One of the most common issues with Saab engines is a clogged up oil pickup tube. Paraffin based oils will cause build up on the oil pickup screen causing the engine components that are farthest away from the oil supply to make noise. i.e.......Valve train, lifters etc.... You will likely find that the waxy build up begins to block the screen. This is usually caused by too long of a time between oil changes. The only real fix is to remove the oil pan on the 9000, NG900, 93, 95 and to remove the tranny on the 900 to repair this issue.
Thanks to Aaron Kidder for contributing to this FAQ!
I have an '02 9-3. After reading about this oil pickup issue I did some investigation. Keep in mind I had no reason to pursue this other than preventative maintenance. I have had zero engine problems or noises. I want to be as detailed as possible for others who are nervous like I was.
Unfortunatley I have no pics to share. I used a Mobil synthetic blend 5w-30 since the car was new and changed it at 5,000 miles as I thought 10K was a bit excessive-glad I did... I always use Saab filters and changed to straight synthetic Mobil 1 5w-30 at about 20K miles and still use it. The car had 90K miles as I started this work. My first step in this investigation was to pull the valve cover and have a look. What a mess. There was alot of varnish and sludge in the places where oil pools up. Now I am worried. Talking to some dealer mechanics they said this was normal because the head design is terrible at allowing oil to drain back to the pan quickly. The places for oil to pool in the head also cause this issue due to the high temps. I was surprised synthetic would varnish this badly. It looked like I was using some generic cheap oil. I thought about some engine flush, but had some serious reservation about creating more harm than good by sending debris through the turbo bearings and other components. A local Saab dealer had some flush but I opted to not do this. I called another dealer mechanic I know and he said they often times have to take the entire engine apart to clean the sludge out. I couldn't beleive with the Mobil 1 oil and 5K change interval I would have to do this at 90K miles?! I figure there are alot of owners who probably don't maintain the oil very well and I can beleive such steps may be required for them. Since I plan to have this car for alot more miles I decided to pull the pan off and have a look. Now, I worked as a mechanic for some years but performing this procedure is not as big a deal as some other web sites made it out to be. You will need a good set of 1/4, 3/8" metric sockets and wrenches and some 1/2" drive metric deep sockets for the subframe bolts, a large prybar and other basic tools. A flex head ratchet and "wobble" extensions will make the pan removal a bit easier for the hard to reach bolts. There are a few sites with step by step and pics, but here is the quick and dirty..do a little research and be safe. Jack the car way up high so you have plenty of room and use stands for added safety if you don't have a lift. Drain the oil and filter housing. Replace the filter and pan plug so any remaining oil can just drip in the pan and filter as you work below. Pull the exhaust off from the turbo to the joint behind the engine and be sure to carefully unhook the related sensors. The sensors were a pain in the neck to trace to their plugs and unhook without breaking my knuckles or the plugs-use some patience and a small screwdriver or pick will help disconnect the plugs. Pull off the plastic skid panels so you can access the subframe components. I took the bolts from the front of the left and right subframes and just loosened the driver's side rear bolts.
With a large pry bar at the front of the subframe you can move the subframe components enough to unbolt the pan and squeeze it past with no problems. Some sites tell you to remove suspension components and such-it is not needed!!! You will save a ton of time and headache by using some
common sense as you proceed. Once the pan and oil pickup were down I removed them and found the pickup approx. 20% clogged with sludge and burned oil on the bottom of the pan.(the exhaust location for sure makes alot of this problem worse) The bottom end of the engine and cylinder walls, pistons, etc. actually all looked good. Still the varnish, but nothing to get excited about. I cleaned the pan, and pickup. The pickup may be very difficult to clean out and having solvent and a high pressure air blow gun was a must. BE SURE TO ORDER NEW O-RINGS AND ANEROBIC SEALANT BEFORE YOU START THIS JOB. Change the oil pickup tube o-ring and the oil crossover tube o-rings(this tube is obvious after you get the pan down) as you will find them hard and brittle and not very good to risk using over again. As for assembly bolt torque specs, I did not have Saab specs but used standard torques for metric bolts and some common sense(it's not the space shuttle!) Just be careful not to overtighten the small screws that hold the oil pickup and
baffles inside the pan. Assembly was no problems Overall, this job only took me about 3-4 hours including cleaning the parts. The sludge at the pickup was not as bad as I expected to find with
all the horror stories I read about. But for using what I think is a good oil and good maintenance I was pretty disappointed. The engine would have ran alot more miles with no symptoms, but I was glad to have looked inside and done the cleanup. To have this procedure done by a shop would cost the average owner alot of money. I just took my time, some research and a few parts to get me feeling confident in my engine again. Now, will I do this again at 200K miles-for sure as it really is not a big project, just something Saab owners shouldn't have to do in the first place.