Re: 2002 Saab 9-3 turbo automatic - how reliable? - Saabnet.com Bulletin Board


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Re: 2002 Saab 9-3 turbo automatic - how reliable?
Posted by Justin VanAbrahams [Email] (more from Justin VanAbrahams) on Mon, 26 Mar 2018 11:05:14

In Reply to: 2002 Saab 9-3 turbo automatic - how reliable?, Kurt, Sun, 25 Mar 2018 18:16:10
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The 9400 body 9-3 is an odd car IMHO... even though it's much newer, it's not nearly as complex as a c900 on the macro level - there are some complicated bits like, say, the throttle body, but on a "stuff to break" level they are a pretty basic car. I think it's important to remember the underpinnings are from a cheap Opel, and by and large they are built like an economy car. *Way* more Chevy Cavalier than BMW 3-series in terms of complexity.

I think that is very important to remember. The c900 drives mostly like its contemporaries, but the 9-3 does not offer the same refinement or dynamics as its contemporaries. A 1992 c900T will compare favorably (some push, some pull) vs a 1992 325i, but IMHO a 2002 9-3 does not compare favorably with a 2002 325i. It drives way more like a Buick (HA!) than a luxury car. Don't get me wrong - it's a fine drive and on the open road the B205R will put a smile on your face, but when you get down into details like materials, touch & feel, dynamics, feedback, etc., it kinda falls behind.

In many ways, that can work to your favor. The 9400 is generally cheap to repair, its issues and foibles are all pretty well documented, and to a large degree very DIY friendly. Even if not a really competent drive it's hardly bad and IMHO they make for a good commuter - reasonably comfortable, inexpensive to operate, great safety.

As a point of reference, I recently bought an '01 for a family member... $760 with 138k in the "needs mechanical work" category. You can read my trials and tribulations with the automatic transmission below. :) Excluding the cost of my own shenanigans with the transmission, here is what getting the car into ship shape cost me:

Total - $3681

CAR - $760
smog - $50
REGISTRATION - $188
AC CHARGE - $330

Air filter, cabin filter, fuel filter, pcv update - $122
Loctite, oil pan orings - $38
trans mount, trans sealing washers, turbo oil gaske - $64
turbo oil drain hose, trans drain plug seal - $60
trans fluid - $28
TC seal, VC gasket, timing chain pad - $32
trans fluid - $28
axle seals - $65
transmission - $217
water pump + AC compressor kit + vacuum pump seals - $317
radiator hoses + thermostat - $64
exhaust studs, oil cooler o-rings, swaybar bushings - $108
spare key + cut - $72
radiator - $132
coolant + trans fluid refill - $45
hood strut + fuel pump - $32
crank sensor + spark plugs + wipers - $120
Air shields + fuel pump orings + belt tensioner + hood strut - $163
idler pulley - $28
spare DIC tool - $16
stereo + SWC interface - $192
2x LCAs - $110
tires (falken fk452) - $300

As you can see, I essentially replaced *everything* mechanical and a whole lot of electrical parts too, plus a new stereo and four new tires. I used OE or OEM parts everywhere, no cheap stuff except the Mevotech Supreme LCAs (which seem quite nice, on a side note). This car needs to be 100% reliable, so I wasn't looking for broken stuff - I was looking for anything that wasn't new and reasonably replaceable. The only things I did not replace that I will probably regret are the DIC and the ABS module.

It's all DIY, but I think a reasonable time estimate - again ignoring issues I caused myself with the transmission - is around 30 hours. Maybe $3000 to $3500 in labor? That makes this a nearly $7000 car in an absolute sense, and my point to you is twofold: If this car is "nicely maintained" at $7000 you're overpaying by 80-100%. If this car has a *mountain* of documented work in recent times, it could be an okay deal. As a point of comparison, if someone offered me $5k for the car I just finished, I'd take it. :)

My *personal* with a 98k car is gonna be that it's not been driven a lot and may be headed into expensive maintenance... everything that hasn't worn out from use will be wearing out from age, and you may get stuck holding the bag. Lots of people think low mileage is really good, but I think I'd rather have a car with moderate mileage and a really comprehensive service history.

posted by 12.195.130...

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