94 Saturn -- Coolant boils over at 1/2 to 3/4 temp gauge

Tiny
WSCREATE
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  • 1994 SATURN
94 Saturn SC
1.9L DOHC
161,000 miles

Just fixed an idle problem on this car by replacing the coolant temp sensor, only to learn that the car boils over at the coolant reservoir after idling for about 10-15 minutes.

Interesting to me, the temp gauge only read between 1/2 and 3/4 when it boiled over.

Possible relation is a grinding noise coming from the right side of the engine compartment. It sounds like a bad alternator (bad bearings), but the alternator is charging the battery fine. However, there is a definite "grinding ball-bearings" roaring sound. It actually sounds like it is coming from the AC compressor, but I cannot be sure. It could possibly be coming from something under the AC compressor. I am not familiar with Saturns, so I have no idea what is under the compressor.

There do not appear to be any obvious coolant leaks.

Replaced the thermostat on this car about 6 months ago when my daughter owned it. Cooling problem existed then. Replacing the thermostat did not help the cooling problem at that time. Car has not been driven much since replacing the thermostat 6 months ago, about 300-400 miles total.

Where should I begin? Could the grinding noise be the water pump going bad? Would that cause the boil over when temp gauge shows only 1/2 to 3/4 reading?
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Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 AT 9:00 PM

23 Replies

Tiny
SERVICE WRITER
  • EXPERT
Pull the belt off and spin each pulley feeling for roughness. This should quikley be able to narrow down the roughness/bearing noise.

Before you do that, take a long screwdriver and place the tip on the alternater and put your ear up to the handle end. You can hear the way it sounds. Then comapre it to the waterpump etc, this should help to confirm the suspicous bearing.
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Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 AT 9:11 PM
Tiny
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I'll give that a try. Will a water pump sound like an alternator with bad bearings, or should I assume the water pump is NOT the likely culprit? I guess I am being hopeful. If the water pump is the piece making the noise, I will replace it and maybe that will solve the over-heating problem. A man can hope. Can't he? :)
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 AT 11:37 AM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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Hey Ws,

Congrats on the sensor replacement.

If you are not loosing coolant I would check that the cooling fan runs first thing. Run 12 volts to it and be sure it runs. Make sure the ground and power supply is good. Move back to the relay, check that it is functioning properly by swapping it with a known funtional relay. Is the relay being energized?

That is enough to get you started.

Good hunting and let us know. :)
peppemrj
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 AT 6:10 PM
Tiny
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Bearing noise can be hard to distinguish with the "naked" ear. Pepper might be on the right path to the overheating, I was on the bearing noise, although your right, it could be a bad waterpump causing both.
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 AT 9:06 PM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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Hey Ws,

Don, t neglect what Servicewriter is telling you. I zeroed in on the cooling fan issue from your statements (see above) in your prior thread.

Listening for a bad bearing noise is best done with an aid as Paul states. I broke down and bought a mechanics stethoscope for $3.00 off the internet. You can make a resonable facimili with a legnth of vacvuum hose that will fit into your ear. Add a piece of metal (threaded rod or anything that fits) to the other end of the hose and you are good to go. The long screwdriver works too. Just be carefull. Putting anything down next to a running engine, pulleys, and serp belt can send things FLYING and can be PAINFULL!

The waterpump on my 96 is below the AC compressor to the rear of the car just a bit. It is best obseverved for leaks from underneath. Again use caution. Jackstands and wheel chocks are a must. If the waterpump is defective it is best replaced from the passengers wheel well from my experience. Let me know if you need specific instructions.

Good luck and let us know. :)
peppermrj
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 9:11 AM
Tiny
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I did notice that the cooling fan runs when I have the air conditioner running. Before I changed the ects, the fan did not run with the ac on, but after the ects switch, the fan does run with the ac on.

Is that enough of a test or should I test it further? Is there a moment in time or some preset that determines when the fan should run (other than when the ac is on)?

As for water pump leaks, I have witnessed no leaks except for when the cooling system boiled over, the boil over came out from under the lid of the coolant reservoir.
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 9:12 AM
Tiny
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Thanks SW. Today, I have some free time and I am going to attempt to find the location of the bearing noise. Will try the long screwdriver or I might do as pepper says and seek out a stethescope type deal.

In ref. To the grinding noise, I have narrowed it down (I think) to either the AC compressor, or the water pump. I believe this to be the case because I am fairly certain the sound is coming from the front-passenger side of the engine. The noise is loudest there at the ac compressor, or possibly, just below the compressor. Not sure about it being the ac compressor, though, because in my previous experience, when an ac compressor goes bad, it squeals rather than makes a grinding noise.

Once I tackle this cooling problem, I will need to address whitish smoke coming out of the tail pipe.

These old cars are so much fun (no really, I am learning a lot). :-)
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 9:22 AM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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The cooling fan running does narrow things down quite a bit. The PCM and only the PCM turns the fan on when the the ECTS reads temp above 220 and the engine is running. We know the cooling fan motor, power supply, ground, and relay are good, since the fan turns on with the AC. On my 96 the cooling fan comes on when the temp gauge hits approx 3/4s. It goes off when the gauge gets back down to 5/8ths to a 1/2.

A decent scan tool will let you see the actual temp readings of the ECTS in real time. You can also pull the connector off the ECTS and jumper it with a small wire or paper clip. This will give the computer the highest temp reading and should kick the cooling fan on. If the readings are appropriate or the fan kicks on with the Pigtail jumpered then we need to look elswhere.

Other causes for overheating can be.
Loose serp belt
bad waterpump
low coolant level
bad rad flow
bad pressure cap
internal coolant leaks ie bad head gasket or cracked cylinder head.

The white smoke you report is not a good thing.

White or bluish white smoke from the exhast pipe can mean several things. They boil down to 2 basics tho. Either there is oil or coolant consumption. Coolant consumption is usually a head gasket or crack in the head or block. Oil consumprtion can be anything from a bad PCV valve, valve components, rings, and again the head gasket.

Is there water coming out the tailpipe? Do you have heat in the cabin? When the smoke starts does it affect engine performance?

Good hunting and let us know. :)
peppermrj
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 10:00 AM
Tiny
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Describe the process of jumping the ects please, and I will do this. I understand that I am jumpling the connector, but what do I jump it to? Thanks.

Thanks for this information. I am most worried about the last one.

Yes. At first I thought the residue was oily, but now I am not so sure. It is definitely wet, dripping from the tail pipe every so often. It looks like sooty water.(Not very much water. Just enough to make a small drip pattern the size of a baseball beneath the tail pipe after having idle for 10-15 minutes. Barely enough to touch and get residue on my fingers.). The dried residue (the residue from yesterday left on the pavement) is black and "sooty". It does not appear to be very oily. The smoke, itself, is definitely a whitish color and, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely smokey, I would say the amount of smoke is.
1 at startup
3 after idling for about 5-10 minutes.

Not that I am aware of. I understand what you mean and I cannot detect any sign of this. Of course, if I turn the heater on, there is heat. But there seems to be no seepage of warm air into the cabin.

I have only been letting the car idle, and the idle does not seem to be affected when the smoke begins. I notice no depreciation in performance at all.
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 10:40 AM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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Hey Ws,

Bypassing the ects by jumping the connector means that you run a small wire from one side of the connector to the other side. In essence you are just connecting the two wires that run to the ects together.

The little bit of water coming out the tailpipe ins normal. It is the byproduuct of combustion. Might be smoke from oil consumption. I would do a compression test. I do them cold even tho they ask for the engine to be at running temp. Something about aluminim heads that scare me.

Also take a close look at the spark plugs. Compare them to the chart at this link.
http://www.ngksparkplugs.com/techinfo/spark_plugs/faq/faqread2.asp

No heat from the heater can be a sign of low coolant level and poor coolant flow among other things.

Jump that ects connector and see if the coolant fan comes on. Hopefully one less thing to worry about. Check out that waterpump. You can see if it leaks best from underneath.

Good luck and let us know. :)
peppermrj
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 5:16 PM
Tiny
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Silly me. Just like jumping the A and B terminal of the ALDL. Sometimes I just don't think clearly. Thanks for the details.

I drove the car several times today after I replaced the front brake pads. The water out of the tail pipe remains slight. Smoke out of the tail pipe is actually intermittent. I ran it for about 30 minutes today and checked the tail pipe several times, and there was little or no smoke visible. Previously, it has been fairly easy to see. I'll keep my eye on this.

Tomorrow, I am going to visit a guy I know who is a mechanic for a small buy-here pay-here car lot. He seems to know a lot about Saturns. If he's not to busy, I am going to ask him if he will help me do a compression check. Will let you know the results.
I am going to take the car in for a tune up and will ask them to keep the old plugs so I can view them.

This seems to not be a problem. Good heating. Really good! At least one thing is working fine. :)

Will jump the ects connector tonight in my garage. Will let you know. I am going to ask this guy I know if he can give me an opinion on the water pump and the grinding noise on the right front of the car. Will let you know the results.

Thank you for taking the time to help me with these issues, peppermj. It is really important for me to be able to ask questions and get answers from someone more knowledgeable than I am. You have been a big help!

Bill
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 6:19 PM
Tiny
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BTW, I jumped the ALDL today, and got 2 instances of a code 26. Could that code be related to the bad coolant temp sensor that I recently replaced?

The quotes below are what I found on the web today when searching code 26. What do you think? I cleared the trouble codes today by jumping a & b 3 times within a few seconds. No new codes have surfaced since then.
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 6:28 PM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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Erase the codes and see if they reset. If you get another 26 check out this link. Almost too much info. I would think the code has to do with the cooling fan.

Peppermrj
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 8:08 PM
Tiny
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Thanks for the link. Interesting. I found this on the page you linked to.

Check circuit 817 passive restraint module for an open or short to ground.

Interesting because just yesterday, the passenger side passive restraint kept going back and forth about 12 inches while in the forward position (near the front of the travel rail). The next time I started the car a few hours later, it was working fine.

Also, today, the red seatbelt warning bulb was flickering very quickly and there was a clicking sound coming from within the gear shifter assembly. It sounded like a bad speedometer clicking sound, if you know what I mean. The clicking gets faster at speed and slows down at speed. But not exactly linear in relation to the speed of the car.

Don't know if the two are related, but I was thinking it sounded a bit like the clicking of a circuit going on and off.

Thanks again for the link. Very helpful. Now, I just need to find the location of the passive restraint module.
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007 AT 9:51 PM
Tiny
SERVICE WRITER
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http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/30961_satmod_1.jpg



Passive
Restraint
Control
Module


http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/30961_satmod1_1.jpg

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Saturday, April 28th, 2007 AT 3:55 PM
Tiny
WSCREATE
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Thanks Paul. Well, that explains a lot.

1. I hear that clicking sound in the console
2. The rapidly flashing red seatbelt light in the dash
3. The passive restraint freaks out every few days or so
4. And the code 26.

I'd say all signs point to the PRCM. Will hopefully get to this next week.

The diagram is great. Thanks a ton!
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Saturday, April 28th, 2007 AT 9:20 PM
Tiny
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Okay, got some good news today. I suspected that the coolant reservoir cap was bad so I replaced it with an OEM piece. Previously, I had witnessed a boil over from under the cap 3 times when gauge was at or below 3/4. Made sense to replace the cap since it is relatively inexpensive.

I drove the car and got it up to operating temp. When I parked, I kept the car idling and opened the hood. I noticed a small amount of spray being slung upwards from the serpentine belt. I looked under the car and the water pump is now leaking.

So, after I replaced the cap, the cap held the pressure and now the water pump is leaking. Consider the noisy, grinding sound coming from the water pump area previously, and it seems I have found the culprit of the noise and cooling problem.

Should I replace the belt tensioner when I replace the water pump? Someone suggested this to me.

Also, for the first time since I first noticed the cooling problem (about a week), two new lights appeared when I cranked the car. Obviously, it means low coolant. Does it mean something else? At the time these lights came on, the gauge was at less than 1/4 temp.


http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/70282_overheat_1.jpg

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Monday, April 30th, 2007 AT 6:13 PM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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Hey Ws,

Glad you found the leak. I used one from AZ on mine. Should come with a silicone gasket for around $30.00. Not to bad to replace. You are best to jack the car up and remove the inner fender cover to get at it. The toughest part is unbolting the 3 bolts from the waterpump pulley. I will send you instructions.

Once you take the belt off you will have an idea of the condition of the tensioner. Spin the pulley and make sure it is smooth. I would only replace it if necessary.

Good luck and let us know. :)
peppermrj
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Monday, April 30th, 2007 AT 7:18 PM
Tiny
PEPPERMRJ
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The lights should light and then go out every time you crank the engine. This is normal. If they blink while the car is running = low coolant level.
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Monday, April 30th, 2007 AT 7:21 PM
Tiny
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Thanks pepper.
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Monday, April 30th, 2007 AT 9:09 PM

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