Was rolling road to blame?
A blown exhaust manifold gasket sidelines the Saab and calls for surgery
1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16
It was the noise that first told me something was wrong. With old cars, it’s generally subtle variations in timbre or the odd new random squeak or creak from nether regions that alerts us that all is not well. This time though, it sounded like a grizzly bear was trapped under the bonnet of my Saab when I started it up one cold morning. And it wasn’t at all happy to be there.
It got worse when the car got warm. Because that’s when the juddering, the misfires and the lack of power kicked in. I managed to nurse the 900 to Ellingworth’s Garage in Peterborough, where the cause of the noise, at least, was traced to a blowing exhaust manifold gasket. The other issues might be related. Or they might not be.
Exhaust manifold gaskets can be quite simple things to put right, but sadly not on my era of Saab. Because the longitudinal B202 2.0-litre engine is canted at a 45-degree angle in order to fit it on top of the front-wheel drive gearbox and get it under the bonnet, access to the manifold bolts is limited and have to be worked on from above and below. A turbocharger partly in the way doesn’t help much.
There was a lot of dismantling for Andy at Ellingworth’s, although he remarkably managed to get the manifold off without having to also remove the turbocharger.
This revealed the true extent of the gasket’s issues – it had blown in two places and more or less broke up completely when he pulled it away from its home of 28 years. After thoroughly cleaning up the area and the manifold mating surface, a new replacement gasket was put on, and reassembly began.
It didn’t go quite that seamlessly, as a manifold stud broke off in the process, but after a total time of about three hours, the job was done.
Fortunately, the angry grizzly under the bonnet may have gone, but the other running problems remain.
So what caused the gasket to blow? Apart from sheer old age, I don’t think the Saab’s adventures on a rolling road did it much good at all, being revved to a level with which I was very uncomfortable. It’s turning out to be an expensive way to find out that the car really does have 193bhp.
’Being revved to an uncomfortable level probably didn’t do it much good at all’
Replacing the gasket meant work both under the bonnet and from beneath the car.
The contrast between the new gasket and the old – uncleaned manifold at the top.
It took a lot of time and effort to get to the manifold, thanks to the engine’s 450 angle.