SAAB 96 V4 - Clutch Replacement.

The clutch release bearing had been making a grumbling noise for some time so the decision was taken to replace the whole clutch assembly.

The V4 engine can be removed from the car with or without the gearbox. The process shown here left the gearbox in the car and used a basic A-frame engine hoist.

New clutch parts.


The car was positioned under the engine hoist frame just in front of the car port.

The plan was to lift the engine out and then pull it under the car port to work on the clutch.

Car under hoist


The bonnet was remove by pulling out the 'R' clips on each hinge, unplugging the washer pipe and lifting it clear.

The front panel was removed by undoing the four screws shown on the right.

The bonnet release cable was disconnected from the catch mechanism and the headlights unplugged.

The coolant was drained into a suitable container by undoing the drain tap on the bottom of the radiator (11mm). The battery was also disconnected (13mm).

Top front grill securing Screws


Older cars with the chrome grill have a clamp on each end which can be accessed behind the headlight trim. This can just be loosened and the clamp swung clear.

Newer cars with the plastic grill have a simpler self-tapping screw in place of this arrangement.

Front panel clamp screw


The radiator was removed by undoing top and bottom hoses and the two lower securing bolts (and on this car unplugging the electric fan). It was lifted clear with expansion tank in situ.

The more ancillaries removed from the engine the easier it would be to manoeuvre and so the alternator and mounting bracket were removed by undoing the 13mm bolts shown.

The air box was also removed to make way for the hoist.

Alternator bolts


Other items to be disconnected were the throttle linkage, choke cable, brake vacuum hose, exhausts, heater hoses, coil leads, fuel pipe and the connection pipe which ran round the back of the engine.

This pipe was a wrestle to remove as three hose connections have to be separated at once, but removal was needed to allow the engine and gearbox to slide apart.

The engine steady bar was removed and the gearbox steady disconnected.

The top two bell housing bolts were removed and the two front engine mounts undone.

Connection pipe to be removed.


The engine hoist was lowered and connected to the exhaust studs via a "welded link" chain.

The engine was carefully raised to sit at and angle with the sump clear of the front valance.

The exhaust was difficult to disconnect here, but with some gentle lifting and moving of the engine from side to side it came clear.

Lifting the engine and gearbox


With the engine held in this position and propped up on some chocks, the starter motor was removed using a 14mm socket on a long extension bar.

Extracting the start motor


The gearbox was now supported by pushing some wooden spacers under the front edge. Total height of these spacers was 2.5"

The remaining bell housing bolts were now undone using a 17mm spanner


The engine could now be pulled forward (or the car pushed backwards) to lift the engine clear.

Engine out


The engine was lowered on to a home-made dolly built from cheap pine timber to the dimensions shown.

Key dolly dimensions.

Timbers are 4" by 2"

Roof bolts used to hold casters and wood together.

Engine on Dolly with wooden blocks under each engine mount.


The old grumbling bearing could now be pulled out, by removing the top and bottom 'R' clips.

During re-assembly, the new 'R' clips which came with the replacement bearing couldn't be made to fit, so the old clips were re-used.

Old bearing

Comparison of retaining clip designs


To remove the old clutch plates the six bolts shown were removed. To stop the flywheel turning a ratchet strap was looped over the engine body to pull the flywheel teeth into the wooden frame of the dolly.


The new friction plate was placed on the flywheel noting the orientation marked on it, and a home-made alignment tool turned from a scrap piece of bar, was used to centre it.


Alignment tool critical dimensions are shown here.

The tool would have been easier to use if it had been longer overall. A surplus handle was added to compensate.


With the clutch friction plate centred the pressure plate was bolted into place tightening in sequence, the flywheel being held as before.

Then the engine was lifted back up and presented to the gearbox.

Getting the gearbox shaft to slide through the clutch plate required care so as not to bend the gearbox shaft.

Once the end of the gearbox shaft had entered the clutch the engine was lifted or lowered to get the angle correct. The car was put into first gear and rocked to rotate the shaft until it all dropped into place.

The bell housing bolts were replaced and tightened; before lowering the engine, it was propped up and the starter replaced.


With the gearbox chocks removed, the major obstacle in lowering the engine was the exhaust. Careful engine positioning and easing of the exhaust past the manifold studs was needed to get it into place.

At this point the clutch was checked so that with the car in gear it wouldn't move until the pedal was pushed and then it would roll.


All the wires, cables and hoses were reconnected. A light smear of liquid soap in the hose ends made this much easier.

The connecting pipe shown here wa a fiddle to fit, trying to get all three hoses to engage at once and slide into place. Liquid soap and perseverance were needed.

The alternator was replaced and the radiator put back, ensuring the short bolts were used to avoid puncturing the radiator side tanks.

The engine and expansion tank were filled up with coolant and the engine started.


The engine was run up to normal operating temperature. With the heater set to hot, the system was bled using the screw (11mm) on the heater matrix, and then the radiator was topped up.

The front panel and bonnet were replaced to complete the job.

Bleeding the cooling system


The clutch was adjusted so that it had the most travel available to make changing gear easier, but without the release bearing contacting the pressure plate all the time.

This image shows the end of the clutch push rod which can be viewed by peeling back the dust cover.

Pushing hard in the direction shown allowed the free play at the slave cylinder to be checked. Movement was needed between the resting position of the push rod and the release bearing touching the clutch, however this clearance was minimised for easy gear changes.

Checking clutch free play

Care was taken to establish that the release bearing was not turning all the time, as this could cause it to fail early. With the engine running the clutch push rod was pushed by hand to 'feel' the  release bearing clearance and to detect when the bearing contacted the clutch.

The resting position of the clutch arm was adjusted using the screw circled. Once the free play was set, the lock nut was used to hold the adjuster in place.

That's it.

Check the lights work, and then test drive.