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Saab '03

Our daughter bought a 2003 Saab 9-3 about a year ago. The CEL is frequently on and she wants to sell it because she is concerned that as soon as she fixes one thing, another needs fixing. I have no experience with Saabs; do you like this year and model? I think her “fixing” might just be normal maintenance w/ 88K miles. If she sells, she takes a hit on the cost; if she keeps, will this car need constant repairs? Thanks for your advice - I am a GM guy but you know daughters!

First the Saab is GM owned (fully).

Sadly the first year of this model design 2003 was buggy as you are finding. The latter models 2004-present are more towards average.

How does she feel? I have known a few owners with the vehicle who have had some issues in the same year but love the incredible mileage in the Linear model (turbo tuned for economy not HP) with over 35 mpg.

… she wants to sell it because she is concerned that as soon as she fixes one thing, another needs fixing.

The ultimate quandary. Do I fix it or bail? Does she bail on maintenance items, like tune-ups and oil changes? Do you even know why the CEL is on? A 5 yo used car WILL need some work. These things were never meant to be maintenance-free. Sometimes, the CEL comes on because something as simple as a gas cap not on tight enough. I’ve gotten great deals on cars with CELs on that turned out to be $10 fixes, like cracked vacuum lines, bad ignition wires, or clogged EGRs.

BTW, a lot of auto parts stores will read the CEL for free. It would be nice to know what she’s fretting about.

Saab is a GM product, so maybe you should say, “Like father, like daughter.”

The reliability of Saabs of this vintage has never been very good. They are cars for Saab lovers, who are willing to spend whatever it takes to drive, and be seen driving, a Saab.

Your daughter has to decide how important Saab ownership is to her, and then figure out what to do.

Without knowing what problems she is having there’s no way to determine whether they are “normal maintenance” or something else. Be aware, however, that “normal maintenance” on a Saab would be considered outrageously expensive to a Toyota or Honda owner, or maybe even a GM owner. European vehicles are the most expensive to own and maintain. That’s just the way it is.

The CEL is frequently on

And … What were the codes and what was done.

Frankly my guess is that there is one problem and they have not fixed it. You can often get the error codes read even if the CEL is not on, free at some auto part stores. Maybe someone here can help with getting that one problem finally fixed.

OK about cutting and running. That is almost always the most expensive alternative. I would suggest working to get the problem really fixed and that will likely include not taking it back to the dealer. Find a good independent shop after you post those error codes back here. Save your daughter a lot of money. Don’t blame the car for a poor dealer.

Get a car parts house to pull the codes and post them back here. They will do this free and it only takes a few minutes.

It may be minor or may not be but continuing to drive around for eons with the CEL on may turn a little problem into a big one.
(FYI. GM has been involved with SAAB for over 30 years and prior to that SAAB was involved with Triumph and Ford. Even 30 years ago they were using Borg-Warner transmissions)

Thanks for all your help and advice. It is a huge help!

03’s are the first new body and system from GM’s full aquisition [as stated before, they’ve been involved for a while]. Needless to say, that year is known for engine sludge issues. When I was looking for an upgrade from my 92’ 9000 Saab, a man who’s been doing saabs since the 70’s [buying, fixing up, selling, etc. at his “saab graveyard” in Maine] specifically told me to stay clear away from 03’ 9-3’s. He doesn’t even put them on his lot unless he finds a “clean” one so to say, and then he drops everything out of them, cleans them, dissaseembles part of the engine, cleans that, etc.

Saabs are expensive cars, end of story. They aren’t cars for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money, or mechanical know how.