2014 was the year of unplanned modifications for my Laser Red 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0T.
At the beginning of 2014, I was getting close to finally getting my 9-3 tuned, a desire that had been lingering in the back of my mind. The car was just about ready, but I didn’t think that it could deliver the additional power to the ground without some suspension refinement.
I spent a couple of months doing research, trying to find a nice, aesthetic, low ride height without compromising too much ground clearance. It was winter and I didn’t want the front of my car to become a plow, there’re also some gnarly potholes out there. I also wanted to improve the Saab’s handling performance, but have the ability to dial it back for road trips and the horrendous local roads. Eventually, I landed on adjustable Koni Yellow dampeners coupled with H&R springs.
I started adding everything to the shopping cart in order to get a rough estimate of how much it would all cost. My plan was to order everything right before I went home for spring break, as I would have a bunch of free time and access to all of my step-dad’s tools and know-how. My plan was bullet proof, or so I thought, until my Saab decided otherwise.
Sometime in the dead of winter as I pulled into the parking lot of the housing complex I lived in during my undergrad years, I heard a pretty bad clunk. At first I thought I had lost a hanger on my custom exhaust system and that it was dragging it on the ground, but then I started to smell burning rubber. Long story short, I pulled the front wheels and discovered that my front passenger-side coil spring had snapped. The burning rubber smell was from the coil gouging the inner sidewall of the tire. I needed the car to get home for spring break, so I was forced to fix it. I hurried online and ordered the parts I needed and so I could get to work.
The parts came in, but by that time State College, PA had suffered a few brutal snow storms. My Saab, being inoperable at the time, got buried below multiple feet of snow. Once I found my car it was time to get to work.
I started with the front suspension since that was all I really needed to make the trip home. At that point I had the bare minimum when it came to tools. Hell, I even had to buy a jack just to find the broken coil spring in the first place (the scissor jack with the car was broken, of course). Thankfully Saabros united on this one and we were able to get the job done, but not without some hiccups along the way. Oh yeah, by the way, we happened to live right next door to one another at the time.
Within an hour or two we had the end links, ABS wires, and brake lines detached from the strut. The last portion, and main source of our agony, was removing the bolts that held the steering knuckle to the strut. In our first failed attempt we tried used a 3/8″ ratchet…with a pipe. Within minutes the ratchet was broken. Failed attempt number two came when Frankie was using all of his might and the second ratchet (a cheap backup from Advanced Auto) failed, sending his frozen fingers into the coil spring support. Fortunately there was a mound of snow on all sides of us, and he was able to use it to prevent swelling. That’s where we called it quits for the first day and headed inside to defrost.
That night I learned the bolts were splined near the head so that they wouldn’t spin as you tightened the nut. We felt like fools for trying so hard to loosen the bolt instead of the nut, but with this information the struts were out in a couple hours the following day.
I rented spring compressors and was fully prepared to swap the top hats and get the new front suspension installed, until I realized I had no way of reaching the top hat retaining nut while simultaneously holding the inner strut tube with an allen wrench. I resorted to taking the parts to a nearby shop where they swapped the top hats over for a few bucks. I picked up the completed front struts and within the day had the front end of the 9-3 back on the ground.
I still had some time before I had to drive home, so I started the rear. It was a breeze compared to the front, until the rear shocks were off. A combination of factors were against me, but I could not get the mounting brackets off of rear shocks. The rear mounting brackets were cheap enough, so I left the OEM rear shocks whole and installed new mounts with the Koni Yellows.
I started working on replacing the rear springs while I waited for the brackets, but with my rented spring compressors, I could not get the rear springs to compress enough to remove them comfortably. At this point I was about out of time so I left the stock springs on until I was home. There, with the help of my step-dad, I finished off the job.
Spring was right around the corner and I was never closer to that ECU tune, but remember what I said earlier, 2014 was the year of unplanned car work. Check back in next week to see what mod I – or rather, the car – had in mind. In the meantime, peep the gallery below for some preview pictures of the “low-life.”