In the interest of full disclosure, and fully making the use of this publishing platform, I humbly submit my first (and last) article on CLUTCHSPIN.
This being Deadspin, you probably clicked this thinking it would be about the vague and often-undefinable issues surrounding athletic performance under pressure. Do the stat-heads have it right, that there is no such thing as clutch performance? Do our gut instincts that some folks just seem to feel less pressure have some merit? Are the stats just not advanced enough to reflect what we think we feel?
I'm tired of that discussion, so this post will address none of those issues and instead will offer a detailed, easy-to-follow guide to replacing a clutch on a 1979-1993 (1994 for convertibles) Saab 900 Turbo. If you are experienced with this job and you don't encounter broken or stuck bolts or other roadblock, this can be done in maybe 90 minutes. If you're like me, and every car you work on is a beat-to-death nightmare, it may take much longer. Note, this is being (was written) from memory (last night), with a glass of Old Granddad in one hand and a cat trying to sit on my bladder. All typos and missstatements are intentional, just to mess with you.
The first step in this job is acquiring a 1979-1993 Saab 900. That shouldn't be too hard, Saab made a metric shitload of them, and they're dirt cheap now. Look for a 5-speed, Turbo model, preferably from a southern state, so it won't be rusty.
Now that you have the car, the first step is removing the hood of the car. It is easy on these cars, the hood hinges forward, and two arms that pivot up by the radiator are where it hinges - pop the release lever in the car, and open the hood. Locate the two bolts that hold the hood shell onto the arms. With a 12mm (I think) wrench, undo the two bolts. Disconnect the windshield squirter hoses. Place a towel on the roof of the car and lift the hood up off the arms, and, maybe with helper, put the hood on the roof of the car. Now that you have the hood off, the pic below is representative of what you'll see:
IF you have a turbo model, get out a slotted screwdriver, or a 7mm socket on a 1/4 drive ratchet and undo all the hose clamps securing the crap in the way of the clutch cover. You'll be removing all of the little hoses that come from the turbo wastegate actuator (1) as well as the big pipe from the turbo outlet to the intercooler (2) (note, if your car is an 8 valve turbo - a pre-'84 car - you will not have an intercooler, and that's a shame) the pipe from the turbo inlet to the air filter (3) and the pipe from the intercooler to the intake manifold (4) and the airbox and air mass meter (5) and intercooler. Get these out of there.
Next, remove the clutch cover. It's this black plastic thing held on with 3 10mm bolts in horribly inconvenient locations. Once you have removed them, remove the cover. It's a pain and appears to be a physical impossibility, like some bar puzzle. You'll get it eventually. Once you have done all this, you'll see something like the pic below:
You'll want to have your helper press the clutch down in the car. As they do that, the hydraulic slave cylinder (9) will press a rod (inside the black plastic ribbed thing) against the pressure plate fingers (5). A gap will appear between the fingers and the edge of the pressure plate in the area indicated as (3). Place your clutch spacer tool in there. If you don't have one, you can use a piece of rope, thick wire, or an old spark plug lead. Your helper can let off the clutch, and voila, the clutch is staying disengaged!
Next, there are a load of 13mm bolts (1) around the outside flange of the pressure plate body (10) where it bolts on to the flywheel (2). Undo them. Yes, you'll need to find a way to rotate the flywheel to access the bolts at the bottom. If the car is in neutral, you can just turn it by hand.
Once the pressure plate is unbolted from the flywheel, you'll want to turn your attention to the three 1/4 inch hex cap screws (6) securing the slave cylinder (9) to the transmission. Undo them. They're a pain - good luck.
Now that the pressure plate and slave cylinder are loose, undo the springy rod holding the input shaft cover (8). Remove the input shaft cover. Inside there, there will be a shaft with a little plastic cross screwed into the end of it. Unscrew the plastic thing, screw a 13mm bolt part way into the end of the shaft, and with a pry bar, pop the shaft loose. It won't come out all they way, but that's fine.
With a prybar, loosen the pressure plate assembly off of the locating dowels (4) on the flywheel.
If you are lucky, the whole shebang - the pressure plate, the friction plate under the pressure plate and the slave cylinder will be able to be wiggled out and up because the hydraulic line(7) has a flexible rubber bit at the bottom, allowing for movement. It'll look like this:
Congratulations, you have the clutch out
Obtain a new clutch kit (like, $150, maybe online) and reassemble it, knowing what you learned above.
For reference: the part labeled 1 is the starter motor. When you engage the starter, a big electric motor turns a gear which engages the teeth on the flywheel (3) - this turns the engine over until it starts (turning the key to "on" also does a load of other stuff necessary to allow the car to start, but that's another post). The part labeled (2) is the compressor-side inlet of the turbo. Notice the shiny wear mark on the flywheel - that's where the clutch friction disk contacts the flywheel. If that is pitted, or badly damaged, you may need to take off the flywheel and have it surfaced at a machine shop. The part named 4 is the input shaft/transfer chain housing of the transmission. Basically, the engine turns the flywheel, which turns the clutch, which when engaged, sends the power through a shaft which turns a big-ass sprocket which turns some big-ass chains which send the power down into the gearbox for further processing into the end products of forward (and backward) motion. All manual transmission-ed cars do something similar, but not in the exact same fashion as this car.
Thank you for reading CLUTCHSPIN. I hope you enjoyed it.