A Saab with 300,000 miles isn't all that remarkable; it's more about
years than miles. The others are well designed also, so they're probably
comparable. As far as repair parts, there's a site called eeuroparts.com
(note two e's at the beginning) which sell for Saab, BMW, and Volvo;
you can compare relative prices of Saab and BMW there for like items.
All 3 are designed well. Depending on your weather conditions, you
might find that the front wheel drive of the Saab is important;
I prefer it myself, living in Wisconsin and all. For an anecdotal data
point, I have a 1999 Saab 9-5, which has been in exactly twice for
other than "normal wear items" (tires, spark plugs, belts), and those
two times were the 30,000 and 60,000 mile checkups. It's at 80,000
now and drives like new. I'd buy one again, and in fact this replaced
a 1988 Saab that I had 247,000 miles on when I traded it in.
Of course, people feel strongly that the make they own is the best,
which is why they bought it. I freely admit a bias, but I am not
unhappy at parts costs, since I've needed to buy so few repair parts
and they're not so bad.
I owned an early SAAB 900 Turbo and it was without a doubt the most
troublesome car I've ever owned. Let's take a look:
--front calipers with integral emergency brakes cost a bundle and rot
in a few years (40K)
--front seat springs (actually rubber straps) snap due to seat heaters
--key breaks off in switch on floor (60K, middle of January)
--head liner falls down (65K)
--fuel gauge breaks (50K)
--brake master cylinder (55K)
--fuel smell all the time (>40K)
--cracked head (80K)
--another transmission (90K)
--clutch slave and master cylinders (60K)
--door seals fail
--anything plastic starts to crumble
I used synthetic oil every 3000 miles so the engine ran great. The
maintenance just cost too much to keep. I bought a VW and relaxed on
00 BMW 528i (best overall car so far)
I think they're all very nice cars. When buying secondhand it is important
to check for past 'issues', sometimes fixed for free by the manufacturers.
Some BMW had engines that were dissolved by the petrol and the digital
odometer can be changed. It is all a matter of personal preferences. BMWs
are very common and their drivers are often ill behaved on the road. The
new 1-series BMW looks horrible, like mangled metal. Older Audis look bland,
like a piece of soap with wheels. New A4 is nicer. New BMW-5 is interesting,
slicing a hole in the air by that little roof fin. BMW Z4? What were they
thinking? Again looks like mangled metal. And finally Saabs; the pleasure
of proper petrol turbo engineering.
The guy I go to for service had this problem with a used BMW he bought for
his wife. If you decide on a BMW make sure the year/model you buy does not
have this problem.
I had a '95 A6(2.8)Q wagon which I traded at approx. 140K (miles) and now
have almost 140K (miles) on a '98 A6(2.8)Q wagon. My repair and maintenance
costs have been pretty low. The single most expensive repair was around
$600 - but the car was barely out of warranty and Audi picked up half of
that. The timing belts have been somewhat expensive as I recall, but every
car needs that at rougly 60K.
I'm fussy about reliability and cheap, but I would not hesitate to buy
another Audi A6Q.
Good Luck, Bob
Yes, imagine a lump of gooey paste under the car and no engine :) Anyway,
BMW keep track of all cars with this problem and will replace the engine
Jaguars were not included in the above. A software bug in auto boxes can
sometimes switch the box into reverse! Jaguar are recalling at the moment
and apparently not very happy.
Well, not every car; Saabs use timing chains instead of belts :).
That's interesting. Since all of the brands of cars which I have owned have
had them, I just assumed ...
Anyway, how 'bout educating me on two things. Just exactly what do timing
belts do? (Yes, I am pretty dumb in this area.) And what do the BMWs w/o
timing belts have which perform that function?
Timing belts or chains connect the crankshaft to the camshaft(s). As
the crankshaft turns, the cams are rotated to open and close the
In the old days they always used chains. Chains tend to be a little
noisier - not much, just a little. In an attempt to eliminate the
sound, very slight additional vibration, and to cut production
costs, many manufacturers started using timing belts. Because it's
a high stress application, timing belts typically go 60K miles
although some now go 100K miles. Chains last well over 100K miles
in most engines.
The failure of a timing belt can range from "you stop and call a
tow truck" to "you just destroyed your valves, pistons, and are
looking at $3-6K in repair costs". That depends on engine design
and is related to a whole bunch of other issues. That is,
it's not that engineers can't design engines that fail gracefully
when the belt goes, it's that it forces other compromises to
use that type of design. Replacement of a timing belt ranges
from $250 to $600 with most engines.
Timing belts operate the "overhead cams", which are the things that open and
close the valves that let fuel and air into each cylinder of the engine (the
"intake valves") and let the exhaust out of the cylinders ("exhaust
valves"). The valves need to open and close in sync with the operation of
the pistons and the rest of what is going on in the engine. In some cars
this is done using a belt. Belts are quieter and (usually) less expensive,
but less durable than the alternative of using a chain. Some engines with a
timing chain can be almost as quiet as those with a belt, but it has to be
carefully engineered. Chains can wear too, and when that happens they tend
to get very noisy. Belts usually give no notice that they are about to
break like a wearing chain does. The problem is when the belt or chain
breaks, the engine stops. In some engines, the pistons keep moving for a
few seconds - just long enough to crash into the now stopped valves which
potentially destroys the engine (this is known as an "interference" engine).
Other engines are designed so that there is still enough room so that the
valves and pistons don't crash together when this happens (this is a
Some engines based on older designs don't use belts or chains, but they
usually only have two valves per cylinder (one intake and one exhaust)
instead of the typical four valves per cylinder that modern (and usually
more efficient), overhead cam design engines allow. (Some of the preceding
is personal opinion.)
Timing belts go from the crankshaft to the camshaft(s), turning the cams
to open and close the valves at the appropriate times. Some cars use
timing belts, and are subject to frequent replacements, expensive
probelms if the belts break, and so on. They are quieter, though.
Other cars, such as most (all non-V6) Saab engines and apparently some
BMW engines, use a timing chain rather than a belt. It will wear and
stretch over a few hundred thousand miles, but catastrophic failures of
timing chains are very rare...they usually get very rattly for a very
long time before anything goes wrong, giving the driver plenty of time
(months) to do something about it.
Earlier, Saab used timing gears in the V4 engines, which were again
noisier than a rubber band (oops, "belt") but give more positive
and reliable timing.
I don't know which Audi uses, but I personally will avoid any engine
with timing belts. Internal engine components, which you can't visually
inspect, aren't something I'm willing to put up with.
A timing belt drives the camshaft and valves, by taking power from the
crankshaft. The other alternative is a chain and sprockets, which all newer US
model BMWs have. A few cars like Ferraris have gear driven valvetrains.
The only US model BMW engines with timing belts are the "small six" engines,
which are in the 80s 3 Series, and some 5 series cars -- the 325e, 325i, 528e,
and early 525i. The rare 524td is also a small six w/ a belt.
Way back, my wife had an 87 Bonneville (V6 fwd). It had a timing chain but
plastic gears. A gear tooth broke off and was assumed to have found its way
down to the oil pan. It didn't. Some months after the repair, the gear
tooth found its way into an oil journal and caused the engine to seize.
So even knowing that it uses a timing chain may not be enough to know. It
really soured me on GM cars. Haven't owned one since.
Not really the petrol, it was only high sulfer content fuel which was not
used in all geographical areas. This also only applied to those engines with
a nikasil bore treatment of aluminum engine blocks. This means it only
applied to the 3.0 and 4.0 liter V8 engines in the US and to certain
aluminum block 6 cylinder engines in the european market. No 6 cylinders in
the US market ever had the problem. Here is a good synopsis of the issue:
No more so than any other car's odometer. This is a non-issue IMO.
I think you'll find it's more the luck of the draw combined with past
owner care/driving style that decide how reliable it will be. It also
depends on what you want. If you want sprited driving pleasure, it's the
BMW (Audi will be close though, depending on model). If you drive in the
snow, quattro is unbeatable, and the Saab FWD is better that the BMW RWD
(at least for getting moving, once you're moving it's another story).
Personally, I'd stay away from any brand associated with GM (Saab), but
that's me. Parts and repair prices for all three will be more that your
typical american or mainstream import.
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