Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Saturn transmission

Hi, a couple weeks ago I started experiencing some issues with what seems to be the ABS: when breaking to a full stop, a “motor” sound appeared accompanied by vibration on the pedal; however, the ABS indicator light did not light on (although it does light on when I start the car). Several weeks later I began having problems with the transmission. It first appeared when putting the vehicle in reverse but now it happens in almost all gears. Finally, the “service engine soon” light turned on. I took my car to the mechanic and he said the problem is a solenoid and quote a repair for over $750 (this includes valve body replacement and work). He claimed that the “ABS problem” is related to the transmission issue but as I explained above the “ABS problem” predated the transmission issue. My question is, does this link between ABS and transmission make sense? Also, if I go ahead and replace the transmission valve body can I be confident that I won’t have any more issues with the transmission for a while? I am concern about spending more on this car giving its current trade value (I already spent $800 on replacing the front suspension struts, brake pads and rotor discs and $250 on new tires).

Thanks in advance for your advice.

The clearest link I can think of that may affect both ABS and transmission is something related to speed sensor problems. Both your transmission and ABS system require sensors to measure vehicle speed. On ABS its actually wheel speed measured at each wheel, but sometimes the vehicle speed sensors & wheel speed sensors can be related. I don’t know the Saturn system in any detail.

A speed sensor issue should turn on warning lights. But nothing I can think of about a speed sensor issue would mean valve body and solenoid work in the transmission. But there’s a lot I don’t know.

Find out what the exact code(s) was/were that the mechanic pulled from the computer and post the exact code(s). The codes look like “P1234”

Unfortunately, I don’t know the code. I’m not even sure the garage I took my car to has the capability to read my car’s computer. At least that is the impression I got when I asked them how did they diagnose the problem.

You should be able to find a shop that will give you the code, if not, it might be worth having a GM dealer do a diagnostics for you. That could cost from $60 to $100 but if the dealer is doing their job, they will give you an accurate diagnosis. Then you can shop around for estimates. A diagnostic is more than just reading the codes.

What exactly are the problems with the transmission? From what you have said so far, you may not have an ABS problem, it could be that the lock up torque converter is remaining locked up.

If they gave you that impression, I certainly wouldnt trust them to fix my transmission. What exactly is your transmission doing?? You need to be very specific about the symptoms.


The transmission problem started first with the car sort of jumping when put in reverse (i.e., abrupt gear switch). Then, the car began having problems to change into the 4th and 5th gears. Now, the RPM increase and the car try to switch , but it cannot pass beyong 3rd gear, so so the RPM fall and the car tried again to switch. Since then, I drove it for short distances a couple of times, really slowly, and started to feel that switching between the first gears was also abrupt.

That last description sounds like a valve body problem for sure.

What year Saturn and how many miles. I ask about the year because it may have the older Dexron III in it.

Have you ever had the transmission fluid changed? Have you checked the fluid yourself and if you did, what color is it?


If the fluid is any other color than bright red, then it needs to be changed. In stead of a flush that many shops recommend, the pan should be drained, dropped and the filter replaced. Then it can either be refilled or you can have the flush/fluid exchange done then. But if it has Dexron III in it, you can refill with the new Dexron VI, it will mix with the remaining old fluid, or do a complete exchange using Dexron VI.


Fresh fluid may unstick any valves in the valve body and restore your transmission. I am an optimist, and since this is a new problem, there is a good chance it will work. The Saturn SL, especially the 2000-2002 years is very reliable car with the exception of the intake manifold gasket. It is easy to change and runs about $200 total if you need one, but use a felpro, not a factory gasket.

I’d still need to know what the code(s) is(are) to really say much. If there is a speed sensor problem this does create a ton of confusion for the electronic controls.

My car is a 2002 Saturn SL2, and not, I have not checked the transmission fluid. I’ll do that as soon as I get home.

I forgot, the mileage on my car is almost 135000