Poll: How often do you change the oil in your Saab?

This one’s an issue that attracts some differences of opinion.

The options should be pretty straightforward. I’ve generalised the intervals based on 5,000 kilometer increments and converted these to 3,000 mile equivalents for you imperial types.



Our resident GM tech expert, Tedjs, has chimed in with some advice in comments, which I’ve reproduced below. This concerns not just intervals, but also the type of oil you should use:

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.

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  1. Does anyone know the difference between the GM-LL-A-025 and the ACEA A3/B3/B4 standards? Is one more rigorous than the other, do they test for different things, or are they really just about the same?

  2. I do it every 3,000-4,000 miles using standard dino-goo in my c900. Over kill? Maybe, but I can say that at 170,000 miles it still doesn’t burn a drop between changes.

  3. Like I said before, if I try to go a long time between oil changes, my car will die. It’s already dying and I don’t need to die faster. 3000 miles for me, 4000 at the very most.

  4. GM-LL-A-025 is different from the ACEA standards. Based on the fact that the vast majority of oils that meet one or more of the ACEA standards do not meet the GM-LL standard, I would think that the GM standard is stricter.
    Note that the GM-LL standard only applies to post-2003 9-3’s. 9-3 hatches (1999-2002) can use ACEA A3 oils.

    I am surprised that Saab does not directly measure oil viscosity. I’ve heard that MB do this in some of their diesel engines (measuring viscosity vs. temp at startup). I guess that a software-only approach is cheaper to implement.

  5. well, i would say it depends on what engine is used.
    For example the 9-5 engines (2,0 and 2,3) have, afaik 4l Oil inside.
    The 9-3II 2,0 engine has 6l inside.

    So, if you are not a very short distance driver i guess
    9-5: 10,000km
    9-3II: 15.000km
    should be sufficient.

    More important in my eyes is
    – do not drive like Walter Roehrl if the engine is cold.
    – after driving like W.R. (with a warm engine!) give the oil time to cool down.

    Then the engineshould hold a lifetime 😉

  6. ACEA oil quality standards are European oil standards, which is to say that Europe has different standards for oil (life) than other markets where the USA uses API (American Petroleum Institute) ratings for oil.

    At any rate – ACEA oil standards reflect longer oil change intervals required for that market. This all goes back to controlling the amount of ‘waste’ oil which you might want to think of as fuel economy standards.

    Remember – you are changing your oil because the additive package has been exhausted and the oil can no longer do its job.

    Think of it this way – if your engine is using or ‘burning’ oil it is not operating as efficiently and more importantly – where it the oil going? Right out the tailpipe. This contributes to air pollution and could also poison the catalyst increasing tailpipe emissions.

    Modern engines are designed to maximize fuel economy by not only using less fuel; they are using less oil as well.

    Same thing would apply to an engine that ‘leaks’ oil. Manufactures are designing engines with more robust (ahem) gaskets to prevent leaks. If a modern engine starting leaking oil early in its service life that would/could be considered a polluting or exceeding emission standards.

    A viscosity sensor like Bernard suggested would give the system information on just that – viscosity or did the owner put the right oil in the engine. That still would not tell the system the condition of the additives in the oil or if the right kind of oil is being used. Not all 5W-30 oils are created equal. The software model ‘works’ better because it assumes the proper oil is being used and can use all of its ‘data’ to give the owner information on oil life.

    The European standard is also reflected in the coolant used in my 9-3. European ‘pink’ coolant never needs changing over the life of the vehicle and eliminates a service, but it also eliminates waste. The 9-7x uses good old GM Dex-Cool, which has a change interval – thus reflecting on the market the vehicle was designed in.

  7. let me try a different spin on the subject.

    there are certain “consumables”–things that need to be replaced regularly–when it comes to car ownership. oil is one of them. and i accept that.

    the oil change interval, to me, is like the recommended tire mileage. i don’t try to push it to the limit. too much is at stake if there’s a problem. (yeah, i replaced my “80,000-mile” rated tires at 60,000 miles because i didn’t feel comfortable for winter with the remaining tread, which was still above the legal limit. and i replace the serpentine belt once a year or 50,000 miles–whichever comes first.) so i change my oil between 2,500 and 3,000 miles. it’s just not worth ruining an engine trying to squeeze every last mile from an oil change. heck, i’ve even changed the oil after 300 miles, because the oil had been in there for 3 months.

    mileage: 186,000 miles.
    oil: (always) valvoline, conventional.
    result: no problems

    i’m a diy’er (do-it-yourself-er) for oil changes. i could probably do it with my eyes closed. can even slide far enough under the car without the use of jacks. the only tool i use is an oil filter wrench. (the drain-plug bolt has been replaced with a contraption that doesn’t require tools.) so, the $20 for parts, oil and filter, and (my) labor buys me “peace of mind,” without spending a lot of paper. also, i have the satisfaction that the job is done right. (i grin when i put a magnet on the bottom of the oem filter, at the end of the job.)

    …but that’s just me, with my old, high-mileage saab. ymmv. luck.

  8. I’m glad to see tedjs’s comments on the article. I’ve seen too many times on 9-3SS forums (MY 2003+) where someone asks oil advice and is told any 0W-30 oil is fine, making my blood boil.

  9. great discussion. I had no idea there were any ‘responsible owners’ getting more than 5000 miles out of an oil change…9000 miles….wow
    9x – what’s the deal with the magnet?

  10. 9x – 300 mile oil change AND a magnet???
    Overkill??? 🙂
    guess I really am just a Saab ‘rookie’…you guys are cracking me up!

  11. Bernard: I’m hesitant to jump to the idea that GM-LL-A-025 is stricter because it’s less common. After all, with a very small handful of cars in the US market requiring the oil, there’s little reason for the oil makers to bother going through all the tests (which I’ve understood to be expensive.)

    In fact, few oils in the US carry the ACEA A3/B3/B4 certification. That’s not necessarily because they don’t meet it, but they may not have seen any good reason to get certified for it.

    In the Mobil 1 product lineup, it seems only the 0W-40 and the High Mileage 10W-30 meet the A3/B3/B4 standard.

    I don’t believe that…I just think they felt they didn’t need to get the certification.

  12. Although I also see now that A1/B1/A5 is a mutually exclusive standard with a different goal. So maybe that is indeed the case…

  13. Why is this stuff so complex? I mean, I’m a pretty smart guy who cares about his car. But I’m not about to start reading the little letters on the oil bottle to see what specs the oil conforms to. I mean, that’s nuts. Most owners are going to be hard pressed to change their oil at the appropriate intervals and make sure to use the proper weight and viscosity, let alone make sure the oil going into their car meets some standard.

    I use a Mobil 1 oil filter and 20W50 (I live in a hot climate) Castrol GTX dino oil in my C900 every 3,000 miles and I put the “official” Saab (black GM) oil filter and Mobil 1 “Extended Performance” fully-synthetic (15,000 mile lifespan) into my wife’s ’01 OG9-3 every 5,000 miles or so.

    And I use a 50/50 mix of distilled water and Mercedes-Benz coolant/antifreeze in both cars (not really pink, but sort of clear, really). I read that this stuff is the best and I would hope so at $25/gal. This coolant and distilled water supposedly reduce the amount of aluminum eaten away from the radiator and head due to electrolysis from what I read on a Saab forum somewhere years ago.

    Is there any chance someone can post a list of oils sold in the U.S., U.K., and Australia which meet the Saab oil standards to make it easier on us?

  14. 1985 Gripen: The letter codes are actually pretty significant for us and our rather demanding engines.

    The short explanation is that the ACEA A1/B1/A5 standard indicates an oil that is designed for better fuel economy whereas the A3/B3/B4 standard indicate an oil which is designed less for fuel economy and more for “grade stability at high temperatures.”

    It’s not so much the idea that the A1/B1/A5 oils are not as good as the A3/B3/B4 oils, it’s that they are designed with a different purpose in mind.

    Because our turbo engines put oil through a lot, it’s critical that one uses an A3/B3/B4 oil, which is required to have a higher viscosity at temps above 150C. The A1/B1/A5 oil is kept at a lower viscosity at that temperature for fuel economy reasons.

    I’m afraid none of the Mobil 1 extended performance oils are A3/B3/B4.

  15. There really is no savings for going much longer than 5000 miles between changes, especially if you are driving a car with the catalytic under the oil pan (02&earlier 93s, 95s still?). These engines are just asking for coked-clogged pickup tubes and oil rings.

    Even on 03 and later 93SS, petrol and diesel Mobil1 0/40 changes at 5K, 90K cam cover pulls show beautifully clean(no sign of “coking”) and consequently quiet, sweet-running engines…that is, as they say, priceless.

  16. Excellent post! Have you ever considered moving from a pure blogging platform to something where it would be easier to retain this kind of information plus do the “blog” thing? For example Drupal could be used to maintain a wiki-like structure of this kind of great and and do a regular blog too. Just a thought…I guess Saab Central has this kind of thing, but it seems a bit sparse and its not clear how to publish stuff over there.


  17. Hi Beren,

    My recent experiences with changing CMS’s make me very very hesitant about ever changing again. Which is a pity as WordPress hasn’t quite delivered on its promises.

    But yes, I’ve thought about how good it would be to have a reference section attached to this site. I’m open to efficient ideas.

  18. Not to stir up controversy, however, with modern day car manuals actually indicating that one can change their oil every 5 to 7 thousand miles (especially if you use synthetic), why would anyone continue to change it every 3k? I know that the old mentality based on cars from 30+ years ago was to change early and often (also supported by oil companies), but most cars can go far longer. My sister’s 2002 9-3 on full synthetic does wonderfully going 5 to 7 thousand miles. I know every car is different, surely new technology allows us to no longer be stuck with old oil change methods.

  19. 1985 Gripen – To make things simple it seems almost all Saabs built after the 2000 model year require oil that meets the GM-LL-A-025 standard (which strangely coincides with Saab becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of GM). That is to say the only oil that I am aware of that meets this standard is Mobile One 0W-40 or Saab ‘brand’ oil. Amsoil (another high quality synthetic) may meet this standard although our local representative was unable to supply this information to me in print last time I asked him about it.

    James – Mobile One 0W-40 does meet the European ACEA A3/B3/B4 standards. Check out the product data sheet on their public website. As for other oil companies not certifying their oil, well – Mobile One is factory fill in so many engines they have do have somewhat of monopoly from producing a superior product.

    As for catalytic convertors being too close to the engine/oil pan causing the sludge problem – well that is questionable. GMT 360’s (Saab 9-7x etc.) with the inline six have the catalyst integrated into the exhaust manifold and that is right next to the engine as do many vehicles, so it has been a common practice for sometime. Given that only ‘certain’ engines are prone to sludge you have wonder about that.

    Another real world example – just like Saab’s, all Toyota vehicles that are ‘repaired’ under Toyota’s extended sludge service policy are treated to an updated crankcase ventilation system (PCV). PCV gasses can cause acids to form in the oil which can lead to premature failure of the additive package and you get sludge among other things. That redesign and subsequent extended service policy had to cost the manufacturer some money, but might help retain a few customers.

    The real ‘can of worms’ is this: Would all of these engines experienced premature failure if the dealer had actually used the manufacturer recommended oil – this is assuming the customer had regular oil changes done at the dealer? Or is that bulk oil cheaper? Or was the PCV system to blame?

    What came first – the chicken or the egg?

    One other fun thing about the United States and the automobile industry is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. This basically says that the customer can use ‘any’ product they feel is in their best interest, so the manufacturer cannot actually tell you not to use it. The consumer can use any oil they ‘feel’ meets standards but it may not meet all manufacturer certifications/specifications.

    GM puts out the GM-LL-A-025 oil standard and asks industry to meet it – not the other way around. Top Tier gasoline standards have been established for similar reasons – you can buy it, or not.

  20. Tedjs: I know that Mobil 1 “European Car Formula” OW-40 meets the A3/B3/B4 standard–I just mentioned that that none of their “Extended Performance” oils meet it (though one of their High mileage oils does–though that product doesn’t have the mysterious GM-LL-A-025 certificate.)

  21. You know, maybe Swade, our beloved webmaster, has a contact with GM Europe to find out the specifications of GM-LL-A/B-025 so that we know exactly how it differs from the other known oil specifications.
    Unless GM considers it a proprietary thing…

  22. Now I’m worried. I just read James’ comment above (#16) that the expensive Mobil 1 15W50 Extended Performance oil I thought was going above and beyond the call of duty using (I mean, I was changing this fully-synthetic oil with a supposed lifespan of 15K miles or 1 year every 5,000 miles!) is not acceptable for my wife’s Saab I’ve been putting it in.

    Thanks so much to Tedjs for the comment above. It sounds as if I should only be buying Mobil 1 0W40 oil for my wife’s car from now on. I had been going for the Extended Performance oil in 15W50 weight because of the hot climate I live in. I guess this has been a mistake. Can you foresee any problem with me switching from one weight to another? Thanks in advance.

    I wonder if I were to have a sludge problem if Saab would decline to cover it under warranty due to the fact that I had been using oil which doesn’t meet Saab’s specifications. I mean, I did use a non-GM oil filter a few times too (though it was a very good Mobil 1 one)…

    Just FYI Castrol Syntec 0W30 fully-synthetic oil also exceeds GM-LL-A-025 as well as ACEA A3,B3,B4 as does Amsoil 5W40 Synthetic “European Engine Oil”.

  23. Gripen – I do not foresee any ill effects from changing to the 0W-40 grade of oil. The 0W designation for the referenced multi-grade oil is for ‘winter’ so you are generally talking about temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) which you don’t seem to experience. I assume the vehicle uses the 2.0L Ecotec (Ecopower) engine? Remember – the GM-LL-A-025 standard is more than a viscosity standard – it has to do with how long the additive package in the oil lasts among other things. At any rate, it seems to exceed current API certifications.

    Pre 2000 model year is a different story. Older Saab’s (and other vehicles) had factory 10W-30 standard and it seems to have progressed to a 5W-30 based on current API oil standards here in the USA. 1996 engines used an “SG” standard which is now obsolete. Current “SM” standards reflect this.

    And I agree with your post (15) that things would be a lot easier from a consumer standpoint if some of the information was not so vague… A lot of information I present in class now is the result of personal experience and more time spent reading and discussing theory with others individuals in the field.

    One thing you start to notice (or at least I do) is most manufacturers started specifying ‘tighter’ bearing tolerances 2000 and up. Where you used to have clearances in the thousandth (0.001) of an inch it is now common to see clearances down to the ten-thousandth (0.0001) of an inch. This started to occur in conjunction with manufactures certifying powertrains up to 100,000 miles and ‘older’ engine designs being phased out. This also plays in current oil standards.

    Interesting that Saab has kept the 2.3L around up until 2008. Cast iron blocks and aluminum heads are rare in the current market but certainly not unheard of. GM’s 60 degree V6 is in its 28th year upgrades, but still uses the basic block that was around in 1980.

    James – There is nothing really secret about the GM-LL-A-025 standard, but you really have to start digging into material to learn about European oil standards. Like low sulfur diesel fuel, coolant among other things they reflect demands of that market in terms of emission standards. The US market has somewhat lagged behind in some of these categories as you can see with our slow implementation of clean diesel engines and E85 to some degree. We have a way to go.

  24. Tedjs: I’m sorry to bother you with this in comments, but I don’t have your e-mail address to send you a personal request:

    Could you please reference me to a copy of the Technical Service Bulletin from Saab or whatever they used to get the word out to use only oil which meets GM-LL-A-025 requirements online?

    I was explaining to my Saab indie mechanic today that I had just changed-out the Mobil 1 15W50 Extended Performance oil out of my wife’s ’01 9-3 yesterday in favor of Mobil 1 0W40 “European Car Formula” out of sludging concerns and he told me, “no, that’s only for the latest models” and “that oil is too thin” and “some late model Mercedes actually have you change oil weights after 60K miles”. I explained to him that I had read that it’s also for the OG9-3, but not the NG900 (so ’99-current models). Was I wrong or was he? I’d like to reference the official Saab word on it for him.

    Thanks in advance.

    BTW, while the data sheet on Castrol’s website claims that their Syntec 0W30 European Formula fully-synthetic oil exceeds GM-LL-A-025, the bottle itself mentions nothing of it. The price of the Mobil 1 0W40 and Castrol Syntec 0W30 is the same at Autozone anyway so I opted for the Mobil 1, especially since I live in a hot climate I’d like that “40” instead of “30”. However, I’d rather support Castrol rather than ExxonMobil with my money so I might go with the Castrol in the future.

  25. I know I’m getting far too obsessive on this, but that’s my nature.

    I just looked at the Owner’s Manual for my wife’s ’01 OG9-3 and it states to use 5W30 or 5W40 semi or fully synthetic oil rated ACEA A3/B3 or (emphasis mine) API SJ.

    It goes on to say that 0W40 or 0W50 is okay as long as it meets ACEA A3/B3.

    Later on it says that the oil should be SH or SJ or ACEA A3/B3/B4.

    So… when all is said and done technically (according to my owner’s manual) the Mobil 1 Extended Performance 15W50 fully-synthetic oil I had been running in the car should be sufficient as it meets API SH and SJ, right?

    Heck, if that’s the case we OG9-3 owners can probably run just about any brand and grade of fully-synthetic oil (and even some semi synthetic or “synthetic blend”) as I think they pretty much all meet API SH and SJ.

  26. Not a problem Gripen – I sent a request to Swade for your email and can send the information in the morning.

    My wife is wondering what I am doing on this site all the time. 😉

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