9-5 Aero failure – any thoughts?

I received his in via email yesterday and found it quite fascinating.

Fransisc has a 9-5 Aero that recently encountered some difficulties. I’m quite fond of the 9-5 Aero, especially after my weekend spent in one a year or so ago. it really was an eye opener and a brilliant car. Fransisc’s car looks exactly like the one I tested, so I was intrigued enough to post his story here and see if anyone’s got some suggestions in relation to the questions he’s asked.

I know I don’t.


I’m a proud owner of an 2003 9-5 AERO. It’s a pre-owned car. I bought this car when it was at about 100.000km, with maintenance at the dealer and a full service history. The first owner really liked the car and took care of it. I like it very much as well, how it stands on the road and cornering, and every button inside, and the seats, everything, especially how it goes… this is the best thing.

But, 3 weeks ago I went on a business trip and accumulated about 1,400km of good and new road and took 3 days. On the way back home after refueling (OMV 100) on the highway in a overtaking moment at a speed of about 120km/h I felt like I lost the power and the car stops pulling – no suspicious noise no anything out of the ordinary.

I still had some power to overtake that car and then I stopped. I opened the bonnet to look around and I saw nothing. I started the car and it starts normally with no error message. I start very slow it gains speed but really really slow, and I travel like this 70km/h about 50km to the dealer shop. When I arrived I look again under the bonnet to see if is anything wrong but again nothing to see.

I checked the oil and it was gone… not a single drop on the stick.

What was wrong? The turbocharger broke (with no noise or a warning light) and the oil evacuated on the exhaust system so that I couldn’t see it, so I travel 50km with no oil in the engine (that doesn’t make any suspicious sound all the time) and finally the engine is broken.

My questions for the manufacturer are:

1. How is it possible that at only 110.000km the turbocharger is broken with an warning message on a car with a lots of electronics and computers.

2. How is it possible the oil light not to come on when it was no oil in the engine and also the SID nothing to say again computers and electronics. I think that the oil sensor have to measure the pressure and the quantity of the oil. At the dealer they check the sensor and it was OK.

I don’t want anything other than just to know how is this possible? At the beginning I love that car and now I’m very disappointed.

P.S. This was may first turbocharger failure and I didn’t know what the symptoms should be.

PS – the car is OK now, it works fine after an 5000Euro bill


It is quite intriguing.

Surely there should have been some sort of warning light come on in the car when it completely lost pressure like that.

I know we have a few techie types that hang around here. If you’ve got any advice or suggestions, I know Fransisc would love to hear them. Is there anything in the warning system that should be checked, for instance.

The car’s fixed now, but it’d be nice to know that if something needs attention, that the warning system would alert him to this.

Comments are open.

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  1. That’s terrible. If that happened (happens) to my car I’d be irate also.

    What exactly happened when you say the turbo “broke”? Bearing? Gasket?

  2. Hi…
    First of all, i feel your pain … That hurts….

    Now… if the car has a record maintnance, why do you have to pay 5000 Euro to fix the car??
    The engine can´t do more that 110.000km????

    And if the turbo “broke”… there must have been a HUGE cloud of smoke until you´ve stoped the car… burning oil do that…

    And you are right… if there´s no pressure, the sensor will go on in your dash….
    My thought is that it must have some pressure to keep the engine runing… but not enoughf to trigger the alarm…

    Can you give us some details in the parts repaired or in the bill?? And some details in how was the turbo??
    That´s not normal at all!!!!
    My 9000 has 260.000 km and still strong!!
    I know a fella with 800.000 and EVERYTHING is stock ( not the consumables of course!! )

    Not normall indeed!!

  3. Well, this is precisely the worst case scenario of turbo failure. Not all of them die like that, in many cases they just consume a bit of oil, so you experience gradual oil loss. However, in some cases the seals just go completely (the high heat during the acceleration could’ve been the last drop), and the turbo turns into a fast oil burner.

    Unfortunately, the oil pressure switch in this engine is by far not the best means of producing a warning. First, they are known to seize up. Second, even it’s still operational, it’s set to close at such a low level of oil pressure, that by the time the light on the dash goes on, the engine is already starved on oil, and the damage is done. The only way to actually monitor the oil pressure is to install a pressure gauge, and not many people are willing to do that.

  4. Sounds really intriging, turbos usually fail catastrophically, this quite failure is really out of ordinary!

    please let us know more details.

  5. Well, I’m not a techie, but I own a 9-5 Aero and I spend a fair bit of time scanning the various Saab resources on the Internet.

    Turbo failure on a 9-5 Aero is extremely rare. The smaller turbo on the lower models have been known to have issues, but the Aero uses a Mitsubishi TD04 turbo which has an excellent record for reliability and longevity.

    The oil pressure warning light obviously should have come on. My advice to your correspondent is to spend his energies tracking down the reason for the warning light failure (if it is possible to trace the fault). Perhaps the previous owner or his mechanic did not reconnect it properly after some mechanical service.

    Turbochargers typically fail because of oil starvation. Perhaps there was a lingering low oil pressure problem which led to the turbo failure, which remained undetected because of the failure of the warning light.

    Good oil and oil pressure is vital in keeping these cars on the road. I have installed an oil pressure gauge and an oil temperature gauge in my 9-5 Aero for that reason.

    Here is my installation.

  6. My experience of the warning system on a 2003 9-5 is that it is inaccurate at best. I had a very serious problem (not as bad as this one) and only got the yellow engine light coming on – no “Check Engine” on the SID (as has been the case on previous Saabs (9-5 and 900)). The SID programming seems to be inaccurate when it comes to service intervals too, as my previous (1999) 9-5 religiously told me “Time for service” whereas the 2003 never did.

    I think it’s not surprising that Fransisc’s car didn’t tell him anything – it seems to be something that happens on 9-5’s of that age.

  7. The 9-5 failed because of Oil Sludge!!!!
    It’s a well known issue, due to a Saab’s error designing the Crankcase ventilation on B205 engines…

  8. You all have me worried now about my MY03 9-5 2.3t Linear. *sigh*

    BTW, I bought this used, but it feels like it has more than the standard 185 HP. Is there any way, other than a dyno, to see if the ECU has been modified to produce more HP??

  9. Following up from what those above have said, my guess would be that the oil had been low for a while (with no warning lights) and it got down to a certain point such that the turbo got toasted.

    How often did you check the oil level ?

  10. 1st: The turbo is a pure mechanical thingy. There are no sensors measuring the seal in the turbo.. Since there is almost zero friction in a turbo, there’s almost no wear if you have sufficient and good quality oil. But as soon as the turbo lacks oil, the seal brakes rapidly. And total breakdown is inevitable.

    2nd: B2x5 engines have oil PRESSURE sensor. Not level. It’s a huge difference. Saab would’ve saved millions and millions of dollars if they would’ve equipped B2x5 with oil level and not pressure sensor. When the oil lamp lit up, your engine is dry. And it’s often too late to save anything.

    The best thing you can do is to spread the word.

  11. Hello,
    First, thanks all for the answers.

    And @ ADAM: What was broken was the blades, in little pieces.

    @ José Galvão: the car is from 2003 with a record maintenance but out of the warranty, here the warranty stops after 2 years.
    When it looses power, I look in the dashboard to see if the water is ok or any lights will come on, I also look in the mirrors but I don’t see any smoke probably because I was at 100km/h…? and yes the cloud come after 50km on the highway when I stop at the first traffic light in the city, stupid me.
    Details, new turbo and new engine, with all the gaskets and oils, I kept my old trionic box (that also changed 5000km because the engine light come on and of but the engine works fine).

    @Nevitz : I didn’t look at that I was looking for the lights… again stupid me ((

    @dip: yes but I was overtaking at 120km/h and that is not much, this car went with 250km/h not once and then it was no problem, the only light that come on at 5km from the service was the check engine….

    @Ying : what do you want to know more?

    @Greg Abbot: they check the oil light and tell me is ok but the sensor is far too low and it will come on only when in the oil tank is empty and I have a little bit of oil down there. Yes I know the photos but I don’t know how to do that, this car uses Mobil 1 oil, only.

    @Alan Hamilton: I don’t know possible

    The solution for me, If I know in that moment was to stop the car and the I only have to change the turbocharger, but because it was my first failure of that kind I don’t know what the symptoms are… to bad for me 

    The car work really great right now after the money spent and I will look very carefully for the oil pressure 


  12. This is almost identical scenario to my (former) ’02 9-5 wagon. My wife told me the car has no power. Took it for a ride, No boost so I immediately suspected the turbo. We didn’t experience the oil issue but then again we were just driving it around town. Fortunately it was under warranty (only 20k miles at the time) and Saab replaced it. But, there was no warning light, error message etc. Boggles the mind, eh?

  13. There are some troubles fairly known with the 9-5 Aero engine.. by some reason the early models have an oil circulation problem the for a brief moment stops the regular circuit creating a huge pression inside the engine, making it to collapse just like this one: no noise, no lights, quietly dying.. Seems to me that having the car regularly serviced at a Saab dealership should have been taken in consideration to get you a new engine, not only a repair.. otherwise the problem will probably happen again!
    Check w/ your dealer about what was really done to your car..

  14. I was under the impression that the 2.3t and the 2.3T engines were the same, and just were equipped with different ECU software to increase boost pressure. Is this the case?

    What are the differences? Is there a different turbo?

  15. i’ve had the same issue in the Viggen. Low oil, no light. I check mine every 2 weeks and replace every 5k. Always was a bit confused as to why the car never told me it was starved.

    and my belief is that the B205 is a GM inspied engine, not a red block.

  16. My lpt failed in a very similar fashion – but when the seals wnt, it dumped most of the oil through the exhaust… leaving one hell of a cloud of smoke and oil on the guy behind me!

    It didn’t, however, give me any warnings about oil pressure or anything. no Check Engine, nothing. I drove it to the nearest town (luckily I was close!) with no boost at all, and had it towed 200Km to the nearest Saab joint.

    Fortunately, the only damage was to the turbo.

    This was on a long-suffering lpt with 180,000k’s. I was told that the Aero was much less likely to suffer the same fate, as the Mitsu turbo is much stronger than the Garrett.

    The only other side effects were a BPV full of oil and not working properly anymore (nice excuse to get a Forge unit!) and a grotty Throttle body. get your mechanic to check these when you get the turbo done.

  17. This is a sad, sad, story. I feel for you.

    One question: if the turbocharger failed and oil leaks from there, it isn’t really burning oil, right? The oil is simply leaking into the exhaust line, which I guess is very hot, but not necessarily hot enough to burn the oil, correct?

    Just trying to learn something here….

  18. Well, any turbo engine simply must have oil replaced in 7.5 k intervals as a maximum or earlier. Sludge build up is a killer and despite manufacturers suggesting oil change at 15K+ intervals if you do not regularly replace Oil and Filter you will blow up the engine very soon. The other issue in the 9.5 (and in general with all 2.3 lit Engines) is the original aeration system does not allow proper breathing which in hot climates like ours makes the engine run too hot. I have changed this on my 9.5 and there are no more oil leaks and the engine runs much more relieved. At A$100 or so it’s a very small investment. All Viggen owners should look at this as a must as engine temperatures in Viggs go even higher. I am surprised that high temperature warnings did not show up prior to the engine stoppage. It is a very rare case I must admit.

  19. Hello again,

    @David: I check the oil level one night before (about 400km before) and it was OK.

    @MC: the first owner was the executive of the dealership, and trust me he did everything to the car and kept in verrry good shape, everything is intact, the only thing is that shit happens when you expect at least…

    @Nevitz: the difference is also the turbocharger, Aero has a high pressure charger

    @ Simon A: they check everything, and all things works in the set parameters, the explanation was that the oil sensor is mounted too low and when it come on is far too late

    @eggsngrits: the oil comes out on the exhaust like a white and dense smoke, but I see it only when I arrived in town at a traffic light, too late.

    @Joe Logo: the dealership changing oil intervals is here at 15.000k, with full synthetic Mobil 1, I was changing the oil at 8.000-10.000km.
    What exactly do you do to change the air flow? And when I change the trionic box they told me that the cause of the failure can be the hot weather and I see that the engine is very hot and slow chilling down, it is good on cold weather, but on hot weather……

    If I expected what was happening and stop right there I only have to change the turbo, my disappointed is that the lights doesn’t come on when they should do, and you know that the car is equipped with a lot of electronics and computers they have to know when something is wrong especially something like missing oil.

    I only want that Saab know this problem and at least make some changes to the future models.

    I really like this car, it gives you everything, power, comfort, safety.

    Thanks again

  20. Frank, you seem to be the victim of heat due to hot weather as we have in OZ. I’ve had a similar incident with my 9-3 Aero one day in summer where temperatures were in 39 heading fast to 40 + degrees and was stuck in heavy traffic. At the end the tironic box had to be replaced but I had a few warnings in “check your engine” that was not going away. The kit for the 2.3 is called Aeration/Breathing kit which replaces the original as it has bigger hoses and wider grills for the hot air to come out of the engine. It’s a Saab part not an after market one. Ironically I have to change the oil of the 9-3 in the next 2 weeks. I promise to get all the details, part #s etc and mail this to Swade so that he can share this around as this has been the saver for my 9-5. Prior to this I was having oil leaks due to high temp in the engine and through expansion on hot days the oil was leaking. No more since this unit was installed. Steve Emmanuel from Saabserve was the one that got this solution and from my last visit he can not keep up with demand as every 2.3 he services is ending up with this unit. After this nasty episode try to change oil at 5 -7 Ks. The cost is minimal when compared to serious damage like yours let alone the frustration, angriness, bad mood etc etc….it’s not good for our livers !!!!

  21. My 2000 Saab 95 Aero was recently in the shop for replacement of a crank sensor. Engine started but Turbo failed at 147K. Mechanics attributed the failure to engine sludge. Now it’s sitting in my garage until I can replace the Turbo. No warning indicators prior to this event.

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