Just Bought a 2001 Saturn SL1 5 Speed

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Feb 3, 2006
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Howdy, Found a good deal on a 2001 Saturn SL1 5 Speed 4 door. I commute 100 freeway miles a day and want to save on my ’03 GMC Sierra that has 166,000 miles. 109,000 miles Clean Autocheck A/C works great Engine is super smooth & no noises or vibrations up to 5,500 RPM’s TLC it needs: Check Engine Light – EGR Valve (needs to be cleaned or replaced?) Spark Plugs look very old Reverse lights are out 4 tires (Firestone FR380’s on sale now buy 3 get one free) Radio was taken out – needs one Wiper blades Comments? Which Dino oil works “excellent” in these 1.9l engines? Which oil filter? Which spark plugs work best with this engine? Anything to keep an eye on? Thanks much!
 
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Is this one of those excessive oil consumption engines? If so, I'd probably run some thicker high mileage oil in it. Pennzoil prolly makes one.
 
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Firestone FR380 tires are really cheap and lame... You can do better. Really... I'd use a HM oil.... I'm partial to the stout and proven Maxlife Semi Synthetic, and something as simple as an AC Delco filter.
 
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Feb 19, 2009
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Upstate, NY
When i had my Sl2 1.9,(125K miles) I used used 5W30 Walmart syn oil, and a Motorcraft Fl-400s oil filter. You could fit in 4.5 Qts in that little 1.9. I would burn a qt every 1600 miles.. That was with many 6K Rpm runs. I would use a 10W30, any brand. A Morotcraft Fl-400S oil filter, (a little over sized, easier to get off) Spark Plugs you can use ANY regular cooper spark plug,(Eg. Autolite) Don't get these "premium" spark plugs, with the waste spark system in the saturn, these are a waste of money, and chances are you would have problems with them. Keep an eye on the oil level, and keep it full. Also i would not spin the tires, even on snow with these Saturn Transmission's, I had the diff pin let go on my SL2 when i hit a puddle, and blew the transmission apart. Other then these couple of problems, you can have this car for another 200K miles..
 
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Jan 6, 2008
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103K on my SL, 5 speed, SOHC. Still getting around 35 city/42 highway, and using only around 6 ounces of oil per 3000 miles. I am easy on mine though and I keep the R's down quite a bit. I bought mine when it had 48K and have had no repairs except a tie rod end and a wheel bearing at 100K. My cousin has the same model, except the DOHC with an AT, and he is at 255K right now and he beats his mercilessly. You must take apart the throttle body and clean it and the EGR from time to time. It is easy and there is tons of carbon these put out. That, and make sure you are always keeping an eye on that PCV valve as it does get snotty. I have reused my EGR gasket many time because I am careful with it. +1 to the recommendation not to spin her out on snow or water. You will grenade your tranny for sure. Also, watch your motor mounts and do the ball point pen trick to check if they need replacement. Finally, if you get a check engine light, you can often remedy it by a thorough cleaning of the coil pack/new spark plugs. I only run the copper NGK plugs with the "Type R" written on the side. 1.50 a piece. I have made two service engine soon lights go out by very thoroughly cleaning the ignition/spark system. For oil consumption, the best two oils I have used (6 ounces of loss per 3000 miles which is a miracle with the ring design of the 1.9L) has been Mobil Clean 5000, Formula Shell, and Pennzoil Yellow bottle in 5w-30. For an air filter, stick with AC Delco on these as they rate really high in filter tests and are readily availalbe. If you have an old spare tire in the trunk it will probably be bad. Mine is and they want 91 bucks just for the donut at a dealer. Nobody else, and I mean nobody has the T115/70R14 tire in stock. You can get a Yokohama model that might work. Check junkyards. Dump some Mobil synthetic fluid for your transaxle in there. Mine shifts like it is 80F in the -20F temps here in winter.
 
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You might want to do a 'piston soak' or 'Molasoak' to make sure your rings are as free as they can be. Or do an Auto-Rx run. These engines can consume tons of oil. I'd err on the side of caution, and pick up a case of whatever decent dino you can get on sale near you. I'd keep a couple of quarts in the trunk until you determine exactly what your consumption is - you don't want to be shelling out $5-$6 for a quart of oil at a gas station!
 
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Dec 26, 2007
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Congrats on the new vehicle. Treat your Saturn right and it will take care of you. Mine has never had anything replaced except maintenance items (oil, tires, battery, coolant, filters etc)....well actually not true, I did replace one sensor (ECTS). These cars are EASY to work on... Some things to changed/check: 1. Get a new ECTS if yours has a ceramic tip. The ECTS is screwed into the top side of the block on the driver's side. The ones with ceramic tips tend to crack and cause issues. The replacement should have a brass tip. http://www.saturnfans.com/photos/data/500/ECTScomparo.jpg 2. Check your oil! The newer (2000+) Saturns tend not to burn that much oil if they were kept to the proper level and had routine oil changes throughout it's life. If yours burns oil, the rings are stuck and you'll have to deal with it. Mine uses ~1/2 qt in 4,000 mile OCI. 3. I'd clean the throttle body if it consumes oil. 4. Avoid burnouts. Spinning wheels doesn't actually hurt the transmission; the problem is the wheels spinning and then suddenly gaining traction. If you do this a lot you will shoot out the diff pin out of these trannys. For oil, I've used Pennzoil, Mobil Clean 5000 and Formula Shell and my engine hasn't blown up yet...I always use Purolator white filters. saturnfans.com/forums is a great resource...I've gotten tons of help on these forums. Members there have done everything from rebuilding engines to replacing the light bulbs in the dashboard. One member there has 550k miles on his 1997? 1.9L Saturn engine, but it does use 1qt/200 miles. He is planning on rebuilding it.
 
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Turk

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Wow - thank you all for the replies so far! It runs like a dream. Oh, I paid only 2500. Wanna pic? Here's a uncleaned, unwaxed pic when I just brought it home: It has a bra, but I say it doesn't need a bra! It looks great under the bra, no defects. Will go to saturnfans.com! It was a tad low, so I poured 8-9 Oz MMO into the crankcase and ran it for 5 minutes. Will change the oil to one of the 3 recommendations in a week (500 miles). Will clean the EGR & check/change the ECTS. Will buff out small scratches & shine 'er up real good. It has a Qt bottle of SL Holiday oil in the trunk (of course I went right to the API classification...) Will put on 4 new tires. Which ones are great on this car...? Thanks!
 
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Congrats on the Saturn. Probably needs a backup light switch, located on top of the trans. near the ends of the shift cables. You also might have to someday replace the black shift cable bushing at the shifter end. If you do, get the separate aftermarket bushing often found on ebay or some parts stores instead of having to spend $190 for a new set of cables at Saturn. I also usually used an AC PF53 for the oil filter. NGK BKR4ESA-11 would be the best IMO for plugs on the SOHC. IMO the FR380 is OK for an economy car. They won't wear like iron like the OE FR680s, but they are cheaper as well. I used to run the 15" Tiger Paw Tourings on an SL2 and they were a really great tire on the car, but were also a little more money. Cooper is usually worth looking at for basic tires as well.
 
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I have Pirelli tires on mine....they have worn nicely and I have no complaints. Nice lookin' Saturn! I admit I like that color. Mine is white but otherwise looks exactly the same. Mine - side Mine - front
 
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 Originally Posted By: GMFan
I have Pirelli tires on mine....they have worn nicely and I have no complaints. Nice lookin' Saturn! I admit I like that color. Mine is white but otherwise looks exactly the same.
I installed Goodyear Comfort Treds 50K miles ago and they are wearing great. I'll have no troubles getting to the 85K mile tread life Goodyear claims.
 

Turk

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I won't be running the MMO in the crankcase long as the change oil soon light is on when I start the car. \:\( There's no manual (of course), how do I clear the change oil soon light?
 
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 Originally Posted By: tpitcher
I won't be running the MMO in the crankcase long as the change oil soon light is on when I start the car. \:\( There's no manual (of course), how do I clear the change oil soon light?
Read the directions on the engine fuse cover. It is right there. Turn car to run, hold red oil-r button down for 5 seconds, release.
 
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I'll second that, these cars won't run worth a [censored] on platinium plugs of any brand, stick with NGK, AC Delco, or Champion Copper plugs, change the wires for a good set at the same time. Try cleaning the EGR valve first if the light comes back on replace it(they aren't that expensive). Back-up light problem is most likely the switch get it from Saturn($15 +/-), it screws into the top of the transaxle near the dipstick. The ECTS is most likely already the brass one, however they are cheap at Saturn and it won't hurt to change it(it's screws into the driver's side end of the head). You will have to clean your throttle body every year, you should do it every 6 months, you do not have to remove it to clean the carbon out of it(remove the intake hose and spray it with carb cleaner, wipe down, hold open butterfly, soak throttle body again and keep wiping until butterfly and body are clean. Start engine and spray IAC port with carb cleaner and your done. Oil consumption on this generation wasn't an issue, most of the time was traced back to an aftermarket PCV valve(get one from Saturn, see a trend here).
 
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Yaaay! The benefit of the FL400s filter is you can actually grab the dome end come changing time either with your fingers or the filter wrench. Find some 15 inch wheels (195/60/15 or 185/65/15) off a SL2 for better handling. That tire is also way more common and the price difference between the 14s is a wash. Save the 14" steelies for snow tires! The theft proof radios on these lose their settings when disconnected. Most stock radios you'll see on ebay are locked, and it costs .5-1 hour labor at the dealer to reset. Go aftermarket, and rewire the always +12v hot to not run off the 3 amp chime fuse.
 

Turk

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I used some Meguires Scratch-X & Tech Wax last night on a few spots - WHOA! Smooth & Shiny!
 
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