Your Saab Specialists in Spokane

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






Feb., 1994


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;

Happy New Year to All! Another year has sped by and we Thank You again for your trust and patronage. We sincerely hope that you have had a safe and satisfying 1993, Saab-wise and otherwise, with the same coming your way in '94.

Since moving our store from Deer Park to Spokane in April of 1991, we have served approximately 425 Saab owners, and yet most of the time our business is slow-paced, seeing some of you only once a year. While we'd like to see you more often for the smaller routine maintenance, we are very proud of the fact that our customers' frequency of visits decrease --not increase -- as we are able to bring your Saab's condition to higher degrees of reliability and service life.

In a day when everyone is 'getting larger, growing faster, and selling more', as the hype goes, we're trying to go the other way! It is a long term approach to business, but one that has served us well -- and our customers -- for 26 years.


About "SAAB Specs."....

This is a periodical Newsletter keeping our Friends informed of the latest Doings of Yours Truly, Swedish Motorcar Service, formerly Saab Specialists of Spokane.

If this is "Junk-Mail" for You...

If you no longer own a SAAB or do not wish to be on our mailing list for SAAB owners, Simply mark "Refuse" across the front and put it back in the mailbox. The Post Office will return it to us and we'll take your name off the list... simple as that. We pay First Class postage just to be able to offer this courtesy to you. Thanks.

Swedish Motorcar...... Who?

Yes, it's still the same "us" with a different name. Last summer we learned from SAAB,USA, that we were infringing on their Trademark name by including the word "SAAB" into our own business name. My feelings were hurt for a while, after being an enthusiastic supporter of Saab for 26 years; I felt like a discarded lover. But a little objective reflection put things in proper perspective and it's only logical that they have to protect the use of their name. I later learned Saab, Volvo, and many other manufacturers regularly monitor independent repair businesses for this little known infraction. Still, we sure liked our other name; it said exactly who we are...... Saab Specialists.

When coming to see us, First Go Around the Block

In the near-three years we have been at this location, we have witnessed nearly a dozen Rear End Collisions on Francis St. from people (luckily, none of our customers) who are traveling east, trying to cross over the yellow lines to the shopping center wherein we are located.

If traffic is heavy, and you're traveling eastward 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 be going with the flow of traffic when pulling in.

For Sale....

For Sale: 1979 900 automatic 2 dr with Sunroof. Overhauled Engine, Transmission, Steering, Brakes; exhaust. 140K miles. 6 month full warranty on engine and trans; 50-50 on all else if not abused. $3000.

Also For Sale: 1988 900 16v Turbo, 90K; Loaded, Very nice Saab, well maintained.

Soon for Sale: 1985 900 16v Turbo, 160K.


Still the best magazine out there for the Saab lover, Nines, the official newsletter of the SAAB CLUB of NORTH AMERICA is enjoyable, informative, and profitable for any do-it-yourself'r. The magazine offers a Treasure-Trove of SAAB Lore and Information, Technical Articles and Mail Order Savings on Parts. If you want to help yourself with your SAAB Care, Subscribe to Nines... A year's subscription costs $29.00 (6 issues a year, $25.00 renewal).

We have Subscription Forms at the Shop, stop by anytime.

Family Updates...

What's new with the Saab Specialists? Since last writing, Matt graduated high school and is currently enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College. Stacey is in th 7th grade, making A's, has learned to sew, can cook several dishes and cookies, and plays the Saxaphone like Lisa Simpson. Mike rebuilt a 1983 900 Turbo and installed a stereo system with speakers that fill his trunk and have a range of approximately two miles. He likes motorcycling and snowboarding depending on the season. Mike also is studying to pass all his ASE certification tests so that someday he could move to Seattle and be able to work on Saab's there. Dan's main passions are his guitars, (he recently bought a Fender "Sunburst" Strat; It is beautiful), and his KX250 Kawasaki, riding the woods and MX trails at Seven Mile Recreation Park here in Spokane. The four of us had a great time riding together this fall in the woods near the Pend O'reille Lake Chain west of Colville.

As children, their dad taught them how to ride; now, they teach me their tricks and it is a real challenge to learn what they can do and try to stay in sight of them. Anne continues to work in Coeur d'Alene, driving 100 miles a day commuting. Without her hard work and income, it would be very difficult to have the privilege of running our little family business in the low-key manner we are accustomed to doing. (Any of you who operate small businesses know what I mean...)

An apple and two aspirin for Mr. Lippis, please.......

I went back to teaching a small 'Automotive Technology' class this year at Riverside High. This is my third class after a two year sabbatical. It's not a job, actually, but more of an experiment to expose high school kids to 'state-of-the-art' automotive trade skills. My class is only 2 hours a day, starting at 7:30 A.M., but it is certainly the the most difficult and challenging part of my day.

With only 18 students, you'd think it would be a piece of cake. But teaching, I've learned, is a demanding, specialized skill all of its own, requiring much preparation and training, and I am an untrained novice.

The automotive trade is so technically demanding nowadays that it is nearly impossible for a young person to start "sweeping the floors" and work his way into the trade as was often the case in the past.

So, being exposed to the science of automotive technology, taught by someone in the trade, we thought, (RHS and me) might offer a head start opportunity.

That was the plan, but I'm having a difficult time with the reality of the situation. I had visions of energetic, inquiring minds striving to understand the mysteries of the modern automobile; the mechanics, physics, electronics, computer technology involved, etc. I've not found that kind of academic hunger thus far from the kids who love the workshop projects over theory, which in turn transforms me into a shop instructor and coordinator (pronounced circus manager) of many diverse projects running concurrently. The energy, prep time, tools, parts and wherewithal required ( I supply most of it ) for the class is simply overwhelming. I'm looking forward to improving academic attitudes, and acquiring more teaching skills, but the time and costs involved as well as time spent away from my real job here at the store will probably prevent me from signing on next year. My highest respect to all the 'real' teachers out there...


SAAB's NEW 900!

Say, have you seen the new 900? We've a few pictures so far, but it looks like a combination of a 900 and a 9000 with the '90's look of smooth, flowing surfaces. Saab is offering 2 engine options so far this year for the 900: the proven 2.3 L 4 cyl., and a 2.5 liter High Compression V-6 (Opel engine, supposed to be state of the art). For the Turbo enthusiast, a '94 900 Turbo will be available in a month.

The engine and transaxle in the new 900 is mounted transverse (sideways, in the engine compartment), like the 9000. We are seeing the 9000 five speeds doing very well for service life after 100,000 + miles and it looks like they have improved the automatic trans to include computerized shift with 3 shifting modes. Mechanical Seat Belt Pretensioners, ABS, and Dual Air Bags are also part of the new 900. Looks like a lot to offer in 1994 for both models. Can't wait to drive one!

Do your share: Drive a Trionic Saab and Clean your City's Air ......

The Saab 9000 and soon-to be '94 900 Turbo has an emissions package called "Trionic" which is so efficient that its exhaust is actually cleaner than the air coming into the engine. Recent tests in Los Angeles revealed that the city air being ingested into the 1993 Saab 9000 with Trionics had more pollutants in it than the exhaust coming out of the same Saab! This model already passes 1999 California specs which allow virtually no pollution and will require many manufacturers for produce electric cars by that time. If you drove from LA to New York in the Trionic 900 T or 9000, you would pollute less than using your lawnmower for 1 hour!

Where did all the Freon Go?

Freon has become a notorious and at the same time, valuable commodity these days as the manufacture of R-12 used in most pre-1992 automobiles will stop in a few years because it is one of the products found to destroy the Ozone layer in our atmosphere. We have been using a recovery unit to save all we can from your Saab when AC repairs are needed, but sooner or later, there just won't be any more to replace what you lose annually from your AC system.

The best answer to this dilemma (if you like your Air Conditioning working) is to find and correct all the leaks so that you won't need an annual recharge of R-12.

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. This is a waste, but the hose assy is expensive to replace, so we devised a tool to tighten these clamps on the car at minimal expense.

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


Safety Again and Again....

Ah! my favorite subject! Yes, when the final accounting is made of the fifty odd years most of will drive automobiles in our lives, it won't be how they looked, or how they ran, or their gas mileage, or how much they cost to maintain, or if we loved them or hated them that mattered........ but only how safe they were, how much they protected us and our loved ones when needed; and how UNEVENTFUL was our experience with personal transportation. If you think so too, maybe the following reminders are all worth repeating occasionally....

1) Don't buy a car for yourself, or the teenage driver in your family, that wouldn't protect its occupants in a crash. Most cars are death-traps in one way or another; however, most Saabs would look good under the following criteria.......

a. Does it have good shoulder harness strap seat belts? Even for the rear seat passengers?

b. Does it have a roll-over cage or reinforced roof pillars? (most domestics and Japanese vehicles do not.)

c. Reinforcement in the doors for side impacts?

d. Front and rear energy absorbing bumpers and chassis?

e. Plenty of cushioning inside the cabin, at the steering wheel and visor above, at the dash area, and kneeboard below?

f. Do similar models in the wrecking yard look as if they held up well to crashes and rollover's? An auto dismantler such as Spaldings would probably allow you to browse through their yard to inspect similar models, and could answer some of these questions for you over the phone. Also, they could tell you of the mechanical track record of the type of car you're interested in; i.e., whether they see a lot of engine or transmission failures etc.

g. I think that the tiny cars; tiny Toyotas, Hondas and the like, VW bug-types, GM Geo-types are particularly dangerous in collisions with immovable objects and larger cars.

2) If you're going to put it on the road, it's worth whatever maintenance or repairs it takes to make it safe to drive, no matter how old or junky it may appear.

3) Studded snow tires are a must in wintertime.

4) Seat Belts on and the slack pulled tightly.

5) If you have Passive Restraint Seat Belts (the ones that electrically open and close; 88>900's), make sure to strap on the Lap Belt as well.

6) Keep good wipers and washers at all times, clean your headlights and tail light lenses before traveling at night, especially in winter.

7) Check fluids, belts, hoses, under hood, and tire pressures once a week until you know which areas need attention and how often..

8) Check all lights, including tail and brake, signal and sidelights, headlights and horn WEEKLY.

9) Remove tail light lenses and clean the inside surfaces, including the reflectors near the bulbs on all 99 and all 900 fastback models at least once a year.

10) Be extremely careful when checking your battery NOT to cause any sparks! Batteries can explode.

11) Cover your car overnight, or keep it in a garage so that all of your windows are clear in the morning.

12) Never use "Recirculate" on your ventilation system in winter; it may cause instantaneous fogging of your windows.

13) Drive with both hands on the wheel!

14) Stay alert- - concentrate--the most important job you have while driving is getting from point A to point B without incident. Do not daydream!

15) Never Drink and Drive. Be on the lookout for other's erratic driving.

16) Avoid hurry; leave 5 minutes early instead.

17) Forgive your Saab Repairman for Didactic Platitudes, he means well.

Some second thoughts on Saab's safety

I have commented on Saab's Safety record in every newsletter because I believe it to be the foremost reason for driving a Saab. Active Safety (maneuverability and reliability) and Passive Safety (crashworthiness) are the main reasons for my choosing to repair and maintain Saab automobiles for the past 26 years.

There was one troubling fact that struck me, however, when in 1993, the 9000 model was advertised to be "reinforced" in several areas, implying that it was more crashworthy. Saab must mean that their earlier model 9000's were less crashworthy, therefore, and I was disappointed that a company which has been making crashworthy cars for all these years would come out with a model that would be improved with 'reinforcement'. Still, the older 9000 has achieved "best safety record in Sweden" status by an insurance company survey in Sweden, where Volvo's and other heavy European cars abide.

One day I was at the wrecking yard and saw another troubling view of a 900 with a crushed roof! Yes, in spite of all I've heard and seen of the integrity of Saab roofs and roll-over protections, here was a 900 with the rear part of the roof nearly pushed down to the back seat headrests. It just goes to show that anything can happen in an accident, and you could get hurt in even the best of cars. It has been my experience that it is not coincidental for accidents to happen when you least expect them. Being alert and aware of one's surroundings, and prudent driving habits are still the best insurance available.

Runaway Saabs with Cruise Control !!

Did you know that a Turbo Saab cannot be stopped with the brakes if the throttle sticks open? I was driving home one evening on the highway, using the cruise control, when I became aware the Saab was accelerating rapidly. I tried turning the cruise off, but nothing... I tapped the brake pedal; still no response. By then, the turbo was approaching 70mph and accelerating! I didn't want to push on the clutch and allow the engine to rev to oblivion, so I applied the brakes firmly. It couldn't be stopped. Once the Turbo Engine starts working, the more load you give it, the harder it works... Now I'm doing 80 mph and the brakes are fading... Restraining myself from an embarrassing urge to PANIC, I regained control by carefully turning the ignition key to the left one click, to turn the ignition OFF but allow the lights to stay ON so that I could see to pull off the road.

A check under the hood revealed that the old style cruise control cable had jammed, holding the throttle open. It was easy to correct off the road, and I wouldn't use the cruise until repaired the next day in daylight.

Two other Saab owners reported the same experience this year and it happened to me again in another Saab!

Luckily, everyone kept their cool and simply turned the Saab off with the key before things got out of hand. If it happens to you in your 99 / 900 1985 and older, or any other model, for that matter, and it's at night, only turn the key one notch counterclockwise. This will turn the ignition off without affecting the lights. Stop by anytime 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 !

$1000 Fuel Filter Replacement.........

Here's an old fashioned horror story, and it happened in our shop! Anne's 79 900 wasn't running well under Turbo boost. I kept taking it to work fiddling with it in my spare time, expecting to find the problem at any moment. Being a high tech mechanic, I also expected to find a 'high tech' reason for the problem, because this Saab had been maintained well and all the usual causes such as fuel injectors, spark plugs, spark plug wires, oxygen sensors, plugged catalytic converter and the like had been checked. Deeper and deeper I delved into this mysterious problem. The fuel pump and exotic fuel distributor and control pressures were investigated. The turbocharger, Lambda system, plugged exhaust system, restricted air inlet, air filter, thermostatic air mixer; ... deeper, deeper into the mystery.

On the third weekend, I decided it had something to do with the valves, so off came the cylinder head, which, on a turbo, is quite a job. NOTHING! Totally disassembled. Nothing. A valve job just to make sure. Reassembled. Something had to be different! I'd learn something from the difference.... Nope! It was exactly the same!!! Finally, a review of all the records and notes -before resorting to babbling- revealed that I had not changed the fuel filter in over a year. (This model has a smaller, annual filter). OK, just for fun, we'll change it, but it couldn't be........ IT WAS! the Saab ran perfectly! If I had filled out a service audit sheet on my own Saab as I do on yours, maybe I would have avoided this costly and embarrassing lesson.

More on Winter Fuel with Ethanol........

Last year's implementation of 'Oxygenated Fuel' for Washington alleviated many of our concerns about gasoline containing 10% ethanol as required by federal law during the winter months. The reason for this program was to reduce carbon monoxide (CO) from the air of metro areas such as Spokane. I cannot report on the effectiveness of this fuel in reducing Spokane's CO, but am happy to say that we didn't have as many problems with the fuel as we had expected.

We were mainly concerned about the ethanol attacking metals and plastics in the fuel system, clogging fuel filters, damaging gas gauge sending units in the tank, fuel pump failures, and some drivability problems. We did see some problems in each of these areas, however, and you should be aware of them.

Clogged Fuel Filters......

....approximately a dozen customers, including myself. Most surprising were some later models which have extremely large filters, previously rated as 60,000 mile filters. Saab later rated these at 30,000 mile interval filters and we agree; change every two years for all later Saabs.

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 alcohol and it can easily swell and jam, causing the gauge to show that you have fuel when you do not. Several people ran out of gas last year thinking they had fuel.

Saab came out with a modification to adapt a 1983 tank sender which is more fuel-proof, but unfortunately does not read accurately except when either full or empty. New original units are just as likely to swell and jam as old ones.

Your best insurance from running out of fuel would be to reset your odometer each fill-up and get used to how far the gauge goes down with the miles. To be sure; fill up every 200 miles.

Fuel Pump Failures..... We had several Pre-pump failures. (the pre-pump is another, smaller fuel pump in the gas tank found in 1983 on 900's and 9000's) They seemed to fail when the temperature warmed up last spring. I think it was a combination of the ethanol and heat. In one hot day, we saw three of them fail whereas we had never had a pre-pump failure before. Most cars with pre-pump failures can be driven slowly if the tank is above half full.

Cold Running Problems with Alcohol....

Oxygenated fuel has less thermal energy than straight gasoline so everyone should expect some loss in gas mileage. Also, because this fuel is 'leaner' than gasoline, cold running problems can result as well. With the 8 valve Saabs, the most common complaint was that the engine started right up, but didn't idle well, or often stalled and had to be restarted once or twice before it was warmed up. There are several adjustments that can be made if these problems are chronic, but other than shortening the life of your starting motor, no other problems should result.

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 will experience slightly harder starting and until things warm up a bit, idle stability is poor. The computer is actually very stupid, and has to monitor many different conditions. When the mixture is too lean from oxy fuel, before sensor warm up, the idle may drop or surge. Instead of enrichening the mixture which would remedy the problem, the computer instead gives the engine more air, which is its normal way of controlling idling speed. This additional air adds to the problem and either the engine will stall or sometimes wildly increase its idle speed. In the case of automatic transmission models, this can result in additional problems. One customer had to hold the brakes to keep his Saab from zooming out into the street!

16 valve Remedies.....

For those with 16 valve Saabs experiencing cold startup and idle control problems, we have learned to perform adjustments to the Air Mass Meter and Temperature Sender, as well as Cleaning the Fuel Injectors with our new Injector Cleaning System, (8 valve models would also benefit) and making 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.

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. Evidently, Saab did not put enough metal around the drain plug hole and sometimes the drain is off center, causing weakness in the casting. We're told some folks have fractured and ruined the entire transmission housing by overtightening the drain plug. 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 - 7 1/2 minutes on a clock face further (approx 30-45 degrees). Tightening bolts and drain plugs, spark plugs and the like is difficult to describe, because one has to feel the 'stretch' of the threads or the drain plug digging into the copper gasket. It is this tension which holds the bolt tight: too much and something is damaged, too little and it comes loose.

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 gauge, 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 resilient, '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. After years of searching, 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.

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

Besides failure of some Ignition Modules (discussed last newsletter,) we've seen a surprising number of Ignition Distributor Rotor failures in Saabs, especially later models. No, not the original ones, but the after-market Rotors that were installed during the last "tune-up" by the local 'Quicki-Tune', or in other cases, a well-intentioned Saab Owner. A common mistake among many mechanics and do-it-yourself'rs is that the distributor cap and rotor must be changed when doing a "Tune-Up". 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.


A good Pressure Cap could save your Head

Yes, it's true. Just as Seat Belts save lives, your cooling system pressure cap can save your engine's cylinder head and valves. Modern cooling systems must dissipate a full 1/3 of your gasoline's energy wasted in the form of heat, and to do that, they must operate at temperatures very close to and exceeding the boiling temperature of engine coolant. 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. Also look for any hoses to shrink in size when releasing pressure, possibly telling you that they are swelling under pressure and therefore prone to fail.

Speaking about Hoses....... "Did you check the hoses?" is a phrase often heard in this business, but one for which I do not have a satisfactory answer, I'm sorry to say. 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. Gates Rubber Mfg. recommends replacing any hose over four years old, because they found that static electricity generated in the cooling system causes the rubber to fatigue and split in longitudinal lines on the insides of some hoses. I've seen it too.

How do we Check your Cooling Hoses? So far, we've been successful in catching most soon-to-fail hoses from outward signs only. On 99's, the molded "Y" heater hose and other funny shaped hoses fail with age. On 900's, a common hose failure is one or both of the heater hoses which go over the alternator, on the left hand rear portion of the engine compartment, near the firewall. The hoses sag and are worn into by the alternator from vibration. Other hoses are swelled excessively near the clamps (these are the ones with the splitting inside, for some reason), and some other hoses seem to swell up as if something attacked the rubber. These seem to have a wet look about them, as if the coolant is actually seeping through and moistening the outside of the hose. Another 'prime suspect' hose is the radiator outlet hose going from the top of the engine to the radiator. This hose is subjected to more heat than others and in Turbo models especially, has a high failure rate. The turbocharger is usually right below this hose and the heat attacks from the outside as well as the outside.

Short of replacing all the hoses, being observant and playing the odds is how we've managed thus far. Pressure checking the cooling system often exposes a weak hose that swells under pressure. When we do see a failure, we monitor that hose more closely so everyone may benefit from our accumulated experience.

SAAB's Maintenance Program Not All You May Need it to be.......

If you are interested in getting the most from your Saab, 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, in our opinion. Here are some reasons why:

First: Like other manufacturers, Saab is under competitive marketing pressures to require only the minimum maintenance for their models, to get favorable operating cost comparisons. For the same reasons, Saab dealers also have disincentive to demand a higher degree of maintenance quality as their survival requires them to sell new Saab's and low mileage trade-ins, not use extraordinary means to prolong the service life of older models. If a well-intentioned dealer did try to talk the customer into that 'extra' maintenance which may help the Saab further down the road, he might also get a reputation for inflicting that dreaded auto disease... "High Maintenance Costs" .

Next, design engineers estimate the maintenance needs of a new model without the benefit of 'years-down-the-road' experience in what is going to fail or wear out or need attention in that particular model. It is the independent repairmen such as us who have the advantage of seeing the causes and effects, and modifying maintenance plans for various reasons and climates to avoid unnecessary obsolescence or failures. In many cases, with the proper maintenance, the components and entire auto can last much longer than the engineer had planned.

Finally, using the 'coupon' type of maintenance booklet most car manufacturers supply doesn't work well in the long run because it becomes a jigsaw puzzle without an overview of the individual components' or systems' needs. Each servicing is a piece of the puzzle and the technician and owner has to depend on the previous technician having done all the prescribed jobs properly and on time to fit the necessary pieces together. To compound matters, most dealerships tear out the page listing the needed maintenance routines for the technician to follow. The owner ends up with only a stub stating that a "xxx mile servicing" was performed, and has no means to know just exactly what was done or wasn't done, making the next servicing far less effective because some items may be unnecessarily duplicated and others, omitted. It's like painting by numbers, but every time an individual piece is colored in, then it's erased and we can only hope that it was painted properly. It is nearly impossible to piece together the entire picture. Earlier maintenance schedules were superior in my opinion, with check boxes to mark, and keep in the book, making it much easier to see what was done in the past.

'Keeping it Simple' more profitable for most businesses.......

Many repair shops and Franchised Dealerships also prefer that the maintenance be kept to a minimum because simpler maintenance tasks are more profitable, and at the same time less risky for the garage-keeper, liability-wise. They take less time to perform, lending themselves to increased volume of service performed each day, with less likelihood of disturbing other components which increase the risk factor. More comprehensive and involved maintenance or repair routines always carry a higher degree of inadvertent risk for the shop and mechanic.

In addition, if a business finds that replacing a worn power steering rack (for example) is a measurable part of its gross sales, is profitable and easy to do, there is very little economic incentive to change the PS fluid every year and add any lubricants which would prolong the life of that component, especially when it is considered acceptable maintenance practice not to change the fluid.

There are many more examples of avoidable obsolescence. One is the sealed suspension "ball joints" found on nearly every modern car, including Saab. They come new with insufficient grease and cannot normally be lubricated, so they wear out, and the manufacturer, parts supplier, and mechanic all profit from them doing so. If someone like yours truly takes 10 minutes to inject grease into them with a hypo-needle every few years, however, they may never wear out!

CV joints (Front wheel drive axle joints) are another example. If given sufficient lubricant, and protected by a CV boot which will not fail, Saab CV joints will very rarely wear out. Older Saab 96 and 99 CV boots were made of thicker or better rubber than those installed on 900's, and rarely failed. If additional lubricant was added to the CV joint, just once in its life, it would never need replacement.

Today, however, replacement of the CV boot (and often the joint as well ) is one of our most common repairs. We use the best original equipment boots available, but they, like the originals, only last 3 - 5 years. We haven't found an answer for this one yet, because a better quality boot is not available and there doesn't seem to be any kind of treatment that prolongs the life of the boots. The best insurance here it visual inspection every oil change and replacement before they fail.

This is not a compilation of cynical observations, but rather the economic realities of the automobile industry (and others) today.

Understand Your Local Specialists...

Are we then the 'good guys' in your consumer's eyes, for exposing these maintenance shortcomings? We think we are, but we also know that most people don't have time for the 'nut & bolt' details of vehicle maintenance 'awareness', and no one likes to spend "comprehensive maintenance" money on an older toy unless it's absolutely necessary. From most owners' viewpoints, maintenance apparently only costs money. The money it saves is not completely tangible because it is money one did not have to spend, and the costly troubles from which one was spared (repairs, breakdowns etc.) were troubles one did not have to endure.

As repairmen, we see these costs all the time, but as fellow consumers, we also understand the dynamics perfectly. Most of us just want a safe and reliable Saab for as long as we own it -- with as little cost as possible. Others of us who are more particular may want to do whatever is necessary for best reliability, but don't want to waste a single maintenance dollar. These are simple goals, but they're not that simple to achieve. Maintenance choices are diverse and sometimes expensive. Bottom Line... You have to make some informed choices and form a maintenance plan that balances assurance, risks and costs with your needs and budget.

I think that this is the most valuable service we provide, and one reason why we spend more time than most talking to you about Saab Service. Reason #2 is that being a Specialist has its own kind of ethical burdens. We know too much! Working only on Saabs, we see a great deal of "cause and effect" relationships that another shop might not be aware of. Consequently, our standards of workmanship are considerably more demanding and complicated. This is why we try to involve you in the decision-making process and keep detailed records of everything we have ever done to your Saab. It is also why your repair orders often have many notes, and recommendations for future repairs and servicing: To help you make intelligent maintenance choices.

Know What You are being SOLD........

We once heard a rumor that someone at the local dealership said we "oversold" maintenance. If one means that we sell people on the importance of preventive maintenance, that is the one thing we do sell. But if it was meant that we try to sell maintenance for higher profits, the assumption is wrong. If we were doing that, we would be doing exactly what most everyone else is paying their Service Writers sales commissions to be doing... what the Tire, Muffler, Brake and Shock Shops do, as well as the 'Quicki' Lube & Tune shops, AND... many if not most Dealerships do: Sell the high profit, relatively low risk, fast-turn-around maintenance and repairs, and avoid some of the more difficult, but comprehensive jobs that (in our opinion) are necessary for the full and reliable service life of your Saab.

All told, its a parody of a well known children's tale, only told by the peasant.... of the employer who had many marketing executives but no grease gun........



...looks at the whole car, routinely, dealing with specific part replacements at intervals based on their service life, performing needed inspections and adjustments in a methodical, organized manner. It is the way aircraft are maintained. It is also what a Saab needs to keep it performing like a Saab.

Here is an Outline of the most important items for most models:

Fluid and Filter Changes:

Oil and filter: Change every 3 months or 3500 miles. (Should incl. Lower Insp., Lube Svc, Safety Insp., Ck Water Pump,belts,etc; Road Test;

Gearbox Oil: Change every year; inspect magnet for metal particles. Auto.Trans: Varies; Change Fluid Annually, Ck.Final Drive every 7500 mi.

Clean Auto Trans screen., 15-30,000 miles

Brake Fluid: Change every Two Years. ( Imperative this climate; Hygroscopic)

Clutch Fuid Change every Two Years.

Coolant: Change every Two Years. (Use Saab Coolant)

Pwr Strg. Fld. Change Annually

Air Filter: Change Annually

Fuel Filter: Varies: 1yr; 2 yrs.; depending on model.

Cabin Filter: Change when clogged: Affects Window Defrost.

Parts Replacements:

Spark Plugs: Usually changed Annually, unless has special plugs.

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

Cap / Rotor: Only when needed; usually last 80,000. Bosch ONLY!

Thermostat: Change every Two Years with Coolant.

Water Pump: Change only when needed; usually every 4 yrs.++

Belts: Change every 4 years.

Brake Pads: Inspect every 6 mo.

Exhaust Sys. Inspect every 6 mo.

Service Routines: Lower Inspection, Safety Insp. and Lube Service:

(Performed with every oil change.)

Road Test: Whenever possible with other maintenance.

Suspens'n Ball Joints: Lube once/or when needed; Ck every 7500 mi.

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 sys's.

Scope Fuel Pump(s): After 80-100,000; ck. every 6 mo.

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

16v. motors: once in lifetime.


Lights: Checked every time in.

AC Service: Ck. operation annually.

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

Generally Speaking, that's most of our Maintenance Plan, as far as the fluids, filters, part replacements and adjustments go. There are also numerous inspections requiring a trained eye, and model variations not mentioned here, but generally, everything listed in Saab's complicated Maintenance Manual -- and much more -- is included in this list. For more info, stop by for a more descriptive list including cost estimates and common repairs associated with servicing your Saab, or give a call.

Retorque the Head Bolts, even though Saab says No....

One of the most important service items for your Saab ( in our opinion ) is not in the book! We call it "Servicing your Cylinder Head", and we think that at least once in the life of your Saab, around 60,000 miles, the valve cover should be removed and the Head Bolts retorqued (tightened) to specs. The reason for this is that after repeated warm-ups and cool-downs, the aluminum cylinder head has expanded and contracted so many times that the head gasket below loses its resiliency and no longer seals well. Eventually, combustion gasses, or coolant, or oil begin leaking into the wrong places and the head gasket fails.

Saab has said that they now use head gaskets that do not require retorquing, but we have found that even these newer gaskets still need tightening, at least once in the life of the engine. Most Head Bolts that we have retorqued are indeed less than tight when checked, potentially weakening the head gasket seal. We recommend this procedure at the 60,000 mile service.

On 8 valve motors, we also check and/or adjust the valves every two years or 30,000 miles. This adjustment IS RECOMMENDED by Saab. On Turbo models, it's probably a good idea to check the valve clearances every year.

On 16 valve motors, the oil galleries lubricating the cam bearings and hydraulic valve depressors often need new O-ring seals, as the seals harden with age and leak too much oil pressure.

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 difficult and risky job for us, but worth the effort, we believe. We recommend changing this gear oil at least once every 60,000 miles.


Most Unfortunately, (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 hazardous waste as their rationale, (arguably, as oil is recyclable, not hazardous 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 !

Clutch Hydraulic Problems....... Another maintenance item we've included into our recommendations is changing the clutch hydraulic fluid. On brake hydraulic systems, flushing the fluid is imperative for safety reasons and to prevent costly internal damage from rust. But on clutch hydraulics, we have seen too many systems develop a sludge that restricts a small pressure equalization port in the master cylinder. When it becomes clogged, the clutch builds up pressure and eventually causes the clutch to slip and self destruct just as surely as if the driver had depressed the pedal firmly and caused it to slip while driving. Other hydraulic problems can arise causing different problems, but suffice it to say that awareness of the 'feel' of the clutch pedal is the best medicine. If it feels more spongy than normal, beware of putting the car into reverse. Your gears may crash from not being protected by the syncronizers found in all the forward gears. It is a good idea to select a forward gear before selecting reverse anyway, just to check clutch disengagement.

If your pedal feels stiffer than usual, or changes pressure from cold in the morning to warm up after using the clutch pedal, we should check it out. Though rare, the clutch hydraulic system may be building pressure. We think the clutch fluid should be flushed along with the brake fluid every two years.

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. It's an expensive additive ($10.95 a bottle), but considering the benefits, Saab's recommendations, and the cost of repairing an automatic trans, we recommend adding it ALL AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS IN ALL MODELS, 900 or 9000, at your next visit to us. This additive sounds like excellent insurance.

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 from Germany, produced by Lubro-Moly. They work well as a fuel system maintenance item. 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.

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.

Use The AC in extreme cases. 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.

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 $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. )

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 small bottle costs $5.


Tighten those SEAT BELTS... The safety record of the 9000 seat belt pretensioners (Also available in '94 onward 900's ) has alot 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!

Winter Safety...the main points. (Yes, we know Winter's nearly over, but better late than never!)

TIRES: Especially with a Saab, there is nothing like STUDDED SNOW TIRES ON ALL FOUR WHEELS. Having a front wheel drive Saab can actually be a liability sometimes without proper tires. The problem occurs because you can be 'pulling' yourself down a slick road quite easily (and often faster than you might otherwise be going) even with poor tires because of the FWD and the Saab's unique weight distribution and balance. If something happens to interrupt that seemingly stable situation, say someone up ahead gets in trouble and you have to slow down or brake quickly, you find yourself not with "FWD", but with "FWOOC" (Four-Wheels-Out-Of-Control.) Without ABS, (88 on 9000's, 89 on 900's) , the spelling of your SAAB can quickly change to SOB, and that $275 you could have spent on four studded snows becomes the best bargain you could imagine. If you are determined to only use two studded wheels, put them on the back axle for better stability when stopping. Siped All-Season Tires work reasonably well if the tread is new, but in emergency situations fall far short of the traction of studs, the best Winter Protection you can buy.

Driving Habits: Use the FWD. Start a little slower in the turns and gradually accelerate, pulling yourself around the corner. Saab's characteristic 'understeer' allows for powering around a turn and this is the best way to utilize the FWD. If the front wheels skid excessively, even after turning the steering wheel more sharply under slight power, then sometimes abruptly letting off on the gas pedal will cause the Saab to oversteer and bring the rear wheels around, helping you to keep from skidding into the other lane. Another method of initiating oversteer is to brake while applying power, but don't try this without some practice in an open parking lot! The Balance of a Saab is superb, if you learn to use it. Remember, except for excellent crash protection, when braking you're little different from any other car on an icy road. The best assurance of road handling on ice is DRIVING SLOWLY on FOUR STUDDED SNOW TIRES.

Engine Oil: 15/40 is still an excellent grade for winter, though some models do better with 10-30.

Coolant: Should be good for at least 40 deg. below zero for corrosion protection. Carry an extra gallon of mixed coolant in summertime.

Windshield Wipers and Washers: Both are equally necessary. Change your blades and service the washers, fill the reservoir.

Defrosters: Never use the 'Recirculate' function of your ventilation system while defrosting windows, instant fogging of windows can result.

Emergency! Keep a 6v. Lantern Light with a red flashing lens feature behind your seat. In case you have to get out of the car at night, other drivers will be able to see you! Keep the gas tank near full.

Tools: Good Spare Tire ( REGULARLY CHECKED FOR SUFFICIENT AIR PRESSURE ), Jack and lug wrench. A sleeping Bag to keep you warm in case you're stranded with a few candy bars and juice. Jumper Cables. A good Flashlight. An outer work garment of light, reflective color, gloves and Emergency Road Markers / flares in case you have to change a tire.

That's all for now. Thanks for Reading!

Have a Great 1994!

John, Dan and Mike Lippis

Send mail to john@saabspokane.com or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2000 Swedish Motorcar Service
Last modified: March 02, 2012