2000 Saab 9-3 - things just went ca-poot!

I bought a used Saab less than a year ago, with 89,000 miles. I was studying abroad for four months and left the car parked, though a friend started it every other week while I was away. Upon my return, as I suspected, I needed a charge. For the last month all has been running without a hitch. In New England we’ve had single-digit temperatures, so a lot of up and down with the weather. This morning I started the car to let her warm while I cleaned snow and ice off the windows. After a few minutes I noticed that the defrost was only putting out cool air, and the seat heaters were not working. As I began to drive I was overcome with a strong burning smell, my battery light came on, along with an ! in a red triangle. The wippers were barely working, and there was a loud clanking and crashing sound coming from my car, like pieces were falling off as I drove. It was difficult to shift into 3rd gear, and my power steering gave out. I drove for about 10 minutes with it like this. The smell subsided, and the noises were not near as loud outside the car as they were from where I was sitting. This is my first Saab, so I don’t know much about it. Does anybody know what may be wrong and how I need to go about fixing it? I am a graduate student with no money for major repairs, but depend on a car for work…

Sounds to me like the belt driving the alternator and power steering pump broke, or burned off. Have you opened the hood and looked around?

Check the coolant level, too. If you weren’t getting any heat the level could be low.

When the light with ! in a red triangle comes on it means “STOP NOW AND TURN OFF THE ENGINE,” not 'drive ten more minutes then stop." That ten minutes can mean the difference between a minor repair and a ruined engine.