View Full Version : Car Talk ( Volvo Problems )

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 10:15 AM
Volvo has been running fine, no problems whatsoever. I keep a good eye on the oil every few times I fill up I ask them to check it. Yesterday I had the gas jockey check it. WHOA he said your out of oil. Damn oil light didn't even go on, it flickered once :rolleyes: . Hmmm so we look around sure enough lots of oil all over the back end of the engine. This morning I drive it to my mechanic. He puts it on the lift looks around. Says he can't say for sure but he suspects it might be a head gasket. 2 days in the shop and $1,200.00 OUCH :( I just had the car have a full tune up with new plugs, distributor, alignment, brakes & shocks. And some sort of gasket need at the transmission. I paid $1,600 for this car and like i said it runs great. It has 160,000 miles on it so are we talking about diminishing returns or should I go for the head gasket replacement ?

Matt J.
03-10-2006, 10:22 AM
You have someone check your oil? You rich bastard! ;)

Our 240 needs a cam seal... I just ordered it. Also a cam cover gasket and timing belt... $105 including shipping. I'm lucky a neighbor is a pretty good mechanic and willing teacher - he's humored by my mechanical approach (BFH) and enjoys teaching a willing student.

I'm hoping next weekend we'll get the seal replaced as well as the timing belt, tensioner and cover...

Main seals are $3.50 but require major work down at the rear of the engine - and are a common source of oil leaks back there... Supposedly it can be $1000 labor to replace that $3.50 part. :eek:

Good luck. Get greasy.

Evan Showell
03-10-2006, 10:22 AM
Priced new cars lately?

I had a 1986 240 wagon -- the venerable brick -- that I purchased in 1996 with 110,000 on the clock. Attended to regular maintenance and a few bigger items over the years, but sold it with 215,000 on the clock last year. Only sold it because the body was starting to rust out. Mechanically, it was a tank. My mechanic said with regular oil changes (every 3000 miles) it would easily have lasted to 500,000 miles.

If the body is in good shape and you like the car, I'd be inclined to make the repairs especially since your acquisition cost was low.

Bruce Hooke
03-10-2006, 10:31 AM
First off, the oil light is not there to warn you about a lack of oil, it is there to warn you about something much more serious, which is low oil pressure. If the oil light ever does come in it means pull off the road NOW, not at the next exit or the next pay phone, NOW! Without oil pressure the engine will destory itself in a matter of minutes.

One way to think about repairs like this is how much could you get for the car in its current condition (i.e., in need of this work) versus how much you could get for it with the repair completed. In many cases the repair will pretty much pay for itself in terms of resale value, but given the value of this car (assuming you paid a fair price), it is likely to be a close call in this case. Of course it is paying for itself in a kind of negative way -- you are doing the repair to recover the value that the car had a week ago. So, even if you decide to unload this car it may still make sense to do the repair.

160,000 is middle-aged for a Volvo. This car has plenty of life left in it. But, it depends how long you want to string things out. The conventional wisdom is that the cheapest way to own a car is to drive it until it is ready for the junk yard, but I am not fully convinced that this wisdom is correct. I am, however, following at the moment. My car is a '95 Ford Escort with just over 190,000 miles on it.

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 10:33 AM
Originally posted by Matt J.:
You have someone check your oil? You rich bastard! ;) .Matt the local gas station which also happens to be fairly cheep still has gas jockeys. And let me tell you there is nothing more pleasant on a cold rainy day as a gas jokey asking you cash or credit and can I check your oil :D One of the benefits of living in a quaint old town.

Oh and I don't do greasy, Im a sailor
I can do sawdust but not grease. :D

Oh and Evan Showell I'm kinda agreeing with you, just hard to bite the bullet.

[ 03-10-2006, 10:35 AM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]

jack grebe
03-10-2006, 10:50 AM
160k on a volvo does not seem like alot, what year is it? are parts still avail? do YOU enjoy driving it? I have put a lot of money into cars that I enjoy simply because I enjoy them. soon or later you make the decision whether or not it's worth it to repair. A CAR IS A LIABILITY, not an asset.

Evan Showell
03-10-2006, 10:53 AM
Joe -- From your description of the leak, I'd suspect rear main seal as opposed to head gasket. Some folks who are better mechanics than I may chime in, but sometimes evidence of a head gasket leak will show up in the coolant.

I cannot recite the precise symptoms that might tend to validate a head gasket leak, but what you've described sounds more like a rear main seal to me.

Either is a PITA

[ 03-10-2006, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: Evan Showell ]

Alan D. Hyde
03-10-2006, 11:02 AM
Joe, IF you ever plan to cruise, and anticipate having an engine on board when you do so, then you better start understanding engines.

When you're offshore, YOU fix it--- no one else.

And, to be the Master of a vessel, you should have a basic understanding of everything in her, and how it works.

As far as cars, on an older auto like that Volvo, you should never let the tank get below half-full, and you should pop the hood every time you gas up. Have a quick look around the engine compartment, and check the oil and coolant levels.

The pump will be putting gas in the tank while you do these things, so you will avoid wasting time...


03-10-2006, 11:03 AM
So you spend 1200 on the car. Where could you get so nice a car for 1200? I keep cars for as long as I can get repair parts and the body isn't full of holes, and I've been know to apply a bit of fiberglass and epoxy on occasion.

Ken Hutchins
03-10-2006, 11:16 AM
First thing, check the PCV system. There should be some sort of a valve or venury to control the vacuum in the crankcase. If this simple cheap thing is faulty it will force all the oil out of an engine in less than 50 miles.
These things are a repair shop dream when work is slow, the customer can be snookered into a big repair bill when only a cheap part replacement is necessary. :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad:
Find the valve most are in a hose leading from the valve cover, most of the older valves have a plunger and spring, knock the plunger and spring right the hell out of it , reinstall it fill the oil and drive. There might be some performance and idle issues, run it a few hundred miles occasionally checking the oil, if the oil consumption is OK replace the valve with a new one get the new valve from the dealer not an after market part.
I had one go bad that blew the oil out in like I said 50 miles, After the simple fix the oil consumption went to better that a quart in 2000 miles on an engine with close to 200,000 miles. Never did replace the valve just ran it with the inners removed.

Edit to add, learn to get your hands dirty, it really don't hurt and you can save a bundle of cash. ;)

[ 03-10-2006, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: Ken Hutchins ]

Ross M
03-10-2006, 11:31 AM

DO NOT spend $1200 until you google "volvo clogged flame trap" - or you may be spending it again shortly.


Edited to add: Volvo Flame Traps (http://www.thevolvosite.com/volvo_flame_traps.htm)
Flame Trap Facts (http://www.swedishbricks.net/faq/flametrap.html)

[ 03-10-2006, 11:32 AM: Message edited by: Ross M ]

Matt J.
03-10-2006, 11:59 AM
The flame trap/PCV valve is a good starting point to what caused the oil leaks to begin with; however, if he's got oil everywhere, it doesn't come out the flame trap/PCV valve... rather the trap/valve causes an oil leak elsewhere, whether it's the cam seal, main seal, or some other gasket.

Finding the flame trap is clogged is nice - you find what caused another failure - but it doesn't necessarily solve the problem of the oil leak. If you're lucky and the trap/PCV is clogged and you replace it, I've read that the problem could just "go away"... ours wasn't clogged and it didn't go away with a replacement... I'm hoping we're lucky and the cam seal (the most accessible) is where the leak is.

I also agree with Alan. The Wo-Wo is a spare car for weekends or hauling our three large hounds. If it doesn't run for a week while the seal is being "figgered out" then so what? I replaced the exhaust from aft of the headers to the tailpipe and it sat for a week and a couple days while I got the rest of the parts... a nice project and no loss.

Matt J.
03-10-2006, 12:00 PM
Oh, and to your original question: keep or not?

Keep it and use it as an educational project car.

Ross M
03-10-2006, 12:05 PM
Apparently, some models have a plug in the back of the head that will blow out if the flame trap becomes clogged.

Loss of this plug seems consistent with your sudden loss of oil and oil all over the back of the engine symptoms.

I'll bet replacing that plug cost a lot less than a head gasket or rear main!

'course, if yours is turbocharged, this probably is not the problem.


Alan D. Hyde
03-10-2006, 12:07 PM
"A man can learn as much with his hands, as he can with his eyes and ears. When a man's afraid to get his hands dirty, he becomes a mental castrato." Eddie Rickenbacker

John B
03-10-2006, 02:08 PM
He thinks with a high voice ?

John B
03-10-2006, 02:24 PM
O BTW Joe. Clean it and run it. use the peepers and find the leak. A torch can be good.Mirror on a stick sometimes helps too.

03-10-2006, 02:26 PM
I can tell you from personal experince a clogged PVC on a 240 will blow a lot of oil out the rear seal. The afore mentioned flame trap is another culprit.

Volvo's are quirky enough that you really need to take it to shop that specializes and preferably works on nothing but Volvos. more than once a $1200 problem at the local fix-em-all shop was only a $200 problem at the local Volvo Guru.

Alan D. Hyde
03-10-2006, 02:26 PM
John B., :D

Here's a link to his book, which I read as a boy.

It's now on line.

Pretty good, IIRC---





[ 03-10-2006, 02:33 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

Dan McCosh
03-10-2006, 02:42 PM
Dunno anything about Volvos, but it's kind of odd for a head gasket to leak oil--usually it leaks coolant.

John B
03-10-2006, 02:48 PM
AS IT HAPPENS,Alan, I seem to be reading aviation books ATM. I'm a serial second hand bookshop browser. Reach for the Sky( Bader) Johnnie Johnson, Dam busters. That leads on to other services of course so Monsarratts HM Corvette book is started,Battle of the Narrow seas ( MGB / MTB/ SGB), One of our Submarines ( about an S class sub. Note: My old friend turns 95 today. He commanded an S class). I have Clostermanns book ( WWI aviation) so I'll look out for Rickenbacker Thanks Alan ( although I did know who he was.)

Edit: This isn't the " what are you reading " thread is it. :eek:

Sorry Joe.

[ 03-10-2006, 02:52 PM: Message edited by: John B ]

03-10-2006, 02:50 PM
Originally posted by Dan McCosh:
but it's kind of odd for a head gasket to leak oil--usually it leaks coolant.That was my thought when I read the post. Seems more likely to be the PCV or the rear main. I've seen other Volvos have this same issue.

03-10-2006, 02:51 PM
I'm sorry. Half of me is bleeding for you. The other half remembers the posts about what a great car it was and what a deal ya got.
I'm on the fence here.
All I can say is ya get what you pay for.

I guess I will just bleed a little longer!
Does tidbit need a dinghy and a new motor? Never been used. If so, I got a deal!
And it is inflatable. You can store it on Tidbit...

[ 03-10-2006, 02:53 PM: Message edited by: uncas ]

Alan D. Hyde
03-10-2006, 03:41 PM
John, the original book was FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS published by Stokes in 1919.


03-10-2006, 03:49 PM
I'd start looking for another beater car for $1200

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 03:51 PM
Thanks for some of the info I will pass it along to my mechanic. He is a scandinavian car mechanic mostly works on Saab's and Volvos. I find him honest and knowledgeable. He mentioned a few more indications that it could be the head gasket. Like some chalking around the turbo and other places oil is likely to try to escape.

As for working on my own cars sorry a man has got to know his limitations ;) Its not a sign of weakness, some guys work on their own cars some varnish their own boats ;) I respect guys who can do both. I'm ok when it comes to a lil 4 stroke Honda outboard, but looking inside a Volvo with a turbo and belts and hoses and yadda yadda yadda its all Greek to me and make as much fun as you want. I know if I were to star fooling around under that hood it would cost me a hell of a lot more than $1,200 ;) :D

[ 03-10-2006, 03:54 PM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]

03-10-2006, 03:53 PM
Joe, if he does pull the head, make sure he pulls both (I'm assuming a V instead of a straight here) and has them machined to remove any warpage.

03-10-2006, 03:54 PM
How about fixing a seagull? tongue.gif

03-10-2006, 03:59 PM
Originally posted by uncas:
How about fixing a seagull? tongue.gif is that like fixing a cat?

Matt J.
03-10-2006, 04:01 PM
Originally posted by Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ):
...I respect guys who can do both...That would generally include all those cruisers who, like you, insist on having an iron genny along for the ride. ;)

It's really not that bad. There are some really good manuals out there for the older Volvos... pick one up, take your time, and give it a shot. Trust me, I'm no mechanic - almost mechanically jinxed, but I'm learning. The boat's Sabb (not the Swedish company but the neat "little" Norwegian motor) and now the Volvo have been most educational.

03-10-2006, 04:01 PM
Naw. Joe just had a good row when the seagull quit on him.
Took me a month to fix it and get it running again.
Then again, that midnight row was good for him.
Well, midnight! A manner of speech. I think it was more like four hours rowing around Newport Harbor looking for Uncas!

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 04:02 PM
Originally posted by uncas:
How about fixing a seagull? tongue.gif Simple untether it and let it sink buy a Honda - seagull fixed.

Oh and I have a dink for "tidbit" my Dyer Dhow "Annette" and an extra Honda 2hp 4 stroke we can hang on her transom. So I think we are set. One of the pleasures of having too many boats smile.gif

[ 03-10-2006, 04:05 PM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]

03-10-2006, 04:04 PM
Tried that Joe.
It floats!!!!!

03-10-2006, 05:16 PM
I'm with the others that dont think it is the headgasket. I find it a little odd that your mechanic does.
I think cheapo cars are really only economic if you do most work on them yourself. But then I'm not earning commission on million dollar properties. If I was I would probably lease/finance a newer vehicle.

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 05:24 PM
I think maybe I should not post car troubles on the WBF if I'm not about to attempt to fix them myself ;)

Lesson learned :D

03-10-2006, 05:27 PM
Hey, I was nice. :D

Joe (SoCal)
03-10-2006, 05:30 PM
Im going to go down and work on the boat. ;)

Paul Pless
03-10-2006, 05:30 PM
I think maybe I should not post car troubles on the WBF if I'm not about to attempt to fix them myself In that case can we turn this into a Volvo Shooting Brake thread?


03-10-2006, 05:34 PM
Hey, I like the challenge of an online diagnosis even if you dont get your hands dirty. :rolleyes:
Good luck with it.

03-10-2006, 06:28 PM
first of all, look at it this way: can you get a car that would be in similar condistion, and would satify your needs for the money that you would pend on the HG? if you can you should get a new car if you can't then you should put the money into it.

for example i bought a $400 car around the new year, since then i've replaced the radiator, theromstat, and battery, but it still is cheeper than buying a new car.

personally i would do the repair, but persue other alternitves, if it is a head gastget i find it unilkly that it would burn oil that quickly, and you can allways just add oil often.

also i would like to point out that a head gastget is not nessacaly a backyard mechanics job, esspecially if you plan to get them ground.


Del Lansing
03-10-2006, 08:45 PM
The head gasket wouldn't be the first thing I'd suspect for leaking oil; it could be, but is one of the least often sources of oil leak. Is the distributor toward the rear? if it was just replace maybe the o-ring was left out or crushed, I'd suspect that first.