1999 Saab Repairs

Here’s a list of the repairs and maintenance my Saab 95 needed while I had possession of it.

  • 1,187 miles: New car 1,000 mile service performed, free of charge (oil change, inspection).
  • 1,187 miles: Had remote entry / security system reprogrammed to make fewer beeps. No charge.
  • 1,187 miles: Reported intermittent problem with A/C fan making loud noise. Dealership could not reproduce problem. Problem has not recurred.
  • 2,340 miles: Came out to the car and found that the passenger side rear-view mirror glass had popped out of the mirror housing, and was dangling by the defroster wires. A metal clip was found nearby, with no obvious place to replace it. I snapped the mirror back into place, and it worked fine until the dealership could replace the glass; the metal clip was a grounding strap for the defroster. Replaced under warranty.
  • 4,766 miles: While driving through a construction zone, a stiff wire punctured the passenger-side rear tire. Clipped the wire and drove the car to the nearest tire repair shop, Dunn Tire. Tire plugged at no charge due to previous purchase from said shop.
  • 5,100 miles (approx.): Performed oil change as per heavy-usage schedule. Cost at dealership, approx. $25.
  • 5,623 miles: Air conditioning intermittently sends hot air to rear seat upper vents when air conditioning should be selected (front vents blow cold air). Problem can be resolved by cycling through the air-distribution options. Dealership could not reproduce problem, but is contacting Saab technical support for more information.
  • 5,623 miles: Moulding on the side of the driver’s seat, toward the outside of the car (where the seat adjustment buttons are located) has broken loose; replaced under warranty.
  • 6,049 miles: Front passenger side tire has slow air leak, and rear passenger side tire has fast air leak. Dealership finds screw in front tire and cotter pin in rear tire. Both holes patched. Cost: $23.66. (I don’t know why this car is a tire-damage magnet; I swear I’m not driving it through construction sites!)
  • 7,000 miles (approx): Where Saab really gets you is with the replacement windshield wipers. They don’t make blade refills, and the blade itself is oddball—you can’t get an aftermarket replacement. So, you have to buy whole new wiper blades. The Saab blades include an aerodynamic spoiler to ensure good contact with the windshield, so using an aftermarket blade means reduced performance. A set of new Saab blades cost me $55.08, with 8% New York sales tax. The blades for the headlight wipers are slightly more expensive…
  • 9,816 miles: Time for the 10,000 mile service, at a cost of $84.90, including oil change, tire rotation, filter changes, and general inspection. No new wiper blades, though.
  • 9,816 miles: The air conditioning problem had resurfaced; the dealership applied a firmware update to the air conditioning system to fix the problem. The problem went away for a while.
  • 11,675 miles (approx): The air conditioning acts up again. This time, thanks to the Internet, I know the cause: a flaw in the airbox design causes the diverters to get confused if the front-seat passenger closes off both panel A/C vents. Opening the vent and “soft-booting” the A/C (turning it off, then on, and cycling through each airflow mode) clears up the problem. I understand there’s a technical service bulletin available to the dealer which describes how to modify the diverters (by drilling a hole) to prevent this from happening. I’ve got to make an appointment for that…
  • 11,757 miles: Rear driver’s side tire developed a slow leak. I took it to Dunn Tire, where it was patched and rebalanced for $15. Cause: a screw. Does Michelin use magnetic rubber?
  • 13,595 miles: I finally get the car in for the air conditioning fix. Technician’s notes read “needs update per WIS R&R glove box and ducts modified as per 870 pull lever arms and adjusted as per WIS” Fixed under warranty.
  • 13,595 miles: It seemed to me that the car was vibrating excessively when idling in neutral with the air conditioning compressor activated. The dealership determined that there was “no abnormal vibration” but found that the transmission fluid was a pint low. No leaks were found. Test and fluid covered under warranty.
  • 13,595 miles: The left rear door was squeaking. The dealership lubricated the door hinges and stops under warranty.
  • 13,595 miles: A connector between the starter motor harness and the engine wiring harness was missing a seal. This was replaced under warranty. I’d call this a “quiet recall”–they told me it was done, but obviously it was being done to cars only when they were brought in for other service.
  • 13,595 miles: While the car was in for all these other things, I had them update the Warranty & Service booklet. The last time the car was in for routine maintenance, they neglected to stamp the appropriate boxes. This seems to be a chronic problem for Saab dealerships.
  • 15,000 miles (approx): Scheduled maintenance. An extra oil change, because the car sees mostly city driving. This was done at the Connecticut dealership where I purchased the car. Cost: $25.39.
  • 15,000 miles (approx): The hood ornament had delaminated. Replaced under warranty.
  • 15,000 miles (approx): Recall. The engine computer had faulty rubber isolation mounts that would leach chemicals, eventually eating circuit traces on the computer board. Replaced under warranty.
  • 15,000 miles (approx): Recall. The wiring harness in the trunk for the optional CD changer (which I don’t have) could work loose and chafe, leading to a potential fire risk. Repaired under warranty.
  • 16,000 miles (approx): The trunk latch acts up during a spate of particularly cold weather, and starts requiring an extremely hard slam to latch properly. Repaired under warranty.
  • 16,000 miles (approx): The driver’s side seat heating switch doesn’t always work right. The switch was determined to have an internal short, and was replaced under warranty.
  • 16,000 miles (approx): Time for wiper blades again. This time, I pony up the cash to replace the headlight wipers, too. The windshield wipers are $22 each, and the headlight wipers are $25 each. Total, with tax, $101.52. Notably, the headlight wipers have been redesigned. They’re now a U-shaped double blade affair which seems to be a bit stiffer. They’ll probably last a good bit longer without getting bent.
  • 16,905 miles: The air conditioning found a new way to act up: Monday morning, it’s totally blank, and there’s no way to get heat out of it. It’s the middle of January in Rochester. Thank Saab for heated seats! Oddly, that afternoon, it’s working again, but seems to take a little time to “boot up” after starting the car. The dealership determined that there was an internal electrical failure in the automatic climate control head unit, and replaced it under warranty.
  • 16,950 miles: Passenger-side low beam headlight blown. Purchased a replacement bulb at AutoZone for $13, and installed it myself. Very easy replacement.
  • 16,975 miles: An accident causes approximately $15,000 damage, mainly on the front passenger side. Even though this was a moderately serious accident, I walked away with no injury at all. What’s more, the car suffered no frame damage, and was repaired to good-as-new condition. Everything worked as designed. I will definitely be buying another Saab when this one no longer meets my needs! I paid the insurance deductable, $500.
  • 17,020 miles: While out driving the newly-repaired car, a loud, explosive BANG! was heard upon going to full throttle on a country road. The car lost power, stuttered, but was able to be safely driven to a nearby parking lot. It then started but stalled under any load. Cause: The body shop missed a hose clamp on the intake ductwork, which caused the intake duct to work loose in a way that prevented the car from controlling engine airflow. Repaired under warranty. At the same time, further repairs were made to the dashboard where the body shop did a poor job fitting the replacement dashboard. (See note above.) Also, missing “SE” badges were placed on the fenders. My local dealer’s body shop did OK with the paint, but rates a D for fit and finish. Their repair shop did an excellent job fixing the body shop’s mistakes, though.
  • 18,013 miles: The transmission seems to be shifting a little rough. The dealership found no problem.
  • 18,013 miles: The engine seemed to develop a rattle; the dealership could not hear it, although they did find an air conditioner evaporation hose rubbing against the belt. Temporary repairs to the hose were made, and a new hose was special-ordered.
  • 18,013 miles: The hood did not latch properly, as the latches were not properly aligned by the body shop when they put the car back together. Fixed under warranty.
  • 18,013 miles: The front heated-seat controls did not light up at night; two burned-out bulbs replaced under warranty.
  • 18,013 miles: The intermittent buzzing noise from the air conditioning fan is showing up again at long intervals; dealership could not reproduce the problem.
  • 18,013 miles: The speaker grilles are still not flush with the dash after the accident, and the dash has many squeaks and rattles; another new speaker grille has been special-ordered.
  • 18,013 miles: The dealership didn’t do an oil change when they put the car back together after the accident–even though the accident took out the oil cooler, and the thing was leaking oil. So, $43.26 for an oil and filter change.
  • 18,013 miles: The front air dam seems to be drooping a bit; the body shop claimed they’d adjust it, but it looked the same to me when I picked up the car. It took several days to get Dorschel to schedule the appointment for this work, because the body shop and the repair shop kept pointing their fingers at each other and dragging their feet.

Compared to the Intrepid, the Saab has been very reliable. There have been no problems which left me stranded or resulted in severe mechanial failures. The failures have either been superficial (mirror glass, seat frame) or to nonessential systems (A/C). The tires… well, either Rochester has too many leaky dumptrucks filled with screws driving the streets, or Michelin needs to make tires with more puncture resistance. The tires are wearing well, so I don’t know when I will replace them, but when I do I will certainly look into puncture-resistant (i.e., self-sealing) tires, if I can find any that are properly performance-rated.

The main service-related problem I have with my Saab is the quality of care I get from the only Saab dealer in town, Dorschel Saab. I am satisifed with the reliability and performance of the car itself. However, Dorschel can be irritating to deal with, and their body shop doesn’t do as good a job as I would expect for a dealership with so many luxury marques.

Repair Costs

For those keeping score, here’s how my out-of-pocket expenses have broken down over 18,000 miles:

Scheduled Maintenance $178.55
Wear items $169.60
Tire repairs $38.66
Total out of pocket expense $386.81

(Does not include $500 insurance deductable for accident repairs.)

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