Need advice on maintaining my '96 SL

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Larry G., Apr 21, 2006.

  1. Larry G.

    Larry G. Guest

    I have a '96 SL base model I bought new a decade ago. It has a
    manual transmission and AC. It now has 140K on the clock and still
    gets me around just fine, and with gas at 3 bucks a gallon, I like the
    fact that I get 37 MPG in rush hour highway traffic.

    I live in Phoenix, so it has no rust, but has run in extreme heat its
    whole life. I do my own maint., it's only been to the dealer a couple
    of times. Here is what has been replaced, most since 100K;

    Fuel injectors ( it was running crappy and dealer said that was the

    Fuel filter

    fuel cap (failed emmisions cap seal test )

    Top engine mount

    Fan belt

    Plugs and wires

    front brake pads (once)

    coolant temp sensor

    2 or 3 air filters

    3 windshields

    12 tires

    4 batteries

    Thats it. Of course I drop the oil ever 3-5K, changed the coolant a
    few times, and the transaxle fluid twice.

    Still on the original rear brake shoes,suspension, clutch, and ALL the
    coolant hoses are the originals. I am keeping an eye on them but they
    seem fine.

    It doesn't leak or burn any oil.

    I was thinking of milking this car a few more years if possible.

    What do you think I should replace as PM? What do you think might go
    out soon considering the high mileage?

    Thanks for the input!

    Larry G., Apr 21, 2006
  2. Larry G.

    SnoMan Guest

    I do not see tranny fluid change on list for manual gear box (it
    should have been changed at least twice now) and I would not use 5w30
    down there in a new or old engine. I would use 10w30 minimum. There is
    a lot of argue ment about them being the same at high temps but they
    are not because 5w30 has more VI (viscocity improver) than 10w30 that
    added nothing to lubrication abilties and become more unstable at
    higher temps than 10w30 does. Also one more tip, make sure you cahnge
    oil often as miles rack up because as engine wears a bit the oil gets
    dirty sooner and keeping oil cleaner will extend life of even a worn
    SnoMan, Apr 21, 2006
  3. Larry G.

    BillyBob Guest

    I remember when I first bought it the dealer said they use 10w30 in
    Phoenix, not the 5w30. I have always used the oil "on tap" at the heavy
    equipment place I work at, which is Chevron Delo 15w/40 HDdiesel oil. The
    Chevron guys said they use it in all their salesman's small cars and it is
    the best non-synthetic motor oil you will find. It sure proved to work fine
    in my car so far at 140K.

    BillyBob, Apr 21, 2006
  4. Larry G.

    Private Guest

    Sounds like you are getting good service and giving your car good
    maintenance. I do think that 5K is too long on the oil and personally use
    3-3,500 mi. As engines wear they pass more blowby and oil will be
    contaminated quicker even if they are not actually burning any. Oil is
    cheap maintenance. I use 5w30 but in your climate I would consult your
    dealer service manager for recommendation and would think that 10w30 may be
    better (and cheaper) If most of your driving is short trips then I would
    stay with 5w30 but if most is longer trips then 10w30 makes more sense if
    you ensure that you take it easy on startup by allowing it to idle for at
    least 1 minute on startup to allow the thicker oil to get to the timing
    chain and valve gear and also to limit engine speed until the engine is
    completely warm.

    You do seem to go through a lot of tires but I have no information about the
    quality of the tires you are purchasing or of your desire to use tires that
    are half new vs. half left. I suggest you may want to raise your tire
    pressures and suggest you talk to your tire supplier. I have had good
    service using 32 lbs pressure all around, and sometimes slightly higher in
    the summer if I am heavily loaded. Tire pressure is especially important in
    hot weather. Tread wear pattern is a good way to determine if the pressure
    is right for your loading and service. If tires wear first on the edges
    then pressure is too low and if wear is mainly in the center then pressure
    is (slightly) too high. Higher pressure will also stiffen up the ride and
    give better fuel consumption.

    I have also experienced more windshield rock damage than I would like and
    can only speculate that it is due to the cars low height and low fenders and
    windshield angle, which are good for fuel consumption but seems to result in
    catching rocks.

    You do not say that you replaced rotors when you did the front pads. I do
    not believe in resurfacing rotors and normally install new (offshore cheap)
    rotors when replacing pads. Expect to replace rotors on your next pad

    You location is very dry so you probably do not have much of a problem with
    moisture in your brake fluid but it is cheap to change, and now would be a
    good time as you are at the cars half life and a change now will last the
    remaining life of the car. Just empty the reservoir then refill with brake
    fluid from a new and UNOPENED container then start at the farthest wheel and
    bleed the brakes with the help of a friend. A good time to do this is when
    you are rotating your tires as it is a lot easier when the wheels are off.

    Many people in hot climates seem to report alternator failures at low
    mileage. There is not anything you can or should do about it except not to
    be too surprised if you have a failure. You have also replaced a lot of
    batteries which could also be due to your hot climate, but if I was your
    friend I would be asking you for your old batteries (and tires).

    I would also remove the ignition coils and clean all the mounting surfaces
    and bolts and reinstall using dielectric grease on the bolts and mounting
    surfaces and electrical connectors. I think a lot of good coil packs are
    replaced because of poor electrical connection and mounting corrosion.

    I would not consider this a high mileage car and think that with continued
    good maintenance and a home in your dry climate that this car is only at its
    half life point and can continue to give you good economical service for
    many more years, (if you don't hit anything or get hit). Keep you foot off
    the clutch, your rpms low and practice progressive shifting.

    Good luck, YMMV
    Private, Apr 21, 2006
  5. Larry G.

    Larry G. Guest

    The extreme heat out here seems to cook tires. The belts usually
    come apart before the tread is worn out. The first set of skins I
    bought were fairly cheap at a Discount Tire chain. They have a
    warranty program that gets me replacement tires for about 20 bucks
    each time I have a tire get damaged from road hazzards or the belts
    come unglued. It may not be 12 tires I've replaced, but it is at
    least 9-10. they usually go a few years and start to come apart, so I
    run it over to Discount and they put on a new one for 20 bucks. There
    is supposed to be a limit to the warranty, but I have never been
    refused warranty replacement on a tire since buying the original set
    100K miles ago.

    Most batteries only go a couple of years out here, even the 72 month
    kind. They just get boiled in summer.

    Larry G., Apr 22, 2006
  6. Larry G.

    Private Guest

    This tire warranty sounds very cost effective. Normally I do not like tire
    or battery warranties because they charge full retail minus prorated
    wear/age for the replacement which often ends up being more than I would
    have to pay by just buying smart or wholesale. I have heard that the
    extreme heat in the south USA is hard on batteries and tires and I think
    that plus the low tire pressures specified (to get a soft ride) for the Ford
    Explorer SUVs was the cause of most of the tire failures a couple of years

    I am interested that you have not had alternator problems as many in hot
    climates do report this. Your proper replacement of your batteries when
    required may be the reason you have not needed to replace an alternator.
    Here in Canada we usually learn the hard way that a poor battery often
    causes a starter to burn out in the first cold snap of winter. We find the
    best way to cope with winter is to make sure we have good tires and
    batteries in the fall.

    From the sound of your posts you have a good handle on the maintenance you
    need in your area. Doing the work yourself saves you LOTS of money but also
    keeps you aware of how your car is aging and where it needs some help.
    Doing the work yourself also means you do not become prey to the repair

    Good luck, YMMV
    Private, Apr 22, 2006
  7. Larry G.

    wavy Guest

    Replace your Coolant Temperature Sensor. It's only $9 at AutoZone, and
    can save you a whole lot of hassle later on. I think they generally
    have a 100,000 mile life.

    You'll have to let out a lot of engine coolant, so its good to do at a
    coolant interval change. (You've been doing that, right? Saturns seem
    to corrode away their heater core... Not that you'd need one where you
    are!) Probably wouldnt hurt to wrap the threads with a little teflon
    tape when you install it. You'll need a deep 10mm socket - start it
    with your fingers first.

    The funny thing with Saturns is that the guage on the dash is not the
    related to the sensor the "engine computer" sees... that's a different
    sensor. So if it looks like the engine is running hot, the computer
    might not THINK SO since it uses a different sensor (which fails "open"
    or high resistance - the results being that the engine "seems" to be
    much cooler than it actually is).
    wavy, Apr 22, 2006
  8. Larry G.

    wavy Guest

    On the oil - call me a rebel or moron, but based on recommendation of
    my grandfather I go to using straight 30w in the summer.
    With 30w, there are no thermal modifiers to break down.
    If your car is already at 80 degrees, the oil is quite thin enough for
    the starting requirements of the engine.. Of course, once it drops
    down into the 60s you should start using 10-30 again. (I wish I could
    find 20-30W)
    I've been doing this for 20 years and have yet to develop bearing or
    ring problems on any car or truck I've used straight 30 in.

    Tranny oil should be replaced every 30 to 50k miles. Odd thing to me -
    you use Automatic Transmission Fluid instead of gear oil. The filler
    is a rubber latch plug on the transmission casting "shoulder" right
    ahead of and below the brake master cylinder. The drain is not too
    hard to find - its the only drain fitting on the bottom of the
    wavy, Apr 22, 2006
  9. Larry G.

    SnoMan Guest

    I would not use 15w40 in a small engine unless it is worn a good bit.
    It will decrease your MPG some due to increased shearing forces. 15w40
    is a good oil but it does not belong in a nice tight 4 cylinder except
    maybe when temps are above 100 degrees a lot.
    SnoMan, Apr 23, 2006
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