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SAAB library: technical information archive

Arranged below in tabbed pages is a collection of specific model information and common faults that often crop up on forums. Initially, library coverage will be sparse for some topics but this page should be updated regularly with new material.

 

  • Glossary
  • Servicing
  • Wheels & Tyres
  • 900 range
  • 9000 range
  • 9-3 range
  • 9-5 range

Glossary of terms
Some terms are technical, some not while others are included as UK/US equivalents. The rest are colloquial to SAAB men...

AHL Automatic Headlamp Levelling (xenon headlamps only). Connected to the K lead.

'Ariston' bolt Long, threaded machine screw found on certain 9-5 gearbox mountings. After the commercial for a type of washing machine said to go on and on because the bolt seems to take forever to remove...

'Aquarium' SAAB engineers are reputed to have christened the space between the bulkhead and the dummy bulkhead this after discovering said area to be under water on an early prototype (9000, I think) due to a faulty seal.

Boot: US equivalent = trunk. More properly known (but seldom referred to) as luggage boot in the UK.

Cooler group: collective name for the radiator, intercooler, oil cooler and power steering oil cooler.

DICE Acronym for Dashboard Integrated Central Electronics (as described by the SAAB Workshop Information System)

The control unit handles many of the electronic functions in the car including lighting (internal & external), instrument control illumination, acoustic warnings, wiper delay function, heated screen, electric mirrors, radiator fan and air conditioning.

DICE can be damaged by incorrect use of battery jump leads!

If changing a DICE control module, do bear in mind that the unit MUST be married to the car with a Tech 2 scan tool, otherwise much equipment will not work properly!

 

 

DI unit/DI rail/DI cassette The ignition cassette on 4 cylinder petrol engined 9-3 & 9-5 models & some but not all earlier 9000 & NG900s. Used with SAAB Trionic management systems to replace distributor, leads and cap in one unit that also uses the (resistor type) spark plugs as sensors. NOT cheap to replace and can fail without warning. Must NOT be left upside down! If the unit HAS been upside down, it should be replaced on the engine and left for at least 40 minutes before attempting to start the engine to avoid shortening the life of the unit.

DTC Acronym for stored Diagnostic Trouble Codes retrieved by a Tech 2 (qv)

ESP Electronic Stability Programme.

ETS Electronic Throttle System (SAAB 9000)

Forget me not
Wondering why your 9-5 2.0/2.3 cylinder head won't come off, despite all the head bolts, exhaust manifold nuts being undone? After one joker arrived here with this scenario we just HAD to take a look. You have removed the stay bracket to the bottom of the intake manifold at the back of the engine, we asked. That'll be a no, then... Duh! Known as the Forget me not ever since.

iBus The information bus for the instruments in the 9-3/9-5 (qv pBus)

K lead The K lead connects the DICE system to the following components or control modules for AHL, ESP, TCS and the data link
connector (on Diesels fitted with the diesel additional heater -DAH- this too is connected)

pBus The powertrain bus for engine/gearbox. Runs 10x faster than the iBus (qv).

Power unit also referred to by SAAB as the power train but refers to the combined engine and transmission as a whole.

PPS Passenger Presence System. As found in the 9440 (9-3 from 2002 on). Part of the air bag circuit - detects the presence of a passenger in the front seats by using sensors built into the seat cushion.

SID Actually not the friendly man at your local garage but an acronym for SAAB Information Display. Comes in x2 basic flavours SID 1 & SID 2. Infamous for losing pixels. Anorak fact: the SID in the 93 and 9-5 not only have different face plates but different pin-outs, so are NOT interchangeable.

Sludge Particles of degraded oil, rubber and carbon that accumulate within an engine over time. These particles can build up to the extent that they block the oil pick up pipe mesh screen in the sump, leading to oil starvation and expensive engine damage. Extended service intervals, use of non-synthetic oil and possibly using the vehicle on only short runs in cold temperatures where the engine never gets the opportunity to reach operating temperature all contribute to sludging. The low friction design of the B2x5 engine, specifically the short skirt pistons and piston rings placed greater demands upon the breather system than with the previous generation of engine. It took three revisions of the breather system to address the problem but during 2003, a different engine block design with significantly better breathing was introduced.

SRS Acronym for Supplementary Restraint System and includes seatbelts and the air- bag circuit. Don't work on the dash or airbag/seatbelt system without isolating the car battery first. If you trigger the SRS lamp, it is a trip to the dealer. Reset with Tech 2 (qv)

TCS Traction Control System. Helps improve adhesion to the road by reducing wheelspin, particularly when slippery conditions are encountered. Works with the anti-lock braking system to make safer progress in bad conditions.

Tech 2 The handheld device used by dealers and some indies to connect to your car's OBD/CANBUS socket. More properly known as the AD400 Tech 2 scan tool and used by other makers under the GM umbrella like Suzuki & Vauxhall. The software is stored on 16/32Mb PCMCIA cards.

TWICE Acronym for Theft Warning Integrated Central Electronics. Basically, this comprises the entire vehicle security system on 9-3 & 9-5 models including glass break sensor, tilt sensor, deadlocks and the audio system. Works with transponder (chipped) keys. Can be reprogrammed with Tech 2 to alter locking logic, marry or divorce audio equipment, clone keys or lock out keys (this would be useful if someone stole or lost the spare key for your car).

Yoke No joke: the Yoke is the colloquial term applied by seasoned SAAB men to the top engine mounting on the SAAB 9-5 fitted with the 4 cylinder petrol engine. NB before removal, the power unit MUST be either supported by a beam from above or a jack from below to avoid damage to the threads in the alloy housings the bolts are fastened to! Another trap for the unwary is the power steering hose support at the front - don't forget to unclip the hose or undo the small bracket (10mm spanner)

The yoke is part of the top engine mounting (4 cyl petrol model 9-5s)

A vast improvement on the previous arrangement in the 9000, where there was a torsion arm that used to suffer from worn bushes. Just bear in mind that the front lower gearbox mounting also has a torque rod and this too can wear -suspect this if the engine seems to move around too much for comfort.

The bushes are NOT available separately for the bottom gearbox mounting torque rod, so a complete rod must be obtained if wear is detected. A pattern part is available from ScanTech.

 


Page updated 12th March 2011

Servicing

The most valuable wisdom any SAAB site can impart is this: "SAABs are complex and powerful cars capable of vast mileages but neglect servicing them at your peril for they will seriously damage your wealth. Since one of the best reasons for owning one in first place is that SAABs probably represent the best value prestige car in the used car market, it really does pay dividends to get the maintenance right."

The whole point of a turbo- charged engine is to produce more power for a given engine size by harnessing a waste product (the exhaust). Please remember that turbo chargers can glow cherry red after a serious workout and the oil has to cope with very high engine temperatures. Any week on eBay you will find plenty of SAABs needing engines but the tragedy is that these failures were probably avoidable and have occurred because oil changes have not been carried out as the owners try to go 20,000 miles between services or have carried out changes without using FULLY synthetic engine oil or perhaps have failed to appreciate the vital importance of checking the condition of the top breather hose. Put quite simply, SAABs are NOT for people who take the view that cars should be serviced only when they break down and still less should these cars be entrusted to 'That'll Do Motors' for service and repair work.

Don't skimp on oil changes and use ONLY fully synthetic oil.

In the case of the petrol engined 9-5, the oil MUST be changed every 6000 miles or at the very least annually using 0-30 or 5-30 fully synthetic engine oil. If ordinary oil is used just once, the extreme heat will cause carbonised particles to form in the sump that will block the strainer, causing damage to the turbocharger, crankshaft and possibly the pistons primarily but also causes premature wear to the timing chains. You can buy a LOT of oil for the cost of a new short engine and turbo charger - it's a no brainer! Put quite simply YOU MUST USE FULLY SYNTHETIC OIL in turbo charged petrol SAAB engines and change it regularly or risk causing expensive damage. Semi-synthetic oil is a total NO-NO! (Read the FULL report in the articles section)

There are a few 'wrinkles' to be aware of, if you own a SAAB. People who have owned and run the cars for years know that nothing less than NGK spark plugs will do

You don't have to use the main dealer and for older cars it is more cost-effective to seek out an independent ('indie') who, in all probability, will have served their time at a main dealership and will be up to speed on your car. The best indies have amassed a wealth of knowledge and will have invested heavily in tools and equipment but won't have the overheads of a main agent and can pass on savings to owners.

If you feel competent or like messing around with your own car, there is quite a bit you can do yourself but do remember that DIY should not be a chore. There is a terrific sense of achievement and satisfaction but DIY can also entail a steep learning curve.  Progress may be slow and a common problem is that the DIY owner has to stop to think about what needs doing next.  A professional workshop costs a small fortune to run but what you are really paying for is the knowledge and experience of the technician. 

 

Since most DIYers work on their cars at the weekend or after work, it is worth considering what YOUR time is worth – if your employer wanted you to work in that time, you would expect overtime.  Also, you need to factor in the cost of tools and disposable items like surgical gloves (not essential but strongly recommended) or oil absorbing granules.  These really are essential to preserve domestic harmony because no matter how careful you are, oil WILL get spilled at some point and it is best to be prepared. Nobody wants oil plodged everywhere and oil on block paved drives is quite tough to clean up, so be prepared.

Weighing all these factors in the balance, the difference between professional care and DIY is narrower than may be thought at first.

Wheels and Tyres

The vast array of aluminium alloy road wheels fitted to SAABs over the years is nothing less than staggering and one of the best pages on the subject entitled A veritable panoply of aluminium may be found at Jeff Powell's informative site.


Golden rules
Ensure you know where the locking wheel key is (if fitted) and know where the jacking points are. A good quality 17/19mm wheel nut/bolt wrench is a good investment because the one supplied in later cars is less robust than on cars like the 9000. A wrench with a sliding extending bar to gain leverage is a good idea because many fitters will overtighten bolts/nuts. As wheels are powder coated, the clearance between the hub centre and the wheel can be minimal and it is common to find that the wheel cannot be budged when the car is jacked with all the nuts/bolts removed. Wire brush wheel centres/hubs regularly and apply anti-seize coatings (for example, Coppaslip). MOST IMPORTANT: do NOT overtighten locking wheel bolts. Swinging on security bolts like Hercules can result in damage which can mean you won't be able to get the wheel off.

NG900 range wheel notes
Most normally aspirated cars (including the 2.5 litre V6) will be fitted with 15" 5 bolt wheels with x size tyres. Turbocharged cars are usually fitted with 16" 3 spoke Viking alloys and size tyres. (See 9-3 range notes for advice on fitting bigger wheels)

9000 range wheel notes
Most 9000s will wear 15" 4 bolt alloys except the CS Carlsson and Aero, which should wear one of three styles of 16" 3-spoke wheel. Some very late CS Anniversarys will be fitted with 16" Aero wheels - these are usually the cars that are not fitted with the leather steering wheel with wood inserts.

Please note that the author (and others) have found that cars fitted with 16" rims are prone to 'tramlining' on poor surfaces and that the ride quality can become harsher.

Also, be aware that over time, cars fitted with wider tyres than the standard x tyre can appear to catch on the inner wing wheel arch liner. This is due -we think- to normal settling of the suspension and the cure is easy: just try removing the knock out access panels from the wheel arch liner.

9-3 (9400) range wheel notes
As a rule, normally aspirated 9-3s will wear 16" 5 bolt rims shod with x size tyres. The Aero HOT and Viggen were sold with double Y and 5 spoke 17" diameter alloys with x size tyres. Do bear in mind both these cars had substantially stiffer suspension - if 17" rims are retro fitted to other models, especially convertibles, expect a bone jarring ride. The 9-3 cabriolet, in common with other makes suffers from scuttle shake and this becomes far more pronounced when 17" alloy wheels are fitted simply because there is less rubber to absorb the shock of less than smooth road surfaces.

9-5 (9600) range wheel notes
Typically, UK market cars will be wearing 16" 5 bolt alloys. Aeros and Vectors invariably have 17" rims. For some reason, the Vector split nail style seems to attract more damage than any other. If you change from 16"-17" rims, do bear in mind that the speedometer will be incorrect and a trip to the dealer or indie is required to reset the wheel size within the ecu using a Tech 2 scan tool connected to the car's OBD data socket.

9-3 (9440) sports saloon (notes in preparation)

 

SAAB NG900
The SAAB NG900 (NG standing for new generation) didn't receive a unanimous thumbs up and one local specialist who appeared at the author's house early one morning to find a friend's Astra convertible parked outside said "I see you have gone completely over to Vauxhalls!" just about summed it up. Quite a few have ended up 'on the team', including a V6 automatic. any number of 2.0i, 2.3i autos and a turbo with Sensonic transmission.


Bad starting
If the engine cranks over normally and starts sometimes normally but seems at other times to need a lot of cranking before it catches, suspect the ignition switch!

Ignition switches can be the cause of difficult starting

Droning noise from driveline
One problem that has surfaced occasionally relates to baffling noise from the driveline. Obviously the usual suspects like gearbox, differential and of course, wheel bearings should be eliminated first but another contender that is easily overlooked is the drive shaft support bracket (bolted to the back of the engine) bearing (OE part 4238432).

Engine won't start at all
On cars fitted with Direct Ignition (with red cassettes between the cambox covers) check for an electrical burning smell, which is a sure sign that the unit has failed totally. The V6 also has a coil pack but what usually happens is that the engine develops a misfire (because one of the cylinders is not receiving a spark). According to our local Vauxhall expert, total ignition coil pack failures on the V6 are virtually unheard of.

Heater control dials don't work
This is a common NG900/9-3 fault! The dials themselves (the left and right side dials are OE part # 5331665) can become brittle and can rotate without engaging the controls but the white plastic control shaft they are attached to (OE part # 4364279) is also a favourite request for parts staff.

Rattling from front suspension
Check the drop links (pure Vauxhall!) first if there are knocking noises from the front suspension but an unholy clattering noise is a sure sign of a broken front road spring. Since springs invariably snap at the ends, what usually happens is that the broken piece gets trapped inside the remaining spring coils. Be sure to change both springs as a pair, otherwise handling will be affected because the other (old) spring will have settled.

Squawking/grating from steering
Another irritating noise that sometimes takes some tracing emanates from the suspension strut top. The whole strut pivots on this bearing but the bearings within the race can wear to give a noise that can give rise to the mistaken belief that the driveshaft constant velocity joint is worn (very rare).

 

SAAB 9000
Over the years, the author and his brother have owned a considerable number of 9000s (well into 3 figures!) and a fair bit of know how has been obtained by stripping damaged cars down to bare shells for spare parts. Accident damage, transmission and engine overhauls or replacements have been undertaken and the odd car has been converted from automatic to manual.


Belt layouts - Serpentine belt layouts for 4 cylinder and V6 models
Service schedule - Service schedules and recommended lubricants/fluids
Torque settings - Torque down fasteners on wheels, driveshafts and engines properly
ZF HP 18 automatic gearbox - How to change the fluid and filter & how to adjust the brake bands


Accident damage - know your limitations
Due to the almost triangular formation of the front inner wings, the energy of a frontal impact can travel through the shell and compress the door frame aperture, thereby kinking the roof. Unlike other cars, straightening a 9000 bodyshell when the roof is kinked even using professional kit like Dataliner or Celette benches is nigh on impossible. Don't waste your time!

Automatic transmission faults
ALL 9000 automatics whether fitted with 4 cylinder normally aspirated/ turbocharged or V6 engines are mated to variants of the ZF HP18 gearbox. The ZF HP 18 was fitted to a number of vehicles (including certain BMW models).  It is a complex unit for which parts are expensive and one that does not lend itself to DIY repairs.  About the only work the DIY owner  may undertake is changing the filter (nearly always overlooked), changing the fluid and adjusting the brake bands (see  below)

Brake pedal feels very hard & ABS lamp illuminated
This usually points to a problem in the main hydraulic unit or its integral  electronic control unit.   DO NOT ATTEMPT to change just the control unit  - change the entire unit!   Access isn’t as hard as it looks, once the battery and tray are removed.  A new unit is likely to cost over £1100, so most of us will look for either a used unit or find a supplier offering reconditioned units.  If sourcing a used unit, try to get one removed from a vehicle, rather than one that has been stored on a shelf and in which the seals may have dried out.

Brake performance
Over time, the performance of the brakes will decrease until a point is reached when the driver starts to lose faith in the car's ability to stop in an emergency. Depending on the style of wheel fitted, it can be quite difficult to ascertain how worn the brake linings by carrying out a visual check with the car on the ground but the usual cause is the brake discs themselves. Discs that look OK initially, turn out to be thinner than specification and if the outer braking surface looks reasonable then the rear facing side is often badly grooved with the brake pad acting on rather less of the surface than it was designed to. A set of new discs and linings usually works the oracle. Uprated linings are available, as are drilled and grooved discs but a word of advice - DO NOT fit hard linings to anything other than discs in perfect condition, or risk having a brake pedal with more travel than you would like until they bed in.

Cabin mists up alarmingly quickly even in dry weather
This is a familiar scenario. DO check for water ingress (check front carpets for dampness) but if all else fails, open each door in turn, then shake it. Chances are that you will hear a tell-tale slopping sound, a sure sign that the door in fact contains several litres of rainwater because the drain holes are blocked.

Car shakes violently at road speeds over 45mph despite having all wheels balanced
An old chestnut is the 9000 that presents with a bad case of the shakes at over 45mph. Obviously, wheels should be checked for buckling and tyres rotated to check for warped casings but suspect the front brakes if the above check out OK. Many cars have been seen with just one seized front brake caliper. A red hot hub is a dead giveaway!

Clutch hydraulic hose failure
On 9000s of a certain age, the clutch pedal can start to ‘feel strange’: perhaps there is a suspicion that the pedal isn’t returning fully or worse still, the pedal may go to the floor with no resistance and fail to return. At first, it may be difficult to detect the source of the fluid loss but a good place to start is beneath the bonnet.  Follow the steel tubular pipe from the top of the gearbox backwards the bulkhead. A notorious failure point is where the steel bundy tube meets the rubber flexible hose – this crimped joint often fails, leading to instant loss of the pedal. A new pipe (dealer part)  is the only solution. NB the clutch circuit MUST be pressure (or vacuum) bled.

Heater blower motor only runs at full speed
The author would now be basking -possibly in an unseemly state of inebriation- on a beach in the Whitsunday Island group if he had a fiver for every time this scenario has been seen. Voltage to the blower motor is stepped down by a simple oval shaped ceramic resistor to provide 3 speeds. When it fails, the blower runs only at full speed, irrespective of the speed selected on the control dial. Buy a new one! SAAB OE part #4634564 . It is a painless job to replace because it lives in heater box in the space between the bulkhead and the dummy bulkhead, known to SAAB men as the 'aquarium'. Current retail price is around £60+VAT (March 2009)

Indicator flashes at double speed on one side only
On the CS, a baffling fault can arise, whereby the indicators run at double speed… on one side only BUT  it appears that no bulbs are  malfunctioning.  What IS going on?    A potential trap for the unwary is that the rear lamp cluster use TWO indicator bulbs and only one of these will have failed!

Knocking from front brakes
Two problems can arise that cause these symptoms.  Firstly, the anti rattle springs may be damaged or loose/insecure but very often it will be found that the source of the problem is a loose fitting pad rattling in the metal holder (a staggering £400!).  The author discovered a long time ago that ONLY genuine SAAB brake pads  fit snugly even on high mileage cars.  Although the EPC  (SAAB Parts System) lists heavy duty US spec ‘taxi’ linings (they do last a VERY  long time!) these MUST be  fitted  with new discs, otherwise braking  performance will be woeful!

Loss of drive (manual transmission) and knocking noise when clutch is let out
9000 countershafts, brackets & driveshafts are different for auto and manual cars. When engines are swapped, the shafts and brackets are often mixed, which causes problems later!
This scenario has been seen often - the last time was only a few weeks ago. A local garage had pulled in a 9000 with these very symptoms and wanted to know if I had a suitable gearbox.

This proved unnecessary, as the problem was with a drive shaft and bracket rather than the box itself. The 9000 has x2 driveshafts of equal length and a centre shaft known as a counter shaft.

What is not commonly known is that the driveshafts and more importantly their alloy mounting brackets on automatic cars are different from cars with manual gearboxes. For this reason, the brackets are stamped A (auto) and M (manual).

If shafts from an automatic are used in a manual, the countershaft breaks, leading to loss of drive. The knocking noise occurs because the internal spline slips when the shaft breaks.

Golden rule when swapping SAAB engines/boxes: wherever possible, transfer over everything to avoid this sort of grief. Once, we were caught out with a complete power unit swap on a 9-5: the donor was a 2001 but the recipient was a 2000 model year car and both were Aero autos. As Aleksandr the Meerkat would say "Simples!". ‡

Alas not... when the moment came to fire up the replacement engine in its new home - nothing! The wiring looms were different to the extent that there was NO feed for the starter. Now, being the mad 9000 enthusiast has its advantages because we had at least 8x 9-5 engines in the shed and were quickly able to identify something more suitable.

Strange buzzing noise in cabin
Cars fitted with the automatic climate control system (CCS) sample air within the cabin via a sucker motor in the fascia.  This motor continues running after the engine is switched off.  Fluff, grit and dirt over time can result in the operation of the motor becoming noisy.  Try a quick squirt of aerosol lubricant  before  consigning the unit  to  the bin, as a new one is quite pricey.

Uneven or rough tickover (4 cylinder)
There is no way to adjust the valve timing or idle speed – these functions are carried out by the electronic control unit (ecu).  If the idle speed seems to vary or stall from time to time, it is wise to check the IAC  valve (idle air control valve).  On the other hand, if the tickover is rough all the time, it is very likely that the valve timing is a tooth out.

V6 3 litre B308 engine noise
The V6 B308i engine can suffer irritating valve lifter clatter upon start-up, if oil changes are not carried out regularly.  It is the author’s experience that the oil pump is seldom the problem (Just as well as it is VERY expensive!) and in most cases, an engine flush and a valve lifter treatment additive will work wonders.  Also note that there are 5 std grades of piston on the V6 and piston slap from cold is quite common.  Suspect this if the engine is especially clattery when cold but quietens down when warmed through. This really isn't a problem -just keep changing the oil.

 

comparethemarket.com and comparethemeerkat.com are trading names of BISL Limited registered in England.

SAAB 9-3
There are, of course, two different 9-3 models; the original car that replaced the NG900 from 1998-2002 and the sports saloon from 2002- date. SAAB avoid confusion by referring to the cars by their model codes, with the hatch known as the 9400 and the sports saloon designated 9440. Given time, we aim to cover both!

9400 range
The 9400 was a very thorough revision of the NG900. Not only did it look sharper but it also drove and handled very much better. Some early cars were normally aspirated but most cars were turbo-charged with either 150 or 175 bhp (higher output cars usually with tell-tale dashboard boost gauge). A diesel appeared too but the big news was the 210bhp Aero HOT while the limited production road-burning 2.3 Viggen turbo delivered 20bhp more. Of the duo, the Aero was definitely the more civilised and the author rates it as one of the best ever SAAB models in 3 door form.


Many of the points that apply to the NG900 apply equally to the 9-3, of course, as do general points about oil sludging (use synthetic oil ONLY and change it every 6000 miles) and regarding turbo chargers that smoke as a ticking time bomb.

A/C blower motor runs inside the car even with the ignition turned off
This fault can appear baffling but the cause is invariably the Fan blower motor control unit. The permanent cure is a new module -which requires removal of the glove box- in a job that should take less than an hour to complete. The part number is 50 45 158 (this costs about £70 +VAT). The quick fix -to avoid flattening the battery- is to remove a fuse from the fusebox on the end of the dashboard (by the drivers door) to locate the fuse marked ‘demister fan’ (should be a 20 amp fuse marked ‘C’ on the very top row).

Bad starting
If the engine cranks over normally and starts sometimes normally but seems at other times to need a lot of cranking before it catches, suspect the ignition switch!

Bulkhead flexing & possible fractures
A small number of cars have been affected by excessive body flexing in the bulkhead. Sometimes this will come to light as a result of 'soggy' handling/steering but other instances will be exposed by the annual VOSA (MOT) test. In either case, it is advisable to consult a SAAB main agent but we have conflicting information about the extent to which SAAB will contribute to repair costs.

Cleaning the hood on 9400 cabriolet models
This is an operation to undertake with care. Use only proprietary cleaning products as anything else could result in the colour being lost or the waterproofing being compromised.

Engine will turn over but will not start
Chief suspect on petrol 9-3s without distributors is the Direct Ignition unit. Check for a burning smell under the bonnet - a dead giveaway. Units are liable to fail without warning.

Front footwell carpets wet
Coolant with that tell-tale sharp smell of antifreeze isn't the best thing to have in your cabin but before assuming the worst (that the heater matrix has failed) do check that what has actually happened is that one of the rubber 'o' rings (rather cheaper!) hasn't split. Obviously, coolant leaks are bad news, so if you cannot deal with the problem straight away, let the engine cool down before disconnecting the heater pipes inside the engine bay where they go through the bulkhead and join them together with a length of copper pipe.

Hood mechanism problems
Don't mess about with hood problems - head straight for your main dealer or independent specialist because you DEFINITELY need a Tech 2 to retrieve the DTC information to work out what is wrong. Readers doubting our advice clearly have not seen the HUGE section within the SAAB Workshop Information System that is devoted to the subject. Anorak fact: the Tech 2 can retrieve information
about the number of times a roof has been raised or lowered.

Engine stalls, loss of power & fuel gauge reading incorrect
Early models were affected by a build fault that caused the hose from the petrol tank to the EVAP canister (in effect a carbon filter) at the front of the car to become crushed or pinched to the extent that the tank can start to deform as the fuel level drops, giving a false fuel level reading. Most cars should have been rectified long ago but it is possible that the fault could arise as a result after a fuel tank has been removed but subsequently replaced incorrectly.

What you need to know before you fit 17" wheels on a cabriolet
Unless your 9-3 is an Aero or Viggen, chances are that it will be wearing 10 spoke or 5 spoke 16" alloys. If you upgrade to 17" rims, be advised that the ride with standard springs becomes quite harsh to the extent that it can feel as if the car has a shake or vibration. You also need to know that changing from 16" to 17" wheels makes the speedometer inaccurate (needs recalibrating with a Tech2 by your SAAB dealer or independent specialist.

Wind buffeting - what you can do (cabriolet)
There is a wind deflector screen available from SAAB under the SAAB Accessories program. The deflector is OE part 400 105 821 (rrp = £308 +VAT) but you will also require a mounting kit and these come in x3 different colours: beige, grey or black. The OE part number for the black mounting kit is 400 110 854 (£219 +VAT)


9440 NEW shape 9-3

Toothed belt replacement (1.9 TiD engine)
DON'T mess around - if your TiD snaps a belt, it will cost big bucks to fix. Reports have reached us that lead us to believe that the belt AND water pump should be replaced AS A PAIR at 48,000 miles because some cars have suffered belt failures due to the coolant pump seizing up before the mileage at which the belt should be changed has been reached.

Road spring failures
At present there is little to suggest that SAAB models are any more prone to springs snapping than other makes, although one or two instances have been reported to us. One correspondent was very concerned but local data held here didn't support the argument that failures were commonplace. On the other hand, we NEED to know if there is a problem nationally and we would be grateful for feedback, as the whole point of a site like this is to SHARE information.

As a rule, road springs seem more likely to snap when the paint covering is breached. My neighbour (with a 5 year old Citroen C3) asked me to cast an eye over her car because it was 'down on one side'. The front spring had snapped at less than 30,000 miles. Currently, we believe that cars operated on roads in a poor condition or where there is a high number of speed ramps are more likely to sustain snapped springs.

If you have a new shape 9-3 (9440) that has snapped a road spring, we would like to know about it! Please e-mail us including the date of the incident, the total vehicle mileage, the repair cost and the general state of the roads over which the vehicle was operated. Since the site has been operational, we have received just 2 notifications from owners, one of whom is an VOSA (MOT Test) examiner.

 

SAAB 9-5 (9600)
The author has owned, operated and maintained most petrol or diesel, saloon or estate variants bar the latest models. As usual, cars have ranged from repair projects to hand-picked specimens with full dealer histories while others have been stripped to virtually bare shells. There are few better ways of getting to know a car inside out!


Belt layouts
Service schedule
Torque settings- Torque down fasteners on wheels, driveshafts and engines properly


Bad starting
If the engine cranks over normally and starts sometimes normally but seems at other times to need a lot of cranking before it catches, suspect the ignition switch!

Bad starting (2.2 TiD diesel)
John at North East SAAB Specialists has asked us to point out that use of incorrect bore rubber fuel return pipe can cause problems
and that the ONLY safe way to go is by using genuine SAAB pipe - nothing less will do.

Injector seals can fail at higher mileages and this is a job that requires the removal of the camshaft and involves using x2 SAAB
special service tools to lock the crankshaft and camshaft in position.

Breather system
It is vital to maintain the breather system properly or else split hoses can cause major and disastrous loss of oil from the engine. Worse still, hose failure is said to contribute to oil sludging - two words that should strike fear into the souls of owners of 9-5s with 4 cylinder petrol engines. Over time, pipes collapse and perish but the engine was designed to run with a constant purging effect whereby fumes are recirculated inside the crankcase and burned with the air-fuel mix. Any oil droplets are supposed to be separated by a trap on the back of the engine block BUT if the circuit becomes breached oil WILL be thrown out down the back of the engine. Deal swiftly, therefore, with any smell of oil fumes inside the cabin.

This breather hose is a potential engine killer- check now for signs of going soft & squidgy!

Several breather mods have been carried out by SAAB, culminating with the 'ultimate' fix in the form of a new engine block from late 2003 (spot these by their silver cambox covers). There IS a fix kit for earlier cars that involves changing the oil filler neck and incorporates a one way valve and insulation wrap for the heater pipes under the intake manifold (to help prevent oil emulsifying through condensation). The kit is SAAB OE part 55561200 but does NOT include the all important pipe from the trap (a new trap is IN the kit) to the cambox cover. This hose is known to break down and adds to sludge, so it MUST be kept in good order. The hose is OE part 55560463. Expected cost for both kit and hose is around £60 (applicable to 1998-2003 cars ONLY). Not quite 'as cheap as chips' but money very well spent. Most dealers will advise that this hose is changed, along with a sump drop when fitting a turbo-charger.

See: Fitting the SAAB 9-5 crankcase ventilation fix kit

IMPORTANT! If you have checked the breather system from end to end or replaced it and can still smell oil fumes, then change the oil dipstick! This is OE part number 55557302. The author's brother had a 9-5 with a brand new engine and breather system that stank of oil. Sage looks were exchanged but the normal conclusion that the engine was about to blow up at any minute was discounted.

We reckon that the spring and seal arrangement inside becomes feeble with age and so dipsticks join the list of other bits routinely binned when we overhaul engines (thermostats, serpentine belts, exhaust manifold studs, oil pressure switches etc)

Aero: poor performance
It wouldn't be the first time we've had folk ask why their Aero doesn't feel as sharp as they think it should be.

Just make sure that the engine is fed on PREMIUM fuel, not regular unleaded because the ecu will reduce the performance. Also, make sure that it is running the correct NGK platinum plugs - these are different from those specified for the std 2.3 engine. Expect to pay around £20 a set plus VAT.

Change key battery
As a rule, key fobs are fitted with the same CR2032 batteries that those of us who build computers recognise as being motherboard CMOS batteries. Early fobs have a small phillips type screw, while later keys require a pin and patience to prise apart... and most probably, super glue to fasten back together! NB there is a section in the procedures page detailing transponder key fob (plip) battery changes.

Direct Ignition unit
The chief suspect when your 4 cylinder petrol 9-5 won't start (check for a tell-tale burning smell under the bonnet). These units have been a thorn in SAAB's side and our information is that the original maker went into liquidation through warranty claims (citation required). As a result, new units have been sourced elsewhere and the price has rocketed.
WARNING! do NOT crank over a 9-3/9-5 petrol engine that is not starting for any length of time, as the catalytic converter may be damaged by unburned fuel! ALSO avoid leaving the cartridge upside down, as this can cause it to overheat and fail prematurely. If the unit HAS been left upside down, replace on the engine but leave 40 minutes before starting the engine.

Electric windows don't seem to work
A familiar scenario! The culprit in 90% of cases is the window switch control block, 4616082 which retails at a sobering £143 +VAT If possible, source one from a breaker's yard instead.

Ramps - use with CARE to avoid damage to the spoiler
Using ramps with the 9-5/loading 9-5s onto trailers or recovery vehicles Inspection ramps are a good way of raising a 9-5 from the ground without a jack so you can work underneath. Just be advised that 9-5 fitted with colour coded front spoilers (like the Aero, Vector and Airflow) WILL sustain damage if care is not taken to reduce the ramp gradient. We use stout wood planks to lessen the gradient.

If using ramps, alter the gradient with stout wood offcuts to avoid damage on Aero/Airflow & Vector models

Service theft alarm message (SID)
The special batteries are actually soldered to the circuit board of the alarm siren unit by the tags. When this message is displayed, generally it is time to renew the batteries in the siren unit. The maker advocates renewal of the entire siren but it is possible to change the special batteries (x2 3 Volt Sanyo CR17335SE), which are soldered to a circuit board by their tags.

Patient DIYers with modest soldering skills can carry out this repair - the whole job can be accomplished in under an hour - which represent quite a saving on dealer prices because the unit (from memory) retails at over £150 + VAT.

 

 


Sludging (carbonised particles in the oil sump)

Semi-synthetic oil will RUIN your engine because it breaks down into sludge
Oil sludging are two words to strike fear into the hearts (and wallets) of owners of 4-cylinder SAAB 9-5s with petrol engines. The author has prepared a full article on the subject but the salient findings are that (a)the design of the breather system together with different pistons to the 9000 makes the use of FULLY synthetic oil MANDATORY (b) Semi-synthetic oil WILL break down resulting in carbonised deposits that WILL block the strainer leading to oil starvation and subsequent damage to the crankshaft, the turbocharger, pistons and possibly the engine block itself (c) The mesh used in the sump strainer is smaller (30 mesh) than that used in previous generations of 4 cylinder SAAB engine and is thus, more prone to blocking (d) Cars which might have been run just once on semi-synthetic oil should have the sumps dropped and the strainers cleaned/replaced WITHOUT DELAY. The author routinely re meshes sump strainers with 304 grade stainless .20 mesh and fits a magnetic sump plug to trap any metal particles in the lubrication circuit (e) The sump strainer is just part of the lubrication circuit - another seriously good idea is to drain and clean the oil cooler. (f) The BOTTOM LINE is that most 9-5 engine failures are entirely preventable with most being due to usage of semi-synthetic oil, failure to maintain the breather system and or excessive mileage between oil changes.

Related articles:
Oil sludging: a study (article)
Dropping the 9-5 sump (workshop procedure)
Re-meshing the oil strainer with 20 mesh (workshop procedure)
Fitting the SAAB crankcase ventilation renovation kit (workshop procedure)


Smoke from turbocharger upon starting engine

Make no mistake: a turbo fialure could kill your engine!
The Garrett GT17 turbo-charger fitted to the 4-cylinder petrol 9-5 (the Aero is fitted with a Mitsubishi TD04) is different from the T25 that used to be fitted to the 9000. A relatively small turbo like the GT17 (a similar GT17 can be found on the Audi A4 TDI) has the benefit of reduced spool-up time, which means the power comes in at relatively low revs. The author has found these units reliable so long as they are run on fully synthetic oil changed regularly and given a chance to cool down a touch at the end of a longer run by leaving the engine idling for a minute or so before switching the ignition off. If this is NOT done, latent heat can boil the oil, which is obviously undesirable. If a SAAB 9-5 smokes upon startup, the turbo-charger could be on the way out, as oil will be escaping internally due to worn components. Turbo-chargers can fail spectacularly, dumping ALL the contents of the sump in the exhaust. The effect may help James Bond & co in the movies but it is the last thing owners want to see. The author knows many specialists who will advise owners that a major turbo-charger failure on a petrol 9-5 spells expensive trouble because metal swarf in the oil means the sump needs to come off and the crankshaft bearings checked for damage at the very least, as well as the strainer clean operation. Many times this isn't done and a major engine failure ensues weeks later. Think of a smoking turbo-charger as a ticking time bomb - sort it out pronto before it lets go and damages the engine.

Tyre noise or vibration
Few SAABs are more susceptible to tyre noise in the cabin than the 9-5. Choose your tyres carefully! Budget brands tend to make life in the cabin unpleasant (noise!) and road holding suffers too. Estates are more prone than saloons to a noise and slight vibration that can sometimes be mistaken for a worn wheel bearing. We advocate the use of tyres with a load index of 93 rather than 91 on 3.0TiD and ALL estate models, to handle the extra weight without suffering premature wear.

V6 TiD 3.0 litre Diesel sudden loss of power and possible vibration or will not start afterwards
Suspect the worst if your V6 TiD presents these symptoms. We have had x2 engines do this and in each case, the fault was a defective flywheel -the dual mass variety- but it gets worse! If the flywheel fails on the road, the engine runs out of balance and can spin the bearing shells in the block and trash the crank. Devastatingly expensive to repair. The acid test is to drop the steel part of the 2-piece sump and look for large amounts of aluminium swarf jammed in the oil pump pick up pipe strainer.

V6 3.0 Petrol
Beware cars with the 'Check Engine' lamp on! A number of cars have been encountered with this fault, which, in tandem with appalling fuel consumption can point to defective ecu. Many were changed under warranty but there are still quite a few out there. The fix - a new ecu- is costly with the rrp being £450 +VAT. Currie Motors of Wimbledon sometimes have these units on special offer at considerably less.

Window drop glass falls out of regulator in driver's door
These 9-5 window regulator rollers can break but are relatively cheap to replace

This irritating problem has been encountered on more than one occasion. The cure involves fitting new window regulator rollers part number 4493433 at £3 + VAT each. These are simple green hard plastic rollers with a big metal clip.

Do Take care NOT to drop the clip inside the door when doing this job - they have a tendency to fall and 'disappear'!

Work on the assumption that they WILL fall out, so be prepared and have a large sheet of white paper inside the bottom of the door plus a magnetic retrieval tool for when the inevitable happens. A torch is a good idea, too.

The serioussaab team says that doors, latches, locks and window mechs are sheer torture, so allow more time in the expectation that your patience will be tried sorely when attempting any of these tasks.

 

 

 

 

 
 

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