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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, I have an opportunity to purchase a '91 900 convertible. Says it needs a head gasket, but pictures look pretty good. 230k miles, manual. Any hints on things to check when I go look at it. I'm thinking that even with an engine overhaul, it is probably worth the $500 he is asking. What do you all think?

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Thanks!
 

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Yeah, I wouldn't be too worried in CO either.

If you're lucky, it's a $100 head set and you're done, but realistically with those miles this car will have other needs. 230k is a lot of miles no matter how you cut it, but $500 is a fine starting point on a clean c900.
 

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Yeah for $500 a rust free compete 900 is a find.
I’d ask as many questions I could until it drives the price up…

At $500 it’s Worth its multiple in parts - but if it’s a runner keep her whole.

if It needs a head do the cam chain at the same time. Stock bottom ends and heads can do 300k but cam chains usually stretch out of tolerance at about 150k

just look for rust - the lower a-arms are the worst spot to find rust. If inside lower seal of doors are rusty odds are the undercarriage is too. The opposite is also usually true.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Roof in nice condition and works well - two latches and a button. Windows all work. Body in good condition, no rust. Interior could use some work: cracked dash top, stitching coming out of the seats, door panel coming apart a little. Engine looks pretty good. Said he was driving home and had a sudden ball of steam and a pool of coolant underneath. Towed it home and hasn't run it since. We cranked it a little - didn't start up, but sounded reasonable. Did smell coolant after cranking it. Shifter seemed solid.

He has two other 900's in the garage, so he was very happy to sell it to a Saab guy, rather than the guy that came looking to part it out. :oops:
 

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Sounds like maybe a hose just burst... IME it would be unusual for a head gasket to show any underhood symptoms. Maybe a plume of smoke from the tailpipe and disappearing coolant, but that's it. Maybe you'll find a ruptured hose or radiator.

I would consider just doing a pre-emptive head gasket. The 2.1l is not renowned for long HG life, and given the trauma maybe just take care of it.

It used to be the approach was just find some good used seats, but those days are largely gone. Order some new covers from lseat and you'll probably have yourself a pretty nice car for not much money.
 

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Fill the cooling system with water and see if you can get it to run, look for leaks. Waterpump, hoses, and block drain on the right side of the engines are all known points that could leak. May be more serious, but I've seen a number of simple things be put down to major failures that didn't exist.
 

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Yeah lots of hoses or even the rad could have burst to give the smoke show - does not mean the headgasket has failed, but you can test for that with oil in the water, water in the oil or combustion gases in the water.

HG on a non turbo Saab motor (b212 in your case) is pretty simple if you diy OK.
Half the work is plucking off the turbo piping which you ain’t got.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Put some water in the radiator and got her started up last night! :D Lots of pretty white smoke out the tail pipe, along with lots of solid black flakes as in the photo below. :( However, this morning there is absolutely no sign of leaks underneath. :)

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Have ordered the head gasket kit, timing belt, plugs/wires/cap/rotor, belts, and lots of coolant hoses. Hoses and belts are marked Saab, 1990. :eek:

It is a turbo, so I will get to pluck off that piping. :confused:

Now I just have to wait for the parts to arrive. I will drain the fluids and spray everything with Freeze-off in the meantime.
 

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I'd strongly encourage you to replace the exhaust manifold studs and the timing chain pad on the valve cover at the same time. Make sure you don't forgot that annoying little elbow hose under the thermostat.... it's always the one that fails on these cars. :) You could consider changing the timing chain too, but it's not much more difficult to do with the head on, so you're not saving much trouble if you wanna hedge your bet. Obviously, make sure to have a shop check the head before putting it back on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yeah, already ordered the chain and the studs. Will check the chain guides when I get it open.

Looked like some other threads mention shops screwing up the heads. What should I have them do and not do?

Also, any thoughts on what the black flakes might be? Just carbon buildup in the tail pipe? PO says the car sat for about a year and a half since the HG failure.
 

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Could be carbon that is being washed off the cylinders by water, or something else in the exhaust system.

There's nothing special about a c900 head ... back in the day you'd have these gung-ho "we work on iron heads" type of machine shops that didn't know what to do, but these days everything is an aluminum head... everyone should be equipped to deal with it. It's important to remember the c900 has a timing chain, and engines with timing chains do not like having material taken from the surface... it's inevitable if the head isn't flat, but only do that if necessary and as little as possible. There's no facility for the timing chain (on any car) to get shorter, so anything you take off will affect cam timing. IME, probably the valves are fine, probably the guides are a little worn, and probably the valve stem seals are ok. I would replace the seals no matter what. It's your call on the guides - new ones aren't available anymore but any competent shop can cut down T5 guides to fit.

BE VERY CAREFUL when removing the head. Take note of the timing chain guides. It's very easy to wang the lower, fixed guide. If you break it, you're taking the motor apart!

You cannot drain the coolant entirely without removing the plug in the block. Often times this is difficult and sometimes it's impossible. I generally just put something under the motor to catch the coolant rather than mess with the outlet. Once the head is off, I would remove the outlet. It will be full of BS. You can clean it or replace it with an updated aftermarker plug. The gasket is on backorder but available from Sweden.
 

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With that many miles the transmission is also a concern. The older ones would wear out the bearings and gall the shaft. I've seen the same thing onnewer ones, like yours. Good luck.
 

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I'd strongly encourage you to replace the exhaust manifold studs and the timing chain pad on the valve cover at the same time. Make sure you don't forgot that annoying little elbow hose under the thermostat.... it's always the one that fails on these cars. :) You could consider changing the timing chain too, but it's not much more difficult to do with the head on, so you're not saving much trouble if you wanna hedge your bet. Obviously, make sure to have a shop check the head before putting it back on.
Yes! The $7 hose that rocks your world, when it lets go!
 
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