2003 Vue V6 Automatic --Transmssion Scare?

  #1  
Old 07-19-2018, 11:19 PM
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Question 2003 Vue V6 Automatic --Transmssion Scare?

Hello --- I found a 2003 Vue at a dealership for about $5,000. It has <60,000 miles, has a clean history. Only defect I found was variable rust down below. I put my finger through one spot near the radiator.... but the rest of everything and the frame all felt pretty solid.

I haven't driven anything but my rickety '99 Ford Ranger in a while, so the test drive felt like a dream. I wanted to do some research first, though, and by doing so, I just read about GM's class action lawsuit regarding the common failure of these transmissions. I didn't notice anything too weird driving on highway or surface roads. The dealer had resurfaced the rotors and hadn't really broken them in, so they were scraping kinda loud, but I didn't hear any other noises. I only took it up to about 60mph, hit the cruise control, and let go of the wheel to see if it'd stay straight. When I manually changed gears in the parking lot I thought maybe it felt a little rough, but I didn't know about the transmission issue so didn't dig too deep.

The CarFax report says nothing about any transmission service, so I assume that the original timebomb-transmission, or whatever, is still in there waiting for me to buy it and fail.

If you know anything about the transmissions in these or have any feedback, I'd appreciate any good wisdom.

Much obliged.
A stranger in the Saturn World,
Naythan
 
  #2  
Old 07-20-2018, 12:15 AM
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If it is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) with no shifting of gears like a regular automatic, .as they used to say in that monty Python and the holy Grail movie

Run away!! Run away!!

The CVTs were only in some Ions and Vues in 03 and 04. The failure rate by 100K is about 90% and 100% by 150k. Based on the design, there is no way to repair it and replacing it just leads to the same end. Find a VIN decoder worth a damn and confirm it is a CVT, or call a chevy dealership give them the vin ask them what tranny it has.

Nice save on a $5k timebomb
 
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Old 07-20-2018, 07:48 AM
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I agree with derf. Stay away from the Vue. And why in the hell would you even consider a car with RUST. If you can see some, then there's more where you haven't looked. For that kind of money you should be able to find a different used car with far less foreseeable problems. If you're into Saturns, try finding an Ion or a nice L series car.
 
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Old 07-20-2018, 10:13 PM
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Derf and Rubeyhayseed,

I am very grateful for your input.

I tried several VIN decoders today before calling a Chevrolet dealer and talking to their service and parts departments. They said that the transmission is NOT the CVT; it's a 5-speed automatic transmission. The service guy said he thought that it might have been a Honda motor, but he wasn't sure because he didn't have much Saturn experience. I didn't have time today to track down or talk to any Saturn mechanics... other than you guys.

As to why in the hell I was considering the car, I was attracted to it for
1.) its low mileage (58,000)
2.) it felt pretty sound driving on the highway and on some really bump Ohio roads. Visible hoses and wires n things looked in good condition. Engine compartment was pretty clean, but not just because it had been recently cleaned. I was concerned about the rust, but I live in Ohio where rust never sleeps and even the rust rusts, but for a 15 year old car, it didn't really look that bad down below. There was one spot up front between the driverside wheelwell and the radiator that was very soft and rotted.... I was pretty concerned about it..but ... maybe I was being too forgiving.
3.) I've never owned a Saturn, but I know of their generally good reputation. A retired Marine with whom I work has a 2009 Vue hybrid of which he speaks highly. I've been looking for a wagon or suv for cargo and canoe, etc.-carrying capacity. This is the first Vue I've ever looked at or considered buying.
4.) I was having an issue with my truck yesterday that I thought might've been a straw breaking the camels back, so I was feeling much more urgent about replacement... but I got it handled reasonably today and can afford to drive it a little while longer.
5.) The next two qualities are not unique to the car, but it does have a sunroof and dealer agreed to install a class 2 hitch.
6.) It's being sold at a reputable Toyota dealership in town real close to where I live. I have traditionally avoided dealerships, but the salesman made a good pitch: he said that they really care about their reputation and wouldn't want to sell a crappy car. They typically send cars under 10grand to auction, but their mechanics felt this was a good car. I am a sucker.

Are there other likely issues with the 2003 Vue? I hadn't considered how early of model this is. I think the first Vues debuted in 2002, right? So this is a pretty early generation. Would I be better in a later model, or, like you said, just stay away from the Vue altogether?

There's 2006 with a manual transmission about 65,000 miles on about 40 miles east of me for about the same price...it's a shady-looking car lot with a questionable history...

Ideally, I would like a manual transmission and something getting over 30mpg that's going to last atleast 6 years. But then I'm stupidly frugal too...

If you'd share any more thoughts, I'd appreciate it. Thank you again though for what you've already offered.
All the best to you both.
Naythan
 

Last edited by Nayte Senn; 07-20-2018 at 10:26 PM.
  #5  
Old 07-20-2018, 11:13 PM
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1) At least it wasn't the CVT.
2) Maybe was lost in a time travel experiment. Most people that own the Vues drive the wheels off them. But every owner is different
3) 2004 was the first model year with the Honda engines and tranny's for the V6s.
4) Further rooting around indicates that for 2002 and 2003 only, they used the L81 V6 they had been using in the L series, paired with an Aisin F33 5 speed Automatic.
I believe Andy is a tad familiar with the L series and hope he has a chance to chime in.
5) I can't help but wonder if that rust is on a vital frame member that would make it unsafe or make it fail inspection, though not all of Ohio has them. Maybe someone towed it behind an RV when they used it and it got hit with road splash in that one spot.
6) Take a step back and realize the likely unavailability of underthehood and body parts. Andy rebuilds wounded L cars. He does pretty much all of his own work, including total engine teardowns and rebuilds.

7) Aftermarket support for Sattys was never strong. The vehicle is an L300 V6 in a Vue body, and that combo of tranny and engine was only out there for 2 years. That tranny was not used in the L series. I think it was in the Ion. But that makes the wiring harness in that Vue rare as hell, for example.

Not being all negative to scare you. Just pointing out the potential difficulties you may run into buying such an old vehicle. If you have the knowledge and know how to scavenge parts from parts cars, then maybe consider.

But for $5k, I'll sell you both my 95 and 97 Saturn SC2s. Fk blue book on a 13 yr old car. $1995 w a 1/12,000 Warranty. And get the rust inspected by a shop that performs inspections to see if it will fail a safety inspection.
 

Last edited by derf; 07-20-2018 at 11:15 PM.
  #6  
Old 07-21-2018, 02:05 PM
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So the 2003 is an L-Series in Vue body with only 2-years of production and unique components. Could be a decent car without any major common fatal flaws, but may have difficulty with inevitable repairs...

The mechanic just called me back about the 2006 Vue 5-speed manual. It has 68,000 miles on it. He said he replaced the starter, spark plugs, fly wheel, clutch assembly, rotors and pads. Any thoughts on this one vs. the 2003 automatic? I haven't seen it in person.

Thanks again,
N
 
  #7  
Old 07-21-2018, 04:38 PM
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2006:

Clutch and flywheel at 65k? Might have been someone's first manual.....starter and brakes to ensure you can start and stop. Piece of mind for both of you. What's the title history?

If this is a shady operation, mechanic could be feeding you a line of shayt to make you think they carefully went over it. If it is a shady operation why are we even discussing it?

Note how overpriced this makes the 2003 look, as I already pointed out. They are both overpriced.
 
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Old 07-21-2018, 06:22 PM
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Is the stick shift one a 4 cylinder fwd? If so that is a much better car.
 
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Old 07-23-2018, 04:46 PM
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Thank you friends.

From what I can tell, the 2006 Vue is 2WD 2.2L MFI DOHC 4cyl. VIN #5GZCZ23D26S832514.

I haven't been able to learn much of the title history. The mechanic says he doesn't know any of the vehicle's history.
I don't know the mechanic at all, and I don't know how to discern his reputation via internet reviews. He has some negative reviews, but it seems like the complainers may not be very well educated and his responses to them all seem very fair.
 
  #10  
Old 07-23-2018, 04:47 PM
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PS -- My Ranger blew its transmission yesterday, so I'm back to "urgent car buyer" mode.
 

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