I just bought a 2000 Saturn LW1 6 weeks ago. It has a L4 2.2 Liter engine with 200,000 miles on it. After 3 weeks out of the country I came back and started it up. Was a little rough then smoothed out. I just changed parking spots. Did this one more time. The third time starting it up it would not fire. No strange noises, just no running engine. I suspected bad ignition coil. I had just changed the spark plugs before my trip and they had about 50 miles on them. Ignition coil was fine at all four points using a ignition tester. I even put new plugs in again. Fuel rail has the specified 60 PSI. Theorizing that may the fuel injectors were shut down i tried starter spray in the air intake. The motor will not fire. A compression test with a gauge picked up at advance gave me less than 10 PSI on the two outer cylinders and about 24 on the two inner. The Haynes manual is very unhelpful and only states for compression specs. that the lowest compression cylinder value should be no less that 70% of the highest compression cylinder value.
I read on-line (http://www.saturnfans.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1781795) the same but that no cylinder should be less than 100 PSI. While cranking the engine there was some light smoke visible behind the engine above the exhaust manifold, but unable to determine the source.
My question is: are you aware of catastrophic head gasket failures on these engines? I am surprised that the engine will not fire at all even if the head gasket does have a problem. I have removed the valve cover and see that the timing chain is still there and working.
When I changed the plugs last month I applied anti-seize thread sealant to the plugs as instructed in the manual. I am now having wild imaginings that the anti-seize thread sealant got into the cylinders and impregnated the gasket and is somehow responsible for this catastrophic failure. I am going to tear into the engine tomorrow and try to replace the head gasket, because i need to get this car running again ASAP. I am being hopeful and unrealistically optimistic that I cold get some input/ thoughts from you before morning when I start this laborious task…