Search For Used Cars

OUR CARS: SAAB 900 TURBO CONVERTIBLE

OUR CARS: SAAB 900 TURBO CONVERTIBLE

Posted by Matt Bell on 3rd January 2019

Taking the Saab over to Belgium to join up with a locally organised remembrance day tour resulted in our Saab 900 getting a bit hot under the collar.

To-do list:

Major repairs

• Sort out overheating issues ✔
• Rust near offside wishbone mount and floor pan corner
• Near side and offside door bottoms and openings rusting slightly
• Steering rack fluid leak
• Play in offside track rod end
• Various engine oil leaks
• Outer offside CV rubber boot split

Non-urgent repairs

• Driver’s seat belt frayed
• Central locking not working
• Cruise control inoperative (switch on stalk missing)
• Nearside window motor noisy
• Windscreen starting to delaminate in one corner
• Nearside door mirror case damaged
• Tweeters missing on dash vents
• Boot tool kit holder broken
• Nearside front indicator lens cracked
• Offside screen pillar trim out of line
• Internal door panel trims loose

Despite sorting out a bunch of corroded earth connections in our Saab’s engine bay, a rushed repair on what turned out to be a dodgy radiator fan ended up letting the car down on a recent trip to Belgium where we joined up with a group of local enthusiasts taking part in the 2018 Kemmel Historic World War One Flanders Fields tour.

The signs that things weren’t quite right in the Saab’s heating department became apparent on the way to the ferry port at Hull when the temperature gauge started to read higher than normal. As the traffic started to queue at the entrance to the port, the gauge ended up in the red and wisps of steam started to escape from under the Saab’s bonnet.

It was a good job we’d arrived at the port three hours before the ferry was due to sail to Zeebrugge and after allowing the Saab’s turbo-powered engine to cool down, we drove onto the ferry’s car deck and parked the 900 up for the night time crossing. A quick check the next morning revealed the electric radiator fan wasn’t working and even shorting out the relay in the fuse box failed to get a response from the fan.

Thankfully, we didn’t meet any traffic jams on our way to the hotel in Ypres and the Saab’s temperature gauge hovered around the three quarter mark for the duration of our trip. Turning the cabin heater to ‘hot’ saw the gauge falling slightly when traffic built up and with the overheating Saab’s hood down for most the tour, we managed to nurse the car back to the ferry port and on to home.

Back home, we raised the front of the Saab off the ground and noticed that the earlier repair we’d made to a green wire hanging out of a connector leading to the electric fan had broken again. A quick fix got the electric fan spinning again but the Saab still ran hot, although we now put this down to the electric fan not cutting in early enough.

Things started to get steamy again with regards to the Saab when Group Editor Paul Wager borrowed it for a few days. Paul’s usual two-hour commute home from the Peterborough editorial office in the overheating Saab turned into a disaster. As the 900’s engine was now boiling over and losing water like a sieve, Paul ended up calling into a late night Co-op to buy several five-litre containers of mineral water to keep the car’s radiator topped up.

A local garage diagnosed a failed waterpump seal and although a new pump was fitted, the engine still ran hot. With the Saab now back at our Peterborough office, we were told the car required a new radiator, as the old one was probably silted up but this didn’t totally cure the overheating problem. It was now looking more like a faulty headgasket, so when I got the Saab back to Derby, was booked into Volsaa Engineering for further testing. A phone call revealed the overheating was down to a duff thermostat and why that hadn’t been changed when the new water pump or radiator had been fitted remains a mystery.

With the Saab’s cooling issues finally solved, we next turned our attention to investigating a few more electrical glitch’s, including why the interior and dashboard lights weren’t working and found this was due to a combination of duff bulbs and a corroded switch. Here’s what we’ve been doing to our Saab since last time.

REMEMBRANCE TOUR

Despite the Saab starting to overheat badly on the way to board the ferry, the car made it over to Belgium where we met up with a group of local enthusiasts who were joining us on the Kemmel Historic World War One Flanders Fields tour.

Although the Saab’s was still running hot, no coolant had leaked out of the cooling system during the early part of the tour. Our 900 is seen here parked outside the Hill 60 Café and museum on the infamous Menin Road just outside Ypres.

The next morning a large puddle appeared underneath the Saab on the hotel car park floor and showed that all was not well with the cooling system. What we didn’t notice at the time was that part of the overspill had come from the engine’s rear mounted water pump.

A quick check around the Saab’s cooling system revealed that the thermostatically controlled radiator fan wasn’t cutting in when the engine got up to temperature. We were unaware that the previous repair to fan’s main feed had failed inside the loom.

To try and kick the Saab’s fan into action, the relay was removed from the fuse box and a small length of wire used to short out the terminals. As this ‘bodge’ failed to fire up the fan, we guessed the motor must have burnt out.

Although the Saab was running hotter than normal, we nursed it back to the ferry for the return crossing to Hull. Turning the cabin heater to maximum had helped take some heat out of the system when the car was standing in traffic.

COOLING SYSTEM REPAIR

First job to sort out when we got back from Belgium was to get to the bottom of the Saab’s overheating issues, which started to get steadily worse when Group Editor Paul Wager decided to take the car home for the weekend.

Partway through Paul’s journey home the Saab started to lose coolant at an ever-increasing rate, so the car was parked up to allow the engine to cool down before checking the level of the coolant in the expansion tank.

Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is a hot, especially if the cooling system has just boiled over, as escaping coolant will scald. Once the cap had been removed after the engine had cooled down, Paul could see that the Saab’s expansion tank was totally empty.

While the Saab was parked up in a lay-by, a passing motorist stopped and kindly donated a two-litre bottle of water so Paul could top up the 900’s expansion tank. Next stop was at a late night Co-op to stock up with enough water for the rest of the journey home.

A close examination of the Saab’s cooling system revealed a leak at the water pump gland that obviously got worse when the system was pressurised. A new pump was fitted, which cured the leak but not the overheating issues.

With the Saab now back at CM’s Peterborough office, a nearby garage diagnosed a silted up radiator and set about fitting a replacement. We weren’t convinced that this would cure the problem and thought the head gasket was to blame.

The Saab’s radiator had obviously seen better days and was certainly due for replacement. Judging by the discolouration on the fins, it had been leaking and adding a dose of sealing compound may have blocked up some of the waterway

The car certainly ran cooler with the new radiator, but as the temperature gauge started to rise when the car was standing in traffic, further investigation was required and a faulty head gasket was still thought to be the culprit.

While the radiator was being replaced, it seemed a good idea to make a more permanent connection for the dodgy fan wire. This was a job that needed to be finished off with the car on a ramp to ensure the job was a good ‘un as the connector sits at the bottom of the radiator.

The repair to the fan wiring was completed while the new radiator was being fitted but when the fan was finally working it was very noisy. We also thought it was slow to cut in, so a second-hand fan assemble was sourced and fitted a few days later but the car still ran hot.

Despite replacing the waterpump, radiator and fan assembly the Saab was still running hot, so the car was booked into Volsaa Engineering where it was found that a faulty thermostat was causing the engine to overheat.

Placing the Saab’s old thermostat in a pan of hot water along with a new one showed how the duff one failed to open when the water reached 90°C. Why this easy option wasn’t checked during the previous work is very annoying.

Dash & Interior Lights

With only part of the Saab’s instrument panel illuminated at night, we needed to find out how to check the bulbs in the cluster. An online search revealed that removing an air vent on the dashtop provided access to the rear of the cluster.

After undoing a pair of Torx screws, the air vent was lifted clear of the dash top so the speaker cables could be disconnected. With the vent cover out of the way, the plastic tube leading to the demisting duct was carefully removed.

Although the holders for the dash lights were located at the top of the instrument cluster, there wasn’t enough space to get a good grip and it took quite a bit of force to twist each one through 90° degrees before pulling them out.

Each of the holders held a capless bulb and one had blown. Although a pair of new tungsten bulbs was fitted, we’ve ordered a pair of bright white LED bulbs and will fit these at a later date. This mod should really improve the dash lighting.

With the dashboard now illuminated correctly, the next job was to investigate why the interior lights weren’t working after new bulbs had been fitted. We suspected a problem with the switch, so removed it from the centre console.

Taking the interior light switch carefully apart revealed a fair amount of dirt and corrosion around the contacts. This was carefully cleaned away by gently stroking fine emery paper over the contacts followed by a generous squirt of switch cleaner to flush away the debris.

A continuity check with the multimeter showed that the reassembled switch now worked on two settings – one to illuminate the interior lights when the doors were opened and a manual override to illuminate the interior when the doors were closed. The interior lights have a useful delay and remain on for a short while after the doors have been closed – just long enough to insert the ignition key.

The front interior light on the Saab 900 is located behind the rear view mirror. Note the neat little VisionTrack VTGo dash camera located behind the lamp. This clever device stores video clips that can be transmitted via Bluetooth to a smart phone.

Replacing the cleaned up switch back into the centre console and reconnecting the wiring loom resulted in the two new bulbs we’d fitted to holders in the rear quarter panels lighting when the doors opened.

SubscribeSubscribe
3 issues for only £5

Subscribe to Classics Monthly magazine and get your first 3 issues for only £5