it has decreased also? Maybe new math puts a plus mark when they mean a minus? Volkswagen posted a smaller gain so I guess they must be in real trouble? Ok, I shouldn't make fun of someone who is having trouble with their car, I know it is stressful. Either there is one giant conspiracy by the Auto mags, consumer reports and JD Powers to try and fool people into believing Saturn's are pretty dependable or some people just have a black cloud over them. Better luck next time. By the way, my neighbor's 95 Saturn has spent the last five winters in the snow because not many of us have garages, and still no rusting doors or top, they don't salt where that person lives do they?
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    I have to put brakes on my Prelude once a year. A new set of tires and I have replaced the Rotors once. Must be the Honda's fault. Couldn't be that I live 5000 feet up a mountain road from work, and have been known to apply liberal amounts of the go and the stop pedal when I drive? Naaaawww.
  • toml7toml7 Posts: 3
    I too have had rust problems with my '96 SL2. I live in KY where the winters are relatively mild and little salt is used. The doors are rusting where the seal meets the door. The dealer recommended using baby oil on the seals to stop this problem. Also, the right rear door jam is rusting. If u open the door, look straight down there is a plastic plate. Remove this plate, it can be done with your fingers, and take a look. The rust is so bad that the metal is soft. I've had the rust repaired twice, while under warranty at the dealer recommended body shop, but nothing seems to stop it. I can clearly say that this is not an isolated occurrence since the loaner car from the dealer and several cars I checked in parking lots had the same problem.
    Rapidly Rusting Away,
  • It seems many either love or hate thier Saturns, I fortunatly have had excellent experiences with mine and intend to get another one to support the brand.

    The other day on my way to college the traffic suddenly stopped and the girl driving behind me could not stop in time.

    She slid at least 40 feet before hitting the rear of my Saturn SL with her Plymouth Vogager. All of her antifreeze leaked out and her bumper cracked due to the impact.

    There was no visable damage to my car and after having it further evaluated for undercarrige damage, there was NONE< ZIPPO, ZILCH. I happen to call this ADVANTADGE SATURN. I now reccomend to anyone unsatisfied with thier Saturn to buy a Chrysler product, with thier horrid crash test scores, and traditionally bad reliability and resale we shall see who's laughing years from now .
  • I've been reading through the post here and have become amazed at my own observation. Folks seem to be complaining about cars that have lasted for 100 to 150,000, even 200,000 miles.

    I respect someone who babies a car long enough to get that kind of wear out of it, but can't comprehend that they should be surprised at recurring mechanical difficulties.

    If a car is 99.9% perfect in construction 17 parts will fail in its operation. It's man made. It will fail.

    My experience with Saturn leads me to believe that everybody there has their heart in the right spot. It's an old saw in customer service, but some folks just will not be pleased. Think I've run across a lot of them here.

    How long do you keep a pair of sneakers? Geez.
  • The rust problem in the door that was mentioned. That's not soft metal. Pull that tab on a 2 month old Saturn on the dealer's lot and you'll see rust there. That's unpainted galvanized steel that takes a heck of a long time to rust through. Like, 100 years. It presents no cosmetic or mechanical problems. Quit looking there!

    Notice the exhaust on a Saturn? It rust. It's stainless steel. What gives? Simple, it's not designed to look pretty so they make out of low grade tempered stainless. Works great, won't rust through, but will oxidize eventually. Like in a hundred years.
  • toml7toml7 Posts: 3
    Yes bran none the metal is soft.... even crunches when pressed on. In fact the paint has bubbled, yes there was paint there, and large hunks of busted metal can be lifted away with a finger nail.
  • Guess that's one reason not to be a cheapskate and buy a new car at least every few years instead of 8 huh tom?
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