Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

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psteinx
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Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by psteinx » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:55 pm

I've got a 2004 Saab 9-3 convertible. Mileage 55xxx.

I've owned it a little over half its lifespan (bought used from the original owner, who seemed to care for it well.) Neither I nor she put much mileage on it (obviously). It's now running perhaps 4-5K/year, mostly short, around town distances.

Service concern: The manual says to change the oil (synthetic) when the relevant indicator comes on, roughly at 15K miles/2 years. I've been changing the oil somewhat more often - more than 1 year makes me nervous, but perhaps I've been too cautious?

I got the car in 2010, with just under 30K miles, and had the 30K service done (a bit pricey). Should I accelerate the 60K service somewhat, because so many years have elapsed?

More generally, what service items should be performed more frequently (mileage-wise) because of the low driving?

====

Second issue: My son loves the car (convertible), and has ambitions of inheriting it for college in 2-3 years. My wife most definitely does NOT love the car. She thinks its unsafe. The headlights are awful (design flaw, IMO). The convertible top has been balky. Its showing a fair amount of interior wear. The radio is a balky (buttons). And there are other nits to pick.

But so far as I can tell, the car is and has been quite sound mechanically. I think its relatively safe (Saab = good for safety. Stuff I found online at IIHS or wherever seems to support). But it's now ~14 years old, and could potentially be driven by son long distance to college circa age 17+. Thoughts?

onourway
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by onourway » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:05 pm

I would stick with changing the oil every year regardless of miles driven. Otherwise, keep up with things as needed. Don't defer maintenance. But this applies to all cars. Doubly so with those driven few miles.

Whether this is a good option for your son's college car depends on a few factors. Is there a well regarded Saab mechanic in the town he'll be living in would be the primary question I had. If not, this is likely to be an expensive and frustrating car to own.

As for the headlights, I presume they are badly faded as most cars of this age with plastic covers are? Have you ever tried polishing them (this is only a temporary fix). There is also information online indicating the internal reflective coating of the headlamp on this model gets heat damaged over time. Both of these issues together will greatly diminish the efficacy of the headlamps. If he is going to inherit it and drive it for years, I would spring for brand new (oem, not generic) headlamps for the car. Expensive, but a lot less expensive than a new car.

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dm200
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by dm200 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:07 pm

From several folks who have owned them over the years, your challenge is not that the car is older BUT it is a SAAB.

bloom2708
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:09 pm

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Halogen-Headli ... B8&vxp=mtr

You could replace the original headlights.

A college driver should have enough experience to drive a convertible. They aren't the safest vehicles, but in college, you should be studying more than driving.

Oil change 1x per year. Watch rubber things. You can get some shin-etzu grease on eBay for door seals, window seals, sunroof seals, etc.
"We are here not to please but to provoke thoughtfulness" Unknown Boglehead

jm1495
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by jm1495 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:13 pm

Often times manual suggest a service interval of xx months/xx,xxx miles. For instance my subaru suggests a 60 month or 60,000 mile service. It might be a good rule of thumb to go by.

psteinx
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by psteinx » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:19 pm

Re: the headlights. The plastic housing is still quite clear - not the yellow/cloudy you see on some old cars. And, IIRC, I replaced all the bulbs not too long ago. I think it's maybe just some weird Swedish safety thing where they don't want the bulbs shining in other drivers' eyes, so they aim far too low and are not very effective at all. With the brights on, they're fine, but...

The replacement headlight housing thing is interesting...

In general, parts are harder to come by, and of course, specialist service/dealers is not as common as for a Chevy. But even if the car goes off to college, it will presumably be home during breaks, and there are places to get it serviced around here.

neilpilot
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by neilpilot » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:23 pm

psteinx wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:19 pm
Re: the headlights. The plastic housing is still quite clear - not the yellow/cloudy you see on some old cars. And, IIRC, I replaced all the bulbs not too long ago. I think it's maybe just some weird Swedish safety thing where they don't want the bulbs shining in other drivers' eyes, so they aim far too low and are not very effective at all. With the brights on, they're fine, but...
The issue isn't the plastic exterior or the bulbs, it's the internal reflective coating that Saab used. It typically is heat damaged due to the excessive time the daylight running lights are on. The high beams are not similarly effected, since they are rarely on.
http://scandinavianimports.com/dim-headlights-saab/

onourway
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by onourway » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:24 pm

psteinx wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:19 pm
Re: the headlights. The plastic housing is still quite clear - not the yellow/cloudy you see on some old cars. And, IIRC, I replaced all the bulbs not too long ago. I think it's maybe just some weird Swedish safety thing where they don't want the bulbs shining in other drivers' eyes, so they aim far too low and are not very effective at all. With the brights on, they're fine, but...

The replacement headlight housing thing is interesting...

In general, parts are harder to come by, and of course, specialist service/dealers is not as common as for a Chevy. But even if the car goes off to college, it will presumably be home during breaks, and there are places to get it serviced around here.
In general Swedish cars have very good headlamps because it's dark an awful large portion of the year in Sweden and safety is of paramount concern in their designs. That's why I suspect there is another issue here. Good headlamps that don't blind oncoming drivers have been possible for nearly 50 years at this point. Try to inspect the inside of the housings. Look at the silver reflective surface. If it is pitted, hazed, anything other than a perfect mirror, you are losing most of your light. Another possibility that is much more difficult to fix is there is a voltage drop going to the headlamps. If you are good with a multi-meter you can trace this down yourself.

Of course you should also check the aim or have someone qualified check the aim. That's probably step #1.

2comma
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by 2comma » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:26 pm

What I've found to watch out for on older cars that are otherwise trustworthy is the rubber bits. Things like fan belts and hoses can leave you on the side of the road so I replace them proactively when they are 7-10 years old. There are other rubber bits in the suspension and when they wear out can lead to some somewhat expensive repairs and poor handling. I feel comfortable driving my low mileage 12 year old truck around town but we take our newer car for long trips in the boonies - we're in a trust but verify relationship now.
If I am stupid I will pay.

psteinx
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by psteinx » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:30 pm

Thanks for the tip(s) on the headlights. Yes, they are daytime running lights. It's hard for me to just look at them (on or off), and tell if there's a problem, but now I'm inclined to pre-emptively replace the entire housings. FWIW, I've tried to self check the aim before and I thought it was OK, but I'm not an expert in this by any means, so who knows?

Twood
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by Twood » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:04 pm

I second the watch the plastic/rubber parts bit. They are on more of a 10 year age cycle than a mileage cycle; therefore don't think the car is dying when a whole slew of rubber parts needs replacing soon; just do it and be happy. As an old model car driver myself, I also appreciated learning from a Car Talk episode at one point that an older, paid off car requiring 2-3 substantial repairs (undefined) per year was still above the break even point. As someone who likes my old car, that was nice reassurance that I wasn't letting emotion mess with my break even analysis.

Thesaints
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by Thesaints » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:12 pm

Brake fluid. It absorbs humidity almost regardless of driving conditions.

Plastic lens cover degrade, if parked outside.

Rubber belts, if subject to temperature extremes.

Tires age, but usually they can be counted on for many, many years.

Battery actually ages quicker with only occasional use.

Finally, all the various protective greases (hinges, joints, etc.) eventually need replacing, even with little or no use.

runner3081
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by runner3081 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:18 pm

There are two downsides to driving a convertible, safety-wise.

1) Roll over protection
2) Blind spot

I have owned one and extensively driven another convertible. The blind spot is huge and makes me uncomfortable with the top up.

CorradoJr
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by CorradoJr » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:08 pm

First, check a few things on specialized Saab forums for the best answers. I have a 9-5 Aero wagon with 120k that gets used only 2,000 miles per year.

1. Make sure your model/year isn’t one of the years that were prone to sludge. Certain engine types/years were and require more rigorous oil changes with synthetic oil because of this.

2. Most people here are flat out wrong on the headlights. The outside plastic oxidizes plain and simple. My 2004 Saab headlights looked like milk glass...get a nice headlight restoration kit with sandpaper (like that from 3M) and spend a few hours with a powerdrill to sand off all the oxidated gunk. Then you must use something to protect from future oxidation like Laminx, which cost $50 for a pair of clear film pieces you put over your now crystal clear headlights. The LaminiX prevents any further UV degradation.

3. Saabs are safe, safer than a tin can Civic or Altima of the same vintage.

4. Most sedans do not “roll over.” This is what SUV’s do with their much higher center of gravity. Besides, the 9-3 has “DynaCage” pop-up roll bars in the event of a rollover. It also has active head restraints, adaptive front air bags, and two-chamber side air bags.

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Alexa9
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by Alexa9 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:17 pm

http://www.saabcentral.com/forums/index.php

You might find more kindred spirits on the Saab Forums.

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bottlecap
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by bottlecap » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:28 pm

You are fine to change the oil once a year if the manual says 2 years. I probably would, too.

I am not a safety-feature ninny. I drive an 18 year old vehicle. I joke that my younger kids will take it to college someday. But I would not let my son take a (then) 16 or 17 year old car to college. My driving habits are far different from an 18 year old. They need protection from themselves. More modern cars provide drivers protection from themselves.

I wouldn’t bother with the 60k mile service. They are profit centers for the dealers. And at 14 years old, no one else is going to care if it got a 60k service from the dealer. Learn a what needs maintenance on the vehicle and when and either do it yourself or find you a good Indy mechanic.

Good luck,

JT

psteinx
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by psteinx » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:35 pm

CorradoJr wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:08 pm
2. Most people here are flat out wrong on the headlights. The outside plastic oxidizes plain and simple. My 2004 Saab headlights looked like milk glass...get a nice headlight restoration kit with sandpaper (like that from 3M) and spend a few hours with a powerdrill to sand off all the oxidated gunk. Then you must use something to protect from future oxidation like Laminx, which cost $50 for a pair of clear film pieces you put over your now crystal clear headlights. The LaminiX prevents any further UV degradation.
I've seen vehicles with cloudy headlight exterior housings. That's not the problem in my case.

Is there some kind of self test that I could do to determine if the headlight light emissions are as high as they should be?

psteinx
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by psteinx » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:36 pm

OK that sounds a little weird because I *know* the headlights aren't illuminating as they should be. But I guess I'm wondering if it's an aiming issue or the issue outlined (far) above, in which case replacement headlights would likely be a major improvement.

onourway
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by onourway » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:47 pm

CorradoJr wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:08 pm

2. Most people here are flat out wrong on the headlights. The outside plastic oxidizes plain and simple. My 2004 Saab headlights looked like milk glass...get a nice headlight restoration kit with sandpaper (like that from 3M) and spend a few hours with a powerdrill to sand off all the oxidated gunk. Then you must use something to protect from future oxidation like Laminx, which cost $50 for a pair of clear film pieces you put over your now crystal clear headlights. The LaminiX prevents any further UV degradation.
Might help to read the thread next time. Oxidized plastic was covered in reply #1 where it was then verified this was not the issue.

onourway
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by onourway » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:51 pm

psteinx wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:36 pm
OK that sounds a little weird because I *know* the headlights aren't illuminating as they should be. But I guess I'm wondering if it's an aiming issue or the issue outlined (far) above, in which case replacement headlights would likely be a major improvement.
There are a wide variety of issues that can affect headlamp output on older vehicles.

1. Aim
2. Oxidation, or pitting of the outer plastic or glass
3. Heat or other damage to the interior reflectors
4. Voltage drop at the headlamp bulbs

Most cars at this age will have at least one of the above issues, if not all of them. You can only figure it out through the process of elimination. New drop in units will fix issues #2 and #3, but that still leaves the other two issues to be checked. A small voltage drop can easily result in 20-40% loss in intensity, and with poor aim, all bets are off.

z91
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Re: Low mileage, but old, used car (service and reliabilty)

Post by z91 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:42 pm

Thesaints wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:12 pm
Tires age, but usually they can be counted on for many, many years.
I mostly agree with this, but keep in kind it's still made out of rubber which degrades over time. A quick internet search (possibly inaccurate) states six years: http://www.tiresafetygroup.com/tires-ex ... six-years/

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