This weekend was the finale for all of my work over the past few weeks on the Saab. The Saab Owner’s North America* USA FB group organized a meetup and drive of the Tamimena Scenic Byway, a great driving road connecting Talihina, OK with Mena, AR. Project Dumpster Fire was to join Saabs from all over the country to do this excellent drive together.

Things almost went to plan.

*Update 7/2018 - The original planners of the drive have splintered off and created the Saab Owner’s USA facebook group.

Almost.

About an hour before I needed to leave on the 90 mile trip to the starting location I was still experiencing weird voltage issues. Sometimes the voltage would be great, indicating between 13.6V and 14.1V, super healthy. As the car warmed up the voltage would drop alarmingly, even getting below 11V at times. The battery was good, the voltage regulator was good, the connections were good. I had no idea what the problem could be.

There is an old adage: It is whatever you haven’t done.

Though I’d checked the alternator ground before and even gone so far as to try adding in a temp one to see what that does, I hadn’t laid eyes on the other end of that ground as it is buried deep inside the tangle of pulleys and accessories on the back of the engine.

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Turns out it wasn’t so much loose and almost completely backed out.

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That fixed, thing were looking up as we hit the road to McAlester, OK.

In fact, the drive down was mostly uneventful. The car was having trouble revving over 4500 RPM and would have an occasional miss/ stutter, but otherwise drove well and without issues. Soon we arrived at the hotel and were immediately swarmed by curious, moderately drunk Saab enthusiasts, which was awesome. Turns out I was the only “flat nose” Saab (pre-facelift in 1987) in attendance at the moment (another was due to arrive in the morning) and one of two pre-GM Saabs. Also a turbo sedan, which makes it even more unusual.

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Also there was a dude doing a full transmission and clutch change in the parking lot. Saab life. Against all odds he finished in good time and made the drive without issue.

The next morning we were off to the official start point, Pam’s Hateful Hussy Diner in Talihina, OK. The drive out went mostly OK for my little Saab, but it decided to have a new fault on the way in: heaving under load, almost like hitting a fuel cut. Weird...

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Having lost my lunch the last time I ate there, I settled for some carrot cake. Then we were off.

tl;dr

I’ll spare you the long form details and give you the highlights.

The Saab broke down at a gas station after I messed with the tach signal wires a little. I was assuming there was a fuel cut problem based on a squiffy tach signal. This was not the case, but hindsight is bullshit. Due to the delays, me and my new escorts, two beautiful 9-5 Sedans and their awesome occupants formed a third group, taking up the rear.

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The cut-out issue gradually got worse as the day went on, but I made it to the photo spot just in time, and then later to the end of the drive.

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The condition degraded slowly until finally, about 45 min from the hotel, the Saab finally gave up.

After much fussing, we discovered that the fuel pressure was 2 psi, even with the fuel pump relay bypassed. At another’s insistence, I removed the fuel filter. I was immediately greeted with some black snot-like substance coming out, in addition to a bunch of crud. We’d found the problem.

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I we had the Saab trailered back to the hotel and replaced the fuel filter with one from a Volvo. It started, but died shortly afterwards.

Admitting defeat, I called myself a tow and began drinking.

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So what happened?

Well I’m not sure, yet. For sure the fuel filter was fubar. This highlights both my need for further fuel system cleaning, adding a strainer to the pump (should have done, but here we are), and always having a spare on hand. I think all the bucking and heaving created a large vacuum leak… somewhere. I also probably had a fair few intake backfires from the lack of fuel, so something somewhere is leaking.

The ignition may have been a red herring, but maybe not. I will make the repairs to the wiring, but not replace the module until I investigate further.

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The classic Bosch hot start issue also cropped up again over the drive, highlighting my need to add a hot start relay to (hopefully) forever kill that particular issue.

Overall

Really, I deem the drive a success. The challenge of getting the car running and there was monumental and the fact that it made through 90% with the Saab under its own power is a victory. I also got to meet some amazing people that helped out and kept an eye on me. Seriously can’t speak more highly of everyone that came out to try and help keep my dumpster fire going. Or put it out… however that metaphor is supposed to work.

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On to the next...

Work will resume on the Saab in the next couple of weeks. I honestly think it is a simple vacuum leak.

Safe, back at the house.