Saab '03

Our daughter bought a used "03 Saab 9-3 and it has been nothing but trouble. Main problem is “check engine” light or “repair engine” light constantly need to be turned off. The so-called problem gets fixed and then another problem shows up. She will never be able to get her money out of the car; is there anything she can do to correct these problems, other than throwing money at them? Thanks.

2003 was a bad year for the 9-3. It had lots of teething problems that were resolved in 2004+.

Where is she taking this car? To a Saab/Euro specialist or run of the mill mechanic?

She has tried both a dealership and a European car mechanic. I am in Michigan, she is in South Carolina, trying to help her out long distance. Every time a trouble light comes on, she takes it in, thinking it is the trouble just fixed a couple of weeks ago - and it shows up as something different. If she sells, she will take a big hit.

You may well need a new mechanic. Those CEL’s don’t say to replace this or that, they say this or that measurement is out of the norms and needs to be checked. Sounds like someone is not doing their job right.

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

    ASAP means driving to the berm of the highway right now and not waiting for the next exit.

But if the MIL/CEL is not flashing, then it’s not an urgent indicator.

Thanks a lot! We will continue to work on it; she will be glad to read your reply.

Last week the code was P 0411. Other recent codes have been P 0300 and P 0455.

P0 0455 is the evaporative emissions control system; it could be as little as a loose gas cap. One other common problem in these cars is in the crankcase ventilation system, which gets plugged and causes excessive crankcase pressure and oil leaks. Taliaferro sells SAAB kit to replace the poorly designed originals (less than 1 hr labor to install - The random misfire is likely caused by a failing direct ignition cartridge (DIC); it’s the red (or black) rectangular piece in the center of the valve cover. It’s the coil pack and spark plug boots for all four cylinders. These are chronic problems in SAABs. It’s easy to change the DIC (5 minutes). Often, the springs inside the spark plug “boots” on the bottom of the cartridge pop out when the plugs are changed, and mechanics often fail to put dielectric grease on the plugs and the inside of the boots. Also, these cars should have the OEM NGK plugs, so that’s another thing to check and replace, as necessary. It’s easy enough to check for presence of the little sopings (dealer sells the new springs) and lubricate the boots and plugs. This is a cheap fix, but if the misfire code (or other specific cylinder misfire codes) re-occur, the DIC is on its way out and should be replaced. Also, sometimes SAABs will throw p0340 “cam sensor position” code, which doesn’t exist. It’s also indicative that the DIC is failing. If the DIC fails all at once, it could leave her stranded. Mine failed in my driveway, so I was lucky. Best of luck to you and your daughter.

Wow, everybody is so helpful. We will do these easy repairs and keep you all updated on here. Thanks again.