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Discussion Starter #1
I have only ever experienced this problem once - my dad's '02 9-3 wouldn't crank when hot, and it was easy enough to diagnose as running the shifter up and down once or twice, or trying from N instead of P and it would start. It seemed obvious, and after bypassing the range sensor with a switch it was easy to validate the original problem.

My current '02 9-3 wouldn't start yesterday. It was not hot - it's 50F out and it had been sitting for hours. Battery was fine, key was fine, everything was fine. Just no start. BUT, when turning the key to Start, I could clearly hear a relay under the dash clicking. I'm assuming that's the starter relay, and I'm pretty darned sure I wouldn't hear that click if the range sensor was the issue since the range sensor is what grounds the coil on the relay. Also, maybe worthless information, but the range indicator on the dash was working just fine as well.

It was easy enough to get the car started by leaving the key in Run and using jumper cables to connect the battery positive to the starter solenoid, so I wasn't stranded, just annoyed. :)

Truly diagnosing this is gonna be a pain, since it means driving around with a multimeter and the relay panel exposed. So, I'm hoping to collect some info from those that have suffered this problem and narrow it to the relay, the sensor, or some input/output supply problem.

Did your starter relay work properly when the range sensor failed?
 

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I have only ever experienced this problem once - my dad's '02 9-3 wouldn't crank when hot, and it was easy enough to diagnose as running the shifter up and down once or twice, or trying from N instead of P and it would start. It seemed obvious, and after bypassing the range sensor with a switch it was easy to validate the original problem.

My current '02 9-3 wouldn't start yesterday. It was not hot - it's 50F out and it had been sitting for hours. Battery was fine, key was fine, everything was fine. Just no start. BUT, when turning the key to Start, I could clearly hear a relay under the dash clicking. I'm assuming that's the starter relay, and I'm pretty darned sure I wouldn't hear that click if the range sensor was the issue since the range sensor is what grounds the coil on the relay. Also, maybe worthless information, but the range indicator on the dash was working just fine as well.

It was easy enough to get the car started by leaving the key in Run and using jumper cables to connect the battery positive to the starter solenoid, so I wasn't stranded, just annoyed. :)

Truly diagnosing this is gonna be a pain, since it means driving around with a multimeter and the relay panel exposed. So, I'm hoping to collect some info from those that have suffered this problem and narrow it to the relay, the sensor, or some input/output supply problem.

Did your starter relay work properly when the range sensor failed?
not a sticky solenoid ? Using a hot wire like you did can spring them into action...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It definitely could be, but it seems that a good relay shouldn't do anything more or less than a direct jump. Electrically, it's the same thing. That's what has me wondering where the fault actually lies.
 

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I have had this no-start issue three times. One time rowing the gear selector up and down did the trick. The other two times nothing I tried helped and I had to wait several hours before it would start again. I have a 9-3 2003 convertible (1st gen).

I'm not very experienced working with cars but after doing my research I planned to remove and clean my neutral safety switch unit as per a youtube tutorial. I haven't got around to doing so yet but after better understanding how it works I realised I can hear that my gears only clunk into place around a second after I shift the stick. My suspicion now is that my previous behaviour of throwing the gear stick into park and turning off the engine very quickly (as in less than a second for the entire process) may have had something to do with this no-start issue. I don't know if it's possible for the NSS to not register the gear change before the power is cut, maybe someone can correct my assumption here, but I'm operating as if that is the case.

Since that realisation, I've been changing gears slowly and deliberately. I wait to hear the gears clunk into place before I turn off the car. I haven't had an issue since I've been doing that a few months ago. Can't tell if this is just superstitious behaviour or if my careful shifting is helping prevent a reoccurence but figured I might share this in case it may be helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The range sensor is only a sensor - it tells the TCM what gear (P,R, N, or D) has been mechanically selected, and interrupts the starter and illuminates the reverse lights. Actual gear selection is 100% mechanical, and it does take a moment between selection and engagement - hydraulic fluid has to be routed, clutches engaged and disengaged, etc. Typically the older the transmission and the crappier the fluid the longer it will take, but over time there is physical wear inside the transmission that will increase the delay. The TCM is responsible for an important but remarkably narrow slice of transmission operation.
 

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Thanks for the information.

This is the youtube video I mentioned.

I'm assuming the shift sensor he's referring to is the same as the range sensor. It looks like the part can get dirty or sticky and have its operation impeded since it's a mechanical little knob that turns alongside shifting gears.

I came across another local Saab owner who told me he had the same no-start issue. He had his range switch replaced twice I believe to no avail. He advised me to install a starter button to bypass the NSS. I looked into how to do it but again I'm out of my depth. Apparently it can get bypassed by inserting a wire into one of the starter fuses but I dare not try that until I'm dead sure of what I'm doing.

If possible, could you please link me to where I can learn how to connect the battery positive to the starter solenoid? Having a solution to keep me from being stranded in case it reoccurs would be most helpful. The last time it occurred after all was when I picked up my mother to take her to hospital. I ended up having to call her an Uber.
 

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For what it’s worth, I don’t remember hearing a relay clicking when the NSS didn’t work.

JOHNSMITH: I tried cleaning mine to no avail. Then I installed a bypass switch years ago. It hung down under the steering wheel. flipping it would guarantee a start, until the wires would get knocked and the switch disconnected. ( unnoticed til it was too late of course). I finally just hard wired the bypass. Not that technical and will probably would solve your issues once and for all.
 

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I don't remember any clicking either when I experienced my issue, whatever it may be. I have complete silence, the engine doesn't start despite there being power. On the first turn of the key I can rotate it fully, however every subsequent turn is blocked half way until I turn it back to OFF and start fresh.

Danno93, come to think of it, the other Saab owner I met who had the same issue said he eventually fixed it by asking the mechanic to remove the NSS completely, instead of replacing it for a third time. He recommended I do the same to save myself the money and hassle. Considering there's another safety feature that prevents the key being removed unless the car is in Park, it doesn't seem like starting in any other gear would be a likely occurrence.

Were there any online resources that aided you in bypassing the NSS? The best I could find was that YouTube tutorial. Assuming the range switch part he replaces in the video is indeed the same thing as the NSS.
 

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Apologies for hijacking this thread jvanabra. My issue may be different to yours if yours has clicking present and mine doesn't.
 

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I don't think bypassing it is an issue. In the several decades before the 90's people that drove automatic transmission cars with no NSS, I don't recall a single case of someone trying to start an automatic in gear.

Conversely, I DO recall several folks forgetting to step on a manual's clutch... but Saab chose not to include a "clutch depressed for starting" feature on these cars even though there's already a switch on the clutch they could have easily used to at least determine the clutch had been pressed to some degree! (It's for the cruise control disconnect). Cars had clutch pressed switches in the late 70's, maybe earlier.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Haha... totally. I think Saab knows the score... people who drive automatics are lazy and inattentive, and people who drive manuals are in touch with their cars. :D

After more time, I'm pretty sure the problem I have isn't the range sensor. I've had a no-start four times now, and each time the engine was "pretty cold." Three of the four times it had been sitting for four hours in 50F weather; one time it had been started stone-cold and then driven 1.5 miles. Each time, I could hear the relay clicking with the key and each time the push button starter solved the issue. The last couple days it's been 70F and the car has had no problems starting even when hot, which seems in exact opposition to the normal "range sensor no start" problem. If it was gonna happen, it should happen now.

So I am thinking it's a lazy relay, but I kinda don't want to change anything til I have a diagnostic plan in place. I'm not going to get stranded - it's not an inconvenience. Just not sure what the approach is. Maybe test leads from the ignition switch or something I can monitor with a multimeter. It's got me wondering: I wonder if there is a sci-fi Bosch-style relay that will trigger with very low current, something that might help demonstrate the nature of this problem.
 

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I might be inclined to just farm a bunch from the u-pull and switch them out en masse. They aren't known for failure so odds of getting a bad one are nil.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yeah, but I'm interested to know what the problem is, so I don't want to just replace something and hope it goes away.
 

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Well, if swapping all the relays makes it go away, you then know it's a relay. Then you can work them back one at a time until you find the bad one.
 
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