Time to bury the Saturn?! (tranny help)

Messages
90
Location
MO
My 19-year relationship with my '95 Saturn SC1 may be coming to an end. It had its transmission rebuilt about 5 1/2 years ago (~50K miles ago). No problems with it until the past couple of weeks, when it began slipping. However, it has got progressively worse. The fluid is fine, as in the level is full and red; I last changed it to Mobil 1 ATF in 2011. I was about to change the ATF, thinking that would help, but I'm fairly sure now it is more than the fluid. At times now, it struggles to go faster than 20 mph. Is there any chance the tranny is salvageable? How does one know whether the culprit may be a clutch pack or a solenoid? Or do you figure it would require another rebuild at this point? Thanks again for your mechanical expertise! Ryan
 
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4,597
Location
Manchester, England
i cant tell you how to diagnose it, but if you want to keep the car its only one repair as compared to buying something else with its own history and problems..i guess its better the devil you know than the devil you dont..
 
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13,384
Location
ROCHESTER, NY
Just a thought but, this also sounds like a plugged catalitic converter. Has this engine been an oil burner? The extra ZINC in oils years ago(pre SM/GF-4) were more contaminating to Cat's until recently with the SM/SN oils.
 
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Messages
36,528
Location
ME
Is is throwing any codes? When they slip that badly they should. I assume you've tried manual 2nd gear. If you give it a go for a few miles and it's slipping like you describe the fluid should be scorching hot and generally smelling hot and bothered.
 
Messages
1,212
Location
windsor, ontario, canada.
Is there any chance the tranny is salvageable? How does one know whether the culprit may be a clutch pack or a solenoid? Or do you figure it would require another rebuild at this point? impossible to answer on the internet. bring it to a shop. good luck
 
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4,967
Location
Lima, Ohio, USA
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Just a thought but, this also sounds like a plugged catalitic converter. Has this engine been an oil burner? The extra ZINC in oils years ago(pre SM/GF-4) were more contaminating to Cat's until recently with the SM/SN oils.
Of course it has. It's a mid 90's Saturn. They all burn oil.... Asking if a Saturn burns oil is pretty much the equivalent to asking if the pope is catholic. Or if a bear deficates in the woods.
 
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Messages
1,878
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: earlyre
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Just a thought but, this also sounds like a plugged catalitic converter. Has this engine been an oil burner? The extra ZINC in oils years ago(pre SM/GF-4) were more contaminating to Cat's until recently with the SM/SN oils.
Of course it has. It's a mid 90's Saturn. They all burn oil.... Asking if a Saturn burns oil is pretty much the equivalent to asking if the pope is catholic. Or if a bear deficates in the woods.
My '92 SL2 never was never an oil burner, but I changed the oil every 3 mos/5k kms. whichever came first. OP, as Char Baby mentioned, you may have a plugged cat. Have it checked by a highly competent technician ASAP. Fuel filter replaced recently?
 

reemoe2

Thread starter
Messages
90
Location
MO
Char Baby - it is not an oil burner, believe it or not. I have been changing it every 5,000 miles, using synthetic 5W-30 in the winter and 10W-30 in the summer. Propflux01 - I would say lugging, rather than racing to get to 20 mph. yvon_la - Mine has only just recently been 'out of adjustment.' How do they get out of adjustment in the first place?
 
Messages
36,528
Location
ME
The saturn tranny uses a couple of shift solenoids to... shift... and a PWM (variable, not on-off) solenoid for line pressure. These control the valve body. When a valve body wears or gets gunked up the shifts get funky. But power is transferred to the ground. If you're slipping, that HP is going somewhere, turning into heat. If your torque convertor is messed up, the engine will race, above 2500 RPMs, and not move. 2300 RPM or so is the stall speed, which will lead to car movement and higher RPMs if all is working well. If you have an engine performance issue like a plugged catco or low fuel pressure you can make it behave by feathering the gas just above idle. Flooring the gas will make an odd noise but create no more power, and possibly less. I think it's a plugged catco. A redneck test is to pull the oxygen sensor and drive up and down the driveway. Beware it shoots fire out at your radiator so don't do it for too long. smile I can speak from experience as this happened on my 95 SW1 and I opened the flange just behind it and found a ping pong ball shaped "Death Star" made of the honeycomb stuff lodged sideways in the output hole. I shook this bad boy out (leaving 95% of the substrate intact and legal (ish) ) and all was well again.
 

reemoe2

Thread starter
Messages
90
Location
MO
Wow, a plugged catco can really impact your tranny that bad? So your SW1 had similar shifting problems as mine? The redneck test sounds kinda scary; how big are the flames?? So I take it that shooting fire means that it is indeed a clogged cat? Are there any other less Rednecky tests? Would it be quicker to go straight to that flange and see if I have a ping pong ball Death Star? Thanks a bunch! I really hope that I can save this car. Ryan
 
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10,008
Location
Upstate NY
A bad tranny would have the RPM's going up high to get the car to move. A plugged cat would leave the engine gutless much above idle.
 
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3,888
Location
southern mo
Originally Posted By: reemoe2
Wow, a plugged catco can really impact your tranny that bad? So your SW1 had similar shifting problems as mine? The redneck test sounds kinda scary; how big are the flames?? So I take it that shooting fire means that it is indeed a clogged cat? Are there any other less Rednecky tests? Would it be quicker to go straight to that flange and see if I have a ping pong ball Death Star? Thanks a bunch! I really hope that I can save this car. Ryan
Noticed your from Missouri where from if you don't mind me asking?
 
Messages
8,598
Location
Florida
Originally Posted By: reemoe2
Wow, a plugged catco can really impact your tranny that bad? So your SW1 had similar shifting problems as mine? The redneck test sounds kinda scary; how big are the flames?? So I take it that shooting fire means that it is indeed a clogged cat? Are there any other less Rednecky tests? Would it be quicker to go straight to that flange and see if I have a ping pong ball Death Star? Thanks a bunch! I really hope that I can save this car. Ryan
You can buy an exhaust backpressure tester, which screws into the O2 sensor hole. Also, sometimes it isn't the cat that fails, sometimes the internals of the muffler fall apart and hurt exhaust flow. While the O2 sensor is out, if it is black or covered in ash, replace it. Sometimes a failed oxygen sensor can cause an excessively rich AFR and damage the cat. Sure, oil burning is the leading cause of cat failure in Saturns, but with any car, innaccurate AFR and ignition misfires can easily lead to cat failure. Consider removing the spark plugs and see if they are covered with soot. Sometimes if a cat or muffler has failed dramatically, you can just tap on them with a hammer, and hear the internals rattle inside.
 
Messages
5,651
Location
Iowa
It doesn't impact the transmission. It just makes the engine run poorly and people assume it's the transmission, because the engine sounds fine otherwise.
 
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