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Old 11-23-2005, 10:24 AM   #1
Susansuth
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1999 SL2
Wrench Serpentine Belt Replacement?

I have a Saturn SL2 1999 Model Year. It's nearing 100,000 miles, and I've been making a lot of repairs this year. Not wholly unexpected, but it's a little draining on my pocketbook (especially since I have very little mechanical skills. ).

Anyway...I went in for the GM Owner Appreciation free oil change and 25 point checkup. And, of course, they found things wrong. (They always do.)

One was leakage at the engine gasket. I've put it on my "to be repaired" list, but I'm hoping I can get my regular mechanic to fix it for less than Saturn's quoted price of $160.

My other recommended replacement was the serpentine belt. I know I have had the serpentine belt replaced previously, a couple of years ago. How often is a serpentine belt supposed to be replaced? Are there any guidelines for this?

Another small question I have - the light behind my odometer has gone out and I'm having a lot of difficulty reading the mileage. Is there some easy way to replace this lightbulb? Or is this a "tear apart the entire dashboard to get to the odometer lightbulb" kind of thing? I managed to do some simple light bulb replacement myself previously on my car, and I'd like to be able to do it myself this time as well, but I'm a little leery of doing anything that involves ripping apart the dashboard.

Any help/advice would be appreciated.

Susan

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Old 11-23-2005, 11:01 AM   #2
OU812
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

The other day i brought my 97 SW2 to Strauss for an oil change, they told me i needed a serpentine belt and gave me a price of 130.00. I think the belt is 15.00. I then called a Saturn dealer and got a price of $70.00 go figure.

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Old 11-23-2005, 11:36 AM   #3
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Its interesting. In the "old days" we used to replace belts and hoses all the time. It seems like something signifiant happened with rubber technology in the last 10 years because its been a long time since I've seen a belt or hose blow out like they used to.
I would inspect the belt yourself, sometimes the dealers will just automatically say to replace it. I would look for cracking or splitting on the back (smooth) side of the belt. Cranks in the ribs on the bottom are normal and ok. If I didn't see any cracking, and if you've already replaced the belt once, I wouldn't worry about it.
Replacing the belt either requires removing the right front wheel or requires a special tool that will reach down and remove the tension. I actually have 4 different types of these tools since each car seem to be a little different.

-Robert

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Old 11-23-2005, 12:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

"Engine gasket" doesn't mean anything, as there are several, with difficulty and expense ranging from A to Z. Find out exactly which gasket they're talking about, and we can elaborate on whether it's a DIY.

Look at the inside of the serp belt, at the ribs. Is it excessively shiny (glazed), compared to a new one? Are there a lot of little cracks (a few cracks are acceptable)?

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Old 11-23-2005, 12:25 PM   #5
Susansuth
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Thank you for the help and advice so far!

From what I understand, it's the camshaft engine gasket. The Saturn report says "Cam cover leaking. Replace gasket."

Does that help?

Thanks for taking the time to help me figure things out.

I'm kind of a mechanical know-NOT.

Susan

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Old 11-23-2005, 12:42 PM   #6
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

The cam cover gasket can be fixed with a $3 tube of RTV silicone. It's not a gasket per se but a smear of goo. Search this board for cam cover gasket for a wealth of info and how-to.

The serpentine belt can be replaced rather easily, easier than changing a tire even, from above through the open hood with a bit of coordination. Think back to fixing bike chains over all those sprockets and derailers... remember that springy derailer? You have a similarly springy belt tensioner. Again, excellent instructions on this site. Buy a belt from a store that will let you return it if you get in over your head. A diagram of how the belt goes over and under the pulleys is printed right smack dab on the "powertrain module" sticker under the hood.

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Old 11-23-2005, 01:27 PM   #7
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by eljefino
The cam cover gasket can be fixed with a $3 tube of RTV silicone. It's not a gasket per se but a smear of goo. Search this board for cam cover gasket for a wealth of info and how-to.
Eljefino, she posted that it's a '99, so it's an actual gasket, not just the goo. The "goo as gasket" only applied to gen 1 (up to '95) engines.

Susan, the cam cover (aka valve cover) is the black nylon rectangularish thing that says "Saturn" across the top of the engine. The four spark plug wires go thru the middle of it. It's bolted gently to the top of the cylinder head, and oil sloshes beneath it to lubricate the camshafts, etc. The gasket, between the cover and the head, keeps the oil in (until it fails). To replace it, you'll need the gasket set, which includes the four rings for the spark plug holes, as well as the RTV silicone. In any event, it's not a hard job, just a bit time-consuming, as it's important to get the last bit of old silicone off the cylinder head and cam cover. And eljefino is correct, that the how-to section here will have a thread covering the procedure.

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Old 11-23-2005, 05:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by eljefino
The cam cover gasket can be fixed with a $3 tube of RTV silicone. It's not a gasket per se but a smear of goo. Search this board for cam cover gasket for a wealth of info and how-to.

The serpentine belt can be replaced rather easily, easier than changing a tire even, from above through the open hood with a bit of coordination. Think back to fixing bike chains over all those sprockets and derailers... remember that springy derailer? You have a similarly springy belt tensioner. Again, excellent instructions on this site. Buy a belt from a store that will let you return it if you get in over your head. A diagram of how the belt goes over and under the pulleys is printed right smack dab on the "powertrain module" sticker under the hood.
Unless she buys a belt tool, I would say she has zero chance of being able to do this. Even at that, I have 4 belt tools and usually find only 1 of them works for a given application. If she just has basic tools, the only way she'll be able to replace the belt is by exercising the tensor from behind the right front wheel.
Sometimes a job seems very easy when you have the tools.

-Robert

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Old 11-23-2005, 06:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

What exactly is a belt tool?

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Old 11-23-2005, 08:07 PM   #10
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OU812
What exactly is a belt tool?
Its a long (about 3-4') thin (about 1/4") piece of metal that can an adaptor on the end that fits on the tensor. Although the belt tensor can be released with a simple socket (14mm as I recall) a regular socket wrench is **WAY** too big to fit in the small area between the tensor and the side wall of the car. These tools are amazingly simple and amazingly expensive. I paid between $50-$60 each for mine. They are usually designed with multiple adjustable bends in them to get around small places. Once you get that tool on the tensor, you can easily remove the belt. Without that tool, the only chance you ever have of getting at the tensor is behind the right wheel. I would estimate you have about 3/4" space available (so you can see a regular socket wrench would never fit).

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Old 11-23-2005, 08:21 PM   #11
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue
Eljefino, she posted that it's a '99, so it's an actual gasket, not just the goo. The "goo as gasket" only applied to gen 1 (up to '95) engines.
DISAGREE - Any gasket CAN be replaced with a RTV silicone gasket. My gasket for my valve cover was recommended a quark gasket, but i was not able to find one in the city ( RECOMMENDED BY SATURN OF REGENT) The Gasket for the valve cover can be replcaed by either or.

...
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Old 11-23-2005, 09:31 PM   #12
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue
Eljefino, she posted that it's a '99, so it's an actual gasket, not just the goo. The "goo as gasket" only applied to gen 1 (up to '95) engines.
Well, maybe not the right way, and I didn't know any better, but the goo worked for my 97 SW2. Not leaking anymore. Now that I know a real gasket is available, I'll probably switch to that once/if it starts leaking again.

...
1997 Saturn SW2

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Old 11-23-2005, 09:38 PM   #13
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

a normal 14mm wrench works fine for replacing the serpentine belt. I've done it several times on my 92 SC and 96 SC2 without and problem reaching my arm in there. make sure the engine is COLD before doing it.

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Old 11-23-2005, 10:26 PM   #14
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

It's shameful that anyone would charge $130, or even $70, to change this belt. My last one took me like 5 minutes. Which brings up the point that you can save TONS of money doing your own car repairs.

Susan, if you are willing, there are many things you can do yourself. Just in the past few months since I started following the forum, there have been several people with little or no experience who started fixing their own cars. Fellow posters answered their questions about what kind of tools to buy and what to look for in investigating different problems they were having, and most were successful. A good place to start is picking up a Haynes or Chilton's manual for your car (Haynes is good for pictures) at a parts store or Amazon and reading through the periodic maintenance section.

...
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Old 11-23-2005, 11:22 PM   #15
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by eRic 02sc2
a normal 14mm wrench works fine for replacing the serpentine belt. I've done it several times on my 92 SC and 96 SC2 without and problem reaching my arm in there. make sure the engine is COLD before doing it.
This I'd like to see. I have a 96 SC2 manual tranny. I would estimate there to be about 1/2" of clearance in which to put your tool. The clearance is close enough that a standard short socket won't even fit in there, I had to get a stubby socket for my belt tool.

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Old 11-24-2005, 12:45 AM   #16
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

I use a 14 mm wrench evey time I replace a serpentine belt.

The cost to replace the belt should be 0.40 of an hour labour.

0.40 times the hourly door rate of the shop = $ labour.

Plus the cost of the belt.


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Old 11-24-2005, 12:58 AM   #17
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Why quibble over whether a socket will fit on the tensioner, when the appropriate tool for such a narrow space would be a box-end or open-end wrench? A pipe of sufficient length (exhaust pipe, or an old vacuum cleaner hose pipe) slipped over the end for leverage and reach will do it. That's how I did it the first time. The second time was even easier, because I had the top engine mount off (two-for-one repair session).

About the gasket, the nylon valve covers have a "trough" for the gasket molded into them. The gasket has a round cross-section that fits into that trough all the way around. Same goes for the spark plug holes. I def'ly wouldn't trust the RTV-only solution for them, and that's likely where her problem is.

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Old 11-25-2005, 10:59 AM   #18
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertGary1
This I'd like to see. I have a 96 SC2 manual tranny. I would estimate there to be about 1/2" of clearance in which to put your tool. The clearance is close enough that a standard short socket won't even fit in there, I had to get a stubby socket for my belt tool.
They're talking about a normal, box-end or open-end wrench, which are thinner than a socket wrench.

A 14-mm box-end wrench does just fine, especially if fitted with a piece of pipe as an extension bar. No special tool is absolutely required.

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Old 11-25-2005, 05:10 PM   #19
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Oddly the saturn engine mounts are not too particular as to where they locate the powertrain laterally. That is, one car might have an inch of clearance by the pulleys while another has two. This is especially true once the top axis is removed and the engine is sitting in three dogbones and on top of a jack under the oil pan.

One can carefully, gingerly, stick a 2x4 in and pry the motor over towards the driver's side. They should, of course, not be in a situation where the engine can slip and crush their hands.

Once one does the serpentine belt once, they can do it again in less space.

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Old 11-28-2005, 12:27 PM   #20
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Default Re: Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Thank you guys, so much, for the help! I really appreciate it.

I am definitely going to take your advice and take a look around the forums to see what I can do myself to try to learn how to do some of my own repairs. I've always wanted to learn, but have shied away because I'm not very mechanically/spatially oriented, have a lot of trouble gauging spatial things correctly, that kind of thing.

But it really does suck to know enough that you're being taken advantage of and charged exorbitant amounts just because they can and they know that you can't. *sigh*

Knowledge is power, I suspect.

Thank you for the advice and suggestions. I'm going to check on Amazon to see if I can locate one of those repair books. I had one for my old Dodge Omni (that seemed to lose pieces of the car just by driving down the street! LOL!) and I'm sure they must have one for the Saturn line.

Thanks again, guys.

Susan

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