Tip & How-To about Saab 9 3

9 3 Convertible Driver door lock siezed, key wont turn


Driver door lock had been siezed for a year or so through lack of use after I had repaired the central locking. The moral of course, is that I should have used the key manually every now and then to keep the lock cylinder freed up.
I had an issue a while back trying to get into the car when the car battery died, so I decided to make sure that I didn't get caught out like that again.
I tried penetrating oil etc, but the lock was stuck fast and I didnt want to chance breaking my key.
The trunk lock on my other Saab (9-5) was also siezed, so as the lock on it is very easy to access, I had a go at trying to free it off.
Over 2 days, I left it soaking in diesel, drowned it in penetrating oil but it still wouldn't free off.
Taking a close look at the cylinder, I saw there's a small machined slot in the end of it (see picture). The slot is not connected to any linkage.
Rather than trying to force it using my key, I gave it a helping hand by using a screwdriver in the slot and working it gently but firmly back and forth. It worked a treat. A bit more penetrating oil and exercise and soon the lock worked like new.
Used brake cleaner to flush out the penetrating oil and blew it out with an air line. (A can of compressed air would do just as well).
Puffed in some proprietary graphite lock lube and exercised the lock to make sure the innards were properly lubed - Like wise, the outer cylinder, as that's where the problem originated. Refitted it to the 9-5 and turned my attention to the driver door lock on my 9-3.

Refer to the picture below before you start

Tools/ materials required: Nitrile gloves, Torx driver set, Small and large flat bladed screwdriver, trim removal tool, craft knife, penetrating oil, brake cleaner, can of compressed air or garage compressor, graphite powder lock lubricant, ruler, pencil, 2.5 mm and 9 mm drill, thin panel wire, masking tape and some plastic sheeting, touch-up paint, Fir tree type panel fixing clip suitable for 9 mm hole, small amount of sealer (Tiger seal or silicone), small torch, patience, beer and/or whisky.

First thing is that accessing the 9-3's door lock is a whole different ball game, whether it's to remove the cylinder or getting a screwdriver into the slot.
Very awkward tight space to work in, window glass / mechanism etc gets in the way of everything. Not impossible to do , but a right pig, especially with arthritis getting worse as I get older. So here's how I solved my problem....

- Mask off the area on the outer door directly below the lock to protect the paintwork when you start spraying penetrating oil
- Apply penetrating oil to the cylinder innards via key slot and especially to the gap that surrounds the lock barrel. Small amounts and often are better than drowning it. Leave it to do its thing and reapply as required. The longer it gets, the better it works. Clean any excess as you go. Wear good quality nitrile gloves (they also help avoid scratching when you start poking around inside the door panel)
- With the window closed (Up), fully open the door
- Prise off the outer plastic cover on the interior pull handle and remove 2 x Torx Screws
- Remove 3 x Torx screws along bottom edge of panel
- Prise off plastic cover in the centre of the metal door handle and remove 1 x Torx screw, then CAREFULLY remove the handle by pulling forwards and outwards - there's a small hook that attaches to a metal pull rod which runs through a couple of guide clips towards the door mounted lock mechanism. (Important to treat these clips gently as, if broken, the rod slips out of its guide and its effective length changes. As the interior metal handle has limited physical movement, this results in failure to physically operate the latching mechanism)
- Remove 2 x trim clips from the plastic trim on which the electric mirror switches are mounted (A dental pick is ideal to pop the centre pins). This part is optional if you have removed this trim before and you are confident and careful.
- Removing the panel from the door: Starting from the bottom, pull the panel outwards until you feel resistance. There are 2 trim clips on either vertical side, which are best popped using a trim tool or a wide bladed screwdiver padded at the end.
- With the fixings now removed, the panel can be taken off by pulling outwards and upwards over the door tab. Kinda rotational movement if you get what I mean.
- Carefully peel off the inner skin. Gentle heat with a hairdryer helps soften the adhesive, and a sharp craft knife comes in handy too.
- Use a small torch to see what's going on inside the panel. There are 2 short pull rods connecting the door latch mechanism to 1) The actual door handle and 2) The lock cylinder
- Identify the short pull rod connecting the lock cylinder. It's the one nearest the front of the car and it's the also the more accessible of the two.
- Disconnect this rod from the door latch mechanism. It's held in place by a small plastic rivet that is easily broken. The trick is to first rotate the rivet by 1/4 turn so that the rod disengages from the rivet and then will simply pull out from the rivet.
- As per the picture, you will see a small machined slot in the end of the lock cylinder. That's where you can insert a screwdriver to provide more leverage instead of forcing / snapping your key when trying to free off the siezed-up cylinder - IF you can get to it (which is where my arthritis kinda got in the way)

My solution: Drill an access hole directly in front of the slot. Detail as per the attached composite picture.
With the screwdriver in the slot, gently tap the end of the screwdriver using a small hammer to help initially break the built-up corrosion.
Turn the driver back and forth, little bit at a time. Apply more penetrating oil to the outer barrel as required when freeing the lock.

Cleanup now required....I used brake cleaner / compressed air as per above and then applied graphite lube.
- Reattached the pull rod, turned the rivet back in place to lock it
- Checked that the long horizontal pull rod attaching the inner door handle to the latch mechanism was correctly running through its guide clips
- Reattached the inner membrane and refitted the panel. The original adhesive was still good to re-use
Refitting the inner door handle correctly can be a bit tricky. I used an open-ended loop of thin panel wire threaded through the end of the pull rod to firstly pull the rod towards the front of the car (frontwards rather than outwards to avoid disengaging the pull rod from its guide clips). Slipped the handle back in the recess, making sure that the "tongue" of the handle was engaged in the loop at the end of the pull rod, and refitted its Torx screw.
I treated and plugged the newly drilled hole using a fir-tree panel clip as per the attached picture.
Job done....and it all happened because I had failed to use my key every now and then.

Normally, I'd now *** off to the village pub and smugly quaff a beer or three and a few drams in celebration, but with all this COVID lockdown thing putting the kybosh on that, I parked my **** on a garden chair and sat amazed at the fact that the soft top is actually down, courtesy of the uncharacteristically fine Scottish weather. With a bottle of malt at hand, of course...

PS: as regards COVID, I haven't yet come up with a solution to the problem of how to down a few drams while wearing a mask. So needless to say, I got pleasantly hammered in self-isolation.

PPS: I hope that this "short" guide will be of some use to someone, and that more importantly, everyone will take their hats off and raise their glasses in respect to the dedicated sacrifice that our health service workers are making in combating this vicious and indiscriminate pandemic. Slainte !!

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