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Old 19th August 2007
bobdotorg bobdotorg is offline
Saab Crazy
Join Date: May 2003                                                
Location: Cleveland, OH
My Saabs: '96 900SE 'vert 5sp
Posts: 674
Default HELP!!! Clutch problem 1,000 miles from home.

I spent a few hours here reading about clutch problems and clutch / clutch cable / transmission replacement, but have not encountered this exact problem. Any help on diagnosing the exact mystery issue here would be greatly appreciated. I apologize for my lack of clutch related part vocabulary.

1996 900 SET, 114 k miles. Original clutch and cable. Clutch has never slipped, even after problems occured. Linkage is fine and aligned.

Current symptoms:

Something is causing the clutch to not fully disengage - it's still spinning the transmission, even with the pedal fully depressed.

upon starting in the morning, shifting / clutch work fine for 1 or two shifts, with the clutch engaging / disengaging fairly high up in the pedal travel.

after that, even with the clutch pedal fully depressed with a relatively tight clutch cable, the car won't go in or out of gear with the engine running and car stopped (I can shift through the gears while moving if I get the RPMs and timing perfect, but occasionally grind gears.)

worrying symptom: with the car stopped, in gear, and the clutch pedal to the floor, car makes an RPM based rattling noise. While out of gear and the clutch engaged, no such noise is made.

My intuitive diagnosis: I suspect that it's some sort of debris between the clutch plates, possibly a broken component of the clutch kit itself.

The SAAB story so far (sorry for being long winded - this post has become as long as a Sunday paper.):

What I thought to be a bad clutch cable turned out to be something far worse. On the first leg of the journey from Cleveland, Ohio back to Los Angeles, I was unable to downshift from 5th to 4th on an uphill grade near Columbus, Ohio. Couldn't get into any gear, and pulled to the side of the road. With the engine off, I could get in and out of all gears - linkage seems ok. My initial guess was a clutch cable, and I nursed the car to Kansas by starting the engine with the car in 2nd gear, clutch in, AC off, accelerating and then going into 4th or 5th. With the pedal in, the clutch was slightly engaged, smooth, and no rattling noise.

During some stop and go traffic just west of Columbus, I could smell burning clutch while stopped in 2nd gear with the clutch pedal to the floor. Note that it was over 100F / 38C that day (SID said 107 in St Loius), and I had the AC on.

I shimmed the cable in Kansas City, and that seemed to work. For about 5 minutes. Then no getting into gear, and back to starting in 2nd, and coaxing into 4th or 5th until Denver.

On the Interstate offramp in Denver, and again pulling into the driveway a few miles later, I could for the first time hear an RPM related rattling when I had the car in gear and the clutch pedal pressed. While the car normally idles at 1,000, it was idling at around 800 due to the clutch related friction, and would slowly (barely) accelerate the car with the clutch pedal pressed in.

Back in Denver I installed a manual adjust cable and sprayed some white lithium / Teflon grease onto the base / top of the shaft that rotates in the bell housing when the clutch pedal is depressed. With a friend pressing the pedal, I saw that the clutch was getting plenty of travel in the mechanism that pushes the clutch away from the transmission.

Car drove great - easily in and out of every gear. For about ten minutes. Clutch engaged and disengaged by barely pressing the pedal (way too high for my tastes, but I know that in theory I'm getting a good gap between the clutch and pressure plate.).

Then I couldn't get in or out of gear while the engine was running.

I've tested the car each morning for the past few days, and it's the same - one or two good shifts, no noise while in gear with pedal depressed, and then symptoms return.

I'm about to due further research on the feasibility of replacing the clutch / tranny myself, and what additional tools I'll have to acquire.

That's my saga so far. Thanks for reading, and any help will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11th September 2007
lrpalo's Avatar
lrpalo lrpalo is offline
Active Member
Join Date: Sep 2007                                                
Location: Westminster
My Saabs: 00 Viggen, 06 9-3 Combi, TurboX
Posts: 80
Default Shifting problems

I have been having similar problems. When I first start the car it shifts flawlessly and everythign is fine. But i can drive it for about ten minutes and then it will not go into first, it wont even grind I cant even force it that far and when i try to put it in reverse it just grinds although I can turn the car off and put it reverse and start it with the clutch in and it backs up fine. Then i can turn the car off and come back to it and everythign starts all over again.

If anyone has idea about what it happening please let me know.
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Old 12th September 2007
earthworm's Avatar
earthworm earthworm is offline
Saab Sage!
Join Date: Jun 2003                                                
Location: Goldsboro, PA
My Saabs: '96 900S, Automatic with 148K miles, blu
Posts: 21,583

Maybe the clutch is shot. When this occurs, disengagement is easy, in fact, it may just slip and never engage. As the friction disk wears out, the 15 mm is reduced, then the clutch cable is adjusted and its is OK .
Once the disk is shot, there is no longer any room for adjustment...

There must be about 15 mm of free play at the pedal... is there ?? This is to assure that the TO bearing never touches the pressure plate with the pedal being depressed..
Good that you installed a manual adjust cable.
The earthworm
'96 900S, Automatic
Those who think in the past will have no future.
173K miles in the good ole USA
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