Gas prices forcing me to look for better MPG, questions on saturns

My wife does a lot of driving around, given the high gas prices, I'm looking to buy something easier on gas than my suburban or Blazer. 2
years ago I thought about saturns, looked at auto trader and saw that once the cars get about 60k miles, their values drop considerably. Did a search tonight on saturns and they are still cheaper to buy than other small cars (same years / mileage etc). Any thoughts as to why? Any years / models / motors / transmissions I should avoid?
Thanks
PS - I am a chevy man, and would like to stick with chevy's. 97 Suburban 94 S-10 Blazer 74 Chevy Truck
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@home.com says...

$500 bucks and up timing belt servicing begins for most. 80k mile tires near end of life. People dont want to put money into a car that they just bought.

Pre OBDII / L-series / SOHC,3.0,&3.5 / CVT Trans are to be avoided. Nothing wrong with Pre OBD II cars, just old tech.

Not sure which Saturn you are looking for. As long as you are not towing, a far better alternative to that Blazer is a 4cyl Vue. Avoid all CVT transmissions, they are as bad as owning a car with a timing belt... The Ecotec is used in almost all GM makes including Chevy. The Ecotec is to 4 cylinders as what the SBC was to V8's. Very dependable and if need be cheap & easy to work on. As for the S-series the 1.9L Twincams and TAAT transmissions have their quirks now and then but they are easily remedied. Forums like Saturnfans.com will give you the most reliable information without the distortions and misfacts of irrational trolls which there has been a rash of here lately.
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On Fri, 28 Apr 2006 20:41:55 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@home.com wrote:

Some of the older Saturns (pre 2000) were pretty sturdy as GM was still trying to make a name for them but recently they seem to be cutting a few corners. I have a old 1500 89 4x4 burb that I have had since new and I get a honest 18 to 19 MPG out of it on trip (that is all we use it for these days) and this is accurate because it has a 40 gallon tank and I run more than 400 mile before a refill it and sometime up to 600 miles and still have some reserve. (I never use 87 in it though as it runs much better on better gas) What ever vehicle you choose, the bigger the crossection and the more it weighs the greater the potentail for lower MPG. Tires size and type plays a big roll too as you want stock type tires running at or near max pressure. THe new blazers with the I6 in them seem to not do to bad on fuel and they run well too. Stay away for v8 powered SUV if you are really looking to gain a few MPG regardless of what EPA sticker says for MPG (they use hand build and tuned cars with 93 octane and every cheat in the book to get some of those ratings) ----------------- The SnoMan www.thesnoman.com
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I have a 97 sl2 and my son has a 96sl2 mine is manual and his is auto. both cars have over 125k miles and both run like champs.. both cars get about 25-27mpg in the city and 37-42 on the highway.
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On 29 Apr 2006 05:18:12 -0700, "p snipped-for-privacy@goochs.com"

My daughter has a 97 SC2 with 118K on it and she is getting about 28 to 30 MPG with it in urban driving right now. It runs well. The mid to late 90's saturn were about when they reached their peak in quality as they even used a expensive aytomatic with a spin on filter until 2000 when they replaced it with a cheaper design. GM put a lot of effort in making a name for the car in 90's and now they seem to have lost a good bit of that effort and drive on the newest models to the tune of cutting costs. ----------------- The SnoMan www.thesnoman.com
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My 92 SL1 will be hitting 473,000 km (295,000 mi) today on the way home. Most of my work commute is highway and I like to mix it up with some country side driving on the way home. I regularly get between 37-42 mpg throughout the year. The engine runs great, no problems with it (of course now that I said that it will blow up on the way home today). :)
Alex
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Congratulations, and 'nicely done'. You are obviously operating in an efficient manner. Can we have a little more information? Have you needed to open up the engine? Timing chain? Oil consumption, type and change interval? Clutch? (fuel economy makes me assume manual trans) Front suspension, steering and half driveshafts/CV joints? Radiator, waterpump, belt tensioner, heater core, coolant changes? Alternator? Cruise rpm? and normal operating range and normal shift points? Drivers door hinges? seat? air leaks & wind noise?
regards
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Thank you!! I'm very happy with my vehicle and I'll try to keep it going until it falls apart or dies altogether.
To answer your questions: 1. Never opened up the engine. Well....I opened the valve cover a few months back to change oil seals on the valves, and refurbish the lifters. Original chain. 2. Oil consumption...at last change it I drained 3.5 quarts out of 4. I use Castrol Syntec 5-50 and change it every 6,000 miles (about 4 months). Did not add any oil in between changes. 3. Clutch? Yes.... original too. 4. Front suspension: last year changed the control arms as the balljoints were gone. I changed the tie rod ends a couple of times. I'm looking to change the inner tie rod this weeked on the passenger side as it is gone. I repacked the CV joint on the driver side last year (found the boot torn). All halfshafts, bearings, knuckles, calipers, are original. 5. Radiator - original. Clean as a whistle. Changed the water pump a couple of years back. Belt tensioner is original. Heater core - original, two coolant changes so far. (oops! yeah, I know). Alternator has been changed a couple of years back after 415,000 km (260,000 miles) 6. Cruise RPM - I tend to keep it under 2500 rpm. I'm in no rush to get to work so I take it easy. Normal shift points, I can't tell you what speed or rpm but I would guess around 2500-3000 rpm. Never use engine brakes. 7. Driver door hinges are all good. I swapped out the seats with the passenger side. Couple of years back a metal brace inside the seat broke off and I had it welded. Once welded, I put it on the passenger side. I get a bit of wind noise coming from the rear.
Things that I found bad with the car:
1. Rust on the bottom of the passenger door opening. It's pretty bad, noticed it too late. 2. Rust at the bottom on the widow sill (vertical part) on both rear passenger doors. 3. Alternator is a pain to get at. 4. There is still some rain water trapped in the trunk lid a while after the rain. You open the trunk and guess where all the water ends up? 5. The driver and passenger side door trim on the inside. The clips have broken off and the darn thing rattles when I'm stopped at the lights. 6. Headliner fabric has separated (probably common to all cars this age) 7. Lost the air dam a while ago. Springs must have rusted and let go. Got a new one since. 8. I have disconnected the seatbelt motor and do up the belt manually. The grease in there seizes up the traveller in the winter. Tried regreasing and it was never same since. So I pulled out the fuse. 9. All doors take considerable more force to close and latch properly. On top of it they make a weird clunking noise when they engage. I'm not saying that I have to slam the doors but it takes a bit more force than, say, my wife's Vibe. The doors have been this way since new.
These are things off the top of my head. I don't keep a list, so it is moreless complete.
Generally I'm happy with the car. It hasn't given me any serious trouble. As mentioned before, I get good mileage out of it and at last check I got about 43 mpg (51 miles per Canadian gallon). My daily drive consists of 75% higway, 25% countryside roads. I put 77 miles per day on the car and fill it up every 5-6 days.
If anyone has any pointers or suggestions on the issues I mentioned, I would be more than happy to hear you out.
Alex
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Why did you do the valve seals? I only ask because you say next that you do not add oil between changes. What do you mean "refurbish" the lifters? Were they making noise? Did you use air or ??? to hold the valves so you could change the seals?

So much for those who claim all Saturns burn oil after 200k km. Have you always used this synthetic oil? and this change interval?

Nicely done, you must have good starting and shifting technique.

Catching the torn boot problem shows good inspection habits.

My guess is that not making 'spirited' downshifts to maximize engine braking has contributed to your long clutch life. I would also suggest that your low rpm operation has contributed to your good engine service wear and low oil consumption.

I would suggest you try to find and fix this problem since it is probably causing corrosion in your trunk. Could you have a blocked drain?

Suggest you replace the clips or use 'shoe goo' or other urethane glue. It is amazing stuff.

I have had a hard time keeping this dam in place but have not noticed any overheating problems operating without it. It will help control gravel damage. I am guessing that you are also in Canada so maybe this dam is only required for cooling in a hotter climates but I have not had any overheating even on the hottest of Canadian summer. I did fasten a piece of heavy mesh screen in front of my rad which does help to protect the rad. I have noticed a lot of gravel chiping on the front of my oil pan which I am afraid may allow pan corrosion which others here have reported. I have used heavy oil concrete foundation waterproofing coating to patch damage to the undercoating under the car. It seems to be doing the job and I will be puting some on the front of my oil pan to protect and prevent corrosion. I do not know if this may help your corrosion areas, I did not purchase this foundation coating specially for the car, I was just doing some concrete work and it seemed like a good thing to do with the surplus.

I have one set of hinges on the drivers door which I have often tried but been unable to lube properly. They creak and groan and increase the operating effort. I have purchased new hinges (~$50/pr) but have not installed them yet. I did once have a car where stiff hinges caused a flexing of the door frame that resulted in cracks.that did require repair and reinforcing.

This is very similar to our operation. We have '96 SW1 and have aveaged 42 mi/impgal (6.8 lt/100km) since new, total combined city/highway all season. On the highway my wife gets 49 mi/impgal (5.9 lt/100km) but I never seem to do that well (I do have a heavier foot). I do notice that if I leave the roof rack in place it uses about 1 lt/100km more fuel.

You do not mention any exhaust work, if you are still on the original exhaust it is a good example of the better materials used in current factory auto exhaust. We have had failures of the muffler mounting strap due to corrosion on both of our cars. The rest of the system seems to be quite corrosion resistant.
You have had very good service from your car, I hope we can do as well. I am guessing you also get good service life from your brakes and tires. These cars are now getting old enough that they will be showing up in the discount 'pick your part' auto wreckers so we may be able to keep them economically serviceable for some time. I am also a believer in buying new and using carefully until full service life is over. These cars are now showing up in the very cheap used market and will soon be such good value (cheap) that it will be worth buying a good one just to use for parts. We have SW bodies which are very usable but use the most of the same parts as the sedans. My observation has always been that nothing you have a spare part for ever breaks!
I note your handle, are the navaids you tech aviation or automotive/trucking/marine GPS systems?
Good luck, YMMV
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I replaced the seals on spec. I noticed the spark plugs were getting gummed with burned oil causing the engine to operate intermittently at times. When I say "refurbish", I mean take the lifters out, dunk them in a degreaser solution overnight, take them apart and free up the little pistons inside them. I found 7 out of 8 lifters seized.

I tried air but didn't have much luck with that so I opted to use a string. I would bring the piston down, pack the cylinder with string, then bring the piston up to push the string against the valves. Worked like a charm.

:) Actually, before the valve seals, I drained 2.75 quarts. After the seal job, I drained 3.5. I've been using synthetic since the car was 110,000 km old and always do it every 10,000 km. I found that Costco has the best price for 5-50 Syntec.

Yeah. I avoid jackrabbit starts and try to shift as smoothly as possible. Sometimes you can't even tell when I shift, I have it down to an art now. hi hi. BTW, I checked the RPM gauge on the way from work today and it seems that I shift around 2300 for the first 3 gears and then about 2100-2200 for the last two.

Well, to this day I'm not sure if it was torn or was it something I did to it while working in the area. Oh well, it was a good exercise nonetheless. :)

That's exactly what I'm thinking as well. It's a habit I have developed over the years and it seems to be paying off.

This has been happening since the car was new. The water collects somewhere in the trunk lid and when you pop the trunk open it gushes into the trunk.

Yeah...the clips are fine, it's just that the plastic thingies broke right off and are now stuck in the mouting holes. I'll try this super duper glue I got from my Dad. It works wonders.

My car was overheating last couple of summers. Even in +9C weather the needle would swing past the middle, something that has never happened before. I kinda suspected the air dam but was convinced that my rad was plugged. I cleaned it with a weak CLR solution (yes, I know don't say it). Basically I circulated this solution through the rad for 30 minutes or so. Then I checked the capacity, it seemed OK (I think 1.6 litres), but the car would STILL overheat. Interestingly, the car would never attain its operating temperature in the winter. The needle would stay well below the centre. I think this was caused by the air rushing past the oil pan and cooling the oil down enough to cool the engine once pumped back up again. Soon as I installed the air dam....everything was normal once again.

Yes, I'm in Mississauga. Just west of Toronto.

Oh yeah. I need to replace mine. I did that a few years back.

That's very interesting. I'll take your idea to heart and most likely end up doing the same. It's been a while since I checked down there but the pan sure needs some protection.

Funny thing is that the motorized belts were one of the selling points when I bought the car eons ago. That and the price. Over the years, I've grown sick of the belts, especially when they were so sluggish it would take them forever to retract.

Yes, that all makes sense. Your wife sure does pretty good with 5.9lt/100 for sure. I'm yet to find an optimum speed where the fuel consumption is the best.

Sorry about that. I'm on my fourth muffler now. The original one lasted 6 or 7 years. Susequent mufflers failed as you have suggested, right where the straps are. The last muffler I put on this car is a cheapo one. I coated it with a few coats of heat resistant paint from Canadian Tire to extend its life - so far so good. Fingers crossed. But you are right, the rest of the system is original. I even went to get it replaced but the mechanic told me to save my bucks and don't bother. I should also mention the cat is original as well and it passes the emission tests every two years.

Hmmm... I'm probably on my fourth or fifth set of pads, third set of rotors and fourth set of tires, second set of shoes (replaced last year) but the drums are still original and STILL within spec on diameter.

Oh yes! I visit my local junkyard on a regular basis! :)

You are absolutely correct. I never have any trouble finding parts for this car, either aftermarket or at a junk yard. I keep a few parts that I collect during my junkyard trips at hand just in case....you never know. :) I agree with you on buying one just for spares. My Dad actually picked up a 95 SL1 from a junkyard for $700. It would have been a perfect spares car for me, but he fixed it up and now he drives it. Not sure how much longer though, it burns oil like there is no tomorrow (yes, we changed oil seals on the valves). If he decides to get rid of it, I already have a list of things to take off it for my car. :)

Yes, I'm a navaids tech working for Nav Canada at the Hamilton Airport. That's my daily commute Mississauga-Hamilton-MIssissauga = 125 clicks! :)
Whereabouts are you located? I don't even know your name.... :(
Alex

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Good diagnosis on cause of oil consumption and plug fouling. I bet the valve train really quieted down after cleaning the lifters (? i guess they are called lifters even if they actually don't). It is interesting that the lifters would gum up with synthetic oil. Your extended drain intervals may be a contributor but this would not cause valve seal wear, and cleaning the lifters is just good practice when the cam is removed.

Good technique.

Oil consumption of 1.25 quarts in 10k km is still very low IMHO, but the improvement after the valve seal job shows you have a good lower end and your rings and pistons must be very clean.

I hesitate to offer advice to anyone who is having as much success as you are, but FWIW my (.02) thoughts are at http://groups.google.ca/group/rec.autos.makers.saturn/browse_thread/thread/1aba3618e822c568/ddfe4c5d9a6c9152?lnk=st&q=group%3Arec.autos.makers.saturn+insubject%3Abest+insubject%3Atime+insubject%3Ato+insubject%3Ashift%3F&rnum=1&hl=en#ddfe4c5d9a6c9152

I had to do this job the day after I had it at the alignment shop and replaced lower arms w/ ball joints. The boot was damaged by a crowbar. I had to tear it apart again and fix the boot but the shop did stand behind it and gave me a refund for parts and labour.
snip

Aluminum compatible glycol is high in silicates which can cause problems with water pump seals and deposits of silica gel in the rads. My favorite heavy diesel shops recommend using Calgon water softener as a cooling system cleaner after draining but before flushing. I am now using a long life high quality diesel coolant and it seems to work well. It is a glycol compatible but I still did a thorough flush before installing. It is a five year low silicate type fluid. I do use distilled water only for final flush and coolant mixing, it is cheap and avoids using my local water which is very hard.
snip

Economy vs time is always a compromise, I think slower is always cheaper but things start to get more expensive above 2400 rpm. My wife spends more time in the sweet spot which I think is between 22-2400rpm. I am more often at 24-2800+ rpm.

We are still on our original mufflers but they are tied in place with heavy wire. I do have a new clamp but the wire seems to last longer than the clamps.

My pads seem to outlast the rotors. The original rotors were the worst and suffered severe corrosion and pitting on the inner faces. We are getting good service now using top quality pads and cheap offshore rotors. I do not believe in turning rotors as the machining cost is only a little cheaper than new offshore rotors which will always be much thicker than used refaced and do not warp as easily.
We purchased a second set of rims so we can save our newest tires for winter and wear out our poorest in the summer. It is really handy to have lots of mounted tires.

It seems like there comes a time using an older car when you need new tires and battery and can buy a fair running car with good tires and battery for about what new ones cost and you get the rest of the car for free. Having a second running car as a spare eases the pain when your primary driver needs repair and you can just change over the plates and insurance and take your time to do a good cheap repair with no time pressure.

CYBW
Good luck, YMMV
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wrote:

The problem with these extended drains is that will they oil may not break down, it will get dirty and loose its cleaning abilty and it a mileage engine, there is more blowby that get oil dirty sooner than in a new tight engine. I venture to say that if the oil change intervale had been shorter, the lifters would never of gummed up. As a engine gets to high mileage, I increase the frequecy of its oil changes because this can help extend life even more. ----------------- The SnoMan www.thesnoman.com
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I agree with SnoMan, but it is hard to argue with success. Navaidstech's ~300k mi engine is using VERY little oil which would lead me to believe there is not much blowby. I am personally inclined to not use synthetic oil because I like the strategy of frequent changes and the higher price of synthetic makes this very costly. If petroil becomes more expensive we may see more use of superfine bypass filters to allow more extended change intervals. I do not know how much oil circulation there is in the S1 lifters and it may well be very little.
I also agree that the change interval should be shortened as an engine ages and would suggest that oil consumption rate is a fair way to determine this. My favored strategy is to add oil as required and use the oil for 3500 mi or until it is down a quart which ever comes first. Now that my engine is getting older (160k mi) and is starting to use a little oil (1500 mi/qt), I will be reducing my change interval to 3000 mi. I have noticed that the consumption rate increases as petroil ages and breaks down but I do not know if this is also true about synthetic. I have also noticed that not all brands of petroil seem to give the same consumption rates. I did try Wal-Mart Tech2000 for one change but noticed a large increase in consumption rate, I have also noticed that the rate is higher with Castrol which surprised me since I have always thought it was good quality oil. I buy whatever name branded oil I find on sale. I am not concerned about a reasonable oil consumption rate as long as the oil is changed frequently.
Just my .02, YMMV
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wrote:

Year ago I new a guy that had a 283 in a truck that was using about a quart of oil every 300 miles. He pulled the heads and did a valve job and it reduced it to about a quart every 600 or 700 miles and he drove it 70,000 miles that way. He just change the oil every 2K miles and at the end of the 70K it was using about a quart ever 300-400 miles again. He kept it alive with frequent oil changes. ----------------- The SnoMan www.thesnoman.com
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I hate to admit it but I developed a bad habit of not regularly checking the dipstick. However, that has changed lately and I watch it like a hawk :). As far as the cylinders, at last check I measured 185 psi in each so that's not too bad either.

http://groups.google.ca/group/rec.autos.makers.saturn/browse_thread/thread/1aba3618e822c568/ddfe4c5d9a6c9152?lnk=st&q=group%3Arec.autos.makers.saturn+insubject%3Abest+insubject%3Atime+insubject%3Ato+insubject%3Ashift%3F&rnum=1&hl=en#ddfe4c5d9a6c9152
Well, my car could be the living proof of that. The engine very rarely gets to above 2500 RPM and it has lasted me 15 years trouble free. Even my friend, who owns a garage in town, is baffled.

I will take this to heart on next coolant change. I replaced mine a couple of years back but it might be a good idea to do a flush before summer this year. Last year was blazing hell here in Toronto as far as temps, you never know what this summer might bring. One of the hoses has developed a small leak so it might be a good idea to do a complete cooling system drain/flush once the new one is installed.

Yes.. a few years back I took the car to Ottawa and drove at 2700+ most of the way. You can really see the difference. However, during regular commuter to/from work, I keep it in the sweet spot as per your numbers above. I'm in no rush to get to work on time so I take it easy, this converts to great savings on gas, etc.

Not a bad idea. There seems to be a lot of moisture trapped under those clamps and that's usually where the corrosion occurs first. I will consider this next time I change the muffler. Besides, those clamps can be a pain in the rear to put on, especially the aftermarket ones.

I've been having bad luck with rotors. I had mine turned last year in October and already I'm noticing a small wobble. It's not as bad as it was in the past but it's still there. I need to determine which wheel wobbles on me and try to find the root cause of the problem. Calipers appear to be good so I'm a little baffled now. I don't use OEM rotors, just the cheap aftermarket ones. That might be it... ???

For sure. Case and point is my Dad's Saturn as I mentioned before. He paid $700 for his. The doors on his are in better condition than mine and my local junkyard is asking $150 for single door, that's $600 for a set of four. So which way do I go? Buy a junker with good set of doors or just the doors? Go figure. If I had the space, I sure would keep another one here just in case.

Go Flames!!!!
:)
Take care.
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snip
Once you have the system drained to change a hose it is a good time to do a Calgon (dishwasher detergent) clean and flush then instal new coolant. I would do the cleaning before I changed the hose and the final flush after. Long life coolant is not much more money depending on where you buy it. I buy both my coolant and Delco batteries from an industrial and trucking supply wholesaler which has very good price on both batteries and heavy duty coolant. I use only distilled water which I buy from a health food store for 50 cents / gal. My wife also uses it in her cloths iron.
snip

When my strap failed I tied the muffler up with heavy wire just until I could get a new strap/hanger. I picked up a new hanger several years ago but the wire is still working well. I have been feeling guilty, but like your reasonong, I think I will use it :-)

I had better sevice from the cheap rotors than the factory ones. I do not think turning rotors is a good practice as it leaves the rotors too thin and this contributes to warping.

Stuff vs. space, it really is nice to have both, but it seems we never have enough of either.
Good luck, YMMV
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