If any of you are fortunate enough to have kids, at some point in their lives they may come to you seeking help in selecting a car. That is what my daughter did. You should also be aware that the car you help select is really yours if it needs repair. You become your kids' official 24-hour, on-call mechanic. Unfortunately, when I recommended that cute little Saturn SL2 to her, I should have had a clearer mind. There is a reason why this brand went belly up.
I have worked on my own cars for many years, so I didn’t consider myself an inept mechanic, and I certainly didn’t mind helping my daughter get back on the road again. Throw out the memories I had of cars that survived to 170,000 miles while never requiring anything but routine maintenance. This Saturn was different.
One day, my daughter said the car was misfiring. I learned that oil had seeped into the spark plug cavities, and the valve cover gasket needed to be replaced. At 68,000 miles, this must be an anomaly. Be reasonable, I thought. Oops, same thing again, roughly 20,000 miles later. Hmmm. I must have neglected something. Once again, at 110,000, it had the same problem. That’s it! What the blankety blank is going on?!
Once I learned that there were plenty of Internet forums on the topic, I learned that I too must make a special trip to the local hardware store, buy a tube of RTV silicone sealant, and place a generous bead line between spark plug number one and two, in addition to the gasket kit, due to heat warpage variation with the cover. That’s funny; no one at Saturn offered me this suggestion, nor was there anything in its wonderful gasket kit installation instructions. I also noticed on the forums that this very issue had been around for many model years, and not just my daughter’s model year, 2001.
For me, I will never know if my final attempt to fix the leaky gasket worked. At roughly 120,000 miles, the car left her stranded on the side of the road for the umpteenth time. I learned that a fifty cent piece size of molded plastic connecting the linkage cable to the shift lever had broken. That required the purchase of the entire cable. I bailed-wired the cable to the shift lever and drove it to the junk yard where it belonged. I am glad these Monkeys are gone!
This entry was submitted by John T. Anderson and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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