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1999 Saab 9-3

I have a 1999 Saab 9-3 that got a tear in a hose. I drove it to my mechanic of three years [from whom I bought the car], careful to never let the engine temp reach the red level, which it almost did as I pulled into their service lot [10 miles - yes, I probably should have had it towed]. They called me later to tell me that the head gasket was busted and that instead of $200 to fix it was going to be $2,000. What choice did I have but to say to fix it.

When I got the car back the steering wheel was then off-center [have to hold it to the right to go straight - slight whell alignment issue as well as steering wheel orientation issue.

My question is two fold:

- does it sound reasonable that the head gasket broke?

- does that repair involve the steering column?

It is impossible for any of us to know when the head gasket was breached. Perhaps the cause and effect was the reverse of what you are imagining. Perhaps the engine was running hotter than normal for a while, due to the bad head gasket, and that this caused an old, brittle hose to break. When the hose broke, then the temperature really increased. In reality, it is all guess-work, however.

As to the alignment issue, I would suggest that you go back to the mechanic and calmly state that the alignment/steering wheel issue did not exist prior to the head gasket repair. Even though the head gasket repair should have nothing to do with the other issue, it is possible that someone moving the car around their repair yard did some damage. Since the mechanic has now made money from you on more than one occasion, he just may be willing to rectify the problem without charge, as a good-will measure.

Gauges are not 100% accurate only a guide. Pushing your engine temperature anywhere near the red line is asking for trouble and as you found out likely blew the gasket.

The things that destroy car engines are no/low or neglected oil and hot engines due to cooling system neglect. Repairable yes but with a serious dent in the wallet. Anyway now you know.