New to this - need help!

I have a 99 Saturn SC1 that has been sitting for 7 years. I know it needs new spark plugs, an oil change, and new gas. What are some other things I should look at for it? It already has a new battery. It will crank, but after a few seconds of bumpy running will shut off. This is sort of a project car for me. I’ve never worked on cars before, but I’m trying to learn. I would appreciate all the help I can get! Also, had no issues before sitting other than the things already mentioned.

Thanks in advance!

The gas is probably bad and needs to be flushed out, the tank cleaned, fuel lines and fuel injection system, too. If you open the gas cap and sniff, old bad gas has a very different stink.

If it starts, you need to safety check the brake system, change the coolant and brake fluid, and you may need to replace the tires. Lots to do, but work on starting it first.

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Agree 100% with @wentwest. Any gas that’s been sitting for 7 years is rotten. Fresh gas may get it running and keep it running. The more fresh gas you pass through the engine the better things will run. If the check engine light comes on, read the codes (readers can be bought or rented for free from auto parts stores) and post them here so we can help.

A very good resource is a Haynes Manual for your car. It has a lot of important and useful general info you’ll want to know, and chapter after chapter of maintenance and repair procedures for your make and model. By removing some of the mystery and hazard, it helps you decide what to do yourself now, what to turn over to others, and what things you might want to tackle when you’ve got more experience (and tools!)

Your biggest problem is going to be the timing chain. It is steel and lubricated by the oil pump when the engine is running. No oil means the chain has a lot of rust on it. Typically with Saturn’s that have sat over two years, the timing chain breaks within a month or two.

If you pull the timing chain top cover and pour a penetrating oil like SeaFoam over the chain, turn the engine slowly from the crankshaft pulley bolt with a socket and breaker bar or ratchet and soak the entire chain for a few days, you might get lucky. I’ve never heard of anyone trying this, but then they didn’t know in advance thaat the chain would break.

It’s a double row chain that almost never breaks on a daily driver, only on vehicles that sit for two years or more.

Our daughters chain in her saturn went. it is actually lubricated by a small oil jet that got clogged, new heads etc , but cheaper than buying someone elses problems as all was well maintained. I think new gas, gas filter air filter and spark plugs will get her going! It might take a few shots of starting fluid and runs to get the old gas out of the lines.

Good ideas above. If you had asked prior to doing anything, I’d have suggested to not try to start it until you’ve drained out all the old gasoline first. After that, then replace the spark plugs , and while the plugs were removed put a little motor oil down the spark plug holes and crank the engine for 10-15 seconds, then install the new plugs. In any event, once you get the engine to the point it will stably idle, use a scan tool to read out any diagnostic codes from the engine computer memory and post the “p-numbers” here. Side note: Cars generally don’t take well to sitting unused, so expect some challenges.

Thank you everyone for your help! First things first, I’ll siphon out the old gas. This will all take time because I work more than full time. I’ll post updates as I’m able to. Thanks again!

Another poster with an alfa romeo that had been sitting for several years has been doing a similar job over the past 4 or 5 months and keeping us informed of the progress here. He traced poor engine performance to bad gas in the tank and a clogged in tank filter as I recall. The most recent reports has been about improving the paint appearance. OP can use the forum search feature to find those threads. Search on the term “Alfa”.

Heads up . . . there is a fair chance the old fuel damaged fuel injection components

Because that old fuel is very destructive . . . I wouldn’t even call it fuel at this point

In my opinion, it’s not enough to siphon out the old gas. You have to really clean that tank out. The best way is to remove the tank for cleaning.

Good luck in any case


I think that’s what the poster with the Alfa had to do.