Mechanics

CAN I FIX AN "ALMOST" THROWN ROD IN AN DOHC MYSELF OR IS IT WORTH IT?

2001 Saturn SL2 • 121,000 miles

I have a 2001 Saturn SL2 dohc that is about to throw a rod (if they still do that). Long story short, went to get an oil change, they knocked the pcv loose, oil went everywhere, my daughter was unaware and the rest is history. I have called around and a motor replacement is $1000, I know these cars are considered "throw aways" but I don't really have the kinda cash flow to either replace the motor OR throw it away. Can "I" fix this myself or is there more involved than just changing out the bearings? Or can you suggest a good reference book that will tell me "exactly" what I need to do step by step. I'm one of those females that knows just enough about motors to be dangerous but not enough to be Ms. Goodwrench. Thanks so much for your time!
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Indianmaiden3368
February 20, 2012.



First of all, the cause you listed doesn't really jive with the breakdown. There shouldn't have been oil in the PCV hose unless the engine was already worn out, ... Piston rings in particular.

How do you know there's something wrong with the engine bearings? What's the symptoms and noises?

Replacing a connecting rod is not a do-it-yourself project. I have a huge respect for anyone, ladies especially, who want to learn about cars, but this is a relatively involved project that requires special tools, procedures, and visits to the engine machine shop. You can handle installing a used engine if you rent or borrow an engine hoist but it's a good weekend project. You should be able to find an engine for a lot less than $1000.00. If you're between Ohio and southern Georgia, there's a real nice chain of clean, well-organized salvage yards where you pay your buck, throw your tool box in one of their wheel barrows, and you can spend all day there. Do an internet search for "Pull-A-Part". They'll haul the engine out for you once you remove it.

Caradiodoc
Feb 20, 2012.
I had summarized above. What happened was the quick oil change place knocked the valve loose and all the oil spewed out all over the underside of the hood. After a couple weeks my daughter called me in a panic stating the motor was making a terrible noise, I immediately had her shut the car off. I Called a mechanic friend and he said it was the rod and wasn't worth fixing considering he'd have to charge me $2600 to fix it. The $1000 motor I found is, believe it or not, the only one available in the Kansas City, MO area including our pick-n-pull yards. I've called everywhere. I guess I'll just send her to the scrapper. Makes me sad. Thanks for your help

Tiny
Indianmaiden3368
Feb 20, 2012.
I can share another opinion based on observations. If you're involved in a crash with a front-wheel-drive GM car, your chance of a fatality seems to be extremely much higher than with other cars. A county deputy was following a young girl going 45 mph in a 55 mph speed zone, doing nothing illegal. She spun sideways on the ice and was hit by another GM front-wheel-drive car, also going only 45 mph. The deputy witnessed the crash. My mother, who lived just a few miles away, was third in line waiting to be allowed to go past the crash site, and she got that information from talking with the deputy. Two people in each car, four total, were all killed instantly.

Since then I've tended to watch more closely which brands of cars are involved in more fatal crashes. I worked at a new car dealership that owned the impound yard behind their body shop where all cars were taken involving fatalities in our county. There were dozens of GM cars in there and very few of any other brands. When I mentioned that to a friend who is also a county deputy, he just shrugged his shoulders and said they knew that all along. That doesn't make news.

A friend who used to own a body shop had an early '90s Dodge Shadow. His girlfriend pulled into traffic on a busy city avenue and was broad-sided in the driver's door by a heavy Olds Cutlass going 35 mph. The interior door panel never even got touched because of a huge steel beam inside the door. Her only injury was a bad bump on the left side of her head. Those cars are built like ostrich eggs and are really tough. Later they were replaced by the Neon which is definitely not the same car. I can't recommend those tin boxes to anyone.

If you do have to scrap your car, consider this an opportunity to find one that's safer. As an alternative idea, you might look for a nearby community college with an automotive program. They might accept your car as a donation for the kids to get real-world experience, and you can deduct the value from your taxes. Better yet, we were always looking for live vehicles to work on. We had about a dozen community members who would sit on a broken car until it fit what we were teaching because they understood the value that live work had for our students. Be aware though they will typically only take your car in for engine work while they're teaching engine repair, not brakes or electrical, for example. That might only be once per year. To do otherwise takes potential work away from the employers who might hire those graduates. Also be aware it can take weeks to get the car back and it likely won't have a warranty. Between sitting in the classroom part of the day and running off to other classes, they might only have a few hours per day to work on it. The trade-off though is we only charged ten dollars per hour for what the job was supposed to take, (not what it actually took us), and we got parts at very good discounts, then marked them up only ten percent. All of that money formed a "breakage" fund in case we damaged something on a customer's car.

Students are very well-supervised, and in that career-oriented college setting, you would not believe how careful, responsible, and respectful the kids were. Here in Wisconsin we have 16 technical colleges, but only one has an Engine Machining program. That means for the rest of them, they have to pull your engine out, disassemble it, take measurements and analyze the failure, then haul parts to a local engine machine shop. They have no control over those costs. Some gaskets sets are expensive too. We always told our kids to plan on spending $2000.00 by the time they were done, but I had my students rebuild a 3.0L Dodge Caravan engine for me with the same problem as what you're describing, and it cost me $300.00. $100.00 for a reconditioned crankshaft, $125.00 for the gasket set, $25.00 for one silly, expensive gasket that wasn't included in the set, new bearings and oil, and off we went! That didn't include any labor charge though, and it was understood the breakage fund would not be used if something got broken. Engine runs great. Too bad the van's body is rusted away.

Caradiodoc
Feb 20, 2012.
Just to add to this one those saturn S model cars are pretty safe I have seen tons of them after crashes and heard storys from police etc on good they are in crashes. Saturn put a lot of thought and crash tests to make them safe. This was before gm took control of them and started taking gm models and changing body panels etc. The saturn S models were built in tennesse not a gm plant and had saturn engines and transmissions not gm ones found on other model gm cars. As far as your rod knock to answer that question it all depends if thr crankshaft was damaged when the rod bearing was spun. If you caught it in time and other damage wasnt done it is possible to patch it together.

Saturntech9
Feb 21, 2012.
Hi saturntech9. Thanks for the clarification. The cars in my crash story were a Celebrity and a Cavalier. When I think of any GM front-wheel-drive car, I automatically think of ALL of them. We had a lot of Grand Ams in our impound lot but there are also a lot of them on the road.

I'd still rather see an older car get fixed.

Caradiodoc
Feb 21, 2012.
Your welcome always willing to share my insight when I can.I wouldnt base two gm car models and say all gm cars are death traps.I love gm cars working them owning them etc sure they made some bads ones but what car company hasnt?I was reading the top 50 worse cars and it went back the horseless caraige models pretty intresting. They even had lotus ferriar I know I spelled that one wrong lol. They even made the top 50 worse cars. In my over decade and half working for saturn my favorite model saturn ever made it was the S model. Its easy and cheap to fix and very predictable when it breaks and fixing it.

Saturntech9
Feb 21, 2012.
Thank you both for the helpful information. Caradiodoc, great suggestion on the school project, we have a trade school and a few votechs in my area. Saturntech9, I'm pretty sure the crankshaft is ok so maybe I'll give it a whirl, I just hate to give up on it cuz it's a good little car.I am curious though about the 9 at the end of your username. Wouldn't have anything to do with music and Kansas City would it? : O)

Tiny
Indianmaiden3368
Feb 21, 2012.
Thats a great question the number 9 came from the first tech number I had when I first started with saturn.I had to come up with a email address so thats how the whole saturntech9 came to be.I had that number many years so it grew on me and means something to me.

Saturntech9
Feb 21, 2012.