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Discussion Starter #1
I found a (2 ft. diameter) puddle in my garage where I park my Saab (and my GLI when I'm driving the Saab). At first I though it was water because this part of the garage is low and rain water collects there sometimes. After days with no change in size (water usually evaporates quickly during the summer months) I realized that the puddle is some kind of oil after trying to mop it up. I have checked the engine oil, hydraulic fluid for the convertible top, brake fluid, and power steering fluid in the Saab, and I did not notice low fluid levels. The car has leaked since I got it three years ago, but never at this rate. The amount of fluid on the garage floor seems large enough that there would be a visible change in fluid level for power steering fluid or hydraulic fluid for the top, but not the engine oil, which leads me to believe either the engine leaks got way worse or the transmission is leaking (while standing still). Has anyone else had a similar experience. Any suggestions on how to pinpoint the source?
 

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Where is the puddle located relative to the car? In other words, is it under the clutch end or the firewall end? Left or right side? Do you see any accumulation or evidence of fluid on the block and transmission, or drips forming when looking from below?

Engine oil would be most likely to leak in quantity from either main seal or the oil filter (or housing), and possibly oil cooler lines if you have them. The distributor can leak as well, but that's pretty easy to see from above, as is the valve cover gasket.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Where is the puddle located relative to the car? In other words, is it under the clutch end or the firewall end? Left or right side? Do you see any accumulation or evidence of fluid on the block and transmission, or drips forming when looking from below?

Engine oil would be most likely to leak in quantity from either main seal or the oil filter (or housing), and possibly oil cooler lines if you have them. The distributor can leak as well, but that's pretty easy to see from above, as is the valve cover gasket.
The puddle is closer to the front (clutch-side) of the car and more or less centered laterally. The puddle is so I can see drips forming on the underside of the transmission. The oil filter housing is dry. The oil cooler is dry. The distributor has a very slow leak, but it's not enough to explain this.

The car has leaked since I got it. The guys at Saabworks in Milford told me, "It's not that bad, all 900s leak", when I first brought it to them. Although, the rate at which it leaks has increased dramatically in the past couple of weeks. Everything on the car is working well.
 

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My 900s don't leak. :(

If you can catch fresh drips, you should be able to identify it... it's gonna smell like engine oil, brake fluid, or gear oil....
 

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Based on that, my money's on the rear main seal. Pull the cover off the clutch and have a look around.

Oddly enough, mine's started leaking a good bit lately as well. I did the front main seal earlier this year and I think the rear got jealous of all the attention.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Based on that, my money's on the rear main seal. Pull the cover off the clutch and have a look around.

Oddly enough, mine's started leaking a good bit lately as well. I did the front main seal earlier this year and I think the rear got jealous of all the attention.
Thanks for the advice. I suspect you're correct and I plan to look at it sometime this fall. I'm pretty sure I have several leaks now. I was never able to pinpoint the source of the leak coming out of the drain tube behind the passenger front wheel well.

The car goes into the shop next Wednesday to have the SRS light cleared, I may ask them to weigh in on this.
 

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I always found the rear crank seals to be solid and rarely wept oil.
The rear engine plate (or gable plate?) was a different story....the oil drain channel from the front of the head, the mating surfaces between engine plate, block and transmission lip....always leaked by varying amounts....
Sadly, it is a big task to get the engine plate leaks totally sorted.
 

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I always found the rear crank seals to be solid and rarely wept oil.
The rear engine plate (or gable plate?) was a different story....the oil drain channel from the front of the head, the mating surfaces between engine plate, block and transmission lip....always leaked by varying amounts....
Sadly, it is a big task to get the engine plate leaks totally sorted.
Huh. I didn't know how the rear of the engine was sealed, but now that I've looked at a diagram I can see how the end plate could be a problem. Looks like the gasket is NLA too. Can you explain in a little more depth (if you know) where and how these tend to leak? Is there a particular trouble spot where the gaskets tend to fail, or is it just overall seeping that gets progressively worse? Do the plates themselves crack, or is it just the gasket? Any chance of it just being fasteners loosening up?
 

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or is it just overall seeping that gets progressively worse
....basically.
Any chance of it just being fasteners loosening up?
....anything is possible but I have not experienced the leak based on loose fasteners.

My recollection of the gasket is that it was originally a paper gasket (?).....
The advice from may sources was to use an Anaerobic sealer to line the mating surfaces with and reassemble.
But in practice, it was not always so straight forward as the machined/gasket mating surfaces between head & gable plate....and....transmission gasket to gable plate.....tended to distort and or tear.
Sliding 2 dead square surfaces together is tricky. Keeping a coating of sealer as part of the mix?......sh1t fight.
Depending on if you are wanting to just slow the leaks or stop them all depends on the preparation and cleanliness of the mating surfaces.
 

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Thanks for the detailed reply. Sounds like a fairly tricky job to get right. When I get a chance I'm going to pull the clutch cover off mine and have a good close look around to see if I can figure out exactly what's going on, but it sounds like I may well end up pulling the clutch out to get the plate off for resealing.
 

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It's not so bad - I've done if four or five times and only messed it up once :). The Loctite 518 goes where you put it, it's not prone to drip or move around. Which is unlike the paper gasket, which will, and does account for the one time I messed it up. :)

Remove clutch, remove flywheel, remove plate, clean both surfaces, put it back together. A decision point is whether you replace the RMS while the plate is out and use something to guide it over the crankshaft, or install the seal after the plate is back in. I used to do the former because installing the seal directly is difficult, but now I've got the seal installer tool so I install is last because it's now easier. :)

You do have to be careful so as to not bend it OR damage the plate OR the head gasket in either direction, but it's not delicate... just don't be an asshat.

My last pass at this job was just last March:


Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of it. :(
 

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Thanks for that. Even the one or two photos help to visualize the arrangement. I can probably fab up something that mimics the factory seal installer tool.

EDIT: I pulled the clutch cover off and looked around. There's a good bit of old sludge in the bottom of the housing, so it's obviously been leaking for a while. I found one slightly loose bolt on the far top right of the plate, but that was it, at least of the accessible ones. Looking from below, the oil seems to be flowing down the left side of the oil pan above the drain plug. I haven't yet figured out exactly where's it's coming from.

I did find some fresh leakage from the distributor shaft. I had a spare seal lying around from another Bosch distributor rebuild project, so I popped out the distributor and replaced that. At least I sealed up one leak.
 

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So, the old paper gasket was basically two strips of paper, that seal either side of an oil channel. That channel is a drain from the head... you can see it at the bottom right of the deck in this picture:


http://www.sacsaabs.org/sacsaabs.org/misc/85spg_headoff.jpg

The common leak on these motors is that spot where the channel meets the head gasket. That was the oil leak on my SPG, why the head came off. It often trails down the block under the exhaust manifold and collects around the drain plug.

The approach in doing that end plate is a SMALL amount of 518 (you're taking up less than the thickness of a piece of paper!) around the channel and a SMALL amount of RTV on the bottom (transmission) and top (head gasket). For the 518, you can lay a thin bead or use a firm paint roller to roll it on. I suck at beads, I use a roller. I use Reinzosil everywhere else - it has NEVER let me down.

My head was off, so clearance wasn't a huge issue. But, prior, Jim Mesthene recommended cutting away the transmission seal to give another .5mm of clearance when reinstalling the plate and making up the difference with RTV. That seems like a good approach if you're only pulling the plate. I've never used that trick before, just a lot of swearing, but it seems like really solid advice.
 

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That could very well be part of, perhaps a major part of, the leak I'm seeing. As it happens, I have a suspicion that I've got a little head gasket leak (my fresh coolant has turned somewhat brown, and I've lost an ounce or two in the last few months), so I ordered the gasket and associated bits with the intention of doing the job when time permits this fall. I'll pay particular attention to that area to ensure it's sealed up.
 

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If you are doing the HG and you're considering the rear plate, definitely do them both at once. Doing the plate with head out is a cakewalk... if you need to stuff it between the head and transmission that's a bit more... intense. :) Heck, doing the FRONT plate and (and timing chain) with the head gone is not bad at all. I was geared for a fight, but it wasn't bad at all.
 

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Good to know. I've already tackled the front of the engine (front main seal, and all the associated bits), which was tedious and required some interesting contortions, but didn't end up being as awful as my expectations. If I'm doing the rear plate, the obvious question will be whether to do the clutch at the same time. Stupid mission creep....

On the plus side, replacing the distributor O-ring seems to have helped a good bit. I drove 90 miles today and there's no sign of oil dripping down the rear of the head or near the drain plug.
 

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I stopped a leak there once by removing the valve cover, cleaning furiously, then sealing with RTV.
I'm not real proud of it, but it stopped leaking.
 
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