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Stephen D
Stephen D, Auto Mechanic
Category: Saab
Satisfied Customers: 652
Experience:  5+ years managing an import auto repair shop. Lots of Saab experience.
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91 Saab 9000: Turbo..rpms up to 3k to keep it running..wouldnt start

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I have a 91 Saab 9000 Turbo. I ran it through a carwash 2 days ago and after leaving the wash the engine died and wouldn't restart. After letting it sit for an hour it started but I have to keep the rpm's up to 3k to keep it running, after I let it die it wouldn't start. I let it sit for 30 minutes and it'll start, but gotta keep it to 3k again. Changed plugs, no change. When running it runs very rough, like it's only on 2 or 3 plugs. Alot of black smoke too.
Hello, thank you for again choosing Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help with your Saab run problem.

After reading your description of the problem and the antecedent, I strongly suspect that your distributor cap got moisture inside and has some carbon tracking that is interrupting the ignition. Since you have already checked electrical connectors and replaced the plugs, go ahead and replace the distributor cap and rotor. This is basic maintenance and will likely solve your problem.

If that does not do the trick, you will need to look a little deeper. Basically, remove every electrical connector and use a hair dryer to try and remove any moisture that may be lurking where you cannot see it. You must assume that water is the cause of the problem until it has been completely eliminated as a possibility.

With that said, I think the cap and rotor will do the trick. That is where I would start were it my car.

I hope my answer is helpful. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best Regards,
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I'm sorry, I just noticed I didn't put this in my information. This car has a direct ignition system on it. Where else would I look for moisture? I'm thinking I may need a new coil setup.
Okay, that certainly makes a difference.

On the direct ignition cars, the entire system is housed in your DI cassette. Because the engine will run, I don't suspect that the various sensors providing information to the computer are faulty; they will typically fail or function.

As you suspect, you may indeed need to replace the ignition cassette. Unfortunately, the 'test' for these cassettes is to swap the unit with a known good one and see if the problem is solved. Were it my car, I would find a good used DIC on e-bay, rather than drop $200+ on a new one. If it solves the problem, just keep driving. If not, you can always sell it to recoup your cost and delve deeper into the Saab electronics.

In any event, I wish you luck.

Stephen D and 2 other Saab Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi again, I'm sure you have lots of questions, but I have a follow-up. I got the new direct ignition coil pack, put it on, the car starts and even idles, not totally smoothly, but a big improvement, so its a good start. But, the big issue now is even though it idles, and I can rev it without any problems, when I try to drive I can get to second gear and then it sputters and dies. I've let the car warm up and everything with no change. Could the bad coil pack "carboned" up anything I should clean ? As mentioned in the original write up I was getting LOTS of black smoke before. My neighbor mentioned a possible cat backup or clog. Is that very possible? Thanks for advice and help.
I would pull the plugs and clean them if they are soot covered. With black smoke, they are likely not functioning at full capacity.

It is certainly possible that you have a clogged exhaust (usually the cat). You can do the most basic test for this. With the car idling, hold your hand a few inches from the exhaust pipe (don't burn yourself). Have a helper rev the engine to around 3,000 rpm. The amount of exhaust pressure should be significantly greater off idle. You can do the same test with another car to get an idea of the difference to expect.

Black smoke usually indicates a very rich situation. Check your fuel pressure regulator. Connect a piece of vacuum line to the vacuum port, if you don't have a vacuum pump with leak down gauge, just suck on the line and listen for the valve to close. Hold the vacuum there to see if it leaks down. Be careful, because sometimes you can get a mouth full of gas if the valve is leaking into the vacuum line.

I'm really glad to hear that the car is running better after a new DIC. That means you weren't chasing your tail. Hopefully the plugs are just fouled; that would be lucky. Let me know if I can help troubleshoot any more from here.

All the Best,
Stephen D and 2 other Saab Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

ok, new plugs, and a new throttle position sensor (bought one 6 months ago, just warrantied it for free, figured it wouldn't hurt), but no changes. No smoke, but it still just sputters and an occassional backfire. Exhaust seems ok to me. It kinda seems like only a couple of the plugs are sparking, I could be wrong, but that is how it's acting. Checked fuel pressure, that seems good too.


What can I do next?

Now it is time to get back to basics. Your engine (like all gasoline engines) requires fuel, air, ignition, compression, and timing to function properly.

We know the engine is getting air, we assume that fuel is being properly delivered, ignition is new and should be fully functional, timing is controlled by the computer. From here, I would test compression to be sure it is not a problem. Also, remove the DIC, connect your old spark plugs, ground them against metal on the engine, crank the engine and watch for spark. All of the plugs should spark bright blue.

The only other possibility I can think of off hand is fuel injectors. You can have good, regulated, fuel pressure and a faulty injector can still cause problems.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi, thanks for all the answers and suggestions, made another payment today to make sure I'm taking care of you.

New status, after running the car for a bit, still very rough, and we spray carb cleaner around the lines to check for vacuum leaks, nothing. But we did notice a very STRONG smell of gas and the exhaust is again blowing black, fuel rich exhaust. Did the spark test, all are sparking, but the new plugs, (only 4 days old) are soot covered like the old ones. I def have some kind of fuel issue. We're considering MAP Sensor or even Crank/Cam Sensor.

Thoughts ?