19th Feb 2012, 21:10
Odometer says 193,000 miles. Engine is at 90K.
The slight clutch chatter quickly turned into heavy shuddering and slippage at any temperature. I finally had to break down and split the transmission from the engine, to see what was wrong.
Found out that the transmission input shaft seal was leaking badly, and had allowed transmission fluid to soak my clutch plate, causing the clutch to chatter and slip badly. Upon some online research, I discovered that this was a common problem on Saturn manual transmissions around 200K miles. Since this was the original transmission, it had what the odometer read (193,000).
Upon further research, I also found out that most attempts at replacing the seal were unsuccessful, as the shaft becomes grooved after years of use, and doesn't allow the seal to seat properly. Also, 6 special tools are required to disassemble the transmission and get to the seal anyways. The total cost to replace the seal would have been over $800.
Needless to say, I did not replace the seal, and instead purchased a used transmission with only 88K miles on it for $150. I installed it along with a new clutch plate and diaphragm assembly, and (since I had it apart) a new crankshaft rear main seal. Have put 200 miles on it since these repairs, and so far (knock on wood) have not had any issues.
At first, I was a bit upset at this problem, but became a bit less so when I saw that it was a common issue. The total amount this car has cost me still only amounts to $1800, with its KBB value at $2700, so I still have no real complaints.
27th Feb 2012, 19:01
The Saturn was sold with 192,726 miles on the odometer. 90K on the engine, 88K on the transmission.
The new transmission I installed quickly developed the same problem as the old one (input shaft seal failure). Growing tired of clutch and transmission issues, I decided to cut my losses while I was still ahead. Sold the car for $2100, getting back all my money and also making roughly $400.
I of course told the buyer about the transmission issues, who insisted that it shouldn't affect anything and bought it. Their problem now, hate to say it.
I will never say I did not enjoy my Saturn for the time I owned it. It was quite fun to drive, fairly comfortable and very good on gas. I really do wish that this failure had not occurred again, because I had planned on keeping the car for some time, but alas, I do not have the time or the money to waste.
This being my 3rd American car from this era (the other 2 being a '95 Dodge Neon and a '99 Chrysler Cirrus) with less than 100,000 miles, top quality parts used for all repairs and all maintenance performed, I have grown tired of constant problems (actually, the '99 Cirrus was not bad for the time I owned it, but 1 out 3 isn't a good figure in this case), and I have decided to find myself another Toyota for college.
My other car, the '96 Corolla my brother has inherited, has 200,000 miles, has not been treated particularly well 100% of the time, and has not always gotten top notch parts or maintenance (then again, it hasn't really needed any parts), and still drives perfectly and runs without issue. This has convinced me.
Sorry America, but your cars, from this era at least, STINK!