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  #1  
Old 10th April 2010
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Default Timing Chain Replacement Interval

So since I'm going to be going to college in a year or two my mom wanted me to get a safer car than my little '74 Alfa coupe to take over highway 17. As I was returning from UCSC today, heading over 17, in fact I saw a nice 900 making a left turn, and it was love at first sight. It's got airbags and ABS, and mom approved. I found four on craigslist, two turbo, two N/A, all four 5-speeds, and between $1200 and $1900, and my wallet approved.
Now I read somewhere that they have to have their timing chains replaced at a ludicrously low interval (something like 70k miles), and they were the most unreliable cars on the road. After looking at some service interval charts (they even linked back here, I believe), and I couldn't even find the timing chain replacement on there, even up to intervals like 255k.
Can someone educate me to what I would want to do to one with about 150-200k miles assuming nothing's been done (aside from oil changes) so that it doesn't fail catastrophically while I'm crossing over to Santa Cruz? Being flattened under a semi really doesn't sound fun.

Thanks guys, excuse my noobishness, Saabs are a completely different animal to me and I can't wait to get mine.
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  #2  
Old 10th April 2010
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You'll be fine, IMO. Timing chain problems were always overblown. The cars used a German chain until sometime around 1990, when they switched to one of Japanese manufacture. The German one had a reputation for breaking before 200,000 miles, but I've never heard of it happening to anybody on this forum. I've driven my '86 (so theoretically "timebomb") c900 across the country three times, no problem. Chain failure certainly won't cause you to get run over by a semi. It'll just destroy the valves Chain should be the least of your worries anyway--you can roll in a new one yourself, easy as cake! It's cheap preventative maintenance. You can also check the chain wear, by pulling the chain tensioner. See this link:
http://www.saabcentral.com/techhelp/...ming_chain.php

More importantly, you need to make sure the gearbox is solid (no weird whining noises and works in reverse, doesn't jump out of any gears), and you need to check out the holes in the body where the driveshafts go through to get to the front wheels. If you see lots of structural rust here, you need to reject the car. Emergency brake should ideally not stick on (check levers on calipers for gumminess). Make sure it's not losing coolant (possible head gasket).

That's a brief list of possible pitfalls. This car really isn't that high-maintenance. It's only high-maintenance if you don't listen to it and thrash it. If you listen, and become attuned to your car, a c900 will tell you just about everything that's going to break, about a month before it actually does. And the c900 is a DIY mechanic's wet dream come true. The engine, driveline, and suspension are some of the easiest to work on of any modern car. Oh and did I mention that the c900 is supported by a mobile, 24-hour free tech support community? You're now a member...

Good luck, and welcome!
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  #3  
Old 10th April 2010
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Thanks, I'm probably going to put in a new chain just for good measure and just because it'd be a fun and fairly inexpensive project. Really, it'd probably get all new expendables like oil, gear lube, chain, pads, etc. Again, just for good measure. It'd be the first car I've actually bought with my own money, and I'd like to keep it mechanically sound. I've also heard of the whining in 3rd and 5th gears. I've heard it described as a sound like dogs dying?

Although someone else (Watkins actually, I've heard he hangs around here) told me that they're very prone to rust. Are there any places aside from the driveshaft holes that rust would would be catastrophic?
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Old 10th April 2010
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I know a guy with the _worst_ of c900 rust stories. He had a '91 2.1L, it had driveshaft tunnel rust so bad that from under the car you could SEE the driveshaft all the way from the CV joint to the middle, with no metal surrounding it on the bottom. His rear shocks' top mounts were gone, so the car was really bouncy. In addition, his upper control arms in the front were so rusted that one of them broke while he was driving.

That pretty much sums up the catastrophic rust areas. He could also see the road through one of the door sills, which isn't very good. You should check all the control arms and make sure they don't look TOO rusty. They're going to have a little rust, but control arms that are missing part of their cross-section are not safe. Replacing the lower ones is no problem, but the uppers take some major work.
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Old 10th April 2010
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Find a local professional who knows 900s. Pay him to check the car before you buy it. Concentrate on the lowest-mileage examples.
You'll find a 900 at least as durable and reliable as an Alpha Romeo.
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  #6  
Old 10th April 2010
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Local guy. Good stuff. 17 is scary in a tiny car, huh? I feel perfectly safe going over in my 900.

Pierce European in Santa Cruz is a very good shop, as well as Swedish Auto Factory here in Santa Clara. Whichever car you get, make sure you take it to one of them to have it looked over. SAF offers a free safety inspection for new customers and they're really nice guys.. If it's a turbo, check out this thread for what you should do when you first get it.

The timing chains on these cars can last 300k+. Just make sure you change the oil and make sure that the oil has been changed and don't thrash it. Do a search on Eiron and find his posts on oil, gearbox oil and everything related. Very useful information. Your gearbox will probably cause the most problems as Euromobile said. Just make sure it doesn't make any noises or grind and you're in good shape.

Hope to see you around sometime. We need more younger c900 people in the area. Check out http://www.bayareasaabclub.com/ as well. They just started meeting again after 2 or more years, so now is a good time to own a Saab.
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  #7  
Old 10th April 2010
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Originally Posted by Jim Mesthene View Post
Find a local professional who knows 900s. Pay him to check the car before you buy it. Concentrate on the lowest-mileage examples.
You'll find a 900 at least as durable and reliable as an Alpha Romeo.
Luckily I think there's a multi-make European shop downtown here, I suppose that might be okay. Or should I find a Saab-specialty shop?

If they're that durable and reliable, I suppose I should be worried.
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Old 10th April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Mesthene View Post
...
You'll find a 900 at least as durable and reliable as an Alpha Romeo.
I didn't catch the reference to Alfa in the OP's post and that one caught me unawares...wow I'd hope it's as reliable and then some!
Love italian cars but they're like italian women...sometimes they'll cut you deep for no reason at all. SAABs are more cold blooded and are the equivalent of her sitting in the kitchen at 2 am with a rolling pin at the ready...just waiting for you to stumble in from the pub.
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  #9  
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The Alfa's actually very reliable, compared to their track record. When I go get in it in the morning, I'm always 95% sure it'll start right up. I just need something safer/less valuable to take to college. Besides, I'm sure a 900 Turbo will get a lot better mileage than the Alfa does.
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  #10  
Old 10th April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OG900_crazed View Post
The Alfa's actually very reliable, compared to their track record. When I go get in it in the morning, I'm always 95% sure it'll start right up. I just need something safer/less valuable to take to college. Besides, I'm sure a 900 Turbo will get a lot better mileage than the Alfa does.
95% start assuredness is not very good for a car, it would make you late for work 10 days per year
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Old 13th April 2010
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Originally Posted by SaabHat93 View Post
Local guy. Good stuff. 17 is scary in a tiny car, huh? I feel perfectly safe going over in my 900.
Also Rt 17 in a 900 can be quite fun


I wouldn't want to do it every day, though
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  #12  
Old 13th April 2010
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Definitely not. I've seen too many tanker trunks and semi's on their sides to want to do it every day. Not to mention the people that have never driven it before in the dark that like to run into the centre median.
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  #13  
Old 13th April 2010
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Also Rt 17 in a 900 can be quite fun
Why do you think I chose Saab over Volvo?
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  #14  
Old 13th April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaabHat93 View Post

The timing chains on these cars can last 300k+. Just make sure you change the oil and make sure that the oil has been changed and don't thrash it. Do a search on Eiron and find his posts on oil, gearbox oil and everything related. Very useful information. Your gearbox will probably cause the most problems as Euromobile said. Just make sure it doesn't make any noises or grind and you're in good shape.
+1 on the timing chain. I bought my '87 at 105,000 and ran it to 279,000 without touching the timing chain. Then my retired mechanic ran it for another 30,000ish without touching the timing chain. Ran it on Redline oil for most of the time I had it. And I still didn't do the greatest job on keeping on top of maintenance.

My advice: watch the clutch, hydraulics, and exhaust system. You can run the car almost forever, but the stupid exhaust flanges will go by the converter....
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  #15  
Old 13th April 2010
vbadoni91 vbadoni91 is offline
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My advice: Leave the timing chain alone. Check for the wear first. Sometimes noises from the water pump being bad is mistaken for a timing chain needing replacement. You can always check for wear using the little measuring scale that is attached to a 13 mm bolt on top of the chain cover (I think that is where it is). Check for the exact location on this forum.

2nd piece of Advice: Get yourself a Bentley manual for the Saab from Amazon, e-bay or your other favorite online store.

3rd piece of advice: Get it checked by Sweedish Auto Factory. It is worth it to go to them. They will tell you as it is. If they recognize you are a DIY'er they will even offer you advice. Also they are Saab experts. I have learned my lesson going to non Saab experts. There are somethings the non Saab experts are good for (like you need your AC recharged) but for someone to checkout your Saab, take it to them.

Happy Saabing!
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  #16  
Old 14th April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by euromobile900 View Post
The cars used a German chain until sometime around 1990, when they switched to one of Japanese manufacture. The German one had a reputation for breaking before 200,000 miles, but I've never heard of it happening to anybody on this forum.
I've repaired many well maintained 900s that broke their Chains before 150k. Roll a new one in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vbadoni91 View Post
...they are Saab experts. I have learned my lesson going to non Saab experts. There are somethings the non Saab experts are good for (like you need your AC recharged) but for someone to checkout your Saab, take it to them.
Good advice.
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