The engine timing chain used in the Saturn L-Series equipped with a 2.2 liter engine is under investigation again at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and consumers tell ConsumerAffairs.com the problem may also affect some Saturn Vue models.

The safety agency previously recalled 20,500 Saturn vehicles because of a faulty timing chain. The Saturns involved in the first recall were manufactured November 2000 and February 2001.

At the time, NHTSA stated that "timing chain failure could result in engine stall while driving with no chance for a restart."

Now the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) at the federal agency reports that "the timing chain assembly used in the recalled vehicles was also used in approximately 391,00 other model year 1999 through 2003 Saturn L-Series vehicles with 2.2 liter engines." The recalled vehicles, according to NHTSA have "experienced and elevated spike in timing chain failures."

General Motors and NHTSA have received 890 consumer complaints about timing chain failure in the Saturn L-Series. The automaker has repaired 2,932 vehicles under warranty because of timing chain failure.

Vue too?

Some consumers have told ConsumerAffairs.com of similar problems with their Saturn Vue SUVs.

Heather of Stratford, NY, said her Vue lost power while driving at highway speed in January 2007, leaving her, her three children under six and her mother shivering at the side of the road..

"I was told my timing chain went and completely destroyed my motor, since it was a zero tolerance engine," she said.

Erin of Garden Grove, Calif., said she had to purchase a new engine after her Vue's timing chain broke at 38,000 miles.

North Carolinians complain

The renewed NHTSA investigation was prompted in part by a complaint May 22 from the North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC).

The group submitted a defect petition to safety regulators urging an expanded Saturn L-Series recall "to include all model year 1999 through 2003 Saturn L-Series vehicles with 2.2 liter engines." NCCC reported a continuing stream of consumer complaints about timing chain failures "in vehicles built outside the production range covered by the recall" previously ordered by NHTSA.

NCCC told the agency that the initial recall should should be modified to "include all vehicles built with the original timing chain part."

NHTSA has also received 51 new complaints from consumers experiencing a timing chain failure in the 1999 to 2003 Saturn L-Series.

As many as 412,000 Saturns manufactured between 1999 and 2002 could be affected by the investigation. They are the Saturn L-Series manufactured from 1999 to 2002, including the sedan, wagon, L200, L300, LS, LS300, LW300, LS1 and LS2.