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SeriousSAAB Running report

Some time ago, we acquired a silver green metallic 9-5 SE 2.0 Automatic. Originally, the car was bought for no better reason than it came with a set of not so good but still presentable 17"Aero style 'blade' alloys.

Our 2.0SE has proved very reliable since repair

Initial signs were not good: the oil light was on and the engine blew more smoke than A3 Gresley pacific 'Flying Scotsman' and, we were told, the automatic gearbox slipped badly when going up a bank. My brother and I exchanged sage looks - this was a classic symptom of a failed front clutch.

The car was destined for an ignominious end - stripped of useful parts, it would meet its end in the crushing embrace of local metal processor Hanratty's grab and hydraulic press but out of sheer daftness, we checked the dipstick, only to find that the oil light was on because there was no oil left in the sump, due, no doubt, to the turbo charger which was in a state rather worse than our British economy.

At this point, the yellow marker pen would have been deployed normally, marking anything defective ZL and the letters PUD (power unit defects) on the windscreen meaning the car would have looked as if a swarm of locusts had been at it after a couple of hours but because we were bored silly, out came the lump. This came about because upon examination the bodywork was pretty good - too good just to scrap the car. Lifting the engine was a gamble because very often, turbo chargers fail purely because of lubrication issues and the crankshafts are often trashed too for the same reason.

Although the shells didn't look the requisite dull grey colour, we used a plastiguage only to find no discernible wear. Instead of scrapping the engine, we had a viable candidate for repair. Further investigation revealed why: the crank had been reground to 0.25 (the shells were stamped 2002) and the same date on the timing cover led us to believe that the cover had been changed due to a catastrophic lack of oil pressure. We have discovered that removing the oil pressure relief valve and spring can sometimes result in the threads coming out of the timing case, which is bad news because the covers are £150 +VAT each.

The crank was cleaned, the oil ways blown out with compressed air and the drillings cleaned with pipe cleaners, while the block was steam cleaned inside and out. New shells for the connecting rods (big ends) and main bearings were fitted along with an oil pump repair kit. The timing chains didn't look brilliant so, a full set of main chain, balance chain, all guides, tensioners and sprockets was installed. The cylinder head was lifted and the gasket changed, along with the head bolts. A classic error when rebuilding a SAAB engine is not to treat the oil cooler - they really do end up containing the muck of the ages and if a session in a Safety-Kleen tank doesn't look convincing, we BIN the coolers. No messing.

We pulled a good autobox from the den and a new oil, pressure switch plus thermostat from our stores. DON'T mess about if you have one of these engines out: BIN oil pressure switches and thermostats as a matter of routine, so they don't grief you later.

We cleaned the sump with a mixture of Jizer and paraffin (mixed 1: 3) before washing off with a hosepipe. The sump still was nowhere near clean enough, so we left it steeping in Cillit Bang. After further work, we were satisfied it was clean enough. Only then was the strainer tackled.

Conventional wisdom is that dirty strainers should be cleaned or replaced but we routinely re-mesh strainers with 304 grade .20 mesh welded stainless wire that we acquire through a company specialising in lab supplies. This mesh with 20 holes rather than 30, allows the passage of larger particles of carbon particles through the mesh to be minced by the oil pump gears and trapped in the oil filter. We usually fit a magnetic sump plug as insurance against metal particles finding their way round the lubrication system. Carbon particles are sludge - read the full article

The engine rebuild has been very successful with the car logging 5,000 trouble free miles since. Some cretin keyed both passenger side doors but we had a pair of doors from another car, which we swapped. During the cold weather, we swapped out the front seats for a set of heated ones that we pulled from another breaker. The gearbox has been drained & refilled with Dex 3 a couple of times and is a delight to use. We might offer the car for sale, as it drives so well but economics means that we have a situation whereby the power unit is probably worth more than the car...

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