SAAB 9-3 Water Pump (03-Up), A Walkthrough

The water pump on your car is one of those components that serve a vital role in your car. If the pump fails, you’re not going anywhere. SAAB 9-3 water pump found in GM-era cars, mainly those running the GM Ecotec B207, is a chain-driven unit, and one that has a limited lifespan.

If yours fails and you head over to your local dealership, there’s a decent chance that you’ll be quoted over $1,000 for the repair. We’re about to provide you with a cheaper, alternative method of fixing this issue in your own garage.

saab 9-3 water pump replacement

Photo courtesy

Article updated on 09/16/21. Original publishing date 11/09/16

SAAB 9-3 Water Pump Replacement – Why and When?

Water pumps are maintenance items on just about any vehicle. It’s a mechanical unit that will wear out over time. As far as SAAB 9-3 water pump replacement intervals go, you’re looking at 60,000 miles for the B207 engine. It’s highly recommended that you stick to these prescribed maintenance intervals as B207’s water pump isn’t known for being too durable.

Speaking of which, you could find yourself with a faulty water pump long before the 60,000 miles interval is up. Depending on the type and severity of the issue you’re dealing with, you’ll notice different symptoms.

Lack of Coolant Pressure

If the pump is faulty, the rapidly moving water should heat the hoses and pipes it passes through, but the circulation should keep those hoses relatively stable. Too much heat can result in components that are bent, melted, fused, broken, and structurally compromised. A visual inspection of the hot and cold sides of the cooling system should help you spot at least some of these issues.


Coolant leaks are one of the most common signs that a water pump is compromised. In most cases, the leaks aren’t aggressive enough for you to notice them as you drive. Instead, most of these are spotted once the car has been sitting parked overnight. You’ll usually see a puddle on the ground that is either green, red, or yelow depending on the type of coolant your car takes.

Slow Leak

A slow leak is a bit different compared to what we’ve just discussed. It’s a leak that is slow and hard to spot. Even so, it leads to a gunk build-up around the pump, which will ultimately cause it to fail.

Look for traces of coolant running down the pump or for gelled coolant deposits on the exterior. Also, rust can build up around the pump and if you look closely you can see pitting (corrosion that creates tiny holes in the metal) or cavitation (cavities in the liquid) on the mounting surface. All this indicates a slow leak. While these symptoms won’t lead to an immediate failure, they will create a low coolant condition.

Dramatic Leak

As many SAAB owners have come to find out over the years, GM pumps can also go out in a blaze of glory, or coolant, whichever you prefer. It’s not uncommon for the pump to simply dump coolant on the ground, thus leaving you stranded on the side of the road. This doesn’t happen often, but it can happen with pumps that are past their service interval or those that have other issues.


Engine overheating is arguably the most obvious sign that something is up with your engine’s cooling system. A faulty water pump will either stop pushing enough coolant through the engine, or it won’t push enough of it to keep the engine temperature where it needs to be.

If you notice your engine temperature rising, turn on the heat to the maximum and pull over as soon as you possibly can. You don’t want your car to overheat as that implies at least a warped head in many cases.

Genuine SAAB, OEM or Aftermarket?

febi vs genuine saab 9-3 water pump

At, we always recommend that you use Genuine or OEM quality parts when fixing your car. That being said, when it comes to SAAB 9-3 water pumps, we can also recommend several Aftermarket and OEM options. This Febi unit seen above is just one of the options you can choose. Pierburg also makes a great replacement unit that comes with the sprocket and cover, just like the Genuine one. We also carry a complete water pump kit that comes with coolant, the thermostat assembly and a GMB water pump.

The Febi aftermarket and Genuine SAAB don’t look the same.  You’ll notice The Genuine SAAB water pump has a few extras, the water pump housing cover, and the sprocket.  For the walk-through we’re doing today, the sprocket will need to be removed before installation if you chose to go the Genuine SAAB route.  We will get to why a little bit later.

Saab 9-3 water pump diy

The pumps are slightly different, but any visible differences are negligible.  The mating surfaces on the Febi pump don’t look as nice as the Genuine SAAB, but that makes little difference because the rubber O-ring is what makes the actual seal.

The housing cover on the Genuine pump is nice, as it is pre-torqued and ready to roll from the factory.  When doing the job with the aftermarket pump, you will need to reuse your old water pump cover, which in all regards will be completely fine.  If it were common for the rear cover to be worn out upon replacement of the water pump, it would be included from Febi.

How to Perform SAAB 9-3 Water Pump Replacement at Home?

The fact that GM has gone with a chain-driven water pump design complicates things as far as replacement goes. In fact, to properly do this at home, you’ll need a special tool designed specifically to make this job easier. Usually, when you head over to the dealer, they will have to take the chain cover off, and get the pump off the chain in order to replace it.

That greatly increases the cost of the entire job. Our way is easier and cheaper, but there’s a caveat — sometimes replacing the pump the hard way (i.e taking the timing chain cover off) can help you spot issues with your timing chain or timing chain tensioners. Use your own judgment. SAAB Water Pump Tool

The Water Pump tool is required to change the water pump on a 2003+ SAAB 9-3 without removing the entire timing cover.

The guide we’ve put together shouldn’t be treated as a step-by-step guide. Rather, use it as a general walkthrough of the entire process. There are simply too many components that have to come off, which we haven’t included in the text. That being said, this job is perfectly doable at home given that you have the right tools and some know-how.

Regardless, to do the job without removing the timing cover, you still must remove several big-ticket items, including the catalytic converter in order to access the pump.  When on the ground underneath the car, you can look up between the firewall and the engine to see the coolant pipe that travels from the pump to the thermostat housing.

All of that stuff will need to come off.  The following instructions should be used as an informational preview instead of a step-by-step tutorial.  We will be leaving a lot of steps out since A LOT of components need to be removed to access the pump.  You will see when you take a look under your car.


  • Pop open the cap on the coolant reservoir and have fresh coolant ready.  You will be flushing the system during this service.
  • Remove the intake system, including airbox, MAF, turbo inlet and related hoses.  Be gentle with the AC pressure sensor nearby.  Cover the turbo so nothing gets into it.
  • Locate the petcock on the bottom of the radiator and drain the coolant.  Use the bolt on the bottom of the water pump to drain the coolant out of it as well.
  • Unplug the oxygen sensors and temp sensor and let the cables drop down.
  • Remove the exhaust where it attaches to the turbocharger.  These nuts/studs will probably be very stuck, so it’s a good idea to soak them thoroughly in penetrating oil for a few days prior.  Have a torch ready in case that’s not enough.
  • Take the oil inlet banjo connection off the top of the turbo.  Take the coolant connection completely off, you will be removing the thermostat housing shortly.
  • Remove any other shields that may get in the way of your access to the pump, including splash shields, power steering, and turbo heat shields.  Careful they are sharp.
  • You may need to remove the poly-groove belt.
  • Remove the thermostat housing and the pipe that spans across the back of the engine.  The pump should more or less be accessible now.

Here’s where the job gets juicy.  There is a cover on the front of the timing cover where you will be able to access the water pump sprocket.

SAAB 9-3 Water Pump Diagram

  • Undo the bolts (Diagram Number 33) and take a look inside.
  • Use our special tool to secure the gear in place tightly.  Remember, this chain is under a decent amount of tension.
  • Use the bolts you just took off (that hold the access cover on) to secure the outside of the tool solidly to the timing cover.  Be careful not to over tighten, you can strip these if you aren’t careful.
  • Once the tool is securely in place, use a magnetic socket to undo the bolts holding the sprocket onto the water pump.  Be really careful pulling these bolts out, if you accidentally drop one into the timing cover, it’s all over.  Well, not really, but you will have to go through the entire process of removing the cover to fish the bolt out.  You do not want this to happen.
  • Once these bolts are clear, unbolt the pump from the other side of the timing cover (there is one bolt you will remove from the top) and remove the pump.  Congratulations, you have reached the halfway point.
  • If you have purchased a genuine pump, this is the appropriate time to remove the sprocket off of it to prepare for installation.
  • When installing a new pump, be sure that the part that the pulley bolts on to is in the right orientation.  This will probably involve some trial and error as you spin it slightly until the bolt holes line up.  You will not be able to rotate the chain gear to find the holes.  It is a good idea to use a dowel or thin screwdriver of some kind to get the holes to line up so that you can bolt everything down before removing the tool.
  • I will breeze over the put everything together steps, as it is in the reverse order.  Use a very small amount of non-acidic petroleum jelly on all the seals as it goes back together.  This is a good time to replace your thermostat as well.
  • Use a new o-ring on the water pipe to pump connection.
  • It’s a good idea to use some anti-seize paste on all the exhaust bolts, as well as the oxygen sensors.
  • Don’t forget to put all the shields back on, or else you risk things getting melty.

It’s a complicated process, but one that can be done in your garage. We’ve also put together a walkthrough video to acompany this guide, as some of these steps really have to be seen in order to be understood. Check the video for more detailed instructions on how to sort out your water pump the “easy” way.

Torque Specs Sheet

When you’re doing anything on your car, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s torque specs if you can find them. Here’s the torque sheet for this project:

  • Water Pump bolts: Short bolts 20Nm (15ft/lbs), Long bolts 25Nm (18ft/lbs)
  • Water pump sprocket bolts: 8Nm (6ft/lbs).  You may need to take the tool off before the final torque down depending on your torque wrench.
  • Timing Access Cover: 8Nm (6ft/lbs) It is a very good idea to use a new gasket, our part number is 90537915.
  • Coolant pipe to thermostat: 10Nm (7ft/lbs)
  • Turbocharger banjo fittings 20Nm (15ft/lbs).  Always use new copper washers for any banjo fitting. Hold onto the pipe so it doesn’t rotate when tightening.
  • Catalytic converter pipe to turbo: 25Nm (18.5 ft/lbs).  Use new nuts if possible.
  • If you removed the oxygen sensors: 40Nm (30 ft/lbs)
  • Exhaust clamp: 40Nm (30ft/lbs)

Where to Find Parts for SAAB 9-3 Water Pump Replacement?

As you’ve probably figured out by now, there’s a bunch of parts that need to come off in order to install a new water pump on the B207 engine in new generation 9-3. The truth is that you might run into faulty components as you’re tearing the car down. Just like we offer awesome choices of water pumps for this job, we also offer a complete range of parts for your SAAB 9-3.

To find anything you need, simply head over to our store, choose your car from the drop-down menu, and you’ll be presented with a list of components that fit your vehicle! It’s that simple.

Posted in DIY How-To, Saab
12 thoughts on “SAAB 9-3 Water Pump (03-Up), A Walkthrough
  1. Mike

    Dealer’s approach may be better in this case, as the chain tensioners in these engines (plastic) loose their spring or simply disintegrate over time, which leads to disaster. They, along with the chain, can only be examined/replaced with the timing cover removed.

    Had this done at the dealers for well under $1000 total (bought the pump at eEuro of course!) and they only had to replace one tensioner in addition to the pump. Of course some dealers are dishonest and will quote well over double this sum.

  2. Jason

    Replacing the water pump on a 2004 Saab 9 3 requires a lot of patience. It’s not as bad of a job as many make it out to be but you have to be deliberate about everything you do and think the entire removal/replacement process through very carefully. Most removal instructions you read will tell you to remove the exhaust at the turbocharger and also remove the oil inlet connection at the top of the turbo. These steps are not necessary. It’s also not necessary to remove the serpentine belt. If you are careful and again, patient, you can work around these items and save yourself the headache of loosening exhaust nuts and bolts and the possibility of breaking bolts/studs. Yes, there still is room to carefully manuever the old pump out and the new one in, although not much. A telescoping magnet is a must for this job, one with a small head, about the size of a pencil eraser (Kmart/Sears sells this type for $6 or $7). This magnet helps to hold short bolts and guide them into recessed ports. Expect this water pump job to take 8 to 10 hours if you have never replaced one on a Saab 9 3. Quite a contrast to the 45 minutes it takes to remove and replace the water pump on a 2000 Montana/Venture.

  3. Jim

    All parts to replace pump should be in one of your kits with the SAAB oem pump
    All gaskets etc thermostat OEM
    Look at non poem and quality is Not the same
    On a job like this I want every gasket replaced
    Great Video
    I think soon I will need to do this

  4. Thanks for all the advice fellas just bought my third Saab it’s a 2004 9-3 2.0 t Im pretty sure it might be a bad water pump. Never had to do one one these cars before. Trying to learn all I can first. Of course I’m going to try the thermostat​ first. But getting myself ready for the worst.

  5. Seth

    This blog helped me a lot. I’m not as familiar with the way the SAAB is set up and your blog and video (and the special tool, of course!) helped me to change out water pumps. I’m not saying it was easy, far from it, but it was better than handing over an arm and a leg to the dealership for them to fix. So, thanks for saving me some money.

  6. Steve

    My ’08 9-3 is weeping coolant from the o-ring between the coolant tube and water pump. The pump was replaced just before I bought the car, only about 3K miles ago. I’m not planning to replace the pump again, just the o-rings on either end of the tube, as well as the thermostat housing gaskets.

    i realize a bunch of stuff will have to come off to provide access to the thermostat housing. Have any of you just replaced the o-rings?

  7. Ed Taggart

    I have a problem with coolant AND oil consumption on my ’06. I think coolant is getting into the oil system. I’ve had garages perform pressure tests and they can’t seem to identify where the problem lies. My question is this likely the Head Gasket or could this be a water pump problem? One garage told me that he’s never seen a Head Gasket go bad on the 2.0T ecotec engine. I have to add coolant about every two weeks and similar with oil..

    • Adam Goral

      It does sound like a headgasket, but before you do that take a good look at the oil cooler. It’s located on the right side of the engine and looks like this:

      The 9-3ss has an oil/water cooler which means instead of using an air radiator to cool oil it uses a block that has coolant passing through. If the cooler is damaged or has a leak, it can mix oil and coolant there. This is common in some BMW’s, I haven’t heard of it happening in a Saab though. It’s not out of the question. If it’s not the cooler, then the headgasket sounds like your most likely culprit. How many miles are on the car?

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