Saab 9-3 common problems

Saab logoThe Saab 9-3 is a popular, high quality executive car. If you like efficient motoring that puts a lot of power underneath the pedal, then this is a great place to start. Originally unleashed on the motoring public back in 1998, various iterations of the vehicle have featured a range of power systems including 1.8t BioPower and 2.8T V6 Diesel engines.

You should be able to find a good selection of Saab 9-3s available on the second hand market when looking for a used car. This solid car is a great choice for reliable motoring and with special editions like the Viggen still kicking around, you can even find something a little more collectable within the range.

It’s always advisable to be cautious when purchasing any second hand car – and with our common problems guide you can stay alert to some of the most prevalent issues affecting the Saab 9-3.


When out on the road try some full lock steering movements. Do you hear a clicking noise when the wheel is turned to its full potential? If so, then you could be looking at a problem with the bulkhead, which is caused by a mounting system that connects this part to the steering rack. Another tell-tale sign of this issue is vague and slightly unresponsive steering. Avoid any vehicle exhibiting these symptoms.

Cooler Oil Leaks

Get under the hood and take a look at your potential purchase’s coolant. You are looking for signs of oil contamination. There is a well-known issue with Saab 9-3s where leaks can occur between the lubrication and cooling systems due to the chain powered design of the water pump. This issue is one of the more expensive on our list to fix and is definitely one that should make you think twice about parting with your money.


Fancy a bit of air out on the open road? Convertibles are great for those who love free and easy motoring in the summer. The Saab 9-3 convertible is a good buy that holds its value well but you want to make sure the hood is the full ticket. Raise and lower it a couple of times to ensure it’s in good working order and do the Sherlock Holmes bit and scour the surface for leaks, rips and damage.

Interior Heating

Heater controlsBelieve it or not one of the most common issues with the Saab 9-3 is with the heating system. However, we’re not talking about deep faults within the air conditioning unit, but rather structural problems with the dial controls and knobs. These are known to easily crack off and split. Fortunately they cost less than £10 each to repair, so don’t let the heating controls, or lack thereof, put you off a purchase.

Oil Sludge

Thinking of buying a petrol powered 9-3? If the previous owner of this Saab has not been keeping up with regular services or has used thicker oil than is stipulated in the owner’s manual then sludge can build up rapidly in the engine. Check the service history to make sure the owner has been on the ball or you could experience costly problems with the balancer shaft further on down the line.

Strut Mounts

Listen out for a grinding noise on your test drive. Do you hear unpleasant grinding noises and squeaks, particularly as you’re going round corners? The likely culprit in this scenario are the mounts and bearings at the top of the McPherson struts in the suspension system. If the car has more than 100K miles on the clock then it could still be worth buying and replacing all the suspension struts, if the seller is willing to give you a good enough discount.

If you want a quality car that impresses and imposes on the road then the Saab 9-3 is definitely not a bad selection. Later models improved the crashworthiness and saw extensive pillar reinforcements and airbags adding to the vehicle’s safety credentials. If you want to do a lot of miles on the road, and you want the comfort and power to get there feeling great, then this is definitely one to strongly consider.

For affordable replacement engines, gearboxes and more, check out our new and used Saab 9-3 parts page.

This entry was posted in Cars and tagged , on by Justin Smith.

About Justin Smith

As the man at the helm of BreakerLink, it is no surprise that its Director, Justin Smith, has always had a keen interest in cars, bikes and most things wheeled. Having spent over two decades in the car parts industry, Justin combines his passion that since 2002, has successfully united those looking for new and used car parts with the breaker that supplies them. Follow Justin on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: These articles are for guidance purposes only. If you have any questions regarding any matter relating to your vehicle we would recommend that you seek the advice of an appropriate professional. We accept no responsibility or liability should you suffer financial or personal damages in relation to the advice stated on this website.

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