Replacing the Clutch

My 9-5 has 98k miles and the clutch started to slip when warm and under high load. The 9-5 has a reputation for strong clutches with many reporting over 150k on the original clutch. My original clutch lived a challenging life, I tow a trailer, for 9 years I had a really steep driveway and I taught my 17 year old son to drive with it. It owes me nothing.

I have changed a number of clutches on cars and bikes over the years. The SAAB clutch proved to be the most challenging as it is in a transverse engine. The WIS procedure for taking the transmission out is a full 14 pages long and calls for a number of special tools and jacks. Let the fun begin.

In order to get the transmission out of the car you need to remove the subframe. To keep the engine from falling out you need to hold it up from the top. SAAB suggests using special tool 83 94 850 lifting beam. My lifting beam was just some 2x4s that were screwed and glued together. I used a 1/2" J-hook and a piece of all-thread to lift the engine. To keep the fixture from sliding down the fenders I drilled holes in the underside of the wood pieces that fit over the fender screws. This arrangement worked well to hold the engine in place.

When you take the transmission out it is good to have something to hold the transmission up. SAAB suggest the 83 92 128 Locating Studs. I had to make my own out of M12x80mm bolts with the heads cut off and a screwdriver slot.

Before disconnecting the shift mechanism you need to lock the transmission into 4th gear so you can put it together properly later. SAAB has the special 87 92 335 Locking Pin. I found that a #11 twist drill would work well. The tape "flag" on the top keeps it from falling all the way into the transmission. An M5 x40mm screw would also work.

The subframe holds the radiator, intercooler, AC condenser and oil cooler up. You need to support all this stuff if you are going to remove the subframe. SAAB has the 83 95 212 Strap. I used a motorcycle tie-down. It worked well.

When you disconnect the clutch line all of the fluid will want to run out. SAAB suggests using the 30 07 739 brake clamp to hold the clutch at half travel so the fluid will not run out. I made up this tool to hold the pedal. It did not work very well. As soon as I released the clutch line it released the pressure and the board fell on the floor. The pedal rose to the top, which opened the fluid passage and allowed the fluid to run out. It turns out this was not a big deal. I just put the board back in with a little prop under the board to hold it in place.

It is important to use a thin 17mm wrench to hold the back of the sway bar link so you don't damage the rubber boot. I used the wrench from a motorcycle tool kit. Worked like a champ.

Part of the routine is to remove the catalytic converter and the front pipe. Since I went this far I thought I would remove the rest of the exhaust. Turns out this was a good thing to do as the muffler was on its last legs.

The subframe proper is a beast. I estimate it weighs about 100 pounds and is quite large. You need to lower it carefully. SAAB suggests using 83 95 793 Trolley, 83 94 801 Parent Fixture, 83 95 170 Basic Fixture and 83 95 196 Assembly Fixture. I got by with a floor jack and a scissors jack on a creeper. I just lowered each end a bit at a time making sure everything was disconnected. Note: There are three clamps holding the power steering line onto the subframe. The Oil cooler needs to be moved around as you lower the subframe.

In the end the subframe just rolled out.

Once the pesky subframe is out of the way taking the transmission proper out was not so bad. The tricky bit was the holding up with a jack. The bottom is sloped and the differential hanging off the back made it very unstable. If I had a transmission jack like the 87 92 608 holder for single column lift I would use it. In the picture above the transmission is resting on the floor and is rotated about 45 clockwise. When installed the two alignment holes were at 10:00 and 2:00. Also, the 10:00 alignment sleeve was corroded which made the transmission very difficult to get loose. It would have been handy to know about these sleeves so I would know where to pry.

I cleaned the holes and sleeves before assembly. I also put a bit of anti-seize on the sleeves. Hopefully this will make it easier if I ever have to go back in here.

Since I tow with this car I wanted to get a heavy duty clutch. Instead of the standard clutch I purchased the kit for the Aero model, which is supposed to be tougher. Here is the old clutch next to the new parts from the Aero kit.

The clutch was not worn too bad for almost 100k miles. The slots were worn off on the ends but none of the rivets had touched the pressure plate or flywheel. I am replacing the clutch before the flywheel was damaged.

Once the transmission is out taking the oil pan off is almost child's play. Mine actually fell off when the bolts were out. Changing the oil every 3000 miles with Mobil 1 looks like it did a good job of keeping the SAAB 2.3t engine clean on the inside. I have seen many pictures of SAAB oil pans that were filled with sludge.

The oil screen was very clean. The 5 little brown things are spruce needles. About 5 years ago I changed the head bolts in the driveway in the fall when the needles were falling from the tree. I thought I got them all out, but I guess I missed a few that the wind blew in. I they were harmlessly stuck the screen for the last 50k miles. All in all the oil pan was in great shape. I will keep changing the oil.

Here is the new clutch installed. The black tool aligns the clutch to the pressure plate. Installing the clutch was very easy. Before installing the clutch plate I lubricated the splines with the lightest coating of Moly grease.

I installed a new slave cylinder while I was in the neighborhood. An 11mm flare nut wrench is very handy. You must bleed the slave cylinder before you install the transmission. It is easy. You need a 5/16" ID x 3' long piece of PVC tubing. Fill it 1/2 way up with DOT 4 brake fluid then push the slave cylinder in to force the bubbles out. Then you need to apply a tiny bit of pressure to the fluid to get the fluid to go in. I estimate this to be 2-3 psig. I used my air compressor set on super low. A bicycle pump would have worked too.

I also lubricated the input shaft with a tiny bit of Moly grease and rubbed it into the splines real well with a tooth brush. the Moly grease I use is real thick and does not fly off.

The seal for the shift shaft was leaking so I replaced it. SAAB says it can be replaced in the car. I have to imagine this is 100% easier with the transmission out of the car.

It is a crime to install dirty parts. While it was out of the car I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the subframe with a wire brush and some degreaser. The subframe had a little rust developing around the welds. The only parts that were really rusty was the control arms. The powder coating had failed and was flaking off.

I was truly impressed at the lack of rust on the bottom of the car. Every time it gets salty out I wash the underside of the car by running a lawn sprinkler under the car for 15-30 minutes. Either the washings or SAAB's attention to corrosion control must work. In any case I will keep doing what I am doing.

I also painted the sway bar and the little cross braces that go behind the subframe.

Here is the subframe after painting. Nothing special, but worth the time and $15 for a few cans of paint.

Installing the subframe and transmission was a real workout. I have installed a number of transmissions by hand, but the SAABs was particularly unwieldy due to its shape and weight distribution. To get the transmission in place I installed a metal tab into one of the bolts that holds the halves of the transmission together. This tab allowed me to put a strap around the transmission so I could lift it. Without the tab the transmission would simply flop out of the strap. I slid the transmission under the car, then put the strap around the transmission and lifted by hand while my son slid the jack under the transmission. I then put a second 2x4 next to my home made lifting beam and put a second strap around transmission and the 2x4. Using the jack and strap we got the transmission about 10" off the floor then removed the jack.

Once the transmission was off the floor I could slide myself under the transmission and lift it by hand. As I lifted it my son tightened the strap a little at a time. Using this technique I could get the transmission up enough to align it with the motor and rotate it the right orientation. Once it was in place I had my son rotate the engine with a wrench while I pushed and wiggled the transmission from below. Eventually the splines lined up and it started to go together. Once it was close to home the alignment sleeves did not want to go all the way into the transmission even though I cleaned and lubricated them. I needed to put a nut and bolt into the hole to draw them together. This was a lot of work. A transmission jack would have been handy.

For the subframe I slid it back under the car using a couple of creepers. Then I lifted each corner by hand and placed blocks under the corners until I got it 4-5" off the ground and I could slide the jacks under the subframe. Once the jacks were under the subframe I could lift it up a bit at a time and position it. As you lift the subframe up you need to move a lot of little things out of the way and attach a few things. One of those things is the rear engine mount.

Universal Socket It would have been very handy to have a 10mm universal socket to get to the rear engine mount bolts. The SAAB WIS says to use this tool. It would have saved a couple of hours fumbling on the way out and on the way in.

You also need to install the steering rack and power steering lines on the way up. It took quite some time to get the subframe installed. Slow and steady is the rule.

You need to put the shifter in 4th gear and install an alignment pin into the shift mechanism to orient the linkage. For this alignment pin I used a M5 screw. It worked like a champ.

Here it is all buttoned up. The operation was a success. The clutch is so smooth it feels like a new car. The clutch action is very crisp. The new BSR exhaust fit very well too and sounds about the same as the original system. I am happy :-)

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