How to Save a Saab Engine From Oil Sludge

Updated March 23, 2017

A Saab engine can be saved from oil sludge by completing scheduled and preventive maintenance. Most Saab engines are not susceptible to oil sludge, but the 2.0 litre and 2.3 litre engines used in early versions of the Saab 9-3 and 9-5 may develop sludge that clogs the oil pickup screen, ultimately starving the engine of much-needed oil. While this issue, which resulted in extended warranties for all 9-3s from the 2000 through 2003 model years and 9-5s from the 1999 through 2003 model years, is most prevalent on these models, regular oil changes can help you avoid sludge damage on any Saab.

Complete an oil change. Regularly scheduled oil changes are the easiest way to save your Saab engine from sludge. Although Saab recommends 10,000 mile oil change intervals, changing the oil more frequently is a cost-effective safeguard to avoid sludge problems. The 1999 to 2003 model year vehicles covered by Saab's extended warranty recommended using semi-synthetic oil in tandem with 10,000 mile service intervals. This long interval is chief among the reasons some Saab engines develop sludge. Draining the oil allows you to check its condition, and replacing the oil filter allows you to see if it has any sludge inside of it.

Drop and clean the oil pan. Removing the oil pan using a 13mm socket allows you to inspect it for sludge build-up. Drain the oil before dropping the pan, or you could spill the oil and injure yourself. You can also use a mild detergent like transmission fluid to scrub and clean the oil pan. While the oil pan is off the vehicle, inspect the oil pickup screen, located in the oil pan. If the pickup screen is clogged, your engine has been starved of oil because of sludge. Clean the oil pickup screen if it is dirty.

Replace the oil pan gasket and reinstall. After cleaning the oil pan, remove the remaining gasket from the edges of the pan. Fit a new oil pan gasket or RTV gasket sealant and bolt the oil pan back to the underside of the engine. After tightening the pan, complete an oil and filter change.


Even if the oil pan or oil pickup screen has sludge, your vehicle may not be damaged. If it has been operating normally and the oil pressure warning light is not lit, your vehicle should be safe. Just remember to regularly complete oil changes and consider switching from Saab's recommended semi-synthetic oil to a full synthetic.


If you feel uncomfortable completing the repairs and recommendations in this guide, contact a local import mechanic or Saab dealership. They will be able to drop the oil pan and check for sludge while your car is in for regular service, but expect to pay for this service.

Things You'll Need

  • 13mm socket
  • 7 litres of oil
  • Oil filter
  • Oil drain pan
  • 1 litre of transmission fluid
  • Shop rags
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About the Author

Michael Ryan is a freelance writer with professional experiences in the auto industry and academic training in music. Ryan earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Olivet College. Since college, he has been a featured speaker at music conferences at the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University. Ryan is a published writer, with work featured on websites including eHow and