Squealing 1999 Salvage Title Saturn SL (gift from parents...)

My parents bought me a Saturn from my car salesman brother for $900. It came with a squeal upon start up. This squeal is notably worse when turning very hard or when the AC (or even the heat!) is on.

We took it to a large-chain auto repair shop. They replaced the main belt. Then they replaced the tensioner.

We took it to a small locally owned/operated repair shop. They replaced the belt again.

We took it back to the large chain and to a different large-chain auto parts store. Both said it must be the power steering aparatus. They large chain repair store said they’d flush it for $200 or replace it for $600. Ugh.

I was out of money from all of the diagnoses so I put the project on hold and drove a squealing car for three months.

Mom and dad called and said their pastor’s son is an engineering major college student. He’d love to take a look at the car, it’s a passion of his.

I gave him $240 to “do whatever you’d do to your mom’s car.”

So, he replaced clips, secured scary looking fire-hazard wire situations, etc, etc. And then he flushed the power steering thing. Then he replaced the power steering thing.

No dice, she still squeals. I am to drive it around for a week and carefully document all instances of squealing.

Operation Confusing Squeal will be shut down (lack of funding) next weekend without a serious breakthrough. Can you help our research?

The tensonier pulley is a common thing to replace that causes this kind of thing so if you are sure that was replaced then I would suspect the alternator as the next best choice. If that isn’t it then I would try the power steering pump and water pump. Using a length of heater hose up to your ear and pointed at suspected trouble spots might show something up. Just be very careful around any moving parts.

Has anybody taken a good luck at the idler pulley?

A worn idler pulley bearing can cause obscene belt squeal.

Has anyone looked at the harmonic balancer on the front of the engine?

The hamonic balancer has a rubber ring that isolates the hub of the balancer that mounts to the crankshaft from the pulley on the balancer. If this rubber ring has separated from either the hub or the pulley of the balancer, it’ll squeal like a banshee.


A Saturn is a GM car, take it to a Chevy dealer and pay whatever you have to get it fixed properly. I believe you are looking for a cheap fix by unqualified mechanics and in the end they are wasting your money.

This should be pretty easy. The alternator has a bad bearing, the AC compressor is faulty, the tensioner bearing is bad. Take the car to a good mechanic and he or she will figure it out.