The First Steps In Developing My Mechanical Competen

I enjoyed my ’07 Saab 9-3 for about 6 months before I needed to make my first repair. I will admit, aside for the financial burden, I was excited to develop some more wrenching skills.

One night while driving around I heard a terrible grinding coming from the rear brakes. Needless to say, it was time for new pads. I did not know the maintenance history of the car, so for peace of mind I decided I may as well do all 4 corners. I hopped on to and quickly found out there are a lot of different brake combinations that were available for the 9-3.

Door Card

Tip: If you are looking for new brakes for your 9-3SS, it should have a door card similar to the one shown above right on the driver’s front door sill. The combination of the last 4 letters are to determine your brake size, the breakdown of which is included below:

Front Rotor Size
– AA: 15″ 285mm Solid
– AB: 16″ 302mm Solid
– AC: 16″+ 314mm Vented
– AD: 17″ 345mm Vented
Front Caliper Size
– CA: 15″ 285mm
– CB: 16″ 302mm
– CC: 16″+ 314mm
– CD: 17″ 345mm

Rear Rotor Size
– BA: 15″ 278mm Solid
– BB: 16″ 292mm Vented
– BC: 16″ 292mm Vented (XWD)

Rear Caliper Size
– DA: 15″ 278mm
– DB: 16″ 292mm


Once I determined the correct size I ordered the drilled and slotted variety in whatever brand they offered at the time, with the best level ceramic pads Advanced Auto had in stock. It was a decision fueled by too much forum searching and little factual basis, but I decided this would be the best combination of performance and street-ability at the time. I figured I would freshen up the appearance with some red caliper paint as well since everything would be apart.

I was new to car maintenance at the time, meaning this was the first time I had ever changed rotors or pads on a car. Thankfully my step dad, Steve, was willing to show me a thing or two. We started with the rear brakes since those were the suspected culprit of the grinding noise. We quickly got the old pads removed to find little friction material present, tossed them aside, swapped out the rotors, and reassembled.

When we moved on to the front brakes, however, was when the trouble began. We spent quite some time getting the front caliper bolts loose in order to gain access to the rotor. The hold up was a combination of incorrect sockets (12 points vs E-Torx), little room for a pry bar, and factory-applied red Loctite. Eventually, with a little perseverance and determination, the front bolts were out. Then we were able to swap in the new parts, and button up the front end.

Also on the agenda that night in the garage was my first experience with Plasti Dip. I wanted to rid the front end of that plastic, fake chrome grille in exchange for a sleek matte black finish to contrast the shiny Laser Red paint job. I will say, I was hooked after that night, but for now you can see the results of that project below.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons that night;
  1. Don’t go into ANY automotive project with any sort of time expectation, especially if its your first time.
  2. Things will get grim, but how you handle the obstacles will determine how well you make it as a gearhead.
  3. Get a set of E-torx sockets… A.S.A.P.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment where I’ll cover the various aesthetic mods I worked on in 2013.

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