Can I be an automotive journalist, too?

Chris B was kind enough to pass this clipping from the Toronto Star, in which our writer wants to pass on his recommendations for good used car buying.

This is obviously written from a minimal-cost-ho-hum point of view, rather an even a mild enthusiast’s point of view, as the list of recommended cars includes the Chevy Aveo, Suzuki Aerio and Kia Sorrento. It also includes the Cadillac CTS if you want something an enthusiast might drive, though personally I’d rather have the Aveo (sue me, I’m feeling argumentative).

The OG Saab 9-3 was mentioned as one of the bad vehicles. Being a Viggen owner, I naturally took immediate offence, and I’m sure many of the Month-of-Saab-9-3-and-NG900-Lovin owners would too. But reading into it further, this is just another instance of someone not knowing what they’re on about – which probably qualifies me to be an automotive journo par-excellence.

It was motivated by a light-pressure turbo 2.0-litre four cylinder making 185 hp, while high-output SE models made 200 hp.

Trouble is, Saab’s turbo fours are notorious for seizing, especially those made between 1999 and 2002. With the hot catalytic converter positioned under the oil pan, it would cook the oil and produce sludge, clogging the engine with all the efficacy of a triple cheeseburger.

Shop with care.

Now……In nearly three years of Saab blogging I am yet to hear of a single 2.0 engine from a Saab 9-3 having a sludge problem. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but I’m yet to hear of it.

The 2.3 litre engine in the early Saab 9-5 – that’s another story. Even then, if you pick up a Saab 9-5 with a good service history, or a Viggen with a B235 engine in it, then you can still be getting a heck of a lot of good car for the money. The trick is to do your homework, verify the service history and current condition of the engine to your own satisfaction.

Homework – something this guy didn’t do, and something not enough journos do when it comes to Saabs.

Read with care.

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  1. And to think, this guy gets a paycheck for writing this stuff. Could this be considered libelous? I just wish people would take themselves seriously enough to check things like this. What did he do, Google something, then write about it?


  2. Well I can’t say I know any anecdotes of the 2.0 engine being affected, (since I drive a 9-5 and know its issues better)…but for what it’s worth, Saab USA’s engine sludge warranty extension covered the 2000-2002 9-3’s with the 2.0 engine as well as the 2003 9-3 Convertible with that engine.
    I would assume that there was a reason for this extension.

  3. James: agreed, but I think Swade is pointing-out that although the sludge issue allegedly theoretically can exist in the OG9-3 they’re hardly “notorious for seizing”…

  4. That article was terrible and technically inaccurate concerning the oil sludge problem. Oil sludge has nothing to do with the location of the catalyst in relation to the engine. It should also be noted that plenty of manufactures have the catalyst close to the engine to assist in catalyst light-off so the vehicle is better able to meet cold start emission standards.

    Oil sludge is generally caused by using the wrong type of oil and not following change intervals. In terms of the B205 Saab engine, the sludge seems to be caused by a premature failure of the PCV system. Combustion gasses leak past the rings (in all engines) which can contaminate engine oil if not vented properly. Sludge is more likely to form if the vehicle is subject to lots of low speed, short trip driving. At any rate, part of the repair procedure to B205 is to update the PCV system in addition to other repairs.

    Owners of these vehicles would be wise to use oil that meets the GM-LL-A-025 standard and change it according to a severe service schedule.

    And stay away from those Auto-Zone PCV valves…

    His ‘brief overview’ of trouble cars should have included the 3.5 MILLION (not a typo) Toyota vehicles that use the 3.0-liter V-6 or 2.2-liter four-cylinder engines produced through 2002. Maybe Toyota has him on the payroll….?

  5. I don’t know…. although I agree that they are great cars, the sludge is definatley something that is present in the used car market. If a buyer was just going to go out and buy the car without getting it checked out by an independant mechanic (which suprisingly enough is what happens with most used car buyers in the US), they’d probably have a better chance with another car to get something that isn’t going to become a total money pit.

  6. I’m sad to say it Swade, but we’ve had a 2.0 with sludge. We got it from the dealership like that..they offered it to us so we took it, bought another 2000 9-3 that was from an insurance auction(I don’t know the damage), popped its good engine into the car with sludge, and ended the car ran fine.

  7. Andrew, you’re the first I’ve heard of, then.

    As Gripen pointed out, whilst the 2.0 might not be sludge free in its history, it’s effectively an isolated thing, not endemic as the writer implies.

    Glad yours worked out in the end.

  8. Sad to say, but ive got one in pieces here needin pistons/rings, rods&mains&chains. That pick-up tube screen is 3/4 plugged and on a long highway run…if that oil pressure light even flickers…COAST!

  9. Swade – Argumentative? Go drive an Aveo for 10 minutes and you’ll eat those argumentative words. Driving the Aveo is like playing a racing videogame with a rumbling controller while walking down the road. You’ll be begging for that CTS.

  10. I just sold my 2002 9-3 vert… I DID MY MAINTENANCE AND TOOK VERY GOOD CARE OF MY CAR. I had no problems whatsoever. When talking with the Saab Master Tek that works on my car, he tell’s me that most of the metal being moved today is being LEASED. So, people feel that they don’t own the car, so why take care of it properly. My Dad told me at a very young age to take care of what I own. I sold my car to a Saab dealer and purchased a cpo 04 vert. My 02 lasted one day on the dealer lot. One of the Saab mechanic’s purchased it. What does that tell you about doing your maintenance. if people did the proper maintenance, 50% of these problems would go away.

  11. But the real problem of B205 and B235 and old engines from Saab is related to bad mantainance, bad quality oil and long change intervals. The big problem of those engines is the oil pan and the entrance of the oil pump. With bad quality oil and long change intervals, the carbon particles could clog the entrance of the oil pump and then to reduce the oil pressure of the engine and its lubrication, then occur the big problem with head gaskets, pistons, connecting rod, seals…..

    the sludge is basically caused by problems in the ventillation kit of the oil gases and so.

    if you do a good mantainance of the engine, with good quality oil and oil change every 15000-20000km as much, then there is no problem.

    Now my father leave the 99 9-5 2.3t with over 250000km with no problems with the engine. He had the common issues of the ’99 9-5, trionic/throttle body, pixels of the screen and so…


  12. Edusaab –
    whoa! I’ve never heard that before.
    You say ‘good quality oil and oil change every 15000-20000km as much, then there is no problem’?
    That’s an oil change every 9320 – 12427 miles????
    Did I read that correctly?

  13. You can write a book on the Saab sludge problem (in fact, I suspect someone someday will.)

    As far as I can tell, it was a confluence of issues:

    *the PCV problem
    *the overheated oil pan next to the catalytic converter problem
    …have already been mentioned. I’ve also heard the following as well

    *claims the car could go 10k between oil changes, since that’s what GM would pay for. and that’s exactly what people did (yeah yeah “severe service” but the fact is most people don’t think of themselves in that category–and to be fair, GM has enormous experience with engine oil life monitoring…they just didn’t think the Saab would be any different–no other GM vehicle has had significant sludge issues)
    *dealers not using full synthetic A3/B3 oils on those every 10k changes, using semi-synthetic instead

    I’ve also heard someone explain that there was a change that reduced the space between the top of the engine head and the valves? Something like that. At any rate, there’s still a lot more to say about this issue.

  14. denvernewbie…..yes you read well, to do oil changes over 20000km could be done, also if you like as much, the brand recomends at max. oil changes every 25000-30000km, but for me, for example I do a sports drive with my 9-3ss(its a different engine) or the 9-5 that had my father, every 15000km as much 20000km or 1 oil change every 2 years as much. This is the best to avoid any possible problem with accumulation of carbon particles in the entrance of the oil pump there is in a lower part of the engine sump, there the filter is clog with oil particles, if you do oil changes regulary, then easily you can mantain that part of the engine clean and a good lubrication of the engine, because the oil pump works correctly and there is a correct oil pressure.

    I know its more expensive to do those oil changes every 15000-20000km, but its the best to avoid any possible problems related to the carbon particles and big problems with the engine and lubrication.

    good quality oil……..well Mobil1 is a good example.

    At the dealer I saw some examples of this. For example, from the factory the cars came with a special oil for the running in of the car(as says the manual about 5000km), the is recommended as much when the car has 10000km to do the first oil change.

    One customer bought a 2004 9-5 Aero, did in less than one year, about 40000km, and you can imagine how….with no oil changes, and the car arrived towed to the dealer with one piston blown. Like this example, many others………and here in Spain with Diesels, that is worst, the lower reliability of those engines in all brands, the people that drive them like sports cars, and with the people that do oil changes over 30000km, because the brand says the car has a “long life oil”.


  15. I think there’ll be an oil change poll coming up, and maybe a request to Tedjs for some expert advice.

    Coming soon…

    And for the record, I now change mine every 5,000 kms, in both the 900 and 9000 we have here at home. The Viggen gets the same treatment when it’s running. We use good quality stuff in the 900 and 9000, but top shelf stuff in the Viggen.

  16. …Didn’t we do an oil change poll already? Maybe it was just a thread and there was never an actual poll. That’s probably it. I remember talking about this before, though.

    I change oil every 3000 miles, because the last thing I need to do is push my car. If I try to push my car, I will literally be pushing my car down the road because it will die.

  17. Well, I would have to say you can never change your oil too often – but given the cost of fully synthetic oil, and the waste generated when oil is changed one could say that is almost a decision left up to the individual owner.

    However (deep breath) –

    – the oil life monitor that is used on modern Saab engines is a rather sophisticated software algorithm that uses information based on engine revolutions, operating temperature, startup temperature, drive time and other aspects to optimize the time (not really distance) between oil changes.

    Think of it this way – you are changing your oil because of (what)? Not entirely because it gets ‘dirty’ (it is designed to retain contaminates) – the additive package wears out over time and oil loses the ability to do its job.

    With that in mind, you can look at this example – a driver that does frequent short trip driving, with no highway driving might find that have to change their oil in LESS THAN the common 3000 mile oil change interval. A driver that drives under what might be considered ‘optimum’ conditions by the system may find that they can go up to 10,000 miles before an oil change. All vehicles recommend an oil change at least once a year.

    Drivers in the USA (and all others) – perk up and pay attention to this. The oil life monitor in any GM vehicle has no idea what type of oil is being put into an engine, the ‘software’ assumes that the proper type (standard) and viscosity of oil is being put into the engine so that is what is basis its calculations on. If you decide to use a different type of oil (viscosity or brand) – than the oil life monitors opinion becomes somewhat invalid.

    Saab vehicles sold in the USA (and other markets of course) require oil that meets the GM-LL-A-025 (European) oil standard. Some research on my part has found that very few brands oil meet that standard in the United States. Most GM engines – such as the high feature 3.6L V6 used in many new models are factory filled with Mobile One that meets the GM6094M standard or the GM 4718M (Corvette spec) which varies that of the European standard.

    The GM-LL-A-025 standard is bit different in terms of how long the oil should be able to ‘resist’ breakdown and the Saab version of the high feature V6 engine (2.8L Turbo) requires oil that meets that standard. From what I have learned only Mobile 1 0W-40 meets those requirements and it is in print on the specification sheet for that oil. Saab recommends this oil be used in all of its engines from what I understand.

    So – one of the most important considerations you should be paying attention to is that you are using the proper type of oil for your engine. And from there you should consider a change interval based on your driving style (or follow your oil life monitor if available).

    Funny this topic should come up. I just had the dealer do my first oil change in my 9-3 at 7100 miles (11,000 kilometers). My oil life monitor showed about 8% left but they were ‘allowed’ to do it with that much life left (Saab pays for those first few oil changes). I generally do plenty of highway driving and have taken several long trips in my car so – the data seems to support the oil life monitors decision. The car had not used any oil at all in this time frame.

    Hard to break the 3000 mile oil change ‘habit’ but given cost factors and longer manufacturer warranties on new(er) vehicle – one has to consider the facts.

  18. denvernewbie, jajajajajjajajajajaja…….I thought you were thinking like many people here in spain. That is ridicolous to do the oil changes so often, because many brands for diesel or petrol engines the oil changes intervals are about every 30000km.

    When the car has more than 150000km, one per year or every 10000km as much every 150000km. Like in my 9000 V6 or the 9-5 2.3t of my father, or now my new USA version, ’92 900 convertible.

    Here for example Saab recomends as much to do the oil changes every 30000km, but this is the maximum, it is recomended to do the oil changes before 20000-25000km, it depends of the usage of the car. Here is more common to use the car for road-city driving, and the best is to do the oil change in lower intervals.

    I can say, that I do a sports drive, and onces per year and as much 15000km I change the oil. Always Mobil1. In that in mind I am sure that the engine won’t have any big problem in terms of lubrication.


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