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Q: My SW-2 cooling systems troubles, need advice...? on 1998 Saturn SW2

1998 Saturn Wagon 2

For the last few months my car cooling system seems to be running hotter than normal per the dash gauge. For years and even the the summer the temp gauge would never get over 1/4. I need to add coolant to it now weekly but there is no leak. The engine just gets hot (the dash gauge only goes to 1/2) and losses fluid from Only the overflow tank. I have a new radiator, new hoses and a new thermostat (2). I put a temp gun on the lower hose and it is about 160-173 and the upper is about 180-193. At one time the lower hose was at 173 and the upper at 181 while the temp gauge on the dash was at 1/2 (high for my car). The temp gauge now always gets to 1/2 when for years it never passed 1/4. The coolant does not seem to overflow (do to high temp) unless I use the heater but I am still losing coolant weekly regardless. I water lever light comes on regardless about every other day. I only can add about 16oz of water (not really low). There is no leak in the system at all for sure! I used to be able to turn the AC on (only one fan for all) to get the fan to cool the motor when I did have a leak but now this does nothing to cool even when the fan is running... ? When the car was all good and would only get to 1/4 on the temp gauge it could set for 20 minutes and be back down to nothing (cold) even in the summer heat but now it takes 2 hours or more to sit and cool even in very cold weather. I know from this that the car is in fact hotter than normal. For years the gauge was at 1/4 and stayed put but now it never stays at 1/4 even in 30 degree weather. The thermostat is the second I have put in and there is only one model I can use and both open at the same temp because they are the same.

I want to think that the water pump is working, just very poorly and needs to be replaced but the cost is 300$ and I want to make sure it is this before I replace it.

Can anyone help me please, I never heard of a water pump broke or working poorly without a leak or noise. And my pump seems to be working but only at about 50% to 20% of what it should be, is this possible???

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Check your cooling fan ASAP. Does it come on if you let the car idle? You can test part of the cooling fan system buy turning on the A/C as well, but the cooling fan should turn on when the car idles for 1/2 an hour WITHOUT the A/C on as well. Saturns have a lot of trouble with their engine coolant sensor not turning on the cooling fan, so the car gets too hot. I would replace that with a factory sensor ASAP.
Cooling fan does come on for both AC and at temp about 180. The strange thing is, is that the fan never needed to run while driving about 45 mpr in 30 degree weather and the car temp gauge never got past 1/4 sitting idle even in the summer and this has been for the past 8 years. Now the gauge always seats at 1/2 even while moving fast in very cold weather. The overflow tanks will start to steam over while the gauge is at 1/2 but only 5% of the time though now the gauge reads 1/2 all the time after warm. The dash gauge shows the motor getting warmer faster than before as well as hotter over all from 1/4 to now 1/2.

On the bill for the last service on 01/07/2011 it states : "Remove and replace engine coolant temp sensor 50855 radiator fan switch" ( I am not sure if this was two parts or one part with labor?)

I have have a new radiator, hoses, thermostat and fan switch. Could my pump only be working but only at about 50% to 30% of what it should be, is this possible??? What is the chance of a clog in the coolant chambers of the motor? How can I tell for sure that the water pump is pumping well?

Sorry for so many questions and much thanks for your help!!!
Did you ever figure this problem out because mine is doing the same thing, and originally I thought I may have a hairline crack in the overflow tank but more recently I have also been leaning toward the water pump being the problem...Would love to know what ended up being the problem with yours and if I'm on the right track before I spend double the money on a replacement coolant reservoir.
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