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  1. #1

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    Rough idle and smoke

    I do not own a Saab, but my son who lives in FL just bought a 2005 Saab 9-3 2.0 Arc a few weeks ago. I do not know a lot about them so here I am.

    He called me the other night and said, "The engine was idling very rough when stopped, and there was smoke coming up between the engine and the firewall."

    I have tried to find exploded views of the engine so that I can see what is in that area that could cause an idle issue and smoking, but I have not been able to. After my son bought the car it did have a valve cover gasket leak. He lives in a complex where he cannot work on the car himself. He brought it into a mechanic who confirmed that it was the VC gasket leaking. He replaced the gasket and gave the car a fast look over.

    The only two issues he brought to my son's attention were, a slight leak in the PS system, and a slight leak in the vacuum pump. He is going to have to to bring the car back to the mechanic, but I would like to find out what it might be so I can make sure he is not getting ripped off.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. #2
    Saab Nut Digger's Avatar
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    28 Oct 2016
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    Hard enough to get good descriptive details on a first person posting and posting by proxy makes it even harder.

    Smoke between engine and firewall: Not knowing how cruddy the engine is from the leaking valve cover, the best guess from your description of smoke between engine and firewall is crud working its way down the back of the engine and contacting the hot exhaust. Given time this will self correct, degreasing now should correct now. Smoke caused by leaking fluid from a power steering leak hitting hot exhaust is a different matter and there is always the turbo to consider, but from this posting these two items are the most likely.

    Rough idle when stopped: Very rough idle when stopped could a problem, it could also be a perception. At first I found this to be a bit unnerving and I still find it to be a bit irritating. If the rough idle your son is experiencing only occurs when the engine is warm, he is in gear and stopped with his foot on the brake, rough idle is fuel saving normal operation.

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  3. #3

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    Thanks for the reply. According to my son both the idle and smoke issue started at the same time. He said the rough idle is there even in park now. For me not being there to see it or try to diagnose is frustrating enough, but not really knowing the car makes it even harder.

    He also just sent me a message that the check engine light came on. He went and had the ECM scanned and two codes came up, P2187 & P0033. The P2187 I have had before and it turned out to be a dirty air filter. The P0033 has to do with the waste gate circuit of the turbo. According to him the turbo gauge and the turbo seem to working fine. I told him to get it to his mechanic.

    I'm thinking possibly a dirty TB or AIS....your thoughts? The car has 155K miles, and since he just bought he really does know the history.

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  4. #4
    Saab Nut Digger's Avatar
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    The valve cover gasket was recently replaced and now that you've mentioned trouble codes my first thought is vacuum.

    Old lines don't always hold on tight after being pulled off, old plastic vacuum lines crack and break when flexed and you can't replace the gasket without removing the cover. This little turbo has a lot of plumbing between the air intake and the throttle body, any of those pipes could also be loose or leaking after being moved.

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  5. #5

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    Okay, my son brought the car to a shop he has used in the past and been happy with. Thinking that the oil leak was from the valve cover gasket they replaced. They are telling him and me (on the phone) that the air pump is leaking oil, and that is what is causing the smoke. The mechanic told me this is the air pump that is driven by the camshaft on the firewall side of the engine. The only air pump I can find info on is the secondary air pump which is electric and would not leak oil. Can anyone shine some light on this for me?

    Also according to the mechanic 5-6 sensors are disconnected so trying to diagnose the idle problem is next to impossible without reconnecting all of the sensors which he is telling that the electrical connectors are gone. Again not being well versed in Saab, I think the engine only has 7-8 sensors so how would it even start withthat many sensors disconnected?

    I also got some updated info from my son on the idle issue. When the check engine light is on the idle is really bad, but the car will drive fine under acceleration. When the CEL goes off the idle is fine. The mechanic did scan the ECM and came up with P2187 and P0033. Any ideas?

    This trying to help and diagnose on a car I'm not familiar with from 1200 miles away is driving me nuts.

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  6. #6
    Saab Nut Digger's Avatar
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    I too am at a loss to understand how this starts and runs with 5 to 6 sensors disconnected and which ones they could be that would allow that without a full time CEL, I've chased a bad connect under the hood of my 2.0t and this is beyond my comprehension. Blowing oil, rough idle and running I would guess plugged EGR before half a dozen disconnected sensors, but I'm not the guy looking at the at the motor and this is a used car, so who knows what was done before your son got the car. At the same time, I have to wonder about the mechanic who replaced the valve cover gasket and didn't notice, or mention a whole bunch of wires not connected until the car came back with a problem.

    You don't have to know anything about Saab to know that cutting a half dozen sensor wires is going to be a problem because this is a gasoline engine and it works like every other GM gasoline engine. A funky ECU could cause funky problems and Saab software could be the problem, especially if it got a used ECU from an older car that was added to the system, without being SPS checked for version and that takes a Tech 2 with TIS2000. If the mechanic your son has working on his car doesn't have that tool and Saab software, he could be a long tome finding and fixing what's wrong. I'm thinking it's time to see a Saab specialist.

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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Digger View Post
    I too am at a loss to understand how this starts and runs with 5 to 6 sensors disconnected and which ones they could be that would allow that without a full time CEL, I've chased a bad connect under the hood of my 2.0t and this is beyond my comprehension. Blowing oil, rough idle and running I would guess plugged EGR before half a dozen disconnected sensors, but I'm not the guy looking at the at the motor and this is a used car, so who knows what was done before your son got the car. At the same time, I have to wonder about the mechanic who replaced the valve cover gasket and didn't notice, or mention a whole bunch of wires not connected until the car came back with a problem.

    You don't have to know anything about Saab to know that cutting a half dozen sensor wires is going to be a problem because this is a gasoline engine and it works like every other GM gasoline engine. A funky ECU could cause funky problems and Saab software could be the problem, especially if it got a used ECU from an older car that was added to the system, without being SPS checked for version and that takes a Tech 2 with TIS2000. If the mechanic your son has working on his car doesn't have that tool and Saab software, he could be a long tome finding and fixing what's wrong. I'm thinking it's time to see a Saab specialist.
    Digger, thanks for your response. Here are two more questions, do you know of an air pump on the firewall side of the block driven by the camshaft? I would assume it is below the turbo.
    Can you think of anything that would cause the intermittent CEL and rough idle? Or do you feel that could be caused by a software issue?

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  8. #8
    Saab Nut Digger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjharring View Post
    Digger, thanks for your response. Here are two more questions, do you know of an air pump on the firewall side of the block driven by the camshaft? I would assume it is below the turbo.
    Can you think of anything that would cause the intermittent CEL and rough idle? Or do you feel that could be caused by a software issue?
    Car has two vacuum pumps, the aux is electric and kicks in to maintain vacuum on acceleration. The main is a mechanical unit that mounts on the engine and sticks out over the tranny, the ION module hides it's end and you need to move some stuff to get a good view. It has a gasket that can leak Saab part# 55 561 100.

    You know how important vacuum is to the engine and if oil is leaking from the pump, it's time to stop looking and start doing. Saab part # 55 561 099, these things are also found on Saturn's, I don't have that part number, but I can guarantee that the Saturn part number will cost less than the same part with a Saab number.

    Any fault that clears after a set number of fault free operation cycles can cause an on and off CEL, here's one http://saabworld.net/showthread.php?t=33189 from a couple days ago and this isn't one of the usual suspects.

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