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Solved: Saturn SL2 stalling problems

Updated on October 21, 2016

No codes or services lights, but the car randomly stalled

I have owned a 1999 Saturn SL2 going on a year and a half. Since the beginning it has had an issue or two, but last summer it developed a new one. If I drove to the store, went in and shopped for a bit, then went to pull out of the parking lot, the car would stall, but I could restart it before it would even stop coasting. Then I found it didn't happen as often if I kept the oil right at the top. Didn't really make sense, but hey it kept me going.

So when fall hit the issue seemed to go away, or so I thought. In the middle of December the temperatures warmed back up into the 60's for a day or two. I was out in heavy traffic, when bam the car stalled in the second lane, one car back from the stop light. Heavy traffic, uphill, and a bad battery. This time it didn't start right away, and the battery decided to discharge after only a couple of tries. Fortunately I got some help.

Is it the Water Temperature Sensor?

When I got back to the house, I started really seriously troubleshooting, and reading the forums. Which led me to check my Water Temperature Sensor. Thankfully I did it was bad, the factory original is ceramic, and they tend to split, giving false readings to the computer. Fortunately the replacement part at O'reilly's is brass should last the limited life that is left in this beast. After changing the Water Temperature Sensor, I was sure I had found the problem, I assumed, incorrectly, that it was sending such a fluctuating signal to the PCM that it decided to shut down.

Finally Figured it out

The following week on another warm day I was out in the midst of the Christmas shopping mayhem when I had to sit in traffic a bit to long and the car got pretty warm, when it died, so a little while later when having a conversation with the lady at O'reilly's she told me about how the Crankshaft Position Sensor had went out on their Plymouth and had the same symptons.

Well the very next day I pulled the CPS out and sure enough it had a barely noticed split. Being confident it was going to be the problem I had already purchased a replacement Crankshaft Position Sensor, and the weight difference was significant. The old one was completely full of oil, and weighed almost 3 times as much as the replacement.

The car has worked perfectly since.

7 Easy Steps to replace the PCM

How to replace the Crankshaft Position Sensor on a 1999 Saturn SL2

1. Disconnect the negative terminal (I know almost all repair guides say this, but here it is truly necessary, we will be working around the starter terminals which are exposed)

2. Jack both sides of the front end up and support on Jack Stands.

3. Armed with a 10mm socket and wrench slide under the front of the car until you can reach up behind the engine.

4. With one hand reach up and feel for the sensor that is connected to the top of the Crankshaft Position Sensor. Carefully disengage the plastic interlock and wiggle it off.

5. Feeling carefully with the wrench or socket, remove the 10mm bolt that is alongside the sensor.

6. Wiggle the sensor back and forth to work it free. It may be a little difficult but it will come out. there is a small o-ring that keeps the oil from leaking around it.
7. Reverse the Steps (Be sure and get the bolt snug, otherwise the o-ring won't seat and the engine won't fire). Don't forget to reconnect the battery!

Good Luck


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