Saturn SL2 2000 Maintenance Today

Hello: My Saturn SL2 2000 has about 50,000 miles on it. I used it for 2 first years driving to a weekend place 2 hours away from NYC. After that it mostly sits in a garage near my apt. in Queens and I use it for convenience, mostly local runs and errands and occasional (1 or 2x a year in spring/summer) to a
road trip, 3-5 hours away. It’s convenient to keep this car as it is all paid off and to drive vs rely on public transport. Saturn dealerships for
maintenance are now closed and I faithfully took the car in for Saturn dealership maintenance as the service booklet advised, and they regularly did the work and overcharged me by persuading me to do other things costing over $800-1,000 or more most per visit. The last few years I mostly had a newly trusted mechanic check it and there were minimum needs, minimum $$ spent for a general check up. (But I always wondered if he really knew my unique Saturn car needs.) And I had the usual end-of-year state inspection check, nothing ever found to do add’l servicing. Six months ago the light came on re oil, and it badly needed change; it had been neglected by me. Done. Now the car squeaks (not over-alarmingly) whenever I drive it out of my covered underground parking stall to go on an errand. My question, is what could that be? Should I take it in to be looked at? And what kind of annual, regular and/or occasional maintenance should I do from here on. I don’t know much about cars so unsure how to “maintain” it now without my Saturn maintenance booklet as “guidance” and upon which I relied. Now, how should I care for my car and what kind of mechanic should I take it to and how do I know trustworthiness if I’m at their mercy. (I think I have an honest new mechanic who fixed a broken passenger side rearview mirror recently and felt good about using him.) The car is all paid off and has always been running great and nothing major or out-of-the-ordinary every has been needed. I do worry if I need to take a long road trip out of the area. So what do I do about 1) regularly, maintenance care? 2) What about the squeak when I first take the car out. And 3) what kind of maintenance do I seek for a long road trip? Thanks for all your great help.

Basically all you need to do is what is in the OWNER’S MANUAL located in the glove compartment. If you don’t have one there are several sites you can Google to obtain one.

When you don’t drive much, as was the case with my late mother-in-law, change the oil and filter at least once a year, the engine coolant every 30,000 miles or 4 years, and the automatic transmission fluid and filter every 30,000 miles.

Other posters might add some other things. If the spark plugs have never been changed I would do that as well, then you don’t need to do them again with the little you drive.

Modern cars don’t need a lot of routine maintenance, something that drives garages crazy, so they add a lot of unnecessary stuff to keep the revenue up.

Try and determine if the squeak is related to engine speed or not. Does the squeak change with engine speed? If so a serpentine belt is the most common, and many shops routinely inspect them with oil changes or other service.The car maintenance schedule is probably in the owners manual, and it sounds like your mileage may be low enough to use it as a guide, though a once a year min oil change is my suggestion regardless of miles. Tire condition would be my main concern for a road trip.

Hey, thanks speedy Saturn expert-friends. BTW, the squeak doesn’t seem to happen at any other time that I notice. All great suggestions. I appreciate your car-kindness!!!

The squeak could be related to a contol arm bushing, sway bar bushing, or something of that nature. It can be difficult to track that kind of thing down. Some of those noises may be an irritant more than anything else. A sway bar bushing can be a usual suspect.

Your car meets a severe service schedule and to be blunt about it, I’m not so sure that you should be spending much more money on it.
That’s based on your comment about having neglected the car, badly needing an oil change, and the oil light coming on. You have not stated how low the engine oil was or whether or not this engine is suffering engine sludge. The low miles for the age and driving habits could point in that direction.

If you mean the red oil pressure light then your engine is quite likely damaged goods to some extent.

I have a Saturn SL, 2002 with over 257k miles on it and I haven’t spent a total of a $1000 in maintenance on it since I bought it new, but I do all my own maintenance. Your dealer was really ripping you off, though $1000 probably doesn’t buy much in the way of car maintenance in NYC.

You have a change oil light so I assume that is what you had come on. It sounds like you have a good mechanic now so I would suggest that you be loyal to him. Some mechanics have a service where if you register with them, they will put you in their computer and send you a notification when ever you need to bring the car in for service, or just a check. You probably need to bring it in about once a year.

The squeak you mention does bother me. Is it a squeak or a squeal. A squeak is an on-off-on-off kind of thing, like squeak-squeak-squeak, where a squeal is sort of constant even if it only lasts a few seconds or a minute. If it is a squeal, then you probably need a new serpentine belt, and if you need one, you need to get it soon. If this belt breaks while you are in traffic, the engine could overheat and do serious damage. The engine is all aluminum and does not tolerate overheating at all.

Any unusual noises should be checked out. It may be nothing, or it could be serious. If this is a very faint squeal that you only hear because you are in an enclosed space where sound echos off the walls, it may just be the secondary air pump that you are hearing. It only runs for the first 2 minutes after you start the engine.

Thanks again! Appreciate your thoughts. Very helpful comments from ya’ll.

ya’ll, you may live in New York city, but you are not from New York City, are you! Our daughter has a 2002 saturn sl2 inherited from Grandma, the trans fluid and filter is important, lost a power steering motor, 50k, but it has been a good car so far. Daughter happened to stop by today, skid plate broken and rubbing on the tire at high speed, a big washer and good to go.