Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Beam Style Winter Wiper Blades, an Observation

As I promised in a previous post I replaced my traditional style winter wiper blades with a set of "beam" style wiper blades. I purchased these Michelin Optimum blades at Target for $16/each. That is very pricey compared to my usual $8 winter blades from Autozone. I would have purchased this set of blades from Autozone, but they were priced at $20 a piece!



These wipers have a flexible shaft instead of the normal wiper framework. I've only seen them around for about a year or two and only in specialty catalogs before this fall. I figure this new style of blade will either go down in price as more companies offer the "beam" style... or they will go out of fashion like those brightly colored double blades from the early 90s and you will never see them again.

Winter hasn't visited Kansas yet, so no word on how these do in snow, sleet and ice; but they've done a great job in the rain so far. Plus the low profile looks nice on the 9-5... better than this photo makes it appear.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Radioactive SAAB, Part 2

Infrared radiation edition.

Inspired by Dean W. Armstrong's near infrared photography, I modified an old digital camera this weekend so it will take near IR photographs.

I've taken a lot of photos with the camera, pointing it at all sorts of things. Most impressive was the stove burner that was warming up but absolutely not glowing to my eyes.



I also took a photo of the engine bay of the 9-5 after a spirited drive home from work. I also took a photo of the exhaust under the car, but it was not as impressive as I expected and not worth posting.



And here is a photo of our back yard in near infrared. The trees and ground look vividly green to our eyes but show up white with the camera.

I modified the camera by removing the infrared filter inside the camera and adding three layers of (developed) exposed camera film over the lens to block out the bulk of visible light.

The camera has a "video" feature. I haven't tried yet, but I look forward to playing with it soon.

HD Lip, One Day Later

Color me surprised.

I drove the 9-5 for a total of 40 minutes at 70-80mph today and the HD lip held strong. There weren't even any ripples in the lip when I finally parked the car. I also noticed that my new lip was very similar to a co-worker's stock lip on his new Mustang.

The lip sits about a thumb's width from a standard concrete parking block.



I was planning on keeping the lip for a month and then removing it. After today I think I'll keep the lip installed until it wears out. We'll see how it holds up to rain, snow and ice.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Vintage SCCA Shirt

My father handed me a bag of his old t-shirts. Here is what I found:





It says, "SCCA National Rally Championship" "Mid-South Region Sports Car Club of America" "The Bluff & The Truth" on the front and

"Beck Arnley Parts For Imported Cars, Inc." "Sponsor" on the back.

I'm trying to track down the year. The folks were active in the Mid-west Region in the 70s and early 80s. I couldn't imagine them going to Memphis for a rally after I was born, so I would guess it's from the early to mid-70s.

Update: My father was not much help on nailing down a year for that shirt. He said, "early 70s, '72 or '74." but he didn't seem too sure.

Install a Front Lip Spoiler on the SAAB 9-5 for Only $25

This is how to add a front lip spoiler known as an "HD lip" to the SAAB 9-5 for $25. What is an HD lip? Well, the HD stands for "Home Depot".







This project is not for everyone. It is just for fun and just for appearance. For $25, it is a project that you can do in an hour. The lip can be easily removed if it gets damaged or if you get tired of it.

I picked up this modification from an autocross forum I frequent. I don't autocross and I wouldn't use my SAAB if I did, but I grew up in an SCCA family and I love to keep up with the sport. I saw the HD lip and had to try it out.

You will need:
9 feet of "rubber garage door bottom" (preferably from Home Depot)
two 1.5 meter rolls of outdoor mounting tape (I used Scotch brand)
a dozen self-tapping lathing screws
a bottle of rubbing alcohol
clean rags
a pair of scissors
a screwdriver that matches the screws



You can optionally jack or ramp the car to get to the front bumper easier, but the installation will still work at ride height.

Use the rubbing alcohol and rags to wipe down the underside of the front bumper and the edge of the rubber "garage door bottom" strip. Apply the mounting tape to the strip. I ended up with an extra 2 feet and 4 inches of rubber. You could just tape 7 feet of rubber and you should be safe, but I wouldn't cut the rubber yet. Take your time adding the tape and really press it into the rubber strip. It will take about 1 and a half rolls of tape for the entire project.

Peel back to expose about a foot of tape at a time and, starting at a wheel well, carefully place the strip around the edge of the bumper. Cut the end of the rubber so it is flush with the end of the bumper. Really press the tape into the bumper as you go to make sure it sticks. You could stop here if you only wanted the lip to be temporary.

I went ahead and used some screws at key points under the bumper to make sure the new lip will hold for awhile. No pre-drilling was required, the screws went in by themselves.

It actually looks quite finished for $25 worth of hardware store items. Maybe I should have cut and pre-taped some strips and then sold them online for $$$ instead of writing this post. (c:



There are two ways of mounting the rubber strip, one is a thicker "aggressive" looking lip and the other a thinner lip. I went with the thicker lip by taping the smaller of the two edges to the bumper. A thinner lip can be made by using the other surface of the rubber strip. Play with the strip before you add tape and figure out which edge you want to use.



Here is a closeup photo soon after I installed the lip. The edge near the wheel well was at the center of the roll. It straightened out after a week in the sun.



______

11/29/07 Update:

Welcome to the visitors from redlineforums.com and ionforums.net

I ended up using satin black bumper paint and toothpick to carefully blackout the places where the gray tape could be seen. A month and many highway miles later, and the lip is holding strong, no ripples or sagging. We will see what winter weather does to it.

12/13/07 Update:

Welcome to the sixthsphere.com visitors.

The lip stood up to the ice storm in the midwest this week. Tomorrow has a forecast for some real snow.

1/23/08 Update:

Welcome g20.net and 93forum.com visitors.

The lip seems to hold fairly firm at high speed with little bending or flapping. The fold of the foam gives it a certain strength.

My lip is still holding strong in all our winter weather and even in the automatic car wash. I really didn't expect it to last long or look as striking as it does. I've decided that I'm keeping it on as long as it holds up and might even install a new one when it is time to retire the current lip.

3/16/08 Update:

Welcome celicatech.com visitors.

The lip is still on and looks as good as it did when I installed it, even after being folded over and pinched by the occasional curb when parking. Something that isn't shown in the photos is how the lip looks when coated in an Armor All type rubber conditioner. I suggest giving it a wipe down with rubber conditioner ever so often because the stuff really makes it look better.

5/25/08 Update:

Welcome ecomodder.com visitors.

I don't have anything really to add to the post except that it is still holding strong after more than six months. I put a coat of armor all on it occasionally to keep it looking fresh.

7/25/08 Update:

Welcome Audiforums.com visitors.

The lip is still holding strong, I just give it a spray of Armor All when it starts to look rough and it's as good as new. I drive 40 miles round trip to work five days a week and most of that is at 70-80mph. The lip takes the abuse like a champ.

How To Remove The Rivet Panel Clips In A SAAB 9-5

The rivet plastic clips that hold various panels on the 9-5 (like the carpet on the underside of the trunk lid) are ingeniously made.

I grew up working on cars with the plastic panel clips that have one-way barbs. You were lucky to get the clip out in one piece, and forget about that clip ever securely holding the panel again.

The plastic rivets on the 9-5 are made of two pieces. They not only hold tight, they can be reused.

The way to remove these rivet clips is to first press the center of the head with the tip of a small Philips screwdriver. The center will sink in relatively deep and the clip can then be pulled out with your fingers.



The SAAB part number for these rivets is 5127683.

SAAB Secret: Oil Drain Plug Edition

This isn’t much of a secret, but I’m sure it will come as a surprise to some 9-5 owners. The oil drain plug on the SAAB 9-5 is 1/2 inch and not 13mm. The 13mm socket will work, but I think you’d run the risk of damaging the plug and the job is easier with the correct half inch socket.

Here is a photo of my drain plug. Notice the big drip of oil, how embarrassing. I had better tighten that before I lose too much oil and leave a mess on the garage floor.



And here is a blurry photo of my half inch socket securely placed on that plug. A little  pressure with the socket wrench and the drip is gone. And I swear the photo didn’t look blurry on the camera screen. I’ll retake the photo soon.



I wonder what other standard/English sized parts there are on the 9-5. The 5/8 inch spark plug is the only other thing I’ve come across that wasn’t metric.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Remove and Replace the License Plate Bulbs

The SAAB 9-5 has two small lights above the license plate. The removal and installation of these bulbs takes five minutes.

You will need:
T20 Torx screwdriver
Small flathead screwdriver
2825 replacement bulb
A clean rag or rubber gloves

A photo of the license plate light

I found it helped to open the trunk so that the lenses were pointed towards me and at eye level. Each lens above the license plate has two T20 torx screws, remove them and then use the small flathead screwdriver to gently pry the plastic lens away from the foam gasket underneath. Remove the burned out bulb by pulling down like it was a child's loose front tooth.

A photo of the bulb with the lens removed

A photo of the removed lens and burned out bulb

Wear gloves or use a clean rag when handling the new bulb to prevent skin oil from getting on it. The new bulb will install by pressing up into the socket with a little pressure. Turn the lights on to make sure it is working again. Return the plastic lens cover and install the two torx screws.

The license plate bulbs don't go out very often, but they are easy to fix when they do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cheap Terrycloth Shop Towels

Our local “Family Dollar Store” sells washcloths that are perfect as shop rags. The washcloths are sold in $5 bundles of 25 + 5 “free” as a bonus. That is 30 new terrycloth shop rags for just 17 cents each! The washcloths are located on the aisle with the bath towels (not with the kitchen or automotive items). They come in tan or light blue and are about a foot square in size.

A photo of these towels

This is the best deal for towels in the store, cheaper than their standard red shop rags in the automotive aisle.

These towels do a great job of wiping away bird droppings, cleaning brake dust off wheels, checking fluid levels, cleaning the engine bay, drying windows, and any other place you might use a towel or shop rag. But I wouldn’t throw out the nice detailing towels yet; these washcloths are very thin, very linty, and are of a very horrible quality.

Theoretically they can be washed and reused. I haven’t dared to stick them in the washing machine yet. Heck, at 17 cents, just soil the usefulness out of the rag and pitch it.

I have a sort of “cleanliness hierarchy” inside my mind. I use a new rag for drying the windows, then use it to clean bird poo and bug splat, then clean the wheels, then use it to soak up spilled fluids, finally throwing it in the trash. That doesn’t have to happen all in one day, I keep several piles in various states of soiled-ness and grab from the pile that I need.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SAAB Secret, CD Track & Play Modes

You can toggle between “CD Track” and “CD Play” on the stock SAAB 9-5 stereo by pressing the center of the <<Seek>> button. The stereo display changes between Track and Play. A CD can "fast-forward" or "rewind" in both modes by pressing and holding down an arrow button, but you can jump forwards and backwards by entire tracks when you press and release the arrow buttons in “Track” mode.


Switching to “Play” mode to prevent the CD from jumping tracks is useful when you are listening to an audio book and you want to fast forward or rewind a little bit but don’t want to risk skipping all the way to a different chapter by mistake.


Pressing the center part of the <<Seek>> button doesn’t do anything in tape or radio mode.

Monday, October 22, 2007

SAAB 9-5 Light Bulbs

This is an actively updated list of light bulbs used in my 2000 SAAB 9-5. Some of these bulbs might be different for a newer 9-5. I’m linking this post in the side bar so it is easy to find and I will continue to update it as I get more information. I will also post instructions on how to replace these bulbs and link each post to this page.

Press Ctrl+F in windows, Command+F in apple, type what you are searching for and the computer will highlight it.

H7
Low beam headlamp
High beam headlamp

2825
Front side marker
License plate
High mount stop light

1157 (amber)
Front turn signal

7507A (amber)
Rear turn signal

7528
Stop light/ Brake light
Tail light
Rear side marker

H1-55W
Fog/Driving light

7506
Back up light
Rear fog light

6418 (5 watt 35mm x 11mm)
Glove box
Map light
Dome light
Step/Courtesy light

6411 (10 watt 41mm x 11mm)
Map light
Dome light
Step/Courtesy light
Trunk light
Under hood light

2721 (LED code: 74)
Ash tray
Seat belt indicator (3 bulbs)
Instrument panel, including:
Check engine
Hi-beam indicator
Brake warning
Automatic transmission (!) indicator
Turn signal indicator

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SAAB 9-5 Fog Light Removal and Installation

One evening I closed the hood on my 2000 SAAB 9-5 and as it slammed I heard what sounded like a nut hit the garage floor. I was confused and looked for what fell. I found a single large piece of clear glass under the bumper. I thought, “where did this come from?” I cricked my neck under the car and soon figured it out. My driver side fog light was busted. Most of the broken glass was in place and what wasn’t still intact was sitting inside the light.

I then thought back to earlier that morning on the highway when I had heard a rock hit the car with such force that I searched my windshield for a bulls eye. My windshield was fine and I continued to work. Little did I know that it was my fog light that I had heard break.



I ordered my replacement fog light from thesaabsite.com . I had ordered from them before (for the hood emblem) and was pleased with their service, plus they had a low price for my model year of fog light.

Fog Light Removal
The fog lights are held in place by two bolts under the light and a plastic brace on the outside edge of the light. There are two light bulbs. One bulb is on the bottom and the other is on the back side of the light. Disconnect the wiring on these two lights with the help of a small flathead screwdriver between the body of the harness and the red side of the harness. Prying the red side away releases the harness from the lights. The bulbs can be removed by twisting them anti-clockwise. Remove the two bolts on the bottom of the light and pull the light down and back to clear the plastic bracket from its slot in the bumper. The light is now removed.

I had to transfer the old plastic bracket to my replacement light. The replacement already had bulbs in place, which was good because the old ones didn’t fair well after the lens broke out.



Fog Light Installation:
Slide the replacement light into place and make sure the plastic bracket is seated in its slot again. Install the two bolts on the bottom of the light. Reconnect the wiring to the bulbs and press the red slides back into place on the harnesses. I also took time to secure the various wiring with some electrical tape and zip ties.



That is all there is to the fog lights. I think to took me about 20 minutes to remove and install the one light, but I was learning as I went and dealing with broken glass. I think I could do it even quicker today.

Be careful if your glass breaks like mine. The glass in these lights shatters into a mixture of large chunks and tiny little slivers. I had to tweeze glass out of my palm and fingers when I was done with the removal. I’m still finding glass on the floor in the garage.

Open Air Intake, Week 1 Review

I’ve had the K&N air filter installed for one week now. The night I installed it I made my wife take a ride with me so she could hear the great turbo sound that was unleashed by the open intake. All she said when we got back was, “Is that how it is supposed to sound or did you install it wrong?” I guess there is no accounting for some people’s taste... or lack there of.

Noise wise? I have to admit that after a week of driving to and from work, the sound of the turbo sucking air (even when the windows are up) is losing its novelty. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a lot of fun to hit the gas and hear the turbo spool.

You had problems in the rain? I think it has rained every day this past week, but no problems with water in the engine and I haven’t check since that one night to see if the filter even gets wet in smaller rain storms. I’m still devising an elegant and easy way to keeping water out. I will post when I come up with something perfect.

Power increase? I can’t tell. My “butt dyno” notices a change when the car downshifts on the highway, but I’m not willing to point at the new intake and say “this added +5 ATK, +3 DEF, with protection from ‘bolt’ attacks” just yet.

Two big things are keeping me from declaring the air filter the culprit for any perceived power increases. First, the weather changed the same night I installed the new intake (hence the rain). So the air temperature got a lot cooler. And second, I don’t have the equipment to measure changes in performance.

In a perfect world I would have waited until I could measure the stock levels with a dynojet and then, on the same day, install the new air filter and run the dynojet again. That way I could post images of the results and say, “It changed by exactly this amount and here is the proof”.

What about heat soak / hot air? I will have to wait until late spring before I will know if replacing the stock box with an open filter causes problems with material heat soak and the incoming air temperature. I’m doubting the area where the filter sits gets very hot, but keep in mind I thought the filter would stay dry in the rain too. It is separated in a space between the fender and engine bay and it is very open to the outside air. Some warm day I will drive around with the remote thermometer down there and post what I find.

So? So... I’m happy with the results. It was a fun and easy project. The change is sound is great. Plus it will pave the way for a stage I upgrade.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SAAB 9-5, How to Clear the Check Engine Light or "CEL"

A neat thing about wordpress is that I can see search words used to find this site. One of the most common themes boils down to "how do I clear OBD-II error codes that set off the check engine light (CEL)". So I figure I should make a formal post about how to clear those errors on the SAAB 9-5.




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There are two easy ways to turn off the amber check engine and ! lights on the 9-5. Neither of these techniques will fix whatever caused the code in the first place. You will want to check out the codes in the "on board diagnostics" (OBD-II) and fix anything that is causing you trouble.



The quick and dirty way is to pull fuse 17 out of the fuse box, drink a glass of iced tea, and then put the fuse back. This will reset the engine management system and cause the CEL to go off. That's it. The fuse box is behind a panel at the end of the dash on the driver's side. The back of the panel has a diagram of which fuse is which.



A OBD-II code scanner will read the codes and then you can erase them, turning off the CEL in the process.



When the check engine lights come on the car might also go into "limp mode" where it starts in 2nd gear and doesn't shift into 4th. This is really annoying when you know the reason for the check engine light isn't really that important and/or you have people in the car with you.

EDITED to add a comment from dplatonoff: "There are indeed different limp home modes associated with various components. The throttle body limp home mode is activated when there are problems in the throttle control (like bad throttle position sensor signals and so on). The ECU fires the limp home solenoid, which locks the butterfly to the accelerator cable and cuts the power on the throttle motor. After this, the drive by wire is gone, and you control the throttle directly with your right foot. It also continues to fire the solenoid every time you start the car if the condition and the codes are still present. So the only way to clear it is to kill the codes and unhook the arm on the throttle body (a pair of needle-nose pliers gets the job done)."



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The way I get out of limp mode (ETA: when it doesn't fire the limp home solenoid) is by putting the car in park, turning the car off and removing the key. I then put the key back and start the car again. The amber engine and ! lights will still be on but the car will operate in normal mode.

Keep in mind that the car goes into limp mode to protect itself, so you shouldn't take it lightly.

There is also a red triangle check engine light. I don't have much to say about it because, knock on wood, I have never had to deal with it. It is the serious check engine light. The red triangle means "pull over right now and call a tow truck".

There is a video on youtube that does an excellent job of explaining how to get the throttle body reset.

Basically the amber engine light is like a child saying "I need to go to the restroom" and the red triangle is like the same kid saying "never mind the restroom, I need some clean pants".

SAAB 9-5 on Top Gear

For those who haven't seen the old Top Gear episode with the SAAB 9-5.





Accidental Valve Stem Electroplating

Last winter I got a wild hair and decided to put a set of “chrome” valve stem caps on my SAAB 9-5. Here is a photo of the one surviving chrome cap next to my current valve stem cap. I have no idea what material they were really made out of, they feel like maybe chromed aluminum.

I drove around all winter with those chrome caps, I even checked my tire pressure several times with no problems. Then one day in early spring I went to check the tire pressure and none of the caps would come off. I got one cap off with pliers, two came off with the help of two pliers working in opposite directions, the fourth cap wouldn’t come off no matter what I did. I chewed up the valves stem trying everything I could think of to get that last cap off.

I ended up taking the car to the local Kansasland Tire to have a new valve stem put on that wheel. I don’t know if they had to cut the old one off or what they did. I also had them rotate the tires while it was in the air.

What I noticed was the threads on the old valve stems were no longer brass colored, they were chrome. It appears that the chrome caps electroplated onto the brass stems. They all electroplated some, but that last stem & cap really bonded together. My best guess is the road salt and moisture next to the two types of metal was to blame.

So my advice is to avoid the cheap chrome valve stem caps.

SAAB 9-5 spark plug replacement

The 2.3 SAAB 9-5 has the smoothest access to the spark plugs of any car I’ve ever owned. I have to go all the way back to my first car, a V8 Ford Granada, for second place.

Every car I’ve owned between the Granada and the 9-5 had at least one spark plug in such an awkward spot that seemed the engineers must have drawn a spark plug in space and then built the car around it.

The 9-5, on the other hand, has all four plugs right on top. No need to find a socket wrench capable of bending like a Calabi-Yau manifold to remove any of the plugs.

I’m not experienced with the V6 SAAB 9-5 and can’t speak to its spark plugs.

Tools you need:
Socket wrench and extender
5/8 spark plug socket
27T torx screwdriver
Spark plug gap tool
Dielectric grease (not pictured)
Small flathead screwdriver (not pictured)



Before lifting the hood, take time to gap the new sparkplugs. The plugs I purchased came pre-gapped to the correct size, but always check for yourself with the gap tool.

The stock plugs for my 9-5 are NGK BCPR6ES-11 ( the hotter NGK BCPR7ES-11 also fit), the gap is 0.039 inches or 1mm. The aero 9-5 can also use these or it can use the hotter plug.

The removal and installation of the spark plugs starts as most automotive work does, by setting the parking brake and disconnecting the battery. First you remove the direct ignition cassette. It sits in the center of the valve cover and is held in place by four 27T torx screws.



Lift the cassette straight up to remove it, a little rocking motion might help get it started as you pull up. Disconnect the wiring harness by sticking the flathead screwdriver between the red side and the main part of the connector. Pry the red side away and the harness should pull the rest of the way out with no difficulty. Set the direct ignition cassette out of the way.



I read online that the cassette should generally be kept upright, that way you don’t have to wait for the oil inside to ooze back into its normal nooks once the cassette is reinstalled. They said it saves time and helps protect the cassette.



The spark plugs are now exposed. Use the socket wrench with extender and 5/8 socket to remove the plugs. Check the condition of the old plugs; there is a whole science to spark plug wear. Websites with typical wear pattern descriptions can help you.

The new plugs can now be installed. Smear some dielectric grease on the insulator of each plug before setting in the 5/8 socket, then use the socket and extender to carefully get the plug threaded. Once the plug is most of the way in, the socket wrench can be added to secure it. Use a torque wrench set at 21 ft-lb or just use your socket wrench to turn the plugs a quarter turn past snug. This will seat the spark plugs without over tightening. Too tight and you can break the plugs, or worse, damage your engine.

The direct ignition cassette can now be reinstalled by setting it straight down, connecting and locking the wiring harness, and then pressing the cassette the rest of the way down. A small amount of wiggling might be needed to line up the holes for the four torx screws. Tighten the four screws in an X pattern, give each screw two passes to make sure all of them are hand tight. That is all there is to the process, you are now ready to start the car and admire your work.

Don’t forget to clean up and put away all of your tools.

Indexing: I’ve never done this myself (on any car), but some people take time to index the spark plugs by adding special washers to make sure the tip of the plug points in the optimal direction. This technique might be of interest to folks with a highly staged SAAB. NGK says that indexing is only necessary for “racers” and any gain will be around 1% (so about +2bhp on a stock 9-5). I have nothing but the most basic idea of how the process works, obviously there are better sources than me on the topic of indexing.

I have a confession to make to my readers that have made it this far. Despite the strong warnings all over the internet, everything from “your car will blow up” to “non-NGK-plug users smell of elderberry”, I have installed Autolite platinum spark plugs in my SAAB 9-5 instead of the stock NGK brand. So far I have 3k miles on these plugs and I haven’t had any problems with them. My ignition cassette is functioning, no misfire OBD-II codes, everything is fine so far.

I will post an update if I ever do run into problems, but I really don’t expect any. I’m willing to eat crow if I’m wrong. I’m also willing to risk my cassette to help prove that a different brand of plug won’t cause any problems. In the mean time, no flaming please.

04-25-08 UPDATE:

No issues with the Autolite plugs for the entire Autolite plug experiment. I would not hesitate to use the Autolite plugs again, but my test is done and I'm back with the NGK plugs. I purchased the NGK spark plugs from TheSAABSite; they were the same price as the Autolite plugs were from the local store. There is no cost savings for me at least, only the convenience of picking up the Autolite plugs from the corner auto parts supplier.

Monday, October 15, 2007

SAAB 9-5 Grill Rattle Fix

The two screw-like plastic connectors that secure the front grill on my SAAB 9-5 don't hold like they once did. I used silicone adhesive on the slots above the connectors to stick the grill in place and end the rattling. The silicone can then be removed with just my fingers when I need to pull the grill.

Photo of the secured grill

Silicone is also great for holding the little plastic squares under the car that anchor the screws for the plastic splash guard. It seems one of those pops out every other time I go to remove the guard.

It is sticky enough to rescue small items in tight places. Just put a little on the end of a screwdriver or dowel rod and fish out that lost washer.

I use it just about any place I need to securely hold something that I might want to remove some day.

Radioactive SAAB, part 1

I love physics and I am a big fan of Dean W. Armstrong's blog. In a post from 2005, Armstrong attaches a coffee filter to a running vacuum cleaner and then takes a reading of the coffee filter with his Geiger counter to see "the decay of radioactive daughter products of radon-222".

Graphic of radon decay 

Last week, being inspired by Armstrong, I decided to put my Geiger counter on the air filter of my 9-5 to see what would happen. I had just returned home from work when I did this experiment.

The Geiger counter on the stone fireplace mantle after running for five minutes.

The Geiger counter on top of the old filter after running for five minutes.

The Geiger counter on top of some Uranium ore (just for fun).

Visit Dean Armstrong's blog for the real information about what is going on. I was hoping for something a little more dramatic than five additional μRem/hour. I can get 17 μRem/h with the counter sitting on our kitchen table, but usually it is around 8-10 μRem/h in the house. The Uranium ore photo was right after I placed the counter on the sample, no real need to wait five minutes.

I previously tried the coffee filter experiment in our basement near the sump pump. Sadly (or luckily), I didn't see any noticeable jump in radiation.

My next experiment will be with the cabin air filter on the SAAB 9-5 when it needs replacement. I will also try testing the used oil filter at the next oil change.

NanoSense has some background information on radioactivity.
How Stuff Works article on Radon.

SAAB 9-5 Turbo Rebuild Information

I just received my rebuild kit and I’m planning on scheduling some time off from work so I can do this project with as little distraction as possible. The real meat of this project will be posted after everything is finished and I know I have a working turbo.

I’m getting the occasional, but becoming more frequent, cloud of gray smoke when I start the car. Sometimes it is on the first start in the morning, sometimes after a quick jaunt to the corner store. At 83k miles the turbo is wearing out and oil is getting into places it doesn’t belong.





I don’t have it as bad as some people... yet. I’ve read stories online about thick clouds of smoke trailing the car as it scoots down the road. My clouds only last a few seconds, but it’s still embarrassing to back out of the smoke as I leave my parking space. It is such a beautiful car; I’m sure people think I can’t take care of it when they see the smoke.

With 83k miles on the turbo I wanted to make sure that it was wearing out because of use and not as the first symptom of an oil sludge problem. I took the 9-5 to the local dealership for a sludge check. They did it as part of an oil change.

I also had them install the PCV upgrade kit on the car. I could have installed it myself, but they were going to be digging around that area and they had the kit in stock anyway. Shame, it would have made for a good how-to post.

Anyway, they checked for sludge and luckily found none. That Sunday I ordered my turbo rebuild kit from Swedish Dynamics. It arrived the following Thursday. A very smooth transaction.



If sludge had been found I would have cleaned it out before working on the turbo or I would just be asking for trouble. The sludge blocks oil from flowing and a bad turbo can be one of the first signs of that blockage. Any symptom of sludge should be check out. The cost of a checkup and, if needed, cleaning will be a lot less than a new engine.

Some cars are even covered on an extended oil sludge warranty. I thought it only covered turbo/engine replacement until I was told by the local dealer that the cost of cleaning the sludge before a major breakdown might also be covered by the warranty in some cases. Check with your dealer, there are some hoops to jump through and I’m not an expert on this extended warranty. Even if the cleaning isn’t covered, it is still a lot better than engine replacement.

My plan was to do a how-to for this turbo rebuild project, but I have found a website that looks like a great photo explanation and I don’t see a need to reinvent the wheel. What I will do is follow the instructions from Swedish Dynamics and I will be ready to take photos of anything I find interesting as I do the work.

The rebuild kit costs about $125, a rebuild turbo is around $400 after the core exchange, I asked the local dealership and they gave me a ballpark price of $800 for a new turbo (uninstalled). So this project will be a good way to save some money. Plus you will be able to tell folks you rebuilt the turbo in your 9-5. That should impress people.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

SAAB 9-5 Gear Selector Position Sensor

The code I had from the OBD-II was P0705 "Transmission Range Sensor Circuit malfunction (PRNDL Input)"

The gear selector position sensor on the SAAB 9-5 is attached to the top of the transmission and can be reached by removing the battery and battery tray.



eeuroparts.com seems to have the sensor listed as the Neutral Safety Switch (NPN Switch).

You will need:
A socket wrench and extender
10mm socket
13mm socket
17mm socket
13mm wrench

Disconnect the positive and negative battery cables with the 13mm wrench. Remove the nut and brace behind the battery with the 13mm socket. Lift out the battery. Remove the four 10mm screws and remove the battery tray.

You should be able to reach the 17mm bolt and other connectors on the gear selector position sensor from here.





I cleaned everything I could, sprayed a little WD-40, and once everything was back in place I sat in the car and pulled the gear selector from park all the way down to 1st and back up to park. I did this several times fairly rapidly. This gives me a month or two of relief from the issue.

Here is a great write up about the gear selector position sensor.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How To Remove, Modify, and Install the Air Intake on a SAAB 9-5

Tools:
Small Flathead screwdriver
Medium Phillips screwdriver
Medium Torx screwdriver
13mm socket and wrench

I used the K&N RB-0900 in my SAAB 9-5. I purchased it from (of all places) Amazon.com and it cost less than $30 with free shipping. Any similar universal air filter with a 3 inch flange should fit. There is plenty of room behind the fender, so the size of the filter element is up to you as long as it has a 3 inch flange.


This took me less than one hour to complete.

The stock air box is located between the passenger side wheel well and the bumper. There is a plastic tube that goes from the side of the air box, across the back of the bumper and up behind the grill. There is a rubber tube on top of the air box that runs inside the fender and through a hole under the hood to the mass airflow sensor (MAF).





These instructions will remove the box and both tubes. The rubber tube is then reinstalled with the new filter attached.

Under the car: Remove the two nuts that attach the air box to the car and loosen the hose clamp on the side of the air box. A photo of this area



Under the car: Remove the screw on the under side edge of the bumper near the wheel well and the two screws that connect the plastic wheel well to the edge of the front bumper. Remove the four 13mm screws and four Phillips screws on the large plastic engine guard panel under the car and set it aside.

Under the hood: Remove the two plastic pressure screws that hold the grill in place and then remove the grill by lifting up and out.



Set the grill aside. Remove the 13mm screw holding the air intake tube to the bumper. The intake tube is already removed in the photo below, but the screw location is marked, along with the other half of the mounting bracket.



Wiggle the hard plastic tube to detach it from the air filter box. Store it someplace because it won't be reinstalled on this modification.

Under the hood: Unscrew and pull out the passenger side corner lamp (I didn't do this and ended up breaking the light clips as I pulled the air box out).



Loosen the hose clamp on the MAF that is closest to the fender and remove the rubber tube from the MAF with the help of the flathead screwdriver.



Under the car: Push the stock air filter box up and over to clear the bracket. Push the front bumper and wheel well to the side and pull the box down. It should come out with a little pressure.

Once out, loosen the hose clamp and remove the rubber tube. Put the box away because it isn't reinstalled in the modification.

The rubber tube and your new universal air filter with 3 inch diameter flange will connect together and the hose clamp is then tighten.



The tube and filter can then be routed back through the fender and reconnected to the MAF. I used silicone adhesive and a small square of stiff foam rubber between the tube and the inside fender wall to keep down wear and rattling.



Reinstall the three fender well screws, the plastic under-engine panel with eight screws, and the grill with plastic pressure screws. Clean up the area and put away your tools.

Start the car and check out your work. Enjoy the test drive. Idle and low speed driving sounded the same on my SAAB, but the turbo can really be heard now when you give it some gas. I can hear the turbo with the windows up, but the most fun is with the windows down.

Some people will have concerns about rain water getting pass the filter and into the engine. You will want to install some sort of splash guard if you are worried. I'm running around without a guard and will report back if I end up having any problems. See update below.

UPDATE: I just drove in what we Kansans call a "toad choker" of a rain storm. The roads were flooded. It was more than the average rain storm, so I got home quickly and checked my new filter. It was soaked. No problems with how the car was running, but I will be finding some sort of splash guard to keep the bulk of the water from getting up there again.



UPDATE:

Getting a performance diverted valve, like the one made by Forge, and installing it in the reverse configuration will further enhance the sound of the turbo.

SAAB Secret: Turbo Edition

The stock air filter box on the SAAB 9-5 muffles most of the sound from the turbo. Replacing it with a universal high flow air filter lets loose the sound from the turbo. Any compact "cone" style filter with a 3 inch connector will fit and the difference in sound is dramatic.

A detailed "how-to" for the removal and replacement of the air filter.

UPDATE:

Getting a performance diverted valve, like the one made by Forge, and installing it in the reverse configuration will further enhance the sound of the turbo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

SAAB Secret: Trunk Edition

My 2000 SAAB 9-5 has a hinged plastic handle set into the trunk floorboard. This strange plastic setup had confused me, it has an indentation for a hand but it also has a hinge that flips up the plastic part and exposes a hole that is also shaped for a hand.


Photo of the handle closed


Photo of the handle open


Why is it designed like that?


SAAB does everything with a purpose. The plastic part that flips up will rest perfectly on the upper lip of the trunk. That way you can prop the floorboard up while you mess with the jack and spare tire.


Photo of how it works

Thursday, October 11, 2007

SAAB Secret: Crayon Smell Edition

Congratulations on your discovery that a SAAB interior smells like crayons. You now have a conversation starter for your next party.

It is not your imagination; SAAB interiors smell like crayons.

I have read, but never smelled to be sure, that 2003 and newer SAABs don't smell like crayons. I'm guessing many people reading this post searched for "SAAB" and "crayons" because they have recently been inside a SAAB and were wondering why it smelled that way and if that SAAB was the only one with the crayon smell.

I can't smell the crayons in my SAAB 9-5 anymore. I ask everyone who rides with me if they can smell crayons and they all say the smell is still there. I've just become accustomed to it.

I figured it was a leather treatment that CarMax (where I purchased my SAAB 9-5) happened to use. My other thought was that the previous owner had children and some crayons were hidden down a crack somewhere... melting. It took a search of Facebook to find a group called "my Saab smells like crayons" before I realized that this is a normal feature of SAABs and not something done by the car dealership.

I don't have any real information about what causes the smell, but one message board post I read said it was the insulation under the carpet that smells like crayons. They went on to say that the type of insulation was changed in 2003, causing SAABs to lose the crayon smell. Sounds reasonable to me.

OBD II and SAAB

I purchased an OBD-II code reader from Amazon. I think I paid around $75. Lower priced readers give a number and you have to look up in a book. The expensive readers can record your codes for later retrieval and some even read sensors real time and display a fancy graph. The one I purchased reads the code and gives you a description of the code but does not store the codes.

Photo of the OBD-II Scanner

The reason they are great when you own a SAAB is because you then have the ability to erase any error codes and turn off the amber check engine light on the dash.

Currently my gear selector position sensor is giving me problems. A few times each month the car goes into limp mode and the two amber check engine lights come on. I get out of limp mode quickly by turning the car off, removing the key for a moment and then restarting the car. The CEL stays on, but the car will be out of limp mode. I can check the code when I get home and confirm the problem is still the same sensor. I then clear the code.

Yes, it would be easier to replace the faulty sensor, but the sensor is almost $300 and it really doesn’t seem to be hurting anything. Plus I know that the sensor is made up of a multi-position switch and the car is upset because the connectors inside are dirty.

So this code scanner saves me money because I can read and clear my own codes without a trip to the shop. Plus I can go into the shop knowing what the most likely repair will be for my problem. This gives me an idea of how much the visit will cost me. It also makes it easier to repair my own car.

I don’t know if this service is nationwide, but the AutoZone stores around here will read your OBD codes for free if you ask them. The socket for the OBD-II is located below the steering wheel and towards the bottom of the dash. There is a small plastic door covering the port.



SAAB uses the ISO format to transmit OBD-II data. This is a very common format used by lots of different cars and most OBD-II scan tools come ready to read codes from a SAAB. This does not necessarily include the ability to read codes that are specific to SAAB. I’ve never ran into any of these proprietary codes but I would imagine that the Tech II tool might be required. The SAAB dealer or a shop that specializes in SAAB will have the Tech II.

By the way, the “gear selector position sensor”, sometimes listed as the “neutral safety switch”, is attached to the top of the transmission and can be easily reached by removing the car battery. It's the rectangular-ish thing with the metal rod and the thick bundle of cables coming out of it. I used WD-40 and some elbow grease to clean the sensor and keep it going for a little while longer. I would also slide gear select lever from park all the way down to 3 and back, quickly and repeatedly. It's similar to the technique used by  TV engineers to clean a dirty audio potentiometer or "pot" as it is known in the biz.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Experience With BG 44K Power Enhancer

I have been familiar with BG and their “44K Power Enhancer” a lot longer than I have had my SAAB 9-5. BG Products is a hometown company for me. I remember my father using a fender guard with a huge BG logo on it when he would work on his 1970 Datsun 240z. He won it at some local SCCA event (the BG fender guard, not the Z-car).


I had used 44k one previous time in my Ford Explorer and I know of at least one local fleet that puts 44k in every vehicle they own. My experience and that of the fleet supervisor were the same. 44k really did make a difference.


When I purchased my 9-5 it had 60,000 miles on it and ran great. I decided at 65,000 miles I would add a can of BG 44K to the gas tank. I purchased the can from a local shop. I walked in, but they sell it online too. The people are friendly the two times I’ve been in to visit.


Anyway, back to the 44K. It comes in a metal can about the size of a regular soda can. It even opens like soda. The label says that it is safe for cars with a turbo; I’m always worried about that sort of thing but I trust BG. I added the can to a fairly empty tank and then filled up with gas. I can’t remember if that is what the directions say or if I just did it that way because I needed gas. Be sure to check the label and do what it says. It is also important to use a funnel when adding it to a 9-5. The can is very full and will spill otherwise. I picked up a small long-necked funnel at the auto parts store for under a buck that seems made for this sort of thing. I would do this so nothing drips on the car or garage floor as you put it in the tank because, just from the smell and the fact that it cleans the crud in your fuel system, I have a feeling it could do nasty things to the paint.


I included the garage floor warning because I actually did drip a little on the floor and the liquid is very slick and oily. Even after cleaning it up there was a slick spot on the floor. Oh well, it’s on the wife’s side of the garage.


So I drove around until the tank+44K was almost empty. The car never misbehaved while the 44K was being consumed. I could feel and hear a difference by half a tank. The most obvious end result was a much quieter idle. Well worth the $20, it made a great running SAAB 9-5 run even better.


I’d been dinking around with my mpg gauge at the time (why, I can’t recall), so I can’t give any hard numbers on improved fuel economy, but the car sure seemed happier.

Changeable Settings on a SAAB 9-5

There is a whole list of computer controlled settings that can be adjusted on the SAAB 9-5. The problem is that these adjustments have to be made with the SAAB Tech II device, a very expensive piece of electronics. Think of it as an OBD-II tool on steroids.

The list I used to plan out my changes came from a very informative website. Roth has done a great job explaining these options, so I will point you to his site for all the details. I printed off his page and highlighted the changes I wanted made. I then handed the printout to the mechanic when I dropped my car off for service. He looked over the list, asked a few questions, and went to work.

The options I had set on my 9-5 were:
Doors lock automatically once car is put into gear and moving forward
Driver’s door unlocks when key is removed from ignition
No chirps for alarm arm and disarm (this alone was worth the $84 in labor)
“Euro” settings on parking light behavior as explained in the above link
“Euro” settings on high beams and fog lights as explained in the above link
Water temperature gauge adjustments as explained in the above link

Your local SAAB dealer or a shop that specializes in SAAB will have one of these Tech II tools and for the cost of labor they will make adjustments to your car with it. I had my changes made during a visit to the dealer for routine maintenance. I don’t know how much labor would be for computer changes alone, but I paid for a total of two hours labor for everything that was done on my car (oil change, sludge inspection, PCV upgrade and these Tech II changes).

So look over the options at this website and have your local SAAB pro make the changes you want. It is an easy way to improve the comfort and usability of your car.

This isn’t a Stage-1 ECM upgrade we are talking about. Sorry, no performance improvements here. None of the settings that can be changed are spectacular; these are things like door lock and parking light behavior. ECM upgrades can be done with other equipment (and I read the results are amazing), but that is totally separate from the topic of this post.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Rear Fog Lights Modification on the SAAB 9-5

The SAAB 9-5 has rear fog lights on the back of the truck lid. They are about as bright as the brake lights. My 2000 9-5 originally came with one rear fog light (driver's side). This is, I read, to prevent people from mistaking the fog light for brake lights.

Personally I think it looks like I have a tail light out. I want symmetry. There was a simple answer and it is about a five minute job.



The wiring and bulb socket were already in place behind the passenger side lens. All it took was a screwdriver and a small set of pliers. Open the trunk and remove the plastic fasteners and handle holding the right side of the carpet lining in place.





You don't have to remove all of the lining, just enough to expose the back of the lens. The back of the fog light lens will then be exposed.



Detach the light sockets. Use the pliers and screwdriver to remove a plastic plug in the back of the lens setting in the trunk lid.



It is designed to keep you from easily putting a bulb in there (it came out in chunks for me). Then install a bulb and you now have two rear fog lights. The bulb is a 7506LL



I guess they could be mistaken for brake lights, but it would become obvious as soon as the rear brakes are pressed. Plus wouldn't mistaking the fog lights for brake lights get the other driver's attention. That is the goal of rear fog lights.

I use my rear fog lights in, well, fog obviously... and snow and very heavy rain. I run them any time the conditions could help an inattentive driver mistake my rear end for the wide open road.

Photo of the rear fog lights off



Photo of the rear fog lights on



Check local laws before driving with rear fog lights and such. In some places people will expect the single rear fog light. And all other disclaimers, past, present and yet to be realized. Searching the tubes it seems that rear fog light opinions are up there with religion and politics. I have seen civil message boards break down to anarchy when the "one v. two rear fog lights" debate comes up.

4-13-2008 UPDATE

To clarify some frequent questions about rear fog lights that seem to come up again and again about when and where rear fog lights can be used in the United States-
From the State of California:

"A vehicle may be equipped with not more than two red tail lamps mounted on the rear which may be lighted, in addition to the required tail lamps, only when atmospheric conditions, such as fog, rain, snow, smoke, or dust, reduce the daytime or nighttime visibility of other vehicles to less than 500 feet."

Scroll down to section 24602 on this page to see my source:
http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/code/getcode.html?file=./veh/24001-25000/24600-24616

You still want to check your local laws about rear fog lights, but this gives a good general guideline for rear fog light use in this country.