New Automotive Disasters And My 2018 Talimena Drive

Well the Dumpster Fire is back home. Against all odds the drive back was mostly uneventful. As alluded to in an earlier post, things didn’t exactly go as planned. Time for a recap!

The drive is organized by a group of Saab enthusiasts. We meet in McAlester, Oklahoma, drive to Talihena, Oklahoma, then take the Talimena Scenic Byway to Mena, Arkansas. This year is my third time attending.


I still have yet to successfully complete the drive.

The first year I was in the Volvo and got sick.

The second year I was in the Saab and broke down seven times.

This year I was in the Saab and well... we’ll get to that part.

Determined not to have a repeat of last year, I packed literally everything I could think of. Tools, spare parts, emergency repair supplies, emergency fluids, emergency booze.


The drive down was pretty uneventful, with the Dumpster Fire performing at or near expectations. Unlike last year, I now have a working 5th gear, so the 80MPH highway sections were much easier. Cruise control is still inop, however, so that was a bummer.

We made good time and pulled in to the hotel around 9PM and met up with some of the regulars to catch up.


The next day we headed out and drove to the start point. The only problems we encountered was a lot of traffic and the diner apparently lost our reservation. No big deal...


As we ate lunch and talked we noticed there was a lot of traffic. Like... a lot a lot. Turns out the news has been hyping the fall colors this year and everyone and their dog has turned out to do the Talimena drive.

Notice the huge line of cars in the background?

How bad could it be?

So. Bad.


There were people EVERYWHERE. In every turnout. On every shoulder. STANDING IN THE ROAD. We rarely got over 40 MPH and I actually have to go into 1st in a couple spots. ON A HIGHWAY.


Ok... so you probably want to know about the breakdown, yeah?

It was so weird.

We had stopped at our usual photo spot, taken a bunch of photos, and were about to head out to the next stop. 


The Saab fired up just fine, but was making a truly bizarre noise. It was kind of a swooshing, swishing belt/ hydraulic noise. It was really strange. I got the hood open in record time and searched in vain for the problem. It seemed to be coming from the engine, but with no obvious source.


We cut the engine and immediately figured out the problem.

The starter was stuck on.

Even with the key out it was still cranking and cranking and cranking.

We pulled the battery cables and began troubleshooting.

I initially suspected my hot start relay had failed, but pulling the fuse didn’t change the behavior.


Still cranking.

So we pulled the relay entirely.

Still cranking.

So we pulled all the wires off the starter except for the main power connection.

Still. Cranking.


What the hell!? Somehow the starter developed an internal short between the main power connection and the signal/ solenoid connection. As the solenoid itself wasn’t stuck, even judicious application of a hammer didn’t solve the problem.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t just disconnect the starter and call it a day as the alternator is also wired to the starter. If we disconnected it without doing something different, the battery wouldn’t be charging and we’d have a bad time. Luckily, with 15 Saab all in a field, we managed to find a bolt that we used to bridge the starer and alternator cable, sans stater. Six or so people helped push start it, and we were on our way.


So, once again, I didn’t manage to finish the drive. The fix had taken enough time that all I wanted to do is go back to the hotel and drink my problems away.


And so we did.

Despite all that, it was a fun time as always. Good, diverse group of cars enthusiasts all there to share their love of a weird, dead Swedish auto maker.



And alcohol.

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