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2000 Saturn L Series needs way too much work

I have a 2000 Saturn L-Series Wagon with the V-6 engine, and the engine recently started making a horrible noise. It sounded to me like it’s coming from the front of the engine near the accessory belt. I took it to a garage, and unfortunately it seems that the noise is coming from the timing belt, so the car is basically a ticking time-bomb so I am not driving it. The car has 79,000 miles on it, and it is recommended that the timing belt and associated tensioners and pulleys be replaced at 100,000 miles. I have also seen recommendations for replacing the water pump while this job is being done since it is easy to get to while the belts, etc. are off. The estimate for all of this is about $900! The car also needs a bushing replaced in the rear suspension that is making it squeak like an old mattress. On top of that, it needs four new tires and a wheel alignment. Altogether, this is probably around $2000, and the car will probably need a lot of expensive maintenance when it gets to 100,000 miles. Even just changing the spark plugs on this engine is a project that requires removing part of the intake. Even though I bought the car only 15 months ago, I am considering replacing it because I do not want to be buried by maintenance and repair costs. I want a car that is cheap and easy to maintain like other cars that I have owned such as the Saturn SL. Am I crazy for wanting to replace this car after having it barely a year? Does anybody have experience with the L-Series - can I expect one that is well taken-care-of to continue having expensive problems? I just want some opinions here.

Altogether, this is probably around $2000, and the car will probably need a lot of expensive maintenance when it gets to 100,000 miles.

Actually your list was most of that 100,000 mile service.

Consider this: all cars need maintenance. You have a choice. Do the maintenance on this one, or try and sell it without the maintenance being done and someone will likely buy it at a reduced amount because they know the maintenance is coming due and you might end up buying another car that is going to have the same kind of expenses.

If you don't have the maintenance done you are not going to get top dollar for it.  I would guess you would be lucky to break even if you decide to sell it.

Thank you for your input. Do you know what else is recommended for this car at 100,000 miles?
I understand that all cars need maintenance… it just scares me that a timing belt with a recommended changing interval of 100,000 miles has just about failed at 80,000. I don’t know how long suspension bushings are supposed to last, but I don’t think it’s normal for a car to need them replaced at this mileage. I have been shocked at the cost of parts for this car and how difficult they can be to find. I was lucky with an exhaust leak last year - I found a guy who was able to weld a new flex section into a pipe, otherwise I would have had to pay over $500, just for one section of the exhaust. $500 gets a whole new exhaust system (excluding the catalytic converter) on many cars. It seems like every repair on this car costs twice as much as similar repairs on other cars. My local Saturn Dealer is now Buick/GMC/Cadillac, so I don’t even know how much longer they will service the car. I did some research on forums and it seems that there are an awful lot of expensive things that tend to go wrong on these cars. I should have looked at the forums BEFORE buying the car!

Your car IS 10 years old. The mileage is low, but rubber still breaks down due to age. The timing belt is actually 3 years past time to replace. The bushing is right in the ball park to start making noise. The others will most likely last longer, but it is not unusual for one to start squeaking now.

List of maintenance items for this car at 100,000 miles: Spark plugs, air filter, coolant flush and fill with new radiator cap and thermostat, transmission fluid change, timing belt, and inspect/replace drive belts, radiator hoses, and heater hoses. These are typical for 99% of all cars built in the last 20 years.

I’d like to add brake fluid and power steering fluid changes to the list, even though they rarely show up in an owner’s manual. For both of these, I like to suction out the fluid from the reservoirs then replace with fresh fluid. With the brakes, I’ll bleed out all the lines, starting from the wheel furthest from the master cylinder until the fluid runs clean. I like to do this every 5 years, irregardless of mileage.

Do you know what else is recommended for this car at 100,000 miles?

No, but you should. It should be listed in your owner’s manual Every car came with one. Don’t assume the dealer (any dealer) will do just want is in the owner’s manual. Most like to add a few things to up their profit. Different cars have different requirements.

I did some research on forums and it seems that there are an awful lot of expensive things that tend to go wrong on these cars.

Don’t worry. If you look around you will find post indicating the same thing for all cars. Hopefully you now have the car paid off (or even better never did have payments) and now you can get all this done for far less than a year of car payments.

None of what you list are really repairs. They are maintenance for ANY 10 year old vehicle. Basically the previous owner probably let it build up and dumped it.

You are not crazy wanting to dump it. Just realize a Saturn SL is also a 10 yr old++ car and will have things lurking too. SL’s as most any car run a long time however require money to keep them going.

I have a 00 LS Sedan 4 cyl with 195K miles and still running. I have done most of the work myself: rear brake shoes, shocks, struts, oil changes, and spark plugs. I haven’t had to change the timing belt yet. I am getting the same rear control arm bushing squeak, so that’s about the only thing I’m wondering about. However, I think the control arm bushing isn’t going to break anytime soon. About 2 weeks ago, I tried replacing it and I couldn’t take the old one out! My take on it is that there’s no way it’s going to break. These cars seem to take a good beating. 79K miles is nothing. I say stay with it and try to do some of the work yourself, if possible. (It may add another 100K to your car, like it did mine)

At this mileage, I would say DO IT!! I mean, what else are you going to do?? Try to sell it like it is? $2000 would just about cover taxes, license and delivery charges on a NEW car…

I bet your NEXT car will not have a sideways mounted V6 with a rubber timing belt, but that’s water over the dam. Fix it up and drive it for another year or two…

These cars are very expensive to repair, they are a German Opel Corsa restyled for the American market and the V6 has no parts in common with anything else sold in this country.Wait until the egr valve ($560) and the catalytic converters (3 at $1000 each) go. I know mechanics who won’t work on them because they are afraid they will spend a lot of money and time working on them and not be able to get them running right and have owners refuse to pay because it isn’t fixed. They are a wonderful driving car when they are running right.

Everything you mention is maintenance related. It’s the cost of driving and you will experience this with any car made. Even the rear suspension bushing is not necessarily a sign of a bad car. The car is 10 years old and road salt or who knows what could be behind this problem. Guess applying grease to this squeaky wheel is not an option?

The timing belt is time critical also; it’s not just a matter of miles driven. Six years is about it time-wise, and if I owned a car with a belt driven interference engine I would not even wait 6 years to change it.

If you want to avoid issues like timing belts in the future (other than buying a chain car) you should check with the seller before buying the car and have an inspection done. Ask for receipts; do not take someone’s word for it.

I agree with the others. Everything you listed here is basically just normal maintence. $900 for a timing belt/water pump replacement is pretty reasonble and after 10 years, it’s probably due. 79k is a little early for bushings to go bad, but it’s not unheard of. All cars go through tires. Did you have this car inspected before you bought it?

If I were you I’d fix everything. It’s not like any other car you buy isn’t going to require routine maintence and the occasional minor repair. These repair costs aren’t insanely high or anything, but if you’re after rock bottom maintence costs either a base model 4 cylinder 2WD compact pickup with a manual transmission or Ford Crown Vic are your best bests.

In addition to the mileage replacement interval (100K) for the timing belt there is an age interval, usually 5,7, or 8 years. You are overdue for the timing belt, it didn’t fail early. The other items are just what you need to do for an older car.

If you don’t like these kinds of maintenance expenses then you have to buy new or newer cars. Is the Saturn rusty? Does it burn oil? Is the paint chipping? If the car is in decent shape most of this work will not have to be done again for 80K miles and 5 to 10 years. After the work is done you won’t be immune to an alternator failure, or radiator leak, but it should be a serviceable car for a good number of years.

If you decide to sell it you’ll have to do it “as is”. Once you spend the money for the timing belt you might as well do the rest and keep the car.

A 2000 Saturn wagon owns me. First the electrical system blew fuses left and right. Then the cables for the rear window winders broke and ruined the units.
Next oil appeared in the coolant reservoir as the transmission and oil cooler fell apart.
All this at less than 70,000 miles. $1300. later on the road again with a new cooler until 4000 miles later the cooler broke again. Am considering changing to an external cooling unit for trans and oil as the current confuguration has the unit on top of the V6 under the intake manifold (I think) Seems vibration in that location might be damaging the cooler. Probably should part it out or donate this thing but if anyone has info on changing the cooler I would give that a try as have repaired the other problems.

These are bad cars with the 4cyl and complete junk with the V6, I would get rid of it now at start over with just about any other car.

The SL is an inexpensive vehicle that had good longevity except for oil drinking motors.

Sadly the L-series was rolling junk sharing many parts of the GM V6 Saab 9-5.

I would move on personally.

Some people just like to bad mouth certain car makes. The Saturn you own does have an Opal engine as stated above, but that does not indicate any immediate demise.

As also pointed out, there is a time component with the timing belt. The only thing that bothers me with the conclusions drawn by your mechanic is that timing belts don’t usually make any noise when they go. Their sneaky that way. Now the tensioners could be making the noise, but not likely the belt. The water pump could also make the noise.

I would get a second opinion on this. I would have expected that this belt was already changed by a previous owner at around 7 years. But they may not have changed the tensioners or the water pump. The noise could also be coming from an accessory or pulley on the serpentine belt.

Now if it is the timing belt, spending $900 could be a good investment. Your only other big expense will be the spark plugs, and they won’t be that bad. Any car will need tires from time to time.

The squeaky bushing in the rear may be fixed with a little rubber lube. If its squeaking, its still tight. I think you spend the money now and enjoy this car for about 7 more years. about then, you will be entering the zone where repair cost will be adding up and you may want to dump it then.