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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First a little history... after a history of well chosen but budget driven car decisions (a 1981 Honda Prelude, a 1986 Honda CRX Si, a 1995 Saturn SC2) I ended up stumbling into the world of Saab. That damn Saturn just wouldn't die, but I was getting tired of it, and I was getting enough kids that the "sports coupe" was a non starter.

So in looking for a boring replacement, it didn't take long to decide that used Camry's and Accords were overpriced and soul crushing. Further digging and comparison of good used cars that would be a good value for somebody mechanically capable showed Saabs as a slam dunk (compared to Audi or BMW). The Saab aesthetic of "make something nice and special, but don't just add stuff because everyone else is adding stuff" was brilliant. They set out, and succeeded, of making an "economy" car in terms of great value. Not cheap, but wonderful to own, wonderful to drive, and wonderful to live with for many many many miles. Quality over arbitrary luxury, like an older 911.

So I got that car, a 2001 SE automatic with every bell and whistle (which I think was about the only way they sold that automatic version) with 70,000 miles on it from a very knowledgeable Saab mechanic that bought and refreshed it and put it up for sale. What a wonderful car. I drove that thing everywhere and anywhere, including hauling trailers full of dirt bikes, until it was around 170k miles. At that point, something bad went wrong, and after a complicated rescue (I was two hours from home with three kids, a dead Saab, and a trailer of dirt bikes attached to the back of it) I got it home and looked at it.

The middle two cylinders had zero compression. But the car would actually pull pretty strong if you would get it started and keep the revs above 4000 RPM. At a minimum, I figured the head was going to have to come off and be reworked, so I started hunting parts on Craigslist. But then I found a fairly loaded 2006 9-3 Aero V6 that was just listed with 45,000 miles on it for $9000. I knew the 2001 wasn't going to be seeing the land of the living for anything under $2000 when I was done.

Let me take a step back and share my "car math". My Dad taught me this. He said that if you can get a car that costs you $1000 for every 10,000 miles you get out of it, you "win". That includes purchase price, and out of pocket maintenance costs. I don't include normal consumables like tires, gas, and oil, but perhaps I should (with a bumped up metric) because those could easily dwarf the other costs, but thats a different topic.

So anyway, all the cars I listed as ones that I owned were successes. The Prelude was a $5000 car that i got 80,000 miles out of. The CRX was a $6000 car that I got 120k miles out of (and still running well when I sold it cheap to a friend). The Saturn was my only showroom car, and I had 175k miles on a $15k car and it was also running great when sold cheap to a friend. The Saab was another win, with 80,000 miles on a $7000 car.

So by that math, the obvious choice was not to fix the 2001 SE, and buy the 2006 Aero V6 for $9000, because I will "break even" on that car when it hits 135,000 miles, which on a Saab is about as easy as falling off a log. I went to look at it (it came into a BMW dealer in trade in and he just wanted it the hell off his lot), and came home with it that day. I donated the SE to charity, but sadly nobody bought it at auction to fix and I believe it got scrapped.

So fast forward a few years... Aside from an interesting adventure replacing the valve body on the 06 Aero (which I did myself for $650 in parts, so actually not that big a deal), the Aero has been great. But I look at that packed full engine bay, and while I love the forged pistons and technology overkill and durability and performance of a really well engineered engine, it's missing that "punch way above it's weight" and "amazing something so simple can do so much" element of that Saab straight 4 turbo in the old SE. And the hatchback Saabs looked great, worked great, and could so SO much and carry SO much. I really missed it.

At the time of initially diagnosing the zero compression in two cylinders, but a motor that otherwise ran well at high RPM, I got distracted by the new Aero (which was still the right decision). When it first failed, sitting on the side of the road in Kentucky waiting for a friend and a truck to rescue the trailer of dirt bikes and the kids, I was mentally diagnosing the problem. Of course I thought "DIC" and came back the next day with tools and a new one... which didn't help. At that moment I was also thinking "head gasket"... but I've had a few experiences with head gaskets before, and when they go, the coolant becomes either fouled with oil, or more likely shot out the overflow tube. And the coolant was clean and full even after a 70 mile drive on two cylinders where I had to keep the RPM's above 4000 to keep it from stalling.

Then, sitting at my desk one day thinking back, I remember a distinct "oh &^%^" moment. I googled up a picture of a Saab head gasket. Now, I'm thinking all that was wrong with that motor was a head gasket that failed at the webbing between those two middle cylinders. That would explain everything (I think). The two adjacent cylinders would alternately leak into each other instead of compressing. Given enough RPM, they probably even made some power because they couldn't leak fast enough. Because it was a narrow failure just at the smallest part of the webbing, it didn't penetrate to any coolant or oil passages, so the coolant wasn't blown out or contaminated. Of course figuring that out after the car was gone means it gnaws at me and I can't check it. :)

But I always wished I had just parked that car somewhere under a blanket and kept it to fix for a kid. If I had known it would have just gone to scrap after donating, I would have done just that. Hindsight is 20/20.

So fast forward to two months ago. An old friend of mine (Eric King) from post college Church groups who had seen various mechanical "great terrible ideas" I successfully executed on Facebook is in the middle of his own great terrible idea (restoring an old BMW just about scratch). His son Marcus has a 2001 9-3 SE... but it's a manual. Oooohhh! And it's this beautiful black. Ahhhh! (Mine was a silver automatic). The suspension is beyond shot. The clutch has about 30 miles of limping left in it (literally). The AC hasn't worked in years, it has all the normal 9-3 issues with seat trim falling apart, it is getting some rust over the wheel wells, and it has 206,000 miles on it. Eric wants another car project like he wants a hole in his head, Marcus already got a beautiful 2 door BMW 3 series to replace the Saab, so they have to do *something* with it.

Remember it's black. And it's a manual. And the motor runs GREAT.

So Eric and Marcus contact me knowing I'm a Saab guy with all the right kinds of poor judgement. They tell me that they would prefer the car not get scrapped, and that they will sell it to me for the price of a large pizza. In my defense, it was for a REALLY good pizza (Adriaticos Bearcat Pizza). So the rest is history. I have a 135k beat to hell Toyota Sienna that the oldest son has been driving (into deer, parking lot posts, street signs, and some other stuff I'm sure he hasn't told me about). I undid the bambi imprint, and I should be able to sell that for $1500 easy. I'll put that $1500 into parts for this Saab (with a lot of my own "free" labor, which I enjoy), and it should be good for another 50k at least. So the net effect should be that my oldest can drive a very cool and practical 9-3 for a few years instead of an old minivan (worse milage, harder on tires, a hassle to drive and park, and soul sucking uninspiredness and uninterestingness). So in the larger picture, the math all works here. Some family that needs to seat 6 and who needs a "sort of reliable" vehicle but only has $2000 will be set for another year or two. I'll put that $1500 or so into this Saab, not think about the labor, and the net result will be a car worth about, uh, $1500. :)

From a Karma standpoint, this worked out well. I donated that old silver auto 9-3, but wished I had it back, and now I have the same year but black and a manual. Some parts of it worse than my old one, some parts better, but it's a manual, which is the pure and right soul of a Saab 900/9-3 hatchback. This is the one to give a new lease on life. The Kings know they did their part to keep a special car from going to a scrapper for a few more years... this car should have a very long life. It could be a 300,000 mile car (which I would be willing to put some work into achieving just because that would be awesome!).

It went up on jackstands last night. Good news and bad news, but more good and less bad than I expected. After doing a clutch job on a 2003 Mini Cooper S, the clutch on this car looks like a walk in the park. Aside from the shocks, the rest of the front end looks in pretty good shape (and elegant and simple brilliantly designed with premium parts). The floor is rusted through in at least 4 places, so I'll need to address that. I'd like to bring the AC back, so that will be a project. And the body needs some attention, hopefully the black paint will be easier to match than the silver was on my previous one (that had the same rust), so this can be a "well worn commuter" affordable restore. I'm sure once I start removing things, there will be a trail of brokeness as rusted bolts snap off. And things like strut bodies and some hard fluid lines are not just rusty, they look close to rusting all the way through.

But it is SO beautifully simple! I work on my other cars (9-3 V6 Aero and Mini Cooper S R53). Great cars, but in comparison, this 01 9-3 straight four is just beautiful in it's simplicity.

We will see if I hate it before I am done. ;)

I'll document what I do and what i learn in this thread in case it helps others.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Well, the first sketchy decision has been made. The Sachs kit for clutch, pressure plate, and slave / bearing came out pushing $400. Not a bad deal for a guy used to buying Mini clutch parts (shudder), but then I made the mistake of looking on ebay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/161314060731

Uh, clutch, pressure plate, and throwout bearing for $140 shipped? Huh? The slave/bearing itself is $115.

So of course that trips every "too good to be true" alert in my brain. So I dig into Ebay satisfaction metrics. 99.8%, which you don't get unless you are pretty good. Then I dig into the details and study the pictures. Looks like a real picture of the right part, and definitely not Sachs, but it looks pretty well made. In fact a bit beefier than the Sachs.

Do other google searches, and I see some stuff about them for bad customer support, but not a lot. And I don't really need good customer support when buying from Ebay, paypal will chew up a vendor in no time if they don't respond to concerns. And even the auction itself has a return right for a 10% restocking fee ($14 in this case). And 182 of these things sold by them, and great feedback from somebody buying this kit a month ago saying "worth far more than paid".

For $50 or $100, I wouldn't risk it. But this is $140 vs $370. And, I'm not in a panic to get this car on the road, so I can afford the delay if it's junk and I have to return it. And as noted, this is going into a 200k mile Saab.

So one of three things is happening here:
1) It's useless junk that will fail quickly.
2) This seller got hold of a big pile of these somewhere from somebody figuring they will never sell, and they are just being dumped on the market
3) This is some manufacturer that has fairly flexible tooling set up to crank things like these out, and they are making them cheap and selling straight to eBay without much mark up.

I almost didn't do it, and I'm still very skeptical, but for $230 difference it's worth some hassle in the hope this is scenario 2 or 3 above. But it very well may be scenario 1.

And in the back of my mind, I look at those parts, and think that once you solve the tooling problem, it would be something you *could* sell for $140 and still have some margin. Simple stampings, commodity materials (clutch stuff), fairly simple machining.

Worst case, it looks fine so I don't return it, but it won't last in service. This car is going to a driver new to manuals, so even if it's that case, I might not be that badly off... whatever I put in there may end up being the "practice clutch" anyway.

Anyway, I'll post the results, both when I get it in hand and can inspect it, and when I get some miles on it.
 

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Definitely a tough call. It's rare the cheap Chinese part impersonators work like the OE equipment, but if you manage your expectations accordingly it can work out. I wouldn't expect OE reliability, I wouldn't expect original-like clutch life of 100k or 150k, but if you don't need ten years of service maybe it's worth the risk. At the end of the day, a passenger car clutch is a passenger car clutch, virtually nothing separates the $100 OE Ford clutch on my XR4Ti from a $400 OE Saab clutch in terms of complexity or actual manufacturing cost, so it's clearly possible to make a good clutch for less than $400. My concern with the ebay clutch would be the likelihood it's a best-guess, close approximation design as so many off-brand parts are.

I have only done one clutch on a 9-3 and it was awful, the worst FWD clutch I have ever done. It's definitely not "easy." Since this isn't a daily driver, I'd consider getting the transmission out, seeing how you feel about the work, then decide whether you'd be okay going right back in after saving $200. Then, order appropriately. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It's already shipped... right now my risk is capped at $40 at worst (10% restocking fee and maybe $25 return shipping). It's Ebay / PayPal so I have pretty strong protections as a buyer.

If nothing else, I'll be a good data point for the next guy or gal.

It does look like a big job, don't get me wrong. But when I look at it with hood up right after I pull into the garage, it looks like the Mini looks after about the first 5 hours of "removing stuff to get to stuff" parts of the process. There is a reason a mini clutch replacement is over $2000.

So it's all about expectations. :)
 

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Great write-ups.


You will be amazed at how forgiving black is to match. I painted about half of my 1995 vert over the years. Different black every time. Seamless or near seamless blend and match every time.
 

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I'm with jvanabra just because I wouldn't want to get in there again, so I'd be weighing my options of course. Not saying you made the wrong decision. So often its hard to tell the difference between a cheap part and a good part aside from name brand. And I have had name brand stuff fail on me way before it should. Sometimes I feel it is all about the guy that put it together and whether he was in a hurry to get home!

You could go old school and put a cable clutch in there! You would need the pedal assembly, throwout bearing, cable and fork. I swapped in a hydraulic clutch 5 speed into my NG with a cable clutch, you just remove the slave and all the old stuff bolts right in. I hear horror stories of the cables breaking (and some were self adjusting) but honestly never had a problem with mine. Thats steeping backwards though, the hyd clutch in the 9-5 is way easier to operate.

I see you are in Ohio! I am in Springfield. Saaboheme is in Columbus! ;ol;
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That's not helping! :) Scope creep!

Those ARE in good shape. And I bet if I went over there... I could pick over the car before he junks it also.

Anyone in the Dayton / Cincy / Columbus area put the time and money into getting and learning to use a Tech II?
 

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That's not helping! :) Scope creep!

Those ARE in good shape. And I bet if I went over there... I could pick over the car before he junks it also.

Anyone in the Dayton / Cincy / Columbus area put the time and money into getting and learning to use a Tech II?

That's actually my listing! :eek: Just put them up today. I put a set of 2002 aero seats into my 2000 9-5 aero. The seats in the picture came from a 2001 9-5 aero with about 87k miles on them. So now I'd say they have about 110k miles. I swapped the seat frames from the 9-3 to the 9-5, but they could go back into a 9-5 with a little effort. Right now they are installed in a 1999 9-3, but I am not planning on using them since I have a set of Viggen seats for it.

I'd like to get some tech 2 time as well, someday I will buy one but all the talk of chinese cheap ones has me hesitant. I have too many parts to buy anyway!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, in that case it would be safe for me to go over there and not be in fear of coming home with a parts car. :)

Let me look at my current seats tonight when I get home. I know they are in worse shape, but let me see if it is structural or cosmetic.

I'd be swapping, so I'd have the 9-3 frame rails from the existing seats.
 

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I'd be swapping, so I'd have the 9-3 frame rails from the existing seats.
They are ready to go into a 9-3. If you wanted to put them into a 9-5 you would need to swap the seat base.

It's odd, I had to figure this out the hard way, but the 9-3 and 9-5 have the same bolt pattern on the floor. The seat offset is different though. The 9-5 has a wider center console. So if you take the 9-3 seat base and stick it into the 9-5 the seats crowd the center console. And if you put the 9-5 base into the 9-3, the seats hit the doors!

Yeah, I tested all of that out before determining I needed to swap the bases.;oops: So now they have 9-3 bases and fit perfectly (into a 9-3).
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The clutch showed up today. Shipped crazy fast, packed incredibly well. It included everything in the auction description, plus a little thing of "ceramic lube".

Quality wise, I've never held a Saab Clutch before, so right now take this all with a grain of salt. But the materials and construction on this looked solid. If somebody told me it was a factory part and handed it to me, I wouldn't have questioned them. Nice machining where it is machined, everything looks stout. Clutch material looks organic with some embedded metal.

The throwout bearing has some very hard to read markings, I *think* it says something like AGU109S. But it is really hard to read.

When I have the old clutch out and side by side with the new one, I'll be able to give better informed opinions. When I have 50k miles on it, I'll be able to give a wholly informed opinion. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Started the tear down today. So far so good, and easy enough. I need to go get an engine support beam, and I'm worried about replacing the front strut cartridges. Everything around there is pretty badly rusted and aged, I'm not sure how easily it will come apart.

The axle nuts came off with it on jack stands using a not so great impact gun, that was a nice surprise. I always forget to loosen them before I jack the car up to remove them. I already had a big SAE socket that fit great (1 1/4 I think)... once the nuts get big like that, a not quite perfect fit isn't as big a deal. The 33mm socket was a little floppy, but probably would have worked. It is probably supposed to be 32mm.

The guide for clutch removal is great so far. I double checked a few things with my Haynes manual, the photo guide was more useful.

http://photo.platonoff.com/Auto/200...n_Removal/?i=20060121a6.Transmission_lock.jpg

I found another "rust through" spot under the battery tray.

So that brings me to my next brainstorming topic. I want to fix the places that aren't visible, but where the car has rusted through. All 4 corners of the floor pan (about 1" holes) and under the battery tray. I may find more.

So keeping in mind that this is a 200,000 mile car who's role in life will be a college kid commuter car (20 mile trip with lots of drivers to rescue him if it goes wrong).

How is the best way to fix these? The obvious approach is to cut out the rust, fabricate a replacement panel, weld it in, and repaint. Which I can do fine easy enough. But that has two things I'm not thrilled about:
1) I have to remove a lot of interior stuff if I don't want to set it on fire and if I want to get to where I can paint it.
2) Welding on a car with an ECM is something that makes me nervous.

So the other obvious approach is to cut out the bad metal from under the car (making sure the interior isn't on fire in the process), use my finger to smear some kind of sealant adhesive up in there from underneath, smear more sealant around the exposed metal, putting on a fabricated patch with a lot of short metal screws or rivets, all covered with yet more sealant stuff.

This feels kind of attractive to me. The holes arent structural, and the bottom of the car is easy to get too. I know from experience if I start ripping apart the interior, i will leave a trail of broken GM plastic that will have to either be replaced or that will never again quite attach right. So I'll do it if I must, but I'd like to avoid it.

So, what kind of magic mastic undercoat stuff can I use for this? It won't be seen, and if the car lasts 100,000 miles that will be a miracle. I'm guessing 30k to 50k miles as more realistic. And its not visible, so even if it does restart some rusting / leaking, well, meh. It's a college kid car.

I'm sure VW bug owners have this down to an art form. Any insights from anyone on nice hacks to do this?
 

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Knock the worst of the rust off, treat it, place some foil tape over the hole from above, put a dollop of bondo glass on some wax paper and smear over the tape from below (so its against the sticky side of the tape, that will help it stick and the tape will stop it from just sticking to the carpet/underlay), leave the wax paper in place while it sets (this will stop it from falling down and give you a smooth finish), spray some undercoating over it and call it done.
Its a 20 year old car in the rust belt with rust through holes in the body, its never gonna be saved just kept on the road for a few more years.
 

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I'd just get any of the rust converter substances, rust inhibiting paint is more for painting barely rusted metal to prevent it from rusting (or rusted metal that has been thoroughly cleaned). Rust converters will chemically change the rust, the sheet metal on the car is pretty thin, if you took a wire wheel to clean it enough to use the paint it would likely do a lot of damage.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I'll give something like this a try and let everyone know how it works out:

https://www.amazon.com/Loctite-8-Ou...qid=1500420921&sr=8-4&keywords=rust+treatment

Made decent progress in about 90 minutes of working on the car after dinner last night. I found the reverse switch on the transmission (harder to see with the newer 9-3's with the ABS) by going in from the wheel well from underneath. And of course my 2001 had the hydraulic clutch, not the cable clutch, so that was different from the photo guide (which is proving very good).

I got the O2 sensor off the pipe with a 22mm crows foot adapter (basically the head of an open end wrench that snaps onto a ratchet). Handy things, I borrowed from my neighbor, but I'll have to watch for some on sale at Harbor Freight (the perfect place for these kinds of simple tools that don't get frequent use). Took some pounding with the deadblow hammer, some heat, and some penetrating oil cycles. But given I wasn't in a particular hurry I just took my time with it while chatting with the neighbor and got it out intact. I have one of the "open sided deepwell sockets" designed for 02 sensors, but it requires you to disconnect the wire, and it is always too short for the 02 sensors I am trying to remove (their body is too long to fit in the deepwell socket).

The exhaust clamp back there (at 200k now) was badly rusted. Structurally intact, but the bolts were in bad shape. One came out, the other wasn't budging. Any time there is a bolt like this that goes through, then has threads exposed on the other side that will rust, is always a potential problem. The threads rust exposed, and then they won't go back through.

I used a tungsten carbide dremel bit (the easiest tool at hand that i knew would work) and cut off the head of the bolt. I got the bits at Amazon also pretty cheap, and they go through bolts like butter. The only downside is a steady stream of microscopic razor blades pouring off it as it cuts, one of which inevitably ends up stuck in me somewhere. There was a gap between the flanges, so I also could have used the carbide tipped vibratory saw, and in fact that probably would have been easier. Usually you don't have that kind of access, so I didn't think of it, and just grabbed the "grind the head off" bits that always works (if you can get a dremel tool head to the bolt, you can grind it off in under 10 minutes).

I got it on the bench and the vise, and there is NO way that bolt was ever coming out. The head ripped off without it letting go. So as a data point to others, if you are stuck like this, don't spend forever trying to get the bolt out. Some just aren't ever going too. Go to plan B.

The flange is structurally sound, so I drilled out the old sheared stud. Get a kind of flat surface on it, hit it with a center punch (very important), then start drilling through it with a small bit to larger bits. I think I ended up using 10 different bits, each for just a few seconds. Five would have been plenty, but taking my time keeps me from dulling the bits. Harbor Freight has reverse cut drill bits, which are often helpful for these things, but I didn't bother to get them out for this job.

As luck would have it, I got the center nailed and kept the hole straight, and I was able after drilling out most of the sheared bolt to pry the last of it's hull out of the threads, and I saved the threads. I used a tap to chase the threads, but before I reassemble I am going to weld another nut on the existing nuts anyway. Hit the thing with an angle grinder with wire brush to get clean metal, put a bolt through with the nut and get it snug, then weld in the nut being careful not to weld it to the bolt.

I could probably buy a replacement part for $5, but then I have to find it, order it, wait for it, and throw the old one away. I can get the old one working fine with a little welding, and save the planet a little by reusing. It will be a nice "on the bench" thing to test that rust converter stuff on as well to see how it works and applies.

Plugging the hydraulic clutch lines was a headache also. The tube had a very small opening, so the sharpened bamboo stick I had ready didn't seal well. So I cut a piece of tubing from some scrap I kept, and put a bamboo stick in one end of that held by a cable tie, and put the other end over that hard hydraulic line fitting. I think it was old windshield washer squirter line left over from the old hood I had to pull from the 06 Saab 9-3 Aero after my kid drove it into the back of a jeep. :( That's just a plug of course to keep me from being covered in hydraulic fluid while crawling under the car, it's not a permanent part of anything.
 
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