SAAB 9-3ss AudioSystem2 AMP1 repair

So, there it was, the dreaded pop and crackle of the original sound system in my dear 2003 SAAB 9-3.

This sound system (AS2 150W Pioneer manufactured) is the second step of the original system and runs on 7 speakers on 2 amplifiers.

The first 4-channel amplifier is built into the CD/head unit behind the climate control panel. This drives the dashboard 3½” speakers and the rear 4″ speakers.

The second 3-channel amplifier, the AMP1, drives the door and center dash speakers and is connected via a fiber optic bus to the head unit and mounted with a single torx screw under the driver seat. This position is PERFECT for corrosion to appear.

This was my problem. Moisture had gotten into the amp and suddenly the dash and door speakers were dead, then alive, then popping and crackling, then dead again. This went on for a few weeks until it ceased completely.

Luckily, the other speakers were fine and the head unit worked normally so I could be sure that the optical bus line was running fine. I could therefore be sure that the AMP1 had a working optical input and power stage. If it hadn’t the optical bus would have been interrupted and entire sound system would have been dead and silent. I could get a replacement for $300 or so, but I decided, as a true electronics nerd, to take it apart and have a look.

Turns out it was one of the hole links through the PCB near the final power amp stage that had corroded on the top side and had no connection through the layers in the PCB. The bottom layer is painted with a water resistant coating, but not the top side. I cleaned up the corrosion with a fiber pen and restored the link by soldering in a peace of wire through the hole.

HEY PRESTO! It worked and no more trouble. It was a surprisingly easy fix and I am sure that I’m not the only person experiencing this problem, given the position of this amp.


Update – Many people are asking about pictures of my repair. To be honest I never took any pictures.
I have pasted together a little picture from various pictures around the web that illustrate how it MIGHT look when a via has corroded.
The left picture below show what I would call a suspect. Matte and dull. On the left picture the vias are shiny, with a nice coat of tin solder and are probably OK. This is NOT necessarily the position where the problem is for you, but I would say it is a real candidate to start looking. These pictures show the top layer, between the optics module and the power amps.







23 Replies to “SAAB 9-3ss AudioSystem2 AMP1 repair”

  1. I have a similar issue (I think). I have an ’03, 9-3 Arc. amp under seat, amp in the trunk, head. I can hear my music, but if I change “Anything” like the volume (steering wheel or vol knob), bass, treble, fade.. change to cd or aux .. “anything” .. then I hear ‘crackle crackle’.. then once I stop .. it goes away (mostly). I suspect it’s Amp1 under the seat.. but not sure. I looked at it.. it looks ‘pockmarked’ like corrosion on the aluminum casing.. what do you think?

    1. Hi Steven,
      I think you are on the right track here, definitely. If the crackle comes from the doors+center dash speakers there is no doubt the AMP1 is to blame and the fact that your head unit and blinker is working means that the optical module in the AMP1 is probably undamaged.
      The corrosion on the casing is a sure sign of moisture and I have seen that on 100% of the AMP1’s I have encountered so far, even if they were in fact working perfectly. But after a few more years regularily exposed to moisture things can get worse.
      Inside, the circuit board has a nice protective clear coat on the bottom side but only a thin layer on the top side, so moisture will eventually start corroding the least protected “vias” (through-linking holes that connect copper tracks on the top and bottom of the circuit board) and slowly start turning them into blue-green copper oxide. They are not too difficult to repair, like I did, for someone with a bit of soldering skill. If soldering is not your thing I would advise against it. Maybe a local amateur radio club could help? 🙂
      Some people choose to remove the AMP1 completely and bypassing it by looping the fibre connections together, but their problem is usually a dead optical bus that causes trouble with a lot of devices. It would also leave your sound quality crippled. With the crackle problem I think there is still good hope for a no-compromise cure.

  2. BTW I have the same problem. I actually replaced my amp1 only to find the EXACT same popping noise with the new one. Do you have photos of what the corrosion looked like or how you soldered the wire? I have opened it and I see some pioneer ICs near the edge of the board but I can’t find any info on them to troubleshoot. I also couldn’t find any signs of broken traces but I didn’t really check thoroughly for that. My center speaker works just fine tho, which is the weird thing.

    1. Hi, Emmanuel.

      I’m afraid I don’t have any photos, but I might remember wrong. I’ll see if I can find any.

      Very unlucky there to find a second amp with the same problem. It’s a very common problem though and unless the seller specifically states that the amp is refurbed or repaired the chances are high it will soon need to be.

      I doubt the ICs are to blame. I’d get my magnifying glass out and start, from the top of the pcb, examining all the vias to see if any of them turned from a shiny ring into a dull green. A fibre pen might help. Then I’d push a thin half inch piece of copper wire through the hole and bend, trim and solder it onto the traces on either side of the pcb. Scrape off the protective coating carefully before you solder and be sure to seal it all with a suitable pcb moisture blocking paint after testing your success.

      Good luck, on your own risk of course. 🙂


      1. I’m having a similar issue. No sound to any speakers, blinkers, door ajar, or seatbelt. Console lights illuminate but not the radio itself. I tried to loop the fiber optic wires together in the amp but it failed. I’m afraid that there isn’t any power reaching the amp due to I don’t see any light coming out of the fiber optic wires when the amp is plugged in. Checked all the fuses and they are all working. Any suggestions as to the culprit? 03′ 9-3 vector

        1. Hi Cam,
          Interesting. I would actually in your case suspect some other problem causing the head unit to not activate. (Because your blinker is silent, we can assume the dash amp is off)
          I’d start, like you have done, by measuring (not just visually examining) the audio system fuses both in front fuse box and in the left side of the trunk.
          Then removing the head unit and making sure all the cables are in place.
          The head unit with all amplifiers and optics is the one containing the CD player. It’s a big lump of steel and you’ll need to remove the Fan/AC/ACC control panel first to get to it.
          Then check the connectors behind the actual radio control panel.
          After that I’m afraid I’m out of ideas.
          Good luck!

  3. I inherited a 2003 9-3 Linear with 8,000 miles. I gave it to my son to drive at college. He just sent me a text that the radio stopped working, along with the sound on the turn indicators. I’m not much of a mechanic, so I suspect that I need to being it in for service somewhere. Does this sound like a costly issue?


    1. If you are lucky it’s just the fuse or a loose cable. If you are unlucky it might be the head unit or one of the amps, so it’s impossible to put a fair estimation on it.

      I don’t know exactly what sound system level you have (AS1, 2 or 3)
      Check the fuses first, then if you feel confident, the cables behind the CD/head unit (Climate/AC panel comes out first).
      If you have the amp under the left seat check those cables (AS level 2+3), then the cables for the amp in the left side trunk (AS level 3 only).
      The head unit and amplifiers are interconnected with power and fiber optic cables. If any amp or part of the fiber optic loops break, the entire sound system will be dead and difficult to troubleshoot.
      A proper GM/Saab shop should be able to diagnose if a part is faulty with a Tech-2 diagnostic tool. Then you should be able to choose to repair, replace or bypass it.
      I wish you good luck.

    2. Hello,
      First check your AMP1 located under the seat, usually they rust and if moisture or even water was dropped in the carpet under the seat the AMP1 may go to short and stop working. You can do firstly all that Tony described in this post…no need for sending to Shop…if that does not work..look into Ebay for an used AMP1 and just replace it…when you remove your current AMP1 you will see red light coming from the fiber optics..if that is so..your system is OK and the NEW AMP1 will solve the problem. Hope this help you to get your sound back to life!! –Cheers! CIR

  4. i have a problem where my door speakers crackle to where i cant even listen to it, but all of my turn signals and radio (everything) still works, i just turn the fader to the back speakers so i could listen properly. if i reloop the optic cables myslef with vacum tube should the door speakers work? thank you

    1. You could try disconnecting the AMP1 and looping the optics. I guess you ment shrink tubing. I haven’t tried that method but I guess it might work.
      Your problem is very probably caused by moisture and corrosion in the amp and should be possible to fix for someone with a bit of electronics and soldering skills.
      Good luck!

      1. I have read about the fix by-passing the amplifier BUT i wish to repair so I have soldering skills, please can you post or send me by email some pictures with the portion of the top layer that need fixing? Also i am thinking about that the board is multiple layer so what layer is the one that breaks?

        1. The article has been updated with some example photos. Of course these are only examples, and your amp might have a completely different fault.
          I would say it is most likely that the top layer is the one to blame in most cases. It is the unprotected side and will be the first to corrode, and the popping starts. If left unattended for a longer time I guess it could spread down through the via to other layers, I would assume the amp would be completely silent long before then.

  5. I have excactly similar problem and tried to find that kind of bad connection, but does not had (yet) find that. I did not had any visual corrosion, but I found that there has done some soldering by some earlier owner. Do you SA6AYN have some more detailed coordinates where you found problem?

    I aso noticed that there was no silicon heat paste between final power amp component or any other) and heat sink, should there be heat paste? If yes this can of course be reason, maybe those amplifier components are burn?

    1. The article has been updated with some example photos. Of course these are only examples, and your amp might have a completely different fault.
      Thermal paste or thermal transfer pads are a good idea in most cases. I can’t recall seeing any of these with thermal paste. I guess the designers at Pioneer trust the overheat protection in the power amps to handle this. I would also assume the amps are running at a generally low load with these large heatsinks. There could be a mechanical reason also, as the car is constantly shaking and vibrating. With no thermal paste the screws lock in tighter and there is less material flexibility for the screws to loosen over time. I don’t know really, but it’s a thought.
      Good luck!

  6. Can someone please help me? Today someone disconnected jump leads incorrectly to my Saab. I didn’t know what they were doing as I was the one in the driver’s seat starting it up. All the electrics (windows, sunroof etc) work fine but the radio won’t turn on. I’m frightened as my husband is going to go ape shit. Any ideas on how I can fix this would be VERY gratefully received. I have several screwdrivers and bags of enthusiasm!!! The manual says there’s only one fuse-surely that can’t be true?

    1. I would suggest getting out the manual again and checking all the fuses for the sound system.
      On a 9-3SS there may be fuses behind the detachable panel between the left front door and dashboard.
      There may also be fuses in the left side of the trunk, behind service door in the lining.
      If all fuses are fine, i suggest removing the battery leads for a few minutes and then reconnecting them.
      After reconnecting them, start the car and leave it running on idle for a few minutes to let the fuel injection calibrate itself.

      Beyond this, it is extremely difficult to tell without the proper diagnostic tools and virtually impossible to give any good suggestion from afar.
      Your Saab shop can easily home in on the problem using their little Tech-2 Saab diagnostic gadgets.

  7. Im having the same problem, the crackle and pop noise from speakers but my one would suddenly make a loud squeeking noise followed by the music gone completely fuzzy. Can anyone help me out my car is a 2009 saab 9-3 turbo edtion.. its got original sat nav on dash and the amp is in the boot but im nt sure whats wrong if it is the amp or stereo

  8. Hi I have a 2003 9-3 saab and I’m having problems with the radio. The dash and the radio completely stopped working showing no power at all. So, I got the radio replaced and the dash appeared to start working but the radio wouldn’t!! My left blinker tail lights will go in and out as well as my airbag light. Anyone relate? Please help

  9. is there anyway to upgrade amp 1 and rear ramp with after market while maintaining SID display and headunit? With out adding a hidden radio receiver or running it parallel

  10. Hi

    I have a 2005 TID 9-3, Previous owner removed and under seat and fitted aftermarket CD player.

    I have an original CD player now but not sure if I need a whole new fibre loom? Son is rewiring everything just not sure about fibre optics.

    Any help appreciated

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