How to Change the Coolant in a Saturn SL1

by Jody L. Campbell

Changing the coolant in your Saturn SL1 is part of the scheduled maintenance routine. Depending on how much you drive the car, the SL1 should have the coolant replaced every two to three years for optimal performance. Although it's a messy job, you can save a lot of money on labor by doing it yourself.

Park the SL1 on a ground surface suitable for lifting. Do not allow the SL1 to run for any length of time before attempting to change the coolant. If it has run for more than five minutes, allow at least 30 minutes for the system to cool down, longer if the Saturn is at full operating temperature. The best time to change the coolant is before starting the car for the day.

Release the hood latch and open the hood.

Lift the front ends up with a floor jack. Place the lifting cup of the jack on the upper pinch panel and place a floor jack under the frame rail on both sides of the SL1. Remove the jack.

Grab the pliers and the drain bucket and crawl under the front of the Saturn. Locate the petcock valve of the radiator along the bottom rail of the radiator. Position the drain bucket beneath the petcock valve and turn the valve counterclockwise to open. Use pliers, if necessary. Coolant will begin trickling immediately. Loosen the valve as much as you can or remove it altogether.

Loosen the lower radiator hose clamp--with a screwdriver or pliers--and remove the lower radiator hose from the radiator.

Crawl out from under the SL1 and locate the radiator cap. Remove the radiator cap from the top of the radiator fill neck. This will allow an air vent to purge out more coolant from the radiator. Squeeze the upper radiator hose to purge as much fluid from it into the radiator and then allow it to trickle out at the bottom.

Use a garden hose to flush into the radiator to help rinse it out, if desired. Note how full the drain bucket is getting down below and what containers you have to pour the spent coolant into for proper disposal.

Siphon the coolant from the overflow reservoir is desired, then rinse that out with water as well. Siphon the water out when done rinsing.

Crawl under and replace the lower radiator hose connection and clamp. Replace or tighten the petcock valve, then lower the vehicle.

Place a funnel into the radiator neck and fill the radiator with global coolant that is premixed or broken down with equal parts coolant and water. Saturns call for Dex-cool, which is fine, but global coolant has been created to work in virtually any vehicle. Top off the overflow reservoir to the full line.

Run the SL1 with the radiator cap off to allow the air to bleed from the radiator. As the Saturn heats up to running temperature, it will suck in coolant, requiring more to be added as it purges air pockets from the radiator, spilling some of the coolant in the process. Place the drain bucket below the radiator neck to catch the spillage. Add more coolant as necessary. Once the temperature gauge on the dash indicates 190 degrees F--or normal--replace the radiator cap and allow the Saturn to run for another 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge to make sure it does not overheat.

Test drive the SL1 for five to 10 miles, keeping an eye on the temperature gauge.

Allow the SL1 to cool again after arriving back. Recheck and adjust the coolant level, if required, in both the radiator and the overflow reservoir.

Warning

  • close Be sure to clean any spilled coolant from the ground. Coolant has a sweet smell and taste that can attract pets, other animals or even small children. It is highly toxic. Rinse down the work area thoroughly with the garden hose when you're done.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.