Saturn SL 2000 stalling when idling



I have a 2000 Saturn with about 112K miles on it. It had been idling rough over the past couple of years and I have recently replaced the spark plugs and the battery. A month ago on a cold morning, the car’s lights dimmed and it almost stalled at the first stop light from the house). The car ran fine for a month. A week ago the car died immediately when I put it into park and threatened to do so at several stop lights on my commute home. The RPM would begin to dip below 1000 and the car would start to sputter. Pressing on the gas helped and driving on the highway didn’t produce any issues.

Several days later, the car failed to start at all for several attempts and only started after giving the car gas while turning the key. Car continued to sputter and sound like it is misfiring.

Additional info:

Car struggles in park and in neutral but the RPMs stay above 1000 and it does not stall

No warning lights are on

After driving, there is a bad smell. I really can’t describe it. It doesn’t smell like burning oil.

Any thoughts on what might be wrong? Looking for a general ballpark before taking it in. As Blue book is only $900 and I wary of approving any costly repairs.


A huge proportion of stuff like this happens when people neglect basic maintenance (e.g. plugs, wires, filters, etc.) You mention the spark plugs but that says little - So before anyone can really say anything you need to talk in very specific terms about what has been done with this car. Frankly, if the engine light isn’t on, I wouldn’t bother with anything until it also has new wires, new air and new fuel filters.

1000 rpm at idle is actually a mite high. The typical range is 7-800 or so. You say it “struggles in park and in neutral but the RPMs stay above 1000” - I don’t know what “struggles” means in that context. But that sounds like an air problem - vaccum leak; sticky idle air control valve; dirty mass airflow sensor. The pressing on the gas part might support that, or it actually might say that you are running too rich - e.g. bad thermostat, temp sensor, fuel pressure regulator…

Ball park? It could cost anywhere between $.10 (e.g. for a new length of vacuum hose) and $5000 (e.g. for a new engine).