PS122
PS122 Reader
2/1/13 10:56 a.m.

So I've been looking for a new daily driver since I started my 'Best disposable appliance for commute' thread. I

While I concentrated on the Tercel/Echo/Insight, I've had limited success in finding the right car locally. I have, however, found numerous Saturn SL1 and SL2s... (live near what was a GM town until a few years ago when they shuttered several plants).

So as I look at and research Saturns (particularly the '96-'02 cars), I've come up with a few questions.

Wikipedia notes the following changes in the 2nd Gen cars:

  • 99+ "improvements to both SOHC and DOHC engines... smooth out some of the harshness and tendencies toward oil consumption" "These changes included revised pistons (SOHC engines now used the same (flat top) pistons as the DOHC engines instead of the old dished pistons), connecting rods, crankshaft counterweights and the twin cam cylinder head featured a new roller rocker setup with hydraulic tappets and roller cams replacing the conventional bucket lifter setup of the previous engine."

  • '00+ "the LL0 DOHC engine switched to a plastic intake manifold"

Does anyone have any experience with the 99+ motors? I'm curious if these are really less prone to oil consumption.

Also is the plastic intake a good or bad thing?

Finally, while I'd prefer an SL2 - I haven't ruled out the right SL1 at the right price. Should I worry about a cracked head? Are any model years more or less susceptible to cracked heads?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Maroon92
Maroon92 MegaDork
2/1/13 11:07 a.m.

I had a 99 SL2 for several years. Brilliant car, if a little cheap. Always ran like a top, never had a problem.

It would burn oil, but not nearly as much as the 98 and earlier cars. I had a 96 for a while that would burn a quart every 1000 miles. The 99 would only burn a quart every 3000 miles, as it would be about a quart low when I would give it an oil change.

Quasimo1
Quasimo1 New Reader
2/1/13 11:43 a.m.

I currently own a 2002 SL1 and have put close to 100k miles on the car. Saturns are solid little cars but they WILL burn oil. I have to add a quart every 1k miles. I've gotten in the habbit of checking the oil level EVERY time I refill the car with gas. Saturns will run forever but only if you keep enough oil in them.

These cars are also prone to intake manifold gasket leaks that develop around the 60-100k mile mark, coolent temp sensor failure, and some transmission issues. See Saturnfans.com for additional info.

For the most part these are reliable if somewhat basic cars once you over come their weak spots. All of the fixes and issues are well documented and parts are cheap and easy to come by.

Kenny_McCormic
Kenny_McCormic HalfDork
2/1/13 11:49 a.m.

Just as you should with any 90s GM product, watch for rust, under the skin, these are made of sheetmetal like any other car, they rust. The subframes are known to rust too, right above the transaxle.

Karacticus
Karacticus New Reader
2/1/13 12:00 p.m.

I put 203,000 miles on a 5 speed 96 SL2 I'd purchased new.

Oil consumption got to the point of inconvenience while commuting 550 miles each way on weekends over a period of about 6 months, so put a rebuilt motor in at about 125,000 miles. Replaced clutch at same time

In that time, needed replacement of window regulators on a couple of occasions, I think I needed a new alternator maybe twice and there was a broken motor mount once.

Radiator was replaced at 200K due to a leak, but everything was in working order and it still looked good when sold except for some clearcoat starting to peel over the windows and the headliner starting to sag just in front of the rear backlight.

One of the most amazing things about it was, with all the highway driving, it didn't need brake work until 160k-- and then only because the rear disks kind of just rusted away..

Ashyukun
Ashyukun Reader
2/1/13 12:47 p.m.

2000 SL2 DD with 166K on the clock. Check the oil regularly, keep up on normal maintenance, and it should run like a top. They're ubiquitous in salvage yard, and as long as you're not looking for color-matched body panels on a rare color like my Blackberry one you can find just about anything for them in the yards.

Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku UltraDork
2/1/13 1:45 p.m.

The later motors still used oil but still run forever, I wouldn't worry about it. I would skip the single cam cars though. At this point, twins aren't anymore expensive and are much nicer. The interior has some upgrades over a 1 series car plus you get a rear sway bar, aluminum wheels, and some other bits.

I've got 178K on my '97 twin cam and it runs great. If I stick with conventional oil, it burns less. Also, my oil consumption is higher on the expressway vs. around town.

Maroon92
Maroon92 MegaDork
2/1/13 1:53 p.m.

I think ours had 190K on the clock when we sold it. Traded it to a friend as partial payment for an Audi S6.

He offloaded it to someone else, and it's still running strong.

The girlfriend spun a rod bearing at about 100K, and I replaced all of them for about 50 bucks and 6 hours. No issues from then on.

One alternator had been replaced.

The muffler probably should have been replaced, as the exhaust pipe rotted completely through. It was held together with coffee cans and screw clamps. Ran it that way for about 3 years...

PS122
PS122 Reader
2/1/13 3:01 p.m.
Gearheadotaku wrote: ...oil consumption is higher on the expressway vs. around town.

That's a little bothersome... about 80% of my driving (110 miles per day) is on the interstate at 70mph.

Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku UltraDork
2/1/13 3:07 p.m.
PS122 wrote:
Gearheadotaku wrote: ...oil consumption is higher on the expressway vs. around town.

That's a little bothersome... about 80% of my driving (110 miles per day) is on the interstate at 70mph.

I'm sure the rate of consumption will vary from car to car, I'm at a quart every 1,000 if I'm doing a lot of e-way. I do get 37-38 mpg hwy in a twin cam 5spd. With that kind of fuel mileage, I don't mind extra oil.

Quasimo1
Quasimo1 New Reader
2/1/13 3:15 p.m.
Gearheadotaku wrote:
PS122 wrote:
Gearheadotaku wrote: ...oil consumption is higher on the expressway vs. around town.

That's a little bothersome... about 80% of my driving (110 miles per day) is on the interstate at 70mph.

I'm sure the rate of consumption will vary from car to car, I'm at a quart every 1,000 if I'm doing a lot of e-way. I do get 37-38 mpg hwy in a twin cam 5spd. With that kind of fuel mileage, I don't mind extra oil.

It really isn't that big of an issue. Just make sure to carry oil in the trunk and check oil levels at every fill up. Don't fall into the habbit of checking oil levels sporatically because one day you will forget to check and run the engine dry.

belteshazzar
belteshazzar UberDork
2/1/13 3:53 p.m.

i like the single cam better myself. the intake manifold is aluminum and leaks less often than the late dohc one's do. they're geared for better fuel economy than the dohc. also, below 3500rpm, i can't tell that there's a meaningful power deficit anyway.

any year, just find the nicest one you can overall.

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