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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

New to the forums, and as the subject states I have a 2001 Saab 9-3 SE turbo, stick shift, and I started having problems this past Tuesday. At first a plastic-y, rattling noise started from the front end, and that noise coincided with the RPM's (rattling got faster with increase in RPM's). Same noise repeats when I shift up to the next gear. It was loudest when it first happened (on a rainy night) and has quieted down a bit, but it's still there. Almost sounds like a diesel engine. The car seems to idle a bit lower than it had before (usually around 1000, now around 800-900). When I talked to people about this I've heard many things, from the clutch to the timing belt/chain/guides, serpentine belt, pulleys, and a few other things. When I took it to a garage they told me that it looked like a bad timing chain and guides. I was told that since Saab went out of business around 2005/6 (hadn't heard that before, after all they still make new cars) that it would be hard to find and would take a few days to find. The quote was $1050 for parts and labor. Money's real tight for me, so he told me that as long as I could deal with the noise it'd be okay to drive, but carefully. Additionally, later that day I was pulling out of the post office and heard a low pitched squealing coming from my car, and saw white smoke coming out of my exhaust for about 2-3 seconds, but that's been the only time that happened. Now along with the clicking/rattling i can hear a slight hiss coming from the vents, along with very cold air coming from them, with the air off. I was told this may be a head gasket, but that hasn't been checked out by a mechanic yet. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I love my car, bought it in October of 2011 and still owe a few thousand dollars on it, definitely want to keep it going.
 

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Its tough to say what the rattling noise could be without hearing it... Could be any number of things. If it is the timing chain I don't think I would be driving the car until it's dealt with. If the chain or the guides go then you will end up bending valves and will have some major problems. Probably around $3,000 worth of repairs at a shop. A physical inspection of the chain would be a good idea to see how the chain looks and how much slack is in it.

As for the smoke, white smoke is burning coolant. Blue smoke is burning oil. Its either your head gasket or a seal in the turbo if its coolant burning. To see if the head gasket is bad you would either need a compression test or a leak down test. oth can be done at home or at a shop.

Hope it isn't something major, but these don't sound like small problems to me... maybe someone else has a different opinion.
 

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My first piece of advise would be to find a good Indy mechanic that knows his way around saabs. even if you have to drive 100miles to get there, its probably going to be better than giving up your car to a midas.

however, if you want to go the route of diagnosing this on the forum and by yourself, i would post a video clip of the noise youre hearing.

to me, it does not seem like a head gasket at all. and the noise that would be coming from a timing chain would be bone chilling. haha metal on metal. does the noise get worse when you are motionless in the driveway in nuetral and rev the engine? or only when youre in motion and the RPM's are rising?

the cold air coming through your vents is a pretty normal thing even when your ACC says the airs off... they are tempermental and break all the time. flaps break and therefore they dont turn off, stuff like that. are you still able to get hot air through the system?
 

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Hi everyone,

New to the forums, and as the subject states I have a 2001 Saab 9-3 SE turbo, stick shift, and I started having problems this past Tuesday. At first a plastic-y, rattling noise started from the front end, and that noise coincided with the RPM's (rattling got faster with increase in RPM's). Same noise repeats when I shift up to the next gear. It was loudest when it first happened (on a rainy night) and has quieted down a bit, but it's still there. Almost sounds like a diesel engine.
Likely the balance chain.As part of the super-maintenance 100-150K service, pull the valve cover and take a look..

The car seems to idle a bit lower than it had before (usually around 1000, now around 800-900).
Throttle body problems ?? This, and the attached TPS (throttle position sensor ) must be clean room clean.. This device is very sensutive..
When I talked to people about this I've heard many things, from the clutch to the timing belt/chain/guides, serpentine belt, pulleys, and a few other things. Do pay very close attention to the serpentine belt and its pulleys...these should be re-newed every 50K miles.
The cars history ?

When I took it to a garage they told me that it looked like a bad timing chain and guides. I was told that since Saab went out of business around 2005/6 (hadn't heard that before, after all they still make new cars) It, IMO, cannot be stated exactly when Saab went under....I'd say during the 80s...these things do not happen as a light bulb being extinguished... that it would be hard to find and would take a few days to find. The quote was $1050 for parts and labor. Money's real tight for me, so he told me that as long as I could deal with the noise it'd be okay to drive, but carefully. Additionally, later that day I was pulling out of the post office and heard a low pitched squealing coming from my car, and saw white smoke coming out of my exhaust for about 2-3 seconds, but that's been the only time that happened. Now along with the clicking/rattling i can hear a slight hiss coming from the vents, along with very cold air coming from them, with the air off. AC evaporator ??? I was told this may be a head gasket, but that hasn't been checked out by a mechanic yet. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I love my car, bought it in October of 2011 and still owe a few thousand dollars on it, definitely want to keep it going.
Welcome to SaabCentral and enjoy..:cheesy:
$5K to fix, not 1K...
turbo
air conditioning
chains
oil screen
misc
not today but this year.
Monitor the fluid levels, religiously...
 

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As McViggen suggested, find yourself a good Indy. If you live anywhere in the Southeastern section of PA, there is Performance Imports in Trevose. Demi's not cheap, but he was a Saab master mechanic for years and knows his way around our cars like there is no tomorrow.

Chris
Southeastern PA
2002 9-3 SE
 

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FWIW, GM sold Saab to Spiker in January or February 2010. Saab (then owned by Spiker) went bankrupt on December 7, 2011 - not in 2005 or 2006. Whoever the mechanic was that told you that obviously does not know Saab and I would stay away from them.

If you are a DIY-er, you can pull the valve cover and check the timing chain and guides yourself. It's not a big job, it just requires the right tools that can be purchased at a local Harbor Freight, and a new valve cover gasket set... Ron
 

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My first piece of advice is to find a new mechanic and/or learn to do some repairs yourself. Besides not knowing when Saab went bankrupt (end of 2011 as a previous poster said), your guy was wrong about the timing components being hard to find. A shop that knows Saabs would have no trouble locating those parts. I'm also not sure you should trust the diagnosis. Did he check the timing chain tensioner? Did he pulll the valve cover to inspect the chain? If it were my car, here is what I would do:

1. Remove the serpantine belt and start the engine. If ther noise is gone, then the source is one of the belt driven accessories (AC, water pump, PS pump, alternator), or the idler or tensioner pully. If the noise is still there, on to step 2.

2. Check the turbo for play. The "white smoke" you saw makes me suspect you have a turbo issue. If there is play in the shaft, then the turbo is likely the source of both the noise, and the burning coolant.

3. Run a compression test to rule out a head gasket failure. Also check the coolant level and look for any sign of oil contamination in the coolant and/or water/coolant in the oil.

Do NOT let a shop start swaping parts before a proper diagnosis is done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I found a local mechanic who works on Saabs, says he has 4 customers who bring their Saab (all 9-3's) to him whenever they need work. Also said that, in regards to the shop I first brought the car to, the one who said Saab went out of business in 05 or 06, he wouldn't trust them with a bicycle. He was nice enough to stay after hours, until about 6:30 pm on a Friday, to explain all the possibilities to me, and any of my questions. I think it's in good hands. Moving on...

Today on the way back from work, a few warning lights came on, the rattling went away, the power steering disappeared, and the car started to overheat. I pulled over to let it cool off, then started it up again, drove for maybe 3 miles, temperature went up again, pulled over. Fan stayed on for a few minutes and killed enough battery to prevent the car from starting up again (battery hasn't been great since I bought the car). Had AAA get me. Driver popped the hood, and lo and behold, the serpentine belt was completely torn. I'm hoping that since there was no more rattling, this was just the belt, and I won't need a new timing chain (an accidental way of trying what Nova suggested). I had it towed to the shop, and I'll give my mechanic the updates.

milehighsaab93
On my last drive today, when it was overheating, I noticed some coolant that had sprayed around the outside of the tank. By the time I got it to the shop, the tank was basically empty. Head gasket was replaced right after I bought the car, about 6 months ago, so it could be a seal in the turbo. My mechanic also told me he noticed the AC wasn't working anymore, which I hadn't because I've had the ventilation off. He also mentioned the possibility of problems with the bundler motors, or a problem with high pressure cut off switch / broken valve, due to overheating.

McVIGGEN
I'm not much of a DIY'er, don't know much about cars but I'm sure learning. The noise does get worse either way, neutral or in gear. As I mentioned before, the AC no longer works, and there is no longer cold air coming from the vents with the air off. Heat does work, though. And I'm with you on the head gasket, it should only be 6 months old. The rattling wasn't bone chilling, just noticeable, and it seemed to have stopped right after the serpentine belt broke. So HOPEFULLY no need for a new timing chain.

earthworm
As I said above, the serpentine belt is now dead. I bought the car at 102,000 miles, and have no idea if the belt was ever changed. And there definitely seems to be something wrong with the AC. I didn't notice the AC not working until I actually tried to get it to work.

08flstc
I'm in the lehigh valley area, but thanks. I think I've found a good indy, and have also heard about Integrated Automotive Services in Easton, who specialize in higher-end vehicles like Saabs, Audis, etc.

'97 Saab SE Turbo
Thanks for the info. And I'm definitely not going to take my car back there.

Nova
Like I mentioned above, the serpentine belt was removed, just not intentionally... The rattling did stop. Would you think the rattling would start up again with a new belt and be caused by one of the belt driven accessories? I mean, I'm assuming it's not just a bad belt that caused that noise. Maybe it is the alternator, if that would contribute to my battery being weak and not able to stay on for more than 15-20 minutes with the engine off? And what do you mean by "turbo play"? I've been taking it easy on the gas pedal for the past few days but when I've needed to accelerate, it's responded the way it should. If the sound stopped with the serpentine belt breaking, could that noise still be caused by a turbo issue?

I'm calling the shop first thing tomorrow morning with the updates so that my mechanic doesn't start looking for estimates on a new timing chain, as that may not be the problem. Thanks everyone!
 

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One of your accessories, or one of the idler pulleys, has a bad bearing. It froze up and the belt shredded.

As for that other mechanic, let's classify him as a moron. He never should have told you it was OK to drive the car with the rattle. Not that all rattles are a major issue, but he clearly didn't even have the smarts to check the accessory pulleys for play. You had something obvious going out fast and any backyard mechanic could have found it, let alone a professional. He doesn't deserve to be called a mechanic.

Never, ever drive a car once a belt shreds. If you are lucky you didn't cause serious damage by running with no cooling. Cross your fingers, pray to your favorite God, sacrifice a virgin oil filter on an alter bonfire.
 

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first, bob is right. 2nd, timing kits are ALL OVER THE PLACE for these cars. ebay, thesaabsite.com, you can even order them through your fave auto parts store. just because GM ran saab into the ground doesn't mean the after market people stop making parts. my timing kit came from scantech. very nice kit too i might say. there are 2 idler pulleys that are known to go bad. very easy to see they are bad and very easy to replace. so dont let some shop rape you and quote 500 bux for a 10min job.
 

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The rattling is definitely something belt drive, so it's not your turbo. It sounds like your AC compressor is the leading suspect. There's a very good chance that you now have a seized pulley, so it should be quite easy to find what had been the source of the rattle. Bob is exactly right, NEVER keep driving without your belt. Besides the alternator, power steering pump and AC compressor, the belt also drives the water pump. So, driving without a belt will eventually kill the engine. Your weak battery may have saved you from a much bigger mess.

Sounds like you have found a compotent shop. Good luck with the repairs. These cars can be very enjoyable to own, but they can also put quite a strain on one's budget.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Sure seems like a blessing in disguise now. I didn't know the belt was shot until the AAA driver showed me. I stopped driving because the car was overheating, and this was only 10 minutes away from my house. Playing it safe paid off in this case lol. Thanks again, I'll have an update when I hear something from my mechanic.
 
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