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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I previously survived two stress inducing incidents in Baja Mexico with Saabrina (Fan Temp Sender and Clutch hose failure). I was in Baja Mexico for Thanksgiving in my '89 Saab 900 Turbo and the car started to overheat on the drive back. I pulled over to find that the coolant reservoir was empty, I'd checked it before I crossed the border and it was a little low, but I did not think too much about it.

The car had been a bit difficult to turn over that morning and was running slightly rough at idle. As we drove on towards the USA border, I began to ponder the possibility of a leaky head gasket. My suspicions were confirmed when I could see steam and water drops coming from under the exhaust manifold and clearly, liquids were leaking into one of the combustion chambers. Three gallons of water and a short border wait back and I was relieved to make it home to San Diego.

Later that evening, I pulled the #3 plug and sure thing it was filled with some coolant/water. I ordered a head gasket kit, timing chain, exhaust studs, timing chain guides and new cylinder head bolts.

Questions:

1. Can the timing chain cover be removed with the engine in the car? Or can the guides be replaced without removing the engine? I replaced the harmonic balancer and seal 2 years ago and still have the modified socket.

2. Does anyone know a good machine shop in San Diego for cleaning up the head. From what I've read, the head can be milled, hot tanked and then gently lap the valves at home.

3. Do you think that the Swedish Dynamics ECU upgrade (which I love) 1yr ago hastened the demise of the head gasket that may be original at 250k.

Thanks!
 

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There are some photos of that timing chain scenario here:


I not not blame the APC box given the failure was between combustion chamber and water. More cylinder pressure is.... More cylinder pressure. Failed head gaskets are definitely a price one pays for more boost.

But, if you made it to 250k on the first head gasket, that is an outstanding life.
 

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You might consider getting started in advance if you can... a bunch of water floating the sump or stuck in the cylinders isn't great... and it'll probably take a few days for a machine shop to check the head. With 250k on it, I suspect they will tell you that you need at least valve guides.
 

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How big a job can it be?
When the car was new, SAAB USA WarrantyLabor Guide paid a full 4.2 hours labor to remove and replace a head gasket (3.7 hours for N/A).
 

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Jim , it isnt huge as you well know , but it is deeper than most DIY home mechanics go on a regular basis .
I am also sure Durk does not have a parts department on his left arm , nor everytool/equipment that could be possibly needed at his fingertips.
I am also sure he is not working to the clock , I would also be curious to know how many hours were charged for the same job when it was not under a Saab warranty . I Know that local mechanics in Australia will not quote 4 hours for a HG on any vehicle , perhaps a scooter !
 

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IIRC last time I had a head gasket on a Saab quoted was probably around '98 and it was a $700 job, and IIRC the shop I used was $65/hr. So, they were probably guessing six or seven hours of labor?

It takes me five or six if I am REALLY pushing it. But, I tend to clean as I go and I invariably find something else to fix or attend to along the way. It's pretty much a full day or weekend job when all is said or done.
 

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Retail was 8 hours; and that was on new-ish cars. Make that 12 hrs with timing chain guides.
We always got porked by warranty on big jobs (8.3 hrs for a transmission overhaul).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You might consider getting started in advance if you can... a bunch of water floating the sump or stuck in the cylinders isn't great... and it'll probably take a few days for a machine shop to check the head. With 250k on it, I suspect they will tell you that you need at least valve guides.
Pulled the plug on cylinder #3, pumped out water. Been soaking the exhaust nuts in PB blaster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Jim , it isnt huge as you well know , but it is deeper than most DIY home mechanics go on a regular basis .
I am also sure Durk does not have a parts department on his left arm , nor everytool/equipment that could be possibly needed at his fingertips.
I am also sure he is not working to the clock , I would also be curious to know how many hours were charged for the same job when it was not under a Saab warranty . I Know that local mechanics in Australia will not quote 4 hours for a HG on any vehicle , perhaps a scooter !
I am blessed with easy order of parts with a credit card, helpful friends on Saab Central and pretty good weather in San Diego for outside work. Thanks so much, will keep you updated.
 

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Depends on your working facilities. I"ve got a dirt floor, "Morton building" that is anything but tight. Farms all around and near constant wind. I wouldn't want an engine "open" for longer than it needs to be. Work in the open in a driveway, the same applies. Dust, chafe, and dirt are everywhere.
Being the head is likely in need of some machine work, it would be a "dance" for me on when to pull it down and when the parts are going to arrive.
A concrete floor would go a long way in improving things here, but at my age and health it isn't likely.
I don't have a snug warm corner to tuck the car into until everything can come together, I don't know what the OP has. Many only have their driveway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The parts are starting to come in now, I have been spraying the exhaust nuts for the past week with PB Blaster. Are there any other nuts I should be spraying before removing the head?
 

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Not really, at least not with any intensity. I usually hit everything I'm gonna touch as I do it, but the exhaust is rough.

Given the age/mileage, you may find other hardware in bad shape. Intake manifold bolts for example. I would definitely encourage a $50 order from McMaster to replace as much of it as you can.
 
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