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Unread 01-30-2013, 11:00 AM   #1
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Unhappy foolishly optimistic?

Hello all. The Saturn forums are going the way of the dodo, so I'm new posting here. I have a 2001 Saturn SL2, 223+ K miles. A couple weeks ago, it started shaking while idling in gear and shuddering a bit while accelerating. My initial thought from the way it was running was that I was almost out of gas. Since my needle sometimes gets stuck at 1/4, I stopped and filled it up. That didn't help, so I took it to my mechanic the next day. One of my plugs was misfiring. They replaced it, revved the engine and smoke billowed out. Oil on the old plug said blown piston ring. They put the old plug back in so I wouldn't be a cop magnet and told me there was nothing more they could do. I got some ring sealer and fresh oil, but didn't change the plug. I used Restore, and from what I've read, I have to drive it a couple hundred miles before I can expect to see any difference. I've driven it about every other day since then and I haven't smelled any more burning oil, haven't noticed any loss on the dipstick. What it is doing is running super rich, sucking down gas like a baby at the teat. The men I live with say that's because the gas is blowing past the fouled plug. I'm not convinced. The morning before I took it in to the mechanic, I checked the oil as I do every week. It needed 1/2 quart, I was wearing gloves, the bottle slipped and poured quite a bit directly onto the plug that came up foul. The mechanic knew this, and the men I live with say that wouldn't have leaked past the seal and caused the smoke. I'm still not convinced, and believe the problem may actually be my fuel pump regulator. Remember my gas gauge sometimes sticks, so I have run out of gas a few times without knowing and tried to restart it, so a fuel pump problem makes sense to me. It's also fixable. I don't have a lot of time to get to the mechanic, and as many times as they've offered, neither my husband or the other guy have gotten around to changing the fouled plug. Am I being hopelessly optimistic that I have a fixable problem, or are these guys who sound like they know what they're talking about right that my angry midget Saturn is headed for the scrapyard?

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Unread 01-30-2013, 12:52 PM   #2
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Ok. Just got back from the mechanic. They changed 2 plugs and it's now running 1000x worse than it was this morning

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Unread 01-30-2013, 01:04 PM   #3
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What color smoke?

I'm guessings it's blue and thats why they said it was your piston ring(s), oil control ring. Did the mechanic do a compression test?

It could also be a valve stem seal, anotehr major repair.

Dropping some oil on the plug wouldn't matter in the slightest.

If you're talking about a fuel pressure (not pump) regulator, this could have some of the same running symptoms but it would blow BLACK smoke, NOT blue.

Your "ring sealer/restorer" sounds like a crock, all of those additives are typically junk.

The fuel pressure regulator would have nothing to do with you running out of gas. Running out of gas shortens the pump itself's life, but the pump is clearly in running shape, so that's not the problem.

You definitely have a fixable problem (no problem isn't fixable!), but it's a major repair. If the ring is bad, you're talking about a total engine overhaul, and if it was the valve stem seals, that's a top end rebuild.

You could also get a scrap yard engine and replace the engine completely, an engine will run you probably a few hundred bucks. Whether it's worth it to you I don't know.

To answer your last question, sounds like the guys are about right.
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Unread 01-30-2013, 02:23 PM   #4
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What color smoke... grey? I was in the office, saw it through the window. It hasn't smoked since the first trip to the mechanic, two weeks ago. The exhaust isn't any particular color either. It's chugging and it smells like gas. Why would changing the plugs make it so much worse? And why would it start harder the warmer the engine is?

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Unread 01-30-2013, 02:49 PM   #5
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The color of the smoke tells a lot.

Blue is oil getting into the combustion chamber; rings, a hole in the piston, valve seals.

Black is excess fuel, running too rich; leaking injectors, temp sensor problem,...

White, like steam. Coolant getting into the combustion chamber; cracked head, bad head gasket.

The color of the smoke and what the plugs look like need to be taken into account.

To me, going by your description, the engine is badly misfiring (shuddering on acceleration) is caused by an oil fouled spark plug. This could be broken piston rings or a very bad valve seal, possibly a hole in the piston, doesn't happen much any more. A compression test needs to be done, at least on that one cylinder. A hole in the piston means no compression.

Oil smoke can be a very light blue and you may think it's white, but you can smell the oil in the exhaust.

If the cylinder has compression, no hole in the piston, then replacing the spark plug usually improves the running for a while, until it fouls again. If the spark plug is replaced and it runs worse then it's possible something else got disturbed in the process, like a wire left off, wires switched, wire shorted on the exhaust manifold.

Really, compression test and inspect the plugs.
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Unread 01-30-2013, 06:27 PM   #6
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I guess I'm not up on my smoke colors. All I know is, if I was burning oil, I would think I would need to add oil. So I've been told that all this oil is fouling my plugs, but I can't figure out where this oil is coming from because the level hasn't dropped in 2 weeks, 120ish miles, but I've gone through 2 tanks of gas in that time. My car went from 30mpg to 10 overnight.

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Unread 01-30-2013, 06:56 PM   #7
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A stuck injector?
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Unread 01-31-2013, 10:41 AM   #8
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Somebody did something wrong with the plugs...

120 miles isn't enough to burn much oil. You said you were a half a quart low before, how many miles did that take?
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Unread 01-31-2013, 11:27 AM   #9
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It was due for a change when I added the 1/2 quart. Probably 250 miles. I've had this car for all of it's miles and it's always been an oil hog when the oil gets dirty. All of my previous cars were Fords, so I got in the habit of adding oil weekly. Another thing I forgot to mention is that the more gas there is in the tank, the worse the car shudders and the harder it starts. Yesterday morning was the best it's driven in 2 weeks. Not only was it hardly shuddering, I actually had some of my peppy pick-up back. Then I took it to get the plug changed and they told me now 2 of my rings are shot. I want to take it somewhere to get a second opinion, but my problem with having a vagina is that mechanics seem to think I can magically make money come out of it. I was able to garner some respect at this one garage by finding a way to fix my unfixable manifold, and ever since then they've been cool. So, when I go somewhere else, I need to be prepared.

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Unread 01-31-2013, 02:29 PM   #10
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Awesome. Cranked a few times, now it's completely dead.

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