Saturn SL2 transmission

I have a 2001 Saturn SL2 purchased new at the time and it’s served me well over the years. Recently though, the transmission (automatic) has gotten very clunky as it’s switching gears and when I’m in reverse. I’ve done some reading and it seems this is a common problem with Saturns. I read somewhere that someone flushed out all of the transmission fluid and replaced it with synthetic fluid which helped at least for the short term. I know nothing about cars. What I do know is we recently replaced my husband’s car and can’t do 2 car payments. On the other hand, the cost of having to replace the transmission may not be worth the value of the car. Anyone know if flushing out the fluid may help or any other suggestions? Thanks!

It would be helpful to know how many miles are on it.

Flushing/replacing the fluid might help, but it’s not likely to. If it does help, it will probably be temporary.

In considering your options, think of the transportation value of having your car’s tranny repaired. You’re not fixing it to turn around and sell it, you would be fixing it to be able to use it. Would that money be better spent to fix this car, or to buy its replacement?

Shoulda went with the manual transmission. I just hit 270,000 miles in my 2002 SL, myself. Zero engine or transmission issues since I bought it in October of 2001. :wink:

Anyway, the blue book value of your 2001 SL2 with standard options in very good condition is around $500. This varies based on mileage and your zip code, but I doubt it varies enough to make it worth replacing the transmission. You could get a much newer, better used car for the price of fixing this one. Unless you’re sentimental about this car. (My Saturn was the first new car I ever bought. I doubt I’ll sell it, but I can’t imagine driving it regularly for much longer.)

You bring up some very good points. It has about 92,000 miles on it btw

were going through something similar for a 2008 ford focus …its between 23-2800 for a transmission

that’s more than what we owe for the car and we don’t have that kind of cash in one place but the dealer says its under Toyotas "drive forever warrany " So it might not cost that much or even be totally covered …

A problem with the way most places flush an automatic transmission is that they don’t clean or replace the filter. If the filter is dirty, fresh fluid isn’t going to help much. You might be better off having someone dropping the transmission pan and inspecting the filter. When putting it back together, you’ll need to put in about a third of the fluid inside the transmission. Most of the fluid is trapped in the torque converter and other parts of the transmission.

Nonsense. The filter only collects bits of metal and its not going to be more than s slightly laden.The filter is only going to be collecting the metal left in it from manufacturing process or a repair job , hence the lack of anything to contaminate it…

Its not a dust/particulate filter like an air filter or oil filter. its actually just a metal screen that is only getting millimetre sized bits ( or larger.)
What happens is that transmission fluid does get old, irrespective of mileage.
When its burnt or old or polluted due to mileage, it turns to a bit of a jelly like substance. The transmission works on hydraulic pressure and the jelly makes the change slow … too slow and its clunky. its “out of order”.

When new, transmission fluid contains a detergent to eat up any sludge and jelly

practical upshot… yes its time to replace the transmission fluid, and the new fluid is able to dissolve sludge and jelly build up that “won’t drain”.

Thanks all!

The filter also collects non-metallic particles from the clutch plates and bands as they wear. Filters can get clogged, although it’s not common.

Not all transmission filters are metal screens, some use material akin to paper or cloth. All transmission filters will stop particles significantly smaller than one millimeter.

It does not deteriorate simply from age and irrespective of mileage. It mainly breaks down from heat. Synthetic transmission fluids are quite a bit more resistant to heat breakdown than conventional fluids, hence longer service intervals in later model cars.

No it doesn’t. It can form varnish deposits that may affect performance, but if anything it gets less viscous, not more viscous like jelly.

Up until a couple years ago my daily driver was a 2000 SL2 w/ automatic transmission.

The transmission was a problem ever since I bought it. When I put it in reverse, it wouldn’t go into gear unless I revved the engine a little. And it never shifted quite right.

So I first did what’s called the “reverse slam” procedure: I changed the transmission filter and fluid, backed the car into a tree, and let it idle in reverse for an hour. It seemed to help somewhat, but eventually the problems came back.

I drove the car for a few more months. And then one day the transmission was stuck in 1st gear. :frowning: I did some research and ended up replacing the “valve body”, which is a $200 part that sits on top of the transmission. It was a pretty simple job (couple hours), and the transmission shifted perfectly after that. :slight_smile:

So here are my suggestions:

  1. Do the “reverse slam” procedure. Some Saturn owners swear by it.

  2. If #1 doesn’t help, determine if there is a good chance the valve body is the problem based on the symptoms. (To do this, I would suggest joining some online Saturn forums. Do some searches on threads with the word “transmission” in the title. Read, read, read. And then make some posts.) Replace the valve body if it sounds like it’s bad.

If #1 and #2 doesn’t work, enter it in a demolition derby. :slight_smile: