1998 Saturn SL2 98 Saturn SL2 hard starting but runs fine after that

Tiny
THEDUDE77
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 SATURN SL2
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 120,000 MILES
When I first start my car I have to hit the gas or it often wants to die. If it dies in that state it's quite difficult to get it started again. However once it's started it has no problems running.

The first time it died like that I had to get it towed and they found that the valve cover gasket needed to be replaced. It's an overhead cam engine and the oil was leaking in from the top of the engine into the spark plug chamber.

I replaced the valve cover gasket and spark plugs and fixed the leak. I've cleaned out the oil from the spark plug chambers as best I can using paper towels on the end of a socket wrench handle. The paper towels come back clean and the spark plugs ends are clean but it's still having this problem with wanting to die when started. I've also replaced the spark plug wires. There are no engine warning lights.

Some questions:

1.) Is it possible there's some kind of gunk down inside the firing chamber that needs to be cleaned out? If so, what would they do to clean it and how much does that kind of thing usually cost?

2.) Is it likely that the problem is something else like clogged fuel injectors, a clogged fuel line, or a bad fuel pressure regulator?

3.) Would adding some fuel injector cleaner to the gas help?

4.) Would a fuel system flush be worth it?

The thing that's odd to me about it is runs fine once the car is started, but getting it going isn't as easy as it should be.

When I replaced the valve cover gasket I replaced both the outer seal and the inner seal around the spark plug holes and cleaned all the dirty oil along the seal and everything, and used RTV sealant.

The check engine light isn't on now although I noticed a few months ago it would sometimes come on when it was raining.

I don't know how long it's been since the fuel filter has been changed, I haven't changed it since I bought the car used. The PCV valve is relatively new.

The air filter looks good. Here's what one of the plugs looks like. The top is clean so the gasket seal seems to be working. I'm not sure if that tip looks normal?
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Monday, February 22nd, 2010 AT 10:13 AM

4 Replies

Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
First of all thank u so much for ur donation it really helps to keep this site going and helping to answer everyones questions. It sounds like a bad coolant temp sensor it's screwed into the head below where the upper hose attaches it has two wires going to it a yellow one and black one.U remove the connector by squessing it look at the connector see if it's corrodded u will have to replace or clean it. Remove the sensor see if the tip is cracked if it is u will need to replace the sensor they crack read too low of actual engine temp and leak into the connector. If u replace the sensor make sure u get a brass tipped one the plastic tip ones crack. There under 20 pretty common for the sensor to crack and go bad they cause hard starts flooding during starting idle problems cutting out while driving over heating all kinds of problems. They have had problems with them for yrs till they changed them to brass. Make sure it's cold when u check it becareful u will loose coolant. Let me know what u find.
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Monday, February 22nd, 2010 AT 12:42 PM
Tiny
THEDUDE77
  • MEMBER
The money I donated to get this question answered was just about the best $5 I ever spent!

None of the other mechanics or forums I asked this about knew what it was but you narrowed it down to a $9 part in one post!

The shop where I first had it looked at was going to start replacing parts until either the problem was fixed or I ran out of money. I should have come here first.

I replaced the part today and now it starts no problem. Problem solved!

I wish I'd known about this site a couple years ago. I'm pretty sure my previous car overheated and ruined the engine because this same sensor went bad. I figured the car was just old but its problems were similar enough to this one that I think it may have been the same thing.

I'll definitely recommend this site to everyone I know and recommend they donate. Feel free to use whatever parts of this you want as a testimonial.

Thanks!
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Friday, February 26th, 2010 AT 10:14 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Glad to hear that ur car is fixed it's crazy to think a simple cheap little sensor can make our lives miserable. Yeah alot of people aren't that familar with saturns and don't know about that sensor.I was factory trained in spring hill where they were made and spent over 16yrs fixing them at the dealer so I know my saturns. Thanks again for the donation
and if there are anymore questions or concerns u have with ur car feel free to use us again and post another question.
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Friday, February 26th, 2010 AT 11:58 PM
Tiny
THEDUDE77
  • MEMBER
The problem is still happening. What else could be causing it?

Today after driving it a while, I parked it for a bit then got back in and it wanted to die when I started it. I had to give it some gas for 10 or 15 seconds before I could let my foot off the gas and put it in gear.

I also noticed that while driving, when I would slow down to stop at a sign it seemed like the engine would idle lower than usual for a moment and then recover.

What's the probability it's any of these:

- M.A.P. Sensor

- Fuel pressure regulator

- Fuel pump

- Fuel filter

- Dirty Throttle Body

- EGR valve

- Throttle positon sensor

I also noticed there's a breather hose going from the top of the valve cover that's cracked. Could that be causing it?
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Monday, March 8th, 2010 AT 7:20 PM

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