The Saab 9-5 is a very popular car to buy used because of the luxury vs price ratio. However, whenever cars end up in the “dirt cheap” realm, people decide to forgo maintenance, and you end up with a beater. It doesn’t have to be that way! We sell tons of parts for the 9-5 to help make it feel as upscale as it deserves (after all, it did cost upwards of $50K when it was new!), and one of the biggest single areas that can transform the way one drives and feels on the road has to do with the subframe bushings.
Article updated on 10/28/21. Original publishing date 12/05/21
What Are Subframe Bushings?
Meant as a buffer between the road and the body, the little rubber mounting bushings take a lot of abuse. For one, all of the lower suspensions bolt to it. The engine also mounts to it, as well as the complete drivetrain, brakes, steering, cooling… Bottom line, when these little guys go bad, so does the quality of your ride.
Flat or broken subframe bushings can transmit a ton of road vibration into the chassis of the car. It can also destroy the effectiveness of the suspension geometry to do its job, as well as the engine mounts. If your Saab bangs and crashes over harsh and uneven roads, or feels a little wallowey from the front end, put the car up on jack stands and grab a crowbar. If you can put it up between the subframe of the car and the body and easily shift the entire subframe around, you’re looking at doing your subframe bushings.
Polyurethane, Hardened Rubber, or OEM Subframe Bushings?
Rubber subframe bushings do a decent job as long as you use your Saab as a people mover, and nothing else. OEM bushings are designed primarily for comfort and longevity. If you want something more than that, you’ll need to look into the aftermarket segment. Going beyond OEM bushings leaves you with two options — hardened rubber or polyurethane.
Hardened rubber is a midway solution between stock OEM and polyurethane bushings. With hardened rubber, you’re getting a stiffer ride, but one that is still somewhat comfortable. However, even though the types of rubber compounds used in these bushings differ from the stuff used in OEM ones, they are still prone to all the same issues that standard rubber bushings are prone to.
On the other hand, there are polyurethane bushings that simply remove rubber degradation as a variable from the equation. They are super stiff, which removes any suspension play and greatly improves the handling of the car. We’ve written a complete piece on the pros and cons of poly bushings if you’re interested in learning more on this subject.
How to Replace Subframe Bushings?
Replacing bushings is rarely a fun job. Historically, replacing subframe bushings on a Saab 9-5 meant dropping the subframe out of the car, which was a huge job (for the reason mentioned before, nearly everything on the front of the car is bolted on it) and required a press. However, through some experience being around experts, another method presented itself that we thought we would give a try.
To do it, you need a hole saw style drill bit, a sawzall, and a spare floor jack. You will also need a set of Polyurethane Subframe Bushings, which we offer in both Powerflex and Proparts. Don’t fret, in our experience putting polyurethane bushings in this position does not degrade the ride quality, only improvements are allowed here! We’ve also written a thorough review of the Powerflex Polyurethane bushings if you’re looking for first-hand impressions. Anyways, below is a how-to video on how to perform this upgrade, but we’ve also included the steps in a written form.
Step 1 – Raise the Car
Raise the car high on the tallest jack stands you have or use a lift. Make sure everything is very secure, be safe.
Step 2 – Make Room
Remove the rear support bracket from the exhaust tunnel, as well as the belt guard.
Step 3 – Remove the Mounting Bolts
Take the mounting bolts completely out of the four rear bushings. We don’t need to do the fronts as there is little to no play in these. This is typical. You can still change the fronts if you want to.
Step 4 – Loosen the Subframe Bolts
Loosen the two front subframe bolts but don’t take them completely out.
Step 5 – Cut the Bushings
Use a 1 1/8in holesaw drill bit to slice the rubber centers out of the rear four subframe bushings
Step 6 – Cut the Outer Races
Finish them off by cutting the outer races that are left in the subframe with a reciprocating saw (Sawzall). Be careful not to nick the housing.
Step 7 – Install New Bushings
Put a new greased-up Poly bushing above one of the holes (whether it be ProParts or Powerflex, doesn’t matter) with the thicker lip facing up. Make sure it doesn’t have the center metal part in, the bushing needs to use that room to flex. Use the weight of the car as your press, and apply pressure to the subframe directly under the bushing with a floor jack. When all goes to plan, the bushing will pop in with an extremely satisfying *PLONK*. Repeat on the other three.
Step 8 – Install the Central Metal Piece
Install the central metal part of the bushing on all four, and slide the metal flat washer on top of the bushing between the subframe and the body of the car. This will give the bushing something smooth to interface with and keep it from tearing under stress.
Step 9 – Bolts and Hardware
Install all of the bolts and use new hardware when possible. The workshop manual states 75ft/lbs plus 45 degrees (yes they are stretch bolts).
Step 10 – Go For a Test Drive
After everything is tight, go for a drive and enjoy a newfound solid ride, your 9-5 will be one step closer to feeling like a new car!
Check Our Catalog For Quality Subframe Bushings
Although polyurethane bushings are the perfect choice for enthusiasts, we also carry a whole array of other options in this segment. To find a set that matches your car as well as your driving preference, head over to our catalog and pick up your set of Subframe bushings today!