Saab Turbo X Engine Failure And Replacement

I got tired of seeing her sitting in the driveway, so I put my expectations aside and got to work.

I’m someone who sets a high standard, and sometimes this hurts more than it helps. When I work on my cars, I’m meticulous and I want everything to be perfect, but to be frank (ha!) my skill level just isn’t there yet. This makes it easy to justify putting things off, as I tell myself, “well, if I can’t do it right, I may as well not do it at all.” If I maintained this mindset, then I probably would never get anything done. Heck, this website might not even exist.

Turbo X Update 1

In this case, I’m referring to my prized possession: my 1 of 600 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X. I had attempted to purchase 5 Turbo Xes before finally securing this one, but they’d always slip away from me for one reason or another—usually another buyer beat me to it. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was finally driving home in my own TX.

During my first few months of ownership I replaced 3 ignition coils, the rear calipers and rotors, the fuel-pressure regulator, and the MAP sensor. I also took the Taliaferro carbon fiber intake from my ’08 9-3 Aero, though this wouldn’t be the last component to be borrowed from that car.

Circa 2015 when the Aero was still in its prime

Let’s fast forward a bit to Christmas of 2017: Kayla and I are on our way home after visiting family for the holiday, and the check engine light begins to flash. I feel a loss of power, I see smoke, the steering stiffens up, and the brake pedal becomes stiff. I manage to safely pull the car over, and I’m immediately filled with dread. I get out of the car, pop open the hood, and a plume of steam rushes out. It appears to be coming from the coolant reservoir. The turbocharger is also glowing a bright red-orange, and my assumption is the car had overheated due to a fault in the coolant system.

As we waited in the bitter cold for a wrecker to come rescue us, I assessed the situation and thought about how to proceed. “Ok,” I thought to myself, “I’ve at least got a spare engine from the Aero.” You might be wondering why I was so quick to do a heart transplant and leave my Aero without a soul. Well, I didn’t want to shed light on this idea, because I didn’t want to be one of those guys who talks about something and never gets anywhere with it, but a buddy of mine had gotten a peculiar idea stuck in my head: LS swap the 9-3 Aero. Yes, an LS-swapped Saab. As far as I know, no one has ever put a V8 under the hood of a 2008+ 9-3, or any generation 9-3 for that matter. But this is a conversation for another time.

Fast forward one more time to last weekend, and I’m sitting in my garage thinking about all the work that has to get done with the Turbo X. I have K-Sport coil overs I want to install, an upgraded turbocharger and bigger injectors are on the replacement engine, and JZW currently isn’t supporting his customers so I need to get a tune from another reputable tuner – I’ve since decided on a well-known Saaber by the name of Andrew Walniak and his tuning company SKEYYY Tuning – I also needed to swap the twin-disk clutch and slave cylinder over from the front-wheel drive transmission, and the radiator and intercooler, which had previously taken some damage from a raccoon and then a deer carcass. On top of that, I wanted to polish up the car and make it a cherry. The weight of all these expectations started to weigh down on me, and it felt like it would be an eternity until I could get behind the wheel of my Turbo X again.

Turbo X Engine Bay
Last shot of the original engine before we pushed it into the garage and got to work.

“Why don’t you just get the other motor in there and get it moving again. Then you can just change things as you go along, and make sure each part works,” said Keith. He’s the buddy who got the LS swap idea stuck in my head. It was a fair point, and he offered to help me do the work so that I could get the Turbo X back on the road sooner rather than later. So, I started to disassembly the Saab last weekend, and this past weekend he and I worked to get the job done.

The feeling that came over me when I finally started the Turbo X for the first time since 2017 was a delightful mixture of relief, accomplishment, and pure joy. I think this is what Kendrick Lamar’s referring to in “Levitate,” but I could be wrong.

I apologize for the lack of media for this endeavor, but Keith and I had a goal and we worked diligently towards it. I did manage to snag a few pictures, though, and I’ll be sure to take more as well as some videos as the build progresses.

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