1996 Saturn



May, 5, 2006 AT 11:59 AM

The coolant in my SL1 is thick and dark. I've done a bunch of research on the internet and they mention that the Dexcool antifreeze should be changed regularly. How can I tell the difference between this and oil in the coolant? If it is the coolant, can it be flushed or do I need a new radiator?


Cooling Fan Problem


Radiator On


7 Answers



May, 5, 2006 AT 3:21 PM

What's the year and mileage of your SL? Old dexcool will look nasty. Check for antifreeze in your oil. Look at the filler cap and the dip stick. If you see what appears like a chocolate milkshake you have issues.

You can and should flush the cooling system. I start by draining the system cold. : Use caution as antifreeze is poisonous. : If you spill be sure to clean up any puddles.

Next remove the thermostat and reinstall the housing. Be sure to use a suitable tool (will be supplied with new thermostat).

Mix 2 ounces of automatic dishwashing detergent (any low sudsing detergent will work) per gallon of water.

Fill the cooling system and run it for 5 minutes. Drain it out afterwards. : Caution don't open hot! : If the coolant was real dirty repeat the last 2 steps.

Next fill with clean water, run for 5 minutes, and then drain.

Next replace the thermostat with the new one.

Lastly add a 50/50 mixture of the correct antifreeze (check owners manual) and distilled water.

You might consider removing the coolant tank and cleaning it in the sink. It does not get the circulation of the rest of the system. This will keep the dreaded low coolant light from flashing at you needlessly. Couple of mounting bolts, hoses, and one electrical connection is all it takes. I do this as a last step of a flush before filling with new antifreeze mixture.

Good lluck and let us know. : )



May, 8, 2006 AT 9:02 AM

Thank you for the suggestion. My ex (who is a mechanic) came and looked at it and verified that the head gasket is in fact shot. There wasn't just oil in with the coolant, there wasn't any coolant left. It was all oil : oops: He pulled the plugs and the tear appears to be right in the middle between 2 and 3.

So, off to the dealership I go. : ( Hoping it will be less than $1000, but not holding my breath.



May, 8, 2006 AT 6:49 PM

Thanxs for the update. Be aware that there are some issues with heads cracking on the SOHC engine. So it is possibly more that a head gasket. Your dealer will advise you.

Good luck and let us know. : )



May, 9, 2006 AT 9:04 AM

Well, you were right. The cylinder was cracked. $2500 to fix it. So, scrambling to figure out how to buy something. The car doesn't have enough value to put that much into it.



May, 9, 2006 AT 10:08 AM

An independent garage that is knowledgeable about Saturns can repair it for much less. Ebay has a supplier of cylinder heads for cheap that have a good rep.
Also a used engine is an option. $500. or less and about $500.00 for installation could be an option.
See this link for finding a quality garage.

Good luck and let us know. :)



May, 26, 2006 AT 11:41 AM

Well, I finally have resolution.

I was able to buy a 2005 Ford Focus with 9000 miles. So now I'm selling the Saturn to someone who has the knowledge and desire to fix it.

Thank you again for your help : )



May, 26, 2006 AT 3:09 PM

Good luck with the focus. See ya in the ford forum. : )

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