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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
EDIT 23th September, 2022: Althought this very first post may help to some extent with the thinking stage: Do not assume the same issue as i did. My car is not a Viggen or a 9-5 but a Standard 9-3. The issue fromt the YT video included is meant for the 9-3 Viggen and 9-5 up till 2001 models. Different engine than the OG 9-3. Please check my very last post that fixed it all before taking any actions at you own car: Coolant leak in my 2002 9-3 Convertible

Hi all!
So this month i had the european biyearly automotive control & check done on my 2002 Saab 9-3 Convertible that has the 2.0L, 150 hp, B205E engine. I sadly did no pass and have a couple of issues that need fixing. one of them is a coolant leak. Now i must be honest and say that I was aware that something was off for the last 9-12 months with the cooling system, based upon the fact that i usually fill up the coolant resevoir 2-3 times a week (depends on my driving). I have been looking around under the hood to see were this leak might be and i spotted a wet area at the left-front corner of the engine block (between the head and block, if i'm not wrong). It was colored the same as my coolant (red) so i understood that this was where the leak was coming from. As the coolant will leak from that corner and down under the car, making a wet area underneath the car. The weird thing is that the EU-control/check as well as the workshops I have had my car at ever since i bought the car in 2021 has never mentioned this problem (despite them doing a complete replacment of the turbo, replace the thermostat and done oil changes). Which if it always leaves a spot under the car with coolant should have maybe been seen. (IDK, i'm not pointing fingers at anyone, of course :D)

Now, the main point of this post. I have tried to do some research online and came by a video on YT from Wheeler Dealers. Where they fixed a red Saab 9-3 Viggen convertible. And they had a coolant leak aswell where they found out that coolant was leaking from the exact same corner of the engine where i have my coolant leak. The host mentioned something about a factory issue with the bolts that are between the head and block that hold the headgasket. Where the bolt would loosen up due to the engine vibrations, creating an small leak/opening between the head and block. And the bolt that is located right at the left-front corner was fingerloose. He did mention that this was a typical "saab issue" with the engine all the way up to 2001. -I am aware that there are a differrence with the engine and power of the mighty Viggen and standard small turbo. But the engine does look alike form the outside (based upon the video).

My car is an early 2002 model. it was made in february 2002. Maybe my engine is then a 2001 model-year? Perhaps I've got the exat same issue with the bolts? [EDIT 23th of September 2022: AGAIN - THIS WAS NOT THE PROBLEM WITH MY CAR. SEE MY LATEST POST :Coolant leak in my 2002 9-3 Convertible]
(I have included a picture of my engine with the leak. It was taken from the left side of the car/engine, near the coolant resevoir)

(The video form Wheeler Dealers with time stamp to the issue)
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That’s honestly where I’d start. take the valve cover off replace valve cover gasket since that will be off and then tighten the head bolts. Leak should go away. If it doesn’t then it may be time to replace the head gasket as dirt and heat may have damaged it From the leak. Is there any mixed coolant in your oil? How many miles are on it currently?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
That’s honestly where I’d start. take the valve cover off replace valve cover gasket since that will be off and then tighten the head bolts. Leak should go away. If it doesn’t then it may be time to replace the head gasket as dirt and heat may have damaged it From the leak. Is there any mixed coolant in your oil? How many miles are on it currently?
It wouldn't suprise me if the damage has already been done to the headgasket due to my lack of maintence during my early months (The Saab is my first car, so I have learned alot since i bought it), The car is now at 195500 KM (121533 miles), the oil was changed at 191000 KM.(118681 miles) Based upon the looks the oil is fine. Its not "milky" or "foamy". It has become a dark brown or a "normal" color as I have been told and looked at up on the internet. There is maybe some dirt/cointanminents that the oil has picked up due to my driving. I did not hear any problems from the workhsop that did the oil change either about coolant mixup or such. As a SAAB workshop did the oil change.
 

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It wouldn't suprise me if the damage has already been done to the headgasket due to my lack of maintence during my early months (The Saab is my first car, so I have learned alot since i bought it), The car is now at 195500 KM (121533 miles), the oil was changed at 191000 KM.(118681 miles) Based upon the looks the oil is fine. Its not "milky" or "foamy". It has become a dark brown or a "normal" color as I have been told and looked at up on the internet. There is maybe some dirt/cointanminents that the oil has picked up due to my driving. I did not hear any problems from the workhsop that did the oil change either about coolant mixup or such. As a SAAB workshop did the oil change.
I think the engine on the Wheeler Dealer's show was a 2.5 which is in the Viggen and 9-5?
 

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It wouldn't suprise me if the damage has already been done to the headgasket due to my lack of maintence during my early months (The Saab is my first car, so I have learned alot since i bought it), The car is now at 195500 KM (121533 miles), the oil was changed at 191000 KM.(118681 miles) Based upon the looks the oil is fine. Its not "milky" or "foamy". It has become a dark brown or a "normal" color as I have been told and looked at up on the internet. There is maybe some dirt/cointanminents that the oil has picked up due to my driving. I did not hear any problems from the workhsop that did the oil change either about coolant mixup or such. As a SAAB workshop did the oil change.
looks like you should be good then. I’d just re torque the head bolts and just keep an eye out for any leaks afterwards. i re torgued my head bolts 20k ago as preventative maintenance and no leaks still. This is your first Saab ever? We’ll just remember to change the oil every 3000 and if you haven’t already make sure to have the pick up screen for the oil pump cleaned and modified to prevent any buildup of sludge as this car has low miles and should last a long time. Another thing is the updated crank case ventilation system. Made sure that’s been updated if not already.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
So it has been a week. Got the needed tools and parts (New bolts and gaskets). Just did the complete replacement, torqued the bolts to spec (Based upon the Saab 9-3 manual from Haynes). Cleaned the surfaces of the cover and engine head and assembled everything back in order. The car started up well, no new symptoms or engine problems. no smoke from exhaust, no knocking or anything like that. Then took the car on a general test drive with country-roads, highway, city and neigbourhood driving. the drive ended up going for 30-45 mins. Parked the car and 1-2 hours later i saw no wet spots under the car. But sadly I saw a difference in the coolant resvoir as well as fresh wet marks on the engine at the same issue-area.

NOTE: None of the cylinder head bolts were "finger tight" or loose. The were all tight. I had to use some energy to loosen them up. In my own opinion I may have just done some preventative work that wasn't a problem from before.

Seems like the coolant leak may be caused from a damaged head-gasket or a opening between engine component. I don't really know. But I might need to dig further down or contact a workshop.

Pictures of the "fresh leak"

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Just to verify... that's a leak of coolant? It's not oil of some sort? Does it dry up between drives?

Normally I'd check everything else (water pump, hoses, radiator, etc) as all these items can leak in our cars after all these years. But in your case, if that really is coolant leaking regularly, I think a headgasket might be what you need.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Just to verify... that's a leak of coolant? It's not oil of some sort? Does it dry up between drives?

Normally I'd check everything else (water pump, hoses, radiator, etc) as all these items can leak in our cars after all these years. But in your case, if that really is coolant leaking regularly, I think a headgasket might be what you need.
Yes. The leak that has been shown is indeed coolant. It's colored red as my coolant. It always dries up during the use of the car. Which also leaves just a red color that goes all the way down to the bottom of the engine. The oil in the car seems to be fine. I tend to check the oil level while I check the coolant reservoir. And the oil seems fine, smells ok and is at a preferred level
 

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Do you have an automatic? - Looks like it is from some of the pictures.
So your 100% sure the red colour is not associated with your ATF?
Quick check - Remove your DIC - and check that area is not soaked in oil because the escape port (rectangle port near the vacuum pump) - will leak into that zone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Do you have an automatic? - Looks like it is from some of the pictures.
So your 100% sure the red colour is not associated with your ATF?
Quick check - Remove your DIC - and check that area is not soaked in oil because the escape port (rectangle port near the vacuum pump) - will leak into that zone.
You are correct. My car is indeed an automatic.
Although i am certain that it is the coolant. (Since i have been used to always fill up the resevoir whether the info-display warnes me of low coolant or by just visually checking). But there is nothing wrong with doing and extra check for the sake of it. Unfortunatly i do not know alot of the acronyms that you wrote: Is it safe to presume that "ATF" stands for "Automatic Transmission Fluid"? What does DIC mean?
 

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You are correct. My car is indeed an automatic.
Althoguh i am certain that it is the coolant. (Since i have been used to always fill up the resevoir whether the info-display warnes me of low coolant or by just visually checking). But there is nothing wrong with doing and extra check for the sake of it. Unfortunatly i do not know alot of the acronyms that you wrote: Is it safe to presume that "ATF" stands for "Automatic Transmission Fluid"? What does DIC mean?
The DIC is the Direct Ignition Cassette - the large, black rectangular unit on top of the engine feeding voltage to the spark plugs.

Sounds like it is coolant. Check the hoses to make sure it's not a radiator hose leak right near the engine.

There are hand pumps you can get to pump up pressure in the system with the engine cold to try to find leaks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
OK GUYS & GALS, GREAT NEWS!!

So, after some pondering and reflections about the leakage. I contacted a friend of mine who has alot of more experience with cars, repair and leakages. I visited him with the car and let him see the troublesome wet areas. After some thinking we came to the decision to try out some "permanment head-gasket and engine block repair sealant" from a local store (it's called "Jula" and is a Scandinavian store-franchise) they got a product line from a company called "BARS" that sell these leakage repair solvents and sealants. It costed me about 40 USD (380 NOK in reality) it's 600ml but claims that half a bottle (300ml) is enough for 3-4 cylinder engines. The sealant works with any coolants. The reason we bought it rather than seek out a new head gasket was due to my friend's opinion that the leakage came out from one of the screws at the left hand side of the engine. Some of the screws were way more wet and was really stained from the red coloring of the coolant. We decided that I will use 150ml or ¼ of the repair-sealant from the bottle. I had to perfom the fix the next day, morning. And adding that sealant stopped and fixed the whole leakage! No More stains on the engine or lack of coolant in the expasion tank!

Since it's better to be detailed about these repairs, I'll cite the instructions that is written on the bottle:
(As well as I can remember them..."Always double check the instructions!")

1. With a cold engine. Pour the liquid into the radiator/radiator hoose/coolant expansion tank (either of the three works well, I filled it in my expansion tank)
2. Close/complete the circuit again by closing the lid or re-attaching the radiator hoose.
3. Then as soon as you possibly can, turn on the AC to max heat and air-speed. And turn on the car (I have a manual AC panel. So I turned everything to hot and high speed before cold-starting the engine) THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT: DO NOT FORGET TO ADJUST THE AC TO HOT AND HIGH FAN SPEED
4. Let the car run for 10-15 minutes and the shut off the car
5. Let the car cool all the way down before using it. As this will complete the hardening of the sealant.
6. Check and if needed, refill the cooling system to the fill line again. The coolant system does not need to be flushed and the remnants of the BARS sealant will help and "prevent" further damaged to the block and head-gasket.

After steps 1-6: you can then use the car normally.

-Note: I let the car stay to cool down overnight before adding the sealant (8-10 hours) I let the car run for the maximun 15 minutes, and after I added the coolant I let the car cool down for 7-8 hours. While checking the expansion tank and the floor for any leaks or missing coolant in the tank. After that i took the car for a drive on country roads, highways, and city driving. I did drive it "Hard" by hitting the gas multiple times and activating "Sport" mode.

I have included a link from the shop to the sealant as well as a picture (In case any fellow Northener/Scandinavians visits these forums with the same-ish problems that i had :D )
The link (Taken from their Norwegian version of their webpage): Tetning til topplokkpakning | BARS

Liquid Automotive tire Bottle Fluid Tire



The wet area with the stained screws:

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Liquid glass where you drain and flush your cooling system then add the liquid and run it and then flush it again and let it air out. Seems to work best in my experience. Of course, a teardown & new head gasket is the complete fix.
 
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