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Thread: "Service" warning?

  1. #1
    DonTom
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    "Service" warning?

    On the drive back from our Reno home today, at near the summit, my "Service" light went on ( in my 1996 Saturn SL2, 1.9L, manual 5 speed tranny) near the summit on highway 80 at 7,200 feet. I had no idea what this meant, as I never noticed I had such an indicator. This is NOT a "Service Engine Soon" as that's on another lamp. I continued to drive with this on for about 50 miles until I got to the Gold Run Rest Area at about 3,000 feet elevation.

    I had my owner's manual with me, so I looked it up. It only says this is to show various malfunctions that are [size=20pt] NOT
    related to emissions.

    Anyway, after I restarted the engine, the "Service" light went out and it never came on again in the 150 miles home.

    But does anybody have any guesses on what can cause such a "service" malfunction indicator to light up?

    If it ever comes on again, I guess I will have to look it up in one of my dozen or so Saturn Shop manuals. It ran fine when the light was on and all other indicators were normal.

    -Don- (back in SSF)
    [/size]

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Maybe it's an idiot light back-up for one of the analog gauges? Did you notice any change/fluctuation in the oil/temp/volts readings? First thing(s) I'd do would be check the oil level, coolant level and automatic transmission fluid levels; after that, I'd watch all the gauges carefully for any signs of a problem, such as low oil pressure, higher-than-normal operating temperature, low volts, etc.

  3. #3
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Maybe it's an idiot light back-up for one of the analog gauges? Did you notice any change/fluctuation in the oil/temp/volts readings? First thing(s) I'd do would be check the oil level, coolant level and automatic transmission fluid levels; after that, I'd watch all the gauges carefully for any signs of a problem, such as low oil pressure, higher-than-normal operating temperature, low volts, etc.


    In the previous message, I mentioned I checked all the gauges and that this car is a manual tranny. Everything else was normal. Oil level was to the "full" line when I left Reno. This Saturn has a separate lamp for low coolant level.

    The fact that it never came on again makes me think it's just a fluke. If it is a low level indicator of any type, it's rather doubtfull that the indicator would stay out for the last 150 miles. The car was fully warmed up when it came on as it came on after a 60 mile drive to the summit, so it's unlikely that the level expanded with heat (such as happens with some fluids) to keep the "service" light out later.

    Let me see if I can find my Saturn manuals here. BTW, there are 13 (yes, 13!. And they are all fairly thick!) factory manuals to the set for the 1996 Saturn. I have the complete set. Let me see what I can find:

    Well, I just wasted ten minutes checking in the "powertrain" manual. All I could find is that a scan tool is needed to get the "service" code from the PCM (Power Control Module). It gave no clue what could cause the "service" light to come on other than it's not related to emissions (just as the owner's manual said).

    I think it's best that I just forget about it, at least until it lights up again.

    BTW, the 13 manuals for this car along with them only saying a scan tool is needed to retrieve the code is starting to make me a bit technophobic too!

    -Don- (SSF, CA)


  4. #4
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Maybe it's an idiot light back-up for one of the analog gauges? Did you notice any change/fluctuation in the oil/temp/volts readings? First thing(s) I'd do would be check the oil level, coolant level and automatic transmission fluid levels; after that, I'd watch all the gauges carefully for any signs of a problem, such as low oil pressure, higher-than-normal operating temperature, low volts, etc.


    In the previous message, I mentioned I checked all the gauges and that this car is a manual tranny. Everything else was normal. Oil level was to the "full" line when I left Reno. This Saturn has a separate lamp for low coolant level.

    The fact that it never came on again makes me think it's just a fluke. If it is a low level indicator of any type, it's rather doubtfull that the indicator would stay out for the last 150 miles. The car was fully warmed up when it came on as it came on after a 60 mile drive to the summit, so it's unlikely that the level expanded with heat (such as happens with some fluids) to keep the "service" light out later.

    Let me see if I can find my Saturn manuals here. BTW, there are 13 (yes, 13!. And they are all fairly thick!) factory manuals to the set for the 1996 Saturn. I have the complete set. Let me see what I can find:

    Well, I just wasted ten minutes checking in the "powertrain" manual. All I could find is that a scan tool is needed to get the "service" code from the PCM (Power Control Module). It gave no clue what could cause the "service" light to come on other than it's not related to emissions (just as the owner's manual said).

    I think it's best that I just forget about it, at least until it lights up again.

    BTW, the 13 manuals for this car along with them only saying a scan tool is needed to retrieve the code is starting to make me a bit technophobic too!

    -Don- (SSF, CA)


    I'm glad the only "lights" I have to worry about my car are: BRAKE, OIL and GEN.

  5. #5
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    "I'm glad the only "lights" I have to worry about my car are: BRAKE, OIL and GEN."

    Most of the idiot lights in the newer cars that you do NOT have are the ones that would tell you stuff that yours would not. IOW, if I have a problem such as a lean mixture, I get a warning before it can cause a more serious problem. You just won't know.

    And many of the idiot lights in newer cars can be ignored as they are simply telling you stuff older cars wouldn't.

    If you need to have a smog test, then some codes might be more important.

    -Don-

  6. #6
    MikeHalloran
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    I think a 96 Saturn should have an OBD-II connector. I think it has 16 positions (not all populated) in two rows, and is usually located under the dash near the steering column.

    It may be time to buy an OBD-II reader. It will at least give you a clue about what's going on.




  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    [[/quote]


    I'm glad the only "lights" I have to worry about my car are: BRAKE, OIL and GEN.
    [/quote]

    Amen!

    Now, my '76 Trans-Am has a full array of gauges (unusual for the time), including Temp, Volts and Oil Pressure. That's really all that's necessary; the only one(s) that you might want to add are: auto trans temp and oil temp. The rest (on a modern car) is just electronic/emissions flapdoodle!

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "I'm glad the only "lights" I have to worry about my car are: BRAKE, OIL and GEN."

    Most of the idiot lights in the newer cars that you do NOT have are the ones that would tell you stuff that yours would not. IOW, if I have a problem such as a lean mixture, I get a warning before it can cause a more serious problem. You just won't know.

    And many of the idiot lights in newer cars can be ignored as they are simply telling you stuff older cars wouldn't.

    If you need to have a smog test, then some codes might be more important.

    -Don-
    The "check engine" light in my '98 Nissan has remained on ever since the catastrophic converter was removed. Been running fine for the past two years~!

  9. #9
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    "It may be time to buy an OBD-II reader. It will at least give you a clue about what's going on"

    I own three OBD2 readers. They are used for omission related stuff only and this is NOT an omission problem.

    A more expensive diagnostic tool might be required, which often cost as much as the vehicle you're trying to test.

    -Don-

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "It may be time to buy an OBD-II reader. It will at least give you a clue about what's going on"

    I own three OBD2 readers. They are used for omission related stuff only and this is NOT an omission problem.

    A more expensive diagnostic tool might be required, which often cost as much as the vehicle you're trying to test.

    -Don-
    Yet another reason to throw OBD down the well!

  11. #11
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    "The "check engine" light in my '98 Nissan has remained on ever since the catastrophic converter was removed. Been running fine for the past two years~!"

    You cannot do that in the Reno area or almost anywhere in CA, because of the smog tests.

    -Don-

  12. #12
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    "Yet another reason to throw OBD down the well!"

    I have always figured out the problem where I really needed to, even when I didn't have the perfect diagnostic tool for the job.

    It's a lot easier to fix things when you're not too technophobic!

    -Don-

  13. #13
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "The "check engine" light in my '98 Nissan has remained on ever since the catastrophic converter was removed. Been running fine for the past two years~!"

    You cannot do that in the Reno area or almost anywhere in CA, because of the smog tests.

    -Don-
    No smog tests here! ;D

  14. #14
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "It may be time to buy an OBD-II reader. It will at least give you a clue about what's going on"

    I own three OBD2 readers. They are used for omission related stuff only and this is NOT an omission problem.

    A more expensive diagnostic tool might be required, which often cost as much as the vehicle you're trying to test.

    -Don-
    In some parts of the US you can find OBD-II 'kiosks' where for a fee they'll tell you what any codes mean.
    http://www.iamsam.com/

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  15. #15
    mrblanche
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    No smog tests here! ;D
    Yet.

  16. #16
    mrblanche
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    OK, let's look at what might be indicated by the light (assuming it's not turned on by the odometer at some regular interval, such as 50,000 miles).

    You had just made a long, fairly hard climb. It could be that the transmission was overwarm, and I'm pretty sure most cars have a sensor for that, so they know when to kick in the full shift program.


  17. #17
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    OK, let's look at what might be indicated by the light (assuming it's not turned on by the odometer at some regular interval, such as 50,000 miles).

    You had just made a long, fairly hard climb. It could be that the transmission was overwarm, and I'm pretty sure most cars have a sensor for that, so they know when to kick in the full shift program.

    Is there a "full shift program" for manual transmission?

  18. #18
    mrblanche
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    Ah, I see I did overlook that little point.

    But I suppose there could still be a temp sensor there.

    Another possibility is something related to a cooling system, such as an auxiliary fan or some such thing.

    As Don noted elsewhere, anything that needs a 13-volume service manual could have any number of unknown sensors. (After all, how many drivers know there is a sensor to determine if the gas cap is in place?)

  19. #19
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    I was wrong about there being 13 manuals for my 1996 Saturn. I miscounted. There are 14 manuals (15 if we count the owner's manual). They are:

    1. Powertrain Controls
    2. Engine Fuel/intake/Exhaust
    3. Automatic Transaxle
    4. Manual Transaxle & Clutch
    5. Chassis
    6, Brakes
    7. HVAC
    8.Body Repair
    9.Body/Collision
    10.Electrical
    11. Audio & I/P
    12. SIR (Supplemental Inflatable Restraint, IE. "air bags"
    13.Special Tools
    14.General Information & specs/fasteners
    (15. Owner's manual)

    Total weight of these 14 manuals is a little more than 30 lbs.

    Anyway, I checked the schematic to see where the "Service" warning comes form. It comes from the PCM, just as does the "Service Engine Soon". However, I think I figured our what the Service light does. It shows problems such as "cruise control" (P158x) or even remote keyless entry (P1695 or P1696). Since all these codes come from the PCM, they start with "P" just as with the codes for the smog stuff.

    -Don- (SSF)

  20. #20
    DonTom
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    Re: "Service" warning?

    "But I suppose there could still be a temp sensor there. "

    There is a code for "transaxle" temperature that would activate the "Service" light. The book doesn't say if that's for the automatic transaxle only or not. But I suppose if it includes the manual tranny, that could have been the code I had as I was climbing a lot of hills juts before then. There are many codes that can activate the "Service" light. All these codes come from the PCM , but they have a separate "Service Engine Soon" indicator for the codes that are smog related.

    BTW, I drove the Saturn to Reno and back since then and the "Service" light never came on again. I have drove about a thousand miles since that "Service" light came on and it never came back on.

    BTW, since the "Service" code is a "P" and comes from the PCM I did try to use a code reader and see if there was a code in memory. No codes in memory.

    -Don- (SSF


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