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  #1  
Old 14th April 2005
jrs9966 jrs9966 is offline
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Default 1995 900S Alternator Removal/Install - Tips

I have a 1995 900S 2.3L, 120K. Alternator died (usual signs, tests, and evidently they're crappy parts that die around 120K). Be warned - it is the worst engineering design ever; the alternator is located in an impossible place. When I got under the car, I figured it was time to throw myself off a cliff! Less pain that way. Do not despair, however. It took me nearly 3 whole days poking about, puzzle solving, and just wondering how in geezuz was I going to access and remove the darn thing?! Once I figure it out, within matter of 2-3 hours to remove and install new one. It is a do-it-yourself fix, so if you can generally find your way under the hood, no need to bend over for the dealer or a shop. Get yourself tools and manuals you need most: a 13mm socket, a 5/16 hex bit (maybe same as 8mm, but check, my 5/16 fit perfectly), and the bentley repair manual (tough to find, but i tracked one down on amazon for the british-version of the saab, it'll be good enough). The problem with the manuals is they tell you 'remove the alternator bolts and install new one'! Idiots! The toughest part of the whole darn thing is HOW to get to the alternator mounting bolts!

Here are some tips (I'm assuming simple things like disconnecting battery, jack the car, etc, you'll have done. Also some have suggested just replacing the regulator, which means taking out only the back portion. Your call, I never tried it. Others have also suggested getting the old one rebuilt, which comes out a lot cheaper. I've never done it, since I like the peace of mind and warranty of a new part, but it may be worth considering giving the hefty price tag for new ones):


1. Concentrate on the following 2 general principles (which made my life easier): (a) Work from the top of the engine - that's the most sensible exit/entry for the alternator. Others have suggested the bottom - taking apart your exhaust, etc. That seems to me unwise and more complicated. (b) I agree with some others that removing the TOP BRACKET, on which the top portion (and bolt) of the alternator is mounted, is the way to go. Once you realize that working on and from the top is the less difficult way to go, a bit of logic and common sense (and much cursing, scrapes, and thoughts of causing bodily injury to the idiot engineers who came up with the stupid design) will go a long way.

2. Follow the manual instructions on belt removal (front passenger-side tire off, plastic shield (splash guard) off. No need to remove axle or anything else; and, no, that opening in the wheel well is NOT big enough to fit the alternator). Next, concentrate on top of engine: air filter unit - 3 10mm nuts underneath, detach connection, hose, pull entire assembly off, set aside. While you are at it, right next to the air filter assembly on the very left corner is the cruise control unit. Unscrew it, but no do not remove it altogether, ie, the cable, etc; just unscrew and un-clip it from its location, and gently put it aside. The point is, you'll need the extra space there to fit the alternator out and new one back in (right behind the iron stabilizer bar and against the car body. There are several hoses back there, no need to remove them. They're long and flexible, and can be maneuvered around.

3. Okay, now you're thinking: How in the world am I going to access the alternator bolts? I was in utter dispair, and after a vain search for the nearest cliff in Kansas, I decided to rely on logic. First, the alternator is held by two bolts. The bottow bolt, on a separate bracket which you need not worry about, is easy to access (via wheel well hole). You'll need your 5/16 hex bit. Clean out the top of the bolt, use some good lube, give yourself some leverage, and work carefull not to strip it. The bottom bolt is not the problem, so you can remove it first or last. The TOP BOLT is the problem.

4. TOP BOLT removal: Follow instructions on belt removal. No worries if you don't have these instructions. Straightforward. Essentially, the top bolt is inaccessibly placed (for your pleasure and peace of mind) behind the tensioner and idler pulleys. The tensioner pulley and idler pulleys are one-piece. Remove the little idler pulley at the very top. Then, more involved, is removing the tension pulley. First, you'll need to "lock" it in place thus reducing the tension (pull back on the front part, put an allen wrench in the slots). Push aside the belt. Second, use the 5/16 hex bit, and remove the pulley (one bolt, on left end of unit). It's a tight spot, so be creative, careful not to damage green metal cable running along side. Once the pulley is off, place aside, and now you have access to the top bolt (5/16 hex bit again). Remove top bolt. Somehow pry out the alternator. I worked from the bottom first. I pried out the bottom part, then just whiggled it out. The battery/started cable on back of my aternator, the nut froze on the bolt, so my experience was a pain, but once you remove the two cables (carefull not to damage or lose track of the little guy, mine was a green wire that goes on the bottom connection; without it, no alternator, no juice, no car). With alternator connextions removed, and alternator pried loose out of its brackets, gentley rest the alternator either on the axle or somewhere down below - careful not to rest too much of it on the catalytic.

5. Job is not done yet, because the alternator still won't fit through the opening. You need to remove the top bracket (that assembly where the top alternator bolt and the tensioner pulley were mounted). At first it'll be hard to detect that there is in fact a rather big bracket (rectangular piece, maybe 6" w by 10" h) there and not just a continuation of the entire engine. Visually inspect first. The first clue is, from the top, you'll see a 13mm bolt right behind where the tensioner pulley used to be, somewhat recessed in a groove, and running parallel, back to front, to car. The bracket has four bolts (and guide pins). The top two and outside bottom bolts are more or less easy to access. The pain is the bottom rear. Work from underneath the car. On mine, the bolts were really easy to get out. Removing the bracket itself was the easiest part of this entire disaster, though at first it was tough to locate all its bolts (remember it's a rectangular piece, odd shaped).

6. With bracket off and out, only now can you get the old alternator out, and the new one in. With skill, patience, and much cursing, maneuver alternator out from underneath through the top of engine compartment. The opening right where the cruise control module sits is where I got mine out (and new one in). It's not easy - nothing is on these new saabs.

7. Assuming you were able to track down a new alternator - took me days; wise to bring in your old one, and have the auto parts store cross-reference the numbers; I got a Worldwide. Carefull here, because, remember, the 1995 alternator has an extended pulley. At first the auto parts store sold me an alternator without the extended pulley, told me just to use the old extended pulley, but it turned out that the bolt coming out of the alternator was too short for the pulley to sit on. Make sure your new alternator comes with an extended pulley. Even if you have to wait a few days, it's worth it. I paid about $270, so be prepared to drop your pants and bend over.

8. Installing the new one really is the reverse of removal. Maneuver new one back down the hole, rest it on the bottom somewhere, if I recall, I then replaced the top bracket, then mounted the alternator. This is going to take more work and patience (and feel free to curse widly). It's a tight fit into the top and bottom slots. With some wiggling, gentle prodding, and downward pressure (I used a long 2x4, and other long pieces of wood (don't bang on it with anything metal of course), I got the bottom end to slide into position, put the bottom bolt in (loosely since you need it to rock a little). The top was no less difficult. Use your imagination, but nothing metal or heavy banging. It's a tight fit, and you have to align it just right so that the bolts make their way all the way to the back of the bracket.

9. The rest is self-explanatory, I think. Remember to position the tensioner pulley properly. In fact, before removal, you may want to somehow mark its original position - even if you use a screwdriver and etch some markings on the top positioning. You'll want good tension, and it won't be easy to position it and screw it back in given the tight spot. (I was working alone, but maybe you can have someone hold it). Don't release the tension, 'unlock it', until the very end when you have the belt mounted. (By the way, since you've gone thru all the trouble, inspect your belt, maybe it's time for a new one).

OK, I've written alot. I'm sure I forgotten a few details, and omitted some things. The main thing is not to despair too much, nor think that only a shop can do it. It'll be expensive as it is when you do it yourself. No need to make it worse if you know some basics about cars. I just finished my installation yesterday, and so far so good. Now, it could be too that these 94/95 900s are just poorly made, and have many electrical issues. So the problem may be elsewhere (I keep finding puddles of water in the passenger seat foot-well, what the heck is that about!) This whole sordid affair greatly diminished my saab enthusiasm, at least for the 1994+ models. I have an 1987, still going strong, easy to work on. From now on, either I'll be a Toyota-convert, or I'll stick to my 1980s saabs. Sooner or later these Saab/GM people will realize that the crappy cars they've been putting out in the later 1990s are turning people off, and losing longtime devotees.

-good luck!
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  #2  
Old 14th April 2005
mike saunders's Avatar
mike saunders mike saunders is offline
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Wow....That's admirably comprehensive and definitely deserving of several beers.

Please forgive the Monday-morning quarterbacking, but might it have been easier to put the car on jackstands and replace the brushes from the back of the alternator? That might have saved a few knuckle scrapes and a few dollars as those are the components that usually wear out.

Of course, taking apart the alternator from below is probably just as expletive-generating as what you endured, so there may not have been much benefit....

Again, nice work....
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  #3  
Old 14th April 2005
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JMarkert JMarkert is offline
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Welcome, and nice job on the write up. Perhaps Cleve could add this to the FAQ


MSaunders wrote:
Quote:
Please forgive the Monday-morning quarterbacking, but might it have been easier to put the car on jackstands and replace the brushes from the back of the alternator? That might have saved a few knuckle scrapes and a few dollars as those are the components that usually wear out.
I've wondered about this. When I replaced my belt, I had a good look and concluded that you could maybe do it if you took out the airbox and the plenum to give you room to work. Not sure about the turbo. Fortunately I've never had to do this since the PO replaced the alternator at 120,000.
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  #4  
Old 27th April 2005
PMI PMI is offline
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Default Alternator

I have been reviewing my own experience replacing the alternator last weekend (I did it from the top like the original post). Car is a 1996 900 SE Turbo.

I am wondering if there is an easier way, but I could not see one. Not w/o removing the catalytic converter and down pipe and getting it out from underneath. The Haynes manual suggests it can be removed through the wheel well, but I do not see how, not on my car. Perhaps it works on right-hand drive cars.

I bought mine on ebay, but Advance Auto Parts carries remanufactured alternators w/o the pulley for $150, with pulley around $180, same Beck-Arnley remaned Bosch 90 Amp part I used. The pulley is held in place by a recessed 24mm nut which rotates with the pulley. Some people have destroyed the old alternator getting the pulley off, so I opted for the one with it installed.

Access:

I removed the airbox, serpentine belt, upper idler pulley and tensioner assembly to get good access to the upper alternator bolt and bracket.

Then the passenger side wheel and crankshaft pulley access panel, to get to the lower bolt and bracket.

Positive battery cable and green wire were unhooked from the alternator from below the car, since it was on stands anyway.

To get the alternator out of the car, I disconnected the MAP sensor wiring connector, the cruise control wiring connector (NOT the servo cable), the purge control valve, and one of the IAC valve hoses. None of these were actually removed from the car, just disconnected and moved out of the way, which made it easier to get things back in place later.

Removal:

Both alternator bolts were loosened first, then the upper one was pulled to allow the alternator to be pried out of the upper bracket while using the loosened lower bolt for a fulcrum.

Upper alternator bracket was removed next to get clearance to pull the alternator up through the opening between the strut tower brace and the back of the engine.

Reassembly:

In reverse order, lower bolt inserted first and used as a guide to get the alternator in place for the upper bolt. Upper bracket next, then the upper bolt, then the two electrical connections. I had to use a flat file to get the new alternator to fit the upper bracket, not sure it that is usual or not.

I took the opportunity to replace the tensioner pulley while it was out of the car. After that, just time to get everything back in place.

Last edited by PMI; 27th April 2005 at 05:36 PM.
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  #5  
Old 30th April 2005
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earthworm earthworm is offline
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I do wonder if it is possible to replace the alternator control/brushes unit without pulling the unit itself from the car ??

When I was professionally turning wrenches, we were taught to do things as cheaply(and easily) as possible in order to please the customer and of course, the shop owner.

I do see that things have changed, and NOT for the better..

Sometimes, with the failure of the charging/battery system, it is not necessary to change both pieces at once..
And ,at least 90% of the time, only new alternator brushes are necessary..
And regular preventative maintenance( every 6,000 miles), as VW and Saab used to practice back in the 60s,70s can alleviate these disasters
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  #6  
Old 30th April 2005
PMI PMI is offline
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Default Voltage regulator & brush assembly

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthworm
I do wonder if it is possible to replace the alternator control/brushes unit without pulling the unit itself from the car ??
I considered it. It is really too bad that Saab owners get stuck with a $400-700 bill, because brushes costing less than $10 wear out. The bearings on the alternator I took out seemed just fine. I would be all for replacing just the brushes or the regulator/brush assembly, but it is not easy with the alternator in the car.

It would be easier at a comfortable height with a lift. If not it would require more dexterity than I have. To get to the regulator/brush assembly:
  • Disconnect battery to avoid a short
  • Remove large (red) battery cable, small green wire, and both nuts from below
  • Remove three screws holding the black plastic cover over the regulator
  • Release three plastic retaining snaps on the plastic cover, at the same time, pry cover off with a screwdriver
  • The regulator is held in by two long screws with loctite or similar. Remove those. Pry carefully (it is on a ceramic carrier) with a screwdriver to get it loose.
Fitting the new one could also be difficult, because the brushes are spring-loaded. The regulator has to be held in place while putting the two screws back in. This is the part I could not figure out, because I could only get one hand to the back of the alternator at a time while on my back under the car. Same when trying to reach it from the top, only one hand would reach.

The screws do not go back in easily because of the old threadlock in the holes, and the regulator has to be seated perfectly - easy on the bench, but not in the car...

The pics below are of the new/remanufactured alternator I bought online. It looked to me like the bearings and the brushes were replaced, the voltage regulator and the slip rings were original.

See link for more details and pics:
http://www.geocities.com/ng900set/Al...lternator.html
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Last edited by PMI; 3rd July 2005 at 04:53 AM. Reason: better description, and added link to more pics
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  #7  
Old 3rd May 2005
PMI PMI is offline
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Bumping the thread for anyone interested in replacing only the voltage regulator. Pic of the old regulator is attached below, removed along with the original alternator at around 105k miles.

The brushes were measured, and technically still meet the 5 mm spec per the Haynes manual and should have had some life left. Both brushes were a little loose, but that may be normal. The outside brush has plenty of length, the inside brush is just at the edge of 5 mm. The corresponding inside slip ring (the contact on the alternator shaft) was also much more worn than the outside one.
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  #8  
Old 3rd May 2005
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earthworm earthworm is offline
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I would think everyone would change simply the alternator reg/brushes - and this is listed as a separate part...Sometimes it takes a fair amount of digging to find the spare part.. But this is true for just about everything at one time or the other..

It is the car-owners who cheat themselves as much as the dealers and shops... And these people are entitled to work and earn a fair living...

You have not lived and enjoyed the better things in life until you have changed the brushes in a '88 Honda Accord..

An all-day job, for a mechanic with ten years experience and a lack of patience...I never did figure out how to remove the alternator, short of disassembling the car's entire front end and engine..

No matter how difficult the Saab 900ng may seem to be, it is a snap compared to the Honda abortion..

But I did manage to change the brushes (good for 100K miles or so) and maintain my sanity..
One the engineers are forced to assemble, and repair their own creations/abortions, then automobile will improve greatly...
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  #9  
Old 12th January 2012
bobdotorg bobdotorg is offline
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Thanks for the helpful post. This was one a a few posts I read list night before tackling mine today.

I had only one headache - the upper bolt area of the new alternator would not fit back into the bracket.

I had to remove the bracket and alternator again to see what was going on: on the bracket there is a steel bushing with a slit that needs to be compressed back into / flush with the bracket. Thirty seconds with a c-clamp and I was good to go: the alternator lined up immediately.

When you tighten the upper bolt this bushing will slide back out and butt up against the alternator.
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  #10  
Old 26th May 2012
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sjones sjones is offline
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My alternator began making a loud whine from worn bearings about a two weeks ago. The tips in this thread helped out tremendously. Once the alternator was out the clamp for the upper bolt on the tensioner had to be spread apart a bit, and a slide hammer was used to pull out the lower a bit. The alternator was removed and new one was installed through the 'hole' near the cruise control unit (with the cruise control unit removed).
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  #11  
Old 27th May 2012
swedish plane swedish plane is offline
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Wink alternator

nice tips; I found it easier to loosen tie rod to pull alternator from top, didn't need to remove its bracket

I also braced rachet head on a thin small block so as not to strip bolt head and get impact & good torque, bottom bolt made a hideous noise when it broke free, hope this makes repair easier & less time consuming!
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