2002 Saturn transmission failure

Hi… First time poster here… Well, I have a 2002 Saturn SL with nearly 170,000 miles on it, but the manual transmission has gone seriously wrong… I was driving today and I noticed that it was progressively getting harder and harder to shift. By the middle of the afternoon I was strong arming it. Yanking it into as well as out of gear. By around early evening I could no longer get it into gear at all. I was at a stop sign when this happened and ended up stuck there. Now here’s the weird part: When I shut off the car the shifter would slide right into gear. In fact, it would go into all of the gears no problem. As soon as I started the car back up I couldn’t get it into gear. So what ended up happening is that I put the trans in gear then started it and limped it home in 2nd. would someone have an inkling of an idea of what’s wrong here? I did have an appointment to have it looked at Wednesday morning but I don’t think I’ll be able to get it there without having it towed (which is a bit expensive). I hope what’s wrong can be easily (and inexpensively) fixed. I can’t afford to have it replaced or rebuilt. HELP! Thank you in advance.

This is a classic symptom of the clutch not completely disengaging. You don’t mention the mileage on this Saturn but the clutch master cylinder is 11 years old. It could be leaking internally not allowing the pedal to fully disengage the clutch. I assume you have checked the clutch master cylinder reservoir and that the level did not go completely out.

If the problem is not the clutch master cylinder, there a number of failures that can cause the engine to drag the clutch disc or input shaft. Your transmission is working correctly in trying to match the gear speeds. It will block the shift until the shaft speeds are syncronized. However, by ‘strong arming’ the shifter you are working the syncornizers hard. Try matching the engine speed to the RPM of the next shift even with the clutch pedal down.

You might be able to drive the Saturn to the dealership after a cold soak without problem because the problem may be heat related i.e. MC leaking after it heats up.

The mileage is nearly 170,000… The clutch master cylinder was replaced (along with its second clutch and flywheel) two years ago after the original one failed. The transmission is just the icing on top of the cake. The throttle position sensor is failing (it hitches and jerks unless I put my foot in it and this car has a whole new emissions system as well), I’m putting over 1 quart of oil a week and (minorly) the speedometer works intermittently (it’s either accurate or all over the place). The plugs have also been replaced twice in less than a year. I’m really ready to dump this money trap. It been garaged about 10 times since I bought it in 2007.

Is the color a silver blue?

Ummmmm… Yes… May I ask how you came to know this?

At the end of the production run, Saturn produced a whole bunch of SL’s called the Silver Blue special and sold them for $9995 including air and delivery. I bought one and it has 255k miles on it now, and I haven’t taken very good care of it. I’m on the original clutch, but I used it for my daily 100 mile commute to work, mostly rural highway.

In spite of the neglect that I heaped on my Saturn, I’d guess the former owner of yours was even worse. This model has a history with eating intake manifold gaskets, I’ve gone through two of them. Most of the time when you get a check engine light on this vehicle, it turns out not to be the usually fix. Oddly the actual fix often turns out to be cheaper than the usual fix.

The EGR valve is bad about spewing wet oily carbon all over the backside of the throttle body causing the throttle plate to get sticky. Its an easy fix, have someone hold the gas pedal to the floor and use a rag or paper towel with throttle body cleaner sprayed on it to get most of the crap off, then finish up with just a direct spray on the area.

The design of the heads causes grit and dirt to accumulate around the sparkplugs. when you remove them, all that falls into the cylinder. I always use compressed air to blow out around the plugs before removing them. I suspect that this might be the reason that Saturn’s become oil burners. Mine only burns a qt about every 1100 miles now.

BTW, I agree with the other above, the problem is in the clutch hydraulics. And its not due to a heat soak problem. Replace both the master and slave cylinders at the same time. But with all your other problems, it might be time to just dump the car.

Yeah… It was the master cylinder, but no matter… I limped it to the salvage yard… I am done with it.