1997 Saturn SL SL1 from North America - Comments

6th Oct 2003, 22:13

97 Saturn SL 1 - I bought it used. It has about 87,000 miles on it now. It was OK for a year or so although it did require a tune up in order to pass emission inspection. Then it started burning oil and the battery died In the past 6 months I have replaced the brakes, alternator and bought all new tires. When the alternator went out it had to be towed. Now it starts most of the time. Other times you have to "jiggle" the key and then it usually starts. If that doesn't work, you have to wait about 10 minutes and then it will start right up. I would never buy another Saturn. If I didn't owed so much money on it I would gladly get rid of it today.

8th Nov 2003, 12:19

I have a 1997 Saturn SL1, with 170 000km, and it hasn't had any big problems. It does go through oil fast, but that's a very minor problem. I would have to say its one of the best cars I've ever owned.

11th Aug 2004, 11:40

I have a 1997 Saturn SL2, transmission went first month I owned it. They repaired it, but the car has not been the same since, even after I took it back to dealership for mechanic to check, (among other smaller problems) they said there was no problems. Now the (service engine soon) light has come on. I always bought Toyota's before and put 202,000 and 198,000 miles on these cars, and never had a problem with either. I will be buying a Toyota next, hopefully the Saturn will hold out, but being on the last payment, doubt it. Bad car, period.

19th Aug 2004, 10:24

Our 1997 Saturn SL2 with manual transmission has been a great little car. It has about 103,000 miles and still gets fantastic gas mileage. No rust. No squeaks. Runs well. Faithful oil changes is all it's needed. It's been so dependable that we just bought a Vue.

28th Sep 2004, 19:24

I have a 97 SL2, has 116,000 miles on it. I bought it with 64,000 miles, have had some problems with it. It has "eaten" two air conditioner compressors in less than a year. Yesterday it overheated and it was the fan. Now my service engine light has come on. Since it overheated, it seems a little harder to start, like it needs a tuneup. Is it possible for the engine light to come on if it needs a tune up?I have only had one tune up since I bought it.

sallyj@itlnet.net

3rd Oct 2004, 10:16

I have a 1995 Saturn SL, stick shift. I bought it a year and a half ago as my first car. I *absolutely LOVE it.* I consistently get 35 mpg in town and 45 on the highway. I even reached 52 once... you can't beat that unless you get a hybrid. I've had to put gas in it, and get the oil changed every 6 months. Oh, and I changed the PCV valve a couple weeks ago... the first time it's been changed. It has 115,000 miles on it now, and many more to go. These cars last upwards of 300,000 miles if you take good care of them. I love my car, and when it dies, I'll be sure to get another one!

7th Nov 2004, 21:03

I am an original owner of a 1997 Saturn SL1 5-speed with 198,000 miles! The only big thing we had done was a major transmission repair around 95,000 miles. That is until three months ago. We had an alternator replaced, and the switch for my backup lights went out. Now, I think the starter has quit on me. It is hard to tell though with the "dummy" lights. The battery is good, and all lights come on when you turn the key, but it doesn't even begin to try to turn it over. The "service" light is on. Maybe it's just a sensor. Over-all though, this car has been the best value for the money. 198,000 miles, the polymer panels mean no rust and it still looks like new (except for a warn driver's seat), and it still gets 35 miles to the gallon. It's the third Saturn I've owned and I would love to have a "VUE!"

4th Mar 2005, 22:39

I purchased my 1997 SL1 in April of 2003. The car had 110,000 miles on it and when I test drove it the Service Engine light turned on. I thought nothing of it because the salesperson told me it needed an oil change. (I was young and ignorant) I believed him. I took my car to a family friend to "check the car out" and everything seemed to be in order. 2 days later I went to put the car in reverse and it hesitated and then FLEW backward. From that day I have had nothing, but problems with my car. I have replaced brakes, a tensioner, wipers, all things I expect. But after paying over $3000 for a rebuilt transmission the car does not work any better. In the winter the service engine light will flash for the first 15 minutes of warm up time. The car will not accelerate more than 30 mph. Once the weather is above 40 degrees the car is back to normal. Never again will I buy a Saturn.

9th Sep 2005, 02:04

I have a 98 SL1 (original owner). I have had no major problems with the vehicle, but now the "Service Engine Soon" light is on. Since it has 135,000+ miles, I don't think that's a major problem. The front wheel bearings had to be replaced, and now it rides like a dream. Other than normal servicings and replacements (shocks, tires, battery, etc.), these are the only 'major' problems I've encountered. The headliner is starting to tear, but other than that, the interior is in very good condition. It is a very economical car and fairly dependable. My wife hates the car, deriding it as a 'plastic' car. Having paid approx. $14,000 for it, and gotten seven-plus years and 135,000+ miles out of it, I am quite happy with the purchase. I am not replacing it with a Saturn, but I think Saturns are fine vehicles.

26th Apr 2008, 11:49

I have a 98 SL2 that has been awesome to me. It has 150,000 miles on it, and I've had to make some repairs that are to be expected with this many miles... starter, alternator and fuel pump.

The only major problem I've had with it was brought on by myself. I spun the tires and it caused a spider pin to shoot through the side of the tranny, knocking a hole in the casing about 5 inches across. But that was due to neglect, not the car... but I would definitely buy another Saturn.

31st Oct 2008, 18:36

I have a 1995 Saturn SL1, 184,000 miles. Runs great and still gets over 30mpg.

13th Aug 2009, 20:53

Let's set some thing straight folks - Most of what I'm reading here are people with NO mechanical background and are getting ripped off by dealers (no surprise there).

Alternator gone out 6 times? Well I bet ya it's not the alternator that's the issue. How about the power lead TO the alternator?

"All of a sudden all the power was lost - even the dome light" well guess what - it's not a dead battery. Even a battery with 4 volts WILL dimly light the dome. It's a bad ground most likely ON the battery (neg). You replace the battery and therefor re-connect the ground (finding new clean ground).

Burns lots of oil? Well try some DETERGENT oil like a diesel engine oil (yes they make 5W40) it's high in cleaning agents which will unstick the piston rings which is the culprit.

Radiator shot? When's the last time you checked the coolant ratio, alkalinity or change it altogether?

You bought a car from a lot and it has a bad PCV and EGR valve with bad brakes all around? Sounds like someone didn't really check the car over or drive the stinking thing.

If your car has over 100K miles, step up to one grade (weight) oil. It'll help out a lot.

Things like the power windows failing (trust me they ALL fail regardless of manufacturer) and the headliner falling down - that's a real problem that's by itself.

If you drive a car and it's working fine but the CEL comes on, and you take it to a dealer OBVIOUSLY you think something's wrong. This is a great time for them to reset the light, and charge to replace some random part making you happy and poorer. A lot of vehicles have timers that are designed to set off the check engine light at determined mileage regardless of mechanical condition. Next time you have a check engine light come on - check your gas cap that it's tight. I've worked in dealers for years and I see this stuff ALL the time and unfortunately I see customers get ripped off constantly because they don't know better.

Ask them to show you the "bad" part BEFORE they replace it (so you know where it is and take note of its condition) and then AFTER they replace it, make them GIVE YOU the old part. This is insurance that they did in fact replace the bad part, and a new one was installed. Have them show you what was wrong with the old part. I've seen MILLIONS of times where a customer was charged for a new part when the old one was just fine. As SOON as the tech removes your air filter during an oil change, have them bring it to you (stand OUTSIDE the bay - insurance doesn't cover your injuries) so they can't spray a light oil on it and toss some dirt on it - this **** happens!!!

Remember - the dealer doesn't make money by being honest and doing you favors.

22nd Feb 2010, 13:59

My name is Brenda. I bought my 97 Saturn SL1 new. With a few minor exceptions, it's been a great car. One major transmission repair. I love my car.

26th Jul 2010, 14:36

I own a 98 SL2 that I bought second hand some 6 years ago. It currently has 245,000 kilometers on it and continues to run well.

It does tend to burn a bit of oil, but not the blue cloud specials I see out there all to often. It has cost me about $3000 over the past 2 or so years. Basically it needed new brake lines, new gas tank straps, breaks, and most recently I had to replace the transmission because of one of those migrating pins someone else mentioned. The changing of the transmission resulted in the last expense when the exhaust flex pipe started to leak so a new exhaust system had to be put on. All the power extras are working fine.

Other than that, considering the age and mileage, I think she is doing pretty good.

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