2000 saab 9-3 convertible that won't start occasionally

We have a 2000 Saab 9-3 convertible which runs fine most of the time. Then you drive it to the grocery store and when you come out of the store to start it, it won’t start. Usually if you wait 10 minutes, it will start. We have had 2 different mechanics look at it but it didn’t happen for them so they couldn’t find anything wrong. It is not the battery as we have a new one. Lately, it takes longer than 10 minutes before it starts. It doesn’t even click or do anything. We have had the started looked at and it is good. What could this be? It is driving us crazy because you never know when it will happen. It will be fine for a month and then start happening again.

Please tell us more. What exactly happens when you say it will not start. You turn the key and … Does it make any noise? Does it turn over normally, but just not start? Does it turn over very slowly or some sort of strange noises? Do the lights dim (like the head lights)?

Is it an original battery? If not how old is the battery? Has someone tried cleaning the connections on the battery cables?

Tell us anything else that might seem to help.  What color is your car?

The battery is a little more than one year old. This problem happened before we got that battery and since. When you turn the key, nothing happens. There is no noise, no clicking, no battery noise. The only thing that happens is that the lights come on the dashboard and the headlights flicker. No one has cleaned the battery connectors at all. The car is red.

I have a Saab 9-5 with what sounds like the same problem. I try to start the car and nothing happens, no noise from the engine as if it is trying to turnover. Just like your car it only happens once and a while. I noticed (at least with my Saab) that it happens more often on rainy or wet days. I’ve had 2 places look at it, no luck on a permenent fix yet. One place(a Saab dealer) replaced a bolt that fastened the electrical line from the battery to the starter. They said that these bolts can be a major problem. If you haven’t already it may be a good idea to have them look into this. My car is still broke, sorry I can’t give the magic fix.

Thanks for answering this problem. I forgot to mention this never happens first thing in the morning. We notice sometimes it happens when it is damp or rainy but other times it starts fine in those conditions and it happens when it is dry. We are taking the car in next week to our mechanic and we will mention that bolt you spoke of.

I replied to your message before with the same problem with my Saab wagon. I’ve just brought it to my local Saab dealership and they told me with 100% certainty that it is my “Gear Sensor” within the transmission. This is the sensor that tells the car what gear it should be in. Essentially my sensor was overheating (caused by short trips like going to the store) and the car could not tell if it is in Park or Drive. This is what would cause it not to start. The fix is going to cost $600 at $100 per hour labor. I would recommend getting this sensor checked if you haven’t already.

This has also been happening for over a year to my 2000 9-3 SE. The ignition was replaced approximately 1 year ago, but that didn’t fix it and I’ve been hesitant about anything my mechanic says is a “sure thing”-he recently mentioned the gear sensor to me also as the next “sure-thing”-is yours fixed? While my starting problems used to be intermittent, I believe they are getting worse, and I have always felt it happens more in the heat-mine never does it first thing in the morning either. Other than this, I have loved my Saab, but this is driving me crazy-it makes an otherwise dependable car completely not…

No one has cleaned the battery connectors at all.

Now would be a good time.

I have a 2001 9-3 with same problem- you turn the key to start, all of your interior/exterior lights work fine but nothing happens under the hood! 5, 10, 30 minutes pass and then it will start. It has been driving me nuts too (see my post under Saab no start). I think I have finally figured out the problem- check the neutral safety switch (same part perhaps as the gear sensor and thanks to Expert cartalk bloggers for turning me on to this). This component bolts onto the top of your transmission and lets the car know if it is in park, neutral, etc. If it doesn’t think you are in either P or N, then guess what, no elctricity gets to the starter. Try cycling your gear selector a bunch of times to see if you can then get it to start in either P or N. In trying to diagnose my problem, I have changed the starter relay, and the electrical portion of the ignition- no luck. Do a google search for Saab Neutral Safety Switch- parts sell online for about $350, but check this site for best price at $317 http://www.thesaabsite.com/93/93transmission.htm It should take your mechanic slightly more than 1 hour to do the labor. Good luck- hope it helps

There seems to be a sudden flurry of postings on SAABs (all from the model year 2000?) that have similar non-start symptoms. Surely there must be a common component that is failing or malfunctioning on these cars, leading me to believe that there should be a TSB from the manufacturer on this problem.

Kiblemi almost had a classic test of the neutral safety switch (or, sensor). When the car doesn’t crank (the engine doesn’t turn over), move the gear selector from PARK to NEUTRAL. Now, try to start it. Wiggle the shift selector around a little. If it now starts, it probably is the Neutral Safety Switch (Sensor). When the mechanic is using a voltmeter, and the wiring diagram, to troubleshoot this intermittent problem, he needs to remember to: 1. Disconnect the start circuit wire on the starter solenoid. 2. Make his voltmeter connection at various places in the start circuit to check for voltage. 3. With the voltmeter attached, turn the ignition key to START, then OFF, repeatedly (dozens of times) until there ISN’T a voltage (or, it’s low)indication on the voltmeter. If he gets a zero, or low, voltage reading after the neutral safety switch; but, good voltage, every time, before the switch, …that’s the bad’un. //// As someone else found out, the mechanic appreciates it a great deal when the customer leaves a detailed note, and advice from Car Talk (etc.) on the seat for him/her. You can print these Car Talk pages out for your mechanic. Information spoken to the service writer doesn’t get fully (sometime, little) passed on to the mechanic.