Saab Idling and Stalling?

Hello CarTalk community!

I have a 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero that I bought back in August. Two weeks ago, I brought car into the dealership for a 90k road service. It had some idling issues (sometimes, upon starting it up (cold or not), the car would idle and sputter, but never actually die. During the tune up, they said there was a frayed cable, which they replaced.

Fast forward 1.5 weeks later. The check engine light has come on. And the car is now sometimes idling funny just as it was before, only now it actually sputters and actually dies sometimes upon start up. After it initially dies, if I start it up again, it runs fine up on the second start.

Took into the dealership this morning and after 2 hours of diagnosis, they say the check engine read-out is indicating the fuel pump pressure sensor is going out, and that’s what’s causing it to idle and stall. They said they would waive the labor, etc. and charge me the part at-cost, which they say is $500.

Is this diagnosis legit?

And if i’s legit, is that price reasonable?

I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing since it was JUST in for the 90k service 1.5 weeks, and it’s exhibiting the same behavior only 10x worse than when I first brought it in.


The check engine light came with specific error codes (“diagnostic trouble codes” - DTCs). They look like “P1234”. Find out what yours were and post the exact codes. Also post the diagnostic steps that were actually taken.

They might be willing to waive labor because they are legit. But they also might be willing to waive labor because they are making a WAG and want to minimize the fall out when the work doesn’t solve the problem.

WOW. Cigroller, you are right.

So, I called the service guy back up. Here’s what he said:

The diagnostic code was: P008900.
Steps to diagnose: They checked the wire to the fuel pump sensor, it was okay. So, they think the fuel pump sensor is bad.

Now, after asking him verbatim if this will fix the issue, he says ‘no’! He says it may not help the idling and stalling, and that’s it’s actually a known issue with Saabs, which they call ‘bumbling’-- they believe it may be a ‘fuel quality issue’. WTH? In short, he says they cannot definitively say, with 100%, what the heck is causing the idling/stalling.

To make matters more interesting, he claims that the part they put in during the 90k service was not meant to fix the idling issue, and that may also be the result of a brake booster issue that they fixed back in August.

I’m beginning to suspect these guys may know even less than I do…£$%£$^.

The stumbling and dying could very well point to a fuel pressure problem which may be caused by a fuel pressure sensor so the diagnosis could be legitimate.

I would not rip the dealer too much here. You bought a used car that had a problem and a 90k miles service does not mean the diagnosis and repair of problems not related to that service.
It would be great if all automotive problems were black and white but unfortunately, that’s not the case nor will it ever be. There’s always going to be gray areas due to the complexity.

As to what the actual cause (or plural of that word) is I have no idea without car in hand. What would I do first thing? Install a vacuum gauge and check for vacuum leaks followed by a fuel pressure test and go from there.

As to the fuel pressure sensor you might check around these things. You can find them for far less than 500 dollars. The 500 dollars does not mean the dealer is gouging you. They simply mark the price up to make a profit on a part that is not provided to them on the cheap. They have no control over what they have to pay for that part and in spite of perception, the car makers do not furnish those parts to the dealers at a cut rate price and a 1000% markup to the dealer would not be unheard of even before the dealer adds their bit onto it.

Regarding the brake booster issue, specifically, they replaced the ‘brake vacuum check valve’ during the 90k tune-up and said THAT was supposed to fix the idling initially…

ok4450-- thanks for your response.

I take issue with being able to trust this dealer because they initially told me the idling issue was to be fixed by the ‘brake vacuum check valve’. NOW, they are telling me it needs a new fuel pump sensor without doing sufficient diagnostic work to prove so, and they are NOW saying they have no idea what’s causing the idling/stalling. So, I am indeed going to rip the dealer on that.

And yes, I’m aware the dealerships mark up the parts for profit. My issue has been with receiving conflicting diagnoses, without them communicating things clearly or not taking basic steps to diagnose-- problems may indeed be complex and not ‘black or white’, but that does not excuse them from not performing their due diligence and so blatantly changing their diagnosis (from ‘THIS WILL FIX IT!’ to ‘we have no idea what’s causing it…’). We’ll consider this a lesson learned.

At the end of the day, I apparently just need to find another reputable mechanic that works with Saabs.

I’d check for vacuum leaks, since it is idling badly and they farted around with systems related to the vacuum.
Get some starter fluid and spritz a little around vacuum hoses to see if the idle chances. You may notice it suddenly runs very well, albeit for only a second or two, when you hit the right spot.
If it does, have a careful look at the hose.

It is cheap (cost of a can of ether, starter fluid or WD40) and you may be able to figure it out yourself.

Thanks, RemcoW, much appreciated! We’ll give that a shot.