A friend passed away recently, leaving behind this truck and a lot of memories.
Instead of working on the Saab, my brother and I spent some time addressing a few items that he wanted taken care of in his last few days, as his family would soon be taking over driving the ’ol Ferd. He was the kind of guy who could tolerate a few quirks on his car, but he didn’t want his family to have to deal with such hassles after his cancer had fully taken its toll.
First on the list was addressing the truck’s under-performing heater. Before bringing the truck home to work on it, I found a chewed-up vacuum line under the hood, and put a piece of tape over it in hopes that that would fix it. Alas, no. Also before getting on the road, I gently removed the photo of his wife & kids that he had tucked into the corner of the gauge cluster, so that I could read the temperature gauge. Lo and behold, it never even got warm, despite a good half-hour of driving.
We confirmed with a thermometer that the thermostat housing wasn’t getting hot enough (about 180°), so the first order of business was to replace the t-stat. I expected to find it stuck open, but it was closed. Putting it in hot water opened it, but it didn’t move smoothly. So I had no confidence in re-using it.
Since we had to drain some of the coolant anyway, we took the opportunity to try flushing the heater core again. While the rest of the coolant was a fairly healthy shade of green, the stuff coming out of the heater core looked quite different.
There was definitely a circulation problem. The previous owner before him had hacked several things on this truck, and one of those items that may or may not have had an effect was that the heater core hoses were swapped from the stock routing. Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not. A clean heater core would probably have more of an effect here. But I still feel better returning the hoses to the stock flow.
All of that was enough to restore heat, but the temp gauge still wouldn’t rise. The ECT sensor was providing the correct resistance, but that’s for the computer, not the gauge. After poking around online for a bit, I discovered the sender’s location near the back of the engine, under the straight-6's intake manifold. Sure enough, it wasn’t giving the right amount of resistance for the gauge to read. So we drained a little coolant back out of the engine, and I replaced the sender.
This time, the gauge worked, just like the heat was now. I couldn’t bring myself to cover the gauge back up with his family photo, but ultimately that would be his choice to make. He loved this truck, but his love for his family was far deeper.
Before returning the truck to him, he added a few more things to the list, wanting the truck in tip-top shape for his family. We replaced a window motor, the hazy headlamp housings, and got his horn working again, too. A new clockspring took care of not only that, but also restored cruise control function and stopped the flashing airbag light.
The truck was returned to him, and he was able to go for one last ride in it. He’s gone now, but this truck will continue to live on in his memory. RIP, old buddy.