Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SAAB 9-5, How to Clear the Check Engine Light or "CEL"

A neat thing about wordpress is that I can see search words used to find this site. One of the most common themes boils down to "how do I clear OBD-II error codes that set off the check engine light (CEL)". So I figure I should make a formal post about how to clear those errors on the SAAB 9-5.


There are two easy ways to turn off the amber check engine and ! lights on the 9-5. Neither of these techniques will fix whatever caused the code in the first place. You will want to check out the codes in the "on board diagnostics" (OBD-II) and fix anything that is causing you trouble.

The quick and dirty way is to pull fuse 17 out of the fuse box, drink a glass of iced tea, and then put the fuse back. This will reset the engine management system and cause the CEL to go off. That's it. The fuse box is behind a panel at the end of the dash on the driver's side. The back of the panel has a diagram of which fuse is which.

A OBD-II code scanner will read the codes and then you can erase them, turning off the CEL in the process.

When the check engine lights come on the car might also go into "limp mode" where it starts in 2nd gear and doesn't shift into 4th. This is really annoying when you know the reason for the check engine light isn't really that important and/or you have people in the car with you.

EDITED to add a comment from dplatonoff: "There are indeed different limp home modes associated with various components. The throttle body limp home mode is activated when there are problems in the throttle control (like bad throttle position sensor signals and so on). The ECU fires the limp home solenoid, which locks the butterfly to the accelerator cable and cuts the power on the throttle motor. After this, the drive by wire is gone, and you control the throttle directly with your right foot. It also continues to fire the solenoid every time you start the car if the condition and the codes are still present. So the only way to clear it is to kill the codes and unhook the arm on the throttle body (a pair of needle-nose pliers gets the job done)."


The way I get out of limp mode (ETA: when it doesn't fire the limp home solenoid) is by putting the car in park, turning the car off and removing the key. I then put the key back and start the car again. The amber engine and ! lights will still be on but the car will operate in normal mode.

Keep in mind that the car goes into limp mode to protect itself, so you shouldn't take it lightly.

There is also a red triangle check engine light. I don't have much to say about it because, knock on wood, I have never had to deal with it. It is the serious check engine light. The red triangle means "pull over right now and call a tow truck".

There is a video on youtube that does an excellent job of explaining how to get the throttle body reset.

Basically the amber engine light is like a child saying "I need to go to the restroom" and the red triangle is like the same kid saying "never mind the restroom, I need some clean pants".


  1. When talking about the limp home mode, don't forget about the limp home solenoid on the throttle body. You can't reset this to normal without a bit of mechanical intervention.

  2. @dplatonoff

    This is good to know, I didn't realize that it wouldn't reset itself. Would you object if I cite your comment in the main post in case people don't take time to read the comments?

    I guess I've been luckily, so far my car has only gone into limp mode for a couple of minor problems (a bad upper 02 sensor and the darn gear selector position sensor). They must have not affected the solenoid. Could this mean there are different levels of "limp"? If this is the case, I wonder what the traits of each level would be... and what errors cause which limp. Interesting.

  3. There are indeed different limp home modes associated with various components. The throttle body limp home mode is activated when there are problems in the throttle control (like bad throttle position sensor signals and so on). The ECU fires the limp home solenoid, which locks the butterfly to the accelerator cable and cuts the power on the throttle motor. After this, the drive by wire is gone, and you control the throttle directly with your right foot. It also continues to fire the solenoid every time you start the car if the condition and the codes are still present. So the only way to clear it is to kill the codes and unhook the arm on the throttle body (a pair of needle-nose pliers gets the job done).

  4. @ dip

    Excellent explanation of the limp system. I hope I never have to experience this throttle body type of limp mode!

    Do you mind if I cite your comment in the main post to make sure everyone sees it?

  5. The WIS has a pretty good explanation of how it all works, naturally.

    And of course you can quote this stuff in the article - the comments are out there for everyone to see anyway, so it would be silly to try to prevent you from using them ;]

  6. 95 estate - Auto - Petrol.

    I had the the CEL come on only (no '!') when I turned the car back on, after having sat on the motorway for 30 mins in stationary traffic, however there was no 'Limp Home' mode that I was aware of the car drove as normal and gears changed up and down perfectly.?

    Will try the remove fuse 17 and see if that works

  7. Thanks so much for the info. I am in New Zealand and have 3 saabs, a 2000 95 wagon, a 2002 95 Linear and a 2002 95 Aero, and just had the engine check light come on in the wagon, so thanks for the fuse 17 knowledge, was feeling stumped.

  8. I have tried to remove then reinsert the fuse to no avail. The light stays on. I also got a code reader and cleared it with the gadget. It goes off but comes back on within 10 minutes. Will the car run with the fuse removed? That is the only thing I haven't tried but do not want to harm the car. Please reply asap. thanks so much.

  9. You will need to fix the problem causing the error code and then reset the light.

  10. Worked well with fuse 17, hope it stays like that, we ll see after few miles, gonna get the obd II anyway, could be usefull., thnx again

  11. Will the light stay off if you leave the fuse 17 out of the box?

  12. The car won't run if fuse 17 is missing.

  13. After the codes were cleared (9-5 2.3lt) the check engine light went off. I put in a half tank of 87 gas and the light came back on. Any ideas why??


  14. Post the OBD-II codes here and I can give you some ideas of where to look for the problem.

  15. hi all
    Just picked up a 01,9-5. High miles 262500
    Runs fantastic
    Just had muffler repaired today at reputable shop.
    Resonater was shot and had developed crack at rear pipe joint.

    Jusr arrived home from the repair after half h r drive. Shut off and restarted 1/2hr later and check engine light has come on.

    Can there be a connection?

    Should i just do a fuse 17 reset and fsee if it stays clear?

    Thanks for your help,

  16. Hello, does anyone know its fuse 17 for a 2010 9-5 aero? I didn't put the gas cap on incorrectly and can't get the light to turn off. I tried taking out fuse 17 but no luck. Maybe I did wait long enough. Can on-star reset? I will sign up if they can.


  17. Look for the fuse labeled for the ECU if it isn't 17. The other option is to disconnect the car battery for a few minutes.

  18. remove the gas cap, then insert it, turn the cap, 3 clicks, What's the code #?

  19. Hi!

    I got the errorcode 4220 on my Saab 95 2.3 Turbo 2001. CE light is on and off whole time. Runs perfectly. My mechanic said it was code 4220, and all values were fine. He could not find anything about code 4220 than it was some kind of specific Saab error code and not dangerous to drive with. Suggested to clear the CE light before yearly inspection. Any one knows about this code and how to fix it?

  20. Brian (Northumberland)December 10, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    Hi Thomas - had similar problem ie CEL on permanently. Answere: sw on ignition, pull F17 and replace, sw off ignition then start engine as normal. It worked for me - everything ok - engine as sweet as a nut! Good luck.

  21. Thanks Brian!

    I will try that later when the CE light appears again (it´s not lid for for the moment). Hope for the best! :)

  22. Brian (Northumberland)December 11, 2013 at 6:01 AM

    Hi Thomas = If your CEL icon keeps coming on and there are other symptons with the engine e.g. difficult starting and mis-firing, the problem is almost certainly the ignition pack, which will eventually fail altogether. The only other system the CEL monitors is the fuel system. Good luck.

  23. Hi Brian!

    Used your method last night when the CR light came on again. Worked as you said. The lamp is there no more. Will drive it to work today to see how it goes. I have no other problems with the car. The ignition pack and spark plugs (correct ones) are new also.

  24. Some feedback...

    Since i used the method with pulling the fuse 17 and replace it with the ignition on i can only say that it works!
    My CE light have not yet come back during my one-week test driving. So far so good! :) Thanks Brian!

  25. Hi

    I wonder if you can assist me with this?
    The amber engine management light came on yesterday morning after I heard a ticking, like an injector ticking, under the bonnet.
    I pulled out fuse # 17 and it had not blown but the two metal pins were quite black.
    I switched fuses with another 20A fuse, the one for "amplifier".
    now the amplifier in the car radio is not working, but the engine management light has gone off.
    I do not know what black pins on a fuse mean.
    Your comments would be very much appreciated

  26. Just wanted to say thanks for a well written and illustrated article.... this worked like a charm (so far) on my 2001 95.

  27. Brian (Northumberland)January 5, 2014 at 1:51 AM

    Hi Jamie = The CEL seems to come on for no apparent reason (common problem) and pulling F17 (ign on) will clear it PROVIDING there are no engine faults developing. Be careful - you may have an engine fault developing, in which case your warning light is genuine!

    This part of ECM system is monitoring ignition, fuel/air, turbo and cruise control, so be warned! If CEL starts flashing, get somewhere ASAP.

    Clean fuse blades with fine emery paper and replace exactly the same rating. Note: your amplifier will not work without the fuse in circuit.

    Good luck - Brian (Northumberland)

  28. My 01 9-5 has been making me crazy for months with CEL "hits".

    The mech. checked the on board computer for faults and informed me that the ECS (engine coolant sensor) was showing as fault and must be bad and should be replaced.

    A very important side note here is that the weather was on the cusp of winter.
    Well the sensor was changed and the temperature has dropped to 0 F.

    Many will recognize what's next; after coming to temp at idle or slow travel; speed would make the temp gauge drop like a rock, sometimes driving the ECS to fault level. When the fault occurs the temp needle drops to a no power position and the CEL comes on.

    PROBLEM: bad thermostat stuck open; of course I had to bring to another mech to get proper diagnostic. Thank goodness the ECS replacement was not too costly.

    Now all is running well and lots of heat for the cabin!!

  29. Hi Brian

    Thank you for your kind reply.

    I tested the #17 fuse and it is dead, so cleaning the fuse blades is ruled out.

    The warning light coming on must have been due to the blackened bi-metal connectors as the element is perfectly intact. The fuse was well connected when I removed it.
    The engine starts with a new 20 amp fuse in and the warning light does not appear.
    How quickly would the light come on again if it is a REAL engine malfunction problem? Would it come on again immediately when the ignition is turned on, as it did previously?
    The amber light was never flashing, it was solid but I am very concerned as to why this happened in the first instance as all other fuses are clean and fine.

  30. Brian (Northumberland)January 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Hi Jamie = I'm puzzled about your F17. The CEL will not light without F17 in circuit. If you have a developing engine fault (e.g. a dying ignition coil), the CEL will come on again when the microprocessor detects the change in the sensor. Does your engine sound sweet? Are there any symptons that would make you suspect something amiss? The best diagnostic tools are still your eyes and ears (a muckle great screwdriver with the sharp end pressed on the engine block and the other end on your ear can tell you a lot!).

    If you have a developing fault in any of the engine management areas, the CEL will come on again when it gets bad enough - so keep an eye on it and your fingers crossed!

    Sorry about telling you about the amplifier fuse - I guess you would understand that, anyway

    Good luck = Brian (Northumberland)

  31. Hi again Brian

    No worries. I find a lot gets lost in translation over Email.
    I replaced #17 with a new 20A and the car started straight off, with no ticking noise.
    This confirmed to me that the fuse was dead. When I put the suspect fuse in the amplifier socket, the amplifier did not work. The element had not blown but as I do not have a tester this was the only way I could actually test the fuse.
    The solid amber engine malfunction light that had appeared initially on cold start up did not re-appear.
    I have no other reasons to suspect potential engine failure at this time, but I am not taking the car far and am monitoring it's performance. It may just have been an odd glitch but I am still mystified as to why one fuse in 35 fuses it had to be that one that blackened. I am no expert but logics tell me blackened equals over heating.
    I am originally from Kent and hope that the floods and bad weather have not affected Northumberland!

  32. Brian (Northumberland)January 8, 2014 at 6:04 AM

    A bit more, Jamie: A few years ago, the CEL started coming on at intervals - engine still ok etc - but then I started to experience difficult starting and, a bit later, poor engine performance. (This was my 9-5 2.3t) Things got worse and eventually I had to fit a new ignition pack. This was no ECM glitch - the stuff was doing its job!

    F17 is protecting quite a lot of circuitry ie Engine Management System, instrument cluster and dashboard and theft warning electronics. If F17 is getting warm/hot, something in those circuits is drawing excessive current. Some of those items you may be able to unload, which may lead you to the fault area, but obviously EMS will be a no-go area, except for Saab experts with the kit.

    You could try regular downloads with an OBD scanner to see what's varying, which may give you a clew of a developing fault.

    Interesting stuff, so I would be interested to know if anything turns up!

    Best wishes = Brian (N)

  33. Hi Brian

    Many thanks for sharing your experience. I haven now decided to price around for a diagnostics test as I want to rule out any potential problems.
    I will let you know the outcome.



  34. Hi Brian

    I have some news for you.
    It has actually got weirder.....
    A basic diagnostic check showed "throttle body sensor"
    Took the car on a short run today and on the way home the engine malfunction light came on the dashboard again.

    The interesting thing to note here is that the car does not go into "limp mode" and never has when the light has come on.
    The only thing I have noted is that
    the revs drop a bit to low when I take my foot off the accelerator when I am coming to a stop, as if it is going to stall, but it doesn't.
    I am now beginning to wonder if the throttle body needs replacing.

  35. Consider the fallowing.(1) If the #17 fuse was bad, the car would have stop, & will not start. so it could be a (bridge, connection between #17 fuse with another fuse, or live ,(+) wire. (2) Once you remove the fuse & re-install another ,on start the car the CEL, will go out, for a wile, on come back On, if there was problem.(3) turn the car to the ON position but do not start, open the driver door on put your hand behind the fuse panel, gentle pull the wires to see if the fuse will blow .(4) for Throttle Body Sensor, again , gentle pull the wires. Remember: once the #17 fuse is remove, the ECM, memory is gone .. Now start the car on see what happen. (5) I'm not a mechanic, I own a 2006 9-5, 4cyl. T.

  36. Hi Brian

    Thank you for your comments and suggestions.
    I don't think it is always necessary to be mechanic, experience logics and common sense can often identify the problem, but it is not always something a person can fix themselves. Discussing and learning always goes a long was LOL
    so far I realise that I do have a problem. light comes on but it does not switch to limp mode.
    I think that you are probably correct in as much as I have a loose wire somewhere or that the throttle body is cracked inside. I will do a wiring check and if all else fails look to getting a used one from the U.K. There is no way I am paying for one here. I'll keep you posted.

  37. Brian (Northumberland)January 18, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    Hi again, Jamie = Was going to suggest you have a Saab dealer do a Saab Health Check, but I guess that's a no-go for good reasons!

    Don't know what your skills are, but if you decide to keep trying (it's how we learn) see if you can get a Haynes Service and Repair Manual - it's an excellent book and can still be purchased at Amazon.co.uk. Additionally, for fault-finding electronics you should have a good quality digital multi-meter with a low-ohms range; with a bit of study, you'll soon find what a useful tool it is - I eat, drink and sleep with mine!

    Keep in touch - interesting stuff = Good luck Brian (Northumberland)

  38. Hi Brian

    I'm getting closer to identifying the problem, but this is via conducting intensive research on Saab throttle body issues. The code which came up confirms that the problem is definitely related to the throttle body or sensor. I had Haines manuals overseas where I had tools and space, but as I do not have a lock up garage here I am very limited to what I can do.
    My next step is to have the throttle body cleaned and de-carbed as this has never been done and the car is now 13 years old. Reading threw Saab blogs it appears that throttle bodies and sensor problems are very common in Saabs and a lot of people are saying they have had the same symptoms, i.e. losing revs on de-acceleration. Most go into limp mode when the engine malfunction light comes on, but my Saab does not.
    It is so annoying. We are having a heat wave here in Sydney and driving to cooler places for respite would be very good but I am reluctant to take the car out very far until this issue is resolved. I am now passing the car to a mechanic who can check and clean the throttle body out and check the hoses and will let you know the outcome.

  39. Brian (Northumberland)January 19, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    Yes, you seem to have a fuel/air problem but I wouldn't rule out the ignition system either. How long since air and fuel filters changed? Also, plugs and ignition module. These and other service items such as coolant and oil changes are fairly critical because of the related sensors with their voltage/resistance parameters feeding info to the ECM. It's a complex machine that demands strict adherence to service schedules! Well worth you getting the Haines book Jamie, if you can.

    Was on the Aussie coast for two years back in 1958,59. Joined a bulk-carrier in Sydney which carried coal from Newcastle NSW to Adelaide, then iron-ore from Whyalla to Port Kembla Great country - the sheillas were super! Wish I'd stayed!!

    Best wishes = Brian (Northumberland)

  40. Hi Brian

    Yep, sure is a fuel / air issue. I have also identified the ticking that I can hear when the EM light comes on with cold start, is the ignition.
    Sorry to say that the car has not been serviced since I bought it two years ago, although it has full service history. The car only goes out once a month and I have been lax with this owing to other financial outlays, mainly medical, which have had to take precendence.
    I am not very mechanically minded but am fairly effective at finding faults.
    When it comes down to correcting them it is over to mechanic as it is illegal to work on a car in a public road here, but it wouldn't be practical in any event.
    I didn't bring any tools over when I migrated. I've now found a good mechanic and will be booking in with him for a service, transmission oil change and de-carb on the throttle body in the next few weeks and will let you know the outcome.
    It sounds like you used to be in the Navy. Australia has changed a lot in the past 50 years but it is still a great country to live in although Sydney in particular is ridiculously expensive for property.
    You pay £1,5 million here for a house that would go for £350,00 in the south of England. Okay, we do have harbour views, but still they are not worth the asking price. People pay though, mostly migrants as the locals cannot afford it.

  41. Hey, there. Have a 2003 9-5, 3l v6 with ~125k miles. Just drove ~300 miles (from the SF Bay Area to Eureka) with no problems. After sitting for a while, the car did a sort of rough start when I tried to go out for dinner: cranked ok, then ran like crap with the check engine light on (not flashing).

    I won't rule anything out until I've tried everything, but we made it without having to refill fuel, so I doubt the gas cap is the culprit.

    Is the #17 fuse temporary solution the same for this engine as the others described in this thread?

    Thanks a million.

    Dave R

  42. I can only tell you what occurred with my Saab.#17 is the light for "engine malfunction" I replaced my fuse and the light came on again. I plugged a diagnostic reader into the ignition and a code came up. I put the code into "google" and it said "throttle body sensor". Actually decarbing the throttle body fixed it and the light went out, but my car did not go into limp home mode, whereas your obviously did as you have poor performance.
    so your code will be different but will tell you where the problem lies.

  43. Brian (Northumberland)January 28, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    Hi Dave R = Sounds like you have a developing fault (possibly ign/plugs). Pulling F17 clears the CEL - it may come on again thus indicating early signs of a malfunction. Jamie seems to have solved his problem; following his example may be a good option at the moment ie getting a decent OBD reader, which should point you to the section at risk!

    Great website this - thanks Econmancer. Pity some of the worldwide warmongers didn't have the same idea!!

    Good luck all Brian (Northumberland)

  44. Hi Dave R

    Brian has been great with pointers. I am not very technical I just apply logics and start ruling out. I do not have much in the way of tools and space to work in, so I am very limited to what I can do myself, but it was good to fault find and the mechanic took it from there.
    Please let me know what your problem was.