1998 Saturn SL2 1998 SL2 will not start

Tiny
JBRUN122
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 SATURN SL2
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 163,000 MILES
Greetings,

I have a 1998 Saturn SL2 with approximately 163,000 miles on it. It is a 4 cyl. DOHC motor with an automatic transmission. And right now it will not start.

The problem occurred two days ago when I drove the car to work (which is only 6 miles away). I got there just fine, it started up and drove normally. After my shift (about 8 hours later) I attempted to go home. The car seemed to take a while to start up (which is one problem I've never had), then it finally ran and then died about 3 seconds later.

Later attempts to start were unsuccessful. It turns over just fine and the electrical stuff is up to par, but nothing will catch. One of my coworkers said it sounded like it was out of gas. Remembering that my sister had a similar problem with a bad fuel gauge on an older GM car, I went out and got a few gallons and put it in the tank with no success. It's the same thing.

I've been told by several different people that it could be several different things. The first thing I was told to check is the fuel pump and also the fuel filter. I do not believe it is the fuel pump, because when I turn the key (just before turning over the motor) I hear the familiar hum of the fuel pump turning on. I was told to check the fuel injectors as well.

My personal belief is that either the spark plugs and/or wires are shot. The reason here is that I had an oil leak from the oil cap (bad o-ring, and the cap was changed about 2 months ago when I changed that and the serpentine belt tensioner and belt). Oil had been leaking down onto the plugs/wires. I cleaned up what I saw, and the oil no longer leaks. But lately, I have been getting a faint whiff of something burning. It smells like oil, but I can't see anything that is burning.

My questions are: what can cause a car to not start when it was running fine earlier the same day? Could this be a spark plug issue? Is there another fuel pump/filter set up near the fuel tank that I could replace? I've ruled out that a faulty gas gauge is not the issue, at least, not that I can tell.

If there is a fuel clog, is there something I could buy (that is very cheap!) To correct that part? How difficult would it be to change the plugs/wires, and what tools would I need to get to do that? I work at Sears, where the car is, so getting any tool would not be a problem.

The battery sounded fine, but I'm unsure of how old it is. But that could be the next guess. However everything turned over when the key was turned. If it's any help, I had to replace the transmission last February when the gears were stripped out. Minus the serpentine tensioner issue, I've had no further problems with the vehicle *knock on wood.
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Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 AT 6:11 PM

8 Replies

Tiny
DLA380
  • MEMBER
My car did the same thing. The valve cover gaskets had to be changed. Smelled like oil burning for a while until it finally burned of what couldn't be cleaned out. It wuold not start though until we changed the gaskets, cleaned it out and put in new plugs.
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Friday, January 15th, 2010 AT 12:57 AM
Tiny
JBRUN122
  • MEMBER
Thanks for the input. In the light of day, I discovered that the number 1 spark plug hole was full of oil. I'm in the process of cleaning it out right now and then I'm going to fix it and change out plugs and wires. Is this job something that can be done at home, or do I need to take it somewhere. If so, what is the price range?
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Friday, January 15th, 2010 AT 10:11 AM
Tiny
DLA380
  • MEMBER
Mine is a 95 twin cam manual, but it was really simple. I just had to remove spark plugs, remove bolts from cover, lift cam, remove old gaskets from around plugs and edges of cover, clean cover and where the plugs go. I replaced gaskets with rtv silicone. When you screw the cover back down you need to tighten them in a criss cross pattern. Cost me around $25.
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Friday, January 15th, 2010 AT 8:28 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
I think u have bigger problems then just a spark plug hole full of oil. My guess is ethier a crank sensor or a coolant temp sensor. Let start with checking spark unbolt one of the two wires set from ur coil then remove it then have someone crank the engine over while ur watching for spark jumping from tower to tower. Let me know if u have spark.
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Sunday, January 17th, 2010 AT 12:34 PM
Tiny
JBRUN122
  • MEMBER
I haven't started working on the car yet, but I can clearly see that the gaskets are all bad. There's oil all over the places on the motor just under the gasket. I have also determined that a bad wire and gasket caused the first spark plug recess to fill with oil. I even found the spots where it leaked from.

I will check the spark with the current wires, although I know I need new ones any way. I'm hoping I don't have to change the coil packs, but that's not really a tough job on this car. Thank you for the help. I should be getting to work on this thing tomorrow, so I can give a better report on it in the evening.
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Monday, January 18th, 2010 AT 11:52 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
To check the spark u don't need wires u just take two wires off the coil pack next to each other and watch for a spark between the two towers. Also when u replace the valve cover make sure u put a bead of silcone across where the front cover meets the head or u will have a big oil leak there. Let me know if u have spark and I will help u with the next step.
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Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 AT 12:39 AM
Tiny
JBRUN122
  • MEMBER
Okay, I'm still not getting my hopes up, but me and my buddy finally got the thing running today. I haven't changed the valve cover gasket yet, mainly because the gasket kit I got did not come with the silicone I need, but I did get the new plugs/wires on (the job seemed almost too easy). I tried to start it with no success, so I figured the battery needed jumped. We hooked it up and let it build up a charge for a few minutes, and then no success. My buddy then decided he would try to start it, and he pumped the gas the whole time and it sounded like it wanted to turn over. He repeated the process for a few minutes and finally. The thing turned on! Naturally because of the fact that a little bit of oil got into the cylinder, we got a nice cloud of white smoke. But the thing idled by itself with no accelerator assistance for a few minutes, then I drove it from one end of parking lot to the other before parking back in my spot and letting it run for about 30 minutes to burn off the excess oil.
I still have doubts as to whether or not I fixed it completely, because the thing did have issues starting at first. For instance, would it be wise to replace oxygen sensors or PCR valve or anything? Could that have also been a contributing factor to the car's condition? Because at this point, I'm not 100% sure the the car is healthy again. It idled just fine, and I revved the heck out of it, and it actually ran smoother and crisper (probably the tune up).

I'm just trying to be proactive here and once I do the gasket, I want to make sure that everything is tip top shape. I currently have no engine lights on, but could an error code still come up such as a bad/inconsistant sensor? If so, what would be something I could check myself or have tested at the parts store. It does have 162000 miles on it, and I can tell it has been tuned up at least once before. Thank you all for the help, it has been greatly appreciated.
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Monday, February 22nd, 2010 AT 3:39 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Iam glad to hear u got it running but my question is what did u do to fix it to start. The plugs and wires don't make much sense for it not starting from one day to the next. As far as ur o2 sensor idea to replace it when they go bad they set a code and will let know when u need to replace one so don't waste ur money there. But if ur pcv is sludge up go ahead and replace that.U still might have a bad sensor causing that no start but time will tell on that.I would have ur codes read write the numbers down and have them cleared u probably set some missifire codes from that oil in the cyclinders. Then let me know what the codes are and we can go from there on the codes. If u want to replace a sensor for a piece of mind I would check ur coolant temp sensor it's screwed into ur head right below where ur upper hose goes it has two wires to it a yellow wire and a black wire. They crack and leak into the connector causing all kinds of symptoms hard starts overheating surging cutting out etc. Look at the connector if it's corroded u will have to Replace or clean it. If u replace the sensor make sure u get a brass tipped one the plastic tip ones crack and leak there under 20. See if ur old one is crAcked. Make sure ur engine is cold when removing the sensor and u will lose coolant. Also u do know where I said to put the silcone right?Let me know what u find.
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Monday, February 22nd, 2010 AT 4:10 PM

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