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2001 Saab 9-5: Puff of white smoke on start up

vasaabvasaab Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Saab
I just bought a 2001 9-5 sedan with 19,000 miles. At the dealership, a puff of white smoke came out of the exhaust on one of the start ups and the salesman explained it away with detailed talk of the turbo, "it's a saab thing", it only happens when the ignition is in ON for a bit before you start it, etc. I test drove it a couple times on different days and it didn't happen at each start up. So I buy it (both the story and the car) and of course a huge puff of white smoke envelopes the car on my second start up (wasn't in the ON position for any length of time). I'm thinking exhaust should always be invisible and have been told it could be the turbo needing to be replaced. Is this a Saab thing?? Anyone else every heard of this? (we're talking huge puff of smoke) Thanks.


  • Looks like you have some leaking valve stem seals. When you leave it overnight, the oil starts to slowly leak past the seals on the end of the valve stem and down the guides into the combustion chamber, and when you crank it, it burns the oil and smokes and then goes away becuase it only leaks when the engine is shut down. You are going to need to have a top engine repair service done, pull the head off and have the valves and stems inspected and the head inspected for warpage, looks like the previous owner didnt change thier oil in a timely matter, or ran the car low on oil for a extended period of time and prematurely damaged those seals. Or the Turbos didnt get sufficient oil and the seals on the rotor are leaking oil and being sucked into the intake and burnt.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Your warranty should cover it.
  • bretfrazbretfraz Posts: 2,021
    I've never heard of that on a new Saab. My 9-5 "puffs" a little upon startup each day (but not each *time* I start). My puff is condensation burning off of the catalytic converter. Saab's have a very sophisticated emissions control system called Trionic which use a pre-heater to quickly heat up the converter and minimize cold start emissions. I wonder if your problem is due to a fault in the emissions control system....

    A huge puff of white smoke (not light blue) is emblematic of moisture in the combustion chamber. Could be a blown head gasket or some leakage due to acracked cylinder head or engine block. Cylinder head pressures with a turbo motor are extremely high and abusive driving with a lack of maintenance can certainly cause problems.

    I'd get this one to a Saab specialist or a Saab dealer ASAP. Its still under warranty.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    White smoke is water, not oil, so I too would suspect the head gasket, almost certainly.

    A bad turbo would suck up oil and the smoke would be distinctly BLUE. Same with valve stem seals. Both a bad turbo and bad stem seals are often diagnosed at start up, that's true, but the WHITE smoke is a give-away that these two items are not at fault.

    I'd have the cooling system pressure tested and have a compression test done. I'd bet the bad head gasket will show up.

    You don't want to mess around with this, because if the head gasket is dripping water into the combustion chamber overnight, it could theoretically drip enough to actually fill up one cylinder. Then, when you crank the engine, the piston will try to compress the water, which of course is impossible, and you will bend a connecting rod and perhaps damage the crankshaft.
  • I have a 2000 9-5 with almost 40K miles that I bought new. I started getting the puff of white smoke just over 30K and had the dealer check it at my 35K service. They claim they found a dirty filter if I recall correctly, but would have to check my records for exactly what they replaced. However, I am still getting the puff of white smoke on start-up but it only appears to happen when the outside temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees F. I don't ever see it when its colder or warmer outside. I'm having them look at it again next week when I take it in for its 40K oil change. I'll post another message when I find out what they tell me this time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well the other poster said it was a lot more than a puff---more like a cloud. Just a "puff" could be condensation at those lower temperatures.
  • sprocket1sprocket1 Posts: 3
    Referencing my last message (#6), I had my 2000 9-5 serviced last week and they found oil in the turbo inlet pipes. They replaced the turbo under warranty and claimed that is what was causing the puff of white smoke. Since then, I haven't seen the problem.

    Although I love the car, I am starting to question the cost of maintaining it after the warranty is over. I've had a few things replaced under warranty already. I push the car pretty hard but I have it serviced every 5K miles.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Okay, so it was a misdiagnosis. Oil burning is very distinctly blue smoke, not white.
  • hobieslughobieslug Posts: 18
    wondering if any of these problems show up as fluid lost
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Head gasket would but not leaky turbo, the amount of oil is pretty small.
  • sprocket1sprocket1 Posts: 3
    It appeared to be white smoke for the most part, but I didn't really pay attention to the color as much. Thinking back, it may have had a tinge of blue in it.
  • lexikkonlexikkon Posts: 2
    On cold engine starts, especially, the ECU will momentarily run a rich mixture to get ignition going, then thin it back to normal once the O2 sensor can get an accurate reading. The puff of 'smoke' probably has a sweet smell and would contain a small amount of poorly combusted fuel, some uncatalyzed exhaust, and likely a bit of condensation.
    But if the smoke happens on pullaway starts, smells like oil and then goes away...well that's not what we're talking about here. Is it?
  • I have a 2000 9-3 that frequently emits a blue cloud of smoke at start up. The dealer is aware and I wrote to US HQ and they said that it was "normal". I have 30 k on the car and I am concerned this will be a major turbo or injector problem out of warranty.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    or valve stem seals. Usually a bad turbo will emit a very obnoxious cloud of blue smoke but bad valve stem seals would be just a puff. But neither valve stem seals or a turbo are outrageous repairs compared to powertrain issues on a Saab, should they occur.
  • lumsportlumsport Posts: 1
    I've noticed white smoke at morning start-up from my 2001 9-5. It only happens after sitting over night. After reading these messages I called my dealer. They never heard of this condition, but will check it out next week. I'll let everyone know their findings. By the way overall the car is great.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well a little white smoke on a cold engine could just be condensation.

    Remember it this way--if the white smoke doesn't go away, THEN you have a problem. If it disappears after a few minutes, it's just water vapor. Part of the chemical equation for the combustion of gasoline includes H20.
  • lxpatellxpatel Posts: 34
    I am cosinering a purchase of 95 something 2000 or higher. I've Honda Accord which has been pretty reliable even at 180K. I know Saabs depreciate higher rate than Hondas. But because i want that oomph of the turbo and gas mileage of it. i have been seriously thinking about getting a 95. Are 95s reliable and are they worth getting a used one from a private party? or Should i used one from a dealer and buy extended warranty with it.
  • goldbergergoldberger Posts: 58
    This is covered in a "Service Program" - on some 9-5 4-cyl cars, a bad "banjo fitting" results in insufficient cooling water to the turbo, resulting in damaged turbo seals and a "blue (possibly seen as white) puff" on startup. You see the same thing with worn or damaged valve guide seals. According to a Saab official, the way to tell the difference is to let the car sit overnight, then inspect the inside of the cylinders (through the spark plug hole) using a bore-scope. If there's oil, it's valve seals. If it's clean, it's turbo seals. In either case, the service program should be performed on any 9-5 turbos which is covered.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    So the bore is "clean" because with bad turbo seals not much oil is burned, is that the idea?
  • jracinejracine Posts: 28
This discussion has been closed.