1998 Saturn SL SL2 from North America - Comments

1st Mar 2009, 22:05

I'm very glad I discovered this site. A few days ago, my '97 Saturn (automatic) suddenly started to kick when shifting into 2nd and 3rd gears, as well as clunking into reverse. The odd thing is that the problem varies in intensity -- sometimes it shifts smoothly for a while, then it begins "bucking like a mule," as a previous writer described it. I'm really curious (and hopeful) about the solenoid diagnosis suggested by a couple of writers.

Meanwhile, my question is: can I just keep driving it like this, with the kicking, bucking, and clunking? Some of the posts make it sound as though that's the case -- that the problem doesn't necessarily get worse or really interfere with continuing to drive the car as usual. Is that true? With times being what they are, I hesitate to spend money if I can avoid it, and the last thing I want to do is try to buy another old car! Thanks for any advice...

6th Mar 2009, 12:51

I have a Saturn 1998 SL2. I'm also experiencing problems with the tranny and the jerking into reverse. I was considering getting the tranny rebuilt, but it's too much money.

I bought the car with 111,000 miles on it. It ran good for the first year that I had it, but now all of a sudden when going into second and third gear, it jumps. All the mechanics tell me that I need a new tranny. I only put 20,000 miles on this car. I don't know what's my next move?

28th Apr 2009, 10:12

I have a 1998 SL1 Saturn sedan that is in the garage today. I too have had the 2nd/3rd and reverse gear "clunking" noise and got that replaced at a considerable expense.

Also at approximately the same time, the engine was overheating and the transmission started acting up, the engine would rev and the car would only go 30 miles an hour. Again it was rather expensive and the car had only 80 000km on it.

Today it's in the garage for new struts, a tie rod, and there is a strange squeaking noise coming from the front end when the steering wheel turns.

Pretty much everything has been replaced on this vehicle, it has 130 000km on it now, one automatic window in the back doesn't work and the trunk release button is toast, but it doesn't have any rust on it and it gets me from point A to point B for considerably less than a new car payment.

7th Jun 2009, 18:13

I have a 1997 Saturn SL2 and it has been the best car I have ever owned. Yes its had its small problems. The rear windows broke, I think Saturn wanted over 167.00 bucks for new regulators. I took them apart and fixed them for free, just a little labor. The secret is to pull the panels off and lube the rails when they start slowing down.

My Saturn has 257,000 plus miles on it. It gets 33 miles to the gallon from the day I bought it until now.

But I am having the trans problem everyone seems to be having. But to all with the problem, most of you will not need a new trans. The valve body goes bad and you can find them on e-bay for 200.00 for rebuilt ones, and you are looking at around 3 hours labor to install. So all of you good luck with your Saturns. The ones that are looking at imports, be careful you might lose your job to someone overseas too.

19th Aug 2009, 15:50

1998 Saturn SL2.

Bought it off the lot in May, 2009. Had 32 dealer miles on it at the time. I am just about to hit 107k. Have had a handful of moderate repairs and just save about $600-800 a year as a matter of course for oil changes and whatever else may come up (the regular maintenance at the dealership are expensive, and getting more so. Just found a reasonable and honest mechanic in my area for about 2/3 the cost).

Only major repairs I have had are a new water pump (caught this well in time and saved myself) a few years back and the alternator years ago.

Have developed the apparently "infamous" clunk as well. Only in reverse though, and it's been going on for about 15k miles. It's (very) slowly progressing. I asked the dealership about it and (of course) they said they couldn't get it to clunk, but they are on flat ground. I live in San Francisco and the problem is pronounced on any type of incline. Anyway (for everyone asking), mechanic said it may be a pressure problem and that I should get it checked eventually, adding that if I start getting the same problem in any forward gears to get it looked at immediately. Fortunately, that is not the case yet. So, I'm saving for a transmission service (haven't had any major transmission work done for quite some time, so it's not unexpected).

Very happy with the car and hope I can have a laugh when it reaches 200k (or even 300k) in the next 6-8 years. Just have to keep up the "repair fund" ($50-60/month, so I ain't complaining).

Ciao peeps!

29th Dec 2009, 20:33

2 years ago I bought a 1998 SC2 with 96,000 miles. I have 133,000 miles on as of this posting. From the first day I bought this car, I have experienced transmission problems like everybody else's. Where mine differed, is when the engine was warm and in stop and go traffic, it wouldn't upshift properly. I got it back from the transmission shop this morning after paying $792.00 for a valve body replacement. Now the car is kicking in every gear and seem to be missing first gear entirely. Also car shudders and dies when coming to a stop. I will check the fuses mentioned in above posts tomorrow, since the solenoids have all been replaced with the valve body. If you read this before you take it to a shop, I highly recommend you check the fuses first.

24th Jul 2010, 17:26

I paid $1600 cash for my 1998 Saturn SL2, 114,181 odometer miles, with a sweetener attached as it had Blue Ox towing package already mounted on the front including rear light hook-ups! I had sold my 1992 Isuzu Rodeo 4WD, because it was too heavy to tow safely behind my newly purchased 1977 GMC Eleganza II motor home. But did I get a good deal?

The front passenger door quit opening from the inside after a number of times. Pulled the panel and reattached the rod and holding clip. The left front door's weather seal was torn and rain water came in. Added silicone rubber. Mostly OK now. The right rear window went down and up a couple of times and then would not go up without opening the door and pulling the glass up. Lots of clunking. Something I never heard in any previous car. German Shepherd doesn't like that at all cause it's mostly closed now. The driver window goes with a clunk at midway but works. Back left window OK. Dog loves that! Front right window starting to go very slow. Needs lubing from other posts herein. Dome light was toast from the get-go and finally fell out and in pieces. Electric mirrors do not work.

Figure this one. There are no torsion rods in the back that function to open the trunk lid! But there are speaker wires hanging down and every crevice filled with yellow foam! Not the manufacturer's fault!

The car is loaded with plastic panels, many of them rattling. Includes fenders and the like. The headline is held up with T pins!

And of late, past two or three weeks, the key refuses to leave the ignition switch! Once in a while it will. There's a whole website database on this! Unbelievable. And there are those who are paying up to $500 to replace the ignition switch. Yet it continues to happen.

Last complaint. This car is hard to get in and out of, for me. I'm 200 lbs, six feet, but 70.

OK, good stuff. This little sucker weighs 2330 lbs so it tows nicely. It gets 30-33 mpg if I hang in at 60 or less. With the A/C, here in the Houston area right now, July, maybe 29.

It runs well while the transmission in reverse does not clunk, it takes a second or two to engage.

I will not buy another one, even though it cost me only $600, as I sold my Rodeo for $999 a year ago.

Mileage is at 122,798, so I've put 8,000 plus miles on it.