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Saturn S-Series



  • Right now I am at least the third owner of an 89 Toyota Corolla sedan (I inherited this vehicle, which is the first one that I own). One of my more experienced friends owns a 98 (or possibly 97)Saturn sedan; am not sure if it's the S series (if that's the cheaper series, then I think that's what it is). He swears by his vehicle which he says has the twin cam (I think) 4 cylinder engine which picks up very well, even with the air conditioning on. That's more than I can say about my Corolla, which becomes anemic (but that's better than my late father's VW Rabbit which would stall unless you waited to drive at least a mile before turning on the air).

    My Corolla has just over 85k on it and have had to have the brakes replaced after 8k (guaranteed for 12k; am no lead foot), have had to have locks repaired twice in seven years and am having a cold starting problem; recently spent almost $800 on various repairs connected with inspection and winterization. Would like to be able to scrape together a few thousand dollars to eventually replace vehicle. Am apprehensive, since this would be my first trade (when the time comes). Checked the Toyota boards and got mixed postings, just like the Saturn board. Think the Saturn would be a better value, especially now that Toyotas are also made in America. What years should be avoided?

    Would appreciate sincere advice.

  • Hi, lets see.. years to avoid on the S Series... the more rounded looking S Series sedan and wagon came out in 1996, with the redesigned coupe a year later. I have heard that 1998 is the best year S Series, and 1999 and 2000 weren't too bad either.

    The most important thing is to make sure the vehicle has been well maintained, with maintenance records. Also, it is always a good idea to have a carfax history report done so you can check for possible accidents and problems..

    Consumer Reports states that nearly all years of the S Series are reliable and I believe this to be true. (excluding hardware issues). I checked a local retailer and found these late model S Series sedans for sale..
    1999 Saturn SL2 Gold 40,981 $8,495

    1999 Saturn SL2 Green 65,761 $6,995

    1996 Saturn SL2 Green 69,996 $5,495

    Maybe you could check out as well, but I would stick to buying a Saturn from a Saturn retailer. If you do buy from a Saturn retailer , you will get at least a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty in most cases as well as roadside assistance. I personally am on my second Saturn, and haven't had any major problems with either one. Plus, you can't beat the polymer door panels/ and low cost of ownership . Happy Hunting :)
  • Thanks for your quick response! I left a question on the Toyota Corolla board a few minutes before posting my message #1022 here and have not received a response pertaining to my inquiries about problems I am having with my 89 Corolla.

    Thanks also for going to the trouble of checking the site. The 96 in green would have best fit my budget; unfortunately, I live in Northeast Phila. so Albany would be quite a hike. Now I just need to pinch some pennies and check a couple dealers down here, especially the one where my friend got his champagne (or gold) colored 98 (would need to be an automatic). (He had traded in a Honda Accord!) When you said if I stuck to a Saturn retailer, you said I probably would get at least a 12 month, 12K warranty - I assume you're talking about previously owned vehicles? I would also hope that a Saturn retailer would use the touted no-haggle policy on used vehicles as well as on new ones? I am not much for haggling on things and since this would be my first purchase (and being a single woman) I get apprehensive about being ripped off! I'm also impressed that this is your second vehicle by this make so it's obvious you know your stuff.

    Thanks again!
  • wwhite2wwhite2 Posts: 535
    FIRST !!! Watch out for oil consumption CAREFULLY .....If you can have contract state that excessive oil consumption is a reason for complete repair or they will buy it back ...less mileage you put on it . Look up saturn forum it,s more than just a small isolated problem . other than that the car is ok for a low priced car
  • The 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty is available on most used cars sold through a Saturn retailer, and yes the no hassle, no haggle policy applies for pre owned Saturn's as well. It's always a good idea to check the cars expected retail value (the price you'd expect to pay at a dealer) at

    You would of course be able to save money by purchasing from a private party, but make sure to get maintenance records, have a carfax report done, (need the vin #) and of course check the value on kellybluebook. Also, if you buy from an individual it couldn't hurt to have the car checked out by a local mechanic (usually costs around $ 50-100.00 at a Saturn retailer. If you have any other questions , don't hesitate to ask
  • It has been quite a while since I visited this site. Alot of new names. I have a 99 sl2 bought new in april 2000. I now have almost 83,000 miles on it. I have ac, auto, am/fm cassette as far as extra options. I got just over 76,000 on the original tires and replace them with goodyear allegra tires. Have changed the trans fluid and filter twice at close to the recommended 30,000 mile interval. My only recurring problem is the resonator as it developes stress cracks at the welded joint between it and the exhaust pipe, on the third one. Otherwise original rotors, struts.At last oil change, noticed that it was down about a quart so its possible the engine has developed the using oil syndrome. I do most of the routine maintenance myself and changed the oil and filter between 3000 and 3500 miles. Also replaced the front pads at around 54,000, they still had some life but it was close to the yearly state inspection time so decided to replace them. Will add that about 60 percent of my driving is on highways. Gas mileage varies from a low of 33 to a high of 38. Overall, it has been a economical and reliable car asit has always got me back home.
  • Zapcat; My wife has a 96 SL2 automatic with 56K. She was having problems with the transmission shifting, It would slam into gear on acceleration and would not downshift until about 5 mph, then it would be very harsh. Service department said it was probably a bad valve body, est cost $1,000+ but recommended waiting until it got worse. It was also surging during heavy acceleration. This went on for about a year. I changed Trans fluid and filter, plugs and wires, added fuel Injector cleaner, etc, it would act better for a little while then start shifting hard again. I was considering trade in, but then I decided to check the fuel filter. I removed the filter and tried to blow through it and found a lot of resistance. I even cut it open and noticed a real fine black coating on the paper filter. I replaced the filter and everything is back to normal, no surging now and the transmission shifts as smooth as it did when new.
  • amh35amh35 Posts: 1
    I just purchased my 2001SL Saturn three weeks ago, and this morning while driving on the highway my car began shaking hard once I hit 50mph, and felt like it wasn't shifting. I had a very hard time going any faster than this. Then when I exited the highway and stepped on the brake, the pedal was already halfway depressed. The brake pedal has been sticking kind of randomly for about a week, but I have never experienced anything as severe as this. I am taking it to the dealer on Monday morning, but has anyone else had a problem like this?
  • The closest thing I can come up with is my 2001 SL1's brake pedel pulsated when I was braking from around 50mph or so, and the steering wheel would shake a bit. The rotors were warped and were resurfaced for free at Saturn.

    Let me know how everything worked out...
  • Saturn "s" series with sohc heads (sl,sl1 and sw1)tend to burn oil IF they don't get their oil changed often enough, the residue formed when Hydro carbons get into the oil on all cars tends to get caught in the piston rings on these saturns and lessen the piston rings' less effectiveness. The problem is not very prominent on dohc engines (sl2,sw2) maybee because their owners payed more for them and are better at keeping to the maintenance schedule.
    ALSO NOTE THAT 1995 AND 1996 SATURNS seem to have more problems, their quality seems to have dipped at that point, which I think is when G.M. started sticking their nose into Saturn's affairs, plus there were union problems at the assembly plant at that time, cars were purposely being delivered to dealers with miss matched parts and such at times.
    As far as the CRACKED CYLINDER HEADS that someone was asking about,this was on sohc engines only. The journal for the last camshaft was cracking(part of the head) and coolant was getting into the oil. This required replacement of the head and all rubber hoses, pumps seal in the cooling system, which can swell when in contact with oil.
    This would not affect oil consumption, unless the oil was getting into coolant and that would be obvious, 'cause the coolant looks like mud when it occurs! Any more questions?
  • wwhite2wwhite2 Posts: 535
    Many perfectly maintained saturns including mine(SC2) have developed serious /severe oil consumption problems . You sound like a service writer to pass everything off on to the customer(consumer)
  • "You sound like a service writer to pass everything off on to the customer(consumer) "

    Or an INFORMED consumer perhaps with simply a strong knowledge of Saturn automobiles.
  • wwhite2wwhite2 Posts: 535
    having swapped engines myself in my SC2 and having life long vocation and advocation with automobiles I consider myself to have an excellent understanding of all mechanical devices.....having disassembled my failed engine, the cause of the failure was there as plain as can be . Now compare that to someones opinion well ? I dont understand your point ?
  • ".....having disassembled my failed engine, the cause of the failure was there as plain as can be "

    Guess thats a scene you won't see in a Saturn advertisement any time soon huh :)
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    Faulty rings?
  • When I am in stop and go traffic, the car bogs down (feels like it will stall) when I start to accelerate again from an almost stop. It also stalls sometime backing up.
    It's fine all other times.
    Never, ever changed the fuel filter...will do it this weekend! Sounds difficult PITA from what I read.
    What other things should I look at if it still stalls or bogs down?
  • Change the spark plugs and plug wires (use saturn OEM wires), They often have a problem of corrision on the end of the wire that plugs into the ciol/ignition module.
  • Question: has anyone negotiated to purchase their S-series at the end of a lease? If so, does Saturn budge on the buyout price specified in the lease agreement or not? I wouldn't mind buying mine but not for the money they want. If they budge, maybe we can strike a deal. It seems Saturn had to move these cars at the end with the $199/month lease deal and a flood of these $199 specials will be coming in.
  • afk_xafk_x Posts: 393
    If you leased through Chase you may be able to negotiate. Chase has taken to purchasing residual insurance so they may not be willing to move much.

    If you leased through GMAC you can forget it. They won't negotiate with you. Yes they are taking a beating but they still won't negotiate with you. Try talking to your wall. Thats how much luck you will have.

    If you do like the SL1 and your lease is over between now and August 31st you are in luck.

    Many dealers have one or two or more SL1s that they are trying to unload. Its a little complicated but basically it may be possible to end your lease now with the "Pull ahead" program.

    Also with a GMAC lease on a Saturn you qualify for $750 lease loyalty money. There is a 2000 rebate on any new SL1 until the end of the month. Most dealers are offering at least 1000 discount if not more on their remaining inventory.

    Here is the math

    SL1 MSRP 14300 - actually price may vary :)

    Dealer discount - 1000 or more

    Lease loyalty 750

    Rebate 2000

    So for around 10,000 you can get a new SL1. Personally I would try out the ION. 0% APR and 750 still applies...

    Good luck whatever you decide.
  • We've got about 2 feet of snow on the ground here in Maryland and have more on the way. I was dumb enough to drive home from Virginia in my Saturn. I'm pleased to report that my '93 SL2 was amazing in the snow! It got a little interesting when I plowed through a 12" drift and got sideways, but it pulled through without much trouble. I passed several Audis with quattro that had gotten stuck. Extremely impressive. The relatively new tires also help. I have Firestone SS20s, much better than the crappy Affinitys I used to have.
  • Hey, I wish GMAC lots of luck trying to sell my car off-lease, with its manual windows and door locks. I only bought this car cause of the ultra low monthly lease, I knew it was at the end of its life cycle and not nearly as good as a dozen other cars in its class. But at the time, my finances dictated that I had to get the SL-1. It's been a fairly reliable and utterly unspectacular commuter car. But hey, for $199/month, I didn't expect much. Heck, I only washed it once a year, in April after the snows and road salting.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    My Saturn dealer said the 60k mi service on my 1999 SL2 with manual was about $650. This seems way high considering there are no timing belt issues. They don't do anything but change the oil, rotate the tires, clean the fuel injectors, and inspect the belts, hoses and wires. What have you Saturn owners done?
  • That seems way too expensive for a 60K mile service. It would be a good idea to call around to a few different dealers. I typically pay about $300-350 for the major services (30/60/90). The most recent service (120K miles) I decided to do myself. It wasn't too difficult. The only bad part was replacing the fuel filter.
  • wwhite2wwhite2 Posts: 535
    It all simple work and huge profit for the dealer not sure how get a aftermarket manual follow all the steps including the safety stuff. Use the money saved on something else
  • You could just take $650 out into the shop and throw it up in the air, at least that way the mechanic would get more than the one hour or so labor the dealer will give him (or her). Really, if there are no warranty issues, I would shop around or do it myself.
  • wwhite2wwhite2 Posts: 535
    follow the schedule do the work save the slips there can never a warranty issue
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    I will shop around a little. I called a Firestone store (I guess because of the Firestone tires it has) and they said they would do all the recommended procedures for about $400. I have about 4k miles to go, so I'll figure it out by then. Thanks for your responses.
  • birdman579birdman579 Posts: 151
    That's disappointing to hear about your story. $4500 for a new transmission is outrageous! It sounds to me like you should (maybe its too late) try a different dealer. My dealer in Maryland has been outstanding. At 45-50K miles, the alternator needed replacing, but the dealer gave a discount. At 60K miles, the sunroof and doors started leaking water, the sunroof was replaced for free. There's been a few problems with my car, but each time, the dealer has been very good with taking care of them. My car is now up to 140K miles and still running well.
  • My girl friend leased a new Saturn 2001 SC2 and has had major problems with this vehicle and the Saturn dealer and Saturn motor division. The 1st Problem was the recall for the fuel switch. Shortly after this was fixed the car started leaking antifreeze. I looked for the cause checking the hoses and radiator but could not find the reason for the leak. Since the car had less than 36K miles on it she took it to the dealer. The second problem turned out to be the intake manifold gasket. We were Lucky that it happened with so few miles on the car or we would have had to pay for it. Now here's where things get bad. After the car reached the 37.5K mile mark the transmission just died, AND JUST IN TIME FOR THE WARRANTY TO RUN OUT AT 36K MILES GOOOO FIGURE!!!!! Well we heard about saturn's rep. and immediately took it to Saturn of Devon where they informed us that the car was out of warranty and they didn't know if it would be covered. They said it might be covered if it was a manufacture defect,(AT 37.5K MILES YOU BET IT'S A DEFECT), but it was going to cost us $600.00 just to find out. This car HAS NOT been driven hard or abused and now we have to spend $600.00 to see if Saturn will cover a transmitsion that has only 37.5K miles!!! So much for Saturn SERVICE? So we called Saturn Motor Division and got the same reply from them about no Guarantees. We had no choice but to give them the $600.00. After the dealer took the trans out and inspected it they(in thier humble opinion) concluded that it could not be repaired and it was not a manufacture problem and informed us that a new trans would cost $4500.00!!! NOT INCLUDING THE $600.00 WASTED TO TELL US THAT IT WAS OUR PROBLEM NOR DID IT INCLUDE INSTALLATION!!!! After some words between the dealer and myself they tried to come up with some alternatives 1) rebult trans $3600.00 parts and labor 2) used trans $2450.00 parts and Labor.
    Now you may think that the dealer is bending over backwards for us but REMEMBER THAT THE CAR HAS ONLY 37.5K MILES and it will cost us at least $2450.00 to fix!! This is an outrage!!! I have a 1991 1500 Chevy truck with over 160K miles on it when the trans went. I spent $1300.00 for a rebuilt trans and had someone else put it in. I asked the chevy dealer if that would effect the warranty, they said no! It cost me $400.00 to have installed bringing the total to $1700.00 With a 3 year 50K mile warranty. To put an end to this ranting we will NEVER get a Saturn AGAIN!!!!!!
  • birdman579birdman579 Posts: 151
    Very strange that your message is no longer available. If the host had removed it for some reason, he/she would have said something.

    I'm sorry if this makes you feel worse, but I received a thank you note from my dealer today thanking me for bringing my car in for service. What other car company would do that? Its the little things that make me glad to own a Saturn.

    neveragain: hopefully you can find a dealer as outstanding as mine (Saturn of Ellicott City).
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