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Old 07-08-2017, 04:58 PM   #1
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First time Saab 9-3 owner thats sobbing

Hi, I recently bought a 2000 Saab 9-3 2.0 Turbo (H vin series) base 4 door hatchback that had a motor swap with this motor only having 106,000 miles, now has 131,000 now. I love this car and it was amazing the few times I got to drive it. I don't have money for a new vehicle, I don't have money for a mechanic shop and I've never really worked on vehicles before.
It drove fine for about a week, no chugging or anything strange, seemed to be accelerating fine and still did last time I drove it. Now it's blowing oil out of the dipstick tube with a whitish vapor and the exhaust has a whitish grey/maybe light bluish color. I looked it up and PCV valve failure usually causes it, ordered it and installed, now doing it again. Have run a compression test (only dry because being a noob to this I didn't realize there was a wet check to do or how to do it) and came up with
1- 27 psi
2-75 psi
3-75 psi
4-27 psi
This does have a brand new PCV #6 update and I installed it myself (white check valve is going correct way, tubes are in correct spots).
I'm unsure how to change piston rings and know it's expensive, I'm willing to do the work but have no idea what I'm doing. I'm really hoping to find someone local that can help as I don't even have a garage to work in. I'm in serious need of help, I would just junk it but it's in amazing condition, barely anything for rust, mint interior, it's been well maintained, even have all of the receipts for everything for it since purchase. I did an oil change, no metal flakes in the old oil (btw, I've been running through this and other Saab forums like saabscene and saabcentral trying to understand and diagnose this), there was a yellowish looking substance floating on top of oil from the dipstick tube when I took out the dipstick but I think was from blowby, there was none in the oil and no streaks of anything in the old oil. I replaced with T6 Shell Rotella Heavy Duty Diesel Motor Oil (was iffy until I looked on here and was actually suggested oil type for this car) and put a 15,000 mile full synthetic Fram filter on it. I've heard 3 different things (after eliminating pcv issue) which are
1-bad head gasket seal can cause pressure leaks (have also heard this is BS)
2- blown high pressure turbo seal can cause blow by and pressure leak because of the seal blown.
3- (worst case and most likely scenario) piston rings and/or pistons are shot. Thankfully no knocking so don't think the piston shafts (unsure what the part is called, as explained earlier I'm a complete noob to vehicle work other than oil changes, air filter change, tires, basic stuff lol)
Any other thoughts?
Any help would be greatly appreciated and feel free to ask questions. I don't currently have a compression tester, had to borrow one from a friends dad for a coupme hours and return it because he's rebuilding an engine. Talked to him and he doesn't know much about turbos but is looking up what's all to do with replacing the piston rings (assuming pistons can be changed at same time) and what he'd charge IF he would have the time to do it with the other stuff he's working on already. I've seen some amazing posts from people, I'm really trying to learn about the car so it can be treated right and last. I also want to learn about how to work on it so I can save money and know how to do the stuff myself...a certain pride in ot I guess you could say. Thank you in advance for any help
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Old 07-08-2017, 06:59 PM   #2
Drew In Houston
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You know this already, but those compression readings indicate major trouble inline with your #3. But, you also have bad headgasket symptoms too if you're showing water in your oil.

Beyond the wet/dry debate, are you sure that you had a good seal when you threaded the tester in? How many times did you turn it over? Were the other spark plugs (for the cylinders that weren't under test) installed while you tested?

Based on the care you took with your research and your initial well-thought-out post, it seems like you'd be capable of following the Saab WIS (Workshop Information System) instructions for doing a headgasket job. It's all hand tools except pulling the actual head, which is easiest with an engine hoist. Once the head is off, it's not too much more to pull off the oil pan, pull of the connecting rod caps and push the pistons out the top to look for cracks. It does take awhile though and you might break exhaust studs and stuff (maybe not since it's a newly installed engine), but if you can talk with your friend's dad and borrow tools...

Where are you located?

Did it break for sure while you owned it? Or was it broken when you got it? Ie, you can't take the car back to where you got it?
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Old 07-08-2017, 07:55 PM   #3
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I didn't notice any water in the oil that I took out even after setting for a day, I'm pretty sure the substance on the dipstick was from blow back combustion settling, the original oiltube that I replaced with the one that came from the pcv kit.
I made sure it was a good seal and ran the test twice with same results, I turned it over 5 times on each cylinder and did have the other 3 plugs in (unsure if I was supposed to have them out).
About your suggestions for checking the pistons, would I be able to change the pistons and rings using this method? I appreciate the kind words, i felt like I was fumbling through things really badly and forgetting info. As said, this is my first experience with fixing a vehicle. I live in Eau Claire Wisconsin, united states. I already have the stuff to do the head gasket (came with the car when I bought it). Sadly I think I got had by someone who knew it was going bad and didn't want to fix it. I bought this off a facebook cars for sale local page so can't return it either way. Thankfully was only $800 though.
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Old 07-08-2017, 08:30 PM   #4
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Meant the other dipstick tube had residue settled on it from the combustion blowback.
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Old 07-09-2017, 09:01 AM   #5
Drew In Houston
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Well, at $800 you didn't go too far wrong. Although, next time you buy a car and they include the parts to do a headgasket, you might ask if the headgasket is bad.

Anyways, it's not a crazy hard job to do, especially if the parts to do it are free.

As far as the milky look in the dipstick tube, a leaking headgasket can cause that too--or it may be blowby too if the gasket is bad enough. I think what happens is the leaking headgasket allows water to leak into the oil, and then when it mixes and heats up as the engine runs, the water changes phases and circulates around in vapor phase and makes a milky brown color deposit on the interiors. I'm guessing that you're not seeing direct blow-by byproducts, but rather water in oil by-products. You likely won't see what looks like just plain water sitting on the oil, it'll be milky brown color stilling on top of the oil.

The cracked pistons symptoms I've seen don't include the milky white byproducts, but you do see puffing smoke coming out of the dipstick when the car is running.
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Old 07-09-2017, 09:48 AM   #6
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The parts in it were under the hatchback so I didn't get to see them until I was home. Took it for test drive, ran fine.
At least the headgasket will be easy enough, I'm pretty sure I have to get at least new rings to put in though. Not sure if I'm able to install them when I pull the header, drop the oil pan, pull off the connecting rod caps and push up the pistons to check them. Pretty much all I have is hand tools right now as I just started my dive into vehicle mechanics lol. So far as the oil, when I took out the old oil there was nothing on top of it, no water, no milky streaks, no brown milky color which kind of blew my mind because when I pulled the dipstick it had a yellowish milky color to it. I do remember looking in the tailpipe and seeing moisture beads after the problems started. I'm not trying to be difficult (sorry if it seems that way) as you can probably tell, I like to do a lot of research and be very thorough when doing something. Sometimes it just helps to know what to look for when you're clueless lol.
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Old 07-09-2017, 02:17 PM   #7
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Doing a headgasket isn't exactly easy, but if you take your time and you're careful it's not super hard. That's surprising that you didn't see the oil fouled. Was it black like it had been used for some time? Or maybe it was fresh and hadn't had time to show evidence of coolant? I'm just throwing things out there to think about, no offense taken if I'm wrong lol.

Re. water out the tailpipe, you'll always see water coming out as a byproduct until the exhaust system gets heated up.

If it were me, I'd wait until I had the head off (not the exhaust or intake headers, the entire head), and pulled each piston for an inspection before I spent money on new ring sets. When these pistons break, it's not uncommon for them to crack between the ring lands on the sides, and the cracked pieces stay in place, that's how they're able to run semi-normally but with low compression and blow-by. If you don't see any cracks though, I'd be inclined to just reassemble things.

But, if you don't see any cracks, and you're able to examine the leaking areas on the head gasket, and you're able to confirm the the cylinder walls still look good, then it would probably be okay to carefully put things back together. If the engine only has a little over 100k on it, there's plenty of life left, and the cylinder walls will probably still look like they've just been machined with cross hatching still plainly visible and no scuffing. The geometry and materials they used on these engines was pretty good.
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Old 07-10-2017, 05:41 AM   #8
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The oil was black, definitely used, but I may have caught it quickly enough that the headgasket didn't foul the oil badly enough to get it to mix in. No offense taken at all, ask away, knowing what to look for ahead of time helps a lot. I'm hoping my buddies dad will let me use his garage, maybe even throw some guidance my way when I need it. I didn't gigure a headgasket was easy persay, just easier than changing pistons and rings lol. Plus made cheaper and easier because I have the parts for it already. I will definitely have to show this post to my buddies dad so he at least knows what I'm attempting. I have a feeling I'm going to need a way to label tubes, taking pics and the such so I don't mix them up when reconnecting. Really don't want to mess this up. And thank you for not treating me like an idiot. I saw a post on one of the saab forums (dont think it was this one) where a guy just glat called the guy a fuckin retard because he asked some of the same questions I did about being able to do the rings and pistons without yanking the engine using the method you told me to check the pistons, pull head and then drop oil pan, pull rod caps and push up to check them. Oh, one thing I did forget to mention is that one of the times I drove it, I noticed it started to chug on me for a minute after playing with it a little, thought I had overheated the turbo because I had put it a little in the red, but after about half a minute or so went back to normal driving. That was the time driving it before it started doing the blowby issue I'm having. Sorry that I forgot to mention that as it may have some clues as well most likely.
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