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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks!

Having owned 2 Saabs previously, but having been Saabless since 2012, a hole has been burning in my heart that needs filled. An opportunity fell very randomly into my lap and I’d love some input. I’m very familiar with Saabs, but I’m not a mechanic, so need advice from others with that type of knowledge. For context, I had a 99 9-3 5-door lpt 5M that I got new in Oct 1998, modified heavily, and then had to part with it in 2012 at 158K because it needed repairs worth 5x the car’s value. I also had a 95 9000 Aero 5M that I got in 05 with 85K and sold to my brother two years later with just over 100K. Both were nearly trouble-free apart from dumb stuff I caused.
So I met a guy at a bar who is retiring and then moving across the country and he wants to sell me his 99 9-3 convertible, lpt 5M, with 167K for $500. I’ve only seen it once, briefly, in a dark parking lot. The paint is worn on the hood and trunk lid, seats are worn, SID is out and the power antenna is stuck. The top was replaced in recent years and the tires are good. I’m going tomorrow morning to check it out more and drive it. What should I look for and is this a good idea even for the low price? It wouldn’t be my primary transportation. Thanks!
 

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For that price, if its a confidence-inspiring reliable drive, take a punt. The dead SID might just be the printed circuit ribbon connecting the motherboard with the display. There are three types of DIY repair and I think you can get new ribbons. You can in Europe anyway. If you're very lucky, the ribbon is fine and its the illumination bulbs all blown, which is an easier fix.

The telescopic aerial is a weak spot on these but thats repairable too, with a new mast/nylon drive cable kit. Apart from that - usual precautions apply.

Doug
 

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Thanks, Doug. I’m definitely inclined to give it a shot barring obvious red flags on the inspection and test drive. Are there any particular places that I should shine a light and check for leaks, worrisome noises, etc., beyond the general/obvious?
 

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Update: the car is in decent condition, most of the electronics work. Radio unit doesn’t work at all, and the SID is highly pixelated. Also, the roof won’t open — immediately just beeps, but of course the error message is illegible. Seems to be the hydraulics somewhere? Any idea what it takes to fix one of these tops?

There is also a good deal of oil (I think) on the front of the engine and coating the power steering reservoir. I’ll try to insert photos, and again, any thoughts would be appreciated.

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That engine looks a bit disheveled. I see cracked hoses and it's missing 3 of the 4 screws that hold down the direct ignition, which may point to it not being very well looked after. Those oil and power steering leaking areas are pretty common. If it's a manual tranny how does the clutch and shifting feel? You said you're not a mechanic, but if that also means you're not going to DIY on any needed repairs, better get ready to spend some cash on it. In which case it might be worth it to you to pay somebody to do a safety inspection and see what other anticipated repairs they might find- suspension issues, etc. The issues you've identified don't seem too bad- IF that's the extent of it.
 

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Agreed... that looks like a perfect case of you get what you pay for. If you're looking for a project, you've probably found it. If you're looking for a discount driver, I'd reckon you haven't.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Danno93 and jvanabra, thanks. I agree that the engine's visibly a bit worn, with some corroded and cracked bits. When I say that I'm not a mechanic, I generally mean more advanced stuff. Replacing hoses and such is within my ability.

It is a manual. The clutch feels like it has somewhat short travel and quick take-up, not quite what I recall from my previous Saabs. The shifting is fine otherwise, and the clutch seemed to work just fine on the test drive. The seller says that it had a clutch done at 115K for the first time. Edited to add that the seller is the 2nd owner with complete records showing regular oil changes, and recent-years replacements of: water pump, battery and cables, serpentine belt, and brakes.

Also, another update: I went back to look at it some more and the top did finally go down after working the switch a few more times. Is there a place to add fluid to the systems on these? Could the issue be as simple as that?

The seller said I can take the car for $250 after the top didn't work on the initial inspection, so I can't resist a project car for that price. If it looks like it's becoming too much of a money pit, I won't hesitate to walk away from it at that price.
 

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If it needs fluid, it has a leak, which means it needs other work. These rarely get better with time... only worse and usually not that far out. Best to find the leak once you've resolved any other problems. But, if it started working... I'd see how it is on a regular basis before adding fluid, etc.

That oil leak is probably just the valve cover gasket. Common replacement item. Easy DIY at $25 for a OEM / Elring gasket.

Short travel on the clutch is usually trouble on these as there's no adjustment and it indicates an issue. But, it's hard to say from here. A clutch should be good for 125+K so if it was done at 155K, you should be fine. It might be that it was never properly bled - these are a bit of a PITA to bleed properly.
 

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The top side oil could be from the distributor hole cover which is also common and easy to replace. I'd ask the owner three questions: 1. Any issues with flickering oil light or oil light coming on in certain situations? 2. Does it go through oil and coolant which would probably indicate leaks if it drives nice and is not smoking? Oil leaks down under can be a pain. Front seal and oil pump cover are fairly easy fix but a drippy pan can be a pain. 3. Has the clutch pedal changed or was it like that since the clutch job? I drove mine for year with really low pedal after a clutch job thinking it was normal for the new clutch. I eventually had to pull engine and redid the slave cylinder bench bleed process and then the pedal was back to normal. You can try various measures to bleed the clutch cylinder and the hydraulic lines and might get lucky.

If you're not interested in a project, for that price you might just replace hoses, corroded vacuum lines, and try to plug oil and PS leaks and just drive it till it dies. You might get 3 months you might get 3 years. If you can do a compression test and a coolant pressure test before - even better. That'll give you an idea of engine condition and no flickering oil light might mean bearings are good for a bit. Dependent on interior and exterior conditions, you could always part out, donate or salvage for a few hundred bucks which could reduce your costs if things go south.

Last note on top, you can check for drips around the big toneau cover ram int eh boot and infront of each rear wheel which is where the fluid from leaky top rams is routed. Easy to spot leaks are not good as hoses and cylinder rams are outrageousl expesive. Although you sometimes get lucky and find hydraulics at bone yard. It'd be a shame to have a relatively new top go to waste because of hydraulics. If the top is in really good shape you could probably sell that before you junked it. Where are you located?
Good luck.
 
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