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  #1  
Old 11th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Question SAAB 9-3 oil leak

Right, so I test drove a SAAB 9-3 today and I pretty much enjoyed the car except for one slightly worrying problem. When I was looking at the engine I noticed that on the left side of the engine (the one closer to the battery) has some engine oil one it. The guy selling the car (he's the owner) said that the mechanics must have messed up the last time they were changing the oil, even though I cannot see how you can spill oil on that part of the engine. The oil on the engine was black and old, whereas the engine oil on the dipstick was very clean and had the "healty" color. The guy also said that the engine oil is due changing in 100 miles. Anyway, I was wondering if you guys have any ideas on the top of your heads where this oil on the engine could come from.

Also, what are the ways of checking if the engine has any sludge in it? I know that you can look under the valve cover or drop the oil pan. But it just looks a little too difficult, because you need cold engine for valve cover removal and let's not even talk about the oil pan. So anyone know any other way?

The car has around 66K on the clock is in decent shape and the guy said that he replaced engine oil every 3,000 miles with synthetic oil.
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  #2  
Old 11th May 2008
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GarrettCharger GarrettCharger is offline
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On that side of the engine the oil leak is most likely coming from the valve cover gasket, they are notorious for leaking, especially on that end of the motor. Even mine has a little seepage and its ony 20k old. Removing the valve cover is the easiest way to assess engine sludge, and if the oil leak is coming from the valve cover gasket you would need to remove it anyways. Good Luck.
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Old 11th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Would it be an expensive job to fix that leak. Also, I know that labor costs vary, but on average how much can it cost at the mechanic to lift up the valve cover?
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Old 12th May 2008
24601 24601 is offline
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All you need is a torx bit (don't remember the size) a 13mm socket (I think) for the steel banjo bolt that bolts to the turbo pipes and a smaller torx bit to remove the DI cassette. Probably the easiest thing you can do since you don't have to contort yourself or go under the car. I just ordered a new gasket for mine last night and It was $13.90 from eEuroparts.com I would recommend buying any other little parts that you need at that time since your shipping is free if your order is over $40.

I have heard, this is probably wrong, that it won't really leak if it's sludged.

Seriously has to be the easiest thing to do aside from switching out the DI cassette or the battery. I think that the air filter is more trouble honestly.
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  #5  
Old 12th May 2008
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It would probably cost somewhere between 60-200$ for a mechanic to do it. 50-60$ for a good indy and 200+ for the dealership. +the price for the gasket.
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Old 12th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 24601
I have heard, this is probably wrong, that it won't really leak if it's sludged.
Did I get it right? Do you mean that there would be no leak if there is sludge in the engine? How reliable is this indicator? Would it be sensible to buy that car without first checking under the valve cover? Or would I be running $4,000 risk for engine replacement?
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Old 12th May 2008
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The sludge/leak thing is something I've heard. In theory it makes some sense, bit I could be completely wrong. I would ask the seller to remove the valve cover himself/herself and show you. If it looks any worse than this http://www.saabcentral.com/forums/sh...34#post1244234 don't buy it. If it's better, I'm sure it's ok.

The one thing that you should definitely do if you buy it is drop the oil pan and have the screen cleaned.

Like I said before, It is incredibly easy to get the valve cover off. The hardest part is getting it loose once it's unscrewed. I used a large wrench on the back lip to nudge it off but I'm sure that a tap with a rubber mallet will get it off just the same.

If the owner is hesitant to remove the valve cover for some reason I would find another one. Another reason to be worried is if he/she knows nothing about the sludge issue.
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Old 12th May 2008
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If you decide to buy the car, then I'm certain there are about 30+ ppl on here that will help you get the valve cover off and a new gasket installed. I know that if you wanted someone to talk your through it, they will call or offer out there number to walk you through it (thanks nick/Leon) over the phone. We will make a mechanic out of you yet!!!

Haha!

Cheers
Sno
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Old 12th May 2008
24601 24601 is offline
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I just read your original post. He must have change the oil the day that you saw him, because the oil in these cars only maintain the "healthy" color for maybe a few days. If you haven't already, I would take 20-30 min to read all of the NINES articles from Chuck Andrews. http://www.saabpros.com/saab/nines/

The up side is that if the car has no sludge problem, replacing the valve cover is almost as easy as it gets.
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Old 12th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 24601
I just read your original post. He must have change the oil the day that you saw him, because the oil in these cars only maintain the "healthy" color for maybe a few days. If you haven't already, I would take 20-30 min to read all of the NINES articles from Chuck Andrews. http://www.saabpros.com/saab/nines/
I will definitely have a look at the article. The reason the guy was hesitant to let the mechanic remove the valve cover was because he had some bad experience of bad mechanics messing up his wife's VW. Also, he is one of those guys who doesn't do anything on his car, so therefore he even didn't have any idea of what valve cover is, what it takes to remove it and why the hell that strange guy was so worried about the engine of a car that "runs good"... He said he still has to talk to his friend who is a diesel mechanic to see what he says.

As far as the engine oil goes, here is a photo of the towel that I used to wipe out the dipstick when the engine was hot. I wiped it out twice. Do you think he replaced the oil a couple of days before he showed the car to me?

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Old 12th May 2008
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That is definitely new oil. I'm a little weary about a guy who doesn't really know what your talking about when it comes to the valve cover, yet claims to have changed the oil every 3k with synthetic. I would ask to see the oil change history if he has it and I would also look under the valve cover before buying the car. Opening the valve cover before buying a car is quite common. I've never heard of any one (that I know at least) buying a "tuned" car without looking under the valve cover. Most people don't do it, especially with a car that has no modifications. In this case I would definitely do it.
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Old 12th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 24601
That is definitely new oil.
So the guy was lying... He also "didn't notice" the oil leak until I pointed it out. Also, he doesn't have the complete oil change history: he's "not that anal"... Hm... OK, that means I now have to be much stricter to him. Either he will let the mechanic lift up the valve cover or the deal will fail.

Also, does the engine need to be cold for the valve cover lift?
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Old 12th May 2008
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It doesn't have to be, but it would help with not getting your hands burnt. 15-20 min cool down is enough I would say.

I really might be wrong about this (if anyone know please chime in) but I would think that the leak is a good indicator that it's not sludged.

My car was excellent for the price even thought the service manager at the dealership tried to tell me thats "SAAB's don't have intercoolers". That one I will never forget. I paid 6,000 2 years ago when it had about 60-65,0000 miles. I also ended up getting a new (used) engine out of them because I drove the car as hard as I could once I got it. The oil light came on, I tried to hit 140 on the highway just to blow it. In New Jersey we have lemon laws that give you a 3,000 mile warranty on the drivetrain. I knew something was wrong with the engine when I bought it, I just played stupid.
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Old 12th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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I've just sent the guy to look for another idiot. He called me and said that he's not comfortable taking the car to Brooklyn for a mechanic inspection, because he lives in Staten Island and needs to pay $10 to get back. Then I asked him if it would be OK for the mechanic to remove the valve cover. He said no, because "the car runs good". I don't know, hopefully he will find an idiot who cannot do a little googling before buying a 10 year old car. Meanwhile, I will look for another car.

On the side note: I was talking to my dad (he owns an Audi) and he said that the oil is supposed to get dirty and black before it's due changing, otherwise it means that the engine is not being lubricated well. So I was wondering if old oil in a sludged engine would come out clean?
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  #15  
Old 12th May 2008
24601 24601 is offline
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No, the oil in a sludged engine would get dirty faster because of all the mess. What year 9-3 was it? Was it a 99?

Look for an engine that sounds healthy. You don't really want to hear any tapping or knocking... and always check under the valve cover when buying a SAAB.

Anyway, good luck with your search. In my opinion a 9-3 is the way to go, unless you can find a low mileage Land Rover Defender, but that is a whole new ball game.
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  #16  
Old 12th May 2008
Rytis Rytis is offline
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Here is the ad: http://newyork.craigslist.org/stn/car/673531265.html

He said he would be fine selling the car for something close to $4,400.

Feel free to give the guy a call and ask if he would let you/your mechanic remove the valve cover, because the engine might have sludge in it. And let me know what he says if you do.

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid some people are when it comes to cars. I cannot see how a single owner of SAAB 9-3 can at this point in time not know about the oil sludge issue. I understand it was kind of new and unexpected back in early 2000s, but man it's 2008 now and these cars have been around... I now even kinda wish that engine blows on that car and the owner gets to know about it so that he would realize that I was not talking bullcrap... That's a bad wish, I know...

Anyway, thanks a lot for your help! I really appreciate it!

Last edited by Rytis; 12th May 2008 at 01:19 PM.
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