1996 Saturn SL1 oil in the coolant

Tiny
IAN547
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 SATURN SL1
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 60,000 MILES
I have a 1996 saturn sl1 sohc. It has used about a qt. Of oil per oil change for the last 20,000 miles, then it got worse. It was using about a qt at every gas fill up. I drove the car to work with no problems. Came out and started the car after work for about 10 seconds and it ran very rough. The coolant reservoir was full of oil and the car was blowing white smoke. There was no coolant in the oil but only about 3/4 qt of oil in the pan. I am not sure which direction to go with the repair. Could this be head gasket or an internal crack in the head? New head? Head gasket? Whole engine for parts? There was no knocking from the engine. I have found 2000 model year engines pertty easy to come by but I'm not sure how to find out if the parts or whole engine are compatible with my 96. Is there a year range for the parts that would be interchangable?
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 2:21 AM

9 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Sounds typical of a head gasket. The head should be checked for cracks but don't expect there to be any. The head should be checked for flatness too. If it is warped it won't seal with a new gasket. They can not be machined as in the past because warpage puts the camshaft journals out of alignment too. To correct both conditions the head must be heated and straightened. Your local engine machine shop will handle that.

To check for head gasket leakage, your mechanic will use a glass cylinder with two chambers partially filled with a dark blue liquid. He will draw air from the radiator through the cylinder. If combustion gases are present the fluid will turn bright yellow.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 2:32 AM
Tiny
PROTECH1980
  • EXPERT
Most common problem with this engine is a cracked cylinder head when your getting oil in the coolant, pull the head and have it crack checked by a engine machine shop, repair would be a new or used cylinder head and new gasket, make sure to flush whole coolant system to get rid of any oil residue after head and gasket are done, If this was a high mileage engine you could consider putting a new, used engine in but this is a fairly low mileage engine so I wouldnt think you would want to replace it, Im not sure on the cost of a new head but you could check around.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 2:38 AM
Tiny
PROTECH1980
  • EXPERT
Hey Caradiodoc, I was still typing must be when you posted.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 2:45 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Don't give it a thought. Since we lost the ability to delete our own replies we're all posting all over each other. Once or twice someone even posts a reply that's better than mine :) and I can't delete mine. The atmosphere has changed so I don't even bother to apologize anymore and I don't get or even expect any apologies from anyone else. In fact, sometimes I add my two cents worth even after I see someone else already replied. No one gets angry with me and I would never get angry with anyone else, so just keep doing what you're doing, ... But don't make your answers better than mine!
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 3:01 AM
Tiny
IAN547
  • MEMBER
Thank you for the help. I think I will look for a used head and hope for the best. A new one is about $800. Do you happen to know anywhere I can find out about the compatability of other year parts? Thanks again for the fast response
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 3:18 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The guys at a salvage yard should be able to help with parts interchangeability. If you live anywhere between Indianapolis and southern Georgia / Alabama, there are a bunch of yards called "Pull-A-Part" where you take your own tools and remove your own parts. The yards are very clean and well organized, and parts are very reasonable. A head will run you less than 50 bucks. The only problem is you don't know why someone brought that car to the yard so you might be buying a bad head, but you can get a warranty for a few extra bucks. There are other similar yards all over the country. Be sure to loosen the head bolts evenly a little at a time so the clamping forces remain even. You'll have to check too if the head bolts must be replaced. A lot of engines use "torque-to-yield" head bolts that stretch a predetermined amount when installed and can only be used once.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 4:17 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Just to add to this one even though it is a cracked head the cam journals crack on these head's where the cam rides usually the number 4 journal.I would get a rebuilt head I wouldn't take a chance on a used head on this one. It's a lot of work flushing and all that wouldn't want to do it twice on the same car. You will also have to change the coolant bottle all the radiator hoses heater hose's including the metal one that runs under the coolant bottle back to the heater core thermostat water pump to do the job right.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 5:05 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Dandy info. So are the used heads repaired for these cracks, didn't develop them, ... Yet, or did they change something in the design to prevent them?

Thanks, saturntech9.
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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 AT 8:03 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
A used head would be a untested crap shoot that is why I said no used head get one that has had the valves down pressure tested etc. The later year heads didn't crack often at all but I had one 2002 Single cam crack.
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Thursday, April 14th, 2011 AT 12:51 AM

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