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So I'm driving my 2001 Saab 9-3 just an hour ago and something that's never happened to me occurs. I'm stopped behind two cars at a traffic light and I hear a popping sound and then a hiss. I don't think it's me, and I'm looking all over for the source of the sound. Then I see white smoke coming from under my hood. I immediately back up into a space on the side of the road and pop the hood to see what's up. By now, the smoke is completely gone.

I look under the hood and cannot see anything.

I definitely smell.... something...but not quite like burning oil, and not quite the smell of coolant. Under the car and in the street isn't much liquid either. Although there are a few clear oily drops on the ground where I parked.

Now is the time I tell you that I've had a power steering leak for quite a while now. But I've kept up with it by keeping the reservoir full up to the line. In the last few days though, I go through power steering fluid about a bottle a day. You may be asking why I'm not fixing the car. It's because I plan to buy a new car Friday or Saturday. I should also tell you that on Sunday, when it got really really hot, and I was going uphill, my AC stopped working for about 30 minutes, and after that I heard a VERY loud sound, almost like a groaning sound that sounds just like this:
only mine is constant and increases with acceleration. However, my AC works fine now yet the groaning/rattling sound still happens only not as much as it was for a few days.

Anyway... back to the pop/smoke incident. So I'm standing on the side of the road trying to see what kind of leaks there are. I can't find anything. I start the engine again, watch and see what happens. Nothing. But I do now hear an increasing hissing sound. Kind of a mechanical hiss. Not like a steam hiss. I shut the hood, get in the car and drive off. No noticeable change in performance. But the hiss is there... it gets louder and then it gets quieter, but it's always there. At one point it gets really loud so I pull off a side street, turn around and have to go into reverse to do a 3 point turn. When I go into reverse, the hiss quiets down again. I decide to go home and nothing more happens. However the hiss is really noticeable right behind the dash board, I think. And when I shut off the engine, the hiss slowly dies off.

I have no idea what's up. Anybody have any ideas?

One idea I had was that when I checked my power steering before I left, it wasn't completely full so I filled with the remaining fluid. Some of the fluid got rolled down the side of the reservoir. I drove to Autozone and noticed no power steering problems even though the reservoir was at least two fingernails below the reservoir line. Still, I went to Autozone and bought some more... only I didn't put it in. I figured it was running fine so why change it? That's when the pop happened about 5 minutes later in traffic. I'm thinking maybe it was a vacuum related thing, too much air in the reservoir? It had been smoking in the past. OR, maybe some of the fluid heated up and leaked down onto something really hot and basically "exploded" (instantly evaporated), thus causing the pop sound and the smoke? But why do I now have the constant hissing sound that gets quiet and loud again?

This couldn't come at a worse time... trying to buy a new car and I want to trade this bucket in. At this rate, with all these weird sounds and problems, I bet dealers won't even let me on their lot!
 

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So I'm driving my 2001 Saab 9-3 just an hour ago and something that's never happened to me occurs. I'm stopped behind two cars at a traffic light and I hear a popping sound and then a hiss. I don't think it's me, and I'm looking all over for the source of the sound. Then I see white smoke coming from under my hood. I immediately back up into a space on the side of the road and pop the hood to see what's up. By now, the smoke is completely gone.

I look under the hood and cannot see anything.

I definitely smell.... something...but not quite like burning oil, and not quite the smell of coolant. Under the car and in the street isn't much liquid either. Although there are a few clear oily drops on the ground where I parked.

Now is the time I tell you that I've had a power steering leak for quite a while now. But I've kept up with it by keeping the reservoir full up to the line. In the last few days though, I go through power steering fluid about a bottle a day. You may be asking why I'm not fixing the car. It's because I plan to buy a new car Friday or Saturday. I should also tell you that on Sunday, when it got really really hot, and I was going uphill, my AC stopped working for about 30 minutes, and after that I heard a VERY loud sound, almost like a groaning sound that sounds just like this: Saab 93 2000MY - strange noise - SOLVED! - YouTube only mine is constant and increases with acceleration. However, my AC works fine now yet the groaning/rattling sound still happens only not as much as it was for a few days.

Anyway... back to the pop/smoke incident. So I'm standing on the side of the road trying to see what kind of leaks there are. I can't find anything. I start the engine again, watch and see what happens. Nothing. But I do now hear an increasing hissing sound. Kind of a mechanical hiss. Not like a steam hiss. I shut the hood, get in the car and drive off. No noticeable change in performance. But the hiss is there... it gets louder and then it gets quieter, but it's always there. At one point it gets really loud so I pull off a side street, turn around and have to go into reverse to do a 3 point turn. When I go into reverse, the hiss quiets down again. I decide to go home and nothing more happens. However the hiss is really noticeable right behind the dash board, I think. And when I shut off the engine, the hiss slowly dies off.

I have no idea what's up. Anybody have any ideas?

One idea I had was that when I checked my power steering before I left, it wasn't completely full so I filled with the remaining fluid. Some of the fluid got rolled down the side of the reservoir. I drove to Autozone and noticed no power steering problems even though the reservoir was at least two fingernails below the reservoir line. Still, I went to Autozone and bought some more... only I didn't put it in. I figured it was running fine so why change it? That's when the pop happened about 5 minutes later in traffic. I'm thinking maybe it was a vacuum related thing, too much air in the reservoir? It had been smoking in the past. OR, maybe some of the fluid heated up and leaked down onto something really hot and basically "exploded" (instantly evaporated), thus causing the pop sound and the smoke? But why do I now have the constant hissing sound that gets quiet and loud again?

This couldn't come at a worse time... trying to buy a new car and I want to trade this bucket in. At this rate, with all these weird sounds and problems, I bet dealers won't even let me on their lot!
First gut reaction is the a/c system over pressurized and the relieve valve blew off. Accounts for the off scent smell, oily drops and continued function of the car.

If the rad fan has lost it's low speed (very very common) perhaps the high speed did not cut in fast enough to keep the relief valve from popping off.

Basically, if the car continues to function correctly, don't worry about it too much since you're in a trade in/sell/foist off mode with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First gut reaction is the a/c system over pressurized and the relieve valve blew off. Accounts for the off scent smell, oily drops and continued function of the car.

If the rad fan has lost it's low speed (very very common) perhaps the high speed did not cut in fast enough to keep the relief valve from popping off.

Basically, if the car continues to function correctly, don't worry about it too much since you're in a trade in/sell/foist off mode with it.
I hope that's all it is, however wouldn't this affect the actual A/C itself? As I mentioned, the A/C seems to still be working for the most part. Probably not as *good* as it used to be, but it does work as long as it's not too hot outside.
 

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You probably blew off a bunch of refrigerant, per the post by win_k. Now you're running on a half charge. The problem is likely unrelated to the massive hole in your PS line.
 
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