The Top Two Most Common Gripes with the Saturn SL
The entire Saturn brand was geared towards combating the entrenched dominance of Japanese imports in the US market. While they never truly succeeding in knocking the Japanese giants off their pedestals, they did come up with some really good cars. Of these, the Saturn SL-which came out in 1990-is certainly one of the most famous and certainly the most profitable cars they released. While by no means spectacular, the SL was a very reliable vehicle-nearly on par with its Japanese competitors, and just as dependable. As such, there weren't too many complaints when it came to performance. These few are rather rare, but still important to note-in case you ever run across them.
This rare problem was observed in the 1997 edition of the Saturn SL. The complainants all observed that their clutch became difficult to engage, and that the problem gradually worsened over time until it was near-impossible to take the car out of first gear. The relatively good news to those affected is that the problem doesn't really manifest until over 130,000 miles of service life.
There are no advisories nor are there any recall orders that cover this problem as it isn't all too prevalent. The problem is easily remedied by changing out the clutch. The average cost for that-including the part-is around $500.
Engine cooling failure
It's the 1999 Saturn SL that is commonly afflicted with this rare problem. The common failure lies with the head gasket: it has a tendency to crack and mix water with the oil. This then prompts the low-coolant light to engage. Levels of coolant were found to be less than an inch in all cases-replacing the coolant only results in the same thing happening the next day.
Nearly all cases reported that Saturn dealers were willing to service the problem under contract-but be warned that the price varies depending on the extent of damage. A good preventive measure would be to replace the head gasket currently on your 1999 edition of the Saturn S.
Preventive Maintenance Tips for Your Saturn SL’s Exterior
The Saturn SL has an amazing exterior design, which deserves the time and effort it takes to protect it. The exterior after all is the first thing people see when you drive your car down the road. They'll be able to see if you've been regularly cleaning, waxing, and detailing your car. Protect the look of your SL exterior by noting the following maintenance tips below.
- Move your SL to a shaded area.
Before you start cleaning your Saturn SL, park it in a shaded area first. Intense heat and hard water is not a good combination for your paint job. When the water evaporates on the surface of your car, it dissolves the minerals within it. The melted minerals embed onto your car and turns into noticeable water spots. The stains can slowly corrode the paint job of your SL over time.
You also run the risk of creating water spots on your car when you wash it under the sun. This is due to how quickly water can evaporate while it is exposed to intense heat as you clean your SL. You can avoid this problem by parking your vehicle under a shade.
- Apply wax coating regularly.
Waxing your SL can provide its exterior with a protective coating against the elements. The coating is able to act as a barrier against water spots and minor scratches. However, wax eventually fades over time. This is why it is essential to apply a coating of wax on your car at least once every three months or according to the wax manufacturer's recommendation.
However, it is recommended to thoroughly wash and dry your SL first before applying the wax coating. Dirt and small amounts of water can make it harder for the coating to bond to the exterior surface. Two coatings are ideal when waxing your car to ensure almost every part of the exterior is protected.
If your SL uses matte paint, do not apply wax coating. Doing so can ruin the feature of the design of the paint job. However, you can still protect the matte paint exterior by using a sealant designed for this type of finish.
- Wash every exterior area of your SL.
Detailing your car refers to cleaning the smallest or certain parts of your Saturn SL's exterior. This includes the entirety of your wheels and glass surface. Cleaning the wheels can be done by thorough washing and applying a protecting sealant to keep it protected from the elements. Do the same with the glass surface of your exterior, which includes the windows, headlights, and side mirrors. Use a glass polish to protect these glass surfaces after cleaning them. It is essential to also clean hidden areas of your exterior. This includes the edges of the SL's trunk and hood as well as the car door jambs. Do not forget to apply some wax to the painted edges of the trunk and hood.
Using the tips above can help you protect the sleek exterior design of your Saturn SL.
Saturn SL and Its Decade-Long Life in the Industry
The Saturn SL was part of the S-Series, which took pride in being the first family of vehicles that was entirely made by Saturn. It looked unique, what with the very little details and features that it shared with the rest of General Motors’ vehicles. The S-Series was introduced in the market in 1990 through the SL (acronym for “sedan level”), which was made available for 1991 model year. The SL enjoyed one-year reign until it was joined by the 2-door SC or sports coupe for the 1992 model year. A year after, the SW (sedan wagon) was added to the lineup.
1991 - 1995: First-generation SL
The first-generation SL rolled out of Saturn’s Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly line on July 30, 1990. It came with maroon body paint and a tan interior and was originally offered in two trim levels—the SL1 and the SL2. The SL1 was powered by an SOHC 1.9L 14 LK0 engine while the SL2 derived its power from a DOHC 1.9-L I4 LL0 powertrain rated at 124 hp. For 1992, SL trim levels expanded to base SL, SL1, and SL2.
In 1995, the Saturn SL received an interior update and redesign. Dual airbags and a new dashboard were added on all models. Buyers were also provided with either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission choices. The SL also received powertrain upgrade; the SL1 was powered by the 100-hp L24 engine that offered improved fuel economy.
1996 - 1999: Second-generation SL
It was in 1996 when Saturn received its first major makeover. This second-generation SL came with a more curvaceous body, which made way for a slight improvement in interior room as well as doorway space. The most significant change for this generation was the inclusion of the OBDII PCM, a kind of fuel injection setup that made use of the first-ever compress sense cam sensor. This all-new fuel-injection system replaced the old camshaft position sensor.
The Saturn SL received only minor changes in mid-1998 model year, including a new cluster with digital odometer. The rear disc brakes were also pulled out of the options list. SL models developed in late 1999 got some improvements in the powertrain, not to boost power output but to smooth out the engine’s harshness.
2000-2002: Third-generation SL
The third-generation Saturn SL was actually a 2nd-gen model that was facelifted for the last time before the S-Series bid the industry goodbye. Besides exterior and interior redesign, the Saturn also made some electronics and mechanical updates. This generation of S-Series received several marquee and series firsts. It was the first S-Series to be fitted with Double DIN stereo and the first Saturn model to use a Body Control Module matched by a Powertrain Control Module, which was strictly designed to control the engine and transmission.