Looking at buying a 95 SL1 - what to look out for

Discussion in 'Saturn S-series' started by BlairG, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. BlairG

    BlairG Guest

    Hi, I'm looking at buying my daughter her first car, a 1995 SL1 with
    156K. The car is for sale at a local dealer for $1500. It's a 5 speed,
    with power sunroof, door locks and windows.

    Reading some of the review comments on Edmunds would put anyone off
    buying one of these cars at that mileage.
    However this group seems to have more experience and I'm looking to
    ping the group for any areas of the car that I should pay close
    attention to. It seems like several of you have higher mileage cars
    with very few problems if maintained.

    So far all I noticed on the test drive was a slight shimmy at 45mph,
    could just be balance but it does have 4 brand new tires and the
    drivers power windows makes a loud grinding noise (busted regulator?)
    when going up or down. Everything else seems to work just fine.

    I'd appreciate any input from the group on things I should check,
    potential costs involved etc


    BlairG, Jan 30, 2006
  2. check the sunroof for leaks. look and see if you can see oil leaking from
    the vlave cover - it's an easy fix, but might give you some leverage with
    the dealer. There really isn't a good way to look at teh car and see if it
    burns oil, but at that mileage, I'd be surprized if it didn't, but the MMO
    soak does help with that.

    my friend has about that mileage on hers, and it's still running strong.
    My '95 "SC1.5" is running great with nearly that mileage, but then it has a
    DOHC engine in it, and I flog the living crap out of it.
    Kevin M. Keller, Jan 30, 2006
  3. Check for oil in the plug wells, look for any leaks, oil or atf, and change
    the ECTS. Also, replace the TAM, and you will be fine. They really are
    reliable cars if you maintain them decently. I have worked on a 96 SL that
    has over 600k on the body. The original motor lasted over 500k miles.....
    just had a rebuild done about 2 years ago....
    TheLastDonSC2, Jan 30, 2006
  4. hi
    If it has brand new tires they should have been balanced, I would expect
    the tie rod ends are worn and that caused shimmy on my saturn, also check
    coolant reservoir for signs of oil since that year was known to have
    cracked heads i believe.
    justastreekin, Jan 30, 2006
  5. BlairG

    BlairG Guest

    Thansk for the reply, 500K on the original motor! That's impressive.
    Can you expand on the two terms you used ECTS and TAM?

    BlairG, Jan 30, 2006
  6. BlairG

    njot Guest

    These really are decent cars if you remember to keep up with the
    I have 160,000 miles on a 93 SL2, so it's a little different than yours
    having the dual overhead cam motor and an automatic transmission.

    Mine never had any trouble until 147,000 miles, which is when the
    alternator went.

    The ECTS is the engine coolant temp sensor. This is very cheap to
    replace. I didn't know mine went bad, and the car started getting poor
    gas mileage because the car was running rich and I didn't know. There
    really isn't any other indication. Eventually this damaged the
    catalytic converter on it. So, just replace it before this happens.
    It only costs about $8-$10 at an auto parts store and could save you
    some trouble.

    I have no idea what a TAM is.

    At 156,000 miles, you probably should have the radiator hoses & coolant
    replaced if that has never been done. Also make sure the serpentine
    belt is in good shape. If it has cracks or tears running parallel to
    the belt (as opposed to across it) you need to put a new one on there.
    Sometimes you replace the belt and yet you still have squealing from
    the belt, or the alternator can't keep the headlights fully bright. In
    this case it could be the belt tensioner going bad. It costs about
    $100 (for the part) to replace.

    Make sure the spark plug wires are changed if they are still original.

    One thing to listen for when test driving is if you hear a whirring
    sound from the wheels when you drive. You might need wheel bearings if
    you hear this noise. They are fairly expensive to replace ($100 for
    the part alone). One of mine went bad after hitting a curb.

    This hasn't happened to me, but I have heard if you get misfiring in
    the engine, you should add a bottle of fuel injector cleaner into the
    gas tank. Apparently the fuel injectors get clogged sometimes & cause

    Always check the oil and keep it above the ADD line on the dipstick.
    As someone else said it will probably burn some oil at this mileage.
    Keep the oil changed every 3000 miles, and don't let the engine
    overheat (it has an aluminum block and head)- and you should stay out
    of trouble. On automatic transmission cars you should change the fluid
    every 30,000 miles. You shouldn't have any problem getting to 200,000
    miles on one of these.

    The front end shimmy sounds like a tire out of balance or a ball joint
    or tie rod needing replacement.
    njot, Jan 30, 2006
  7. BlairG

    Private Guest

    Take this car to the best steering and suspension shop you can find and have
    a complete front end inspection AND 4 wheel alignment check done as part of
    your pre-purchase inspection. Is the steering wheel centered when rolling
    straight? If the wheel is not centered it may be a sign of damage or wear
    or poor alignment.

    Pay to have the tires rebalanced yourself if you need to but the owner can
    probably get them redone for free where he purchased them. Ask to see his
    tire sales receipt. Were they balanced when mounted? You might want to ask
    the tire store if this shimmy has been a known problem that they are unable
    to find or resolve. I am always suspisious of new tires on a used car as
    tires are often replaced to mask uneven wear caused by bent suspension. New
    tires also roll smoother and can hide all sorts of worn or BENT and
    EXPENSIVE front end problems. I would MUCH rather buy a used car with tires
    worn out EVENLY. Worn tires will show uneven wear caused by poor alignment
    much quicker than new tires.

    Front end repairs can be expensive and could cost as much as the car.

    Do check for evidence of oil in the coolant tank.

    IMHO 5 speed good, automatic bad. Cluches and automatic transmisions seem
    to last about the same life, but clutches are (often much) cheaper to fix
    (usually) and give better fuel economy.

    AFAIK the window regulator is changed by removing the outer door skin. Buy
    a used one at "Pick Your Part" and you can practice by removing it yourself.

    These are VERY good cars and many give very long service. This car sounds
    like it could be very good value.

    Good luck YMMV
    Private, Jan 31, 2006
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