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Welp! Can't add oil!


I wanted to to add some oil on my 02 Saturn SL2 today but I couldn’t! The oil was spilling out. When I removed the funnel, I found that the oil was not dropping at all, or dropping very slowly after a while.

HELP! :sob:

The valve cover has to be removed to determine what’s causing the restriction.


I want to do that but it has been raining a lot. I replaced the valve cover gasket on september last year. It looked nice and clean to me. I also replaced the PCV valve at the same time. Could it be possible that the engine has build up some sludge because of the new valve I installed? :sob:

If that’s the case, is there something I can do about it?

You put oil in this thing 3 days ago . Did the funnel work then or did you just pour from bottle ?

Just to ask the obvious question… How much oil was in the car before you started adding more?


Switch off the engine before adding oil.

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There are passages between the top of the engine where you pour the oil and the bottom where the oil pan is located. The oil you pour in at the top has to go to the oil pan through those passages, and if they are clogged up it won’t move to the lower part of the engine, and this symptom could be the result. This could also mean your engine isn’t being properly lubricated during operation, so this issue needs a shop appraisal to figure out what’s going on; otherwise the engine may be damaged from lack of lubrication. Also if you have variable valve timing that mechanism may fail. It’s possible your engine has sludge, only a shop inspection can say yes or no; but it wouldn’t be b/c of a properly installed new valve cover. Sludge formation is somewhat a result of driving style (a lot of short trips can cause to sludge) but mostly a result of deferring oil and filter changes.

An engine that is so sludged up so much that the oil won’t quickly move from the valve coverarea to the oil pan is likely gonna need a good deal of work.

It’s also possible I suppose to rig up an oil pouring system that pours the oil in too fast irrespective of sludge, but I’ve never experienced that problem on any of my cars.

When you use a funnel in a Saturn, some funnels anyway, the bottom of the funnel sits on a shelf built into the valve cover just under the oil cap. This can cause the oil to spill over the edges of the valve cover instead of going into the engine. You have to pour slowly or use a funnel with a wide bottom that kind of wedges itself into the oil fill hole in the cover without reaching all the way down to the shelf.

The hole from the shelf into the valve area is also very small so no matter what, you cannot just dump a bottle of oil into the funnel, you have to go slower than you would with other vehicles.


Well this is rather troubling on many levels… Your radiator is not empty by chance is it? Is the vehicle running normally? I ask these silly questions to try and be sure your engine is not filled up with coolant…and I mean way filled up…in places coolant should not be. Silly I know, but I have to ask.

You also cannot add oil to an engine while it is running… Not accusing you, I’m just stating a fact.

This particular engine has a very large channel under that cover that would easily allow oil to get back down to the crankcase and you can see it in the picture… This is an overhead cam after all, not a push rod cylinder head. Push rod style heads have small oil drain back holes that are fairly easily clogged in comparison to this head. The oil has that entire section where the timing chain is located to empty back down to the oil pan, so there should be more than ample avenues for the oil to find on its own. To think a huge opening as big as the timing chain area will not allow oil to drain down is a little troubling. This engine should not have any of these issues at all.

Has anything else been going on that we need to know about? What is the recent history of the vehicle? Any “incidents” at all lately?

Hey everyone!

Sorry for replying now. The car was parked on the street. The road is flat but the car was parked too close to the curb. There is a dip where water flows when it rains. So the car was a bit tilted and I didn’t notice it until now.

Keith is right, there is a shelf built into the valve cover. The car was tilted towards the side where you add the oil and the shelf was preventing me from adding more oil.

I grabbed an image of an SL2 valve cover from google and edited it on paint to show you guys what the problem was. The yellow area is where you pour the oil in. The red area is where the oil drops.

Because the car had no oil at all, I couldn’t move it. I solved the problem by using a small electrical pump I got from eBay to pump oil onto the dipstick.

I tried from from the valve cover but I couldn’t get the plastic tube of the electrical pump to where I wanted it to go inside the valve cover. And by pulling the plastic tube out of the valve cover I confirmed once again that there is a bit of sludge inside. :confused:

I didn’t mention it, but I actually drained the oil out and replaced the filter right there in the street. The reason was because I found a bit of sludge inside the valve cover as stated in my previous thread. I also found oil leaking from the valve cover gasket. It was not noticeable until I got very close. So I also replaced the PCV valve again but both valves look identical, even with the same model number stamped onto the valve. One is Duralast, the other one is Microgard. So I am now thinking about buying an ACDelco branded valve, which is I believe is closer to OEM spec?

I know all of this is dumb and I apologize for my stupidity. I don’t know much about cars. This was my father’s car and I kept it when he passed away last year. He did all the repairs and maintenance by himself so I wanted to learn how to do it myself too. :disappointed_relieved: A bad start…

So now… I managed to add oil. But the problem is that when I was using the electrical pump, I had to hold the plastic tubes so they won’t move around while the pump was on. I couldn’t see well how much it was getting pumped onto the engine. Looking at the dipstick now, it seems that it is overfilled again by maybe 1/2 qt… maybe 1 quart over. Guess I will have to start over again? Or should I just leave it alone?


We have a winner! :sparkler: It’s Keith! :clap:

@Saturnia, thanks for taking the time and effort to report back. Glad to hear the mystery has been solved.:clap:

As I recall, Keith (a regular here) is (or was) a long time Saturn driver/“enthusiast”. I was fairly certain he nailed this one.

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That’s a great start! Experience is the best teacher. If anybody that posts here says they’ve never done anything like this then they are liars. Don’t stop trying and learning.

I still have a couple little scars on my wrist from installing a garden tractor battery. A wrist watch heats up fast when one carelessly gets the metal band between the positive cable and a ground.

Then there was the time I was looking down the throat of a Holley carburetor to check the accelerator pump. Never do that with the engine running. Don’t ask how I know, but my eyebrows did grow back.

It’s sitting level now, right? Is it possible to use that pump to extract a little oil and recheck the level? A half quart over filled would probably be okay, but a quart or more, not so much.

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It’s possible to drain some oil from the crankcase just by unscrewing the drain plug a little and let it drip out. I’ve had to drain out a 1/2 quart before due to accidental overfilling and just held my thumb against the drain screw as I totally unscrewed it. Messy, but got the job done quickly. Only try that when the engine is cold of course.

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It wont hurt to start it long enough to move it onto a level area, just keep the RPM’s down. If you rev the engine up with too much oil, the crankshaft will whip the oil up into a froth and it will not be good for lubrication then. But for a short distance at low revs, you’ll be OK.

Then let it sit for a few minutes, engine off, for the oil to settle and drain back to the pan and check the oil level then. If it is more than a half quart over, I would use that pump down the dipstick tube to pull some oil out.

If you can’t get the plastic tubing down the dipstick tube and you are less than a quart over, or about a quart over, I would suggest removing the oil filter and dumping the oil out of it, then put it back on, run the engine for a minute and check again. Repeat as needed to get the oil level down.

Be careful when installing the oil filter each time as you don’t want to over tighten it. Tighter is not better. Too tight and you can actually cause it to leak. If it says on the filter to go 3/4 turn after contact, then only go 3/4 turn, no more. Any tighter and you can exceed the modulus of elasticity for the rubber. That is when it permanently deforms and can leak as a result.

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Besides the dipstick path, seems like OP could pour oil into the tilted engine by running a length of flexible tubing inside the valve cover from the filler hole to the timing chain area, and gravity feeding oil into the other end of the tube via a funnel.

If the oil won’t pass through the baffle in the valve cover because of the angle of the vehicle, it would take me about 15 seconds to lift that side of the car with a floor jack.

That long? You must be slowing down. Are you giving retirement some thought? :grin:


The problem isn’t really the baffle or the angle of the engine, it is the funnel being used. A narrow necked funnel will sit on top of the baffle blocking oil from draining into the engine. You need to use a wide mouthed funnel that just fits into the oil fill hole and does not extend down to the shelf. There are funnels sold specifically for adding oil to an engine. Almost all oil fill holes are very close to the same size so these funnels are pretty universal.

Or cut the end on an angle so it doesn’t seal against the baffle. I bought a funnel like this decades ago and discovered it was genius for these situations. Now I cut all my funnels at an angle if they don’t already come that way…