Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

More SAAB c900 Fun: Painting Instrument Gauge Bezels with Flexidip

I have so many projects backed up in the queue! There's a list of stuff to do on Greeny, and a whole slew of guitar things in the wings (I made a rhyme!).

I managed to get one small project done on Greeny this last weekend. You may recall I put a set of Autometer gauges in almost 2 years ago. I like the faces of the gauges, but I've never been wild about the silver colored bezels. They really don't fit with the interior - you might say they are not very SAAB-like. I have VDO gauges in my other 900 and they have black bezels.

This is a shot of the water temp gauge from back when I installed it.

You can see what I mean about the silver bezels. Just a bit...shiny.

And everything else is black.

Not to mention that the Autometer angle mounting rings were just not working out. They kept slipping and just didn't look that good.

So I decided to paint the bezels, and install a new angled gauge panel.

I decided to use that newfangled Plastidip paint, which is a rubberized type of paint. Apparently people paint wheels and even entire cars with it! It is easily peeled off, so I figured if I messed it up too much, or just didn't like it, it would be easy to remove.

I took the oil pressure and voltmeters out of the car. After pondering how I would mask off the dial glass I came up with a solution: I cut circle masks of index card and used double-sided tape to hold them on. And I used wide blue painter's tape to mask the bodies of the gauges.

How did I determine the diameter of the circles?

I measured the gauge faces with a caliper - they were 1.769 inches. Then halving that, I got .08845 inches. Set the caliper to that and used that to set the distance on a compass.

Then I drew that circle on the index card an cut them out.

They weren't exact, but they were darn close.

Went outside, armed with some Rustoleum "Flexidip" rubberized paint. You will also find "Plastidip," same stuff by a different maker out there as well.

The auto parts store I went to had the Flexidip in quite a few colors - red, green, pink, purple - in addition to black.

Here are the two gauges after painting them.

There were a couple of silver spots that didn't get painted - I just sort of freehanded the circle masks and hit these spots again.

The upside of this paint it that it's easily removed - driving the car just this morning I saw a bit of overspray on the glass of the boost gauge - I'll just scrape that off with an X-Acto knife later.

I mentioned I took the voltmeter and oil pressure gauges out of the car.

On the water temp, the sensor line is 'permanently' attached to the gauge. Of course when I put it in originally, I just threaded the line through the hole in the mounting ring and the panel, then through the firewall to the sender.

Taking it out is a different story!

I just cut the mounting ring and panel since I'm not reusing them.

But this also means I have to paint the thing while it's still in the dash.

So I cut a hole in an big index card, fit that around the gauge and then masked all around it with newspaper.

And then sprayed away.

Worked fine.

After the paint was dry, I reassembled the gauges in the new panel.

Be warned: the paint is very soft until it fully cures - about 24 hours. It's very easy to scrape it off when you handle it.

Ask me how I know this.

Here's the newly painted gauges installed. The panel isn't all the way in the dash just yet - I like to wait a day or so in case I need to pop it out if something doesn't work (e.g. the gauge lights).

But you get the idea.

Looks a whole lot better than the old panel with the angle mounts I think.

And the color is much more SAAB-like, yes?

I hadn't really planned to paint the boost gauge bezel at this point, but since I was in up to my neck, I took it out and painted it as well.

 
 

SAAB c900 Alternator Installation

It's a lot easier getting the new alternator installed than getting the old one out.

Of course, now that I've taken one out, I know what's involved and it would take less time. Note that I say less time, not easier. It's just a challenging job, but not impossible.

First thing I did was clean up the area under where the alternator lives. I figured it was a good time to do it, especially since I'm (hopefully) not doing this job again any time soon.

I used Griot's Garage Oil & Grease Cleaner and Engine Cleaner. I put the Oil & Grease cleaner on the worst spots; but both of these products work great. The Oil & Grease cleaner is a bit stronger - and it's "Environmentally Friendly," while the Engine Cleaner is biodegradable, a good thing.

First, I put the mounting bracket back on. Look at how clean everything is! Also note the ground lead installed on the upper bolt - I left this a bit loose so I could maneuver it as needed when I went to connect the other end to the alternator.

If you've read about this job, or done it, you know there's interference between the alternator mounting bolt and the firewall.  The proper method of removal is to take the bracket off with the alternator still attached, which is what I did.

However, you will read on the interwebs of folks putting a hole in the firewall to enable the bolt to be slid off. My car has a hole like this. I don't recommend it, because it's really not necessary. But since my car does have a hole (for better or worse), I put all of the bolts for the bracket on at this point.

The method without a hole is to put the bracket on with the alternator attached, get it more or less lined up, swivel the alternator downward - and put the top bolt and ground on, then the left-side and bottom bolts on. In other words, the reverse of how I got it out with the alternator still on the bracket.

Now we put the alternator adjustment arm bracket on. The 'fork' at the top of the arm where the adjusting bolt goes should point toward the firewall. Otherwise, it will foul the alternator fan and pulley.

Don't ask how I know this.

Love love love those purple Powerflex bushings!

Next step is to put the alternator in place and run the mounting bolt through the bracket and the mount on the alternator.

The arrow in the picture shows the bolt - and you can see the hole in my firewall, sad that someone hacked it like that.


I connected the ground lead at this point while I could still get to the ground bolt on the alternator. After I had the alternator mounted, I tightened the end on the engine bracket (the one I had left loose).
I found that I had to swivel/turn the alternator to the right to slip the drive belts on. This picture shows the belts in place.

The picture above of the bolt is out of order here - put the belts on, then the bolt.

Fit the 16mm nut on the end of the bolt and tighten it up.

Sort of exciting at this point - I'm going to have a 115 amp alternator! Whoo hoo!

Now put the adjustment bolt back on and adjust the belt. I had made a mark with a silver Sharpie as a reference when I took the alternator out, so I'm in the ballpark for proper tension, I think.

I'm going to get one of these soon though.

Last step is to connect the starter and B+ leads, and there you have it.

Then I put the heater hoses all back on.

The alternator looks buried under there now!

Note also how I rerouted the throttle cable - it had previously gone under the AC hose (big one at the top). Now it's clear of the hose.

And reconnected the business end of the throttle cable. You can see it got a bit kinked when I tried to get the alternator out without disconnecting the cable. But it works fine, no problem at all.

I lost a small amount of coolant with the heater hoses disconnected, so I topped that up.

Last step is to reconnect the battery.

It works great now.

I think I wrote in an earlier post that the electrical system on this car had never been quite right in the 2 plus years I've owned it. And it had gotten progressively worse.

With a load on the old alternator, the voltage at the battery would drop to as low as 11 volts. And the battery was not consistently charging either.  I had cleaned all of the grounds in the car, and no change. So the alternator was the last step.

Now it charges, and more importantly, with a lot of accessories on - lights, wipers, etc, the voltage never drops below 13.3 volts.

Success!

 
 

SAAB c900 Alternator Bushing Replacement

Now that we have popped the alternator out of Grona, we can replace the bushings on the mounts and put the old alternator's pulley onto the new alternator.

It's a lot easier removing the alternator from the mounting bracket when it's out of the car.

Put it in a vise and undo the bolt with a 16mm socket.

Here's the bracket and the mounting bolt.



As for the pulley: it's been a while since I took one of these off. I know they can be difficult to remove.

I used on old leather belt around the pulley in the vise so as to not put vise marks on it.

The pulley was quite tight in the vise, but I couldn't budge the nut with my trusty 1/2 inch drive breaker bar.

The nut is a 22mm, by the way.

The pulley just wanted to turn. I'm not too surprised. I had Plan B ready.

Plan B is using an impact gun to get the bolt off. Took 5 seconds to loosen it.

Check out the impact gun/wrench. It's a Ridgid cordless one - uses an 18 volt battery. According to the specs, it has 325 lb-ft of torque! Of course an air gun has more, but this is much more portable.

Cordless tools have really come a long way. That thing packs some real power.

Here's the bolt after removal.

I want to start taking Grona's suspension apart and replace all the bushings now that I have this cool impact gun.

But first things first. I need to finish this job.

The alternator with the fan, spacer washer and pulley removed.



And all of the parts - the alternator mount, the adjustment arm, and the alternator pulley, spacer washer, and fan before they have a bath.

First I push out all of the old bushings. Two in the bracket. You can see how chewed up they are. I'd guess they're the originals - at the end of their service life.

25 years is pretty good I'd say.

The bushing for the engine block end of the adjustment arm is in 2 halves.

It's in bad shape too.

I took some environmentally safe degreaser to all of the parts. They came out pretty clean.

Now you can read the SAAB part number cast on the alternator mounting bracket - 7511843.

In case you needed to know.

Took some fine steel wool to the insides of the brackets to clean up the area where the new bushings will go.

I always figure, when you have it all apart, go ahead and do it right.

Well, it's the Queen's Award, innit?







I have some Powerflex poly bushings for the mounts. They're stiffer than the stock rubber bushings - should help keep the infamous c900 alternator wobble under control.

The bushings are made in England (where most of the world's race cars are built). And if you look closely, you'll see they won the 2013 Queen's Award for Enterprise International Trade.

Good thing, that.

You get a small tube of PTFE/Silicone assembly grease with the bushings...or is it 'bushes?'

Apply it to the outer and inner surfaces of the bushes before installing.

Powerflex make three levels of bushings: yellow, rated at 70 on the Shore A Durometer scale (about 25% stiffer than stock) purple, which are 80A (30% stiffer), and black, which are 95A (80% stiffer). The latter are for race applications.

The new bushings slide right in easily.

Love that purple color. Too bad they'll be mostly invisible when the alternator is back in!

The top bolt hole on the alternator mount is where the alternator ground lead goes. I cleaned it up to ensure a good connection. You can see it's a bit shinier than the other two holes.

I wasn't 100 percent sure the higher-output (115 amp vs. 80 amp stock) alternator was going to be a direct fit.

Fortunately, it is.

The shot on the right is a comparison between the two - the stock 80 amp Bosch 124x on the right, versus the 115 amp Bosch 129x on the left.

The cases are virtually identical. The only slight difference is that the location of the B+ terminals is rotated slightly, but it's no problem at all to install.

The other thing to be aware of is the ground bolt. On the stock alternator, there is one longer case screw that the ground bolts on to (see the image). On the 129x, there is a threaded hole that I used for a ground - I'll show that in a minute.

Here's a picture of the pulley ends of the alternators - exactly the same case shape.

After reading up on this on the interwebs, I was reasonably sure it would be a straightforward conversion. I just couldn't find any pictures to confirm the sizes of the alternators. Pictures! I need pictures!

Now I have one.



This is the static supressor mounted on the back of the alternator. You can see it's just a 2.2uF/100 volt capacitor.

I just took it off the old alternator and put it on the new one. Exact same location.

The screwdriver is pointing to bolt I used for the alternator case ground on the 129x. It's a 5mm thread - I used a 10mm long bolt to go there.

I probably could have used that longer case bolt from the old alternator, but the new one is so clean that I didn't want to put the old bolt on!

Note also that the supressor is installed as well.

Now we just put the spacer, fan, and pulley on the new alternator.

Funny picture - the lens focal length (24mm) makes it look like the ratchet is bigger than the alternator!

Now everything's ready to be installed in the car.

 
 

SAAB c900 Alternator Removal

So, here's the deal.

The electrical system on my semi-trusty SAAB c900 #2, Greenie (also known by its Swedish name, Grona) has never been quite right in the time I have owned it. It's gotten progressively worse over the last 2 1/2 years. Very long story short, after cleaning connections, cleaning grounds, etc., I have decided to replace the alternator. Lately, putting any load on the system at all causes a voltage drop.

I found that the voltage at the battery would drop from about 13.8 volts to about 11.5 under load. So new alternator it is.

Of course, I first need to get the old one out. You can read much grumbling on the interwebs about this job. To be honest, I didn't find it that difficult, you just need patience and the proper tools. I did it over a period of two days...when I got tired/exasperated, I quit. Took me about 2.5 hours total, and that includes some trial-and-error on methodology. I think I could do it in an hour if I had to do it again.

Lots of pictures, be warned!

If you look closely, you might see the alternator down there under the AC hose and the heater hoses. The first challenge is how to get at it.

Note also the red arrow - that's the throttle cable. It goes under the AC hose on my car, which is unlike my other car. I suspect somebody replaced the hose, and it wound up under the cable.

I point this out because it will come back as an issue later.

From another angle, we see the "Bosch" decal on the alternator. So it IS visible.

Some threads I've read about alternator removal have said "pull back" or "use a bungie" to hold the hoses back for access without removing them. My car is a late 900 (1991) and it seemingly has more hoses here than earlier ones.

I pondered this for a day or so and realized there ain't no way we're getting at...or removing...the alternator without removing hoses. Simple as that.

You may recall (or not) that I have an Autometer mechanical water temp gauge on the car. So first step was to take the sender out of its fitting.

This is actually good, because I mounted the fitting so the sender pointed 'up' and it would be better off angled to the right so that the sender lead doesn't make such an abrupt turn. Here's my chance to change it.

With the sender off, I then removed the clamp and hose off the end that goes to the engine block.

Not too much coolant in any of the lines, by the way - I was able to just stuff clean rags in them to keep coolant from dripping out, rather than drain the whole cooling system.

Next we undo the heater bypass hose, and the hoses at the heater core itself.

Here the top heater hose (coolant going into the heater) is off, and I'm undoing the bottom hose.

There is a bit more coolant here in the hoses, so just be aware. I did lose some - a small amount, but nothing major.

Now the whole thing can be removed as a sub-assembly...or SAAB assembly! Get it?

Ha ha ha.

If you look closely at the hoses, you'll see the four places I undid them - the hose to the block, the heater core, and that bypass line is the one to the right of my hand in this shot.

Now we have much better access to the alternator.

At this point, you should disconnect battery negative lead before proceeding.

Here's the process I used to get the alternator out - with details to follow:

First, I took off the bracket/arm for the belt tension adjustment to release the drive belts.

Then, the second step. The alternator itself is bolted onto a bracket which attaches to the engine block. The appropriate way to remove the alternator is to remove the bolts holding the bracket to the block, and then remove the alternator, still attached to the bracket.

There are three bolts that hold the bracket to the block - one at the top, one on the left near the oil filter, and one at the bottom, under the alternator.

It IS possible to remove the alternator from the bracket, but a hole or dent needs to be made in the firewall to be able to remove the long bolt holding the alternator to the bracket. My car has had this done - but it's NOT recommended. It's not difficult to remove the whole assembly. And I found that I had a difficult time accessing the left-hand nut on that bolt anyway.

Some folks have indicated it's easier to get at the bracket bolts by removing the bolt holding the alternator to the bracket part way so you can swivel the alternator, but I didn't find this necessary.

First, let's get that adjustment bracket/arm off.

Undo the adjustment bolt - it's fairly long. I used a ratcheting combination wrench, I believe it's a 10mm head.

Once the bolt is out, you can then undo the nut holding the arm that the adjuster passes through. This is a 13mm bolt.

I show both of these being removed in the picture.

I found it virtually impossible to get a clean picture of the bolt holding the other end of the arm that bolts to the block.

But I have my finger on it in this picture - if you reach down you'll find it.

Here I have a socket on it. Not too hard to get to, but hard to photograph. I think this one also is a 13mm.

Note that the adjustment bolt and the bolt it passes through have been removed.

Once the arm is out, you will be able to push the alternator forward to free the belts from the alternator pulley(s). The alternator should swivel up and down at this point. You'll need to swivel it to access the top and bottom bracket bolts.

Here's the belt adjustment arm removed.

The angle of the lens is distorting the picture - it is NOT as long as the door!

Note the bushing on the far (engine block) end - I'll replace this. If you're going to take it all apart, you should be replacing these.

Remove the wiring from the alternator. The green lead just pulls off the terminal, while the red lead going to the starter needs to be unbolted.

And there is a ground lead on the bottom of the alternator that needs to be removed. It's also bolted on.

Different years may be different, but my ground ran up under the top bolt on the alternator bracket, which we'll see momentarily.

I had to undo the ground, because it runs across the top of the left-hand bracket bolt and the bolt can't be accessed with the ground lead in place.

I used a bungee cord to hold back one of the heater hoses to get it out of the way.

Here's the top bolt for the alternator mounting bracket. Note the ground wire that goes under it.

You can swivel the alternator downward to access this bolt.

I first undid this bolt entirely. Mistake. The bolt is too long to clear the alternator with the bottom bracket bolt still attached. So I screwed it back on, but left it loose enough to swivel the ground lead to the right in order to access the left-side bracket bolt.

With the ground lead moved out of the way, and the alternator swiveled down, it's easy to see the bracket bolt to the left of the alternator.

In theory (according to the interwebs), all three bolts should be 6mm hex. However, as you saw on my car, my top bolt is a standard 12mm bolt. Not sure if this is common to late models or not. (My other car is a 1992 so I can check it).

It's not really important, just something to note.

So now we can remove that hex bolt on the left side of the bracket.

I was all prepared to use a long extension and a universal joint on my ratchet, but all I needed for the left and bottom bolts was a shorter (3 inch...75mm or so...) extension. And of course a 6mm hex drive socket.

After the left bolt is undone, you can undo the bottom bolt. Due to its location, I couldn't get a shot of it.

However, you should be able to see it looking under the alternator from the left side. Use a flashlight (torch) and you'll see it.

I was able to guide the hex wrench using my left hand on the end of the wrench and my right on the ratchet. Not too hard to get at it - you're just working blind.

After you get the bottom bolt off, you'll be able to remove the top bolt.

The three bracket bolts removed - and placed in their relative positions. Note the left bolt is shorter than the other two.

I'll clean up the ends of the ground lead before it goes back on.

The top of the bracket fits under the AC compressor bracket, so the alternator needs to be pivoted to the left to free its mounting bracket from the AC bracket.

And then the alternator can be moved down away from the block. Careful - it's heavy!

Whoo hoo. Almost there.

The alternator and its bracket are now free to lift out of the engine compartment.

The red arrow points to the location on the block where the left bracket bolt goes.

All is going well now...but recall that I pointed out the location of my throttle cable earlier? I couldn't lift the alternator up out of the engine compartment - it just wouldn't clear the throttle cable!

So I had to remove the end of the cable.

I just bent back the tab holding the end of the cable to the throttle assembly.

There's a spring clip that holds the cable to the bracket. The red arrow shows where the plastic mount on the cable is mounted.

In the picture, I've already undone the clip, and pulled the cable out of the bracket. Easy.

Then I'm able to lift the alternator up out of the engine compartment.

Success!

I'll put the alternator in a vise and remove the bolt holding it to the bracket. There are bushings on the bracket also that I'll replace.

Here's what we have with the alternator removed.

You can now clearly see the AC compressor bracket in this picture - note how its bottom fits over the alternator bracket. And you can also see the left-side and bottom alternator bracket mounts on the engine block.

I'll take this opportunity to clean up this corner of the engine compartment now that I have good access.