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'02 LW300 - hesitation during acceleration, now rough all the time. Throws P0301

'02 LW300 - hesitation during acceleration, now rough all the time. Throws P0301

  #1  
Old 08-06-2010, 01:09 PM
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Default '02 LW300 - hesitation during acceleration, now rough all the time. Throws P0301

Hello everyone! I have a 2002 LW300 that has been having issues for a while now. The initial symptoms were hesitation and a flashing SES light while accelerating onto the freeway. If I eased off on the accelerator, the light would flash for a while then turn off. If I kept on the gas while the light was flashing, it would stay on for a couple days. As it got worse, the car had very little power, and an odd vibration, until I stopped, turned it off, and started it again. Then it would be fine until I tried to accelerate quickly again.

I took the car to the dealership and they wanted to replace the plugs ($500!!). I had the plugs replaced about 10,000 miles ago, but I'm not sure what kind of plugs were used, sill I'm hesitant to throw another $500 toward plugs. The mechanic who put the plugs in said he would be shocked if there was a problem with them (he's 700 miles away now). I asked them how they knew it was an issue with the plugs, and they said that the engine was reporting misfires on 3 and 4, and while they were looking at it on the computer, 5 and 6 started misfiring. I told them that I had heard that a number of sensors can go bad and potentially cause this code to be mis-reported, and asked them if they thought that this could be a sensor issue. The service manager insisted that the spark plugs needed to be replaced. I asked if he thought it was odd that spark plugs were going bad right before his eyes, and that it might be misinformation being reported by the computer. He got angry at me instead of discussing the idea or explaining his methods, so I had the car towed back home. I just can't afford to throw $500 toward every guess until we make it down the diagnostic tree to the real problem.

I took a stab in the dark and replaced the MAF sensor. I disconnected the battery for an hour and fired it up. Apparently it wasn't the MAF sensor (or maybe I got a bad MAF sensor from RockAuto.com - it was bouncing around inside a box, which was bouncing around inside another box. No padding at all). So now I'm going to replace the Crank Shaft Position Sensor, and then I'll probably move on to the coils and plugs (they're just such a pain, hence the $500 dealerships charge to do it!).

Does anyone have any experience with anything similar this? Any advice?

-Thanks!
Mike
 
  #2  
Old 08-06-2010, 03:46 PM
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Mike, Taking a quick look at my Mitchels service literature gives bits and pieces of information.
P0301 = Cylinder #1 missfire.
There is a long winded explanation as to what this means and about 3 pages of nuances as to what may cause it. Enough to leave some one who is even remotely compatant in diagnositcs, busy trying to figure out what is going on. Loosly speaking a equievlent of this is something like I didn't hear the door bell ring and I have no idea whether some one is there or not but to be sure I will replace the power company with a new one to see if it takes care of the problem.
IF, any one were to tell me it was going to cost $500.00 to replace spark plugs in a car that is the level of a Saturn, I'm sorry, I find that to be way out of line with any kind of a reality I deal with. Also the spark plugs that are called out for the car are most probably platinum a material that allows 100,000 miles between spark plug changes. I can think of a number of cars that may cost that kind of money to replace plugs, but they are deep pocket automobiles with an exclusive dealer network and generally have a minimum of 12 cylinders involved. And I myself would still not pay $500.00 to replace spark plugs.
No wonder the dang company is going out of business.
Advice? Not sure what to say. But before I would spend $500.00 to have some replace the spark plugs I would spend $100.00 on an OBD-II code reader and $20.00 on a Mitchels or Chiltens service manual and learn how to use it.
Or, get rid of it at any cost and buy something you can actually afford to fix and makes sense to do so.
 

Last edited by uncljohn; 08-06-2010 at 10:17 PM.
  #3  
Old 08-06-2010, 04:59 PM
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P0301 is indeed cyl 1 misfire --- the blinking while driving of the SES light is the actual misfiring occurring if I remember correctly.

dos it throw only 0301 or are there other codes?

Simplest check would be to clear codes and interchange plug wires betw two cyls -- if the misfire moves with the wire you've found your culprit

For the record, if a V6 was misfiring on 3 and 4 and then 5 and 6, wouldn't that leave only 1 and 2 --- and a likely non running engine?

Anytime you call a service manager's bluff and they get huffy, get out like you did -- nothing good will come from the aftermath.

First the $500 plugs, then the $500 plug wires, then...

did you visit the dealership at the end of the month?
 
  #4  
Old 08-07-2010, 09:45 AM
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Uncle John, thanks for reading into that for me! My first clue that this isn't a simple fix was reading all of the drama that other owners have gone through. My second was the service manager's refusal to even begin to try to wrap his mind around what was going on. From what you said, I can see why! I have the Chilton's book and an ODB-II reader.

Derf, thanks for you reply too, I was hoping you'd chime in! Right now, the only code I see is the P0301. In the past it has reported misfires on all cylinders but #2. Here's the chronology of it all:

- Hesitation while accelerating onto the freeway, flashing SES light lead to:
- Rough engine all the time, smoothing out as rpms increases. SES light on.
- Engine misfire reported on 5 and 6.
- Took to dealership
- Dealership reported misfire on 3 and 4, with 5 and 6 starting to misfire as they watched.
- Dealership left the car on for a couple days, killing the battery and resetting the DTCs
- Car towed home, charged, ran fine for about an hour (no issues at all)
- Car still has rough idle that smoothes out as rpms increase.
- Car reports misfire on cylinder 1, SES light is not on constantly.
- I replaced MAF sensor, nothing changed as a result
- I reached out to you guys for advice

I think I'll try the diagnostic approach that you suggested, Derf. Can I do that without dismantling the engine? I was hoping not to have to take the manifolds off (not to mention buy the tools for the effing fasteners they used on this FAIL of an engine). It might be a while before I get to it.

It was the second-to-last last week in July that the dealership had the car.

Thanks for you advice, Gentlemen!

-Mike
 
  #5  
Old 08-07-2010, 09:55 AM
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One more thing... that magical hour of smooth sailing that I enjoyed after the car was towed home has not returned, and I've disconnected the battery for an hour or so and started the engine afterward three times since then. When replacing a sensor, is it true that you have to disconnect the battery to let various capacitors drain? If so, how long should that take?
 
  #6  
Old 08-07-2010, 10:35 AM
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ummm,

my simplistic approach was assuming that only cyl one was misfiring -- you hadn't supplied the information that other cyls in the past have reported misfires.....which makes it harder for us forum folks to address your issues....you can still try it while you have only one code,

that being said--sounds like a strange issue where it only misfires when you put your foot into it. I'm not sure how turning it on and off would address this for an hour.

I was initially gonna say it was a heat related failing sensor or something else (CPS is known to be a culprit on S cars but when it fails the car stops running as it inhibits spark.) Note sure it is the CPS in on an L car cause I'm not sure how it is implemented.

My general intuition (which has been proven wrong many times on this board) is that this is some type of plug wire issue (Start simple) although I can't see them randomly acting up , or some type of ignition module issue....

though...I can't see the diag tree cause I don't have an L car manual, so I am NOT advocating that you go on a parts spree based on my comments

Some other possibilities are intake manifold issues (thanks Hos) or losing compression in the cylinders -- but again these should not be temporarily solved by shutting off and restarting the car as they are mechanical in nature

Follow the diag tree

How many miles on your ride?
 
  #7  
Old 08-07-2010, 12:33 PM
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Mike, a couple of things here. Not all dealers are shmucks. I am sure though that having the rug pulled out from under them has not created an atmosphere of joy and happiness.
Now to be honest I do not know the heritage of the '02W300, that is whether it is a Saturn design or something in the GM stable that was re-badged. If so whatever that something is should have the capability of trouble shooting the car effectively.
Again, as Saturn dealers are closing, certain other GM dealers are picking up the service slack. While that probably will not last forever at the moment it is good press to get you to buy another GM car. Locally here where I live it is a Chevy dealer, complete with parts ordering capability.
You need to find a friendly and service oriented GM dealer. Now having said that, I have reservations with dealer service too so I am not waving the dealer flag except for;
If you are looking for the smartest cookies in the cookie jar, it pays to find out what jar you are reaching in.
Second issue, the misfire.
With out knowing exactly how that is dealt with such as;
Is it monitoring the spark some how? If so lack of spark = Miss - Fire.
Or is there a pressure sensor for each cylinder. Lack of pressure means it did not fire. That is what a knock sensor is, it measure weird high pressure spikes.
I don't know, that is what manuals are for so when people like me read them I can interpret them.
I suspect it is measuring spark energy, there for that sounds like an electrical problem.
If so, it seems to be messing with cylinder #1, that makes it something to do with the individual coil pack for #1 or the trigger mechanism or connector, wiring or something like that because once the spark (40,000 volts more or less) is generated, the only thing in the way is the spark plug and other then assembly methods and materials, they have not changed since 1901 and sensing circuitry would be before spark generation.
If it is affecting other cylinders too, a piece involved with generating the triggers is being affected by heat and dying.
If it is a pressure sensor determining the miss-fires, one for each cylinder, from the description you are giving I would look for a vacuum leak of some kind or another. As far as rough at idle and smooth at higher rpms, I have had engines with dead cylinders feel that way. Or a minor misfire problem clears up at higher rpm.
I even had a push rod bend so the valves did not move and at speed it ran pretty good if not poopy.
You don't have push rods!
I dunno, it sounds like you are caught between a rock and a hard place right now, a problem not of your own making.
If you were here in Phoenix I might even send you to the local VW dealer. They were the Saturn dealer. There is a big sign out in front. WE FIX SATURNS, right next door to the Chevy dealer that has a big sign out in front. WE ARE THE FACTORY REPRESENTATIVE FOR SATURNS. I have a feeling one of those two would fix your car quickly and correct if only for the purpose of selling you a Chevy or a VW.
 
  #8  
Old 08-07-2010, 01:07 PM
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LightMedium --

I'm with UnclJohn on this one ... When my "local" Saturn dealership closed, all the techs and the training and the parts were sucked up by the local Cadillac dealership, and it is to them that I go to this day when something is beyond my limited abilities to diagnose and/or repair. If you are close to the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama or Mississippi, then Joe Bullard Cadillac dealership in Mobile, AL is the place to go .........
 
  #9  
Old 08-09-2010, 09:14 AM
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Thanks for you advice everyone!! I'm not sure if it qualifies as "rebadged," but here are the cars that have this same engine:

1996-1999 Opel Sintra
1997-2001 Cadillac Catera
2000-2005 Saturn L-Series
2002-2003 Saturn Vue
1999-2003 Saab 9-5 (turbo)
1995-1996 Saab 9000


You can read more about the L81 3 liter here.

Here is 145 pages of people complaining about the L-cars.

That forum doesn't seem to have anyone of your collective caliber, derf, unclejohn, and OceanArcher, so there are a lot of lost souls wandering through.

I replaced my crankshaft position sensor for giggles (I already bought it before I posted here), and the one I pulled out had all kinds of corrosion on the shiny metal part. It almost looked like there were metal fragments stuck to it magnetically. Unfortunately, I replaced it just before dinner with some friends and a trip to St. Augustine, so I didn't inspect the part any closer, or try to jump the car yet. I'm thinking that, even if it wasn't the cause of my main problem, it might have needed to be replaced anyway. Either way, from what you guys are saying, I think that checking the coil packs might be a wise next step (and replacing the plugs while I'm in there). Still a shot in the dar, I know, but I'm OK with that for now . Even if all of my efforts are wasted, it's better that I waste my own effort on it rather than paying the dealership to do it. When/if I eventually take it back to them, they'll be able to skip the plugs, coil packs, MAF, and CPS and go straight to the ICM or ECM. Still sucks, but I'll be out a lot less than if they were the ones following the diagnostic tree. I know dealerships, and mechanics in general, are not all schmucks, but both of my brother-in-laws are in the car business, so I also know just how schmucky it gets. I've always had good car people to rely on for service in the past (in Columbus, Ohio and Tempe, AZ). Now that I'm in Charleston, SC though, I have found only schmucks. It isn't really fair to say the guys at the Saturn dealership here are schmucks, though, because I didn't give them a chance. They wanted to follow the diagnostic tree, rightfully so, and I was pretty sure that they could skip the first step. That was as far as we got. The Saturn dealership down here, maybe seeing the writing on the wall, bought the local Subaru dealership when they went under (my other car is a 2000 Outback -love it), and also has a GM service department. There is no clamoring for my business going on, unfortunately. Anyway, when I get back home and try to start the car, I'll let you guys know what happens. Thanks again guys!

-Mike
 
  #10  
Old 08-16-2010, 07:59 AM
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This may come as a shock to you, but the crankshaft position sensor didn't fix my problem. I'm getting a consistent 301 DTC now, so I'm going to proceed assuming it isn't a computer glitch, but a problem with a coil pack, boot, or spark plug. I have three questions first though...

1. Removal of the coil pack requires removal of the lower intake manifold a whole bunch of sensors, and maybe even some fuel lines. Is it OK to turn the engine over a few times to test the coil pack with the engine in that state?

2. How do you feel about pulling the fuse on the fuel pump while the engine is running to depressurize the system?

3. The intake manifold runners have hose clamps that aren't the typical sort with a screw to loosen/tighten them. I'm not sure if they're reusable, or if I will have to destroy them to take them off. Can I use normal hose clamps in place of them if I do ruin them during removal?

Thank you all for the generosity you show with your time and knowledge on this forum!

-Mike
 

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