Friday, September 28, 2007

Removal and Installation of the Windshield and Headlight Wiper Blades on a SAAB 9-5.

This one is easy after you have done it once, but I remember being worried about it before I actually inspected how the wiper blades were attached. I figure I can’t be the only one with this wiper anxiety and I imagine people that are only familiar with what I would call a “peg” style wiper blade attachment will be interested in this explanation.

These instructions are for removal and replacement of the entire wiper blade, that is to say the rubber and the metal or plastic that holds the rubber to the wiper arm. Personally, I recommend replacing the entire wiper blade and not just the rubber strip. You have a wonderful car and new blades will look great on it. The replacement blades don’t cost that much more than the refills. And because of all the brands and styles of wipers, it is often a nightmare to find the correct refills anyway.

Windshield Wipers

Photo of the wiper arm and blade ready to install 

The wiper arms on the SAAB 9-5 have what I would describe as a crook bend or a flat hook. The wiper blade is wedged into the bend of that hook. Depending on the blade manufacturer, there will be a clip or tab that might need to be pressed before the entire blade is slid out. The blades that came with my SAAB needed a small screwdriver to push the tabs in, but the replacement blades have a tab big enough for me to push down with my finger. I could picture some blades not even having a tab.

Lift the wiper arms away from the windshield around 90 degrees and they will stay in place by themselves. With the tab pressed, the blades should slide down the length of the arm and out of the hook with just a little pressure. You do this once and you suddenly see how easy it is.

The replacement blades might not have the correct attachment already in place, but they will have a small set of weird plastic pieces included with the package. One of those pieces will fit the hook at the end of the wiper arm. Attach that piece to your new blade by following the instructions included with the blade. Then slide the new blade up the wiper arm and securely into the hook bend. When seated correctly the blade should freely spin in place, but it should not slide easily out of the hook. You can now gently lower the wiper arms back down to the windshield.

My SAAB takes 22 inch wiper blades. I like to change them once a year in the fall and I use blades designed for winter. Winter blades are just a personal preference. I like the way they work in snow and ice and when it’s not cold I just like the way they look. Companies are now making very streamlined blades with almost no structure apart from the rubber strip. They claim this style works like a winter blade but grips the glass better and reduces drag from the wind. I have not used this new style, but plan to give them a try and post my opinion sometime.

Headlight Wiper Blades

My 2000 9-5 has small wiper blades for the headlights. I have never seen these blades in the auto parts store, but they can be purchased online at a number of websites. They seem to be very hardy, my set has to be original and they are still holding up for the most part.

Photo of the headlight wiper arm and blade

They are really easy to remove and install. You lift the blade and arm away from the light and then try to turn the blade 180 degrees. At some point it snags, but if you continue to press the blade it will pop loose. The replacement blades snap back in by lining up the blade and pressing the center back into the arm. This is a five minute job for something that rarely needs to be done. If only everything was this simple.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tire Pressure and Gas Mileage, an Observation

When I purchased my SAAB 9-5 it had 32psi in the tires. The sticker on the drivers side doorframe show three different setups with two different tire inflations. I kept it at 32psi for some time, that being the recommended tire pressure for 1-3 people in the car.

The other two recommendations, 4-5 people and 1-5 people, are both 39psi. After gas prices really started to take off in our area I decided to raise the tire pressure from 32psi to 39psi and see if that would improve my gas mileage. It did.

I went from a little more than 24mpg to almost 26mpg. Increasing the tire pressure 7psi gave me basically 1.5mpg.

There is a tradeoff for this gain. The ride is much stiffer with the increased tire pressure. It can border on uncomfortable at low speeds and I notice it the most as I roll into the garage. But a lot of people like the “stiff suspension” feel and I think it is definitely worth it for the 30 extra miles per tank of gas.

More about mpg in the SAAB 9-5:

The EPA has my 2000 2.3t with premium fuel at 18mpg city and 25mpg highway. My SID stays between 25-26mpg combined.  I drive about 40 miles every work day on the highway and 20 miles every workday in the city.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Fuel Grade and the SAAB 9-5, an Observation

The owners manual for my base 2.3L SAAB 9-5 recommends 87-93 AON (Average Octane Number). It says that 90 AON is recommended for optimal power (93 AON for aero).

But what is the “average” octane number?
Good question. The octane ratings in my area are (R+M)/2. That is the RON and MON added together and then divided by two (giving the average). As opposed to RON ratings I’m told are normally seen in Europe. Search Wikipedia for “octane rating” if you want more details about RON and MON. It’s enough to know that the numbers on the pump in the United States are “AON” even if they aren’t labeled as such.

So SAAB is saying that the non-aero 2.3L 9-5 can safely run on anything from regular to premium and that the mid-grade/premium will give you the best performance.

I’m an armchair physicist, so I have ran multiple tanks of all three grades available where I live (87,89,91)  and here is what I’ve found. My car prefers premium and runs fine on regular.

What isn’t so clear is the mid-grade. Mid-grade around my neck of the woods often has 10% ethanol and my 9-5 doesn’t seem to like it. I haven’t ran enough non-ethanol mid-grade to have a final opinion, but I do know that once I get down to about a quarter of a tank of 10% ethanol mid-grade my check engine light comes on.

Tightening the gas cap doesn’t turn the light off but filling the tank back to full does. There is never a code to pull when I plug into the OBD-II. It’s the phantom CEL. I don't understand it either. So I tend to avoid it or just make sure to fill up at half a tank.

Premium gives me the best MPG. The ethanol blend mid-grade, not surprisingly, brings down my MPG but gives me what feels like the same performance as premium. Regular fuel lowers the MPG a little and my butt-dyno can feel a performance drop.

So what do I do? I mainly run premium, sometimes mid-grade (making sure to refill at half a tank) but rarely do I fill up with regular.

I occasionally fill with 10% ethanol mid-grade in the winter to capture any water that might find its way into my fuel system. It’s cheaper than a bottle of gas-line antifreeze and think about how much more there is of it in the tank. 1 gallon of ethanol in every 10 gallons of fuel.

“I drive a ______, should I use premium?” AKA “But my SAAB runs fine on regular.”
The higher the octane rating, the harder it is for the fuel to ignite. High octane isn’t helpful in most engines, but high performance and supercharged or turbo engines (like the SAAB 9-5) have to do something to keep the gas from going off too soon. That is where mid-grade and premium fuel come in. Higher octane is needed to end knocking or pinging in some engines. But remember that it only maintains performance. It does not give you gains in performance.

What if you fill up with regular in a modern high performance car?
The car will use the knock sensor to detect premature firing and, if found, will “retard” the timing to stop the knocking at the cost of performance.

What about octane boosters?
Have you ever really looked at the wording on the bottle? They are rarely needed. I guess if it ends the knock in your engine, great, but you aren’t getting much for your five dollars when you look closely at the label. They raise octane by “points”, not by whole numbers. A point is one tenth. So “6 points” is really “0.6”. A tank of 87 octane with a bottle of the average octane booster is now a tank of 87.6 octane. Not that impressive. But like I said,  if bottled octane booster is the only cure for your car’s pinging, go for it.

Remove and Replace the Hood Emblem on a SAAB 9-5

What you will need:

Small flathead screwdriver
Rag or shop towel
X-acto knife with Chiseling blade or a standard razorblade
Bug and tar remover or WD-40
Paper towels
Rubbing alcohol
Replacement hood emblem

The hood emblem on the 9-5 is attached with foam tape. There are three pegs on the back of the emblem that sit loosely in three holes on the hood.

Fold the shop towel over the blade of the screwdriver to protect the car’s paint from scratches.

Inspect the edge of the emblem and find the spot that looks best for wedging the screwdriver under. The best technique is to press the screwdriver blade under the emblem slowly (not too deep at first) and then bunch a little of the excess rag between the hood and the screwdriver to form a sort of fulcrum to help put more leverage into your prying with out damaging the paint.

The foam tape under the emblem should start to rip loose. Slide your “screwdriver lever” over and continue to pry, slide, pry, slide, pry, like an old style can opener. Take your time on the sliding and prying. At some point you can stop prying with the screwdriver and just pull the entire emblem off with your fingers.

There will be some foam tape left on the hood. It’s tenacious stuff and you will want to really get it all off before you stick down the new emblem. A combination of WD-40, razorblade, and paper towel will eventually clean the emblem divot. Follow it up with some rubbing alcohol to get the surface ready for the new emblem.

Without removing the paper backing on your replacement emblem, place it in the spot and see how it will line up. It might even be a good idea to do a few practice runs to make sure you are comfortable when the time comes to really stick the emblem on.

I placed my ring and pinkie fingers against the hood to help steady my hands and used my index fingers and thumbs to hold and line up the emblem.

When you are ready, remove the backing, reset yourself to your previous dry run position and, in a slow and even motion, set the new badge. Press firmly all over the newly seated hood emblem to make sure the foam tape makes contact with the hood.

Clean up the work area and then step back and admire your work.

(I purchased my replacement emblem from The SAAB Site because of the low price and positive reputation. I’m just a customer and I only recommend companies that I have successfully done business with.)