Distributing the problems
The Saab’s still poorly, and working through possible causes is taking time
1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16
All is far from well with my Saab. In fact, it’s going through the most prolonged period of unreliability since I bought it. Most of the winter has seen it immobile, huddled miserably in a corner of CCW Towers’ car park.
In my last report ( CCW, 1 March), the 900 had its exhaust manifold gasket replaced after a jaunt on a rolling road (probably) proved too much for it (as satisfying as it was to find out it was packing 193bhp). However, it soon became clear that this hadn’t solved its issues of misfiring and being seriously down on power.
I’ve had similar problems before in winter months – the 900’s distributor cap near the front of the engine means that it can be vulnerable to moisture, in the same way that ones on Minis are.
But replacing the distributor cap and rotor arm and then spraying the area with WD40 did little good. What it did reveal, though, was that the wiring going into the side of the distributor, secured by a brittle plastic connector, had worked loose, and was wiggling around and letting in damp. It was like that when I bought the car but some temperature-resistant strong glue had managed to solve things. Obviously my fiddling with the cap had undone the earlier efforts.
Saab 900 Turbo distributors are both rare and expensive – my best option seemed to have the old one rebuilt for around £175. Then Ellingworth’s, CCW’s local classic car garage, suggested a less pricey alternative. Why not make up a metal bracket to fit on the outside of the distributor and hold the plastic wiring connector in place?
Mechanic Andy went and searched out the back of the workshop – a treasure trove of parts, for Ellingworth’s has been going since the 1930s and was once a Rootes dealership – and came back with an old length of metal.
Some shaping, cutting and drilling followed – oh, to have the proper tools for this kind of stuff – and the wiring was secure once more.
Has it solved the problems? No. They’re still there, albeit slightly reduced. But it’s one more potential cause (and likely future problem) crossed off the list. The coil is the next thing to investigate.
The distributor wiring was held in place by a plastic connector, which in turn was held in place by lots of glue. Andy at Ellingworth’s gets down to removing the distributor to investigate the wiring.
The bit of dizzy work Richard actually did himself – changing the cap and rotor arm.
With the distributor off the 900, it became clear just how loose the Saab’s wiring had become, causing major electrical issues.