Orange vs Green

I just came across this in my Saab feed at Flickr. I’m not one normally given to the public outing of slightly silly acts (unless it’s Lutz or Farago involved) as I do enough of them myself. But I couldn’t resist this little story:


The last thing you want to see on a long road trip is your “check engine” light come on.

After I filled up my tank somewhere between LA and San Diego, this light came on.

I thought “dang” (though a little more coarse), but assumed I just hadn’t tightened the gas cap enough. I went out and retightened it, but the light persisted.

I was worried the rest of the way to San Diego that my car would either konk out on the road, or wouldn’t start if I stopped.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Every time I started my car during the weekend, I hoped the light would be gone. On occassion, I would look down and think the light was off, but it was only the steering wheel blocking my view. I kind of felt like when I was a kid and I dreamed I owned Optimus Prime, but then woke up and realized I didn’t.

It was on the whole drive back. I figured I’d need to get it looked at, but my schedule didn’t permit it right away.

On my second day back, the light went off.

I was a little suspicious at first–like my car was annoyed at me, and was going to show me that I needed to pay attention to it. But so far, it seems back to normal.

I know these warning lights can have a mind of their own sometimes, but I think if I had my money tied up in a late model Saab and the engine warning light came on, I’d be doing a little more than crossing my fingers. I think I’d pay attention to a little bit of orange before I have to fork out a hell of a lot of green.

I hope his car holds together OK.

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  1. This happened to me w/ my ’02 9-5 Aero. The light came on one day and then off the next day. After about 2 weeks it did the same thing. Then a month later it stayed on. I took it in and it turned out to be a temperature sensor that failed. It cost about over $125(U.S).

  2. My pre-Saab car was – well in fact still is – a 1989 Peugeot 405 Mi16, which my daughter has been driving since I became ensaabed. Its engine mgt light is on most of the time – it’s a sensor somewhere, probably the oxygen sensor in this case. You get used to it as (again, in this case only because of other ‘issues’) it seems to make bugger-all difference to performance. But the first time it comes on is very, very worrying. Particularly if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

  3. I think its bad design that huge variation of different problems cause same warning light, driver should be informed more detailed.

  4. Aren’t there two versions of the check engine warning light? The orange one, and a red flashing one. The steady orange one meaning “you should take the car in, and have a mechanic download the error code to see what’s up” and the flashing red one meaning “STOP THE CAR NOW OR ELSE RISK SERIOUS DAMAGE”

    When my DI cassette was going, I got a ton of random Check Engine Lights. I believe I have also read that most of the orange Check Engine Lights are emissions related.

    Odds are this rates as a minor annoyance, not a crisis.

  5. I have you all beat on this one… About a year ago, the airbag light came on in my 9-5. After closer inspection with help of a Tech-II, the code B2868 was the culprit: short to ground in the passenger seat side airbag. Unable to scrounge the $360 to get it fixed, I drove it like that for a while. Fast forward to March 2006, as I attempted to get the car inspected. The shop informed me that it was not able to pass because of the light and I’d have to go get it fixed. The Saab dealer was unwilling to give any goodwill on it, despite the fact it was a bulletin on this run of 9-5’s, so I decided I would have to hack the harness out of another 9-5 and do a little splicing and dicing. Well it was April by this point and I had taken a trip over to Home Depot (in my uninspected 9-5) to get a few things. Upon returning to the car, something had changed… no “ding-dong”, no /! icon, no airbag light! I quickly drove home, cycled the ignition again… it was still turned off! I went back to the shop the next day and got my sticker. No sooner than 3 days later, I was at the Tick-Tock diner off Route 3 near Rutherford, NJ after my sister’s graduation from Seton Hall and the light made a triumphant return to the MIU. Hopefully I will get a job soon so I can have the dealership fix this once and for all… but that was lucky!

  6. I have a 2004 Saab 9-3 and had the same issue, but it was due to me not putting the gas cap on tight enough after I filled the tank.

  7. Thanks, Swade… I hope my car holds together as well. 🙂

    (I saw the view count on my picture on flickr had gone up, and technorati led me to your blog post.)

    I agree it’s silly, and if the light came on near home, I would have avoided driving it until I could have taken it in. But I was in the middle of a trip for a wedding, and the last thing I wanted to do was take the time to find a dealership open on a holiday weekend in an unfamiliar place and bring it in. After it kept starting fine with no noticeable performance issues (even my gas mileage was great since it was a road trip), I gained enough confidence that even when I got home a “busy schedule” was enough to keep me from seeing the dealer right away.

    I’ve also become a little bit immune to it because the light came on at some point before (when it was under warranty). I was worried (as phil suggested I would be, since it was my first time seeing it), but when I called to schedule service with the dealer, they seemed remarkably unconcerned about it. I thought maybe I should have it towed to the dealership, but they just had me drive it in the next day. It turned out it was an issue with the gas cap that they fixed. (I had tightened it correctly, but there was some other failure.) I figured if the dealer was going to treat the orange light coming on as a minor issue, I could as well. 🙂

  8. Just brought home a 1999 9-5 SE and the red exclamation point and oil can came on….took it right back to the dealer, they replaced the switch, and on the way home it started again, any ideas what that is?

  9. Juliet, I’d get them to check the oil rather than just replace the switch. You’ve just bought this car? Did you research it?

    The 9-5 is a great car but it if it hasn’t been looked after well there’s a chance of it developing an engine sludge problem, which can be expensive.

    I’m no tech guy, so my answer is going to be very sub-standard, but if you have an independant Saab specialist in your area then I’d call them, describe what’s happening and perhaps arrange for them to look at it, and drive it sparingly until you’ve got some assurance as to its condition.

    Sorry to be the bearer of cautious news, but better safe than sorry.

    Do a google search on “Saab 9-5 oil sludge” and you’ll get some background.

    Here’s one direct link:

    Note: it may not be this, so don’t panic, but be cautious until you know. The 9-5 is a great car when well cared for and if yours is Ok, you’re gonna love it.


  10. Thanks for your suggestion, here is my update. I had just bought the car from a dealer, so before I returned it to their service department, I took it to two independent mechanics. They ran the diagnostics (specifically checked for the sludge problem) and found nothing. SInce the problem was not solved I took it back to the dealer. They kept it for two days (gave me a loaner , a 2006) and changed the oil pump, the oil filter, the oil grade and all of the sensors. Ironically, on the way to pick up my car, the check engine light came on the loaner!

    It is been two days now and my car seems to be fine. We’ll see. Thanks for the help!

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