1996 saab 900S

15 years old and still going strong.....ish.

Take one 15 year old Saab (Swedish), add one Bosch (German) alternator and you would think that you have a solid bit of engineering.

Or rather you would have if Bosch had not outsourced the bearings (the round and roundy bit for those not technically minded) to a third party………..NSK. Although I suppose that technically, we could blame the Japanese, since they now own the company.

The big Swede’s engine bay is normally whisper quiet and the new horrendous noise was finally identified as coming from the alternator, (there are 8 pulleys to chose from!) Being environmentally friendly (read skint), I thought that I would take it apart and see if it was economically repairable, rather than simply replacing it.

Imagine my disappointment to find that the failed components were the British bearings…..with NSK clearly stamped on the side, most likely made in my very own home town. Hitting the forums, I find that apparently it is a common failure point for this car.

saab bosch alternator for 900

Shiniest thing in the engine bay.........

But it is unfair for me to hit out at the poor blokes who made these bearings. I assume that they were only doing as they were told with the machines and materials supplied to them. I wonder if the real culprit is endless cost cutting to maintain margins but still drive down prices to win ever more contracts, in the relentless drive to expand and crush the competition.

There was a time when British engineering had no equal and in some fields it still doesn’t. But those fields appear to be getting smaller and smaller every year as more and more companies sacrifice quality to try to please the shareholders instead of the customer or ‘end user’ as we are known.

Unfortunately, it would take too long to wait for the new bearings to be posted out to Norway, so a brand new looking, reconditioned one, was mine in exchange for about a hundred Guineas. Being the second item to fail on this side of the engine; I can now put the long serpentine drive belt on and off with my eyes shut!

My recent experience shows that you don’t always get what you pay for with quality products, especially if they have an outsourcing policy and lets be realistic, these days, who doesn’t?

Caveat emptor…….. as they used to say

Stay well

About Ian

Handyman, humanitarian, inventor, blogger and finally a house husband looking after Cecilia, Julia, William near Hvalstrand in Asker, Norway.
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2 Responses to Disappointed…….

  1. Ian says:

    Hey Tim,
    You are right about the bearings of course, I guess that my point was that people who ‘smuggly’ buy German engineering don’t always get what they think they are buying because of outsourcing!

    It was interesting diagnosing the problem, the forums all indicated the belt tensioner, confirmed by the friendly Saab main dealer mechanic. “they always go” being the response. However, I bought a automotive “stethoscope” for want of a better description and that was mind blowing! Touching the metal probe to various bits on the engine yielded a whole range of curious and interesting rotational noises. With the scream from the alternator being very evident. Saved quite a bundle on not replacing the two “common” failure items first before realising that it was the alternator.

    Re tyres, they seem to last quite a long time here as 6 months of the year I run on a seperate “winter” set that don’t wear very much running on snow. Although my brother in law said that he replaces his winter tyres every 3 years regardless of tread depth.

    I actually need new “summer” tyres now, as the wear bars are close, might just see out the season though and might pick up a bargain in the end of summer, summer-tyre sales. Haven’t been here long enough to know how long is typical. Doesn’t seem to be any ‘budget’ tryre brands here either, most people, (me included) like the big, well tested and reviewed tyres. Although with most roads here being 40km to 90km per hour, they don’t exactly get as stressed as an English tyre on the M62 on a busy Friday afternoon at 90MPH!!

    Hope everything is OK with you guys with no lasting fallout (bad choice of word, sorry!) after the tsunami.
    Stay well

  2. Tim Etheridge says:

    Interesting article Ian.

    I agree with your sentiments regarding quality and workmanship; but… “Take one 15 year old Saab”! 15 years is a pretty good age and bearings are a wearing part. Anything metal against metal has got to wear, however good the quality, its just a question of how long before failure.

    On a side issue; how long are you expecting your tires to last?

    Keep writing! Your blog is always an interesting read.

I'd love to know what you think...