BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The Saab 900 actually resists corrosion quite well, but it`s not completely immune, so you need to check a some areas. One obvious place is round the trans tunnel which does accumulate the road muck, but the rust affects wheel arches, door sills, as well as the double skinned sections in the bonnet. There`s the front bulkhead and the valance, they can go too. Also check the area that`s around the petrol filler cap, as well as the front and rear screen, and also bottoms of all the doors.
It’s well worth looking underneath the vehicle, because the fuel tank and the rear cross member are very susceptible to rot. While the jacking-points and corners in the boot are another weak spot. Also check the front support beam where the radiator sits, in the same area, check the battery tray too, and also ensure that there isn`t anything nasty that`s lurking up behind the body kit on the Saab Turbo 16S versions.
Regular oil & filter changes certainly are key to the engine longevity, as with all the engines being capable of very big mileages. The Saab timing chains ought to last well in excess of the 100,000 miles mark, as they can`t be replaced in situ. The valve clearances on the 8 valve engines are adjusted by tiny shims, and it can be a fiddly job, but the 16 valve engines use hydraulic lifters that auto adjust with oil pressure. Watch out for a corroded or leaking radiator, a leaking water pump, or signs of an oil residue on the bulkhead, which usually is caused by the rear crankshaft seal and / or the oil, pump “O-ring. These can fortunately be replaced without engine removal.
The Turbo models are as reliable as their normally aspirated brethren, but with some conscientious maintenance. However any excessive blue smoke out of the exhaust should set alarm bells ringing. The high under bonnet temperatures will lead to some brittle pipe work, so carefully examine it. Listen for any ticking / smacking noise that can indicate that there`s a cracked exhaust manifold or stud broken.
The Saab 900 can suffer difficulty in engaging gears, jumping out of a gear, or whineing excessively, a gearbox overhaul would trace the cause. Some can cover many miles, but it is a known Saab 900 weakness, most often caused by a failure of the pinion bearing. The chain-drive from the engine to gearbox very rarely gives any trouble though. The turbo-power can actually exacerbate the gearbox issues, so be vigilant on these checks, and do check for any clutch slip as well on road test. The clutch-master cylinder is quite a weak point on most of the models. Listen out for any clicking driveshaft CV joints. The three speed automatic gearbox is reasonably robust, but not the best in smoothness or changing gear. They leak quite badly too.
Saab 900 suspension on the whole is largely trouble free, although check for any corrosion around about the mounting points. Big problem areas are; the lower front suspension mounts, the rear shock absorber top mounts, as well as the mounting points at the rear trailing-arms. The handbrake, which operated front wheels, was on the pre-1987 models, normally trouble free, but watch for any sticking brake calipers. The power-steering hydraulics quite often leak, due to a tired rack, or bad pipes/ hoses.
The Saab 900 solidly built interior is a plus point, so any serious wear will be obvious to you. A sagging Saab 900 headlining is very common as the foam backing disintegrates, best let a trimmer do the job. The dashboard is prone to cracking in the centre, or round the radio speaker grilles. Damp passenger foot well is normally a sign the heater control valve is leaking. Do ensure that the motors for the central locking, the sunroof, and the windows still work.