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Valve body repair on 2002 Saturn - is it worth it?

I posted last week about a 2002 Saturn with a bad transmission. I did get another opinion (suggested by Transman) and the dealer says it’s the valve body. $1200 repair. Once again the question: is it worth it? I could get the valve body repaired and then the transmission could go out, right? The transmissions are a known issue with Saturns and at 100,000 I may be pushing my luck. Car is in decent shape otherwise. It’s my daughter’s car, she loves it, will be sad to see it go. But I can’t afford to follow good money after bad.

Is it worth doing, then drive the car for a couple of months and then trade it in before the warranty on the repair wears off?

I may go see what I could get on a trade-in, just to give myself more info. I understand the argument about not having a new car payment, but I would probably get a used Toyota Corolla. But the trade-in value of the Saturn determines a lot. Do expensive repairs make sense when you’re planning to trade it in?


Opinions vary greatly on a topic like this, since everyone has his own definition of “worth it.” $1,200 may seem like a lot, but you can’t buy another car for that, and if your Saturn is in decent shape otherwise it may be worth the money.

There’s no way to predict what might happen in the future. The transmission may be fine after the repair, and the car could last many more years.

Or not. There’s no way to know.

Car dealers are pretty desperate for sales right now, so maybe shopping around is a good idea. It certainly can’t hurt, and at least you can get an idea of what it would cost to replace the car, as opposed to repairing it.

In my experience it has almost always been less expensive to repair a car and keep driving than to replace a car.

if you are any type od DIY person you can buy a rebuilt valve body for much cheaper.

go to and search “reverse slam”

Why is the valve body bad ? If it’s due to debris then the other internal parts of the transmission are giving up too. If you fix just this one transmission part remember all the rest of the transmission parts still have 100,000 miles on them and retain the potential for 100,000 mile issues. Also, a reman trans will have a warranty.

$1,200 may seem like a lot, but you can’t buy another car for that, and if your Saturn is in decent shape otherwise it may be worth the money.

Very true. If you could find a car for say $2,000 who is to say that next week it will do the same thing or worse.

If it were mine, I would not be worried about what might happen in the future. Look at it this way, it as lasted six years and it it goes another six before the next problem, you will have had cheap transportation.

How are the transmissions a known issue? Most transmission failures can be attributed to failure to change the fluid/filter on a regular basis.

The odds of an entire valve body being “bad” is near zero but it’s possible to have a fault with the valve body that can be cured.

Personally, I would not do this at all. If you’re having a shifting problem due to a glitch in the valve body this means that pressures can be affected. If the pressures are affected this could be causing clutch slippage, etc and you’re going to be left with a shaky transmission even after a 1200 dollar bill.

And no, expensive repairs do not make sense. The car is 7 years old with a 100k miles on it. Even with a properly shifting transmission the dealer will likely either just wholesale it out or consign it to the back row of cars.

Saturns were notorious for malfunctioning valve bodies in thier transmissions. Causing slamming mainly in reverse but causes other issues due to shaft nuts working loose.
not a fluid issue. it could happen to a low milage car.

I have an 02 Saturn, 5 speed with 175k on it now. It has been one of the most trouble-free cars I’ve had, that includes a slew of Japanese cars and truck. The only problem with the engine is with the intake manifold gasket, I’ve done two of them so far, the first at 102k miles. I do my own but the run about $200 to have done.

I’d say get a quality reman transmission and keep the car, even if you have to do the intake gasket later. They are good economical cars. They have a reputation as oil burners by some, but mine only burns a qt/2k miles. Thats about par with all the asian cars I’ve had that go that far, and better then one or two.

And I’ll bet the problem with the manifold gasket was caused by Dexcool engine coolant. Notoriously bad stuff.

No it wasn’t. The only coolant passage is at the throttle body, the gaskets failed around the #1 cylinder, the other end of the manifold. The #1 intake port is not bridged to the other ports and it only has three bolts around it. I had the Dexcool in it for the full 5 years and 150k miles plus. No problems with it, I’m now using a HOAT coolant.