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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,
Could really use some help from you informed Saab enthusiasts (and less-than-enthusiasts.) Here's the story...1996 Saab 900 SE with 60,000 miles had a minor fluid leak for many months. Occasional drops of fluid on the drive. Mechanic diagnosed as power steering fluid pump leak and indeed the reservoir once needed topping up, but I elected not to replace costly pump since the leak was so minor. Then shortly after an oil change, a major fluid leak appeared (12 inch puddle of fluid under car, fluid splattered around serpentine belt/PS pump area and below.) Mechanic again diagnosed power steering fluid pump as the source and replaced this pump for $500+. On leaving the garage I noticed a (new) ticking sound form engine compartment (passenger side) that increased or slowed according to engine speed. It looked like the serpentine belt was not running entirely smoothly. A day later, after driving 250 miles, battery and other warning lights came on while driving. Pulled over and found the drive belt partly shredded (black cotton candy-like fibers all over) and came off, fluid all over engine compartment, and a little coolant also sprayed around, and major fluid leak from same area as before. Unfortunately I didn't inspect to try to identify source. This time, mechanic said PS pump was fine but the leak was from the engine oil cooler lines, which required replacement. Next, while disconnecting those lines, the oil cooler threads were stripped (mechanic said there was no choice but to pull the lines off and sacrifice the threads), requiring replacement of engine oil cooler. My questions: 1) should mechanic have been able to differentiate between power steering fluid and oil cooler line leak? 2) if the first occasion of the MAJOR leak was actually the oil cooler lines (rather than PS pump, which had a MINOR leak), wouldn't this have been evident if proper cleaning and diagnostics were performed? 3) isn't it possible to disconnect the lines without destroying the oil cooler? 4) what was likely the cause of the ticking noise? (the mechanic speculated that a pulley was suddenly failing) 5) did the ticking likely have any relation to the serpentine belt failure and/or oil line leak?
I'm looking at about $1000 on top of the $500+ already paid for a possibly unnecessary PS pump. Does it sound like my mechanic could use more training? Or needed to make his boat payment?
Thanks kindly for any help, recommendations or comments.
 

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A new power steering pump, p/n 4647491, for a 1994-98, is over $600 list, around $200 remanufactured (ex.: saabsite.com), and less than $50 used, example:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=33588&item=7981151781

I assume a remaned one plus about three hours of labor would add up to $500. Seems like a lot of time, but that is hard to judge when someone else is doing the work. If I were you, I would find out what was put on the car, if remanufactured, what kind of warranty you get. Idler pulleys and belt should have been inspected, at the same time.

1) Yes
2) Yes but it takes a lot of time.

I have spent hours cleaning that part of my engine, and more than once, before I figured out where power steering fluid was leaking from (in my case it was the ps lines and not the pump), and where oil was coming from (valve cover). This is one of the worst jobs I had to do on my car, the mix of steering fluid and old oil is like tar.

3) Yes. Sloppy workmanship, IMO.
4) Probably the idler pulleys.

Lots of posts about them failing prematurely. They should be inspected any time the belt is taken off. VERY easy to tell if they are failing if you spin them by hand, and know what you are looking for. They BOTH need to be replaced if one fails (I made that mistake the first time), or switch to the short belt configuration with one (upper) idler pulley (lower idler bypassed or removed, see pic below).


In the end I used a metal pulley with replacable bearings because the third upper idler was failing also.

5) Yes, idlers go out first, THEN the belt.

The belt shreds when the idler pulleys start to wobble on the axis, or when the idler bearing looses lubrication, overheats and starts to bind. That is EXACTLY how mine failed the first time. I replaced one pulley and the belt, a few months later the same thing happened. Otherwise the belts are good for 60k miles.

The belt is above the oil cooler hoses in one area. When mine went out the second time, it damaged a hose on top of the engine, so I would assume the same could have happened on the bottom. Not likely, but possible. When the idler pulleys start to go, the uneven tension on the belt can damage the power steering pump pulley shaft, or water pump. Happened to someone else on this board recently.

$1000 is outrageous, I would find a used oil cooler with hoses and find someone who can put it on, should take about 2-3 hours. The oil cooler can be bypassed temporarily, IF you avoid high-speed driving and overheating the engine. Some cars came without them.

All this probably started with one idler pulley, with the exception of the original small power steering leaks, which are common. Good luck.
 

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PMI, beautiful engine.

A real mechanic will really clean down an engine before locating and diagnosing any leak - no guessing allowed. I like the use of steam, at least on the older non-electronic cars....

The aluminum pulley with the replaceable bearing, please give us the source,PMI..
Does this affect the belt length ??
How did you ever remove that lower pulley ?? ; this looks to be impossible without moving the engine at least an inch or two...
 

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Thanks, I used what I knew, in this case a 6-groove pulley for a Mustang, from wazeepulleys.com.

It was not a perfect fit, I had to have it machined down, and needed a bearing insert to reduce the inside diameter. The flanges on the Mustang pulley are too thick, but they have a pulley for a Vette that fits better. The point was the replacable bearing, and a larger diameter. A larger diameter pulley spins slower, idler bearing wear is proportional to the 4th power of the radius... it would take a lot of typing to explain that... maybe a separate thread one day... hijacking this one already, I think.

The new pulley is 74-mm diameter, compared to 64mm original size. 25-mm thick after machining, compared to 24-mm original. I am using a 97-inch long belt, which was a bit long for me in the short belt configuration with the Saab oem upper pulley size. The Vette pulley is supposed to be an almost perfect replacement.

As for taking off the lower idler, it depends on whether you have the older mushroom bolt with the T40 head, or the newer 13-mm hex head. The torx is harder, you have to hold a torx bit in something, like a flat box-end or one of those new gear wrenches. I think someone recommended welding a T40 bit to a flat steel bar. For the 13-mm hex head size, a flat 13-mm or 1/2-inch wrench is best, with something at the end for leverage. And lots of PB Blaster squired behind the pulley with a straw. Only a flat wrench seems to fit in that space, the offset-type will not.

So, what do we tell skbreck about his oil cooler??? I would go with a used one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
many thanks, PMI and earthworm, for your comments. it's great to hear from very knowledgable individuals. drinks on me if you ever get through charlotte, nc.
now about tha oil cooler and oil cooler lines - do you think they can be purchased used as a "package"? my mechanic is telling me HIS cost for the oil cooler alone is $300 (!)
 

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I would try to get the oil cooler and hoses together, from salvage, with the hoses still attached if possible. Goldwingsaab.com is reputable, but pricey for used parts, someone on car-part.com is likely to be cheaper.

I know they are expensive as new parts from a Saab dealer. The cooler is over $300 list, and the hoses are over $100 each. The hoses are actually a combination of hose and metal "hard" line. Oil cooler, p/n 4357042 hoses, p/n 4357414, 4357208. I think that is why there are a few cars around with the oil cooler bypassed with a loop of hose.

The oil cooler and lines can also be replaced with an aftermarket kit for between $100 and $200, but the mechanic has to get or make the correct metal fittings for where the hoses attach to the oil filter housing and oil cooler thermostat, so that is extra labor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
folks, thanks again for previous responses. the shop said they could not find a suitable cooler with hoses, so I ended up paying $500 for those parts plus another $100 for the 2 idlers. With labor = $1000. (and that's on top of the $550 for the remaned power steering fluid pump.
what kills me is that they claim the hoses could not be disconnected from the cooler (they were "stuck") without ripping the cooler threads out. could you kindly weigh in again with opinion on whether this sounds plausible? paying for new parts (and they claim to have charged me only their cost, although the items costed exactly thelist prices you noted in previous post) is bad enough, but I can live with it. however, i would have a real problem with paying for a $300 new oil coler plus labor if their carelesness or lack of competence was the cause. i have heard one other mechanic say you can't successfully disconnect the hoses without damaging the cooler, but that doesn't seem to make sense to me that they would be permanetly bonded.
Your opinions will be greatly appreciated.
anyone out there ever disconnected these hoses and replaced them?
Thanks!
 
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