I am not a car mechanic so please excuse my ignorance but... my manual Saab 9-5 has increasing problems starting. The symptoms are as follows.

When I turn the ignition the lights on the dashboard come on. Sometimes there is just complete silence.

Sometimes I can hear the start motor.

Sometimes the car actually starts.

Quite often I have to try it five of six times for the engine to start.

I have taken it to a garage who replaced the starter motor but this did no good so I would like to be informed the next time I take it in to be fixed.

  • So , after the starter motor change, when you turn the key, the car does not even crank?(by cranking I mean , does the car attempt to start or it just sits there)
    – Shobin P
    Jul 13 '15 at 9:00
  • That's right. Sometimes it doesn't crank but sometimes it does. If you try it five or so times it usually starts eventually.
    – Lembik
    Jul 13 '15 at 9:02
  • So , when it cranks it starts? like after 4 attempts of no cranking , a 5th attempt of cranking starts the car?
    – Shobin P
    Jul 13 '15 at 9:05
  • It doesn't always crank and when it does crank it doesn't always start.
    – Lembik
    Jul 13 '15 at 9:06
  • Does the 9-5 have the ignition lock between the seats? I know on my 900, dirt and stuff accumulated in the lock and sometimes the ignition would not come on when the key was turned. I think it was a fairly common problem on the older models at least.
    – Allman
    Jul 13 '15 at 9:09

I've a 93 and have had what sounds like the same problem, that is the ignition turns on but when the key is turned further to start the engine it does not always crank the engine. In my case it was the ignition switch and being one not to through money away I took it all apart and cleaned the switch contacts and it's been fine for the past four/five years. Replacing the switch is a lot easier and you can keep the same keys. I can't see it taking longer than an hour.

As has been already stated, the ignition switch failing is a common problem.

  • You are exactly right! It was the ignition switch.
    – Lembik
    Jul 24 '15 at 12:20

The "sometimes cranks, sometimes starts" description sounds like there are two issues present at the same time.

My recommended strategy would be to address the intermittent cranking first. Intermittent starting could be something as simple as a bad battery as Anarach explains.

With intermittent cranking, the culprit could be a bad starter motor but since this has already been replaced (presumably with one that is new or in working condition) the issue is likely elsewhere.

Based on the symptoms described, there seems to be trouble with sending current to the starter motor. Here are two possible culprits:

  1. Starter relay.

    It could well be that the solenoid inside relay is sticking, preventing the switch on the starter side from closing and turning the engine over. This would explain why sometimes you do not hear the starter relay click (complete silence).

  2. Bad ignition switch.

    If the ignition switch isn't completing the circuit to the starter relay, the car won't start. I'm a little skeptical that this is an issue given that the dashboard lights come on when the key is in the 'On' position but it is a distinct possibility.

I recommend testing the starter relay first before looking further upstream for potential issues.

  • Saabs do have bad ignition switches .. Might be the issue here.
    – Shobin P
    Jul 13 '15 at 10:05
  • @Anarach It was indeed the ignition switch.
    – Lembik
    Jul 26 '15 at 20:49

The following could be the reason for your car not starting, based on the symptoms you have stated.

Car does not crank at all

  1. Drained/Dead battery ,Try Jump starting the car, if it starts then it can be the battery, the electrical come on since they don't use as much electricity as the starter motor.

  2. Check the cable ends which connect the starter and the battery, more specifically ,remove the cap ends at the battery and clean them , then install them back.

  3. Check the ignition coil, this one is a bit tricky , you need to check if the spark plug is producing any spark at all by removing and checking it, If you are not able to do it on your own ask someone to help remove them.


Crank position sensor under the exhaust manifold will die every 60-100k and cause this problem.

  • 2
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. Jul 14 '15 at 10:47
  • @GabrielMongeon I disagree, while it's not a great answer the user is letting the OP know that these cars have a know issue with the crank position sensor. Jul 22 '15 at 17:21

Without seeing the car it's hard to know but it actually sounds to me like the ignition switch is beginning to fail.

  • I could take some pictures if you point me to the right place and if might help.
    – Lembik
    Jul 13 '15 at 13:06

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