I purchased an OBD-II code reader from Amazon. I think I paid around $75. Lower priced readers give a number and you have to look up in a book. The expensive readers can record your codes for later retrieval and some even read sensors real time and display a fancy graph. The one I purchased reads the code and gives you a description of the code but does not store the codes.
Photo of the OBD-II Scanner
The reason they are great when you own a SAAB is because you then have the ability to erase any error codes and turn off the amber check engine light on the dash.
Currently my gear selector position sensor is giving me problems. A few times each month the car goes into limp mode and the two amber check engine lights come on. I get out of limp mode quickly by turning the car off, removing the key for a moment and then restarting the car. The CEL stays on, but the car will be out of limp mode. I can check the code when I get home and confirm the problem is still the same sensor. I then clear the code.
Yes, it would be easier to replace the faulty sensor, but the sensor is almost $300 and it really doesn’t seem to be hurting anything. Plus I know that the sensor is made up of a multi-position switch and the car is upset because the connectors inside are dirty.
So this code scanner saves me money because I can read and clear my own codes without a trip to the shop. Plus I can go into the shop knowing what the most likely repair will be for my problem. This gives me an idea of how much the visit will cost me. It also makes it easier to repair my own car.
I don’t know if this service is nationwide, but the AutoZone stores around here will read your OBD codes for free if you ask them. The socket for the OBD-II is located below the steering wheel and towards the bottom of the dash. There is a small plastic door covering the port.
SAAB uses the ISO format to transmit OBD-II data. This is a very common format used by lots of different cars and most OBD-II scan tools come ready to read codes from a SAAB. This does not necessarily include the ability to read codes that are specific to SAAB. I’ve never ran into any of these proprietary codes but I would imagine that the Tech II tool might be required. The SAAB dealer or a shop that specializes in SAAB will have the Tech II.
By the way, the “gear selector position sensor”, sometimes listed as the “neutral safety switch”, is attached to the top of the transmission and can be easily reached by removing the car battery. It's the rectangular-ish thing with the metal rod and the thick bundle of cables coming out of it. I used WD-40 and some elbow grease to clean the sensor and keep it going for a little while longer. I would also slide gear select lever from park all the way down to 3 and back, quickly and repeatedly. It's similar to the technique used by TV engineers to clean a dirty audio potentiometer or "pot" as it is known in the biz.