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The thought of replacing the fuel pump on a classic Saab 900 can be really intimidating. Fortunately, the engineers at Saab made it as painless of a process as possible.
The first thing to do, is open up your hatch if you have a hatchback, or trunk if you are in a convertible. The process is the same for both, you just have a little more headroom in a hatchback. We are going to be removing the plywood cover that hides the spare and protects the fuel pump cover.
If you look, there are two T15 torx screws that are holding it down. We are going to be removing them both. If you do not have a set of torx drivers, you are going to want to pick up a set, Saab used the EVERYWHERE. Once you have them removed, set them aside somewhere you won’t lose them.
Once those are out unlatch the cover, and pull the whole assembly towards you. There are a pair of tabs along the back that hold it in place and they need to be disengaged before you can pull it out. After it moves towards you, fold it up, pull it carefully out of the way and set it aside.
If you have never looked under here before, there are a couple of things worth noting. In the classic Saab 900, the fuel pump and fuel sending unit are separate. The small black rubber cover on the right is covering the fuel sending unit access, and the larger grey one on the left is covering the fuel pump access. If your fuel gauge isn’t working but your car still runs, then the issue is with your sending unit, not the pump.
However since we are here to remove the fuel pump, lets go ahead and pull off that grey cover. Once you have that set out of the way, you can finally see the fuel pump itself. On top of the pump there are two fuel lines, one heading out towards your fuel filter and the other returning from the engine. There is also the electrical power, coming from the fuse block.
First remove the electrical plug, and then both of the fuel lines. When you pull the fuel lines, it is very likely that they will spray a small amount of gas so be sure to watch for that. I have already removed these ones which is why it looks like they are coming out so easily. When you first go to remove them, they will not want to come out. Pull them slowly with firm pressure, slightly wiggling them back and forth. If you try twisting them too hard you can break the connectors on both the fuel line and the fuel pump itself, so be careful.
Once you have everything out, it is time to remove the plastic screw ring that is holding the pump into the tank. This can be a real pain if this has never been removed before. Some folks will take a screwdriver and hammer and just beat the crap out of the ring to try to get it out, but if you do that you will destroy it. Not to mention hitting the tank that hard, that often can break no only the ring, but the fuel pump itself and if you are extremely unlucky the banging can also break off the fuel sending unit. Believe me, you do not want to have that happen.
So what do you do? Well, you make a tool of course! Go to your local hardware store and pick up a four inch PVC clean-out adapter. They are all slightly different, and if you get lucky it will drop down perfectly into the hole and the built in ridges that it has will perfectly grab the plastic ribs of the screw ring, making your life a lot easier. However if you are like me, the clean-out will just barely not fit. In that case what you need to do is set the adapter on top of the screw ring, take a permanent marker and mark the location of each rib all of the way around the adapter.
After you have them all marked, grab an angle grinder and make a slot at each one of the marks. The slots should be somewhere between one eighth and one quarter of an inch wide. You don’t want it to be super tight, you just want to be able to grab as many of the ribs as possible. Once you have those ground out clean it up, and then drill a pair of one half inch holes at the top of the adapter. That will allow you to pass a screwdriver or piece of rebar into it so that you can get the leverage you need to unscrew it.
Now that we have that tool built, slide the adapter onto the ring, and with firm, even pressure unscrew the ring. It will not want to turn, but with enough leverage it will slowly start to move. Once you get the ring to move, you are going to want to stop for a minute and grab a shop vac. There is likely several years worth of dirt and dust in this area, and you are going to want to clean it out before you open up the fuel tank and drop all of that grime into your hopefully clean gas. Once you have that all vacuumed up, go ahead and continue removing the ring, and then pull it up and out of the way. Believe it or not, that was the hardest part of this entire process.
Once you have the ring out, grab the top of the pump and carefully pull straight up. You will be able to get it pulled out about three inches pretty easily, at which point it is going to stop and feel like you can’t pull it out any further. Looking at this picture, you can see this fuel line that goes down the outside of the fuel pump. That right there is what is binding you up. Reach in with your fingers, and grab the holes on top of the pump housing with your fingertips to get a better grip, and then just wiggle around a bit until you get the perfect angle and the entire pump assembly should come out another three inches or so. At this point, there is a small spout on the bottom of the pump that is holding you up. Pull the pump out as far as it will go, and then tilt it over until you find the right angle and the whole assembly will come up and out of the tank.
Make sure that you have a pan ready to set the pump into, no matter how much you let it drain there will still be a little fuel left in the pump that will drain out when you set the pump down, and you will want to catch it before it spills over the back of your car. As with everything else, installation is the reverse of the removal. It should go a bit quicker though, and after a couple of times doing this I can swap a fuel pump out of a car in around fifteen minutes.
This video doesn’t cover how to determine if your fuel pump is bad, as that is an entirely different subject that can take up a whole video itself. Let me know if that is something you would like to see in the comments, and if there is interest in the subject I will gladly get that video put together.
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