Saab and Sludge – something I didn’t know

Just quickly perusing the news services and saw this article on oil sludging.

As many of you know, the early 9-5s and 9-3 Viggens were both prone to sludging issues if not maintained correctly. Anyone who’s considering the purchase of one of these models should have the car checked over quite thoroughly, even to the point of removing the sump for a visual inspection.

Saab do have some coverage for thsi problem, and the article I’ve just been reading covers the various makes with sludging issues and the recourse available to owners of said makes.

But here’s one thing I didn’t know…..

A lack of adequate oil changes is the explanation for damage given by Audi, Lexus, Saab, Toyota and VW. Yet unlike Chrysler and Dodge, those automakers have formal compensation programs for sludge damage, although in some cases consumers must provide detailed service records — and in the case of Saab, must have used oil filters sold only by the company.

My emphasis added.

I knew about the need for regular services and keeping a record thereof, but I didn’t know about the need for OEM oil filters only. What happens if your dealer didn’t have one in stock and you really needed the car that day?

That may be far-fetched, but still….

It’s almost as conditional as the current million mile offer.

You may also like


  1. Saab’s actually pretty good about the sludge thing. It might say that about the filters, but they’re really not that picky.
    As long as you’ve got all the service records, and the records are from a GM certified Saab dealer, they’ll give you a new short block.

  2. Don’t know if this helps but my MY99 9-5 suffered from a “screaming” noise when started up from cold (a bit like a loose alternator belt). The dealer eventually traced it to a blocked sludge filter which, when duly cleaned out solved the problem.

    The car was well within it service intervals and was only two years old at the time.

  3. It is a misconception that engine sludging was caused by poorly maintained vehicles. My ’01 LPT 9-5 wagon was the victim of engine sludging-despite my religious habit of 5k mile oil changes (over and above the recommended intervals). My car was exclusively maintained by my local dealer, yet my car’s engine succumbed to the dreaded oil sludge problem. Thankfully, it (engine) was replaced under warranty by SAAB. It took 10 weeks to get a new engine block from Sweden (there was a backorder), and took another 3 weeks to put the engine back together. I shortly traded the 9-5 for my current ’06 9-3 Aero SC.

  4. Evidence recorded in the UK (at ) suggests that it is the non-Aero trionic 7 engines that seem to be affected. Why not Aeros? Because Aeros are normally serviced with fully synthetic oils as a matter of course whereas other models are (were) serviced with a semi-synthetic Saab oil.

    Saab has now instructed all dealers to use fully synthetic oils on Saab engines – though anecdotal evidence is suggesting that some dealers still need to ‘get with the programme’.

    Interestingly, Saab’s 8-year engine warranty does not appear to be officially recognised (let alone be publicised) by Saab GB.

    Fortunately, a contributor to Saabscene obtained an internal document dated January 2005 which shows that they do acknowledge the issue, even if they claim not to. That document can be seen, here:

    Good preventative maintenance would be to ensure that your Trionic 7 engine is ALWAYS serviced using the correct grade of FULLY SYNTHETIC SAAB OIL. (Note: you have to have your wits about you as there is an oil from Saab marked ‘Saab Turbo Oil 5W/30’ which is actually a SYNTHETIC BLEND. This IS NOT FULLY SYNTHETIC. Make sure you use SAAB FULLY SYNTHETIC ENGINE OIL 0W/30.

    Supply of oil filters from a Saab dealer should be plentiful – there is no excuse for them not to be – it is the most basic of service items and they should always have stock.

    Good practice would be to perform interim oil changes on the vehicle using the correct oil and a new oil filter every 6,000 miles. This is what I do no my Saab (Trionic 5) engine.

    Take a look at that Saabscene thread and the related documnent on Saabphotos for more on the sludging issue.


  5. Actually, the Aero’s B235R engine is a special low friction engine, so it’s less prone to it. Although I have seen one or two sludged examples of them.

    And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve always been told it’s a general policy that only Saabs built after the midpoint of ’03, or that have had their timing chains replaced. And that includes Aeros.

  6. In 2006, my wife’s 2005 9-5 SportWagon (2.3l) was the subject of a U.S. “voluntary customer satisfaction program” (aka recall) to fix “something” related to sludging. Can’t “recall” exactly what it was but since we always use Mobil-1 synthetic and change the oil every 7500 mles instead of the Saab recommneded 15,000 miles, we’ve had no issues. The oil looks good enogh to use again in my lawn mower.

  7. A couple of questions from an aspiring ’01/’02 9-3 owner:

    1)what year viggens are more susceptible to this sludge problem?

    2) if my future ’01/’02 9-3 comes with “regular” oil, i can switch it to synthetic, right?


  8. In the U.S. you do not have to use auto manufacturer’s oil & filters or any other service products as long as they meet the specifications acording to the Magnuson-Moss Act. If a manufacturer mandates their product only they must supply it at no cost. Don’t get screwed by ignorance, because that’s what they count on. Be smart & informed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *