My saturn

my 1999 saturn with 174,000 miles stalls when it gets warm and i slow down. i have to put it in nutual. i know i am running on 3 cyl. (it is a 4 cyl, it needs a new head cyl.) my son says it is not worth putting more money into. it runs great opened up but my son says i am going to get stranded one of these days. how long do you think i might get with it running this way?

carol_ann _kinney

“… how long do you think i might get with it running this way?”

You might get another week from your Saturn. Maybe two or three. Y’see, head gasket problems tend to grow worse each time you drive. On one of these trips you will not even get three cylinders firing.

But the hopeful news is that you may not have a head gasket problem after all. Your son’s diagnosis might not be accurate. Maybe a simple fix, like a new set of spark plugs, cures all that ails. A mechanic can do a compression test to give you a better idea of what’s going on in there. You really need to find out before matters get any worse.

I agree with Steve that you should get this diagnosed.

Driving around with a bad headgasket erodes the areas around the breech and the breech grows. Eventually the hot combustion gasses start blowing into the water jacket when the spark plug fires, the intake stroke starts pulling coolant through the breech, and all heck starts to happen. The engine starts overheating, the engine starts making funny ticking noises, white smoke starts blowing out the tailpipe, lots of cool stuff. At that point you’re on borrowed time.

Whether it’s worth putting money into depends on the car’s overall condition and how well you like it. A new headgasket properly installed will run you upwards of a grand. Personally, if you really do have a bad headgasket, I’d suggest starting to look around for a replacement. And watch your coolant level and your temp needle while you’r looking.

The car isn’t even worth keeping. Waste not.

Saturn’s have a know problem with the intake manifold gasket. Its a defect in manufacturing because the robot that places the gasket misses one of the studs and deforms the gasket. This can cause excessive air to the #1 cylinder at idle causing that cylinder to miss, but smooth out a little at higher RPM’s. Have someone spray some WD-40 or carburetor cleaner around the perimeter of the manifold to head surface around the #1 cylinder and see if the idle suddenly smooths out. If it does, your looking at a $200 repair at the dealer.

did you get the message about finding a competent mechanic to diagnose your car?

you CAN find a local mechanic (by friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances to recommend you to a mechanic to help you. I heartily don’t recommend dealership mechanics since they are driven by corporate profits, rather than common sense.

I don’t think you are really planning to “get away” with this for too long. once bitten, twice shy.

A friend of my wife has a Saturn which, according to her mechanic, needs a head gasket. He quoted her about $900 for the job. Any commments??

Usually it’s $1200 so its cheaper than some places.

My comment about the intake manifold gasket costing $200 at a dealer was for reference only. I did not mean to imply that I was recommending that it should be done at a dealer. A good independent mechanic should be less expensive and do as good or maybe even a better job. The gasket itself is $15 at the dealer and I will recommend getting an OEM gasket, if that is what it turns out to be the problem.

I did my own. The Saturn went 102k miles before the problem showed up.

My ex took our new (at the time) '95 Saturn in the divorce. Either the head gasket or the head (I’m unsure, she gave me the a sob story but I refused to get involved) went bad well before 100,000 miles and again a short time later.