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Sludge!!

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I've got a 2000 9-3 whose oil light has been flickering on and off. It was doing it a lot when the weather was warmer and I was using A/C. It seemed to happen mostly during braking. Now that it's colder it's not happening very much.

I've been meaning to drop the oil pan and clean out the filter but before I take this on, is there anything else that would cause this specific behavior? All the posts I've seen have said it's almost always sludge in the filter down there.

Also, if I end up doing it, is there some way to tell if I've got the most recent PCV repair kit so it doesn't just come right back?
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Pan drop ASAP. You really should not be driving one of these cars without a pan drop... and especially with a flickering oil light. This is a known issue and it costs you an engine when it goes south.

If you take off the engine cover and post a photo, we can tell you if you have the upgrade. Or, look at this photo and see if it looks like this:
Automotive lighting Automotive tire Bumper Motor vehicle Hood
 

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I also concur. Drop the pan asap. Sounds like oil starvation. Replace pickup tube seals while in there. The hot cat is right under the pan & the fan doesnt run enough! I wouldnt procrastinate on this. Good luck
 

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No idea if your jurisdiction has strict emissions testings as many don't and some have moved beyond doing them.
IMO /experiences REAL 'pcv' fix is to run a catch can . You would be amazed at the goo that these engines expel through their crank breather contraptions.
And ALL of it recycles.. back into the valves and cylinders... to be distilled into even heavier tar deposits
.
 

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I don't think that's accurate.

At least for the PCV 6 update there is a separator, which filters out the gasses from the solids. The gasses are pulled back into the intake and burned off during combustion, the solids - which are mostly condensed oil vapors - go back into the sump. The only thing that should be in PCV in the first place is oil vapor, moisture, blowby gasses, and potentially fuel vapor for a limited time. There is nothing there to mess up oil in a properly functioning PCV system. If anything unwanted ends up back in the sump it will be filtered out by the pickup or the oil filter as designed, but that shouldn't happen in the first place.

The thing that causes sludge is poor PCV function.... not enough vacuum or volume to keep the sump under vacuum. In this situation, moisture, blowby gasses, potentially fuel vapor are allowed to collect down there where they mix with oil and cause sludge. Poor PCV function will be agitated by short drives where the mixture remains rich and temperatures aren't high enough to vaporize moisture.

If someone wanted to replace the separator with a catch can, I suppose they could, but it's just another maintenance point you need to worry about. It does not eliminate the actual functional requriement for good PCV. I don't know what the "PCV bad" obsession started with, but talk to any actual engineer and they'll tell you the opposite. Not only does it keep the oil clean, but keeping the sump under as much vacuum as possible improves power output because the pistons aren't pumping against a pressurized crank case. It's so widely accepted you now find PCV on race cars ... because it's all win.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the responses! I was working on my c900 last weekend so I put this one aside for now. I will take a picture of the top of the engine this week but another thing I was wondering. All of the posts and videos I've seen about dropping the oil pan end up putting them back together with RTV. Is there some reason not to use the aftermarket oil pan gaskets you can get on RockAuto? Seems like it would be much easier than having to put exactly the right amount of RTV on that thing.
 

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It's really not bad. Remember, this is a flange sealant designed to fill up grain-of-sand defects, not make a gasket or make up for missing material. You need a VERY thin bead and no more... The oil pan and block are a near perfect fit already.
 

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Oh ok. I'm just not confident in my ability to put enough RTV on without putting so much on that it all ends up back in the filter at the bottom of the oil pan again!
That's why we don't use RTV. It's an anaerobic sealant. Locktite 518 or equivalent. It hardens when air isn't present. Anything that isn't caught between the flanges (no air) will just wash away in the oil. No lumps left to clog the pump screen.
 

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I used a Fel-Pro oil pan gasket on my 9-5 because the pan sort of slides into place over the top of the subframe. I’ve always removed the subframe on my 1997 900 when taking off the oil pan, so I’ve used anaerobic sealant on that one every time. With the subframe off, you can lift the oil pan straight up with no smearing of the sealant.
 

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I used a Fel-Pro oil pan gasket on my 9-5 because the pan sort of slides into place over the top of the subframe. I’ve always removed the subframe on my 1997 900 when taking off the oil pan, so I’ve used anaerobic sealant on that one every time. With the subframe off, you can lift the oil pan straight up with no smearing of the sealant.
I've done it with the subframe in place. You have to stick something between the subframe and the body to lever it down about 3". The clearance is minimal, but you get about a half inch to move it along before you plant it.
 

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One of my cars had a bad sludge issue. The car had the PCV update and had regular oil changes, but regular oil was used by the previous owner . The Saab mechanic that dropped the pan said it was one of the worst he has seen.

I noticed I had a problem when the car made a howling noise for a few seconds when started when it was cold out - the mechanic said it was from bearings not getting lubrication.

The top end was also sludged and was evident when I removed the valve cover. I needed to remove the head, so I had it cleaned when I did so.

Also of note, the oil line to the turbo was sludged and little oil was getting to the turbo. I noticed that the turbo was making the whistling sound of a failing turbo, so I replaced it with a new turbo cartridge. You can get an idea if the turbo is getting oil by taking off the rubber hose that goes from the turbo to the engine. Mine was bone dry. The tube on my other Saab is moist with oil.

The oil still gets black fairly quickly, even with oil changes with pure synthetic every 5,000 miles. Some of the more knowledgeable posters on this site have said that the oil cooler may have residual sludge in it. I keep meaning to remove it and clean it, but have not yet done so.
 

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Pull it off, spray some solvent in it, blow out with compressed air, repeat, repeat untill solvent comes out clean & easilly. Let dry, reinstall. Pull the oil bypass & clean it too. Sand the piston if its gouged. Lubricate & reinstall.
 
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