Thread: 97 Saturn Sc2
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Old 04-01-2015, 08:22 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Indiana
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Ol' Reliable - '02 Saturn SL2
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Ahhh, it does my heart good to see another Saturn guy out there. I’ve been driving an S-series (02’ SL2) for several years now. They’re about as boring as transportation gets but they will knock down some impressive mileage and are probably the cheapest and easiest thing on 4 wheels to keep going.

Some tips:

-Definitely keep an eye on oil levels. I’ve personally seen anywhere from almost zero oil use to 2+qts between changes on a variety of different S-series. It seems to vary a decent amount so it’s REALLY important that you watch yours until you can establish just how much it uses.

-Go ahead and change the coolant temp sensor now (located on the cyl head; driver’s side; towards the bottom). Their well known for going bad and they’ll cost you a not-insignificant amount of mileage (2-3mpg EASY). As a perk, the part is generally around $10 (parts for these cars are INSANELY cheap! ) and it’s easy to change. Be careful with the wire and connector though as they’re a bit brittle. Also, you mostly likely won’t need any coolant (the sensor is in the water jacket) as you’ll probably only spill a few tablespoons if you have the new one in hand and screw it in immediately after removing the old one. It’s an easy 15min. job and, like I said, very cheap.

-Trans swap is an absolute must-do (though 40+mpg is easily do-able with the stock tranny). Get one from a single cam car; they bolt right up 100% (no fab work or changes of any kind required). The later ones (1998+) had a slightly taller 5th than the early ones, though the difference isn’t drastic (maybe 100rpm less at 60 w/ the newer one). Check to see if you have a Pull-A-Part local to you. My last Saturn trans swap came from there costing a whopping total of $80. Because of their oil usage issue it’s not hard to find S-Series that have been burnt-up by inattentive owners so their easy to find. As far as the actual swap; easy as pie. I removed my Pull-A-Part tranny, by myself, with nothing more than common hand tools, in less than 2hrs; easiest FWD you’ll ever pull. The trick is to remove 2 bolts from the subframe and loosen the other 2 to allow it to drop, and pull it out through the wheel-well. Though it looks like it would fit, I’ve not been able to pull one from the top. A complete trans swap can be done in an afternoon. As far as results, I saw about +2mpg ave. from the swap on my old SL2 (haven’t done it yet on my current one).
I’ll save you a MAJOR headache though and warn you to fill the clutch reservoir ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP before removing the slave cyl. from the trans. If it sucks air as it extends out when you remove it you will play heck getting it bled as they are, technically, sealed units with no bleeder provisions.

-Warm air does a little but I’ve never gotten spectacular results from it. Honestly, I’d put this in the ‘do it if you can find time’ category.

-Keep your shift points below 2000rpm. I’ve tried shifting at a variety of points and I’ve gotten my best, consistent-not one-time peak, mileage by shifting between 1800-2000rpm. These cars seem to thrive on high load-low rpm conditions.

Really though, just getting it in prime running order (plugs, wires, O2, etc) and driving like you want mileage will have you at 40+. I average right between 40-42mpg from my twin cam, 5sp sedan (SL2) during the 8-9 decent months here (above freezing). Wintertime has me in the 36-38 range depending on how severe the weather.
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