Dear Tom and Ray:
I took my 2001 Saab 9-5 2.3L Turbo from Minnesota to the PHILIPPINES. This car has always been like a bad boyfriend -- he treats me bad, doesn't work when I need him to and takes all my money, but I keep him around because he's so darn pretty. But the Saab is having some real problems with the heat in Manila that I can't resolve, and since I'm pretty certain I'm the ONLY person with a Saab in the Philippines, I could use some help. Both radiator fans seem to be working; I've replaced the water pump, the thermostat, the serpentine belt, all the idler pulleys and had the radiator flushed. No one can figure out why this car keeps overheating!! Most mechanics just scratch their heads (if they'll even look at it) while a crowd of curious men gathers to look under the hood to marvel at how tightly packed all the parts are (which helps me not at all). What should I do? Sometimes this car is fine; other times (like when it idles in the not insubstantial Manila traffic for 30 minutes or more) it's overheating and spewing water everywhere. HELP! I'm a Saab owner in the Saab-less Philippines!
Ray: Gee, Rebecca, you sure have taken this Saab out of its element. I mean, this car comes from Sweden, the land of glaciers and fjords and layers upon layers of polar fleece. And you're asking it to adapt to the land of flip-flops and wide-brim hats.
Tom: But even in 100 degree heat, the Saab shouldn't overheat. So something is clearly wrong. And, unfortunately, based on your description, I think you have a blown head gasket.
Ray: And that's probably beyond the scope of the guys who are marveling at how tightly packed your engine is.
Tom: But you might as well let someone try to fix it, Rebecca. I mean, you're never going to ship this car back to the United States, right? At some point, it's going to become part of the coral reef system in Manila Bay. The question is, does that happen now, or can you drive it for a few more years first?
Ray: So pick the mechanic you have the most faith in, and have him try to replace the head gasket for you. It's a big job. You'll obviously have to mail order the parts, which will cost you a few hundred bucks.
Tom: But if nothing else, you'll give those guys some great stuff to marvel over for a few days, as they watch all those parts come out of that tiny little engine compartment. And then watch your guy try to fit as many of them as he can get back in there.
Ray: And, who knows? When it's over, they might end up with enough left-over parts to build you another Saab!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)