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Discussion Starter #1
This is in regards to my girlfriends 2002 9-3 Vert.

About two months ago check engine came on. I checked the bay and she has two vacuum hoses on disconnect. I replaced them with new hoses and light went off. Car ran fine until a few days ago.

A few days ago light came back on. I checked the vacuum hoses and one of them came disconnected. I connected it and told her to drive to school, the light should go off.

She drove to school (30 mins) and light was still on. I told her to drive home and I would check it over.

When she came home there was a trail of liquid following her car for about a block. I opened the hood up and you could see coolant sprayed around. I thought a hose had burst, but it hadn't. The reservoir was full but as I watched it, it quickly drained to nothing. I couldn't find any tubes that had burst.

Had car towed to shop. Shop looked over car, filled reservoir with water and tested for leaks but coolant pressure tool but found none.

They determined it was a bad thermostat. I paid 175 to have them install a new thermostat. Returned later after business hours with my girlfriend to get car home. Girlfriend followed me to Best Buy first and when I got out of the car I noticed a good amount of leakage under her car.

Popped the hood and reservoir was full. Told her to start the car. I then watched the reservoir drain again down to about an inch, then it stopped. Keep in mind the leakage is not leaking to the pavement. The temperature gauge was hot, 3/4 up.

The shop was only 4 miles away, so I had her let the car cool down and do a slow drive back. Half way back we stopped to let car cool down. I checked reservoir. The reservoir is FULL again. Gauge is again at 3/4 up.

We let the car cool and drove it back to the shop. When returning to the shop the reservoir was still FULL... like super full... way past the fill line.

Originally the shop explained why this was happening and that the thermostat had to be replaced. The thing is, the engine light has gone off since they replaced the thermostat but the car is still overheating and acting weird with what appears to be its circulation of the coolant.

Unfortunately the shop was closed when we returned and is closed today on the fourth of July, but will re-open tomorrow to only see the Saab sitting there.

These guys are normally great at what they do, they're a small imports shop (Audi, BMW, Ferrari, etc.) and I've had work done with them before (motor mount, drive axel).


I would love to have a better idea from the community here before I speak with him again tomorrow.

Any suggestions / pin-points would be appreciated!


**** Let me also mention this: since she drives a convertible she usually has the top down but this last week has been really hot here in Vegas. The day she had the first problem with check engine/coolant... she had the A/C cranked on her way home.

After the shop fixed the thermostat we took it for a test run for 10 mins or so. A/C off and no over heating and no coolant issue.

After my girlfriend picked up the car, she had the A/C cranking again.
Then the problem came back.

Could this be a cooling / AC issue?


********* Radiator fan is running as it should. ****** Water Pump replaced a few months ago ********* Head gasket replaced 8-9 months ago ******* car came from Wisconsin

Thanks!
 

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$175 seems pretty pricey to change a $24 OEM thermostat, unless the are charging $150/hour.

If it was me, I would do a compression check and leak down test to check for a leaking head gasket... Ron
 

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Flush your system before doing anything else. Refill with proper coolant (not a one-size fits all). I use G05 in mine and ONLY add Distilled water. When you refill, make sure heater is wide open to highest Heat setting. Bleed the system...and bleed it again...and bleed it again. Our Saabs are difficult to get all the air out, and it sounds to me as if you have air trapped in the system. When I first got mine several years ago, I took the radiator out to back flush it and was amazed at the 'crap' I got out. It re-inforced to me I needed to really get a good flush on everything else.
 

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Flush your system before doing anything else. Refill with proper coolant (not a one-size fits all). I use G05 in mine and ONLY add Distilled water. When you refill, make sure heater is wide open to highest Heat setting. Bleed the system...and bleed it again...and bleed it again. Our Saabs are difficult to get all the air out, and it sounds to me as if you have air trapped in the system. When I first got mine several years ago, I took the radiator out to back flush it and was amazed at the 'crap' I got out. It re-inforced to me I needed to really get a good flush on everything else.
There is no valve on the heater system. All the temperature control does is vary the amount of air going through the heater core. It's worthwhile turning the heat on full to make sure that coolant is in fact flowing through the core, but it won't make any difference to the bleeding process.

The V6 may be troublesome to bleed, but the four cylinders seem to be pretty easy. Fill up the reservoir as much as possible, start engine. It will probably drop some, so top up. When the thermostat opens, it will drop significantly. Top up, close cap. I found that I needed to add a bit more after the car cooled down, but it wasn't fiddly. Nothing like my old K-car with the Chrysler 2.5.

A couple of reputable Saab shops have both told me that there is no real reason to use extra-fancy coolants. "GM had their fingers in Saab by that time" was what one said, implying that in the GM world, basic green antifreeze is good enough. I'm using "Celsius", which may be a longer-life version of Prestone. I do use distilled/de-ionized water with that.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So...

About ten days ago the engine check light came on. We took the car to the Saab mechanic. The code came back as a possible throttle body issue, so not a coolant problem.

Since I originally wrote this post, the thermostat was replaced, the car had a coolant problem where the coolant dropped significantly, then it has been working fine. No overheating. A/C blasting, no problems.

Today the triangle warning light flashed as my girlfriend came home. Coolant level = very low with SID displaying low level.

Seems like I cannot get to the bottom of this.
I do have a brand new coolant reservoir cap sitting right here tho.
I'm going to fill it back up and replace with new cap.

Any thoughts?

Quick rundown of two week history:

Coolant levels dropping a lot.... thermostat replaced... car ran fine for 5 miles.... overheats, drop in coolant level.... back to shop... shop can't determine issue... (possible radiator clog).... car runs fine for a week.... slightly hot during this week with A/C blasting.... check engine light comes on.... take back to shop.... code reads throttle body... no leaks in coolant lines.... fan runs strong... a week later... car overheats.... check reservoir... significantly low... SID displays....

WTF?
 

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Any thoughts?
Do you smell coolant at all?

Have you checked what the oil looks like? Does the remaining coolant look clean?

You'll have to check more often. Pop the hood and examine the coolant level regularly. At this point we don't know if there's a small steady leak or you lose large quantities of coolant at irregular intervals.

When the car is fully warmed up, do the hoses feel like they are pressurized?

I suspect the new cap won't help.
 

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Back to basics: You're losing coolant. You're either leaking it, or maybe blowing it off , or you're burning it, or you're leaking it internally.

If it's leaking into the oil (head gasket) you will see creamy stuff in your oil. You might also have oil in the coolant tank (same creamy stuff in there).

If it's leaking into a cyl and burning (head gasket), you should have at least one cyl that looks very clean inside (look through plug hole) as well as white smoke in the exhaust.

If it's blowing off, you'd likely see steam and/or smell a sweet smell in the cabin.

The toughest one is the leak - they can be hard to spot. Check after the car is stitting. Put white posterboard underneath if needed to spot leaks. Check when parked overnight. Check after parking it hot. Check when the engine is hot after a good run. Check after engine is mid warm when it might be leaking but not burning off. Maybe rent/borrow a pressure tester from Autozone so you can pump it up cold and look for leaks.

One more thing: you need to figure out if it's losing coolant and overheating or overheating and blowing off coolant. Start checking at regular intervals like Edt suggests and see what is going on. See if it's losing coolant... and if you keep the level up, if it runs OK. If it runs OK, that's usually an external leak. If it overheats even if generally full, you have an engine issue.
 

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Check your heater hose near the thermostat (mine cracked and leaked, kind of hard to spot...) & do a compression test.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Do you smell coolant at all?

At this point we don't know if there's a small steady leak or you lose large quantities of coolant at irregular intervals.

It appears to lose large quantities at irregular intervals but doesn't appear to be losing it to the the earth.

So, two days ago when she returned home from school there was no coolant in the reservoir. I filled it up that night. She drove to school yesterday morning and came home afterwards. Reservoir was still full of coolant. This morning, still full of coolant.


Here school is nearly all highway driving for about 30 minutes.

Yesterday she told me that it mostly starts overheating when on the highway for long distances and when the A/C is blasting. She will keep an eye on the needle and watch it slowly go up towards the red but never make it to the red because she will turn off the A/C which immediately brings the need back down to the halfway point.

She also mentioned the last week or so, as soon as she pulls up to the house after coming home, she will get the triangle and oil light flashing at her for a few seconds then go off.



Keep in mind, check engine light was on 2+ weeks ago when this all first started happening. Took the car in for an evaluation. Tech said it was throwing code for the throttle body. He removed code. Light came back on later that day for a few days, then went off and hasn't come back.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Also, oil looks normal and coolant color is clean and normal.

No smell of coolant and the engine bay looks dry enough for this car. No noticeable leaks making a mess.
 

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If the oil light is flashing then drop the pan if it has not been done and check the screen ASAP. Don't worry about the coolant issue until that's done.

If it overheats on the highway, the waterpump and belt are suspect.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The head gasket and the water pump were both replaced in November by CountryImports in Neosho Wisconsin. We moved to Las Vegas with the car in late December. Around March the water pump went again! We had it replaced locally by Saab tech.

Do you think the pan might have been dropped during the head gasket replacement?

I could call them and ask.
 

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You'd need to ask. It would certainly not be required to do the pan.

You can loosen the belt and check the waterpump yourself. Look for play in the bearing. That is what would cause the belt to slip and cooling to drop in performance. You should check the bearings on the other units while you are in there.
 

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Yesterday she told me that it mostly starts overheating when on the highway for long distances and when the A/C is blasting. She will keep an eye on the needle and watch it slowly go up towards the red but never make it to the red because she will turn off the A/C which immediately brings the need back down to the halfway point.
This makes me suspect that the cooling fan is not functioning properly, or the radiator is partially clogged.
 

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Also, oil looks normal and coolant color is clean and normal.

No smell of coolant and the engine bay looks dry enough for this car. No noticeable leaks making a mess.
Can you figure out if, every time the coolant level was found to be low, the temp gauge had been heading for the red zone earlier?

It could be that the coolant is boiling. Although I am surprised that no smell or steam was noticed, even on the highway, and that everything is dry.

Does the system pressurize properly after it's warmed up? The new cap may actually help if it's not pressurizing, since the boiling point is lowered if it's not holding pressure.

It shouldn't heat up on the highway. Check the rad and condenser for debris....you didn't drive through a plague of grasshoppers or airborne seeds coming down from Wisconsin?

Two replacement water pumps in such a short time is one replacement too many. You would have a better idea why they were replaced (both times) than we do.

If the water pump isn't circulating enough water at high speeds, I can see it overheating as you describe.
 

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This makes me suspect that the cooling fan is not functioning properly, or the radiator is partially clogged.
+1

With AC on, condenser preheats air going through the radiator and that puts it over the edge. Good theory, check it out.
 

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I was going to suggest that it might be due to the air temperature in Las Vegas, but today they have a high of 71 degrees according to noaa.gov... Ron
 
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