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A Saab Story - My 1997 Saab 900s named Garrus

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FrankTheCat

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A Saab Story - My 1997 Saab 900s named Garrus

PostWed Aug 21, 2013 8:27 pm

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Introducing Garrus, a very neglected 1997 Saab 900S 5-door with the NA 2.3L and an automagik transmission that I'm in the process of buying for $900 (which is a nice ironic number.) I say in the process because of some annoying complications, which should be sorted by the end of the week.

Anyway, it wasn't running the first time I went to look at it. Poked at it with some tools, determined it had no spark. Talked to the owner, who took the car off the road a month ago, and she said it'd been dying randomly (all of the electricals shutting off, usually while driving) and would often fail to start (cranked and cranked and cranked, but no fire.) Immediately recognized it as a dirty ignition switch; evidently whatever mechanic the PO brought the car to thought it was the ignition and just started throwing parts at it. Sigh.

Spent threeish hours today fixing it, after giving the owner $500 as a deposit (not getting my next paycheck until next monday.) Sure enough, after disassembling half of the interior to get at the ignition switch, the contacts were dirty. Cleaned them up, put it back together enough to run, and blammo! Started right up.

The good:
-No oil leaks!
-Engine has awesome compression.
-Working AC!! Needs its charge topped up; doesn't blow ice cold like it should.
-Brand new distributer cap/rotor button, plug wires and spark plugs.
-Brand new crank position sensor
-An absolutely immaculate back seat. Seriously. It looks like it just rolled off the assembly line back there.
-Runs nice and smooth
-My insurance is going to be super cheap (only $43 a month! for a 20 year old male???) thanks to all of the safety 'features' (ABS, TSC, etc.)
-Newish rear shocks (replaced when the rear shock towers were repaired last year)
-Newish brake pads (rotors need resurfacing from sitting for a while in wet grass)

The bad:
-The oil needs to be changed asap; looks slightly chocolatey. Not coolant though, I checked for symptoms of a blown head gasket once I got it started, and it had none.
-The oil dipstick/filler cap is broken and probably letting the moisture in that's making the oil look a little chocolatey (I have a new one waiting to install)
-PO hit something and messed up the driver-side marker/blinker (which is currently taped in place) and the fog light (which is smashed up)
-Center brake light lens is broken, and some numpty filled it in with silicone dyed red to fix it.
-Needs wipers (especially the rear one)
-The hood struts are tired. Have to prop the hood open with a piece of wood at the moment.
-One of the previous owners replaced the blown rear speakers with Wally World specials that they mounted by hacking holes in the trunk cover. I loathe when people do that.
-Driver's seat is ripped
-SID is pretty unreadable and doesn't chime anymore
-Mild exhaust leak at the flange where the muffler and resonator meet
-Trunk latch release sounds like it could use a grease job

The ugly:
-Has a god freaking awful <$500 paint job, with orange peel everywhere, and chipping paint. They painted over all of the textured plastic trim with minimal (if any) surface prep. For shame, you apes. I'm okay with an ugly paint job, but I need to sand and paint over the few bits of bare primer and metal asap before I get rust.

Once I fix the naggling things, it should be twice the car than my poor base model Voyager. Need to plate it before any fun happens.

Watch this space.
Last edited by FrankTheCat on Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
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FrankTheCat

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I don't even have the car and I'm already spending money

PostSat Aug 24, 2013 10:37 am

The first replacement part has arrived:
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A new oil dipstick/filler cap, to replace the broken one.

Now to get a car to install it on.

Also removed the 6 disc CD changer from my girlfriend's 900:
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The stereo in hers isn't stock, so it's of no use anyway, plus she has a convertible taking up 50% of the trunk space, so the extra room afforded by removing it is nice. I might install it in my car, despite not really using CDs and these Clarion units being notorious for skipping on hard bumps. Need to grab one more bracket out of her trunk if that's the case.
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FrankTheCat

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Overdue

PostThu Aug 29, 2013 2:34 pm

Well, reason there hasn't been any updates is thanks to complications with getting this guy:
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I had to get a letter proving the lien on it had been satisfied, so I can actually register the car, but I refused to give the seller any money until I had that along with the title. Unfortunately it took 4 days for the letter to mail a whole goddamn 20 miles.

Anyway, DMV closed before I could get there with it today, so expect photos of the car with plates, in my driveway, tomorrow morning/afternoon.
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FrankTheCat

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Picture dump time!!

PostFri Aug 30, 2013 11:56 am

First thing?
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Plates!

Second thing?
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Drive home, ignoring the oil pressure light flickering every time I came to a quick stop down an incline! Looks like an oil change to get rid of all that sludge is needed asap.

Next thing?
Wait half an hour for all of your images to upload to Imgur. No, I mean start tearing the interior apart and fiddling with things.

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The bad side

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The good side

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The butt end

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From another angle

Anyway, onto taking apart the interior. First thing I did was pull the rear carpet from the trunk:
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Why? Because look at all this mold:
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Ick.

And now for some more of the ugly...

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The holes in my trunk lid. I discovered that not only were the walmart-special speakers just sitting in those holes...

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But they were wired up using these super blurry wires just wrapped around the speaker terminals. Seems the idiot who did this couldn't figure out how to crimp spade terminals onto wire.

Even worse, these were the only 'functioning' speakers. Stock rear speakers are missing, dash speakers are blown, and these guys only worked when you were braking. What.

Here's the ripped driver's seat:
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And an engine bay incomplete without a spark plug well cover:
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Some mouse tried to eat the sound insulation on the hood:
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An example of the <$500 paint doing its thing:
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Silicone is not an adequate replacement for a brake light lens:
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How my hood is held up, since the struts gave up the ghost:
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And finally, why my blinker is taped in. What mount?
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Forgot to snap a picture for this, but the SID looks like shit. Speaker doesn't work either, so I have no blinker noises or warning chimes. Curse and blessing I guess.

At least the engine runs smooth, I got 32mpg on my way home, and I have working AC! ;-;

More to come. A lot more, at this rate.
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Manic_K

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Re: A Saab Story - My 1997 Saab 900s named Garrus

PostSat Aug 31, 2013 3:54 am

Great buy, after some junkyard parts the thing'd be OK. I'm wondering has someone been really able to push his/her finger though the "press" button of driver's safety belt latch? It looks so on the photo. Rear shelf is sad but at least after tidying up you'd be able to put JBLs there (with new cables) and get meatier sound, IIRC Saab's small original cardboard speakers are just tragic.
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FrankTheCat

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Re: A Saab Story - My 1997 Saab 900s named Garrus

PostSat Aug 31, 2013 7:33 am

It's not that someone's pushed their finger(s) through the belt release; the plastic has just had a hole worn right through it. o_O

I managed to fix the front speakers on the stereo last night. Turns out the flux used in the factory to solder the main transistors on in the head unit had gone conductive and was shorting them out. Plugged the cheap-ass rear speakers back in, but between me removing them and then putting them back in, they both went open circuit. Quality stuff here.

But yeah, some time picking parts off of cars at the junkyard, and I should have a decent runner.

Doing an oil change with Mobile 1 today to flush out the sludge, then I'm going to see my girlfriend an hour away. Should probably bring a toolbox just in case.
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FrankTheCat

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Re: A Saab Story - My 1997 Saab 900s named Garrus

PostMon Sep 02, 2013 12:48 pm

So I hit a rather large bump on my way down to see my girlfriend, and my exhaust got loud enough that I'm cruising for a noise ticket now.

Got home today, jacked the rear end of the car up, and discovered why:
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Input pipe for the muffler has completely disintegrated, and the rest of the muffler doesn't look far behind. Looks like I'm giving Thesaabsite $130 for a new muffler and exhaust clamp so I can pass inspection. ;-;

Anyway, to distract myself from this expensive discovery, I set about to address some issues I could fix with what I had at hand.

First up was the positive battery terminal. All of the insulation for the first 3-4" of wire coming off of the terminal was disintegrating from oil or coolant contamination. I peeled it all off, cleaned up the corrosion on the wire with an old tooth brush and contact cleaner, and then wrapped it up with several layers of Scotch 30 electrical tape (the good stuff:)
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I also re-routed the coolant overflow bottle hose down under the distributor and around the battery cables, since where it was made me worried about it rubbing through on something sharp over time. Just a little peace of mind.

Then I fixed the hanging driver's side front bumper and inner fender. Not only did it look like shit, but the inner fender was rubbing the tire at full right lock. Two tiny wood screws to hold the bumper to the inner fender, and that problem was solved:
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I should probably look for a new front splitter and bumper while I'm on the junkyard hunt, I guess. Both are thoroughly mangled from that corner impact, and from running over something large enough to bend the driver's side tow hook at a 90 degree angle. This poor car has had a tragic life in the past couple of years.
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FrankTheCat

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Re: The Silence - Begone with ye, rustyass muffler!

PostFri Sep 06, 2013 11:49 am

So today not only did I get a free sub box with two woofers AND an electric crossover from my sister's friend:
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But brown santa showed up with my $130 purchase to quiet down my Saab:
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So I yanked the broken old muffler out in all of a minute, thanks to it not being connected to the rest of the exhaust anymore:
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And two hours later, I had the new muffler mounted using the freshly tweaked (with a hammer) hangers:
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But not functional until I ground the hell out of the slip joint on the old exhaust, in order to clamp the blurry pipes in place:
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Niiiiice and quiet now. 99% of the exhaust exits through the tail pipe, not anywhere else. And on top of that, I have all of my low-end power back!

Video demonstrating this amazing phenomenon of quiet exhaust:


So why did the old muffler fail? Looks like water sat in between the input pipe for the muffler, and the clamp for the slip joint. The tall, wet grass the car spent roughly two months in before I bought it probably caused the subsequent corrosion process to accelerate, and make the metal thin enough to just crack right in half, as seen below:
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All in all, it was 150% easier than the 8 hours of hell it took to replace the muffler on my van last year. I didn't even need to jack up the car, strangely.

Also cleaned the trunk floor carpet the other day. Now it's nice and mold-free, and much cleaner than the rest of the carpeting in the trunk:
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And I got a nice warm fuzzy feeling, seeing this on my SID after driving to school and back (80 miles or so:)
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31.9MPG is better than my mom gets in her Fit. Then again, when I drive her fit, I manage to get 38MPG average...

Now to focus my attention on my aforementioned van. I made the mistake of saying it hadn't caused any trouble in a couple of months, and now it's decided that was an open invitation to break things. The oil pressure sending unit is failing and tripping false low oil pressure warnings, and the power steering pump shat out it's main seal and started pissing out fluid. I can't win with cars, can I.
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FrankTheCat

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Sad day is sad

PostMon Sep 09, 2013 12:08 pm

Brought my Saab to my mechanic for state inspection.

Of course when he called, it was to tell me it'd failed, because today just couldn't go well. That silicone replacement 'lens' was an automatic fail (I saw that coming,) and the lower balljoints were so excessively worn he was surprised I hadn't noticed. I'm surprised I didn't notice, too. So I got a nice surprise when he put the car on a lift and tugged the wheels.

~$500 repair, since the balljoint is cast into the lower control arm (thanks Saab,) that I don't have money for. Awesome.

In addition to this awful development, on my way over to his shop, my van's power steering failed completely. That made for some interesting driving, since even over 25mph that car's steering wheel is incredibly hard to turn with no assist. By the time I pulled into his lot 10 miles later, the power steering pump had seized into a solid, smoking lump of steel.

Dreading how much that repair will cost.

And I have three days of classes at college, a 50 minute car ride away, starting tomorrow. Hnnnnnn.

Anyway, here's a video of me hooning my apparently unsafe Saab:


Evidently I used 'breaking in' a bit too literally.
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FrankTheCat

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Saabing over the monies

PostWed Sep 11, 2013 5:07 pm

Got el Saab back from the mechanic.

Its now got a 'new' center brakelight, courtesy of the local junkyard:
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Brand new lower control arms, balljoints and bushings:
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Was nice to see I have relatively new CV shafts. It's becoming more and more obvious that whoever owned the car before its year and a half of hell of being abused by two teenagers cared a lot about it.

And then there's the all-important sticker:
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Only cost me $500 before taxes. ;-;

There is good news out of this situation. Old balljoints were poorly/barely greased, so despite not being too old, they were thoroughly destroyed and very close to just letting go altogether. So bullet dodged there.

The new balljoints and bushings really improved the steering feel/handling too, unsurprisingly. Car doesn't follow cracks/crowns in the road at all anymore, the steering is much tighter and without a deadzone, and the cowl shake has decreased almost to the point of not existing anymore.

More to come as I fix more of the things, like the trunk light:
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Previously non-functional, turned out some nincompoop had just left it unplugged after reinstalling the driver's side trunk wall carpeting. Found that out while unplugging the broken power antenna, so I wouldn't have to hear the motor doing absolutely nothing for ten seconds every time I turned on the head unit.
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FrankTheCat

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(Over) 1000 mile update.

PostSun Sep 29, 2013 10:10 pm

Well I've put over 1k miles on the car since I got it (1.4k is more like it at the time of this posting,) so I think an update is in order.

Other than a lost wheel weight giving me some vibrations around 75mph necessitating a wheel balancing that I still haven't bothered with, I haven't had a single issue since getting the car street legal. Well, I should probably also do an oil change since the extra quart of black sooty awful oil left in the engine from the previous owner's neglectful treatment has done a nice job of dirtying up the rest very quickly.

Anyway, onto more tinkering news.

Two weeks ago I stopped by NAPA on my way home from visiting my girlfriend and bought a bunch of miscellaneous bulbs that were just completely missing, such as the rear foglight bulbs. Now they actually work:
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Pretty sure they saved my ass during a torrential downpour when the sun was going down, and I had the luck of driving on the highway in rush hour traffic. 10 seconds after switching them on, someone came very close to rear ending me as traffic slowed down. Well worth the $3 for the pair of bulbs.

I replaced both fender blinker bulbs at the same time. Couldn't be arsed to take a photo of that, plus you've all seen blinking fender blinkers right?

Then I tackled aiming the headlights. Driver's side? Super easy, since I just had to turn the vertical adjuster two turns. Passenger side? Not so easy. Even with the vertical adjustment adjusted all the way down, the light still pointed 35 degrees upward. Very strange.

So I pulled the headlight and found that the side mounting ear had been bent out of the way, and the screw was MIA. I took a nice deep breath, dug around in the screw tin for a replacement, and bent the mounting ear back. Screw hole on the light was about an inch too far to the side. Very, very strange. Then I realized this damage right here was the problem:
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The bent-in fender corner was pushing the blinker down and out of alignment, and internally the radiator support had been pushed down 1cm or so. I pulled the support back up with my bare hands, and used a sledgehammer to bend the fender back up. Everything lined up fine after that.

I'm guessing whatever fell on the fender/hood smashed the light, and when whoever replaced it couldn't get it to line up, they just bent the mounting ear out of the way and left one of the mounting screws out instead of fixing the real problem. The real problem took me all of 5 minutes to figure out, and 10 more to fix, so why it wasn't done properly in the first place perplexes me. Now my headlights point straight and true like they should have been anyway:
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Sigh. The lighting power compared to my van is quite nice. The van's high beams are barely brighter than the Saab's low beams. Chrysler quality in action, I guess.

Tonight I got around to fixing the rear speakers. Ripped out the terrible wiring job some hamfisted monkey did, and soldered in some speaker wire (heatshrunk splices and all,) then crimped on some terminals for the speakers. Here's the finished product attached to the speakers, complete with half-assed-wood screw-and-bits-of-orange-crate-wood mounting system:
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The speakers themselves, surprisingly, work completely fine (and sound surprisingly good) after fixing some broken solder joints on the connectors, then connecting them up to my little Lepai LP-2020A+ amp. Why they don't work when hooked up to the head unit lies in the fact that the output transistor pack for the rear speakers has a giant freaking hole in it. I neglected to take a photo of that carnage when I had the head unit apart since I was a bit sad about that development. In any case, it looks like I'm going to have to source a new stock head unit from the bay of E's when I get some extra spending cash.

Got some plates coming in the mail soon, too, courtesy of my girlfriend for our 5 year anniversary:
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Looking forward to getting them, since Saabing is all I've been doing lately.
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FrankTheCat

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3k mile update

PostFri Nov 01, 2013 11:47 am

So a couple of weeks ago, a waste-oxygen in a red 2007 Ford Fusion backed into my car in a parking lot at a good ~10mph:
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Cracked the door molding, and gave the door a nice crease. Her bumper shattered into a bunch of pieces, and from looking under her car, there was probably some subframe damage. Score one Saab.

After wrangling with the woman's insurance (Geico, who insisted I bring my car to their own body shop for them to fix without even an appraisal as far is I could tell,) an appraiser totaled the damage up to $1063.51. Now, since my car already looks like shit, and I'm only really worried about rust at this point, I'm not going to actually bring my car to a body shop. That money is going to more pressing issues.

Short term I need to do the following
1. Steering rack bushings and an alignment. My car's pulling left fairly hard on the highway, and it's getting really annoying.
2. I need new front tires. I don't know if mine are oil affected or something, but when exposed to wet roads, their traction decreases by 80%. It's to the point where I can easily do burnouts and jturns despite the tires only being two years old. I'd like to replace them before the skies start shitting down snow.
3. I need a new headunit. Mine is breaking more and more. It's bothering me.
4. An oil change.

Long term:
1. Shocks. Mine are fairly tired, as you can easily see in the jturn video if you watched it. Makes the ride a little harsher and more wallowy than I would like.
2. New wheels and all-season tires to replace my stained stock wheels and Bridgestone Blizzaks. I was thinking Falken Azenis and the 1994-1998 900SE turbo wheels:
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3. Brakes. Pads only have another ~15k at most on them, and the rotors could use replacing. Handbrake needs new shoes, too.
4. A steering rack brace. Because I'm sick of feeling the steering rack moving around. Removing the cowl shake would be nice, too.

tbd:
1. Cosmetic stuff like the broken fog light, broken blinker, dents and scratches.
2. A thicker rear anti-roll bar. I might do this sooner rather than later using the ghetto doubled-up bar setup.
3. 2.5" catback exhaust.
4. A smooth intake tube.

Hopefully I can get my car into my mechanic next week to address issues 1, 2 and 4 on my short term checklist.
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