Saturn

A Different Company

Welcome to the lemon yellow web page

(The car was black)

Buy American

Believe it or not, that is why my former wife purchased a brand new Saturn in 1993. Please note that this page defaults to their Aston Martin page and you will have to click on the "Saturn" link manually.  The car was ordered special.  A beautiful jet black SC-2 coupe.  It had an electric sun roof, tan leather seats, a great stereo with CD player, a fancy alarm system, and a 5 speed manual transmission.  A dream come true.  She waited four (4) weeks after ordering before it was delivered.

She was impressed with the "Saturn Family" feeling that you get.  It was so exciting when everybody in the sales office welcomed her to the family when she took delivery of her special ordered car.  They even sang the Saturn song for her.

Soon the dream turned into a nightmare.  A week after taking delivery, the car would not start.  We suspected the alarm system.  When you turn the ignition key, nothing would happen.  We called the alarm company, they sent someone out, but he could find nothing wrong.  Guess what?  The car started shortly after he arrived.

This problem continued, off and on, the entire time she has had the car.  That was just one minor problem, though.

At about 30,000 miles (all maintenance was done on time by Saturn and we have receipts) the engine began to burn about two quarts every 1,000 miles.  "Oh, that is normal" was the response we got from the service department at Saturn of the Valley in Sepulveda, California.  I didn't think that was right, but they are the trained technicians.

At about the same time the engine started overheating.  We would drive 25 to 30 miles one way to get the problem fixed.  We spelled out, in detail, what the symptoms were.  They would keep it one, two, or sometimes three days and could find nothing wrong.  We would pick up the car and it would overheat, on the freeway, before we got home.  We would take it back and they still could find nothing wrong.

Finally, we got in touch with the Saturn main office.  After explaining everything, we were told that the two quarts per 1,000 miles were excessive.  Saturn sent out a specialist and guess what?  It cost them about $3,000 to rebuild the engine at 70,000 miles.  Now, I'm talking about a car that was purchased new.  70,000 miles before it is rebuilt?  Saturn of the Valley had all the receipts for maintenance performed on the vehicle, so they didn't try to blame us.

Well, I guess you think that is the end of it?  Not quite.  We continue having electrical problems that seem to be related to the alarm system.  We can't get it disconnected because the company that Saturn of the Valley contracted to install and maintain it is now persona non grata.

We moved to Alaska and our daughter (20) took the car.  She still changes oil, etc. and takes good care of it.  Now, guess what?  It won't start.  It started running rough.  She took it to Saturn of the Valley and they wanted $800 to perform diagnostics on it.  I mean, that is a lot of money to ask before you can even tell what is wrong.  We are talking about a car that has roughly 104,000 miles on it and was rebuilt by factory trained personnel at 70,000 miles.

These are the problems that she told them she was having:

I contacted one of the service members that was in charge of the crew that is working on the car.  Let's just call him "Mario."  In the following conversations, "Q" is my dialogue and "A" is the other person.  These are not direct quotes but are to the best of my memory a short while after each conversation.  In a telephone conversation, "Mario" stated that the problems were as follows:

Now, that is a lot of stuff, but should it cost $800?  Well, I wrote these items down as I talked to "Mario" and I asked him about each one.

Q.  I see that the battery was shorted.  Do you mean that two of the cells were shorting out, or was something shorting the battery?
A.  I don't know.
Q.  Well, she had a battery in there that was a year old and is under warranty.  Don't you think that $141.66 is a little excessive to trade batteries just to run a diagnostic?
A.  Well, we will take the new battery out, but we will still have to charge her $60 for changing batteries.
Q.  OK, lets go on.  What kind of corrosion is on the distributor module and the plug wires?
A.  I don't know.
Q.  Well, I mean is it from battery acid, or what?
A.  It is from the climate. (I like this one because the car is in Southern California.  Also note that when originally asked what type of corrosion it was, he didn't know.)
Q.  What do you mean the climate?  The car is in Southern California.  It was in Alaska for about four months.
A.  Well, when is the last time YOU saw the car? (I imagine that this is aimed at: Your kid is misusing the car.)
Q.  January of this year.
A.  Oh.
Q.  Now, what I have a real problem with is the rocker cover gasket.  I can only see two things (actually 3) that could cause that.  Either you installed a faulty gasket when you rebuilt the engine 34,000 miles ago or the technician improperly torqued the engine.  (The third possibility came to me after the conversation.  Maybe when the engine was being overheated, the head warped.)
A.  No, it was not a bad gasket and it was torqued correctly.  (How can he be sure?)
Q.  What about the brake light problem?
A.  Well, I'm not going to charge her for that because the technician took it apart and it started working.
Q.  Wait a minute.  We have been complaining about the problems with the alarm system since we had that car.  Now you are telling me that the battery is bad, there is unknown corrosion on the distributor module and the inoperative brake light is mysteriously operating?  That alarm was put on by people you contracted to.

After a few more minutes, he gave me the toll free number to Saturn.  We talked to Saturn and they suggested I talk to "Lector" who is in charge of the service department.  That conversation went something like this:

Q.  I guess you have seen the complaints that I have and the records of the maintenance that was done on the car.
A.  We don't show any records after rebuilding the engine.
Q.  In that case, go open the glove box and pull them out.
A.  Well, the real problem is the EI module.  (I guess that is the electronic ignition.)  The EI module is set too low on Saturns, so it is susceptible to water damage.  That is not unusual.  The EI needs replacing and that is going to be about $400.
Q.  So what you are telling me is that there is an engineering problem with Saturns, but you want to charge us $400 for that?  If it is a known problem, why hasn't it been fixed.
A.  Well, I don't know about engineering and the car is out of warranty.
Q.  I understand that, but what I am asking you is this.  Do you really think it is right to have a customer buy a new car that you have to rebuild after 30,000 miles, then you ask an additional $800 30,000 miles later because of a "phantom" electrical problem and an engineering defect?  I have owned "throwaway" cars that I haven't invested that kind of money in.
A.  Well, sir, you are welcome to talk to Saturn.

Well, we got back to Saturn and they were not willing to stand behind their "different" kind of car.  We contacted a third party that inspected the vehicle and was able to fix it for $300.  He stated that all the problems he could see regarding the oil leakage and electrical problems was due to the leaking valve cover gasket.  He also stated that the EI module was fully functional.

You decide.


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