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Head Gasket Blown In Mexico

3004 Views 85 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  durk96
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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Discussion Starter · #22 ·

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When I searched for one, it was extremely hard to find, so be careful. If it is not damaged, don't damage it on your teardown. Assume that you will not find a new one anywhere.
Part number 8858275
I got one of the last one shown at Nordic Speed over a year ago. I don't know if they have anymore
 

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Yeah, I had a hard time finding one five years ago. :( It would be really shitty if this is the thing that ends up killing c900s.

It's not a super complicated piece... I wonder if there would be a low volume option to make more...

I think the correct part number is 8858276
 

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Thankyou for the correction, you are right. Fat fingers I guess and not careful proof reading.
That said, it is just a hard plastic guide. I'm sure something could be machined to do the same job. It wouldn't have to be hard plastic, just soft enough not to wear the chain and hard enough to last. Could even be a steel backed piece with a hard (nylon?) wear surface that is attached.
I know next to nothing about 3D printing but if the right material can pass through a 3D printer, it would be easy.
I, like most others bought everything I think I might need on tear-down, but will not know for sure until I get it apart, what will get used. No promises, but if I don't need the one I have, it will be available here. That should happen sometime after the 1st of the year.
Off topic a bit, but I was talking to a guy who builds multi million dollar engines about bearing inserts. I have an old (1940's) engine that bearings are NLA about re-babbeting my inserts. What he said surprised me.
"Why would you bother? for such low production, machine a bearing out of bronze to fit where the shell was and split it, then groove it. I do it all the time on large stationary engines"
His point being, what material make sense for large production runs, isn't the only material to get the job done. Asked about bronze being harder than Babbit, but he said the main thing is that it is softer than the crank! Made a lot of sense to me.
So may be a little "out of the box" thinking is needed.
 

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For sure... 3D printing can do pretty much anything at the end of the day, but I'm not sure additive is the right process for something going inside the engine. At least, not something you print at home. I'm absolutely no authority, but it seems the combination of heat, chemical, and mechanical forces is more than DIY printing could safely build.

In the end, though, I'm the last person to really weigh in here - I could even begin to consider what would be an acceptable solution or not. That's not my wheelhouse. My only ability would maybe be replicating the original. Which is probably a basic plastic injection molded and would have a MOQ of 10k units. :p

I have one new guide as well, but three motors I would like to build at some point. My logic is that would give me three good motors for two cars and that's all I'll ever need. By the time that's used up, there won't be any more gasoline or we'll all be under water or whatever. And I'll be too old to drive. Or care. :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Just looked, 105 Euros plus shipping, ouch. Guess I will take my chances and take the head off carefully using a couple of the old head bolts with heads cut off and slots cut in as guide pins.
 

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It's not that perilous. And, in fact, you can't do that or you will break one. You need to pull the chain as far out as possible so the top guide is as close to the bottom as possible, then swivel the head away from the block. Imagine rocking the head so it's vertical (instead of 45*) then pulling it sideways away from the engine. That's an exaggeration, but the idea. You cannot lift it directly away from the block.
 

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Unfortunately. I have no idea the miles on my powerplant, so no idea what the wear on parts will be, or what was replaced prior to my purchase. I may not need 1/2 the stuff I got line up for it. Chain is being replaced because the engine is coming out for trans change. Bearing are being changed, because it would be silly not to with the bottom end open.
I think what Jvanbra is saying is the head will hit the inner fender/shock tower if you try an pull it straight off in the car on guide pins, you have to "peel it away" at an angle to clear.
Not a problem if it is out of the car
 

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No, not that. The timing chain guides are wider than the opening on the head, so you cannot pull the head directly off the block. You need to swivel it out to clear the guides. If try to pull it straight off, you will shatter one.

 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Started the teardown, after soaking the exhaust nuts for a week, three studs came out, two nuts and one snapped off with barely 5lbs or so of torque, must have been cracked. Carefully removing all the turbo hoses then darkness arrived. Will tackle the rest tomorrow and will inspect and send the head to the machine shop. Local Saab guy in San Diego named Raphael from Swedish AB says he uses WAM WHOLESALE AUTOMOTIVE MACHINE INC.

Let the fun begin!
Gas Auto part Metal Machine Engineering
 

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Was it one of the furthest forward studs that broke? They frequently do!

All in all, I would say you got a very positive result from that work... one stud is pretty much guaranteed. :)

You can buy new studs direct from Saab, and IMO they are as good as any. I always reuse the spacers (maybe an issue where there's rust, not here) but always use new studs and new copper-coated exhaust nuts.
 

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If you have any doubt about removing the broken stud, have the machine shop do it. They should be well versed in removing broken studs/bolts.
I have a local miracle shop that does mine for peanuts, as long as you haven't tried and screwed it up yourself before bringing it to him. If it is going to a machine shop anyway.
 
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