How to Make a 1997 Saab 900SE Turbo Faster

Written by brad swain
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How to Make a 1997 Saab 900SE Turbo Faster
Replacing the factory software in a Saab 900 can give it as much as a 30 horsepower increase. (Close up of board with communication cicuits and jumpers image by Tjobbe from Fotolia.com)

The Saab 900SE has a 2.0-litre, turbocharged engine. From the factory, the 900SE produces 185 horsepower. Saab designed the 900SE with the layman in mind. Its Trionic 5 ECU, which governs the 900's engine system, is designed to accommodate low-grade gasoline and oil. With a few simple tools and the right knowledge, a driving enthusiast can unlock as much as 35 horsepower without replacing any of the car's factory hardware by simply installing a reprogrammed ECU.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • 10mm socket wrench
  • Aftermarket ECU

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Set the emergency hand brake, remove the key from the ignition switch and open the bonnet.

  2. 2

    Disconnect the negative (black) battery lead from the battery terminal with an adjustable wrench to prevent any possibility of shock.

  3. 3

    Open the passenger's side door and remove the floor mat.

  1. 1

    Loosen and remove the lower dashboard screw with a 10mm socket wrench. The screw is located by the door frame where the carpet meets the dashboard, across from the door speaker.

  2. 2

    Pull back the carpet to access ECU, being careful to avoid creasing the carpet.

  3. 3

    Loosen the screw holding the ECU in place with the 10mm socket wrench. The ECU is a rectangular silver box with a black and red lever on the bottom and is mounted under the dashboard.

  4. 4

    Move down the black part of the lever to release the wire coupling then disconnect it.

  5. 5

    Slide out the factory ECU.

  1. 1

    Slide the aftermarket ECU into its slot.

  2. 2

    Line up the wiring coupler and plug it into the new ECU. Release the handle into its closed position.

  3. 3

    Replace the 10mm screw that holds the ECU in the bracket. Replace the carpeting then reinstall the lower dashboard screw.

  4. 4

    Reconnect the battery lead with the adjustable wrench then close the bonnet.

  5. 5

    Start the car and take it for a test drive, running it at low speeds first then progressively working up to higher speeds.

Tips and warnings

  • There are several companies that offer "plug and play" ECUs online including AbbotRacing.net, BSRUK.co.uk and Nordic, which can be purchased at GenuineSaab.com.
  • Most tuning companies recommend using fuel rated at or above an 89-octane content level and synthetic motor oil after upgrading the ECU in a Saab.
  • Installing aftermarket software will usually void any existing warranty on your vehicle.
  • Only "Stage 1" ECUs can be installed without any additional hardware. Installing a higher stage ECU without installing the proper hardware can damage your vehicle.
  • New ECUs need time to "learn" the most effective way to mix fuel and air in your car. The vehicle may jerk slightly under heavy acceleration. This is normal and should correct itself after a few days of driving.

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