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dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 8:46 p.m.

We have two teenage boys who will be of driving age in the next 18 months, so I’ve been re-assessing the fleet.  I’ve been on FB Marketplace and CL on a regular basis casually looking at options (I never really stop), when BoxheadTim posted up this thread.  Also have been following along on Angry Corvair’s thread on the one for his daughter.

We were on vacation back in August, so I created a “Saab” search on CL.  We had owned an ’00 9-3 and liked it, but had to sell it when our boys were both in rear-facing car seats, so I had experience with one. I liked the torque of the smaller turbo, and the automatic in our old 9-3 was a good pairing with the turbo motor, especially with the transmission in Sport mode.

One popped up that interested me, the ad said it was an ’04 Linear that ran but needed work. 1 owner, garaged, no accidents, 136k.  I sent off a reply asking if they could detail out what “work” it needed.  The said it needed front struts, a rear caliper was frozen, and the radio didn’t work.

These were the pictures in the ad:

      

I checked it out in person with my younger son one day on the way home from visiting my parents, and ended up buying it. It was in good shape, no rust, and looked like it had been garaged. The original owner was a woman in her 60s who ended up buying a Tesla S as a replacement for the Saab.  I liked her and her husband, and believe in the saying that you buy the owner as much as the car, so I went for it.  When I was filling out the title, I got to the color and the former owner without hesitation said "Hazelnut", so I guess Hazel is as good a name as any.

I drove it home without incident, and parked it in the garage overnight.  I was starting to form a plan to get it registered, check it out, and start working on a punch list.

You know what they say about the best laid plans.  I went to check it out the following morning, and noticed this underneath:

 

No, that isn’t water from the A/C and yes, it’s oil.  Lots of it.  I had noticed some drips on the engine when I was looking at it, but this was a pretty big puddle.  I cleaned it up a little, and could see the majority was coming from the oil level sensor on the front of the oil pan, that leak was very steady. 

Unfortunately, fixing it requires R&Ring the oil pan, which involves fun things like motor mounts and A/C compressor bolts attaching to the oil pan itself.

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 8:49 p.m.

9-3s appear to have several sources of oil leaks, so I decided to tackle a chunk of them all at once.  I plan to replace the PCV valve, which sits under the intake manifold.  Then there’s a seal between the PS reservoir and the pump that likes to leak, so I added that to the list.  Along with the vacuum pump right behind it in the engine bay.  And the valve covers leak, so that’s a good excuse to change out the plugs, as well.  While inspecting the engine bay one of the vacuum hoses came apart, so that went on the list, as well.  Pretty soon, my “while I’m at it list” was pretty long:

My wife is pretty patient, but having the car tie up a bay for months, along with the cardboard box fort worth of parts in our entryway wasn’t scoring me any points.  So I built a shelf for a mechanical room in our basement, which gets the car parts out of the entryway, which she and I both count as a win.

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 8:53 p.m.

Normally, I can wait on blown shocks a bit, but this situation was a little more serious.  Check out the rust:

And the spring, which is sitting on the top of the endlink!?!

Apparently, it’s common for the springs to have a plastic sleeve on the end that causes them to rust and break here in the salt belt.  So that’s the driver’s side front spring resting on the sway bar end link.

Struts and associated parts (strut mounts, bearings, springs, etc.) were ordered.  FedEx claimed they delivered the struts and I really wish they had, but they didn’t.  I was able to get a refund from RockAuto with no issues, but the struts I wanted (Sachs) have been on backorder ever since. Along with my second choice, the Bilstein B4s.  So I’ve been stalking every major parts supplier trying to find a decent strut for the front.

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 9:01 p.m.

So, the first two repairs were relatively easy, both the brake fluid reservoir and the coolant reservoir caps were broken.  The brake fluid reservoir had a crack in it, which is common from over-tightening it.

The coolant expansion tank cap became a two-piece cap when it should only have been one:

   

For a few bucks, both issues were resolved:

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 9:09 p.m.

So that brings us to sometime in August/September.  The car basically sat for a month and a half as I was working on a bunch of house projects that had to get done before the weather turned.  They're mostly done, so I could focus on clearing out the other bay of the garage that had been full of building materials and getting the Saab in there so I could get to work.

I'm not a huge cosmetics guy, but the shifter trim was terrible.  Not sure what happened there, but it looked like it had been through a war.

  

A local person was parting out an '08, so I snagged a replacement and installed it.

Guess I'll have to grab an after picture!

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 9:19 p.m.

The first three things I tackled in the engine bay were the power steering pump seal rebuild and the vacuum pump seals.  The power steering pump has an o-ring between the pump and reservior that likes to leak, and mine was no exception.

The vacuum put had the worst gasket I've ever taken out.  Everyone always complains about brittle gaskets, and this one felt like plastic!

So those went back on without a hitch.

Also had a chance to replace the vacuum line that had separated when I was cleaning the engine bay (it's still not clean, BTW).

 

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 9:28 p.m.

So, after stalking every major retailer for Saabs (RockAuto, FCP Euro, EEuroparts, eSaabparts, and TireRack), I finally got an alert on Friday that the Bilstein strut I was looking for was available.  Availability since my first order of struts were ordered has been crazy, everyone had one side (can't remember now if it was left or right), but not the other.  And that was for Sachs (multiple models), Bilstein, and KYB.  So I ordered up front Bilstein B4 struts from RockAuto Friday morning, and the first one arrived Saturday morning, and the second comes later this week.

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/30/22 9:30 p.m.

A set of 60th Anniversary wheels for the 9-3 came up locally with Saab center caps, so I snatched them up. I did clean them up a bit, but again forgot to take pics.

 

They're actually 17x7.5", which is a little wider than what I was hoping for.  I might end up just staying with 16" wheels for the summer and winter, assuming tire availability is good with a 16" wheel.

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/1/22 8:23 a.m.

Yesterday's project was the headlights.  Low beam headlight output was really bad - holding a cell phone flashlight out the window would have increased output by 50%.  The lenses were badly hazed, and I suspect the H7 halogen bulbs were probably ancient, as well.  I also have to look into the headlight aim, but output was still horrific.

I used the Sylvania kit, and was pleased with the results.  The results look better in person than in the pics, but here goes.

Before:

After:

Somebeach (Forum Supporter)
Somebeach (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
11/1/22 1:31 p.m.

I am not sure if they are the same headlight or not but I parted out a 2003 Saab 9-3, I think I still have the headlights in my barn.  I don't know with out looking for them if they were any less foggy. 
 

But if you would be interested I can try to look for them. 
 

 

Somebeach (Forum Supporter)
Somebeach (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
11/1/22 1:33 p.m.
dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/2/22 8:06 a.m.
Somebeach (Forum Supporter) said:

I am not sure if they are the same headlight or not but I parted out a 2003 Saab 9-3, I think I still have the headlights in my barn.  I don't know with out looking for them if they were any less foggy. 
 

But if you would be interested I can try to look for them. 
 

 

I'd definitely be interested in the headlights, but am not in a rush.  Next time if you're in the barn and happen to see them, let me know!  Thanks!  One of the pieces of Saab ownership is developing a collection of spares for the critical parts that tend to go bad, or you can't get new.

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/2/22 9:56 a.m.
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) said:
One of the pieces of Saab ownership is developing a collection of spares for the critical parts that tend to go bad, or you can't get new.

This is a very eloquent way of saying owning a Saab leads to hoarding laugh 

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/2/22 7:42 p.m.
RacetruckRon said:
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) said:
One of the pieces of Saab ownership is developing a collection of spares for the critical parts that tend to go bad, or you can't get new.

This is a very eloquent way of saying owning a Saab leads to hoarding laugh 

My natural state is hoarding, owning a Saab just makes it worse laugh

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/2/22 9:07 p.m.

In reply to dj06482 (Forum Supporter) :

same homie, same

Aaron_King
Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/3/22 2:40 p.m.

It doesn't help that I have an alert set up on Row52 for SAAB's in a 250 mile radious of my house.

procainestart
procainestart SuperDork
11/3/22 3:11 p.m.
Aaron_King said:

It doesn't help that I have an alert set up on Row52 for SAAB's in a 250 mile radious of my house.

Yeah, I've got a Row52 search, too. A terrible distraction at times, and I already have a basement full of parts...

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/18/23 4:54 p.m.

So late November was... interesting and eventful!  During the Thanksgiving holiday, I had my wife's Pilot up on jackstands/ramps and was about to drain the coolant to start the replacement of the timing belt and water pump.  I ran an errand before I could drain the coolant, and on the way home our Rav4 was rear-ended.  I asked here for advice, and it looked like it was totaled.  (Thankfully, I received an early Christmas gift and it was deemed fixable.)  So with my oldest turning 16 soon, that accelerated the need to get the Saab to a known-good state.  The oil level sensor was leaking something fierce, it's a common issue for these cars.  There's an o-ring that becomes hard and brittle over time, which lets the oil leak out the front of the pan.  In all their wisdom, GM made the sensor only accessible by dropping the pan.  Fun, right?

I put the Pilot back to a working state and dove into the Saab.  And what did I find when I dropped the pan?

That's the balance shaft tensioner arm.  Apparently, this is a very common issue on the Saabs, and the GM Ecotec motors in general.  So I cleaned the pan up, replaced the sensor with a new one (with a new o-ring), and reinstalled the pan.  I just need to re-install the dip stick and re-fill with oil, all of the other piping is back in place and ready to go.

Parts have already arrived for the balance shaft stuff.  So that project will be coming soon, as well.

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) HalfDork
2/18/23 10:53 p.m.

Hi - I dailyed a 2003 Linear (first year of the Ecotec GMs) for about 3 years, it was a great commuter car and will be a great first car for your boys.  I bought but never installed the front and rear seats from an 04 Aero.  They're in decent shape, and yours for the taking if you want them. Im about an hour south of you I think. I've also got a couple of boxes of parts I never moved along after I sold the car, which you're welcome to as well.  

P.S. - I replaced that same tensioner by using a floor jack and a block of wood under the oil pan, someone on here I think clued me on to a DIY on saabscene that saved huge time over the "proper" way of doing it, will send it if I can find it again. 

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/24/23 3:25 p.m.

Thanks, ManhattanM - I'll definitely take you up on your generous offer!  I have the parts for the tensioner replacement and that's likely my next project.  How did you hold the crankshaft steady while you torqued the crank bolt?  Did you use a tool like the one outlined in this thread?  Mine's an auto, so that may complicate it a bit.  I'm figuring removal will be easy with my Milwaukee impact, but torquing it is another story!

So I looked back in my pictures, Hazel went up on wheel cribs on 11/11 in anticipation of the oil pan removal/reinstall to replace the leaky oil level sensor.  I wanted the extra height of the cribs vs. my usual ramps, so up she went.  

And that's where she stayed for the next four and a half months.  Part of that was due to coaching my son's basketball team, part of it was house projects (including a bathroom remodel), and a whole host of other things got in the way, as well.  I did end up replacing the oil level sensor (which included a new o-ring).  The old o-ring was completely flat and didn't seal well, so it's no surprise so much oil was leaking out.

The first bit of fun was a stuck passenger side wheel.  I used my jack and 4x4 trick to get that popped off.  And this time I remembered to only slightly loosen the lugs, so the wheel doesn't fly off!

.

I cleaned the oil pan:

Working on cars in the winter in New England requires some creativity.  Here's my "heated" garage that allowed the oil pan gasket to cure despite sub-freezing temps outside (and barely 40 degree temps in the garage).  I let it cure for several days before I filled the sump back up.

Progress was made yesterday, last night Hazel was taken off the cribs and I even put 5 miles on her.   Here is the first time she's touched the ground since the end of November (apologies for the CL ad-quality pic):

The oil pan removal/reseal was completed, the pan itself wasn't leaking but the oil level sensor was leaking spectacularly.  That seems to be fixed, here's the drip tray after a night:

Compared to this taken the morning after purchase, that's a big improvement. 

Oil leaks I've tackled so far include the oil level sensor (what seems to have been one of the big ones), the vacuum pump, and the PS pump.  Still some more to go, but not dumping oil on the ground every night is a step in the right direction!

Also discovered my headlights are still terrible (after the new H7bulbs and lens restoration).  High beams seem great, low beams are bad.  Like holding up your cellphone flashlight out the window to drive bad.  After a bunch of searches, the most common cause is the projector housing itself has some material that degrades over time.  So it looks like new headlight housings are in my future, as well.  

Somebeach (Forum Supporter)
Somebeach (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/27/23 7:22 p.m.

I found my old headlights, not sure if they would help you or not. Also pretty sure the shipping wouldn't be cheap. But let me know if you want them. 
 

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/31/23 8:02 p.m.

Thanks, Somebeach for the pictures!  I'll probably pass on the headlights, as it seems like the material in the reflector housing degrades over time.  I think at this point I'm going to suck it up and just buy new (aftermarket) lenses.  Looks like they're about $250 or so from RockAuto.

I made some progress this week, I made a crankshaft pulley holder tool as described in this thread on Saabnet.  Hoping to use it when I remove the timing cover in the next couple of weeks to replace the broken balance shaft guide and the balance shaft tensioner.  I'm planning to use an impact to take the crank bolt off, but wanted a way to hold the crankshaft pulley when I'm torquing the torque to yield crankshaft bolt.

It wasn't too bad to make, I used a 3' piece of flat 3/16", and three M6 x 25mm bolts to align with the holes in the crankshaft pulley.  Looking forward to getting the car back up on the wheel cribs to tackle this job.  

Blunder
Blunder New Reader
3/31/23 10:33 p.m.

I had a 2005 2.0T 9-3 and it eventually needed the balance tensioner and guide. It honestly wasn't a bad job at all in my opinion. The hardest part for me was getting the one bolt out that held the piece under the motor mount on the engines side. I have no idea what that part was called but the one bolt is tight between the frame rail and block. This should be cake after doing the oil pan. 

Blunder
Blunder New Reader
3/31/23 10:34 p.m.

Now that I'm thinking about it. Probably the hardest part was actually getting the belt back on. The belt tensioner is a little snug against the frame rail. 

dj06482 (Forum Supporter)
dj06482 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/1/23 12:06 a.m.

Thanks, Blunder - appreciate the heads-up on the tensioner bolts!  I had removed the motor mount bolts that go through the body on the passenger side so I could jack up the engine (for oil pan/crossmember clearance), but never removed the engine side mount. I'd imagine that will need to be removed in order to get the timing cover off. I have a set of 3/8" HF impact sockets that I'm not afraid to cut down in order to get some more clearance. And for this job, I think it's necessary to slightly lower the engine to get the crank bolt out, and then I'll need to slightly raise the engine to access some of the other bolts.

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