Saab maintenance #4: Broken Vacuum Check Valve

Close up of the vacuum check valve

This morning, as I was driving, I experienced some shuddering when the car slowed down. At idling, the shuddering was more obvious. It was as though the car was trying to find the right gear, or misfired. The initial thought was it might be a coil pack problem, for which I had a spare part as a back up. But as I googled to confirm the root cause of the problem, it looked more likely to be a vacuum line leak as coil pack problem usually causes misfiring at higher rpm (and my engine shuddered at low rpm or idle)

Popping up the bonnet, I inspected the lines and true enough, I found the vacuum check valve broken. Hopefully there is no other leaks, and we will find out more as I bring the car to the workshop tomorrow.

Location of the vacuum check valve

Saab maintenance #2 – check engine light and fuel cap

This afternoon, as I drove out of petrol kiosk after the gas fill up, the “Check Engine Light” (CEL) on my main instrumental cluster came on. Immediately made an appointment with the dealer to bring the car for a check tomorrow.

So in the meantime, I googled for the possible  and common cause of the problem, and interestingly top in the search list pointed me to the fuel cap not tightened properly. I wasn’t convinced by the explanation, but then I was telling myself, no harm trying since it is not difficult remediation to apply.

I went to the car, open the fuel cap door, and found that I could tighten the fuel cap further by one turn!  I then reset the ECU by taking out fuse #2 and #4 and restarted the car. The CEL no longer appeared, although I was experiencing some rough engine idling. I thought it was just a case of ECU adapting after a reset, and true enough, the engine idle speed stabilised shortly after awhile. I drove the car out for a test spin, the CEL did not light up even as I “boost” the car.

So the problem was finally solved! Reflecting back, I realised the problem probably had occurred at the petrol kiosk. The petrol station attendant did not tighten the fuel cap after the fill up, resulting in the CEL. Nevertheless, it was a good inexpensive lesson learnt, and again it’s internet and google that came to my rescue!

A big fat thing .. and a noisy one

a big lump thing

Had this for at least more than 6 weeks. It came, it fitted, and it went booom booom at first and now vroom vroom. guess what it is? 

the answer: a Ferrita 2.5″ catback exhaust system.

The exhaust in its packed form, looks just like the one in the photo below. That’s not my exhaust, but my mind was too preoccupied on getting the exhaust fitted as soon as possible, that I didn’t take any photoshot of my exhaust except the “big lumpy photo” you saw earlier. Continue reading

I love humps and bumps

Finally my wait for the kit is over.

Got the kit setup after 1.5days of installation, but the wait was worthy.

First impression when driving the car home, along BKE and then PIE was just unbelievable. When entering the first slip road after fitting with the new roadholding kit, the bodyroll then was practically non-existence. The feeling of car toppling over while I corner finally disappeared, and for a moment, I thought I was driving a kart!

Driving along undulated road, I can feel the road even more, but vis a vis with my stock setup using the same 18″ wheel, the 'feel' is only marginal and I attributed that to my 18″ setup. Still, the roadholding kit makes the feel more firm, not floaty. You actually feel more confident when driving along undulated road. Obviously do not expect the ride to be posh and comfortable like a luxury sedan on a 16″ wheel. But make no mistake, it does not mean it is harsh either. As a driver, you just feel that you are closer to the road, and because it reacts very well with the undulation, you begin to appreciate the bumps and humps.

Now for some practical test after a yummy supper session.

We drove to east coast parkway road, where there are full of humps and speed stripes, to see how the kit reacts. Holy, the stripes were as if they were non existence. Okay, I was exaggerating, but then again, you would be forgiven if you think that you are rolling over the road and wonder why the road is painted with lines! At one juncture, we missed the hump (damn, the xenon needs to come) and while we were late in slowing down considerably to clear the hump, the car just rolled over without feeling bottom-out! Second Holy ….

Well, perhaps it is time for the ultimate challenge. Where would we be able to find the ultimate stripes and humps? We decided to drive the car down further to Changi Coast road. For those uninitiated, there is this long stretch of road where the stripes are probably as high as your girlfriend's 2″ heel. Okay, I am exaggerating again, but I swear that whenever I drove my KW'ed Volkswagen bora along Changi Coast road, I would have dread that stretch of stripes because it would definitely send my teeth juddering. This would be a good test.

So while cruising along the Changi Coast road, we began to anticipate for that dreadful stripes. And when we were over it … WOW! While the stripes are more obvious now, but you will ask yourself, how would these stripes ever discourage a driver (be it a truck or a sedan car) to speed beyond 100km/h (Ops, on a 70km/h road)

Not believing ourselves, we made a U-turn, and tried it once more. There's no 'Ta-da-de-deTa-da-daTa-dade' … but just 'Tr-um-tr-um-tr-um…'. The conclusion is affirmative. Saab has done a great job in balancing the comfort and driveability needs. Top class.

the review continues after a memorable drive up to Renggit yesterday.

While there's no opportunity for me to see how RHK can push the car to its new speed limit, the B-road drive does bring out the potential of RHK.

On the stretch of road leading to Kota Tinggi Waterfall, the bends demand the best of car's roadholding capability and driver's handling skill. When entering the bend in excess of 90km/h, the car cornered effortlessly, without any trace of body roll or undesteer. I was told that 'someone' actually swept his car around the bend at 100-120km/h without a sweat. notworthy.gif I believe the ARB contributes most to this achievement, as I do not believe a marginally stiffer spring and uprated dampers would help much in reducing bodyroll.

However, the stiffer spring and uprated dampers were much appreciated when overtaking on B-roads. I just experienced that, overtaking on B-road requires not just sheer huge amount of torque, but also road holding capability. At the moment of burst during overtaking, it is important that the car remains composed and controlled on the undulated road. Failing which, you may find your car swing out of control. Of course, the torque remains as an important variable of the equation, otherwise, you may find yourself staring at icecream advertisment on the side of the icecream truck, for good few seconds.  On the otherhand, the use of 18″ tire does give additional benefit to the driver, with better feel of the road undulation.

In a nutshell, the RHK pass the acid test with flying colours, again. However, I do believe, and must acknowledge that, the RHK alone, does not contribute to the overall driving experience. The chassis, the tyre (I chose a comfort performance tire over pure performance tire), are part of the many variables that ensure a well handling without any sacrifice in comfort, drastically. A KW setup, if it exists in the first place, may give the RHK a run for its money, but I am pretty sure that the comfort level achieved in a Saab93, not withstanding of the presence of RHK or equivalent, would be impossible in my ex-ride. So thumbs up once again for the Saab engineering.

Thanks to Dr, Td_04 and Pilot, for making this dream a reality

Bulls and Horses, courtesy of TD Performance tuning exercise

Click here for larger imageI tried a bora before and after the tdperformance piggyback chip.

The bora is equipped with a supersprint muffler, grounding and a voltage stabiliser, prior to the piggyback.

The pick up is just bearable (considering all factors), while the mid and high end has the feeling of “cleared sinus” due to the supersprint effect.

With the tdperformance piggyback, the pick up seems to have improved, but not much. The mid and high end feels like having a “mint” effect, after the “sinus is cleared” Very Happy

Can't quantify the improvement, unless a dyno is being run.

From a test-user perspective, I can do feel the difference, and I can relate to one of the fellow enthusiast's earlier comment that “this investment is by far the best mod he has done todate”

When turning off the aircon, I can just run the car effortlessly, but in the context that it's a 1.6l (don't compare it with a 2.3l V5 or a 1.8T la)
Obviously, with the aircon off, there's expected power gain, but I find the acceleration exceptionally smooth, vis-a-vis stock w/o aircon.

And my face is filled with glee. Because the tested bora happens to be my ride.

All these, as a result of some 3 hours nerve breaking process. Not for the weak heart!

Installation Process

Click here for larger imageThe installation is per what I had described earlier. The tapping of wires are done professionally. Soldering of the wires ensure that the signal are not distorted, where I believe the level of distortion can impact the management of the engine somewhat.

The O2 wire, which was rerouted to the TDperformance chip, before routing back to the ECU, are also soldered and properly insulated. Overall, I feel that the installation of the piggyback chip is professionally carried out, and you can feel the assurance that your car will not stalled because of poor tapping of harness, as what a fellow enthusiast had experienced when he first had his bora uni-chipped. The box is slotted nicely behind the firewall, beside the ECU box, and well concealed.

Removing the cover for ECU access, and you will find the ECU exposed itself along with the transmission ECU.

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Tapping on the right signals, for the piggyback box to intercept and modify the signal before feeding back to the ECU. First you need to identify the wires to be tapped, from the ECU and piggybox. ADM uses a voltmeter to test the signal to ensure that the wires matches with the factory wiring diagram completely. You don't want to mess the wiring and give the ECU the wrong signal altogether!

Wires from the piggybox that will be tapping on ECU signals

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Tapping the wire requires soldering to ensure proper wire contact. This ensure absolutely no signal lost due to the improper wire connection.

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A complete setup will look like the one below (right)

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First reaction

After the installation, I could feel the throttle feel lighter, but I was inclined to brush it off as psychological factor, based on previous mod experience.

After 10-15 minutes of driving, while the throttle was felt lighter, and the car seemed more torquey , I still did not want to conclude the improvement.

Deep diving …

2 days of driving after the piggyback chipping, I felt as if the ECU is learning, and that the car is “more fun” to drive. Granted, don't expect a TD-performance chipped car to pick up like a 1.8T or even a 2.3V car. Instead, I can feel the car torquier than previously, with the power ready to be unleased anytime.

The improvement is felt mostly in its mid and high range. This is pretty in consistent with the dyno which Silbora has done on his car. The gear holds longer before it upshift, and the process of hold and upshift is very linear and smooth. Overtaking at 80km/h is now a breeze, although you must see the opposite party lah.

Beyond 120km/h, the car still feel torquier, and I can still push it further effortlessly. As I said previously, if I say putting a supersprint muffler is akin to clearing my sinus, adding on the chip is like having a mint effect!

Drag the car to 170km/h, that's where I feel the car starts to feel alittle lethargic. Did not try any further, due to the road condition factors.

Fuel consumption seems to remain unaffected, if not improved, despite my spirited driving in the last 3 days. It hovers around 10.8l/100km, which is quite a good mark given that I would have expected 11.5-12l/100km easily on normal day.


My bottomline, I have to agree with a fellow enthusiast's comment wholeheartedly — This mod is the most satisfying modification I had done to date, if I could rewind the clock, I would save all my money that was spent on ecotek, magnet, grounding, etc and go straight into this piggyback chip right away!

Obviously, more observation is needed, especially on the fuel consumption, as well how long the drivability factor continues to hold. But right now, I am very satisfied with it, and would strongly recommend to anyone, as long as they are not expecting a F1 performance gain (exaggerating, but you know where I am driving at!) Smile

Final verdict: Two thumbs up

Some of my takeaways on my decisions

Between Upsolute & TDperformance (the two tuning companies under consideration for my ride's tuning option), the decision was deliberated for a long while. In the end, I go for Tdperformance, not because it' the best, but in terms of overall performance + cost + effort + risks , I feel the latter is much more worth for me.

Firstly, you should know that upsolute do a fuel remapping, advance ignition timing possibly, etc to increase the performance. Because it's an NA engine, that's so much it can improve on. Whereas, Tdperformance make use of O2 value to advance ignition timing & fuel adjustment, by “sniffing” on the values of throttle position and air flow rate, to intercept and modify the value of O2 to be feed into the ECU.

as you can see, upsolute will be all rounded as compared to tdperformance, but in terms of the performance gain, I reckon the difference between the 2 is not signficant, given that we are dealing with NA engine (will be alot of diff if we are talking abt turbo engine). So would I want a perfect chip up, that goes along with the hassle and risks, is something individual owner needs to assess for himself/herself.

For upsolute chip, you need to pay around $100 for the desoldering of your eeprom chip from your ECU, and solder the upsolute chip onto the ECU board. there's a risk of mis-soldering, etc that you need to bear, as the installer you engaged locally is unlikely going to bear any risk of the consequences of the chip if that happens, since they are not agent for upsolute, but just a “solder-er” … Furthermore, if upsolute does not have current software mapping of you stock eeprom chipset, you will need to extract that currently in your ECU (and the process can be as tedious as desolder the stock chip, extract it, and resolder it back to ECU). Bearing in mind that anything can goes wrong during these process, and upsolute is absolutely not hold accountable for any problem, neither does the installer. But of course, upsolute will bear the issues if it's proven that there's bug in their software, or some upgrades they have developed, but all upgrades are done at your own cost (since u are engaging a 3rd-party installer to install for u..)

basically, for me, while I go for the notion of “mod don't scare, scare don't mod”, I find that in this case, it'll be too energy draining for me to go for upsolute,i go for a perfect enough solution, rather than a perfect solution (at an imperfect cost & timing), so hence tdperformance.

I have just installed it, and am pretty happy with the incremental performance gain. It improves the driveability, that's all (don't expect a chip to improve the performancel ike a 2.3V5 )

Some Technical information on the wiring

1. There are total of 5 wires out of the tuning box, which consists of microprocessor, etc that read, computes & intercept signals that otherwise go to ECU and transmission chip.

2. There are total of 2 signals that the tuning box tap on. Throttle position signal & Air flow signal. To tap on these two signals, the tuning box needs to tap on 2 wires that go into ecu, where the tapping is done via soldering. These ensure correct reading of the signal, and no wire is cut at this point in time.

3. The O2 wire, going into the ECU, will be cut. The cut is necessary to intercept the O2 signal. By intercept, it means the tuning box takes in the old reading, computes based on the value of throttle-position & air flow, (and other built-in parameters possibly) and send out the modified O2 value. One end of the wire goes into the tuning box, while the O2 output signal (out of tuning box) goes into the ecu's O2 pin. The wires are soldered and properly-insulated.

4. The 5th wire is actually a grounding wire. so pretty straight forward.

All the wire connectors are properly done, and soldered. I don't think there's any way where the wire connector will be loose and cause a signal fallout.

If one is worry or panicky about the cut of O2 wire, then I reckon he will be more panicky and worried when he see the stock & new eprom chips being desoldered and resoldered back onto the ECU board respectively.

To revert back to stock, there's 2 way

1. Tune the tuning box to stock by turning off the dip switches.

2. Cut off the 2 wires that taps on the Airflow and Throttle-position signals. Then “rejoin” back the two O2 signal wires (by soldering).

#2 will be useful if you want to take out the tuning box and bring it to your new ride.

A Baby step to bodywork customisation

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As some of you are aware, I had a good respray job done on my car. The bodywork, particularly on the bodykit, however, is still some distance away from perfection, and although the spray painting shop had promised to fix them at another visit, I was too lazy to go back for a follow up.

By chance I happened to come across a shop that provides dent and scratch repair as one of their speciality. They have offered their service, and it is just a half-day job. Seeing a few cars (an audi TT, a vintage mini and an alfa) in their shop going through some minor and major “surgery”, I thought why not, and it might well be another option for the brothers here in the future.

The cleaniness and the setup of the workshop impressed me that it is also another reason why I decided to let them take up the job.

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The workshop has the machine that formulates the paint.

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My sideskirt in its worst shape, notice the blemishes on the edge, due to overspray of paint on the sealant :`(

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The first job is to remove the blemishes by scratching off the overspray.

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The craftman will feel the surface for any uneveness or roughness, to assess any further prep work required

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He then use the fibreglass material to fill the edge of the sideskirts. My request was very simple “Just get it done nicely” and the craftman decided that he will integrate my sideskirt with my car lower body like original.

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With the fibreglass material filled, the sideskirts were also wet-sanded to remove the clearcoat and paint.

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He then proceed with putty over the fibreglass filling, before wet-sanding it again.

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Finally, the craftman put on the last coat of putty, supposedly the finest grain polybest material, so that the surface will be smooth for the paint job.

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And before the paint job begins, the sideskirts are wet-sanded once more to ensure the surface is ready for painting.

Then comes the “most” important part of the preparation work just before the spray painting. The folks are masking out parts of the body so that they will not be stained with the new paint. Because the craftman has decided to create an integrated look, he has to paint not just the sideskirt, but partially on the lower part of car body (including the door sill area) in order to have the clean look. I thought it was a big paint job, quite drastic just for a “sideskirt blemish repair” but the craftman told me, “Ai Zai!”

Before proceeding for the last step, i.e. the paint spraying, the craftman formulates the paint according to my paint code, and despite a machinery-formulated paint job, the guy did not take any chance of color-mismatch, and carried out visual check.

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And the craftman doing the last preparatory work, ensuring that the spray-gun is in top-notch condition!

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Now came the fun part, and is actually the easiest part, or at least it seemed to be. It looked easy, but not without a steady hand, and 30 years of spray-painting experience.

1st coat of paint …

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2nd coat of paint …
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and finally another 2 coats of clear-coat.

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The “easiest” part is over, and now … before calling the day, the craftman needs to do abit of wetsanding and polishing to ensure that the new paint blends well with existing paint work. Bearing in mind that the whole work is not just on the sideskirt, but blending it with the rest of the car body, that covers the door steps and the fender ends.

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And finally, the work after a half-day effort.

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Overall, I was very pleased with the result. It might well be an easy job from the result, but it certainly didn't look like it when I see through the whole process. The numerous steps of putty, wet-sanding, painting, shows the level of details the craftman actually went through, and taking pride in his job. And he definitely treats the whole job, just like any other job assigned to him, like an art, and not just any ordinary paint work.

As I was so amazed at the outcome, I have actually extended the work the very next day to customise my front projektzwo front lip spoiler .. and part II will come very shortly

Part II continues

and the story continues …

the sideskirt repair made my front spoiler looks like a dirt!

so I brought my car in the next day, and again, the request was simple — “Just repair it” Well, back in my mind, I was planning for a full projektzwo customisation, but I decided to hold back that thoughts. Hence, I term this as baby step to full customisation project.

My projektzwo front lip spoiler in its worst shape …

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Without further hesitation, the craftman decides to do a stage-1 1-piece bumper. And here's the end result

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At the end of the day, my satisfaction level jump up easily by three-folds, and all the results pave the possible next steps for a full customisation of projektzwo front bumper … just like this one

Big thumbs up to the folks in Advance Scratch Master.

To round up the story …

While I was there, I saw an alfa 147 GTA zooming into the shop.

Owner stepped out, in his well-ironed shirt and pants, disclaimed *in hokkien* “Uncle, my sideskirt has a dent and scratch caused by my wife's heel!”

The master went over to assess the damage, and confidently declared, “It's a small job, but I will not just paint that small spot”

From where I was standing, I looked over, and I pondered to myself … If he is not going to just paint over that small little patch, which by the way, is less than a 5c coin in size, does it mean that he is going to spray the entire sideskirt, and how expensive the repair work will be?

The Alfa owner, without any hestitation, agreed to what the master has proposed, and give green light to work on the dent and scratch immediately.

Speaking to the Alfa owner, he told me that he is a regular patron to the shop, and always come whenever there is a scratch or a dent on his car. As a matter of fact, he drove all the way from Jurong to Paya Ubi, just to have a less than 5 cent coin-size dent & scratch repaired. Either he's nuts, or this master is really somebody! I told myself …

Without further delays, I see the master quickly patch up the dent, alot of wet-sanding on the damage area, and the area where he was supposed to spray a coat of paint over. With careful masking of the car body, he spray-paint on the damage area and intelligently expand the painting area that's bounded by some contour angle, instead of the entire side skirt.

When the paint was dried, some wet-sanding was done again to “join & blend” the new paint coat and the existing paint body seamlessly. A polish on the painted and wet-sanded area, complete the job finally, and it is just within 3 hours.

and the cost, $50 for a sideskirt repair, where the sideskirt looks like new, as if it's fully repainted.

The whole process just further re-impressed me that the people are really skilled to do the job that has high demand from their customers. In such a high demanding environment, they were able to stay focus and passionate of their works, shows how serious they are in satisfying all their walk-in customers.

My takeaway is this is one rare spray-painting business who's willing to invest in equipment and technology, while at the same time, harness on their people's skill and experience to create a work that's called an art, not a painted car body panel. Let's hope they will continue to drive in such good spirit and business philosophy as they settle in their new place at Kim Chuan road.

Click here for larger imageAuthor note: Author does not have any commerical interest in the said commercial entity, readers are advised to make their own judgment when making plan to transact deals with the entity concerned. Authors will not be at all liable for any costs or damages inflicted due to individual's own judgemental decisions.

Advance Scratch Master
53 Paya Ubi Industrial Park
Ubi Ave 1
Singapore 408934

Call Yong @ 67471531