Who would have thought that a guy could spend his whole working life on one car model, and one that didn’t even make that many cars, and still be doing it even though the manufacturer went out of business years ago. I started repairing Saabs in 1982, a mere 10 years into my working life, and never looked back. I’m 66 years old now and it is a race to see which goes away first, the cars or me. Undoubtedly it will be me.
One fact of life for a mechanic is that he drives what he works on. The ability to fix what you drive for free is too great an advantage to pass up. I can’t even remember what I drove before that first 8-valve 900. That car was sturdy and reliable, but painfully slow. A number of Saab non-turbo cars followed till I acquired my latest 1999 9-5 turbo, in which I racked up 200,000 trouble free miles. This streak is bound to end soon, but hasn’t yet.
After all the time that has gone by, one Saab stands out to me as the one that represents the company, a late 80’2 SPG. It had an exotic engine for the time, but one that is common now. It had a shape that couldn’t be confused with any other, it was powerful, and it looked good. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone.
One of the things we do a lot of today is not spending money on cars. We push oil changes too far beyond their due date, and we really don’t want to spend money repairing cars if there is any way of getting out of it. In this case a Saab owner’s front differential exploded, and the cost of repairs did outdo the vehicle’s value.
What caused the diff to explode? Hard to say, but I suspect the front universal joint failed, and the driver just drove on, ignoring the vibration until the top half of the diff came apart. I don’t really know that for sure, as the driveshaft was missing when we got the car, but some violent act blew the top of the diff off, plus the fact that there was a big hole in the steering rack right below the the universal joint.
In the end, we left the diff in place, but took out the axles to keep it from flopping out of the car. Getting the failed diff out would have required a lot of labor and it seems that if he kept all four wheels on the pavement, it shouldn’t go anywhere. To hold the front wheel bearings in we needed to disassemble the axles and bolt the front constant velocity joint stub axles back in. Having the front driveshaft out didn’t compromise the transfer case, there were no fluid leaks. Then topped the whole thing off with a new steering rack.
The Saab 9-7X is just a Chevrolet Trailblazer with it’s own bumper skin. It is full time awd, and it was unknown if the front driveshaft missing would be a problem for the awd electronics, and in the end there was no downside. As long as you weren’t in the slippery stuff, you would never notice how the truck drove. The repair was still expensive, but at least the guy can still drive his truck. As for the next owner…. it’s never a bad idea to have a mechanic look over a prospective purchase.