Saab gets a spring clean – and it’s only January
1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16
When my Saab last appeared here a few weeks back, it had just surprised everybody by recording 193bhp during a rolling road test. That was 18bhp more than it should have had when built in Finland (at Saab-Valmet’s Uusikaupunki plant – try saying after a few Finnish vodkas) 28 years and nearly 155,000 miles ago. The motivation behind the test was that I was about to have the engine carbon-cleaned, using the modern technique of pumping a hydrogen solution through it – sort of a colonic irrigation for cars, if you will. I wanted a full set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ figures to see what, if anything, might change. Decoking cars used to be pretty standard practice once upon a time – once every 20,000 miles was the norm prior to the mid-1970s when oil and fuel technology was less advanced. If you had a sidevalve-engined Ford Pop, it was probably closer to about 1000 if you wanted any sort of performance at all.
The main reason for the engine clean was to explain and follow the process for a feature in CCW’s sister publication Car
Mechanics. But, almost since I acquired my Saab five years ago, I’ve never quite felt it’s been giving its best. And now that I know it was packing around 200bhp (despite the engine appearing to be completely standard), I wanted to find out if I could unleash all those unexpected horses out on the road. UK Carbon Cleaning (www.carboncleaning.co.uk) duly turned up at CCW Towers in Peterborough where Matt, who runs the business, connected up the pipework from what looked like R2D2’s more angular, hi-vis safetyconscious cousin to the Saab’s air intake. The engine was then started and allowed to idle for 30 minutes or so, with the occasional bout of moderate revving – although I was relieved that there was nothing like the shock and awe throttling demonstrated on the rolling road. There was no dismantling and subsequent worrying scraping and grinding necessary – the hydrogen solution apparently burns away all carbon deposits within half an hour.
At the end of it, a quick check revealed that the exhaust emissions had dropped, and the 900 certainly felt livelier and more responsive. The plan was to get it back on the rolling road the following day to see if reality lived up to theory. But the Saab had other ideas…