Saab 9-3 intermittently won't start

We’ve been having a problem with our 2001 Saab 9-3 since I bumped over a divider a year ago. I gave the car a good rattle, and after work the car wouldn’t start when I turned the ignition. After 15 minutes of turning the ignition key, I gave up and called for a tow. Immediately afterwards the car started.

It’s been behaving this way for a year now, once or twice a week. It seems to happen most often after a short stop, under 30 minutes, such as to buy groceries. The dashboard lights up, the electrical features such as the fan and the radio come on, and the car clicks once and hums, then stops humming after five seconds. No more clicks (like you hear from a bad starter). If you hold the key in starter position, for up to 3 minutes (which seems like an eternity when you’re twisting the key and waiting), it will eventually start. Usually it takes at least 10-20 minutes to start the car. We’ve tried switching to neutral but that never seems to work. We joke that she starts when you scare her by calling a tow truck. But that seems to work (I’m sure it’s just a matter of the time elapsed).

The mechanic checked the battery and found no problems other than a drain from the built-in cd changer, which he disconnected. They were unable to replicate the problem and thus gave the car back. A different mechanic speculated that the solenoids of the starter weren’t connecting.

Do you guys have any thoughts on this problem? We don’t want to replace the starter or ignition unless it’s definitely the source of the problem.

Thanks in advance,

Bring a broom stick and hammer with you.

Next time it happens, put one end of the stick on the starter and give the the other end of the broomstick a good whack- not hard enough to ding up the starter, but just hard enough to shock it a bit (If I remember correctly, the starter on a Saab is not immediately at the top so a broomstick or a stick is likely skinny enough to reach it from the top)
If it now starts, you’ll probably need a starter or starter solenoid (that thing bolted on top of the starter).

If your starter is good, you may need to dig into the electrical system a bit more. In that case, your ignition switch could be at fault, etc. It could also be the wiring to the starter, obviously.

Love a good mystery, one can always come up with miraculous solutions. I want to ask first about bumped over a divider. We had a rental car out in CA, and I am blind in one eye so have depth perception issues. I got on a road in San Fran I believe that ended up being a lead to the freeway. I turned left across it to enter a parking lot driveway, I thought it was a yellow line, but after the bump thump scrape realized it was a yellow triangular shaped divider between the two directions of traffic. Of course my first thought was glad we bought that rental insurance.

If this is what you mean by bumped over a divider we have a causal event. How could such an event cause intermittent starts?

Guess 1 Whacked the starter motor alignment, or the motor itself just enough to cause intermittent problems.

Guess 2 Bent some metal and when trying to start motor shift possibly due to engine shift or bad motor mounts causes a short and starter does not get all it’s cranking amps.

Guess 3 Divider compromised the cable or connection on the starter motor.

Conclusion, since you seem to have a direct cause and event situation look under the car to see what might be impacted by the crossing, and come up with guess 4.

Many cars have a fuel shutoff switch for accidents, maybe your car has an intermittent engine shutoff switch for accidents that needs looking at.