Saturn S Series Sedan SL, SL1, and SL2

What to look for when buying an SL1?

Old 02-02-2011, 02:28 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2011
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Default What to look for when buying an SL1?

Hey guys, I am looking at getting a 2000 SL-1, 1.9L I4 with 5spd manual transmission from a member of another car forum I am on for $1100 CAD as-is.

It is a 4-door and has 157,700 KM (98,000 mi) on it. He said the engine and transmission are in good condition, may only need brakes for a safety. I am going to look at it this weekend and test drive it.

I was wondering if there are any problem areas with these models/years that I should look out for before purchasing the car? I will check the usual spots, rockers/brake and gas lines/strut towers etc. but is there anything else I should be looking at specifically?

Also, what are some common problems that arise with these models? I have owned a few 97-03 Grand Prix's and they have rotting strut towers and transmission problems so I would like to know what I am getting into first with the Saturn.

Thanks, Randall.
Old 02-02-2011, 05:17 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Riveria of America
Posts: 2,748

Oil usage can sometimes be a problem, but not always. Does he have the last couple of service tickets from the oil change/lube shoppe? Could tell you if he's maintaining the vehicle properly.

Look at the brake pedal for signs of abnormal wear on the pedal itself (bad drivers ride the brake). Look for leakage on the firewall near the master brake cylinder.

Check serpentine belt for cracking.

Put the car in first gear, and drive in a tight circle both to the right and then to the left in an unoccupied parking lot. Clicking sounds could signal bad CVCC joints.

Others will have additional ideas, I'm sure .....
Old 02-02-2011, 05:36 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Peoria AZ
Posts: 1,912

I am quite comfortable with my capabilities to fix most anything and have yet to have a sure fire method to verify the mechanics of an automobile. Thus I am big on cosmetics. If it looks like a garbage dump it probably was not maintained. Rugs torn, seats dirty and trashed. Head liner damged, tires look crappy, pedals worn out under the hood looks like a grease pit. Cosmetics is not limited to the paint has been waxed. A 10 year old car with that many miles on it can be a maintainence headache. And you would never know.
until you got into it.
Look at the cooling system, the tank on the passenger side and hoses and things that might leak. Lots of plastic being used and age and plastic are not kind to each other.
I guess that is what I mean about cosmetics. You probably can not spot wear, I usually can't, but if it looks like it has not been cleaned, it probably has not been taken care of either.
So far that has worked for me.
(and I have missed one or two over the years too)
Old 02-02-2011, 08:23 PM
keith's Avatar
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 435

Wow, uncljohn gave great advice for buying any used car. My brother uses that advice and he has never gotten a lemon. I've never had a lemon from cars that he has advised me to get.

With the SL1, watch for a high idle when warmed up. If it idles above 950, then it may need a new intake manifold gasket, a common problem in the SL1 engine.
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