Old cars will totally mess with you   2 comments

So one of the reasons why I was absent from theshiftpattern for a couple of months was that I found myself in old car hell. I’m slowly escaping it. Of our four running/driving cars which range from 1964 through 2001, each had some kind of problem that was making it difficult/impossible to use daily. Case in point — my daily driver, a 1986 Saab 9000 Turbo. Yeah, that one that I attempted to sell a little while back.

Saab 9000 with spots of oil
The 9000 marking its territory on Christy Ave.

A few months ago I replaced the clutch master cylinder on the 9000. I had been experiencing a weak clutch pedal with no fluid loss which almost always points to a dead clutch master cylinder. It was an easy job, under 30 minutes to change and bleed. While I was in there I decided to change the little hose that runs between the master cylinder and fluid reservoir, the ends were cracking and if I was going to do it now was the time. So I ran down to the auto parts store and got some fuel hose, I figured hey, brake fluid and rubber are compatible, right?

So after this fix I drove the car for a week or two, clutch action was great, shifted smoothly and all. And then one day the low brake fluid light came on. The clutch and brake systems share a common reservoir so if one is leaking it will trigger the low fluid light. The clutch pedal started feeling funny too. Uh-oh, it seemed like the dreaded clutch slave cylinder. When you replace a component in a car, it will often cause the next weakest link in the system to fail and this was it. And unlike most cars, changing a clutch slave cylinder in a Saab 9000 is a big deal. Like, transmission removal required. And if I was going to go through all of that trouble I may as well replace all of the clutch components too since this would be the only way to access them. It turned into a DIY job that would cost $400 in parts and a weekend of labor. When I got back home I tried topping off the fluid but the clutch pedal was dead. I had to be at a conference in Indianapolis in a couple of days so I decided the best course of action would be to put my 1972 96 back on the road. It had been sitting for about a year due to a number of small annoying issues, but none too bad to prevent it from being a daily driver again.

So to make a long story short, the 9000 sat for nearly two months while other things took higher priority. One day a couple of weeks ago I started poking around and noticed that hose that I was in there was leaking/sweating brake fluid. Ah ha! This might just be the issue, maybe that fuel line wasn’t compatible with brake fluid? I went on eBay and found some of the right kind of hose for $10 for a half meter. Installed it yesterday, bled the system and I was back in action! It felt so good to be driving the 9000 again. Though it’s a 27 year old car it’s still very comfortable and fast, even by today’s standards.

Everything was just wonderful until this afternoon. I went to Kroger to do our weekly shopping trip and noticed a puddle of fluid under the car. I moved the car and dipped my finger in the puddle to see what it was, it smelled like transmission oil. Uh-oh, this was not good. But maybe it wasn’t coming from my car? So I drove home and unloaded the groceries. And then I came out to check and saw it dripping. I laid on the ground and used the flashlight app from my iPhone and tried to pinpoint the leak.

Leaking Saab inner driver
A leaky inner driver seal. I think.

It appears to be leaking from the inner driver seal. This has nothing to do with the aforementioned clutch issues, it’s just a coincidence that something else failed. This will require removing the left-hand axle, draining the transmission, unbolting part of the transmission, and replacing some seals. Only about $40 in parts and fluids, but at least a few hours labor. If I can borrow my friend Nathan’s lift so I’m not laying on my back on cold asphalt.

Old cars are funny like this. You’ll fix something and then something else completely unrelated will break almost immediately. It’s for this reason that I believe cars have feelings. They will totally mess with you.

Watch out.

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Posted December 16, 2012 by jonathan in Car life, Swedish

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2 responses to “Old cars will totally mess with you

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  1. I have just been experiencing exactly this. The Malibu was running fine. Then it wouldn’t start. It was a simple battery connection issue. Took maybe 15 min. Immediately after fixing this issue, it stopped holding fuel in the line properly, so now, is I want it to start, I have to let the fuel pump run a few times before cranking it over. The crucial difference here is that I hate my crappy lemon of a car and your lover yours.

  2. I think it’s just that sitting unused for long periods of time makes things break….use’m or lose’m.

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