Help me understand the Saturn oil use problem

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Aug 8, 2004
NW Arkansas
OK, I am new here... I was refered to this forum from the "SaturnFan" forum... Help me understand the oil use problem in the Saturn cars... it almost seems across the board?? By the time they have 80 K the are using 1 qt @ 1000 miles.. and nowbody seems to know why, or what to do about it... Is the solution to buy something else, probably foreign?? I was playing with Hondas in the early eighties.. and I discovered that the cars that used the "Honda" filters had very good longevity, but the cars that used cheap aftermarket filters died early.... and the cheaper the filter the earlier they died... I have been working on cars for 35 years, and it seems to me, most usually the "Market" solves these kinds of problems... The problem car just quietly goes away... but this is looking to me like an epademic... I have a 99 Saturn SC2 DOHC Auto with 89 K and when I bought it with 74 K.. it was cheap and I couldn't figure out why...It used a qt in 2500 mi instead of adding a qt, I changed the oil & filter, next change we went to 3500 mi, and changed again.. this time I will get to 5000 mi... but what is happeneing to all these other cars??? Thanks
Welcome to the board. Probably you will get some answers but if you do a search in this forum thith the word "Saturn" in the title you will get some hits. Yes they use more oil-I suspect its just a ring design quirk. The 4L jeeps seem to run along the same lines.
With a used car, you can never tell (unless you have records) how it was maintained. Therefore, oil consumption could be due to a design flaw or lack of maintenance. Some engines are more tolerant of lack of maintenance than others, and what might be fine for one engine might result in sludged up oil control rings in another. I can tell you that my 1988 Mustang 5.0, purchased used with 116,000 miles on it, consumes about a quart every 1500 miles. The most recent oil change I started the Auto-RX process and I have driven 500 miles and I have been unable to detect a drop in oil level. In theory it should have consumed 1/3 quart already. My mom's 1997 Ford Escort 2.0L SOHC doesn't consume but 1/3 quart in 4000 miles, that's with 82,000 miles, purchased used with 20,000 miles on it.
I appreciate the help... Al, I tried the "Search", and the only hit was my post, so Tell me about the Auto-RX program.. Thanks
My understanding is that weak piston rings combined with a lack of appropriate oil drainage at the rings (no drain holes?) along with higher-than-average head temperatures all combine to make the rings carbon up and stick in their grooves. Once this happens, the problem is accelerated as oil gets past the rings into the combustion chamber. It's a problem on all Saturns from inception to '99: all the 1.9 liter engines up to the Ecotec, in other words. Don't know how the Ecotecs fair in comparison. Note that the rings tend to <i>really</i> get stuck. Until recently, the word was that only piston removal and several long hours with a stiff-bristle brush and solvent would unglue the rings from the grooves. Some have had success with <i>repeated</i> piston soak procedures using solvents such as Seafoam, Chemtool B-12, or GM's top engine cleaner. Most just live with it. If you have a Saturn, the rules that apply to most other cars with oil burning problems don't necessarily apply to you. In other words, don't expect miracles with Auto RX, Lube Control, Neutra, MMO, engine flushes and the like. You can expect some improvement, but nothing like a complete cure.
Kev, Ok, if it hasn't progressed to the bad situation yet, does using synthetic or someothere excotic product or proceedure work, or maybe help?? Thanks
Using an HDEO might help clean the rings over time, or at least keep them from sticking quite so fast. It also may help reduce consumption.
99SC2--this is precisely why I got rid of my 95 SW2 @ 100k. It started around 60k with 1 qt every 1500 or so then got to 1 qt every 800-1000 miles. UNACCEPTABLE! [Mad] At least to me having just sold a Geo Prizm (Toyota Corolla) with 140k that didn't use a drop in 3000+ miles. The counter clown at Saturn told me it would be $12-1400 to "fix". I told him that I could buy a lot of oil for that money. I changed oil every 3000 miles with Pennzoil. I don't run an engine hard until fully warm and I let pressure build 30 seconds or so before pulling away on a start. No reason other than bad design for this engine to do this. [crushedcar]
Originally posted by 99SC2-RED: Ok fellas, remember this is all new to me, What is HDEO?? Thanks
HDEO-heavy duty engine oil Most commonly used in diesel engines and can be used in gas engines with good results. Dan
I had an Saturn SL and never had an oil problem, but have heard many people that did. I did have a Chevy S-10 with a 4 cyl that when new was going through a quart every 500 miles. It was freaky because there was no sign on the plugs. The tail pipe was clean and no signs of smoke or oil drips. Turned out there was a gasket recall, and when replaced it never burned oil again.
Originally posted by 99SC2-RED: Tell me about the Auto-RX program.. Thanks Or do a search here for Auto-Rx. All I can say is that it does will be interesting to see if the Mustang gets better fuel economy and uses less oil when the process is done.
my 97 SC1 was burning a quart/1000 at 100,000 miles on petro 5W30 switched to Mobil 1 0W40 (Mercedes spec) and have gone 3000 with about 1/8 quart consumed so far with no other changes I personally don't believe this is cost effective (you can buy 5000 miles worth of cheap petro oil for the cost of 1 quart of M1), but my daughter takes it to college and it doesn't get the weekly maintenance checks like it would at home so I'm happy to run the Mobil.
I'm running superflo 10w40 in one and Pennzoil LL 15w40 in the other, 95/96 saturn SOHCs. I think the valve seals are another crummy design in the 1.9. Another vote for a Xw40 in these cars: They run much better particularly accellerating from a stop on the thicker stuff. Consumption is down and am still getting ~43-44mpg too. [Smile]
Im currently running GC and have 45k miles on my 2001 1.9L SOHC and have no consumption problems, and really dont hope I experience any for a long time, but we will see.
Originally posted by brianl703:
Originally posted by 99SC2-RED: Tell me about the Auto-RX program.. Thanks Or do a search here for Auto-Rx. All I can say is that it does will be interesting to see if the Mustang gets better fuel economy and uses less oil when the process is done. is the engine site. .net is the transmission site. Ken
Originally posted by 99SC2-RED: Kev, Ok, if it hasn't progressed to the bad situation yet, does using synthetic or someothere excotic product or proceedure work, or maybe help?? Thanks
If you check out the SaturnFans website, you'll see that most of us there have run high-quality synthetic oil (Mobil 1, Red Line, or Amsoil) for the life of the cars. Sadly, while they help, they don't prevent the problem. Some people claim that running a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil for the last 500 miles before an oil change will help prevent it, but to my knowledge no one has stepped forward to say that's actually worked for them. A heavy-duty diesel oil as has been discussed here might actually do better. I would suggest that running a dose of Lube Control (a search here will reap lots of info) might help keep the problem in check. Auto RX hasn't done much to help with my oil burning, although it does have other benefits. As I said, I think a periodic piston soak done every 30,000 miles combined with a high quality synthetic or HDEO is the way to go. My SL has nearly 200,000 miles and uses about a quart every 1500 miles, which I consider excellent for a Saturn. I always hasten to add when it comes to these "oil-burning Saturn" threads, that most Saturn owners continue driving their cars for multiple hundreds of miles, oil burning be damned. In fact, many owners that have usage as high as 1 quart per 600 miles just make it a habit to check their oil and add as necessary at each fill up. These engines will easily last past 300,000 miles - even using oil at those rates - as long as you keep the level topped up. EDIT: Oh yes, and definitely use an Xw-40 weight oil. I'm a fan of Delvac 1 5w-40.
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