Draken Update: The Small Things Make A Big Difference

When we had last left the Draken, it had come home with me and it still needed a few things fixed before it could be used on a regular basis.  First and foremost was the a malfunctioning blinker/hazard light system and second was the noxious odors of gasoline whenever the the Draken was topped up with fuel.  These are problems that could have been fixed with a few expensive trips to a local Swedish car mechanic, but, being a tightwad, I opted to fix them myself. 

Using your arm to signal turns while driving around in your own neighborhood gets old very quickly, especially when your kids’ friends start to ask them why their dad is always pointing out his car window.  Hand signals are cool if you are driving a Model A — but anything else means you are too cheap/lazy/incompetent to fix your blinkers.  I have been accused of being all of those things (sometimes at once) but this wasn’t going to be one of those times.

First up, I took a look at the dreaded Saab 99 under-hood fuse box, aka the source of all evil Saab electrical gremlins.  A quick check of the fuses showed that none were blown, so I “rotated” the fuses per the previous owner’s suggestion to make sure all contacts were good.  Still, no blinky blinky.  I pulled off the blinker relay and took it apart to reveal a clean and newish relay — some contact cleaner and back it went — not the problem.

It is also possible that a few nasty bulbs or bulb holders could have been the problem, so I pulled all four signal lamps and checked them with a cheap jump box.  Everything looked good.

Back to the fuse panel, I took the advice of some Saab forum folks and started a simple fuse box reconditioning project by cleaning the fuse terminals off with a wire wheel mounted on a Dremel.  Looking better and the blinkers worked for the first time for a few minutes, but the success was short lived. 

Now we are getting to the heart of the problem.  The exposed spade terminals in the back of the fuse panel have seen 30+ years of moisture, which is California isn’t that bad, but it has still done some damage.  I pulled each spade off, cleaned it with contact cleaner and a wire brush/sandpaper and reassembled with a healthy dab of dielectric grease. 

Presto — the blinkers are back in action.  I also replaced the non-returning blinker switch with a switch provided in the spares pile from the previous owner.

Next up, was solving the pungent scent of gasoline that only happened after filling up the car with gas and especially powerful when turning left.  I pulled the gas filler cap off the car (it is amazing how simple a job like this is on an old car, a similar task on a modern car would have taken special tools and a lift) and noticed a thin crack in the filler cap on the back side of the filler. 

On a “normal” car you might be able to buy a new filler cap from an autoparts store, dealership or specialty parts supplier, but on the Saab 99 you’ll need to scour junkyards or fix it yourself.  I had been dying for an excuse to use my Harbor Freight plastic welder, so what is the worst that can happen?

The plastic welder works just the way it sounds, and is basically a big soldering iron with a flat triangle shaped tip.  Just heat up the existing plastic to be fixed and use the provided plastic like a welding rod (zip ties will work for some types of plastic too), being careful to avoid inhaling too much toxic smoke. Of course I used this on a clean, dry and gasoline free filler cap – please, kids, don’t try this at home without taking proper precautions. 

The finished product of “welding” passed the simple water pressure test without leaks, but I decided to use some kind of gasoline resistant “Seal All” on top of the plastic welded area just for good measure.  Once reinstalled into the Draken and zero toxic gasoline smells anymore.  We’ll see how long the repair lasts and perhaps visit a junk yard or two looking for replacement pieces in the meantime.

All of the DT project car posts (including the Draken, DTM5, Schmetterling, and 242) can be found in one spot by clicking here on this handy link..