Distribut­ing the prob­lems

The Saab’s still poorly, and work­ing through pos­si­ble causes is tak­ing time

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - RICHARD GUNN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

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.

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