2001 Saturn SC - bubbles on transmission stick

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I need some feedback BITOG!

My son just bought a 2001 Saturn SC2 with the twin cam 1.9. This was an emergency purchase from a co-worker due to his wife wrecking their other car. They are young with no money but thankfully a co-worker had this car available.

Spent the last two days with it and it's a lot of car in today's market for 2k. Seems to be running and driving pretty well, despite the fact when we changed the oil we got 1.5 quarts out of it at most. Zikes. Anyway....

The transmission intermittently shifts hard. It does not seem to have the Saturn "reverse slam" I've already read about, but it shifts hard 1-2 almost always and sometimes 2-3, 3-4 is typically very smooth. A check of the stick shows reddish fluid so it's been serviced at least once at some point (car it at 170k). After warm up the transmission fluid level shows near the bottom of the safe zone. But I get a pronounced string of little bubbles on the stick. I checked it probably 20 times with the same result, tiny string of bubbles, lots of them. I thought frothing was a result of overfill, which this does not appear to be.

Not sure what to do or what this means. I didn't want to add any fluid or additives until checking here. Could the stick be wrong and it's actually overfilled? Is the fluid just shot? What gives?
 

KCJeep

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The patient.

543592A1-5641-4AE3-86CD-453308FC9A3B.jpeg
 
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Use Dexron III or TES-295 fluid in the transmission…
Advanced Auto just had Mobil 1 ATF for $1.75 a quart…


I suggest Shell Rotella T5, 10W-30 in a Saturn S Series oil burner
Piston rings get clogged…

You can use a Fram 3614 or equivalent, but a Fram 3600 also fits…
 
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I doubt the stick is wrong. I would change it so you know where you are starting. I like dex 6 , but I never liked it in these cars. Run dex III. That could be the issue.

These cars have low tension rings and use oil, a lot of oil. Check it every fill-up, I'm not kidding.

I'd run supertech 10w40 in warm weather. How cold is your winter climate?
 
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Use Dexron III or TES-295 fluid in the transmission…
Advanced Auto just had Mobil 1 ATF for $1.75 a quart…


I suggest Shell Rotella T5, 10W-30 in a Saturn S Series oil burner
Piston rings get clogged…

You can use a Fram 3614 or equivalent, but a Fram 3600 also fits…
Excellent advice. The 3600 filter is much easier to spin on and remove.
 
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These trannies are known to slam. Sometimes a new valve body fixes it-- they were $200 last I checked and are easy for the DIYer to slap on there. I would throw some LubeGard Red at it first though as well as a change with cheapo Dex-Mer. The tranny filter is a little red spin on dealie. Transmission services are as easy as oil service. Don't snag any wires when reefing on the tranny filter.

Xw40 is the oil for these. Mine liked regular old 15w40 in the summer, M1 0w40 in the winter.

While you're going over it, clean the EGR valve, its passages, and the throttle body. These cars also like copper plugs like the Autolite 3926. Remove the coil pack and clean any corrosion regarding its mounting bolts.
 
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I first stumbled across BITOG trying to fix something on a 1994 SL. I'm almost certain it was a post by Eljefino.

The Saturnfans website will be a big help if it's still around. There was also a guy who posted a lot of good Saturn repair videos on Youtube back in the 2000s.

This is the kind of car that makes the uninformed think the teapot light means "low oil" instead of "NO OIL. Shut it OFF." Teach the new owner to check oil religiously. Shop the sales and carry some in the trunk. At the end, mine would be a quart low before it needed a gas fill-up.

I'll second the longer 3600 filter and the EGR cleaning. I started taking off the wheel and inner fender to get at the filter since that made less of a mess.
 

KCJeep

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Thanks gang for all the great input.

I put QS Euro 5w40 in it since I have so much on hand. And a Mahle 3614 equivalent. Tried a PH 3600 and it fit great but something loose was hanging down on it which I didn’t like. Next time maybe.

I don’t have the skills many here do but I’ll give it a fill of Dex3 and some LG Red. Can’t hurt.

It’s already gotten the pretty little wife back and forth to work a couple days so it’s a win so far.
 

KCJeep

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Update: One weeks use for a modest commute and errands resulted in the oil being down an entire quart. Hopefully that will get a bit better if we can get it cleaned up. No change on the tranny we are going to do an exchange and add some LG Red.
 
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Update: One weeks use for a modest commute and errands resulted in the oil being down an entire quart. Hopefully that will get a bit better if we can get it cleaned up. No change on the tranny we are going to do an exchange and add some LG Red.
You are probably not going to improve it. I've owned several S-series saturns the oil control rings are really low tension. The engine will have good compression, yet burn oil. What you have is what you have. In warm weather greater than 32F a 10w40 works well.
 

KCJeep

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You are probably not going to improve it. I've owned several S-series saturns the oil control rings are really low tension. The engine will have good compression, yet burn oil. What you have is what you have. In warm weather greater than 32F a 10w40 works well.
Thanks!

To all who recommended heavy oils, does it help at all with slowing down consumption? If it's going to be the same with a 5w30, I'll probably just run that.
 
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Pretty sure the Saturn has an easily accessible spin-on ATF filter on the front side of the transaxle.
Careful as there are wires that like to get caught between the ATF filter and the filter base.
Saturn part# 21002303
 

KCJeep

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Update for posterity. The vehicle has thus far been a reliable daily commuter for the daughter in law. No change to the transmission but it is still going. To my surprise oil consumption has only been 1/4 to 1/2 a quart every 3 to 4 weeks.
 
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