my saab story

A few weeks ago, before I revived this journal, I had problems with my car, a Saab convertible. The car had begun to make a strange noise when first being started–a loud, high whirring noise, that would rapidly cycle down in both pitch and strength. Then, on the way home from work one day, the oil light and check engine lights both came on. I called the dealer and they told me to bring it in the next morning.
This had happened last summer as well–one month after the warranty ran out, of course–at which time I took it to the dealer and they told me that my oil had turned to sludge. At the time, they removed and cleaned part of the engine, and charged me $600, and told me it was all taken care of.

So now the car’s doing the same thing, and the dealer reports the same thing: my oil is filthy and has turned to sludge. They tell me I need to have the same procedure done; I tell them they did it last year; they say, no, I didn’t let them do it last year; I tell them to look up the record; they look it up and say “What do you know, we did do that procedure. Let’s go back and take a look at this thing again.” Later that day, I get the phone call: “You’ve ruined your car’s engine; we need to take it apart, thoroughly clean all the pieces, replace the timing chain, and put it all back together. Worst case scenario? Around $4,000-$5,000. Best case scenario? $3,000!!!”
They tell me it’s because I didn’t get the oil changed frequently enough. OK, so I didn’t change the oil every 3,000 miles or 3 months… but I had it changed at least twice a year. Now, this car is five years old, and has only 35,000 miles on it… so I averaged 7,000 miles a year. Not exactly overdriven. And twice a year is pretty damn close to 3,000 miles. But they tell me that since I didn’t bring it in every three months, I’ve ruined it. I’m convinced, especially given that when this happened last year, it had only been a few months since I’d last been–to them–for a service and oil change, that they charged me for an oil change but didn’t in fact perform it.
However, I can’t prove anything. But I can decide not to throw any more money their way. “OK,” I say to them, “you say that I need this work and that it will resolve the problem. Less than a year ago, though, you told me I needed a different procedure and that that would solve the problem. You still don’t know why this is happening to this car. How do I know that I won’t just sink $4,000 into it, at which point I’ll owe more on it than it’s worth, and six months from now just end up back here again with the same problem?” Their answer, “Uh, you don’t.” My reply, “Well, looks like I need to dump this car.” Their response, “Uh… yeah, maybe you do… do you want to talk about getting another Saab from us?” After I finished laughing and wiping the tear from my eye, I told them I’d be down to pick it up and bring it home, and decide where to take it for a second opinion.
So since then it’s just been mostly sitting in my parking space. I drive it occasionally, gently, like today, because of the rain and cold. Fortunately, I’m only a mile and a half from work, so I can walk, and just across the street from a couple of grocery stores. I just haven’t had the strength to deal with it yet.
So today, as I noted, it’s rainy and cold. On the way home, I turn on the blower. OK, no problem. I turn the temperature control from cool to warm. All’s fine. I turn the dial to move the air flow from the floor to the defroster. At this point, there’s usually a little resistance from that knob, as the deflectors rotate into their new position; this time, there’s a click and then no resistance. The dial rotates to the defroster position; the air still blows on the floor. I take the knob off and look at the cam underneath… I turn the cam with my fingers; it clicks appropriately as it moves from tickmark to tickmark; the air still blows on the floor. I have heat, and I have varying blower speeds, but I can’t redirect the air off the floor.
I barely got home before the windshield was too fogged to see through.
It’s time to take this car to Carmax, I think, just take the loss on it by taking the wholesale blue book value they offer, but at least get it off my hands. I did love this car, but I really dislike my dealership now. So, as there are only two Saab dealerships in the area, and the other is in Maryland, I probably won’t get another; I’m also a little concerned about a modern car that can’t go six months and 3,500 miles between oil changes without danger of having the oil turn to sludge and the engine ruined. So I need to get my bike out of storage and in shape, and start thinking about what model car to buy now.

One thought on “my saab story

  1. My saab 9-3 has the same sludge problem. You know the manual says 7500miles between oil changes. I bought my used and have changed it every 3500.
    My independent mechanic told me the location of the catalytic converter causes the problem. It is located right under the oil pan and cooks the oil into a hearty sludge. Saab has built a real lemon and won’t take responsibility.
    By the way the problem with the directional knob breaking off is also common to saabs.

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