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

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Maximize Your Front Wheel Drive Advantage on Ice...

I'm not pretending to be an expert driver, so consider these suggestions with caution and use your own good judgment !

Also, these techniques are for Front Wheel Drive ONLY! I have acquired them driving Saab's, but I assume them to be helpful on other Front Wheel Drive vehicles such as Volvo 850 etc.

The problems with FWD... Front Wheel Drive is known to be superior to rear wheel drive for handling on ice, but it has two basic problems requiring special driving techniques to maximize traction.

(Problem #1) It's relatively easy to go and go fast, but no additional stopping power is had from FWD. In fact, FWD can mislead your sense of traction limits because it so very easy to achieve highway speeds on surfaces you could barely stand on.

Without ABS (Automatic Brake System) the front wheels can easily skid while braking. Worse, once skidding, steering is reduced to zero.

The good news is that unlike Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), you can apply a small amount of power to the front wheels while braking and keep the wheels turning, increasing your stopping and turning power if done properly.

(Problem #2) The second FWD problem is steering on ice. Presumably, this is the advantage of FWD, having the drive wheels "pull" the car around turns and corners. But only modestly powering around a street corner on slick, packed snow or ice can cause the front end to "wash out" and severely understeer. Ironically, you nearly need to go more slowly than with a RWD car to avoid drifting dangerously into the other lane. Therefore, one must give up the FWD 'advantage' around ultra slick and sharp turns... unless you own a very late model Saab with Traction Control (TCS) or employ a better driving technique.

The answer to both problems is basically the same, and simply involves applying power while braking, or applying the brakes while powering around turns. In each case the front wheels will be kept turning and prevented from locking up from braking, or spinning out of traction while turning. The amount of brake and power applied requires some practice, but you'll find immediate results. You don't have to find an icy road to practice at first, but later you'll want to hone your skills on one.

For braking, I prefer using my right foot (size 11) for operating both the throttle and the brake. I put the brake pedal in the middle of my foot and slide my toes over to the throttle. The main force is on the brake pedal with just enough power to keep the wheels turning.

DO NOT disengage the clutch while braking, but if you feel you have more control, you can be ready to release by resting your foot on the clutch pedal. With a little practice a fine touch can be learned.

For steering, the method is much the same, but with a little more emphasis on the throttle. Use the brake to keep an even load on the wheels which will prevent spinning and understeer. The more brake you use, the more the car will tend to pivot off of the back axle, up to a point where the back end will skid or slide out (severe oversteer).

I've found that also using my left foot for the brake pedal works well with steady power around the turn. If done properly, the Saab will seem to pivot on the rear axle, while the front end turns sharply, much like oversteer, but with more control.

After you get the basic movements down on dry pavement, find an open parking lot on an icy day and experiment. Someday, if you find yourself going down an icy hill or driveway see how much additional traction you can have by applying the throttle lightly while braking.

With studded tires, you'll be able to slow the car down to a creep on a surface you couldn't walk on. The same goes for turns. Just go slowly and use a light touch until you have a good feel for what is happening. I think you'll be pleased with the results and have a little more fun driving on ice as well. Good Luck!



I talked to Greg Galinski of G&G Service, Hubertus, WI (414-628-1716) about winter tires. Greg has raced Saabs on ice for decades and runs an ad in "Nines" selling Gislaved and Nokian Hakkapeliitta.

What is the best winter tire for ice and snow? That depends on what your needs are. The best in Wisconsin isn't necessarily the best in Washington. There, they have deep snow and salted roads, so ice is not the problem it is here. Greg recommends studded tires if encountering sleet or frozen rain more than 4 times a year, but that's in Wisconsin where they heavily salt the roads. Here, they are certainly appropriate on our unsalted, icy streets and highways with black and white ice.

Which brand is best? That depends also... Gislaved Nordfrost II is an excellent highway tire, has hydrophilic rubber (softer when cold), and is quieter than previous models. It is not the best Deep Snow tire, but an excellent choice for our area. This is the brand Saab usually supplies.

Nokian 'Hakkapeliitta' tires (the word means winter tire) are also hydrophilic and have 4 models. The "10" is an excellent Deep Snow tire, but is a little "squirmy" on the highway, is studdable and a bit louder than others. The "NRS" T-rated is best for ice, studdable, with aggressive siping which also causes some noise. Their "H" rated tire is M&S rated, not studded, and an excellent handling highway tire. Greg says this is the one dealers like to install for its good looks.

As to the Bridgestone Blizzak, Greg says it is an excellent ice tire, but less so in snow. It has porous rubber on the outside of the tread for 6/32", which gives excellent traction on ice, but this layer of tread only lasts about 6500 miles, then is back to normal rubber. (an Alaskan friend tells me they last longer than that, but wear fast on dry roads). Greg rates it "super squirmy".

I've used the Toyo "Observe", which one of our customers has enthusiastically endorsed. It is a non-studded snow tire, with deep, small tread blocks. I would rate it at 70% of a studded snow and equal in performance on snow or ice.  I recommend them.  They are available at the North Les Schwab store.

What's the best all around tire for our climate if you travel the icy roads and highways? Greg says the Gislaved Nordfrost II is probably the one. Whatever you do, MOUNT WINTER TIRES ON ALL 4 WHEELS. If you use All Season tires, have them SIPED for better traction on ice..

Steel Wheels for Saab 9000's and late 900's

Usually these are hard to find, but Les Schwab at the North store, 8103 N. Division, has Generic Wheels  which will fit the 9000 and 88-93 900's for only $29.95.  That's $10 off the usual price for our Customers.  Just talk to Cliff or Wade for this deal.  There is also a hub cap available for $10.  On some models, you may have to use Hubcentric spacers which cost approx. $8 per set.

Starting Tips for Cold Weather....Here are several items that often affect how your car starts in cold weather...

(1) Park it in the garage or employ a Block Heater.

(2) Push the clutch pedal in while cranking.

(3) If it doesn't fire up within 3 seconds, try opening 1/4 throttle while cranking. No results, open throttle full. No results, try idle again. Repeat. Try not to crank for more than 3-4 seconds at a time.

(4) Even a fuel injected engine can become flooded from excessive cranking. If you suspect flooding; remove the fuel pump fuse, charge battery if necessary, crank over with throttle wide open until it starts and then dies. Replace the fuse and try again.

(5) In extreme cases you may have to replace the spark plugs.

(6) Never, never, NEVER ... "Bump Start" your Saab 900 using Low or Reverse Gears !! You may break the transaxle Pinion Housing. Use second gear. Do not Bump Start Backing out of a driveway. If an emergency, and you must use reverse, engage the clutch GRADUALLY.

Some suggestions to avoid further problems...

(1) Use a lighter grade of oil in winter (10/30+15/50 synthetic Mobil 1 is what we recommend for older Saabs, and 10/30 Mobil 1 for engines under 80,000 miles ) Also, new oil works wonders for starting old engines, by improving compression and vacuum.

(2) Replace the battery if it continually corrodes cables. Clean Cable Terminals and Battery Posts. If the battery has become totally discharged more than a few times (leaving lights on etc) it will not be reliable in ultra-cold weather, especially if its 4 years plus old.

(3) Make sure Battery Water is full and Alternator Belts are sufficiently tight. (with engine turned OFF, test for belt slippage at alternator pulley; call me if this procedure is unclear to you or see "Tightening Belts", last page.

(4) Are the Fuel filter, air filter, Spark Plugs, Distributor Cap and Rotor up to date? Regular doses of fuel injection cleaner is good insurance.  Gas line "Anti-Freeze"  (Isopropyl Alcohol is unnecessary here as our fuel is already 10% alcohol.

(5) If you only do short trips in winter, let the engine warm up before driving. This will keep battery charged and help remove moisture from the oil.

More Winter Topics

Brush the Snow away from your Tail and Brake Lights...

In Winter, being seen is nearly as important as seeing. So clear the Tail Lights as well as your windshield, side glass and mirrors. Wiping the dirt off of Headlight Lenses will also increase their brightness on streets dramatically. Keep an old towel with your snow brush.

Use the AC to Defrost your Windows... It sounds contradictory, but engaging the AC compressor while defrosting your windows does a much better job, even if your car is not warmed up. The AC system dries the air that is blowing across the windows and removes the moisture inside the cabin. The heater will then warm the dry air, defrosting even more effectively.

Climate Controlled cars such as the Saab 9000 do this automatically on startup, regardless of temperature. Whatever you do, DO NOT use the "recirculation" feature of your ventilation system in cold or rainy weather, for it will force the moist air inside the cabin onto the possibly cold windows and cause immediate fogging, possibly blinding you!

Another benefit from using the AC in winter is that the AC system will last much longer if used regularly, Try to use it once a week, even if briefly.

Gas Line Antifreeze No Longer Necessary.....

I do not recommend Gas Line Antifreeze (Alcohol) for fuel systems in Washington state during the winter, since our winter fuel already has 10% ethanol. Unless you have a specific problem with a known amount of free water in your fuel system, more alcohol will just complicate matters.

If you add anything to your fuel, add a quality Fuel Injection Cleaner such as Redline or Techroline; the cheaper brands are nothing but more alcohol.

Engine Idle Problems most common with 16v 's....

A common wintertime problem for 16 valve Saab's (and many Volvos) is that of stalling and poor idling while the engine is cold or warming up, but the symptoms usually go away after the engine is warm.

Here's what's happening, usually...

The 10% alcohol in our winter fuel effectively "leans" the fuel mixture, so that '70's and early '80's model cars (usually domestics and cheaper imports) with worn emission systems will pollute less carbon monoxide.

This is in effect, a legislative 'tune up', through the gas tank, but it can cause problems with sophistocated fuel injection systems that are not normally part of the wintertime CO problem. ( electronic fuel injected systems with oxygen sensors ) In these systems, the fuel mixture is precisely controlled by a computer that is programmed for gasoline, not gasohol. Until the oxygen sensor warms up to recalibrate the system, the engine will run too lean. This may take from one to several minutes. Owners with automatic transmissions sometimes have a difficult time moving before the engine is warm.

When the engine stumbles from the excessively lean mixture, all the computer knows is that the engine speed is dropping. Since it does not yet know the mixture is too lean from the gasohol, the computer can only respond by giving the engine more air to increase idle speed; just the opposite of what is really needed (more fuel! ).

This additional air often makes the situation worse, either stalling the engine or causing it to surge upwards, then back down as the computer struggles to adjust the idle to a steady speed. Latest models sample the fuel and adjust to gasohol, but mid-80's to mid 90's cars have this problem with it. Once warm, the engine works fine, and in most models, it's only a minor inconvenience.

However, if the engine is not tuned perfectly, has old or too heavy of engine oil, dirty injectors, or vacuum leaks that further lean the mixture, (usually decel valves or evaporative cannisters) the problem can be very pronounced.

Short of reprogramming the computer, our best cures are the following...

(1) Making sure there are no vacuum leaks to the intake system.

(2) Cleaning the Fuel Injectors.

(3) Making the proper adjustments to the Automatic Idle System.

(4) Adjusting the Air Mass Meter to a richer setting for idle when cold.

(5) Making sure the oil is fresh and of a lighter, winter grade, and the engine is tuned properly with fresh spark plugs.

When these items are all taken care of, the idle problems usually subside.

Stalling when turning or going up hills may be another problem...

One other symptom worth mentioning is when engine stalling only occurs going around turns or up hills when the fuel is low. Many models of Saab and Volvo have Fuel Pre-Pumps in the gas tank that transfer fuel to the main fuel pump. If the prepump fails, and the tank is full, it will usually run reasonably well. But if the fuel is low, the main pump will be starved and the motor may stall or barely run for lack of fuel.

One way to make it back home or verify this problem, of course, is to fill the gas tank and try it out.

81-82 Saab 900's & Others Run Out of Gas in Wintertime...

If your 81-82 900 has a starting, stalling, or running problem in wintertime, fill the tank immediately. The Gas Guage Sending Units in these models are chronically defenseless against the ethanol in the winter gas, and the sender may stick in any position, telling the guage that you have fuel when you don't.

How NOT to Run Out of Gas in Any Car....

Running out of fuel can happen to anyone. The best way to avoid it is to reset the odometer and fill up at regular intervals, ( 200 miles in winter, since gasohol affords less miles per gallon). Keeping the fuel tank more full than empty is especially wise in wintertime, where getting stuck somewhere can take more fuel than anticipated to get free, or being stranded means having to rely on the vehicle and heater for warm shelter. Even later models' fuel senders occasionally stick, possibly stranding you.

How NOT to get Stranded...

Carry a Cell Phone in your car at all times.

Rear Window Defrosting....

If your electric rear window defroster grid does not work, there is a conductive paint available to repair the gridlines, and aftermarket kits available to install yourself . Check with auto parts stores.

Frozen Handbrake Cables on 9000's in Winter

Some 9000 owners have experienced Handbrake Cables freezing and sometimes locking the brakes in cold weather. We think we have a less expensive cure than cable replacement. The weather protective boots at the end of the cables tear with age and allow water in, which freezes. We have learned to thaw them out, drain the water, pressurize a lubricant into them and replace the defective boots.

Headlight Care...

Higher Wattage Headlight Bulbs for '87 and later cars... If your Swedish (or any other) Car uses the popular "9004" headlight bulb, there is a higher wattage version which will improve visibility, especially on those black, rainy nights. ( the standard 9004 is 65/45 watts, high and low beams; Hi Intensity bulbs are 100/55, respectively) They cost approx. $20 each.

Headlight Aim...

Other drivers will give you a clue, by continually blinking at you or never doing so. Proper adjustment is crucial to good visibility.

Find a convenient wall with at least 25 ft of level ground next to it. A garage door with an evenly planed driveway is fine; it doesn't have to be absolutely level, but have an even incline up to the door or wall.

With the normal amount of equipment in the trunk (weight), measure the height of the center of the headlight lens from the ground, and mark this height on your wall or garage door.

Turn the High Beams On. ( Do Not Start Engine!)

The center of the each beam of light illuminated on the wall should point straight ahead and at the same height as your lenses. Adjust!

Dim the Headlights and you should observe the beams dip down and to the right.

Headlight Guards for 1987 and later Saabs and Volvos....

Headlight Lenses cost upwards or $180 these days and a rock kicked up by the truck in front of you may put a hole in them or fracture them outright. The rain will enter and ruin the inside reflective surfaces. For $55, you can buy a set of adhesive Headlight, Park Lens and Fog light lens covers which will protect them all. For about $25 we'll put them on for you!

ABS... Use it or lose it!

A recent study aired on the news revealed that many people driving cars with ABS (Automatic Braking System) don't know how to use them properly and have no better safety records than those using standard brakes. The news story stated people with ABS incorrectly "pump" the brakes cautiously so as not to lock the wheels.

The best way to use ABS is to just step on them and allow the computer to do all the work. If a wheel tries to lock up, you will feel an aesthetically unpleasant thumping in the brake pedal along with a knocking noise. This is what it's supposed to be doing, so don't let it bother you. The best way to get used to the brakes is of course, is to practice on a slick parking lot or road away from traffic. A dirt road or wet highway might do as well. Do some practice panic stops and see how well they work. There are indeed amazing, and their only disadvantage beside their high cost might be from being 'rear-ended' by another car unable to stop as fast as you!

Dual Braking System Methods...

In low traction environments, older braking systems require a lighter, more sensitive touch to the brakes to prevent skidding, and pumping the brakes to both test them and test the traction before your stop is appropriate.

In the unlikely event you should lose your brakes on any car ( either ABS or Dual systems), pumping the brake pedal may do no good. You must push the pedal nearly to the floor to engage the backup operation of the brakes. You'll think the pedal is actually on the floor, but that's where it needs to be to apply pressure to the other side. This applies to all vehicles.

Flash Camera Best Insurance for Protecting Insurance!

If you are involved in an accident, getting the police to investigate is next to impossible unless there is an injury or traffic is tied up. So the only way you might have any evidence to show your insurance investigator or a judge is through a few pictures. The disposables and inexpensive pocket models are great for this. Just make sure to carry one with flash in case of nighttime use. Pop it into your glove box, and you might have something even more valuable than a policeman's report to record evidence of the other driver's fault, (of course!) his vehicle and license plate, damage to your car, the position of the vehicles after the collision, which lane, what corner etc. Here's a case where a picture may be worth more than a thousand words!

Engine Oil Blended for Winter...

We have successfully used a mix of 10/30 and 15/50 Mobil 1 for the past 2 years.  So this year we are blending our oil. Newer Saabs can use 10/30 Mobil 1 during Winter, but not for Summer! where 15/50 or a mix of 10/30 is preferable for Newer Engines and Straight 15/50 for older engines.  WE DO NOT RECOMMEND 5/30 OILS IN ANY SAAB, DESPITE WHAT SAAB SAYS!  The Oil is too light, and you will lose 100,000 miles of service life.  We have already seen evidence of this problem.

Phone Numbers to Keep Handy.. Here are the phone numbers I refer you to the most, and are very good resources for your Swedish Car.

Swedish Motorcar Svc. 509-487-3308

T&T Towing Service 509-489-5900

(Best prices for our customers; great service)

Precious Metal Auto Body; N. Market St. 509-467-5755

(Joe Polowski; Great Body Shop; reasonable, honest )

Watt's Driveline, for Wheel Alignment Spokane 509-483-6421

SAAB Consumer Relations ... 800-955-9007

Jaremko Saab, Spokane (Local Dealer) 509-924-6242 (Excellent dealership)

(Daryl Tachell, chief Saab Tech, is Excellent!)

Barrier Motors, Bellevue (Dealership) 800-437-6760

RPM Motors, Portland (Independent) 503-285-6552

Scandia Autosports, Seattle .. (Indep.) 206-789-2819


If you've just washed the car or driven in rainy weather, the moisture may freeze in your locks. Spray a water-displacer such as WD-40 in the locks to remove moisture. Saab 99's and 900's with the ignition lock on the floor are especially susceptible to melting snow and moisture that later freeze; spilled coffee and soda that later congeal, and grit falling into the lock and jamming it. (See article on Preventing Starter Failures by cleaning your ignition lock )

Put the spray nozzle of the water-displacing lubricant ( WD-40 etc.) directly into the lock and cover with a towel. The spray will force debris back out of the lock, possibly freeing it. Use a lock graphite powder occasionally in all locks to restore them to smooth operation.


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Last modified: March 02, 2012