1998 Saturn SL2 timing chain

Discussion in 'Saturn S-series' started by Lazarus, May 10, 2004.

  1. Lazarus

    Lazarus Guest

    I just bought a 1998 sl2. Not 10 minuets after I bought I ran into
    some guy that told me that they have a bad problem with breaking
    timing chains.
    being that I only paid $1000.00 for it I am not to concerned if I have
    to replace it but I was just wondering if any one knows about this
    problem ( if it exists ) tank you for your time
    Lazarus, May 10, 2004
  2. I have a 98SL2 with ~75K and since I've had the car (~40K) I've never
    had a problem with the timing belt. I haven't heard anything like this
    (3 other SLs in my family), and I also don't see anything about it on
    the list of TSBs.

    BTW: does anyone know where to get the full text of the TSBs? All I
    can find is a list of TSB titles, except the 25$/year to alldatadyi.

    richard hornsby, May 10, 2004
  3. I've read that if the car has had normal oil changes and not allowed to run
    on low oil levels, timing chain life is really long - something like the
    life of the engine (which means different numbers to different folks). And
    I've also read they start making enough noise before they fail that most
    techs/mechanics can suggest it's time to replace. Since the valves don't
    clear the tops of the piston on the compression stroke, i.e. interference
    engine, you'll bend and break parts when the chain breaks. Not pretty.

    My 97SL2 with 89,200 miles is on the original chain and is fine as far as I
    know - I think I hit 6,000 r's on a shift today merging onto the highway and
    everything stayed together... (grin)
    Jonnie Santos, May 11, 2004
  4. I think Jonnie has it right. Oil is the lifeblood of an engine. I have a
    '94 with 157,000 miles and the chain is quiet.
    Since Saturns have a reputation for using oil, check it every few times you
    fill up your tank...until you get a feeling for how much oil you're using.
    My car is now using a quart every 1,500 miles. 2,000 miles when it was
    brand new.

    She's getting old....

    Barry Schnoor, May 11, 2004
  5. Lazarus

    Napalm Heart Guest

    No timing belt on your car. It has a timing chain. They aren't known
    to break.

    Napalm Heart, May 12, 2004
  6. No timing belt on your car. It has a timing chain. They aren't known
    Apologies. I realized later that I meant chain, and not belt.
    richard hornsby, May 12, 2004
  7. Lazarus

    Napalm Heart Guest

    No apologies needed here. The only thing I'm concerned about is that
    a true neophyte (not you, you obviously have more knowledge then that)
    might change the serpentine belt and think they had changed a timing
    belt. If they were having a timing chain problem that could be a
    'fatal error'.

    Napalm Heart, May 12, 2004
  8. It is true.

    See: http://groups.google.com/groups?oi=djq&selm=an_364666954

    The same mechanic, and owner of Saturn Services (now 6th Planet after Saturn
    threatened litigation), a well-regarded independent Saturn shop in Florida,
    suggests changing the chain at 70K miles for preventive maintenance: "saturn
    timing chains are failing at an alarming rate, i'm recommending to my
    customers to replace them at 75k as preventive maintenance. were now selling
    apx 4 engines every week now and most are due to t-chain failures. the twin
    cams are failing more than the single cams f.y.i."

    OTOH, If you paid $1000, you're probably not going to want to spend $600-700
    on a timing chain replacement, and you'll most likely go well beyond 100K
    miles. The odds are on your side that you won't have a failure. And as
    others have pointed out, a worn timing chain usually makes noise prior to
    failing, so you have some warning. However you don't have a frame of
    reference as to what the noise level should be normally, if you bought it

    Just keep the oil level topped off (you're probably burning a quart or two
    of oil in a Saturn that old), and you'll get your money's worth.

    A lot of people have been misled on this issue, a timing chain, even though
    it is steel, does NOT last the life of the car. As Tom and Ray state:
    "Timing chains do last longer, but not necessarily the life of the car. And
    when they do break, it's a big job and a lot of money to replace them, and
    "Now, with overhead-cam engines, it has to be 3 or 4 feet long, and for that
    kind of length, a belt is not only a lot quieter, but more reliable, too.
    When you use a chain for that kind of length, it's more likely to loosen up,
    slap around and eventually break." See
    Steven M. Scharf, May 14, 2004
  9. Lazarus

    Louis Hom Guest

    What is the kind of noise one should be noticing? Is it rumbling,
    rattling, gnashing, whining,...? Hopefully, I'll never need to use that
    information . . .
    Louis Hom, May 14, 2004
  10. Ah. Something I can add my $0.02 worth:

    About a year ago, I had the chain replaced on my 98 SL2 (about 38k on it,
    but all "hard" in town driving). It came on so slow, I never notice it. The
    engine noise (whirring/gear noise/roaring???) just kept getting louder and
    louder, but not a "bad" sound. The power dropped off so bad, it would
    down-shift on any slight hill/rise in the road. Mileage dropped off a
    little, but not enough to alarm me. Here in Texas, I use the A/C alot and
    mileage varies.

    I thought the A/C compressor was getting loud/bad and dragging down the
    engine. Took it in to the dealer (I had the extended warranty about to run
    out in 86 days) and asked them to check it. They told me it was the chain
    that was going bad. It was about $1200 for them to do it, but it was
    covered. They also replaced the wires (covered). I had to pay for plugs and
    the injector cleaning. Service manager told me since the chain was stretched
    and the timing was so bad it was fouling the plugs and gumming up the

    I keep the oil changed. It might go 3500 between changes, but it never gets
    too low. I use about 3/4 qt. in 3000 miles. So I usually don't have to add

    Now I have a question: Since the plugs and injectors needed replaced, I'd
    think the O2 sensors and other emission parts should need to be replaced

    Rich Babowicz, May 14, 2004
  11. Lazarus

    Blah blah Guest

    Saturn timing chains in the 1.9L arent known for strength so yes they
    are known to break. Its a single roller chain that goes from the crank
    to one or two over head cam(s) so its longer than none ohc engines. I
    think there are many ways for these chains to go bad. One may be
    sticking valves which stress the chain. Lack of oil changes could result
    in more drag. Another thought would be a clogging oil passage that
    lubricates the chain. Either way frequent oil changes and not pushing
    the engine on a cold winter day until its warmed up can probably greatly
    improve the life of the chain.
    Blah blah, May 14, 2004
  12. Lazarus

    Napalm Heart Guest

    In most cases that I've heard of, a timing chain breaking on a Saturn
    is from insufficient maintenance and/or abuse, as you have indicated.
    I bought my '96 SL2 after it had been repo-ed. I took a chance, since
    the prior owner didn't seem to have done much better on maintenance
    than they did on making their payments. Timing chain didn't break,
    but a piston did. I bought it cheap enough that a self-installed
    replacement engine made the total cost still reasonable enough. With
    regular maintenance I've had no problems at approx. 125,000 miles on
    the '97 engine that now resides under the hood.

    Napalm Heart, May 15, 2004
  13. The only emissions part that really might be susceptible to being clogged up
    due to a badly-running engine would be the EGR valve, they can tend to get
    carboned up over time even on normally running engines - it & its passages
    might need to be cleaned out. Other than that, the O2 sensor could get
    carbon deposits on it, but the exhaust temperature is high enough that they
    should be fairly easily burned off by a properly running engine.
    Robert Hancock, May 17, 2004
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