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SAAB 9-3 coolant issue need help

So I just bought a 9-3 convertible, stupidly I handed over the money after only a short test drive and looked over the engine and other components kinda quickly. I drove it for about 10 minutes, parked and noticed smoke, popped the hood and saw it was coming from some sort of fluid leaked under the overflow coolant reservoir. I called the guy I bought it from and he said that the previous owner had replaced the radiator and added new coolant without flushing the coolant system. He claims that I can fix the problem with a radiator flush. On the underside of the coolant reservoir cap there is some white gunky stuff. I read this may mean blewn head gasket but want to make sure before I throw money into it. The oil is clean and at the correct full level with no gunk. The car does not run rough it runs smooth and did not overheat when I drove it. Any ideas? Suggestions on first course of action? Is it safe do drive to a mechanic?

Awww man… I’m not sure what is happening as I am not with the patient… But we need to ask ourselves why anything came out of the overflow container at all. Do this…put cap on overflow or rad tank…whichever it has… and bring engine up to operating temp. Squeeze your rad hoses…they should be both equal in temp after engine is fully warmed up…upper and lower. The hoses should be firm…like about as firm as an orange I’d say… they should not be hard…or feel like they are getting harder or blown up with air.

Report back. We dont want to hear that your hoses are getting hard to the point that coolant blows past the pressure cap on the rad or tank…(depending on setup) as that would indicate a failed head gasket leaking cylinder compression into the coolant.

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Ok I’ll do that tomorrow thanks

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Very good… Good Luck…

Let us know

Also could it be that they added the wrong radiator fluid causing it to gunk up like that?

Sounds like you might have a blown head gasket.


Brother… or Sister… The possibilities are nearly endless with what could have been done…especially with cars.

We hear some pretty amazing tales here, let me tell you. So anything is possible

Is the gunk milkshake like? Is it oily between your fingers? Smell it, Touch it, taste it (no dont)

Send us a pic? But I’m interested to know if its milshakey…and also oily to the touch.

My guess is you’ve diagnosed the problem already: head gasket. The prior owners had probably done the normal stuff to try when this sort of problem occurs, replacing the radiator, thermostat, cooling system att’n, etc, then since nothing worked they gave up and sold it on. Most any good,well-recommended shop can do some tests to confirm if the head gasket is the problem or not. That’s probably the next step.

If the engine has a radiator cap (not just a coolant overflow cap), you could try an experiment. Remove it and as the engine idles and warms up from a cold start look to see if there’s a lot of tiny bubbles coming up through the coolant, that get worse if you briefly rev the engine. Bubbles would be consistent w/a head gasket problem. Wear eye protection when doing this.

I’ll do that test tomorrow, also the prior owners were in an accident, which is why the radiator was replaced. Thanks for the help

Yes… we are all thinking the same thing but trying not to have to tell you so early that its a head gasket…but you are slowly seeming to reveal the clues to one.

Here’s a tip… they sell a fluid or paper …like Lithmus paper I’d imagine that looks for and reacts to combustion byproducts in the coolant. They sell it at most big auto stores…its like $10 bucks. I’ve never seen or used it…but if that stuff or paper detects those compounds in your coolant…they have only one source…the combustion chamber…which is sealed from the cooling system via the head gasket.

So… There you have it…its like a pregnancy test but less serious and in an auto store parking lot and not life changing and theres no cigars if it reads positive… but otherwise its just like a pregnancy test.

didn’t touch it but it wasn’t thick just light in color

Thats what she said… Ahem I mean… Well touch it… rub between fingers. Looking for wet oil here

Ok thanks I’ll look for it

bad news. had my mechanic come flush the radiator, ran water thru coolant system until it ran clear or at least almost clear. was going to spin around the block to see if all was good. as we pulled onto the street he gives it gas and nothing. transmission wont engage. popped the hood and theres this tube (dont know what its called) that runs from the transmission but does not connect to anything, just points downward. there is white sludge (like a milkshake) running out of that tube and a lot of it. im assuming since it wont go into gear its low on fluid which means tranny leak of some sort somewhere? im just confused why it only did this after flushing rad and not before as i was driving. prior to all of this i checked that the rad hoses were the right temp and not getting hard. does anyone have any ideas. probably gonna try and bring it to the shop to have it tested and find out exactly what the issue is. (note to self- don’t use Facebook marketplace to buy cars without a mechanic present.) could this still be blown head gasket or am i looking at something completely different?

What kind of mechanic could not tell you what is going on when he was there looking at your vehicle ? It sounds like you need a better mechanic and a different shop.

Holy Cow man… we are really moving along at many different areas and possibles here.

If that is the case…then the transmission cooler that runs thru the radiator… is probably leaking. However the mode that they fail would be to introduce Trans fluid into the rad…not coolant into the trans. It really wouldn’t go thata way.

The trans can be low on fluid as it can leak its fluid INTO your rad. Look up how the trans cooler is integrated into a normal (automatic trans) radiator. Yep… thats what you gots… something wrong with the rad/trans cooler. But again…you wont get coolant into trans…only ATF fluid into rad/cooling system

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ok. makes sense because as we drained the radiator there was trans smelling nastyness mixed in there. thanks i am going to look into that right now.

maybe somebody put stop leak into the trans? making the nasty white sludge

Nissan Pathfinder platform R51 “usual” failure was to get coolant leaked via this ATF cooling loop into transmission and killing it fast, so I would not be so sure…

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Sounds like there is water in the transmission and it is purging out of the transmission vent.

Cooling systems operate under pressure, the hoses are suppose to get hard when at operating temperature.