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2002 Saturn SL automatic transmission problem


I’m having problems with my automatic transmission in a 2002 Saturn SL.

About 2 months ago I noticed a delay when I would put my saturn in reverse and it would sort of kick into gear after a few seconds (up to 10seconds sometimes). I wasn’t worried much about this at first until another problem started happening. Between second and third gear it seems to be shifting slow/hard(?). I can feel where it wants to shift, but its slow to shift and actual revs high before shifting down. The problem doesn’t always exist, and some days its more then others.

We took it to get a transmission fluid/filter change and this didn’t help the problem. Took it back for a transmission diagnositc and GM told us we need to replace the transmission or do an overhaul. They didn’t explain why really though- no clear answer. We’re looking to get a second opinion, but wanted to hear some other thoughts.

I’ve heard everything from the torque converter to a solenoid problem. Any thoughts?


I would suggest taking your car to a local independent transmission shop. Hear what they say and likely have them do the work. Frankly they likely have more experience and expertise than the dealer. I suspect they are going to tell you it is going to be expensive, but less expensive than the dealer and likely will do a better job.

I am sorry to say this, but while I strongly suggest chaining the fluid and cleaning/replacing the fluid, it only works when you do it before there is a problem. It is a shame that most if not all manufacturers don’t seem to include transmission fluid changes are regular maintenance and I fear many transmissions are lost because they never get the maintenance they need.

Check your transmission fluid, it should be bright red. If it isn’t, then whoever you took it to either didn’t change it, or it was really bad to begin with. Sometimes you have to do two or three changes in a row to get it cleaned out.

Hang around here for a while, there is a guy who goes by transman318 who is pretty knowledgeable about these things.

Yeah if the transmission fluid is low, it will most likely exhibit theses problems. Check the fluid, and you could even get it flushed, but probably won’t help much. Automotive Maintenance needs to be performed regularly so these problem don’t happen. From my experience with this car, it sounds like a transmission pressure control solenoid. Have it scanned for codes at your local parts store. Find out how to get a Free Check Engine Light Check

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I’m having the same exact problems with my 2002 saturn sl2. I replaced 2 of the pressure solenoids about 6 months ago and the problems ceased. It is again doing the same thing again. Thinking about replacing the entire Trans assembly…

Try doing a “reverse slam”. The Saturn has a history of the reverse circuits in the AT gumming up because they aren’t used all that often. A reverse slam is simply setting the hand brake and choking the wheels. The just start it up and put it in reverse and let it idle for about 30 minutes. It flushes out the reverse circuits.

Be sure to check the condition of the ATF first. It must be bright red. If it is not, then change the ATF and filter first. Fresh ATF works best.

I will keep that in mind but a tans fluid and filter service took care of my daughters 02 saturn trans issues.

If a proper service seems to help – on most cars this means dropping and cleaning the tranny pan, replacing the filter, and refilling with fresh fluid – if that helps but doesn’t solve it, then do it all again. Sometimes that will flush it out enough to get it working again. An automatic transmission is configured sort of like a computer, but it works with tubes of oil being pumped around to various circuits, instead of wires with current flowing in them. All those tranny tubes have to be completely free of gunk to ever work correctly. But there’s also clutches in auto trannys and those just plumb wear out with use. And no amount of cleaning the tubes is gonna fix that. For that the clutch parts have to be replaced, which is called a transmission rebuild.

The idea proposed by @Keith above is worth a try. If the proper service and that idea has no effect, you pretty much need to get a good transmission shop to help you out. It’s possible a diy;er might be able to fix a modern auto tranny by trial and error replacing parts, but usually what happens is you run out of money before you run out of ideas what to replace next. Better to spend that money on buying help from someone with the necessary experience. Best of luck.

It doesn’t have a pan, but it does have an external spin on filter.