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Is your SAAB ready for Summer?

The other day a very good friend called round to ask whether I had 5 minutes to spare.  We ended up in his back garden where, stood on the lawn, was a shiny green Atco Balmoral petrol mower with 20” cut.  This was in rather a different league from my Suffolk Punch and I was seriously impressed (and rather envious, to be brutally honest). There was a separate scarifier cassette too, it started readily, ran like a dream and pulled like a train - what a machine!  Some time afterwards, I was brought to earth with a jolt – I’d read about this sort of thing and ran to the nearest mirror to check for other symptoms. Being proud of your lawn mower is a sure sign of getting older http://www.thatscomedy.com/lists/list001.htm

At this time of year, the grass needs regular attention and with the promise of better weather and the garden under control, you might consider taking the car on long summer days out or maybe on holiday.  In these troubled times, it makes more sense than ever to plan ahead and prepare the car for the season ahead.  A regime of on going maintenance makes a lot of sense because not only is the cost spread but focusing on one area at a time means that everything can be done so much better.

Don't forget to change your key fob batteries every year

A Chinese friend advocates breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones, reminding everyone that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  Accordingly, the first move should be to remove some of your winter paraphernalia (the snow shovel for a start!) from the boot, before addressing the scope of what needs doing and working out a system of priorities.

Consultations with local workshops, SAAB specialists and recovery vehicle operators reveal that many breakdowns or failures could have been avoided by better maintenance or basic planning. Generally speaking, far too many cars had to be recovered due to running out of fuel, flat tyres, wheels that would not come off, missing locking wheel bolt keys, dead batteries, malfunctioning alarms or immobilisers or exhausts systems falling off. Topping the list of SAAB breakdowns, however, is Direct Ignition cartridge failure. Every single day, SAABs are being pulled in with oil starvation – a disaster that in 90% of cases is entirely avoidable (read full article).

A flat battery is a nuisance that cannot be entirely eliminated as some types are sealed but the sort with removable cell covers can and should be checked regularly to ensure the plates are covered by electrolyte.  The author’s brother found that 9000s covering mileages over 2000 miles per week were prone to ‘boiling’ batteries dry, so for this reason, batteries were checked daily.

Traet the backs of wheels with anti-seize compound such as Coppaslip to avoid problems when you need to remove the wheel at a later date

Flat tyres are bad news because changing a tyre at the road side at worst exposes the driver and passengers to danger and wastes time or disrupts schedules at best.  Blow outs where a tyre sidewall fails are hard to avoid but many tyres are ruined by simple punctures that cause the tyre to deflate and break up before the car can be brought to a halt safely.  If you hate the idea of changing wheels and your tyres are in good shape, it may be worth considering Ultraseal tyre sealant. This is a proven puncture sealant product applied to the tyres to prevent pressure loss and although the author endorses the product readers will be more impressed to learn that the product is used by major fleet operators like Royal Mail and Tarmac. In the long term, we recommend Ultraseal because it helps maintain tyre pressure and therefore extends the life of the tyre. One local tyre depot tells us that around 30% of tyres they change would have lasted longer had they been run at the correct pressure. Since even budget 16” tyres for a 9-5 are at least £45 per corner (premium brands more likely to be £100 or more) it pays to keep on top of tyre pressures.

If you can’t remember the last time the wheels were off your SAAB, particularly models with alloy wheels and I’m thinking of 9-3 and 9-5 models in particular, be advised that there is a tendency for wheels to bond themselves to the wheel hubs, making removal extremely difficult. We believe that this is due to wheels being powder coated – a process that alters dimensions of components marginally but in this case more than enough to make the actual clearance between the hub and the wheel tighter than the designer specified.  For this reason, we usually remove road wheels and wire brush hubs and wheel centres to remove corrosion before treating the mating surfaces with a product like Coppaslip.

An ignition cartridge is easy to swap… so long as you have one spare!  If the cartridge fails, make no mistake, you are going nowhere.  For this reason, it pays to work on the assumption that the unit will fail at some point and many SAAB owners change the unit and carry the old working spare as a fail safe.

Make sure there is enough antifreeze in the system even in summer

Seasonal problems are often related to the cooling system which probably will be stressed by higher summer temperatures by some maniac digging up the motorway you are driving along on a Bank Holiday.  Begin by checking the coolant level in the reservoir with the engine cold. 

If the level is not at the ‘COLD’ level indicator, it follows logically that there must be a leak somewhere. Check the colour – coolant should be red, blue or green but never a rusty oxtail soup colour.  Rusty coolant shows the antifreeze is past its sell by date and as a bare minimum, the system should be drained, flushed and refilled with water (distilled is best) and antifreeze.

Topping up the coolant with plain water is a no-no because you will not only reduce the content of corrosion inhibitor but also lower the boiling point.  If you cannot detect a leak in five minutes by checking for tell tale crust around hose connections, seek the assistance of a garage workshop that possesses a cooling system pressure tester. These work by replacing the cap on the tank with an adaptor that allows the system to be pressurised by a hand pump.  If the Water pump leaks are not uncommon but need addressing quickly to prevent damage but if your car is a 4 cylinder petrol 9-5, mystery coolant loss sometimes can be traced to loose cylinder head bolts. Sealers and additives are nothing but an emergency fix.

The fluid should be at least 33% and should not look like oxtail soup. As well as containing corrosion inhibitor, anti-freeze actually keeps the engine cooler in summer because it raises the boiling point: at one atmosphere pressure pure water boils at 212° F (100° C) but a 50/50 mixture of water and ethylene glycol boils at 223° F (106° C).

Check for bulging or squidgy hoses and tell –tale leaks from joints. It is worth having a look at the radiator core, although that can be difficult, as many SAABs will have intercoolers or air conditioning condensers obscuring the view.  Look out in particular for any missing packing from the radiator core, for this will reduce the ability of the rad to dissipate heat.

As temperatures rise (and roadworks and traffic jams increase!) keeping cool helps reduce stress levels.  Ensure your climate control system works but if the system has not been regassed recently, a test will probably show that the amount of R134A refrigerant has dropped.  A professional automotive air conditioning engineer will be able to test your system and advise accordingly. Always get a quotation first because gas is expensive, as is the equipment necessary to carry out service work. The author usually pays around £60 per car for a deep cycle discharge and regas but if dye needs to be added or sealant is needed, the cost increases. 

The pollen season will soon be upon us but owners of modern SAABs are fortunate to have cars equipped with filters but in many cases, the filter will not have been changed in many moons!  One expert has formed the opinion that blocked pollen filters can cause blower motor failure on the 9-5 range. Do shop around for filters, as prices vary considerably.

Another seasonal menace is the fly. On the 9000, the cut out in the mirror caused a build up of dead flies on the front side windows on long high speed runs but on all cars flies can obscure your vision, so make sure the screen washer system is working properly (don’t add washing up detergent – this contains salt!) and make sure the wiper blades are in good order.

Longer drives or continental holidays mean more fuel. Making sure, therefore, that things like air filters and spark plugs are in order is obvious so your SAAB returns decent mpg BUT running with a full tank of fuel puts much more strain on the fuel tank retaining straps - we have seen a good few 9000s with bands that have snapped.

Finally, no amount of preparation can guard against breakdown. Given the cost of recovery, it makes good sense to be a member of a motoring organization if things go wrong here in the UK but it becomes essential if you are travelling abroad, where, trying to explain technical terms in a foreign language could prove challenging.



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