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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 99 9-3SE with 83,000 miles.

Every once in a while, when I try to start the car it won't start. I hear a ticking noise like it is trying to start and the radio, lights, power seats, etc all work.

The first time it happened, my husband was sitting in the parked car with the ignition turned-off and the radio and ac on for about 15 minutes. When I got in to start it, nothing happened. We hooked up jumper cables, and the car started right up. We assumed he had run the battery down and went straight to Autozone to get it tested. The clerk said the voltage looked good. So, we did nothing.

The second time it happened, we were on a road trip. We had been driving for an hour and stopped to get a bite to eat. We ate in the car with the interior light on and car off. When we tried to start the car 15 minutes later, it was dead. Again, we jumped off. The car ran normally the rest of the trip. When we got to our destination, we assumed we should just go ahead and buy a new battery and replace the one that had been in the car since we bought it.

Tonight, two weeks later, the car died on me again. This time, it was just parked, no lights were left on, no radio was running. I tried to start, and it halfway cranked, then died. After that, all we could hear was the ticking noise when the key was turned. We jumped off again, and drove the car home.

Since I have a new battery, I know that is not my problem. My question is, could it be the alternator, but my car runs fine when I am driving? I have also had intermittent check engine light indicators that will come on and off just about every two or so weeks (only in the summer this year and last - never in the winter) but is not on right now.

Any ideas before I am at the mercy of my local Saab dealer?

Best! MBA
 

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I would be suspect of the charging system. Perhaps the armature within the alternator is producing just enough power to keep things running, but not enough to accumulate the amps necessary to start the engine. I've had that 'ticking' when trying to start my car with a weak battery. I replaced the battery, was happy and content for a month or two, then the ticking started up again. I took the almost new battery back to have it tested and found out it was bad already (a possibility for you???). Is their a multitester/voltometer handy around the house? If you have one I would suggest starting the car and checking the battery voltage while it is running. You should be getting a reading somewhere in the 14.2 volt range I believe for the alternator to be healthy.

And how about the check engine light? If you have an Autozone somewhere in the area I would suggest you have them read the codes (for free) and record them, they may be a clue in this. If worse comes to worse and you have to have the alternator replaced I would look into a good independent shop to do the job as opposed to the stealership, probably save a few hundred $$$ that way.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Stealership! That is hilarious. Thanks for the great advice. I think Autozone is going to become my new best friend for a while. I am going to try to take it down there today.

I do know that last year when my CE Light first started coming on, I took it to my hometown independent dealership in Nashville (3 hrs away - nobody seems to want to work on a Saab in Memphis other than the dealership). They did say that something to do with my DI Cassette was slightly misfiring, but that it wasnt enough to warrant replacement just yet. They told me to drive it until it dies.

Could my current problem be related?

Many thanks.
 

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You performed two "load tests" on the battery and it failed twice..

But before condemning it, as stated by Slaab-for-life, have the alternator and battery professionally tested (not autozone).
The brushes do wear down after 90 to 120K miles more or less...
These are available as a spare part..
This area of the automotive repair field is open to corruption, particularly when something for nothing is involved.

Better to find an honest competent garage and pay for any diagnoses.

Borderline is a term ofter used with batteries, back in the 70s I would used failed VW batteries in the Saab or the Chevrolet - these would be fine for another 3 to 6 months.
But the VW would have a new battery good for another 3 to 5 years..
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Please forgive me, I have a few more questions because I am by no means a mechanic. Do the brushes have something to do with the Alternator? Is there any type of visual check I could do so that I have some knowledge before taking it into the dealership?

As you mentioned, I don't trust them 100%, and my next option is to drive 250 miles to my shop in Nashville (which is not feasible at this time). For example, when my CE light first started coming on, they tried to tell me my spark plugs were to blame (b/c my indy dealer had put Champion plugs on instead of Saab). They replaced them for a hefty sum of money. We called the Indy dealer who said I just got ripped and told me he would take care of me if the dealer's fix solved the prob. He was right, the CE light came back on one month later.

Funny thing is, these sorts of problems only happen in the Summer when it gets extremely hot and humid here.
 

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They did say that something to do with my DI Cassette was slightly misfiring, but that it wasnt enough to warrant replacement just yet. They told me to drive it until it dies. Could my current problem be related?
Perhaps but not likely.
I would get the CEL code before anything else.

Like others said, sounds like something in the electrical system. Brushes usually wear out before the alternator. There can be a bad connection, or a corroded cable, etc., and you have the same symptom as a bad alternator. I believe I have read about 30-40% of alternators are good when replaced.

Possibly but less likely the CPS (crankshaft position sensor), if the car has close to or over 100k miles on it. Btw, the DI casette is about $300-350 online, and takes about 15 minutes to change out. Check the dealer price before you take it there, waiting until it dies can expensive because you have to pay the tow charges, plus the dealer price on the casette, plus labor.
 

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To answer your other question, yes, the brushes are a part of the alternator. In theory they can be replaced seperately, though it might or might not be economical because the alternator needs to come out and that costs a lot of labor anyhow.

I think summer is actually harder on batteries. The ac makes the electric fan on the radiator run all the time, and that is a strain on the electrical system.
 

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mb-alexander said:
Please forgive me, I have a few more questions because I am by no means a mechanic. Do the brushes have something to do with the Alternator? Is there any type of visual check I could do so that I have some knowledge before taking it into the dealership?
The brushes are spring-loaded contacts inside the alternator which conduct current by riding on two copper slip rings on the rotating shaft of the alternator. The springs push them against the rings. So, over time the friction wears them down to a length that does not work any more.

Like an eraser on a pencil wears off until it is too short. It is supposed to take 100-120k miles for that to happen. The brushes are replacable with the voltage regulator as an assembly.

You can take the brush assembly out w/o removing the alternator and measure, but it is not easy, even working from under the car (I tried it).

Even harder to get it back in place because you have to work almost just by feel behind the engine. A lot easier and only about an hour for a mechanic with a lift. The spec for the minimum brush length is about 5 mm, but it seems to me that they will work down to 3-4 mm length from looking at them.



Link to my notes on the brushes and voltage regulator:

http://www.geocities.com/ng900set/Alternator/alternator.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You guys have all given me some great information. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot avoid the dealership on this one.

If anyone else reading this forum has any other comments on the issue, I welcome all the information I can get. At least if i go in better informed, I reduce the likelihood of getting taken by the dealership.
 

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mb-alexander said:
You guys have all given me some great information. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot avoid the dealership on this one.

If anyone else reading this forum has any other comments on the issue, I welcome all the information I can get. At least if i go in better informed, I reduce the likelihood of getting taken by the dealership.
Dealers are like the proverbial 500-lb gorilla, they make their own rules because they can. I would call and compare prices first, some people report being charged $700-$800 parts and labor to have an alternator put in, something Tires Plus or an independent mechanic charges between 1 and 1.5 hrs to do. The part is around $150-$200 at Advance Autoparts or Autozone, even if you change the whole thing. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Okay, just got back from having the battery and alternator tested. The 2-week old battery is already dead, and the alternator is bad. They priced out the alternator, and it was $230 just for the part.
 

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It is almost impossible for a two-week old car battery to be bad. I have used car batteries for much worse (higher load) applications in my work, and I only say "almost" because you could be the one person in 1000 who somehow managed to damage a cell... If it is bad, you should have a replacement warranty on it.

It is plausible that it has been discharged to the point that it needs a few charge/discharge cycles to get back to normal, or that some electrolyte has evaporated due to overheating.

Tires Plus, a national chain, will quote you labor hours for repairs like alternator replacement, coolant flush etc. over the phone. I believe they told me something less than 1.5 hrs for my Saab.

Check out this website, they have about average prices for rebuilt alternators, brake calipers etc., and you can buy parts online and have them delivered to a local store. Installing an alternator when someone has a lift is not a big deal. Alternator should be less than $200m depending on your model.

http://www.advanceautoparts.com/

I would also inspect and clean all the battery cable terminals and connections before buying an alternator. The two cables have a total of 7 connections, including the two battery terminals. Depending on how old the car is, any of them could be corroded.
 

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The quality of info on this forum is simply fantastic. So the alt. brushes can be removed "in situ" . They cost around $30 from the right source...
If something is impossible to do(from what some people say), that means it is simply a bit more difficult...
Having worked on the '88 Honda, this should be a piece of cake - when the time comes, if ever...
 
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