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Head Gasket Blown In Mexico

3068 Views 86 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 · #61 ·
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Couldn't find master links that fit at the hardware store, so I opted to make my own with some bailing wire.
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My neighbor Morgan (Subaru guy) helped thread in the new timing chain....a moment and yes, it worked! I put the master link provided with the new chain in. What do you recommend to use to make sure the master like is not going to come off?
 

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Discussion Starter · #66 ·
Lifters and cams are back in. I rotated the cams a few times, to get the lifters bled down, is that sufficient? I cleaned up the exhaust manifold, I plan to mount it on the head Monday and then get the head back on and get Saabrina back on the road in time for a Christmas trip to Palm Springs.
 

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Lifters really don't require any special treatment.

Usually you would want to install the head, then install the cams & lifters. No reason to make that damn thing heavier! You can damage the head gasket if the head doesn't go on nicely... Anything that makes it more awkward is a liability IMO. That includes the manifold.
 

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Discussion Starter · #69 ·
Thanks for the advice, I was able to get the head on today, cams carefully timed and put the Modern Classic Saab coolant plate back in.

I drained the oil, since the car had been sitting 3 weeks, the coolant came out, then the oil. I didn't run the car very long with the leak so hopefully the bottom end is still in good shape.

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My buddy Peter's wrenchin' days are over so, he gifted me 3/8" and 1/2" Snap On torque wrenches, so smooth :) I used the little one for the initial torque and then switched over to the "big dog" for the final couple of torques and 90degree finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #70 ·
Clean oil and filter installed, Exhaust manifold on, valve cover gasket on (new chain guide was too wide, had to re-use the one on there, was in good shape), PS pump installed. Tomorrow going to put on the intake and turbo and Mercedes coolant. Time to get SAABrina on the road!
 

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Discussion Starter · #72 ·
Sounds like it's all coming together!

I would personally not worry about G05... that is an ooooolllldd coolant at this point. Prestone Extended Life is a far newer chemistry.
Turbo is in, intake on. Time to put the distributor back in, fill the coolant and get her fired up for a trip to Palm Springs to see mom tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #74 ·
Success with all your help SAAB friends :-

I was able to get the head really dialed in, a few new hoses, new timing chain and a few other needed items. I event found a small crack in the body where the exhaust comes off the engine and welded it up. The whole thing took a while but I'm happy and it was a great feeling to hear her purr and cruise top down to return the milky oil to the parts store.

Original paint looks good wet, could use a wax job.
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Discussion Starter · #79 ·
I have some extra parts, timing chain gaskets, oil pump gasket, turbo gaskets and two of the static timing chain guides (I ordered one that said left, one that said right, turns out they are the same). If anyone will use these parts, send me a PM with your address and I will put them in an envelope, otherwise the trash bin they will go.

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