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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I have started my journey into the world of Saab! As a bit of background, I'm a commercial/instrument pilot that works in aviation engineering at Garmin, so I'm completely aircraft obsessed. Because of that, I quickly noticed aviation influences when I started looking into Saabs, and fell in love with the brand. I mean, what other car has (the equivalent of) a Master Caution/Master Warning system with a CAS stack! Anywho, here's my journey so far:

After looking at a couple of Saabs that would fit firmly into the category of "wow, this could have been a nice car if some idiots hadn't screwed it up by not knowing how to work on a car, but now it MIGHT be worth its scrap value", I happened upon a 2001 9-5 2.3t sedan with 173k miles and only 2 owners: a Saab dealer that used it for a demo/loaner car (all option/accessory boxes checked), and a Saab enthusiast who bought it with 95k miles on it. He obviously took care of it, as he had all of the service records and receipts that the car ever had. The body is in pretty great shape, and the interior is practically flawless. Here are some of the pictures from the Craigslist post:

He also listed this for the recent service history:
  • New Alternator - 2014
  • Oil sump pan dropped and cleaned - 2014
  • Oil trap PVC update - 2014
  • New Turbo - 2015
  • New Water Pump - 2013
  • New Serpentine Belt Tensioner - 2013
  • New Value Cover Gasket - 2015
  • New Front Tires - 2015
  • Rear Tires - 2012
  • Oil Changes every 3000 miles
  • Transmission Flushed, 2009/2011/2013/2016 (about every 24,000)
  • spark plugs replaced yearly

The only issue was that the oil light had come on recently. You already know where I'm going with this (and I had a pretty good idea, too, since I had been doing my research). I was hopeful that it was just a clogged strainer. He had the sump dropped in 2015, and was changing the oil every 3k miles, but he was using semi synthetic instead of fully synthetic, and, hey, you never know. I figured best case clogged strainer, not so good case bad oil pump, worse case worn main crank bearings, worst case spun bearings and all around destruction.

I gave it a good inspection and took it for a test drive. Everything seemed pretty good, and engine sounded smooth, so my worst fears were assuaged. The check oil light did come on after the engine had fully heated up and I had it at idle, though. I decided to take the gamble, and paid the owner $1500 for it. He gave me all of the paperwork, an extra intake manifold and DIC from one of his friends, a bunch of leftover silicone vacuum line, and some other assorted parts that he had bought for it.

I fixed a couple minor issues: a couple of vac leaks (the hard line for brake booster popped out of the intake and cracked near a check valve: popped the line back in and fixed the break with JB weld), replaced the BPV (Bosch unit came apart at the cap), replaced burned out lights in the SID.

Now, to the real beginning of the adventure: the engine. It seemed to be running great, but I still wanted to diagnose the check oil light. I gathered tools and supplies, and went at it. First step was to measure the oil pressure. I didn't have a ported banjo bolt to test at the turbo oil supply like recommended in the WIS, so I picked up an oil filter sandwich adapter plate. I plan to install an oil pressure gauge and possibly an oil temp gauge later, so the plate made sense to me. With the plate installed and my pressure gauge hooked up, I ran the numbers:

Idle: 38 psi
2000 rpm: ~67 psi

Idle: 19 psi
2000rpm: 40 psi

Hmm... those were surprisingly normal? At this point, I'm suspecting a bad pressure switch, so I order a replacement.

(continued in next post...)

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18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I had always planned on checking under the valve cover and dropping the sump to get a baseline on the engine's health, so decided that it was as good a time as any to do so. I pulled the valve cover, and it looked decent underneath:

Some varnishing, and some black baked on clud on the timing chain cover, but no sludge monsters. It did have a ridiculous amount of red RTV on the valve cover gasket (why???), some of which had squished into the inside of the engine. I'm developing a hatred for overused RTV. More of that once we get to the oil sump... While I had the cover off, I went ahead and followed Service Information 210-1704 UTG. 2 to retighten the head bolts. Then, I cleaned up the valve cover, scraped off all of the RTV, and reinstalled the valve cover with a new gasket and a little bit of assembly lube to hold the gasket in place. Next stop, oil sump!

I followed the excellent guide at SeriousSaab to drop the sump, and found this:

Look at all of that wonderful RTV squeezed into the oil supply line! :evil:

I pulled off the baffle, and my hope started to sink:

Big, copper colored metal flakes. :eek: Oh crap.

The strainer wasn't as bad as I expected, though it did have clumps of the freakin red RTV that had globbed off of the valve cover gasket :evil:

That meant that the main bearing caps came off to inspect the bearings and crank journals:

That's it, we're done here folks. Journal #4 had major discoloration and scoring, #3 bearing had spun, and #2 bearing had turned into a frag grenade. :cry:

I don't have the time or money to rebuild the engine, so pulling it and replacing it with a used engine is my only recourse. I checked the local Pick 'n' Pull locations, and the only 235E or 235R was from a 2001 Aero w/ 200k miles that was in the yard because of massive sludging issues. Nope. I then turned to, and after sifting through the listings I found this, from PAM's Auto up in Minnesota:

It's a 2004, so it has the new PCV system and should be less prone to sludging, it has 97k miles, the post featured a video of it in the car running, with no check engine lights and no check oil light, and the car is in the yard for being rear ended. Perfect! I ordered it this morning, and should have it ~Wednesday. It ended up being $545 total, shipped from Minnesota to Kansas, including a $50 core charge.

And that's that for my introductory book! The tale of the engine swap continues here:


Great looking and driving 9-5 that unexpectedly turned into an engine swap.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yeah, it's definitely not what I was expecting to get into with a new car, but I'm hoping that on the other side of this I'll be left with a nice, reliable daily-driver.

Just noticed that you're in Shawnee! Small world, I'm in Olathe. Out of curiosity, do you have a tech II? I've been wondering if anyone in the area had one, just in case I needed to tweak something or replace a component that needs to be paired into the system.
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