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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a '93 900t manual, I posted a month or so back asking for help diagnosing and replacing a dead starter. The gist of it was that sticky stuff spilled around the ignition, which led to the starter staying on while driving the car, burning out the starter. I cleaned the ignition and got it functioning pretty well again and replaced the starter. It started several times with a very minor delay between turning the key and the starter starting. The next day it made no effort to start. I have since been messing around with it trying to diagnose various possible culprits when I have had time (which hasn't been much) and last week took it to a shop.

He basically told me what I thought to be the issue(s). Either the new starter I bought is faulty and is causing it to only start intermittently or the flywheel got damaged when the old started died and is causing it to bind. He put direct power to the terminal 50 of the starter and it didn't start. We have both been able to get it to start after some fiddling, usually I have to turn the key to on wait a moment, then turn to start and after trying that 10 or so times it seems to work. Also, I typically have been switching between reverse and neutral when trying to start it and it always seems to start in neutral, but not sure if this actually has anything to do with it. I have also tried starting it by jumping it with the diagnostic socket, but that hasn't worked, but that could be because I was only using a paper clip to short the ports.

So as of now I have the car back at my house, I was able to start it on the first try and it drove fine (the next day I couldn't get it to start). I pulled the starter out again, the teeth on it look fine and the teeth that I can see on the flywheel look good. I attempted to rotate the flywheel with a screwdriver to inspect the other teeth but couldn't get it to turn. I just realized as I am writing this that I had the parking brake on, but I'm not sure if that would have an affect since the car is in neutral. I tried turning it both ways and pushed pretty hard but it didn't even budge. Is there a trick to this?

The other thing that I would like to do is bench test the starter now that it's out. I don't know how to do this though. Can I hook up jumper cables from my battery to the starter? Positive to terminal 50, and negative to...? I plan on exchanging the starter for a new one, but would like to make sure it is faulty first.

Lastly, the ignition is apparently a bit faulty as well. I don't know the details of the testing very well since I didn't do it, but apparently it wasn't consistently giving the voltages it should every time, only sometimes. And the mechanic said there was some 'play' between start and on positions that shouldn't be there. I plan on replacing it myself if I can, but need to read up on how to do so. From what I know the ignition is made up of three parts: tumbler, electrical, and housing. Do I replace the whole thing? Or can I keep the tumbler and replace the electrical and housing?

Sorry for the long post, but hopefully someone can shed some light on my questions. Also, anyone know of a really good Denver area classic saab mechanic?
 

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First thing I would do is to check the battery is OK. It's a common failing to blame battery problems on something else. Many people are confused over what constitutes a good battery. If you can, borrow a known good one from another car, or take it to be checked. Failing that, give your existing battery a good overnight charge after removing battery cables. Check the voltage after a couple of hours after removing the charger. If the voltage does not read and maintain at least 12.6 volts, the battery is faulty and may not have the capacity to start the car.
 

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When it won't start, have your assistant hold the key in the 'start' position, check voltage at the 50 terminal and at the + cable, then hit the starter sharply with a metal bar or the like. If it starts, replace the starter. Bench testing is not always useful as it takes very little power to spin the starter when it's not engaged.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Both of those things have been tested, I should have mentioned them above. I took the battery in to be tested, they said it was 60% charged which should be enough to start it according to them. I also gave it an overnight charge. The mechanic suspected the battery as well and tried it with a known good battery and had the same issues.

The starter was also tested in the car with power directly to terminal 50 and it failed to start. I believe he also checked voltages in the manner you suggested, but I can't recall the results, so I will have to check.

I don't have a multimeter, but it sounds like if I'm going to go forward with this on my own it's time I invest in one.
 

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Multimeters are cheap. And should be in the trunk of every vehicle.

I don't remember from before - or if you ever said - but does your vehicle have an alarm?
 

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The $3.99 multimeter from Harbor Freight Tools is adequate. Sometimes they give them away with a $20 purchase (that's how I got mine). It's no Fluke 88, but it will serve your needs.
Try whacking the starter when it doesn't work, and record voltage at the + cable. Check for corrosion at the ends of the battery and ground cables.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
No alarm. I didn't realize how cheap they were, or could be, I'll go snag one ASAP. No corrosion on battery or cables, and it was cleaned up just to be sure. I also replaced the washers and nuts attaching the cables to the starter with new stainless ones. The only thing I'm not sure about when it comes to grounding/cleaning is where the grounding cable is. I couldn't seem to see one from above at all. I assume it's under the engine somewhere, but where?

The starter is essentially brand new so hopefully it's not in need of the old hit with a hammer fix. If it is, then I'll just return it. Also, it's not even in the car right now, and I'd rather not put this one back in unless I know it's good.

I know bench testing my not tell me if it is good enough to turn over the engine, but can someone walk me through how to do it, just so I can see if it works at all?
 

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Use jumper cables
Attach battery + to solenoid +
Attach battery - to starter case
Touch screwdriver between + and 50 terminal
 

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Use jumper cables
Attach battery + to solenoid +
Attach battery - to starter case
Touch screwdriver between + and 50 terminal
And be careful if you're going to do this out of the car! It's going to have some recoil so make sure you have a firm grip on it.

Better yet, when you go pick up your multimeter, have an auto parts store test it for you.
 

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The main ground is at the front of the car. Follow the blue cable from the battery and you'll find it.
 

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Aaaand, reading through this you could also try wiring a pushbutton to your ignition...'cause it sure sounds to me that it's boogered since you're able to get it to work intermittently and after fiddling about a bit with the key.
 
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