Posted by: motorvationsaab | November 20, 2012

Saab Diesel Problems and Faults

 Saab Diesel EngineA short guide to common Saab Diesel faults.

We are often asked to diagnose vehicle problems over the phone, if only it was that simple!
Frequently we recognise a familiar problem and are able at least to narrow the fault down to on or two possible causes.
As a Saab Specialist we use the Saab Tech2 diagnostic equipment, this whilst being fantastically useful, is not the be all and end all of fault diagnosis. Computer generated fault codes only go a certain distance to point in the direction of the problem, it is rare that they specifically pin point a particular fault. Where they don’t we are left with a process of elimination based on logic, experience, and sometimes, if we’re honest a bit of luck!

The modern diesel engines are extremely sophisticated and difficult to diagnose.
One of the first areas we look at after a Tech2 scan is the state of the exhaust emissions, often there is a big clue as to the fault in the colour of any smoke emission.
Diesel smoke falls into a range of three colours, Black, White, or Blue, each will point to a particular area of the engine systems.
Below I have listed a general diagnosis of the various colours.

Black Smoke

This is generally due to air/fuel ratio imbalance. Either the fuel system is delivering too much fuel, or there is not enough air. A few things that can be at fault are:

  • Faulty injectors (injectors need attention/ cleaning periodically.)
  • Faulty injector pump
  • Dirty air cleaner
  • Turbocharger or intercooler faulty
  • Problems within cylinder head, such as valves clogging owing to faulty EGR (exhaust    gas recirculation) valve
  • Damaged swirl flaps in the intake manifold on the Z19DTH and DTR Saab 1.9L Diesel engine

White Smoke

This normally indicates that the fuel injected into the cylinder is not burning correctly. The smoke will be very acrid and will make your eyes sting and water.

  • Engine/pump timing out
  • Fuel starvation to the pump causing the pumps timing not to operate correctly
  • Low engine compression
  • Water/petrol in the fuel

Blue Smoke

This indicates engine is burning engine oil and can be caused by the following faults.

  • Worn cylinders or piston rings
  • Faulty valves or valve stem seals
  • Engine over full with engine oil
  • Faulty injector pump/lift pump allowing engine oil to be mixed with the diesel

One other problem we are seeing more and more, especially with the increased content of Bio fuel in the mix of modern diesel in the growth of bacteria within fuel systems causing clogging and deterioration of fuel systems. I will deal with this subject in a separate post.

Prevention Tips.

 Regular use of a good quality fuel treatment will help to disperse water and contaminants in the fuel system as well as helping to keep injectors clean.

  • If your diesel has a particle filter (DPF) it needs to be able to regenerate, or clean out the filter. You can ensure that this will occur if you are able to run the car at a steady 2500-3000 rpm at motorway speeds for ten minutes or so. For more information about this please read our article here
  • Use a fuel additive that will enable the cars regeneration process to occur at lower temperatures. Diesel particulate matter burns when temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius are attained. This temperature can be reduced to somewhere in the range of 350 to 450 degrees Celsius by use of a fuel borne catalyst.
  • Avoid the continuous use of “supermarket” diesel.
  • If you suspect the filter may be blocked, a Dealer or Specialist has the computer to carry out a manual or forced regeneration

I hope that you may have found this post informative. Please feel free to contact us at Motorvation Saab by phone on 01892 825208 or visit our website at


  1. Saab 93 08 plate 71000 miles 1.9TiD sport wagon with occasional blue smoke on slow roundabout bends. What should I check first?


    • Have you checked the oil is not overfilled, you must be on flat ground and leave the car for 5 min before dipping.
      Do you have any running problems?
      Do you use mainly supermarket fuel? If so run an injector cleaner through and use a tank full or so of big brand fuel.
      Do you do primarily short journeys ? If so get out on the motorway at 3000+ Rpm and keep it there for 10 min or so.
      Hopefully one of these suggestion may sort out the issue.
      Please contact us by mail if you need further help


  2. Two quick questions –

    – Is there a way to test the fuel lift pump in the tank?

    – How do you track down a possible fuel air leak?

    Symptoms –

    First start of the day, car is very hard to crank, unless the fuel pump is allowed to prime for around 8-10 seconds when it will start from the first turn of the key. After the first start of the day, the car starts without issue. I’ve run 2 cans of BG244 fuel treatment over the last 1000 miles.

    Replaced –

    Fuel Filter / EGR / Air Filter / Leak Off Pipes / Boost Pipes

    I had the car put onto Tech2 and no faults were found, the only things they noticed – Air flow on the EGR was out of parameter, but that’s due to the semi-blanking plate and the fuel lift up pump sounds like its constantly running. (I’d think that’s normal though surely?)

    The fuel economy isn’t overly bad, averaging 45ish MPG over the last 4000 miles, 50/25/25% (Motorway, town, Country Roads).

    Z19DT 106’000 miles, 5 years old.


    • To test the lift pump.One needs to measure the fuel pressure as delivered to the fuel rail, it should be 4 Bar. If you have air in the system, which I doubt, you will hear a gurgling sound from the pump, and also usually see some signs of leakage. Have you tested the glow plugs to see if they are Ok ? It is also possible that you have a problem with the fuel pressure sensor on the fuel rail.I would help to have the car hooked up to pressure guages and see what is happening to the pressures after turn off and on cold statup.


  3. Hi.
    I have a Saab 1.9 TiD, 150 bhp, 2005. I have two problems with it and I don’t know how to sort them out.
    First, my speedometer indicate approx 7mph more, is the immobiliser in speedometer, or I can change it if it’s faulty?
    Second, sometimes, on the exhaust it has white smoke and the engine sounds a bit weird, Actually is very penibile this thing,
    Hope that you can help me.
    Thank you


    • Hi.
      Your speedo problem may be a calibration issue, especially if the tyre size is different to that programmed to the car. As for your other problem. I would not like to comment on this in a open forum without checking the car first to avoid posting what could be misleading info.If you want to call us on 01892 825208 we could discuss it further.


  4. Hi there,

    I have a 50k mile Saab 9-3 1.9 Diesel and have both the cold/first start issues in the mornings (rectified partially by allowing the glow plus to run 3 times), but I still get the white/blue smoke (stinks), following starts don’t appear to be too problematic.

    Also I have a stutter/misfire at really light throttle, most noticeable at 1.5k to 2k rpm.

    In addition during hard acceleration on boost it feels as if the boost cuts in and out lower down the rev range and then picks up later.

    Unsure whether these are all related.

    I have changed:

    EGR, glow plugs, glow control relay, fuel filter, MAF, Battery, DPF cleaned, MAP cleaned, numerous fuel additives used.
    All stats checked and re-checked on Tech2 with no noticeable irregularities. Vac lines, boost pipes etc checked, all by Saab specialists with who have found no issues to report…

    Kind of losing my mind here….help!


    • Have you had the inlet manifold checked ?


      • Apparently the specialists have checked the inlet manifold and swirl flap bar operation, however I doubt that they have checked whether the internal swirl flap mechanism is still attached and moving..


  5. Hi I have a Saab 95 sport tid 150 bhp and it splutters between one and a half and 2 1/2 thousand revs have run a cleaner through it still the same, some times it sounds like the dump valve.


    • You need to check that the EGR valve is operating fully. Also check the inlet manifold to see if the swirl flap control arm has detached itself.


  6. Saab 93 ttid 180 aero estate 61 plate 58,000miles. Have recently noticed a heavy vibration under heavy acceleration at low revs in high gear, normaly 5th or 6th. It doesn’t do it when accelerating hard in the lower gears. If I lift off slightly it goes away, and will also disapear when once the revs are up. I first noticed it after the car went through a regen, although it could have been doing it earler. Any ideas?


    • My first thought is that there may be an issue with the Dual mass flywheel. Please call us on 01892 285208 to discuss it further.


      • Have been told by a mechanic to test it out by trying to pull away with the handbrake on, if there is an issue with the DMF it will rattle and vibrate . I have tried this and there is no vibration or rattle so not sure that’s the problem.


      • I forgot to mention that I have had the car remaped by a reputable remapper as it was not performing as well as I thought it should for a180 ,also for better economy.I must add though ,the problem wasn’t apparent until after the car went through a regen.


      • To be honest we would need to roadtest it for ourselves. Please call us on 01892 825208 to arrange a test run while you wait. Hopefully we could give you a better opinion then.


  7. My saab 95 2.2 tid made a whining noise when I put my foot on accelerator on the motorway but no noticeable lack of power until I’d reached my destination! When I returned from my destination the whining started again then black smoke started appearing from the exhaust and I lost power only managing to limp home! The car starts first time no problem! EGR light is on but that has always appeared when on motorways but not around town


    • My first thought is that there may be an air leak in the intercooler or pipework, leading to the “whining” noise, that has got worse leading to power loss and smoke. The second possibility is the turbo is failing. Either way the car needs to be checked out visually and the relevant pipework and intercooler pressure tested. If we can help please call us on 01892 825208


  8. HI, have just bought a 2006 9-3 1.9 TDI. Vibration at idle and a little blue smoke on start up when cold. Heavy vibration when accelerating in first to third gear and seems flat when under 2000 rpm as if only running on three cylinders but then picks up very quickly when turbo kicks in. Have been to my local garage and they have checked wiring to injectors and run leak test on injectors, have checked glow plugs but are stumped ! No codes or faults showing through lights on dash on ECU. Any help would be gratefully received.

    Best Wishes



    • Hello.
      RE the vibration, my first thought, sight unseen, would be that the Dual Mass Flywheel is weak/worn. The running problem could be faulty EGR, and /or manifold worn so that the control bar that operates the inlet flaps has detached itself. We would need to see the car and interrogate it with Tech 2, which would let us operate the EGR remotely, a visual inspection of the manifold will identify the position of the control bar.


  9. Hi,
    My 9-3 1.9 ttid 180 has a similar issue to Mr Stephen Heath (posted 3rd Jan 2015).
    If i’m in 6th gear at below 1500rpm and accelerate heavily (at max turbo) there is a strong vibration/juddering as the revs pass through 1500rpm for a second or two or maybe to 1550rpm. This can happen in 5th gear to but the vibration isn’t as strong.
    It has a feel of something resonating, there’s no loss of power or acceleration and no other noticeable effect.
    I haven’t noticed any other issue with acceleration or gearbox problems other than the normal fight for 1st gear on a cold start.
    I wonder if you found a solution to Mr Heaths issue that could likely apply to my issue, as I live in Cornwall I can’t bring it in for you to look at.

    Cheers for any advice.


    • Hi.
      We never saw Mr Heaths car.
      From what you describe it sounds as though the engine is labouring when accelerating, possibly due to too low a speed for the selected gear. 5th and 6th gears are really cruising gears when at speed.


      • Thanks for getting back so quick.
        Fair point about it labouring.
        I’m more curious than concerned just now as it hasn’t got worse and there doesn’t seem to be any other problems.
        But i do think it’s strange that it vibrates so strongly through such a narrow rpm range, and only at full throttle with the turbo running at full boost before the revs hit 1500rpm.
        And the rpm is always the same, at least as best as i can tell from the tacho.
        I suspect there’s some sort of feedback vibration that resonates under full throttle at 1500-1550ish.
        Do you think this is possible and if so what would be the most likely cause, ie clutch damper springs a bit worn from city driving?
        Should i worry about this in the short term or be mindful of a possible clutch change in the future as mileage is 105k.
        I say clutch but that’s only my initial thought.



      • To be honest we would have to drive the car to assess it.
        It could be possible that it is the clutch. However My thoughts are that you don’t have a major problem.
        If there I a potential problem, it may have to develop more to locate it. It is almost impossible to diagnose this type of fault without driving the car and getting a feel for it.
        I would suggest that if it remains a matter of concern that you should take it for a test drive with your local specialist.


      • Hi,
        I appreciate your thoughts.
        So i’ll take your advice and not worry about it and just keep an eye on it.


  10. Hi what is the best engine oil to use for my Saab 9-3 turbo diesel manual sport (2006-2007)?? Many thanks


    • Hi. For the 8 and 16 valve engines we use the Saab Factory oil which is a 5W 30 Dexos 2 Longlife oil. For the Twin Turbo engines you MUST use a different oil which is a 0W40 specially designed for the engine conforming to specs API 5M/ CF ACEA C3


  11. Hello there I wonder if you could give me a bit of advice, my Saab is 9-3 1.9 tid 2005 , the problem is after starting the car and driving for 3-5 miles it starts smoking whitish blue smoke, sometimes just white, if I turn the ignition off while in motion on motorway and back on again the smoking stops until I have driven another 3-5 miles and it starts again . I have had to be truning the ignition on and off whuile in motion to avoid the smoke . I have used fuel additives over and over , cleaned the EGR valve out but the problem persists. No MIL has come on by the way .



    • I do wonder if the car is trying to regenerate. Try getting on the motorway and keeping the revs at 3000 rpm for around 10 minutes this will allow the Dpf to regenerate. TIP. 4t gear on either a 6speed manual, or an Auto in manual mode, approximates 70mph.
      Hope this cures the problem.


  12. Hi I have a Saab 95 3 lite rid 2005. My engine management light is on code says manifold compression is this a major expensive fix. I be very grateful for any advice. Thanks in advance. Malc


    • Hello Malc.
      To give you any idea of the problem and cost we would need to plug into Tech2 and then run the diagnostic path . Call us on 01892 825208 if you want to come by.


  13. Intermittent loss of power on our saab9.3 diesel. engine management light is not on no warning just loss of power


    • Hi Stephen

      Just seen your post on our blog. The car needs to be plugged into Tech2 and deiven for some live data.

      The blog is not a forum so if you wish to contact us please do so on 01892 825208.

      Kind Regards



  14. Hi on my Saab 93 180 TTID 2009.
    The engine oil level is high above the max on the dipstick.
    When i start the car after about 2 seconds the red oil light wil flash once on the dash.
    I’ve been told it could be diesel getting into the sump and there is an eNgine or ecu upgrade for the car.
    Any ideas.


    • This can happen after repeated, or interrupted regenerations. The car would need to be checked for the latest software.
      Please note that this blog is not a forum, and thus is not monitored every day. Questions should be sent to our email ( ), or phoned in on 01892 825208.


  15. Please can you help me out i have a 2006 Saab 93 diesel vector sport 150bhp 16v ,recently carried out oil and filter change with liqui moly 5w/40 4100 toptec engine mileage is 117,456 in carry out the oil change i notice some metal fillings type metrial on the threads of the oil filter housing ,since then i have done approx 250 miles and checked the oil level and noticed the odd very small particule of metal could aluminium or steel ?? ,recent i decied to remove the oil filter and disect the element for a good inspection having carried this out i only noticed the odd metal particel maybe two to three at max through out the oil filter,but having checked my oil level this afternoon i am now concered as to what is really going on within the engine as i noticed some more particles in the oil when i dip the oil possibley more than was noticed after the last oil change could you please through some light on this situation as we are booked on a Ferry to France on the 27/7/2016 vehicle seems to performe ok but does sound a little more noisey than this time last year after doing a oil change MAN oil filters could the oil pump be failing /or cold it be a rocker arm metal breaking up ?? many thanks any direction


    • This is a difficult one to answer without seeing the car.
      Firstly we need to know if the particles are magnetic, if so they are steel, if not then alloy.
      The source could be hard to find as they could be from several different sources such as the vacuum pump, cam followers, big ends, turbo etc.
      To be honest, other than this I really can’t offer anything more definite.


  16. I have cleaned my 56 plate saab 1.9tdis egr valve and re fitted it, the engine nanagement light is still on a week later, if i disconnect the battery then re connect will it go off or do i need to check something else, the car seems to be running fine.


    • As always there can be many causes for the check engine light. Whilst having cleaned the Egr Valve, it still may not be working to its optimum. The car needs to be plugged into Tech 2 This is the only diagnostics system that will give the full complete fault codes, from which, using WIS one can follow the diagnostic path. Unfortunately the Non Saab Diagnostics systems do not give complete codes.Please call us onj 01892 825208 should you need further info.


  17. how do I find the timing marks on saab 1.9 diesel


    • There are no timing marks. You need a set of special locking tools to replace the cam belt etc.


  18. Hi I have 2005 Saab tid vector sport that is my daily drive just recently it’s it’s starting to to go in limp mode doesn’t do it all the time only on high revs then stays in limp mode until I leave for a while then start it back up then does it again after a short while what con this be it’s very annoying


    • Hi Lee.
      The car is probably trying to carry out a regeneration of the Particle filter. There may be an issue that is preventing it from completing a regeneration, such as a faulty Egr valve or an air leak, faulty filter, or sensor, or even a wiring issue. It will need to be interrogated by Tech2 and then if possible a forced regeneration should be carried out. You should stay away from continuous use of cheap supermarket fuel as we get lots of problems from this. Please call us on 017892 825208 to duscuss this further if you wish.


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