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Cooling fan on 2004 Saturn ION

My 2004 Saturn ION just overheated.  The chain repair shop I took it to did a coolant system evaluation and says that I need:

*Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor
*Cooling Fan Relay
*Cooling Fan or Motor

I don't know much about cars, but I am a pretty quick learner.  Is this something I can attempt to do myself?  I was quoted over $500, but it looks like only about $150 of that would be parts.

If I do it myself, can I do it in steps (for example, could I replace the relay, test it, and then maybe not have to replace the other 2)?

Also, if I do have to replace the Coolant Temperature Sensor, does that mean I have to do a coolant drain & replace?  (That might make my decision for me!)  Thanks!
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Comments

  • Call a dealer about your model.. year etc.. they could probably clue you into the problem faster.  If not them call the state rep. or another state.
  • edited June 2011
    There's are a few easy things you can do to test them first...

    - Disconnect the fan at it's plug. Apply 12v power directly to the wires (one negative, one positive) and see if the fan works. If it does, and it spins freely, and without wobble, it's probably OK.

    - Check the fusebox under the hood. You should be able to locate the relay for the fan using the diagram. Find another relay with the same part number on it, but that works something you can live without (even the A/C for this purpose) and swap them. Run it up to temp, being careful not to overheat it and see if the fan comes on. Heck, you can even try the circuit you switched it with to see if that component is running. Might be quicker.

    The coolant temp sensor is a bit harder to test, but it should short when the coolant reaches the set temp, whatever that is. You can test this right after testing the relay. You'll want the engine hot, just past the point where the fan would normally come on. Just get your multimeter (set on ohms) on the probes and see if they pass electricity. If they do, then the sensor is OK.

    Replacing the fan is just a mechanical swap. The amount of things you have to remove to get at it may not be that simple, but I've never swapped an Ion fan, so I can't direct you there.

    Relay is beyond simple. Pull and push in.

    Sensor will require the radiator to be drained. If there's no drain plug, you'll have to remove the bottom hose and let it drain.

    Someone may have more ideas, or slight alterations to the above, but that's the basic way to go about it.

    Good luck,
    Chase
  • edited June 2011

    "My 2004 Saturn ION just overheated."

    Please describe the overheating. Temperature gauge in the "red," coolant boiling out on the ground, steam from engine, etcetera. Was any steam or white smoke ever coming from the tailpipe behind the car ?

    Please describe the situation in which it occured. Were you moving down the road, idling, etcetera ?

    Does the vehicle have a "low coolant" warning in addition to high temperature indication ? Did this alert you ?

    Do you know how the shop diagnosed the problem ? They should have been able to test the fan/motor quite easily.

    The reason I'm asking so many questions is that this condition can be difficult to diagnose. I'd hate for you to put all this stuff on and still have an overheat problem. Sometimes even low coolant level can cause all of your symtoms and one needs to determine why it was low. Some 03-04 Ions with the 2.2L engine have been found to have porous cylinder heads, for example.

    Do you have air conditioning ? Do you know where the electric radiator cooling fan is ? If you start the car and run it for a few seconds and turn on the air conditioning (set to "cold" and A/C / heaterblower fan "on") does the radiator fan run ? Don't put your fingers down there. Fans bite !

    You'll not want to operate this car until the problem is resolved. Any actual overheating has the potential of damaging the car's engine and/or cooling system. Do you know which engine you have ?

    CSA

  • Before beginning - full disclosure... I am a woman in my 30s with no real car repair experience. However, I'm usually able to pick up on things quickly, and can follow directions well. I've got my Haynes ready at my fingertips.

    >>Please describe the overheating. Temperature gauge in the "red," coolant boiling out on the ground, steam from engine, etcetera. Was any steam or white smoke ever coming from the tailpipe behind the car ?

    I don't know if it technically overheated - it never boiled over. Temperature gauge was in the red, and the "check gauge" alert on the dash was lit. No steam or smoke from engine or tailpipe.

    >>Please describe the situation in which it occured. Were you moving down the road, idling, etcetera ?

    We had been driving for about 30 minutes in city traffic - had just come through the Holland Tunnel (i.e., slow moving). I had noticed a few days earlier that the air conditioning was not cool when idling.

    >>Does the vehicle have a "low coolant" warning in addition to high temperature indication ? Did this alert you ?

    No "low coolant" warning.

    >>Do you know how the shop diagnosed the problem ? They should have been able to test the fan/motor quite easily.

    I'm not sure how they diagnosed it (although, see my description below) - it was part of a "coolant system evaluation" at Pep Boys.

    >>The reason I'm asking so many questions is that this condition can be difficult to diagnose. I'd hate for you to put all this stuff on and still have an overheat problem. Sometimes even low coolant level can cause all of your symtoms and one needs to determine why it was low. Some 03-04 Ions with the 2.2L engine have been found to have porous cylinder heads, for example.

    I think the coolant level was fine - the receipt says the coolant system eval included: "Visual inspection of underhood cooling system, components. Block test. If block test passes, inspection will continue with pressure test of radiator cap, addition of coolant dye and visual inspection for leaks under pressure." They also charged me for the coolant dye, so that tells me they did the entire inspection. Their recommendation was: complete coolant exchange, remove & replace engine coolant temp sensor, remove & replace cooling fan relay, and remove & replace cooling fan &/or motor."

    I just wanted to make sure that it all actually needed to be replaced, so I wanted to test it step by step. If it's just the relay, I'd like to just do that first (because it's easiest)!

    >>Do you have air conditioning ? Do you know where the electric radiator cooling fan is ? If you start the car and run it for a few seconds and turn on the air conditioning (set to "cold" and A/C / heaterblower fan "on") does the radiator fan run ? Don't put your fingers down there. Fans bite !

    Since the A/C is not cooling when idling, I think that probably means the fan isn't engaging. Getting ready to test this now, though.

    >>You'll not want to operate this car until the problem is resolved. Any actual overheating has the potential of damaging the car's engine and/or cooling system. Do you know which engine you have ?

    I think the engine is a 4-1998 2.0L DOHC (just got that from the receipt printout).

    Thanks for any additional help!
  • Okay, just checked - it is NOT the relay... I switched the crank/run relay with the cooling fan relay - cranked like a charm.
  • I would not recommend having any work done at Pep Boys. Have someone introduce you to a mechanic they have been using for years and are happy with. For some reason people feel comforted dealing with a well advertised national chain. Different research groups have done surveys and found that independent mechanics beat both dealers and national chains on customer satisfaction and price.
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