Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 16:35:43 -0700
From: RED <>
Subject: 1996 900 SE Story

I've never posted here before, but I thought I would relate this tale of woe to anyone who's interested. In June 1996, I was driving west across Nebraska in my new 1996 900 SE Turbo. About 150 mi west of Lincoln, the instruments began to flicker and the radio went off. In a few seconds, black smoke began to pour from the dashboard and then from under the rear shelf. We stopped and bailed out, but shortly the smoke stopped. At that point, the car would crank but not start and nothing inside the car worked. Got someone to stop and used their cell phone to call Saab Road Service. They arranged a tow back to Lincoln, where the nearest dealer was located. After 3 months in a rental Dodge Intrepid, the Saab was fixed and delivered to me in Ohio from the Nebraska dealer. Saab paid out many thousands of dollars for the tow, the rental, and the repair. In short, they treated me very well or as well as was possible in the circumstances. The problem turned out to be, in my opinion, a design flaw. Behind the radio chassis runs a bundle of wires. At least one of those wires is a hot wire that has only a high amperage breaker. The bundle had rubbed against the metal radio shell, wearing away insulation until the hot wire made contact with the shell. As you know, current will run to ground wherever ground is available. The only ground to the radio is--guess where--through the antenna which is, of course, mounted on the rear fender. The antenna wire apparently cannot carry enough current to blow the breaker on the high-amperage circuit that the worn wire was part of. It can, however, carry enough to become like a toaster element. As a result, the antenna wire burned, melted, or charred everything it was in contact with--from the plastic of the dash to the backing on the carpets and mats, soundproofing rubber foam, and insulating material, plus its own insulation all the way along. The heat was intense enough that it burned not only along the wire, but 3-4 inches to either side because the heat was trapped under all the carpeting. Radio speakers were all toasted too--not sure how. The Saab mechanic said that he believed if air had been able to get to the leocations of the toasting process under the carpets, the car would have become a cinder. Has anyone heard of a similar event? Just a suggestion: If anyone has work done in the dash near the radio shell, ask the technician to make sure that the wire bundle is secured so it can't rub against the sharp-edged radio shell. The radio in this car was replaced on warranty so there's a distinct possibility that had something to do with it. I thought there might have been a service bulletin, considering that Saab laid out about $10 000 on this mishap. All interior carpets, insulation, and soundproofing material, plus the entire audio system had to be replaced. All of the soft stuff had to be ordered and shipped from Sweden, which is what caused the big delay. The local mechanic says no bulletin. Seems that a separate ground strap for the radio would be in order. Bob (RED)

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