1989 Saab 900 Turbo

my car won’t start. It’s been idle for 3 yrs. I put a new battery in yesterday, and it clicks. Any suggestions?

See if you’re able to turn the engine over by hand using a breaker bar and socket on the crankshaft bolt.


Could you be more specific. I’m new at this…what’s a breaker bar, and where would the crankshaft be? thanks


Based on your brief response of “what’s a breaker bar and where’s the crankshaft” I’m going to assume you don’t want us to literally tell you how to repair the car, but are more or less looking for a suggestion of what should be done? Yes/no?

Is this car an auto or a stick shift? How many miles on it and was it in a garage or outside? We’ll go from there about your best option.

The car is an auto, 178,000, garage kept x 3yrs. I am looking for a suggestion and anything else you can provide. I got this website from the papers that were in the car. So, I am new at this. As you can tell.


Here’s the situation. While I am a fan of the classic Saabs, and the motor in this car is fairly stout, you’re looking at some cash to get things squared away. First off, even if you can get the engine to turn over the fuel in the car is no good. Fuel has a life of about 3 months and then starts to fade. After 3 years it will possibly have gummed up some of the fuel system and will be all but useless, requiring you to have it drained from the gas tank. You’ll then need to flush the fuel lines.

After this you’ll need to free the engine which apparently has frozen. This can be checked by trying to rotate the engine with a long breaker bar (think long wrench) at the crank shaft (the main shaft exiting the engine), or whatever method you can devise. If the engine turns freely then the problem lies with the starter or solenoid. If the engine does not turn freely you will need to remove the spark plugs and squirt a little oil into each cylinder for lubrication purposes, and then attempt to free the engine by turning it with a wrench/bar.

If you can get this vehicle started you will have other issues to contend with. The auto transmissions in these cars were awful and usually failed long before the mileage you have. There’s a chance you will need one down the road. There’s other issues with these cars, but I won’t get into them now. As it sits, it’s worth about $500. How bad do you want it on the road?

Silly question: Are you sure it is in either park or neutral?

Bad enough to attempt to get it started. I am aware of the transmission problem and plan to fix that after I deal w/ the starting problem. The car’s fuel tank was on “E” when I got the battery hooked up the orange light came on. I paid less than the car is worth at this point, I figured it would need some work. I am learning a lot already.

Thank you for the input and the detailed info. to try and get this car started. I really appreciate it. I realize this will not be as easy as it seems. I am just looking to cruz around w/ my family once in awhile. This car has had 3 previous owners, all of which kept detailed records. Someone just quit driving it one day in 2005. I’ll let you know how it’s going. I won’t have time until Fri. to look at this again. Any other suggestions you may have feel free to send them in. I am determined to get this car running. Thanks, Reed

Not really. It’s in park. I never thought to put it in Neutral because my newer cars won’t do that. Thanks

why are U asking

The neutral safety switch will not allow the car to start unless it is in either park or neutral (safety feature). I have had a few bad moments trying to start cars before I realized I had moved the shifter out of park for some reason.


He was suggesting that the safety switch might be activated if the car isn’t into park all the way. Although you probably wouldn’t get a click if the system is working correctly.

Ok so you really want it on the road-no problem. You’re going to have to arm yourself with lots of Saab info and that will take you beyond the Cartalk boards. I’m going to suggest that you pay this website a visit: www.saabnet.com This site has thousands of classic Saab owners and years worth of information on their message boards as well as frequently asked questions. Here you can immerse yourself in Saabs and get to know all their quirks and ask questions.

What state are you in by the way? Besides confusion of course haha :wink:

Hopefully one of our regulars, ok4450, will see your post and give you some advice. I believe he used to be a Saab tech.


LOL! My state is good so far, I’m trying to pace myself and just do one thing at a time. My only goal at this point is to get the car to start, then will go from there. Any ideas on how much it will cost to flush the fuel lines and do you suggest doing this before I start the car? I’m sure once I enter the suggested website I will be “in a state of confusion.” As I said, I am new at this and I have never owned a Saab before. I was informed about this car a year ago and finally had a chance to look at it. I was just looking for a used convertible for my 2 daughters who love the wind in their face.

I appreciate your sense of humor. I’m sure I will need it. Thanks RHettel

I’ll look for it! 4450.


I actually meant what state in the U.S. are you in haha. You know California/Vermont/etc? :wink: If you were in the Boston area I was going to suggest a shop or two to help out. If not, no worries this website itself is a good way to find a mechanic if you navigate to the “Find a mechanic” feature under “Actual Car information” on the homepage.

As for the question of what to handle first-worry about getting it to crank over first. Once you’ve got it spinning over in a healthy manner pick up some fresh 92+ octane gas in a small container-feed it 5 gallons and see if you can get her to fire up. You’ve probably got a 50/50 chance she’ll fire, so it’s worth a try. If she does fire up and you can get it running, you’ll want to do two things. First get it nice and hot and let it run for a good while and then change the oil. The stuff in there after 3 years will be goop and no good for the turbo or engine. Next you’ll probably want to grab a bottle of fuel system cleaner-try some Chevron Techron or similar to try and help clean out the injectors a bit. If theres old fuel in the system it could take a tankful of gas to clear it all out. From there you can do a tuneup and start checking out other things.

I’ll assume for the sake of argument that the click you hear is the starter solenoid and not a normal relay click that occurs when the key is turned to RUN or START positions.
With a new battery and assuming the cable ends at the battery are clean you need to check the negative cable end for a good clean ground. This lead should be attached to a bolt on the lower front of the transmission housing. It’s underneath the turbocharger and is probably more easily accessed from underneath.

Turning the engine over manually to see if it is seized up is somewhat difficult to do. Since the engine sits in the compartment backwards with the crank pulley against the firewall it is very difficult to get anything on the crankshaft bolt at all. This usually requires a large, special SAAB only wrench (very pricy) or a shallow socket that has been shaved down even shallower. Even with the latter it’s a real aggravation.

You may be able to weasel a screwdriver in behind the torque converter plastic cover and gain some leverage on the flex plate teeth or the torque converter. Even that is a pain in the neck.

Turn the headlighst on. They should be bright. If they are, then turn the key to the START position. Let us know what happens with the lighting (dims a little, dims a lot, goes completely out, etc.)
We may have to wade through this a step at a time but it’s really no big deal. Getting it cranking over is step one and odds are step two is going to be draining as much of the old gas out as possible. This could be siphoned out easily because SAAB makes an access cover for both the fuel pump and gas gauge sending unit. The latter is very easy to remove and of course, stale gas or no, be very careful when draining it. Five gallons of fresh gas and a can or two of SeaFoam, Berryman B-12, etc. should clean things up.
Running ragged at first is to be expected so don’t panic if it runs pretty lousy.

The SAAB engines and transmissions are about as bulletproof as you can get. Whenever there is an engine/transmission failure it’s normally traced back to some neglect or abuse by the owner. Hard to believe someone would hammer a turbo SAAB hard, huh? :slight_smile:

Bulletproof transmissions? I’ll give the motors that, but the stick shift tranny’s saab put in the 900 turbo up until 1988 were prone to early failure. This is acknowledged by Saab itself who redesigned the pinion bearing for the 1989 and later transmissions, which were much more sturdy. The automatics have a nasty reputation for failure when they don’t see regular fluid changes. If you drive them extremely gently they can go for a bit, but in the turbo cars they get eaten up.

ok 4450 some very useful advice, and encouraging at the same time. I had the car towed to my mum’s until I get it running. I will be able to do this Fri. and let you know how this all works. My gas tank was empty when I put the battery in the orange light came on. I will do the light test, I didn’t do that. Rookie mistake.

DaveG I am from Ohio, close to Cedar Point and the Cleveland area.Thanks, guys for your input. I am going to get this car running and then show you a picture!

Guess we’ll just have to disagree since the majority of my SAAB experience, and ownerhship, is on the 89 and earlier models. Neither my 85 auto (180k miles), 88 manual (160k miles), or my 83 turbo manual (220k miles) has ever had a hiccup out of the transmission. In regards to SAABs in the shop setting every problem I’ve seen has been owner inflicted; usually continuing to grind away at the shifting while ignoring a failing clutch master cylinder or as in one case - a near new 900 met a bridge abutment at 80 MPH.

You’ve made my point anyway. An automatic that does not see regular fluid changes may certainly “have a nasty reputation for failure” and hard driving a turbocharged automatic transmission (especially with the previously mentioned lack of fluid changes) will cause them to “get eaten up”. Totally agree with you.