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A SAAB Story

Bear with me, this car is old and dangerously close to death.

I have a 1998 Saab 900 SE Turbo convertible, it’s adorable and I love it.
My boyfriend is disgusted by the fact I own a Saab (he drives a bright blue, uncool, base model car just for the gas mileage and manual transmission…).
So, I do typically choose fashion over function which may be why I’ve loved this car for so long, but things haven’t been going well lately.
The car only has about 110,000 miles on it- my mom only used it to drive to and from the country club during the summers back in Mn, she gave the car to me (for FREE!) to bring out to Los Angeles when I started Veterinary school… and things really went down hill (with the car) from there.
I spent a year attempting to fix an elusive coolant leak and eventually resolved to just fill the coolant tank about 1-7 times a week, then the transmission fluid started leaking, then the oil, and then my check engine light, ABS light came on, and speedometer quit functioning… so I went to a Saab mechanic (I think the owner is Swedish or Scandanavian or something so I assumed things would go great).
They gave me an estimate for 2000$ to do the following:

  • Replace Transmission mount which had collapsed
  • Replaced the transmission seal
  • Replace the CAM sensor in the engine which was no longer working (crank shaft sensor?)
  • Replaced the leaking water pump
  • Rebuilt the ABS module
  • Replaced the brake pads which were non-existant and rotated the tires (oops)
    They only charged me 1750- probably because I’m Dutch- which looks deceivingly similar to Scandanavians.
    I blissfully drove 20 miles home - it ran better than ever with no caution lights on which was so much more relaxing.
    I parked it. Went inside, did some stuff… and went back outside 30 minutes later.
    The car wouldn’t start.
    The engine couldn’t turn over, similar to a dead battery but I had not left anything on AND the car had been running for a while so the battery shouldn’t be dead (in my opinion).
    I didn’t have jumper cables so I locked the door and borrowed my boyfriends car.
    The next day I went to Nebraska (where I still am) to spend 2 weeks on a beef cattle rotation without addressing the potential dead battery.
    After a few days in Nebraska I realized I should probably attend to the “dead” battery so I asked my boyfriend to obtain a jumper box thing and to get the car running before I returned.
    So my boyfriend accepts the task knowing that my car starting will also improve his life-
    but first things first- unlock the car… THE CAR WON’T UNLOCK!!!
    The key will break before it unlocks the door. The fob battery died years ago so I manually lock and unlock the car. It can turn the lock direction, but not the unlock direction. This is a brand new problem. The car wasn’t locked at the mechanic when I picked it up which now in hind sight makes me a bit suspicious.
    Now I’m stuck in Nebraska panicking about what to do with this car, I need it running before I return but it won’t even open! Perhaps this is the cars way of officially giving up on life- locking out all human life.

The mechanic claims he fixed everything that was wrong and at the time told me that if I fixed all of it, it would run for at least 2 more years (until I graduate)…
Is there anyway this is his fault? Why can’t I unlock my car? If I get into my car by some miracle without damaging it, what do I do if it is not a dead battery. I really feel like the mechanic should be held responsible, no?

What if I secretly want another Saab?

Can’t you unlock the passenger’s side door? Perhaps a new battery for the key fob, shouldn’t be expensive. Just let the car sit there. If the battery was dead before it is just more dead now and a new battery isn’t too expensive either.

I think you need a locksmith to jimmy the door open, it isn’t too hard a job for a locksmith. The locking problem and the battery problem, are all unrelated to the issues you just paid the mechanic to fix. The car is getting old so if you want to keep it you can expect some more quirky problems in the future. 15 year old cars can get cranky.

sorry to say but stay away from saab there is no dealer suppoe=rt at this time

@Big Marc Sorry to agree with Big Marc; Saab is basically out of business; they went bakrupt since they could not pay their suppliers. They were bought from General Motors by the Dutch Spyker company, who were too small to make a go of it. The Chinese may take it over as they did with Volvo, but that will not solve your current problem.

In view of all the problems you are having with a 15 year old car that not everyone can service, and parts will be harder & harder to get, I would cut my losses and look for something basic and newer.

California is very demanding of cars; they must perform when needed due to the often lack of alternative transportation. You need something reliable and serviceable.

The others are wrong, there is still plenty of parts support for Saab. Infact Saab parts has ben spun off into a different company and is now working independent of saab cars. PLUS your car being a 1998 would not need manufacturers support any way. So dont worry about that, you just need someone who can work on Saab because they are a bit… let say… interesting…

As others have said your current problem with the locks have nothing to do with the Mech… As for the battery, it may be something as simple as a loose cable that was not tightend down after the mech did the the work… That would be his fault but not a big one. I think trying the passenger side first is a good idea, although I dont know if this car has a passenger side lock… Next I would replace the battery in the key fob, and see if the car unlocks with that… LAST you may have to call a locksmith to unlock the door.

Saabs are Quarkey… They are GREAT cars, but they are not like anything else on the road. This is good and bad.

Beef cattle operation eh? Locks wont open eh? I’d bring back one of those nail guns (you know, the Anton Chigurh special from No Country for Old Men). Door lock problem solved.

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

@CarmellaW I believe you should focus on your studies rather than nurse an old car through a very demanding environment. Dispose of the Saab and get something simple and reliable.

Thanks for the advice! Here is an update…
the mechanic tried to come out and unlock the door- he said I did something wrong when I pulled the key out and that the whole locking mechanism needed to be replaced. Apparently you can deadbolt a saab or something.
So he had to break the lock to get it open and I just can’t lock the car anymore…
And of course, the car started fine with him there… but it starts slow (takes a while to turn over)

But the saga continues:
Yesterday the ABS light came back on and today I noticed a large puddle of transmission fluid (it was red) under my car. Both of which I did pay to have fixed. I went to a “Saab specialist” and he insures his work for 12 months so I might try to have him re-fix the leak… unfortunately I need the car until my next out of town rotation so I might be just topping off transmission fluid daily for the next 1.5 weeks.

I agree that a new car would be the easier way out… But I really want this car to last just 21 more months!- it’s hard to get financing when you are living off school loans.

I think we can all agree that it’s for the best that SAAB went out of business.