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Hard mode DIY on a budget

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  • Hard mode DIY on a budget

    Saturn wasn't my first car nor my first choice. However my 2001 SC2 was just the car I needed, it's taught me more than I ever would have thought it could.

    My first impression at the stealership was this thing looks and drives like grandma's batmobile, but it's so clean. This little black coupe was my second choice, my first being a 5 banger focus hatch and I'm not even a Ford fan. Got rejected for the note, the woes of being a broke fulltime college kid with a part time job. Went back with a much lower budget in mind, and grandma's batmobile was still there, only had 109k miles on the odometer over its 14 years.

    A few months into ownership the head gasket blew, first noticed the issue when we over heated in the McDonalds drive through. We were blowing a little bit of white smoke. This was the first and most major repair I had learned to DIY. I spent weeks of research into what I was about to get myself into. I still owed over a grand, and wasn't about to eat the loss (I'm kinda stubborn that way). I got a credit card from the local credit union and bought a full head gasket kit, water pump, timing chain kit, rtv Silicon, plugs, wires, coil packs, fluids and filters. I think I spent about $800 in parts, was for sure about to double down if I had to.

    Lucky for me I had good friends who were studying to be mechanical engineers with a garage and we were all staying in town for that summer. Every ounce of my time outside work and sleep was spent wrenching and studying.

    Being the scrub I am, I was determined to not pull this engine. From my research, much of it probably came from this site, it is in fact possible to do it without pulling the engine.

    A couple weeks later, the first start was utter defeat. The timing chain tensioner wasn't properly primed. The chain was slapping and skipping was definitely not running right.

    Round 2, if everything went right the first time you wouldn't be learning. This tensioner is brand new from the timing kit, the fuck if I'm buying another one. I don't know how "correct" this is but my buddy had the idea of just priming it. To re-prime it we removed compressed it back down and put the pull tab back in. While submerging it in oil we pulled the primer tab and it sucked oil from the little hole. This seemed to do the trick, after getting it put back together enough to give it the old college try, it was music to my ears.

    We button her back up, and I drive out of his garage the next day. You may have noticed that something was missing in my parts list that belongs on the timing chain cover. If you soak the timing chain cover in diesel to clean things up, the main oil seal will degrade. Not really noticeably, but enough.I made sure to check everything out when I got home. when I popped the hood, it was hard to not notice the light mist of oil sprayed everywhere. I wasn't missing a lot of oil for how bad it looked. For the next week I was adding oil before every trip to work.

    Compared to the timing, the oil seal went much quicker. This wasn't exactly my first rodeo that month.

    Even compared to graduating college a year later this was my biggest accomplishment. I would not want to have traded this experience for anything especially that 5 banger focus.

    I've owned Grandma's Batmobile for 5 years now and only put 45k miles on it. This car has moved my wife, dog, and I on a 2k+ mile relocation across the country from Oregon to Texas with all our possessions. It was a tight fit to say the least.

    I look forward to being a more active member in the saturn community, and learning a lot more about performance options. From everything I've read so far, I'm in for another challenge.

  • #2
    Welcome! Owner
    2016 Honda Fit
    2002 Saturn SL1 - RHD
    2002 GMC Sierra 2500HD Duramax


    • #3
      Great post! The cool thing about Saturns is that once they are fixed they usually go a long time with little TLC. Then again, there is the philosophy that if it's not broke, fix it some more.
      '99 SL2, 5SP bought new
      Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
      Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
      '98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018


      • #4
        Mine is not not broke. Is that why I keep thinking about turbos? To make it broken. I mean the jack stands are just sitting there in the garage looking lonely.


        • #5
          I often think of turbos as well. These cars with a little boost sounds like a good time. That's actually why I joined the form, looking to get a megasquirt and dabble with some tuning. Saw a post about an oem adapter harness for the injectors. I'm all about not molesting the stock harness.


          • #6
            With the megasquirt you can pretty much leave the majority of the harness alone. You really only need to splice in at the TPS. I ran the megasquirt parallel to my factory computer to control the gauges
            2016 Honda Fit
            2002 Saturn SL1 - RHD
            2002 GMC Sierra 2500HD Duramax


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