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SAAB Special tools (NG900/9000/9-3 & 9-5)

Irrespective of the make of car being worked on, special tools are generally the preserve of main agents and specialists.  In many cases, service or repair operations without the special tools are possible for the DIY owner but in others, there is no work-around. What is not commonly known, is that special tools are available to SAAB owners… so long as you can supply the part number!  This is harder than may be imagined, for a thorough search of the official SAAB Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC) reveals no mention of special service tools.  In fact, the place to seek references to special tools is the Workshop Information System (WIS), as used by SAAB main agents and specialists the world over but not generally available to the motoring public. If you feel the need to purchase a special tool, be advised the cost is substantial BUT this is the same kit that the dealer has and members of the public have little idea that the cost of the average technician's tool chest containing trade only tools made by Snap-On or Mac Tools for example runs easily into thousands not hundreds of pounds.

The SAAB timing chain tool allows the main chain to be swapped on a 4 cylinder petrol engine WITHOUT lifing the engine! Photo by kind permission of NE SAAB Specialists

SAAB main dealers have workshops equipped with sets of tools and equipment arranged (for the most part) on tool boards – example: T1 Tool board.  Many of the tools on the tool board are the sort of kit that you might expect a good workshop or keen DIYer to own anyway, such as valve spring or piston ring compressors.  In short, a substitute can be found for some of these tools but obviously the SAAB special tool is made to fit a specific SAAB application perfectly. Other tools on the boards, even in main dealerships, will seldom be used.  The rationale behind the tool boards is to provide a comprehensive kit that enables service outlets to tackle major repairs. Ironically, high labour costs will rule out the use of the tools on many of the older, higher mileage cars for which they were designed.

In the photo (above) may be seen the timing chain tool (8394678), which is a clever piece of kit indeed. This allows the main timing chain on 4 cylinder petrol 9000/9-5 and 9-3 models (not the 9440 sports saloon) to be renewed with the engine in situ. Normally, renewal of the chain would involve removing the engine because there is insufficient space to remove the timing cover because of proximity of the chassis leg. The special tool allows the existing chain to be split and a new (special split link chain part number ) to be wound on as the engine is rotated slowly. Obviously care needs to be taken that the chain doesn't jump back and fall into the depths of the engine but used properly, the tool will wind on the new chain so it can be riveted at the split link by the peening tool.

SAAB special tools

In the photograph (right), a trio of SAAB special tools can be seen.  The large silver tool (8394462) is for removing the toothed lock rings that retain the fuel pumps in the fuel tanks of the 9000, 9-3 & 9-5.  Without the tool, it is very difficult to remove the lock ring without causing damage and still harder to replace the ring afterwards without the car interior smelling of fuel vapour.  What sometimes happens is that the rubber seal swells up and fuel leaks occur.

The little red plastic tool (8394702) is for dealing with quick release lines such as the fuel supply and return pipes at the inlet manifold. In essence, the tool could not be simpler but it is devastatingly effective in use.  The author has tried a number of tools from other makers which supposedly fit GM applications but to no avail. Our verdict: one of the more affordable (under £20) and useful tools to have. Although the tool looks rather feeble, bear in mind that no great force is needed to work it.

The toothed quadrant is a flywheel tool (8394868) that enables technicians to lock an engine so that items like the crankshaft pulley bolt –which tends to be very tight- can be removed easily. It could also be deployed to lock an engine in a precise position - for instance at TDC- which might be useful when installing timing gear. The author has this tool in the armoury and has found it invaluable when building up engines. Similar tools are available from makers such as Sealey for cars like Peugeot/Citroen or VW.

These special pliers are for removing valve stem oil seals from the cylinder headOn cars fitted with the B204,234,205 & 235 engines, it is possible to remove the valve stem oil seals without removing the cylinder head... if you have special tools! The flywheel tool is used to lock the engine at TDC (after the camshafts and valve lifters have been removed before a special valve spring depressor (83 94 246) is used to compress the valve spring disc. An adapter (83 94 173) is used with a compressed airline to fill the cylinder with air (to stop the valve falling into the cylinder). There is even a protective collar for the valve lifter sliding surface but this can be improvised with nothing more elaborate than a cut down kitchen roll cardboard centre. Upon first impression, special pliers may seem over the top but access to the valve stem oil seals -which are quite large- is difficult and the pliers are shaped to fit within the valve lifter bore while still able to grip the valve seals firmly.

The T3 engine tool board holds 34 tools (including a lifting beam). At the top right of the board is a very useful but heavy tool in the form of 83 94 470, which, is specially designed for removing or installing balancer shaft bearings. These can be a trap for the unwary in that engines can lose oil pressure through excessively worn balance shaft bearings. The front bearing housings bolt to the block but the two rear ones are a press fit behind the large metal plugs. The oil way from the centre main bearing should be tested by blowing compressed air down the centre main bearing oil drilling to check for spun balance shaft bearings (which shut off the oil supply). This is bad news but a good machine shop can help by line boring the block.

An essential tool for removing or installing balancer shaft bearings

If you have ever wondered how a SAAB service department manages to bleed brakes or bleed the air from a diesel fuel system, the answer is simple! The Tool board set includes a siphon device, which has adaptors for fuel and brake lines - at over £300 for the basic kit, the author is not likely to acquire one any time soon!

Not all SAAB special tools are large or expensive. These wedges are more useful than one might think.

Other tools on a typical SAAB tool board will include protective collars or sleeves for installing seals of various sorts, racks for storing valves removed from cylinder heads and tools like special pliers for removing valve stem seals (which can be tricky on the 9-5). Lifting beams, slings, holders and floor stands are all part of the standard kit too along with tools that many other non franchised garages would be expected to have like sliding hammers, compression testers and adaptors for reading fuel pressure. Less obvious tools are far simpler, including oil drain pans and special adaptor plugs for drive shaft apertures in gearboxes to stop oil leaks when the shafts are removed. One of the author's favourites is the set of plastic wedges (8395238) whose usage may not be immediately apparent but these wedges are used by driving them carefully between the sump and the sub frame (9-5). The idea is to maintain the relative position of components when mountings are removed. Of course, these wedges can be replicated in wood quite easily by the competent DIY enthusiast.

The AD 400 Tech 2 scan tool

The 'Daddy' of all special SAAB tools, however, is the AD 400 Tech 2 Scan tool. In effect, this is a hand held computer which uses PCMCIA cards onto which software is loaded for the appropriate GM family model (SAAB, Vauxhall, Suzuki etc). The scan tool is connected to the vehicle via the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) or CANBUS (controller area network bus) socket and draws power from the car.

The AD 400 Tech2 scan tool: the preserve of dealers and specialists. Photo by kind permission of NE SAAB Specialists

It is hard to work on SAAB cars regularly without access to a Tech 2 scan tool because the engine management systems have evolved since the days of the early 9000. Then, turning on the ignition and waiting for the management light to flash a certain number of times gave technicians a good idea what was wrong.

Now, cars like the 9-5 have two interconnected bus systems: iBus and pBus. The iBus is basically concerned with instrumentation while the pBus related to the power unit, monitoring the engine and transmission. Sensors on the pBus are interrogated all the time by the Trionic management system and if an unexpected value is returned or no signal is received, a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) is triggered.

The Tech 2 can retrieve DTCs: example P1805 and they can be looked up with the Workshop Information System (WIS) in the case of 9-5s or with later 9-3s, it pays to have the Tech2 connected directly to a laptop, so the fault can be read directly by WIS.

In addition to being able to retrieve and clear DTCs, a Tech 2 can also be used to reset service messages, alter locking logic, recalibrate the speedometer (when 16" wheels are changed to 17" or vice versa), clone security chips for keys or update engine management software. A common need for a Tech 2 arises when a SAAB is being dismantled - it is pointless recovering the radio/cd/cassette head unit unless it has been divorced from the car it was originally fitted to. Head units are married to individual cars and cannot be unlocked or decoded after they have been removed. A Tech 2 is required, of course, to marry a unit that has been divorced from another car to a different vehicle. Be advised that a Tech 2 kit with extras and software will cost around £3000 - for this reason, dealers will habitually charge owners for reading or clearing fault codes.

If you decide you cannot undertake a specific job on your SAAB without using special tools, you need to consider whether it isn't more prudent to engage a SAAB specialist to carry out the job for you. This is because the tools are fairly pricey and are unlikely to be held in the UK (special order). Suppliers advise us that there is likely to be a long lead time for tools because there is no way to escape expensive carriage costs and the only sensible way to go is to place a consolidated order for a number of tools.



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