9-5 Lightbar thoughts

Great when the lightbar is working - capture from last evenings drive.
Great when the lightbar is working – capture from last nights drive.

As we all know the lightbar on the “new” 9-5 is a part that often fail, and what is more annoying then a dark lightbar?
There are many theory about this issue, what cause them? Some say temperature, some say bad components or vibrations – I myself have a theory that the most common cause for failure is moisture in the lightbar. My first guess was cracks in the lightbar, since I saw many cars with “foggy” lightbars, but after some investigations and some discussions with 9-5 owners I circle in the problem to be the gasket. My thought was first that Saab had chosen a gasket that was in one piece, and that the wiring that go into the lightbar was more “closed”. To my surprise the the lightbar itself was very poorly encapsulated, and the gasket was in many different small pieces, seven in total.
So when I bought my 9-5 the very first thing I did (after washing it) was to go to ANA in Trollhättan and asked for a gasket kit. From I bought it to now I have noticed “fog” in the lightbar two times, the first time was after a wash on a very warm day, the other time was after a period of heavy rain. So yesterday I had some time over, and decided to change the gasket. It’s not so much to say, if you look at the pictures you will see that there are three critical points at the lightbar. The first is the point where the wiring from the lightbar meets the cars harness in the tailgate – there is a BIG open hole, probably because of the gasket. The was I see it would it been no problem to make his hole smaller, with a small seal for the few wires. The next problem is around the two clips in the ends of the lightbar. Why not mold the plastic in one piece with the clip on top, or maybe use screws like the mounting point in the middle to make this more moisture-proof? There is room enough for a 10mm nut, and tools for fasten the nut…

9-5_lightbar

So how to dissemble the lightbar? It is pretty straight forward, first you use a thin flat screwdriver to careful remove the plastic cover over the tailgate lock, then you loosen two 7mm nuts for the inside handle. A long 7mm socket are preferred here. Then you remove the clips that hold the cover to the tailgate. Use the little flat screwdriver and careful remove the clips in two steps. First the top that “locks” the clip, then the part that goes up in the tailgate. Now you remove the connector to the lightbar, and then ypu remove five 10mm nuts. Now you are at the tricky part, press together the clips in the end of the lightbar. I end up using a angled radio plier (see the red plier on the lightbar-picture), and pressed in center of the clip. I also use a plastic tool (the blue tool) to help freeing the lightbar. The best tip I can give you if this is something you want to do at your own, be patient and take it easy so you don’t break anything.

As you see are the gasket pretty deformed, and all of the – in my eyes, critical ones are not laying correct. One final step to do before assembling the lightbar again is to inspect the area around the lightbar for rust. Sadly, the lightbar has a bad fit and with that result that the lightbar squeak against the paint. At four points the paint was gone, but no rust as I could see. So I took my touch-up paint and put some new paint on, hopefully will this preventing it from rust. I also sanded the plastic at the lightbar down at the points where it had hit the paint. So now I hopefully have stopped the moisture to get inside my lightbar, but I guess this is something I have to do in a couple of years again – just to be at the sure side.

So what will this cost? The gasket kit cost about 300 SEK (~US$ 35) in Sweden. P/N of the kit is 13321835. If you use your local garage for the job I guess they will charge you a hour or so for this job.

28 thoughts on “9-5 Lightbar thoughts”

  1. Mine failed at about the 3-year mark. At the time, only 2 were in stock for the entire country (USA). I paid $500 for the part and another $100 in labor.

  2. I recall when mine first started to fail. I couldn’t make sense of it because I always garaged my car and kept it out the snow and rain as much as possible. But it was a faulty part for sure. My best guess is the LED’s themselves are not up to the long hours of illumination. When it was repaired they replaced the entire light bar, not the LEDS. I think it was $500 just for the part back in 2012. I wish I hadn’t traded that car in. Good to see that prices for parts are coming down. Last time I checked before I got rid of it a tire pressure sensor was $200.

  3. Trond-Arve; your idea that moisture is causing this Led-bar to fail is also confirmed by Redox Bilfarm AB.
    I myself have ordered a new Led-bar from them and they have reworked that bar to prevent moisture coming in the bar again.
    I also asked my dealer but they stated that Orio does not have these Led-bar in inventory.
    So for those who are interested; go to the site of Redox Bilfarm in Sweden while they might still have these Led-bars in inventory.

  4. I find it really disappointing that a part like this would fail on ANY car manufactured in the 21st century, much less a fifty thousand dollar luxury car. It shows something that is really the antithesis of what Saab once was—-that is, it’s putting a design element above function, and FAILING at it. It sort of summarizes the Saab story in my opinion—-and goes a short way at least, to explaining why Saab is out of business.

    • Saab did even better than VW; at least they did put that luxury car on the market honestly.
      If just that Led-bar in some of the cars does fail due to moisture; is that the end of the world?

    • I agree with you Angelo. This is the sort of thing that shouldn’t have happened to the NG 9-5. I had another part more expensive than that failed with only 20K on the odometer. Not something that signifies quality in my opinion. True that the cars appearance was better planned than the components it encompasses.

      • Also, the part is too expensive. It’s one thing if a poorly engineered part fails and can be replaced every couple years for fifty dollars. This isn’t that! Cadillac has been doing this sort of thing for many years now, without the drama. It’s very unSaab-like to have a gratuitous piece of hardware that’s very overpriced and that has a high failure rate. It tells me a lot about what was going on there—-who was winning the internal discussions about the direction they would go in. Naturally, that direction ended up being down.

        • This particular part was introduced together with the 9-5. The NG 9-5 had quite many new (and unique) parts. Most of these work quite fine.

          When I bought mine, I expected a few incidents like these. If I wanted a more tested Saab, I would have hurried up and got one of the 9-5 Griffins before they cleared the assembly line for the introduction of the new model.

          Doubly so considering the transition they were facing, being weened off GM’s part bin (which many feel were filled with many cheap components – their infotainment systems for one are hardly inspirational).

          Plus, had Saab Automobile survived, I’m pretty sure they would have sorted out these and similar problems. What we are seeing now is hardly normal operating procedure.

          (And next time I see a Mercedes with a flashing LED break light, I’ll film it and send it to you. Or next time an Audi owner complains about a gas pedal that breaks in half… Never mind that those cars were more expensive than the 9-5…)

          • Rune: I understand that. I understand it, but I don’t excuse it. I had a 1988 Peugeot 505GLS that I bought new. That car had a myriad of problems after 60,000 miles. I tell people, it’s the best car I ever owned for 60,000 miles and the worst I ever owned after 60,000 miles. Anyway, one part that went bad very early, while the car was still new—was the glove compartment latch. It was a hard plastic latch. When it broke, the glove box door (which was very heavy) wouldn’t stay closed. It would fall open by gravity and the light stayed on. I found that I could angle a cardboard dashboard sunscreen under the door and against the floor/front seat and that held the door closed until it was fixed. Then, still under warranty, I think it broke a second time. It was just poorly engineered. Once it was out of warranty, I figured out that if it broke again, I would find my own way to make a new latch for it—-as the repair would have been expensive. Fortunately, it didn’t break again. My friends and I talked about it. For decade after decade, cars had glove boxes and this had never been a problem. My family had cars dating back to the 1950s and never had a door fail on a glove box. The little piece of plastic wasn’t up to the task for the heavy door and suddenly—-a potential expensive problem. My point is that sometimes, this stuff is avoidable and it’s sloppy designs and manufacturing by the companies—-and consumers end up holding the bag. And it’s unacceptable. There’s really no reason at all why the back lighting of a car made in the 21st century should be failing, due to condensation or the wrong voltage—-whatever. It’s not acceptable. It’s Bush League. And if Audi pedals are breaking in half, that’s not acceptable either, if it’s wide-spread. I hadn’t heard about that. Ditto, Mercedes brake light flashing. That’s not good either—-though fortunately, both of those companies are still around to complain to and possibly get some relief from. Not so, our friends at Saab.

            • As I have mentioned before, my chosen profession is that of a systems developer. I have helped develop various software packages, from hotel booking systems, embedded software for set-top boxes, financial software (which evolved into trading application) and more recently: software for public (and private) libraries.

              I have reached the middle point of my professional career. 25+ years under my belt, and about 25 years to go before I reach retirement age.

              What I have learned to respect so far is “Keep It Simple S….” and the 80/20 rule (80% of the development eats 20% of the development time, the remaining 20% will swallow the rest…) This rule has some serious implications and many users will happily forgo 10% of the original envisioned functionality once they realise the cost.

              So… If somebody asked me to design a car, and not just any car, but the car of my dreams… And they handed me a team of engineers to do with as I pleased, my instinct would tell me to put the best guys on the stuff that I feel mattered (and where 80% of the functionality is spent). I would assign those guys to the driveline, safety and engine subsystems. The other engineers would then be assigned to handle the “nice to have” bits.

              In such a scenario, the stuff that would suffer would be, unfortunately, the light bar, the glove compartment and the twiddly bits in the trunk that most drivers rarely see.

              Somebody here once made the claim that Mercedes (or one of the other Germans) make d— sure the glove compartment works 100%. The average car buyer assumes that if the glove compartment door feels snug and solid, then that indicates the build quality of the car itself (after all, only a fool would spend time perfecting the glove compartment unless the rest is really up to snuff, right?).

              I put it to you that the average engineer thinks differently. You approach this from a marketing stand point. I believe you are 100% correct when it comes to the bit about selling cars. Saab lost that war. It has been said in the past that Saab is an engineer’s car, and I believe that was true right up till the end.

              That strategy (leaving most of the important choices to the engineers) will of course fail in a market place where deception wins most sales. The VW scandal only affirms my belief that this is the case.

              I found an interesting article this week which touches on some of the stuff I am sort of hinting at. From http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/as-a-motoring-journalist-i-took-the-freebies-but-don-t-blame-me-for-vw-a6668751.html. It even mentions a familiar company: “Cocktails with a suspension of gold flakes were a highlight of one trip organised by Saab”.

              I have heard stories of some of the events hosted by Saab. It is my personal opinion that their marketing department were plowing the wrong field. I do not however have a solution at hand. You seem to suggest that build quality was an issue, but I fear that your solution would have had to be implemented at the cost of other parts. Most likely the parts that appeal to the engineer in me. Your solution would have left me without a car to drive, because I (back in 2010) would have had no clear choice. (well, I had a 1997 9000 which I could have restored to its original shape – not a bad alternative at all)

              As for Spyker’s Saab, I still believe that their business plan made sense. And given the latest scandal, it seems there was actually money available waiting to execute that plan (the prosecutor has gone on record saying that the money itself is not his concern – what drives the case is his belief that the money originated from Antonov. The prosecutor thinks that is a crime since EIB was opposed to Antonov gaining a share of the company… A logic which I do not manage to follow and I still strongly suspect the prosecutor suffers from being a ID 10 tee personality)

              Or in other words: YMMV.

    • SAAB has suffered from quality and some absurd engineering issues for as long as I’ve owned them…back to the late 1970’s .
      You can only call something “quirky” and “endearing” for so long, then it becomes incompetent.

      Market share evaporates along with product confidence, then they go the way of Rambler…

      • Sadly true. I bought a new Saab 99 in 1969, first model year, and wow. Parking lights quit working after the first winter; the connecting tabs on the fixtures had completely disintegrated from rust! The free-wheel self-destructed before 18,000 miles. The exhaust made an incredible booming sound at 60 mph, couldn’t drive at that speed. Dealer told me Saab had identified the problem and the booming would stop by 12,000 miles after some carbon buildup would eliminate the resonance. Little did I know the exhaust would rust off before 12,000 miles! I jacked the car up once to rotate tires and the car flexed so much over the jack I couldn’t open or close the doors! Someone privately entered one in the Baja 1000 against Saab’s advice. The body wasn’t strong enough and it finished with the body sagging in the middle like an old gray horse. And those were just some of the issues.

        But, by 1973, an awesome car! I don’t think Saab ever introduced a trouble-free new model because they never had the resources to fully test every new item. But, I accepted that and applauded them for always pushing the safety, technology, utility and driving fun well ahead of the rest of the clones out there.

        I still love Saab, always will.

        • Geez Yurk, the body flexing and sagging in the middle like a horse on its way to the glue factory—-doesn’t sound too safe. What model was that you bought in ’69?

      • Joe, you are correct that the marketplace has never appreciated many of SAAB’s unique engineering accomplishments. For instance, the two stroke cars have the radiator safely mounted on the firewall side of the engine where it is shielded from the harmful affects of direct airflow, whereas the distributor is directly in the air stream behind the grill to assure a thorough soaking on wet days. There is nothing quirky about that Joe, it is what is known as character.

        • Right you are, 3cyl! Your tongue-in-cheek input resonates with every SAAB aficionado that has honest objectivity.
          The consumer demand for quality in assembly, fit and finish, and engineering, and appliance-like reliability has obsoleted our dear SAAB, not unlike MG, Triumph, Sunbeam, NSU, and host of other automobiles of “character”.

  5. One of the facebook 9-5 groups contains a very detailed post about two years ago, by a gentleman who took apart the lightbar itself to replace a number of burned out LEDs. According to him, the LEDs are fed the wrong voltage, so he put in a few resistors as well.

    I am sure moisture does not help the situation, specially in a cold climate such as ours, but the original design has me worried.

  6. Anyone suffering from led failure on third brake light on NG 9-5. Orio has none available and been so for many months, no view on future availability. Anywhere else we can find those ?
    2T

    • I wonder if they had any dealers left and a real company owning them—-if there would have been a technical service bulletin or recall for free fixes and preventative maintenance?

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