2001 Saturn Sl1 transmission concerns

Hey there,
This is my first post on any blog so any advice is sincerely appreciated.

I drive a 2001 Saturn Sl1 w/ 104k miles. I’ve owned it for a little over a month now and have been noticing some sounds that concern me. For example when I put the car in reverse there isn’t much of a hesitation but the car will actually slam into reverse accompanied by a very audible, loud, clunking sound. After doing some research I found that the problem with the reverse is very common with the model but unsettling none the less. I should also mention that the transmission fluid and filter have been changed and I check it regularly, all seems fine there.

I’ve also noticed a very slight “grinding sound” when the car shifts from 1st to 2nd and then a slightly louder “clicking” sound from 2nd to third. Downshifting seems fine, and although I am not 100% certain what slippage is, there doesn’t seem to be any issues with the transmission slipping (i’ve watched tons of videos on youtube and read numerous blogs on various websites about diagnosing transmission slippage).

I have yet to take the car into a transmission specialist but am planning on doing so. I just want to have some kind of idea of potential issues if there are any as well as some peace of mind…

Thank you all for time.

God Bless!

You have what is known as “reverse slam” and it is common for this vehicle. The cure is a little controversial but it usually works and I am one who believes it does no harm.

It starts with a fluid and filter change. If you did a drain, filter and fill as opposed to a fluid exchange machine (fyi, this transmission has a spin on filter and no drain pan), it might help to do another drain and refill, a new filter is not necessary this time.

Now for the “reverse slam procedure”. Gently back the car up to a sturdy wall or tree, set the hand brake, engine idling, put it in reverse and leave it there for about 30 minutes. Do not rev the engine, just let it idle the whole time with the transmission in reverse. This flushes out a couple little used passageways in the valve body that tend to gum up.

BTW, a couple of people at this forum swear by a little Lucas ATF additive. I am not a big fan of additives and normally recommend against using any, but I am in the minority (of one) when it comes to this at this Saturn Forum


It is your decision, I just want you to be aware of the options available.