Your Saab Specialists in Spokane

             1211 E. Francis - Spokane, WA  99208 - (509) 487-3308 **(see bottom of pg)






Summer, 1995

SAAB Specs.



Swedish Motorcar Service

( formerly SAAB Specialists of Spokane )

E. 1211 Francis

Spokane, WA 99207

( 509 ) 487-3308


From : john, mike, and dan ...

Greetings ! Saab Friends;

The years have sped by for us, how about for you? It seems like yesterday we were painting the walls of our new store on Francis. Now, we are now into our fifth year! Thank You again for allowing us to make our living serving you. We feel privileged to work together as a family in this business and are proud of the business ethic we live by. We hope that the many Saab families we have served appreciate what we have helped them to enjoy as well... and that is the safety and quality of driving a well-maintained Saab at an affordable price.

Lippis family news.....

The big news this year is that Dan is getting married in August to Carmen Hernandez, the love of his life. After that, Stacey is looking forward to High School next year, and Matt, now 20, the Univ.of Idaho in Moscow as a Spokane Falls Graduate transplant. Mike, our resident Daredevil taught his dad how to snowboard on the latter's birthday this year; (Dan and Mike taught me to jump my motorcycle this summer, photographic proof in the office for your inspection); and Anne and John discovered the joys of a 2 HP Treadmill and recommend same for all trying to find a good cardio-vascular exercise and Weight Loss tool. I turned 49 this year, and things seem to be moving faster than ever, but each year seems only to bring more for which to be thankful, and this newsletter is our way of saying Thanks to you!

VOLVO Service also available at Swedish Motorcars!

Over the past 10 years we have provided limited Volvo Service for those owners who knew us and sought the type of personalized maintenance we provide. Since changing our name from "Saab Specialists" to "Swedish Motorcars" to satisfy Saab's protected trademark name, we decided it only natural to advertise the fact that we also offer Volvo Service and Repairs. Both cars are a pleasure to work on and in many ways quite similar, especially in their quality, safety standards, and electronic and fuel injection equipment. Both also require the same type of maintenance and many of the additional service procedures we've developed for Saab will also benefit the Volvos as well. So, Volvo Owners...Welcome to our Family!

When coming to see us, First Go Around the Block

For Safety's Sake, if traffic is heavy, and you're traveling east on Francis to see us, turn North at Nevada and go one block. Turn right at Lyons and right again at Perry, again in one block. That way, you can turn right again on Francis and be on the north side of the street and going with the traffic flow when pulling in. ( We have witnessed rear end collisions on eastbound Francis traffic stopping to cross over to the north side of the street. None of you, thank goodness! )

If you are coming in from Coeur d'Alene or the Valley, you might try taking Argonne north from I90 over the mountain and turning left at Bigelo Gulch Road, which becomes Francis at the intersection of Market. Just continue several blocks until you see our sign on the right side one block before Nevada.

Spokane's got a New SAAB Dealer!

We are happy to welcome Jaremko Nissan Saab into our local Saab family and look forward to a dealer with more enthusiasm than the previous one. Old friend Daryl Tachell is their Saab technician and I'm sure Daryl will keep the new generation Saab 900's and 9000's performing well.

We wish them great success and hope you folks considering a new Saab will visit them.

There is an economic reality with Saab, ( I call it 'Saab Trickle-Nomics") and that is... most families, including the Lippis', couldn't afford to buy a new one. But thanks to the folks that can, we are all able to enjoy Saab's high quality and safety standards in the form of good used cars. If the new dealer prospers, we all eventually do as well.

A new car dealer also benefits from an independent repair business such as ours, as long as we all do a good job. It involves a symbiotic relationship; if the older Saabs are kept running well they enjoy a good service reputation and more people are attracted to buying new ones. The new ones eventually evolve into good used ones if they are serviced well, and the cycle continues.

Saab Named "Best in its Class for 1995!

This year's Automobile Club of America (AAA) named the Saab 900 as "Finest" in the $30-$35,000 price catagory. Their 1995 AAA "AutoTest" booket including all of its tests (crash tests included) and ratings is available for $9.95. Call 1-800-456-3222. (New Saab 900's are $25-30K; 9000's, $35-40K according to AAA)

From Our Side of the Service Desk......

Like most customers visiting their dentist, doctor, plumber, attorney or mechanic, Costzilla-and-crookzilla-phobia affects us all. It is the fear of powerlessness we feel when needing the services of a professional who has skills and services we cannot provide for ourselves. It's not the same as shopping for particular goods, which may be available at several stores with clearly marked prices. There, we are in control to buy them or leave them on the shelf, and if it turns out we are not satisfied, we simply return the item and get our money back. No big deal, usually. Even the store simply returns the item to the manufacturer and the whole affair is a comfortably impersonal exercise in American consumerism. The point is: we are in control of the whole transaction, beginning to end and beyond.

Dealing with a live person whose expertise is for hire, however, is a highly personal, much more complicated affair. We have to rely on this person totally, and we cannot simply 'give it back' or annul what has transpired, if things do not turn out the way we think they should.

Personally, I understand and share this fear, but as a provider of professional services, I can tell you candidly that it is the single most challenging aspect of my trade; and I think most-if-not-all other professionals and trades people would agree. Most of you reading this fall into the professional category, providing some service to others. So when you think of us, think of you! All of our reputations are at stake constantly in our services, our livelihoods depend on others' perceptions of our competence and honesty. It's the same for all of us.

Here are some suggestions that may help to reduce anxieties on both sides of the service counter when we are working on your Saab:

Tell us what you expect, what you expect to spend, and we'll give our best estimate if we can live up to your expectations.

Be readily available by phone when your Saab is in the shop, so that you can help us make the best decisions in your behalf. Feel free to drop by anytime when we are working on your car; it is helpful to us to be able to show you what we are doing and why. It builds a trust we both desire.

If you do not know us well enough to rely on that trust, be aware that logically, it is in our best interests just as in yours that you receive the best dollar value and are satisfied with the results of our workmanship and the costs. Being Swedish Specialists and serving a limited clientele imposes much higher standards of quality and long term satisfaction than most auto repair shops; we cannot afford to lose a single one of you.

We work hard to give you our best; so if you need us, remember... We need you too!

Preventive MAINTENANCE.....

If you are interested in getting the most from your Saab (and Volvo), both in miles and in the quality of your drive, performing the recommended servicings in the maintenance booklet is not all that you need to do. Saab's and all other major manufacturer's maintenance plan is Sales Marketing-motivated to advertise "low maintenance" costs but will not suffice if you want to keep your car well into its second 100,000 miles without major repairs such as valve and cylinder head replacements, engine and transaxle overhauls, steering. suspension , brake and clutch hydraulic replacements. Besides a long service life, most Saab and Volvo owners are concerned with maintaining the like-new performance and driving characteristics of the car; after all, these traits are why they bought it in the first place!

The 'coupon' type of maintenance Saab and most other manufacturers supply does not work well in the long run because there is no way to keep track of important fluid, filter and part replacements.

We have a better way, we believe. This is how aircraft are maintained, and it should begin long before the car is out of warranty. Besides the important inspections that should be done regularly, and specific component replacements or service, most Saab Maintenance can be simplified greatly, and the same plan works well with most other vehicles, including Volvo.

First, the FLUIDS.....

There are usually only nine fluids to be concerned with in the modern automobile, including Saab and Volvo. They should be checked regularly, and replaced at the following intervals: To illustrate the difference between our maintenance and that of Saab's, we have italicized all items that are NOT in Saab's maintenance plan.

Engine Oil and Filter (Change every 3 months )

Transaxle Oil ( Change every 1-1.5 Yrs )

Automatic Transmission fluid (Change every 1-2 years if appl. )

Final Drive Oil ( Change once in service life)

Power Steering Oil (Change every year )

Coolant (Change with Thermostat every 2 years)

Brake Hydraulic Fluid ( Change every 2 years )

Clutch Hydraulic Fluid ( Change every 2 years )

Battery Electrolyte ( Ck every oil change )

Next the FILTERS....

Air Filter ( Change every Year ) (16v,Saab says 2 yrs)

Fuel Filter ( Change 1-2 yrs depending on model )

Trans Filters (9000's repl. yearly; 900's, with fluid change)

Cabin Filter: (9000 models) Check every year: Change when clogged: Affects Window Defrost, AC, Cabin Fan Life.

Usual Part Replacements:

Spark Plugs: Annually, (Saab Dir Ign: every 2 years.)

Oxy Sensor: 8 valve models, 30,000 miles; 16v, 80,-100,000 miles.

Cap / Rotor: Every 4 years. Bosch ONLY!

Thermostat: Change every Two Years with Coolant.

Belts: Change every 4 years.

Hoses: Usually replaced only when needed

Brake Pads: Inspect every 6 mo.

Exhaust Sys. Inspect every 6 mo.

Timing Belt Volvo (45000 mi) Saab V-6 per specs.

Additional Service Routines:

Lower Inspection, Safety Insp. and Lube Service:

(Performed with every oil change.)

Road Test: Whenever possible with other maintenance.

Suspension Ball Joints Lubricate once or when needed; Ck annually

Steering Rack: Lube Once; Ck. Bellows every Oil Change.

Annual Inspection: Optional: Top / Bottom Ck incl. Eng. Analysis

Engine Analysis: Annually at least: Full Scope Analysis includes Ignition, Electrical/Charging/Fuel,/ some Electronic Control Systems. Exhaust Emissions Tested

Scope Fuel Pump(s): After 100,000; ck. every 6 mo.

Service Cyl. Head: 8 v. motors: every 2 years Turbo: Annually

16v. motors: Once in lifetime.

AC Service: Ck. operation annually.Wipers/Washers/

Lights: Checked every time in.

Cooling Sys. Svc: Inspect / Test / Pressure Test twice a year.

Water Pump Repl. When needed, usually 60-70,000 miles

For some of our readers, this may sound complicated...

...but actually is very simple, once you have gotten your car "on track" and know its service history. Whenever asked, we will review your records and recommend the items that are in need of service. Additionally, this system of maintenance allows you to know exactly what was done and not done and when, so nothing will be unnecessarily duplicated, and nothing left out. This is the way all machines, from aircraft to expensive cars are properly maintained and we are proud to offer the service to you.

There are details on some of the service routines later in the newsletter.

What Grade of Engine Oil to Use...

We have successfully used 15/40 wt. engine oil Summer and Winter for the past 10 years. It is not an easy grade to find, but most specialty shops use it as we do for good reason. 10/30 is recommended by manufacturers since 1988 in compliance with federal law to increase fuel economy, and 10/30 accomplishes this due to its lower viscosity and fluid friction. Unfortunately, with most engines I've heard above 60,000 miles, the bearings audibly rattle with 10/30, and this pounding will shorten their life considerably. 10/40 oils sound like a reasonable compromise, but to produce a petroleum based 10/40 requires excessive use of polymers to expand the viscosity range, causing other problems. GM used to state that the use of 10/40 oil would void the engine warranty. 10/40 synthetics do not have this problem and Red Line supplies a superb oil in this weight I have personally used and liked.

On some Turbo models, the turbo whines more with 15/40 than with the lighter oils ( interesting paradox!), but with others the opposite appears to be true. All experienced weighed in, I still prefer either the 10/40 synthetic or the 15/40 petroleum oil for longest life of your engine and turbo.

RED LINE SYNTHETIC Lubricants added to our list of DO's.....

This is Great News for those of you who like to pamper your Saab and get more value for your dollar. I have resisted recommending synthetic lubricants for years because of their apparent high cost, low viscosities which led to oil leakage, and what I thought were excessive mileage intervals for changing. Well, most of that is now changed and we have become BELIEVERS!

Believers in Red Line Oils, that is. They are obscenely expensive ($9 a qt., mostly due to freight), but I think reasonable in the long run. I am referring first to their product MTL, (Manual Transmission Lubricant) which is outstanding when introduced into a Saab 5 speed (other types available for automatics.)

After investigating the subject with a petroleum engineer, I learned that multi-grade engine oil ( 10/30 viscosity ) recommended by Saab for use in manual 5 speed transaxles had two main drawbacks.

The first was that the polymers added to the oil are actually chopped up by the shearing action of the gears and in less than 5000 miles, the oil had only half the original viscosity (thickness) than new, which means it only has half the film strength and further, only half the bearing protection than the transaxle was designed for. The synthetic oil does not use these polymers and retains nearly all its original viscosity for up to 20,000 miles. This means longer service life for your transaxle, which in my opinion is the weakest link in the drive train of a Saab. Considering the cost to rebuild a trans could run upwards of $2500, the synthetic oil is a bargain.

Supporting this has been a long standing recommendation of motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda, to use special oils in their engines which share the oil with the transmission. The oil doesn't wear out, but the polymers do.

Also, paradoxically, modern engine oils have "slippery agents" added to them to reduce friction and thereby conform to EPA regulations for higher fuel economy. Strange as it seems, transmission synchronizers needed for shifting gears operate on the principle of 'friction' and these slippery agents actually subvert the synchronizer's ability to do its job. The synthetic gear oil by Red Line does not have these slippery additives.

We experimented with this oil on some older gearboxes with shifting problems and were amazed with the results. What we thought were "weak" synchronizers immediately began working perfectly with the new oil. The added bearing protection is the biggest plus, however, and we are currently using this oil in all our personal Saabs, and recommending it to all our customers. By the way, Saab Club members have raved about Redline for years; it was my natural skepticism over 'miracle oils' that kept us away for so long.

We also used their ATF (Automatic Trans Fluid) in a 900 Turbo automatic which on the verge of slipping and possibly needing an expensive overhaul. The synthetic "racing" ATF they recommended worked a similar miracle and the transmission's near-slipping tendencies immediately disappeared.


Unfortunately, Saab has thrown a curve to us regarding Synthetic Oils. Recently, we were given a copy of a Saab "Broadcast" which is an unsigned, typewritten service info sheet. In it, the unidentified author states that Saab does NOT recommend ANY synthetic oils in their manual or automatic transmissions. There are no specific reasons given, but further investigation from oil engineers revealed that some synthetic manufacturers do not add 'esters' to their products, which keep oil seals from hardening. Given the superior "pouring" qualities of synthetics, this could cause leakage problems which Saab did not want to be responsible for.

So each of us will have to decide for ourselves which oil to use in our transmissions. Some folks with newer Saabs still in warranty have opted to use only petroleum oils until out of warranty, then to switch. Others have decided to use the best oil at the earliest possible time.

Redline assures me that Esters are added to their oils, but even so, older, worn seals may need replacement if they cannot contain the oil adequately. We really haven't seen that much of a problem. My own 200,000 mile Saab 900 seems to have a few additional drips, but no oil loss and the protection I am receiving more than compensates in my opinion.

Redline Oil is expensive, but the cost of a transmission overhaul is very expensive! So we think using the oil in your gearbox is a wise investment.

Red Line also makes other lubricants and Fuel Injector cleaners that seem to live up to their claim as the best on the planet.

Change Your Gearbox Oil in 9000's and Late 900's...Even Without a Drain Plug !

I know I sound like a broken record, but this newsletter would not be complete without covering the subject of Transaxle Maintenance, called... Change Your Gearbox Oil Regularly! For thirty years, the Saab transaxle was its main mechanical weakness and a most expensive component to repair. Beginning with the V-4 models ( 95's-96's ), and continuing with the 99's and 900's, changing the gearbox oil every 15000 miles has been a cardinal rule in Saab's Maintenance Plan.

That tradition changed with the 9000 model, which used a Lancia transaxle that does not even have a gearbox drain plug. The Germans usually build excellent gearboxes, but most mechanics would still agree that changing the gear oil is imperative for a long service life. The reason for this is that the many gears, shafts and bearings involved in a gearbox normally shed tiny particles of hardened metal during use. These particles are carried by the oil to other gears and bearings, causing impactions, damage, and more metal particles. Draining the oil removes most particles and prevents unnecessary impact damage.

We devised a means to siphon the oil from the speedo drive for the 9000 model so that it can be changed. It is a tricky job for us to accomplish, but worth the effort, we believe. We recommend changing this gear oil at least once every 60,000 miles, preferably every two years or 30,000 miles.



1990-1993 900's also have NO Drain Plug to enable changing the gear oil. Unlike the German Lancia gearbox, however, this transaxle is basically the same one that has been in production since the 1972 99 models, for which Saab most emphatically required an oil change every 15000 miles!

Using the reduction of waste as their rationale, (arguably, as oil is recyclable, not waste) Saab installed a screen inside the gearbox and removed the drain plug, saying the oil change is no longer required.

DON'T BELIEVE IT! I know this gearbox, and changing the gear oil is imperative if you want to avoid upwards of a $2500 overhaul before its time. ( avoiding harsh acceleration in 1st and 2nd gears also greatly increases service life ).

For these models, we remove the rear transmission cover to drain the oil and clean the screen. Actually, there's good news here, because coupled with the filter screen, regular changing of the gear oil will probably contribute to improved service life for the later 900 transaxles. But... you do have to change that oil !

Automatic Transmission Additive Recommended by SAAB...

There is a Saab Service Bulletin published, recommending the addition of "LUBEGUARD" Automatic Trans Fluid Additive to cure the 'groaning' noise heard when some 9000 automatics engage into gear when shifting. We contacted the manufacturer and they say this conditioner conditions the fluid to protect bands and clutch linings from slippage which will shorten the service life. Add Lubegard annually with Automatic Trans Service.

Replace that Thermostat every two years...

Saab should be ashamed for not putting this item in the maintenance schedule, for most of them have a service life of not more than 3-4 years. Each year we see a dozen or so thermostat failures which can seriously overheat and damage an expensive engine. We Change the thermostat every two years with the coolant as regular maintenance.

Speaking of Coolant........ again, the Best is the Cheapest....

The average coolant contains over 20 different corrosion inhibitors to protect your engine from eroding away as the years go by. Saab has recommended a Phosphate-and Silicate-free European formula of coolant for several years and up until last year, continued to do so.

Saab no longer sells this Premium Coolant as " Saab " coolant, and instead of the $16 it used to cost, is now $8. Saab assures us their new coolant offers excellent protection--and we use it in most cases...

However, for those of you who want the BEST protection, the Premium Coolant is available under the AutoBahn brand. It is expensive, but worth it. VW requires its use as they have severe cylinder head corrosion problems in some of their models. When a Saab Cylinder Head replacement can cost over $1000, it seems to me good sense to protect it with the best coolant available. (con't next page)

A recent domestic Trade Magazine (Motor) referred to 'Autobahn coolant as having "unrealistic" specifications, noting that no other coolant in the world conforms to its standard of protection specs!

It's not the cost of the coolant, but the cost to dispose of it!

Saab Coolant costs $8.00 per gallon which makes 2 gals. when mixed 50/50 with water. Recent Environmental Regulations, however, have redefined used coolant as Hazardous Waste. After having paid to have a drum of waste coolant analyzed (as required by the current regs.) and hauled away, those two gallons we took out of your Saab to replace with 1 gallon of antifreeze costs $15 for disposal!

This is why we are giving you the option of hauling your own waste coolant to the Solid Waste Transfer stations ( one north on Hwy.2, and the other in the Valley ). They will accept waste coolant free of charge from private parties.







For those of you who own later model Saabs with ABS brakes (Automatic Braking System or Traction Control), the need to change your brake fluid is more important than even on your older Saab. Saab's cost of an ABS master cylinder is nearly $2000! If you do not change your brake fluid every two years, the odds are great that the hygroscopic brake fluid will absorb enough moisture to rust and pit the internal cylinder parts requiring replacement of this incredibly expensive component. Every 2 yrs or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first, Flush the Brake Fluid! ( don't forget non-ABS models too...)


Clutch Fluid, the Dilemma...

Buried deep in an obscure section of the Saab Service Manual, it states that clutch hydraulic fluid (brake fluid, essentially) should be changed every two years. Saab does not publish this info in its maintenance specs. but we have seen the results of old clutch fluid for years. Sometimes sludge develops in the Clutch Master Cylinder clogging a small pressure equalization port, causing pressure to build and in extreme cases, prevent full clutch engagement resulting in slippage and subsequent destruction of the clutch.

So we advise flushing the fluid, which also helps keep rust from developing inside the cylinders. However, if the fluid hasn't been changed in a long while, there can be what appears to be a chemical reaction of sorts with the new fluid, often brought on by hot weather, that can cause subsequent fluid leakage or pressure loss inside the cylinder. Sometimes this reaction can swell the seals inside the cylinder causing hydraulic failure or the same pressure buildup the sludge causes. Most times, however, nothing is affected and it works fine.

In any case, there is some risk with clutch hydraulic systems in either changing the fluid or not changing it, especially if it hasn't been changed in several years. I think the odds are in your favor to replace the fluid.


SRS: If you have it; carry FULL COVERAGE INSURANCE

SRS systems (Air Bag Safety Restraint) found in most later model cars and 89> 9000's and 90> 900's are Expensive! So expensive, in fact, that an older model with SRS could be totaled out by insurance on the cost of replacing the SRS system alone! Deployment in an accident, no matter how minor, will require not only a new air bag, but 2 impact sensors, a new computer (which is the also the third one-shot impact sensor), a new steering wheel, and one or both Impact Pretensioner Seat Belt Assemblies, costing upwards of $1700-$2000 ! We heard of a glass company in town vacuuming the dash of a late model Buick and setting off the dual airbags by static electricity generated by the vacuum to the tune of $3500!

Of course these dollars cannot be compared with the costs of personal injury or death from a car collision, but when the sensors deploy the system, it's to be compared with setting off a firecracker. It's only good for one shot. The Seat Belt Pretensioners go off at the same time, which is why they also need replacement. Even regular seat belts should be changed in a collision if someone was sitting inside them, Saab says.


9000 Cabin Filters more important than sweet smelling air...

The 9000 has a ventilation filter which removes pollen and dust from the air coming into your ventilation system. In our climate, they last 1-2 years. If the filter becomes clogged or ineffective, the AC system will not operate efficiently, and worse, we suspect, the ventilation fan motor may fail (costing $400-$600 to repair) because its bearings are vulnerable to the particles of grit entering the ventilation system. Change the filter annually.



Air Conditioning not as simple as it used to be...

In years past when freon was cheap and easily available, servicing an AC system was usually a matter of charging the system when it didn't work, and if it leaked, it was a simple matter to add more. Most shops hung their shingles each summer with 'specials' which added freon as if it were water. If the system leaked down before the month was out, more repairs were gladly sold, and if not, the system usually made it through the summer and that was all that was needed for the time being.

If the scientists are right about chlorofluorocarbons wrecking the ozone layer, and the evidence seems to point that way, then the previous practices of AC repair were irresponsible, if not unethical, and the laws have changed to reflect that view.

Today, we must be licensed to work on AC and buy freon, which will cease to be manufactured after this year. We must have recycling equipment to capture old freon before doing repairs and many other tools to help insure we have done everything possible to find and correct potential leaks. We have $5000 worth of special AC equipment here at our shop.

Detecting freon (R12) leakage is probably the most challenging of our repairs. The latest electronic detection "sniffers" are set off by anything heavier than air and we are often led on "wild goose chases" looking for a freon leak that may not exist. Other times the system won't leak in the shop, but only in operation under certain circumstances which we are unable to re-enact here. AC repairs are often very frustrating at best. We are presently buying another type of detection tool which only detects refrigerants, and this should solve some of the problem. To our knowledge, no other shops in town own this equipment.

The bottom line is this: responsible AC repairs are expensive, and even then there are no 100% assurances you won't be back in next year looking for that troublesome leak again. For older Saabs, the best approach, we believe, is to repair the system best possible and not just "add freon". In a few years, R-12 will not be available and only those folks that have kept their systems in tip-top shape will be able to enjoy their AC.

9000 models rely on the AC system to 'condition' the air (reduce the humidity) and not only to provide cooling, so for these systems with Climate Control, the AC is more than a comfortable accessory, but an integral part of the Saab's ventilation system.

Use The AC to defrost your windows...

9000's do it automatically. Some early 900's too. When you need quick defrosting on those foggy, rainy times, turn your AC on, turn the Heat full on, and in Defrost Mode, you'll be amazed how well it works.

The Air Conditioner super cools the air and removes the moisture, and the heater then turns it into hot, dry air to defrost the windows.

The most common AC leakage in 900's...

We have found a considerable number of Saab 900's which lose R-12 through the molded aluminum hose clamps near the AC compressor and evaporator and need recharging every year. Many of these clamps can be retightened on the car without replacement of the entire hose assy.

If you can grasp your AC hoses and twist them where they are clamped to the aluminum pipes, you are probably leaking freon. (Test the hoses when they are cold, or after the AC has been running for a while.)

Curing Electrical Ground problem may help 16v Starting...

Saab has a service bulletin for hard starting 16v models stating that the problem may be a poor ground connection at the ignition module. If you own a 2.0L 16v, we can add a redundant ground wire to the module for about $35. It appears to help in some cases.

Stuck Gas Tank Sending Units CAN DISABLE 81-82 Saabs....

The gauge sender (mounted in the gas tank) in 1981-1982 900 models is susceptible to the oxygenated fuel and it can easily swell and jam, causing the gauge to show that you have fuel when you do not. Your best insurance from running out of fuel is to reset your odometer each fill-up and get used to how far the gauge drops with the miles. To be sure; fill up every 200 miles.


Ethanol and 16 valve Saabs...

The computerized fuel injection system on a 16 valve Saab is so precise that when the computer thinks you are using straight gasoline and you are using oxygenated fuel instead, there are going to be some idle problems for about a minute before the oxygen sensor warms up to tell the computer what is going on. These models may experience slightly harder starting and until things warm up a bit, idle stability is poor. We have learned to perform adjustments to the Air Mass Meter, clean the Fuel Injectors with our new Injector Cleaning System, (8 valve models would also benefit) and make adjustments to the Automatic Idle Control System (AIC). Because of the very small tolerances in a fuel injection valve, the slightest deposits will interfere with proper spray patterns and with oxygenated fuel, cause exaggerated problems in performance.

When is High Test Fuel cheaper than Regular Unleaded?

Occasionally we hear complaints of low power in both 16 Valve Turbo and Non-turbo 900's and 9000's. Sooner or later I remember to ask them what fuel they are using and often the response is "Unleaded" meaning Regular Unleaded. What a treat they are in store for after their first fill-up with Supreme!

With Turbo APC Models, the engine is allowed substantially more boost on High Test fuel and this additional pressure makes a day and night difference in the Saab's performance, though fuel economy should be about the same.

With Non-Turbo 16 valve models, however, the engine not only develop more power, but also is allowed to run more efficiently (more miles per gallon ) and in comparisons by some of our customers who keep track of costs per mile etc., the additional cost per gallon of High Test fuel is more than offset by the additional gas mileage achieved. The increased engine performance becomes an added bonus.

For owners of 8 valve engines, the choices are simpler. Turbo models should definitely use High Test Gas except when putt-ing around town, and non-turbo models do not need it.

On Summer Trips, however, everyone should use High Test Gas.

Higher temperatures and highway speeds nearly mandate High Test fuel for all Saabs in summer traveling. A dime more per gallon is cheap insurance to prevent valve and cylinder head problems arising from detonation.

When Engine Misfires can become Real Fires!...........

Since 1978 all Saab's have been equipped with Catalytic Converters in the exhaust systems, which among other things, convert unburned Hydrocarbons ( fuel ) into water and carbon dioxide. In doing so, the converter (Cat) generates a great deal of heat. If for some reason the engine is not burning the fuel properly, such as a fouled spark plug, or spark plug wire, or improper fuel mixture, or even mechanical problems with the engine, the Cat will actually glow a dull orange from the extreme heat generated from catalyzing the wasted hydrocarbons in the exhaust system.

There are heat shields underneath to protect the interior from this heat, but we have seen extreme cases where the wiring running along the gearshift console was melted, a short circuit developed, and smoke and fire was the result!

The Bottom line is..... if your engine is not running smoothly and getting good gas mileage, better to check it sooner than later.

Additional note; if you are ever "four wheeling' with your Saab driving over dried grasses, woodlands etc., be aware that the catalytic converter could actually cause a forest fire in certain circumstances!

A Radiator Overhaul may be your best summer Insurance......

Your cooling system radiator dissipates 1/3 of your fuel's energy. That's as much as your engine uses to propel your car down the road! We all take radiators for granted, being non-mechanical in nature, but after 7-10 years of operation, especially when the coolant has not been changed every two years with Saab Coolant, the radiator can become clogged with aluminum eroding from your cylinder head etc. through the action of electrolysis.

Low frontal area modern cars such as Saab are not allowed the luxury of oversized radiators so even a 10% restriction in the flow of coolant through the radiator can bring about an internal overheating condition in the engine, sometimes not detectable with the temperature gauge.

This overheating can bring about thermostat, cooling hose and water pump failures and expensive breakdowns.

We also have seen an unusually high incidence of 8 valve turbo cylinder head fractures requiring expensive repairs, and the best insurance, I believe, would be to have a cooling system operating at 100% efficiency. That means a clean radiator, the proper thermostat, European formula coolant no older than two years, and a pressure cap that when mated to the expansion tank holds 14 psi of pressure.

The cost? Usually about $65 plus approx. $45 R&R time plus coolant, thermostat and hoses if needed. Sometimes it's a subtle difference, but my experience has shown that the Saabs with fresh radiators simply cool easier and have less problems in this area.

But Sometimes it's only the temp gauge....

While on the subject of overheating, we have found several 900 models showing high temperatures when it was only an inaccurate temp. gauge. In most cases, the cure was simply tightening a nut behind the gauge for a better electrical connection. Sometimes a common tip off for the problem is that the temp gauge jumps slightly when turning on the lights, or stepping on the brakes.


Stop the Bubbles!

Cooling System Pressure Cap ESSENTIAL...

Without a good pressure cap, holding approximately 14 psi (pounds per square inch), tiny bubbles form in the cylinder head near the exhaust valves, where the heat is greatest. (identical to the bubbles forming on the bottom of a pot of hot water just before it boils) These bubbles in turn insulate the heat generated from being absorbed by the coolant and 'hot spots' quickly form, eventually causing damage to the cylinder head and valves, which are expensive to repair. These bubbles also circulate in the cylinder head and because of surface tension, actually wear the aluminum out like an abrasive!

Occasionally, when checking under the hood of your Saab, and ONLY if it is WARM ( NOT HOT! ), loosen the pressure cap slightly and listen for a "whoosh" of pressure being released, indicating that the cap is holding some pressure. Retighten the cap. Never loosen the cap when the engine is extremely hot, or boil-over and coolant eruptions may occur, possibly causing injury.


Camchain Repairs on 16 valve engines over 100,000 miles.........

We have heard of -- but not yet seen -- cases of older 16 valve engines breaking cam chains and destroying the engine. Years ago Saab supplied an improved cam chain tensioner and we have recommended it to owners of '88 and older 16 valve engines and possibly this is the reason why our customers have not had problems.

Last year, however, Saab came out with another service bulletin describing how to measure cam chain wear and we now have the wherewithal to replace the chain without dismantling the engine. With these tools, we have already replaced a few worn cam chains at a cost of usually under $250. Most of the chains we have checked, however, are within the wear limits Saab specifies.

We strongly recommend to anyone with a 16 valve Saab older than 100,000 miles to allow us to measure the cam chain wear and replace it if needed. The measurement requires having the later style cam chain tensioner which costs from $150 -$200; most of our customers already have this tensioner so this should not be a problem in most cases.

For owners of 8 valve engines, we have developed a way of replacing the cam chain on 84 and newer models without engine dismantling. Unfortunately, older models still require the more expensive disassembly.

Even if the cam chain were not in danger of breaking, replacing the chain is a cost-effective 'Tune-Up' option. By doing so, the original valve timing is restored and the engines usually feel like new again!


Head Gasket Failures in 16 valve engines.....

It sounds like we're picking on the 16 valve engines this year, but not to worry for those of you owning them. This remarkably reliable high performer is 10 years old now, and most of the Saabs we work on are equipped with the 16 valve engine, so at this age it's only natural that we see a few problem areas at higher mileages.

Back to the Head Gasket thing... As it turns out, ( in our opinion ) we were right and Saab was wrong. The Head Bolts DO need to be re-tightened mid-life once to make up for gasket and bolt fatigue. We have been performing this service for 6 years and to date, not one of our customers has lost a head gasket.

But we have seen some blown head gaskets on these engines that were not re-tightened at 60,000 miles as we recommended.

Usually, the failure involved a part of the gasket that channeled oil up into the head for lubrication so the main symptom was excessive oil burning. If you haven't had your head bolts retorqued, doing so would be a good investment in your engine. At the same time, the o-ring seals to the upper lubrication system and valve cover gaskets should be replaced. Total cost is around $100. We have also been retorquing the head bolts on all 8 valve engines for years, by the way, for the same reasons.


Careful... tightening that Drain Plug....

Owners of 1990-91 900's should beware of overtightening the drain plug when changing their oil or having it changed. We're told some folks have fractured and ruined the entire transmission housing by overtightening the drain plug. Saab makes a new style Drain plug and gasket to help avoid these problems. Just how tight is too tight? If you don't have a torque wrench, (19 Ft. Pounds if you do), tighten the drain plug until it's snug, then turn it 5 approx. 5 - 7 1/2 minutes on a clock face further (approx 30-45 degrees).


How to tighten your Drive Belts......

Tightening an alternator / water pump, power steering or AC belt is important, but very difficult to get it just right. In the case of an alternator/water pump belt, too loose and you'll not recharge your battery sufficiently or overheat your engine; too tight and you'll damage the belt and more importantly, the alternator or water pump bearings, sometimes bringing about a failure to these items within a few days !


Here's How. The belt should be tightened no more than what is necessary to prevent slippage. With the motor OFF, gently push on the alternator fan blades in an opposite direction of engine rotation. If the belt is too loose, you'll be able to 'slip"; if not, you'll be able to turn the engine over. (Make sure the ignition is OFF!)

If you need to adjust the belt, or any "V" belt, for that matter, without an expensive tension guage, tighten the belt so that it feels like a bow and arrow string. You should be able to pull on the belt, (like a bow string), but it should be tight enough to pull the belt back to it's original tension without feeling more loose than before. If you pull and can 'take up slack', you're too loose. If you pull and the belt does not have a resilent, 'stretchy' feel to it, it is possibly too tight.


Repairing Fallen Headliners....

No need to tear it all down or spend $200 + if your headliner is falling off the roof of your older Saab. We have found an interesting little Upholstery Button called a "Dritz Pin" at stores like Fred Myers and others, (usually found in the "Crafts" section). The buttons screw into the fiberglass insulation beneath the headliner and securely attach it back to the roof. If they're placed evenly, the roof can look like a custom upholstery job! The pins appear to be reliable (none have fallen out of our Saab's), but families with small children may consider them dangerous if they fell out and the baby tried to 'eat' one of them. Other than this caution, Dritz Pins are elegant......and cheap.

Light Up Your Switches Again!

Many of the small switches on the dash of your 900 have tiny light bulbs inside them. Some are replaceable, others are soldered into the switch and when they burn out, switch replacement is the only way to repair the light. Not any More! Radio shack sells tiny bulbs with solderable wires attached that work fine in power window switches and others. The part # is 272-1092.


Don't change that Cap and Rotor, Unless its Bosch !

We've seen a surprising number of After Market Ignition Distributor Rotor failures in Saabs, especially later models. We have found the originals to last 60-80,000 miles, and even at that age, they are less likely to fail from the rigors of high energy ignition than the cheapies found at the generic parts stores. So, if you must change these parts, use Bosch ONLY. The same goes for all the earlier Saabs as well.

Checking Cooling System Hoses.......

Saab hoses are expensive, and there are several of them on most models. We are used to looking for swelling and more obvious signs of failure, but it is nearly impossible to predict with certainty the condition of a cooling hose over 4 years old. I have seen them still in good shape, ten years and older, and others, not half that age, with fatigue separations on the inside where you cannot see them. Short of replacing all the hoses, being observant and visual inspections of the most common hose failures have given acceptable results. Pressure checking the cooling system often exposes a weak hose that swells under pressure. As a rule, looking for external abrasion, swelling, especially next to clamps, and pinching inward on hoses feeling for weak spots are the best insurance. Changing hoses that commonly fail is good sense.

Clean your Injectors and Valves with 'Real' Injector Cleaners...

Adding a fuel injector cleaner every 6 months is a great idea, but before you buy that cleaner from your parts store, make sure it does not contain alcohol. Alcohol cleaners are ineffective and can cause more harm than good. We have been using cleaners produced by Lubro-Moly of Germany and Red Line. They work well as a fuel system maintenance item every 6 months. In cases of extremely fouled injectors, we mix gas with the cleaners in much higher concentrations inside a pressurized container, disable your fuel system and run the engine on this mix for about half hour. It works extremely well, usually resulting in better idle, starting, power and fuel economy. In some cases, Lime deposits on the injectors can only be removed ultrasonically. We remove the injectors and send them to a specialist. The cost is usually $150, but considering one injector costs more than that, its a better alternative.

Fuel Pump Diagnosis... We invented it...

Ever since the mid-70's, fuel pump failures have troubled me. The pumps in Saabs are located inside the gas tank; they cannot be disassembled and inspected; they are too expensive to replace routinely; and they can fail without warning after 90-100,000 miles, though many last longer. The problem had become acute by the mid-80's on the older 99's and I remember always having a spare pump to lend someone going on a long trip, just in case. All we knew was that after 100,000 miles, they could fail at any time. The only diagnosis tool available was a volt- ohmmeter, which was very unreliable.

It wasn't until 1988 that I was able to connect the fuel pump to our new oscilloscope and trigger the sweep precisely to show a electronic pattern of the fuel pump on the scope screen. It didn't take long to notice the difference between new and old pumps, good ones and failed ones. Since that time, we have had great success projecting the life of the fuel pump and routinely analyze it during servicings or engine analysis. If your Saab is over 90,000 miles, or over 8 yrs. old, we should scope the pump and see how it is doing.

Leather Seat Care......

Don't wait for your leather seats to dry out and split! It is too late then to repair the damage. We have found that the Saab Leather care is excellent, and for reasons unknown to us, appears to work better than others in restoring the supple, softness of Saab leather seats. A bottle costs $5.


Personal Safety on the Highway at Night...

A friend and retired detective for the Spokane City Police advises that when traveling at night, if pulled over by an alleged law enforcement officer with a Blinking Light...Never pull off the road in an isolated area, Always travel slowly to the nearest well-lit area where there are others about. Controversial advice, albeit nearly 'resisting arrest', but I've heard this advice from other law-enforcement friends who say there this is a dangerous tactic of some felons, and a blinking red or blue light is an easy 'tool of the trade' to acquire.

Cellular Phone a Handy Tool...

This may be the best tool of all. In case of a problem, get off the road and call someone to help you. The phones are cheap with a $15-$25 monthly fee contract. Good Security while traveling at night in Winter, or anytime, for that matter.

Check the Air in your Spare...

Nearly every 'Space-Saver' spare tire that we have checked has been out of air! They won't do you much good if needed in that condition, so next opportunity, put some Air in your Spare! ( Inflate Space-Savers up to 60 psi, and conventional spare tires to 35 psi. )

Shoulder Harness Comfort for Kids !

Young children hate Shoulder Belts, and often try to put the belt behind them, rendering the seatbelt nearly useless. The KidGard/SafeFit Seat Belt Trainer positions the shoulder belt so it is comfortable for kids. Stop by and see one, or order from Safety Restraint Coalition, 917 Kirkland Ave. Kirkland, WA 98033

Call (800)BUCK_L_UP ( 800-282-5587). $19 includes shipping.


Tighten those SEAT BELTS...

The safety record of the 9000 seat belt pretensioners (Also available in '94 onward 900's ) has a lot to offer 99/900 owners also. That extra looseness in the belt can spell additional injuries in an accident, so after buckling the belt, firmly pull the portion of the belt crossing your chest upwards towards your door. This will take up that free play and increase your security in the belt. For those with Passive Restraint systems (electrically operated seat belts), Be Sure To Fasten your Lap Belts Too!

Runaway Saabs with Cruise Control !!

Did you know that a Turbo Saab cannot be stopped with the brakes if the throttle sticks open? Old style cruise control cables can jam, holding the throttle open.

If your throttle were to stick on you your 99 / 900 1985 and older, or any other model, for that matter, and it's at night, simply turn the ignition key ONE CLICK COUNTERCLOCKWISE. This will turn the ignition off without affecting the lights.

Stop by and I'll show you how to check your cruise control cable linkage. It is easily disturbed while changing the oil or performing other under the hood service, and could be bent out of alignment just enough to jam and hold the throttle open on your turbo, possibly resulting in the ride of your life !

Why WE should do your Oil Services... AND your Brake, Muffler and Shock Absorber work....

I am very uncomfortable criticizing other shops for their workmanship, but I also feel that we owe our customers our candid opinions in Swedish Car Matters...

Many people have a mistaken impression that they will save money by going to the Quicki-shops for their oil changes, tune-ups, brake, muffler and shock work because of their extensive advertising of "specials" etc. across the media. But ask any shop that specializes in a particular make of car as we do and they will tell you a different story... hardly a week goes by that that we do not see a case of a loose drain plug, the wrong type of oil, inferior filters or brake pads, improper mufflers and shocks, etc. installed by a shop that "Specializes in All Makes and Models". (interesting oxymoron ...)

Other times, we see a failed component such as a torn CV boot etc. that was missed on inspection and later cost the customer much more because of a late diagnosis.

In an ironic way, these shops bring us business, because a significant percentage of the work we do is correcting poor quality repairs, especially brake work, from shops that do not specialize in Saab. A recent story involved a Saab with a failed brake master cylinder. The muffler shop that also did 'brake work' wanted to sell the customer a new master cylinder for $500. ( New, from Saab, they only sell for $200.) The customer balked and opted for a rebuilt part for $150, which he was required to supply. The shop installed three of them while he was out of town, they claimed, because the rebuilt ones were defective, and charged for each installation since they did not warranty 'rebuilt' parts. In addition, they resurfaced the Saab's brake rotors, which on a Saab, is impossible to do properly without special tools. With nearly $750 paid out and now fluttering brakes (from the improperly resurfaced rotors), the Saab ended up at our shop with its owner totally exasperated. We installed new rotors and pads to correct the problem, and the customer was able to get reimbursed from the other shop, so it ended resolved to some acceptable degree.

This story is not that exceptional. We often redo brake jobs of this nature. My point is this... Whatever you drive, Swedish, Domestic, Japanese, European...talk to the specialist who knows your car first, and whose business depends on his reputation as a Specialist. Then decide if you want to see a 'bargain shop' for your work. I believe that a shop such as ours which depends on a 500-person customer base will have your best interests at heart much more than a shop that claims to be able to work on any of the 200,000 vehicles in the area that may happen to drop in.

Your Car and a Good Well; worth the Investment?

Recently I took a week off to repair our water well at home. After 20 years it had nearly gone dry so we decided to risk deepening it. I explained my absence to a customer by saying we had "well problems" in a sort of complaining, 'feel sorry for me' voice. By the end of the week my attitude had changed 180 degrees and it had nothing to do with finding water or not.

The Driller charged $50 per hour, and $20 per foot. He had equipment that was 40 years old and had learned his trade from his dad. The risks of spending $2000-$4000 and getting nothing in return are high. I had no control of the situation at all and had to rely completely on his skill. As one who fixes everything for himself, I was very uncomfortable!

The driller drilled what appeared to me extremely slowly, he was ultra-cautious and conservative in all his decisions. He did appreciate having me there so we could discuss the options, allowing me to take my risks as I saw fit. At first I was so aware of the time-clock racing by all I could see was how much I was spending.

As the week went by, however, I began to appreciate his methodical, careful approach, and realized this was not an exercise in emergency repair, but an investment into the next 20 years. A good well is a good investment. Better to do it right when we had the opportunity to do so.

By the end of the week, I realized it really didn't matter what the well cost; all that mattered was how good a well I had.

Considering a good Saab or Volvo will last 10-15 years minimum, my experience with the driller re-affirmed my belief in our philosophy of Automotive Service which has evolved over the last 29 years. It's much like the driller's; do it right the first time, this customer will be reminded of your workmanship for many years to come!

P.S. The well was a success... 20 gpm!

Something to be Happy about......

One of the "14,000 things to be happy about." by Barbara Ann Kipfer (ISBN: 0-89480-370-0, page 189), is "the driver's seat heater in a SAAB".

Great little book, by the way. Thanks to Carmen Hernandez for finding it.


That's all for now. Thanks for Reading!

Have a Great 1995!

John, Dan and Mike Lippis



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Copyright 2000 Swedish Motorcar Service
Last modified: March 02, 2012