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Volvo 850 maintenance and repair issues



  • aemmeaemme Posts: 1
    I own an 850 GLT 93 (sedan) with all options except traction control, which I bought in March 93. All these years I loved to drive the car, had all safety and luxury features I liked, and it was a major class difference to my former 85 740 (under-powered, RWD). Today I have 102'000 miles on the 850 and specially over the last 18 months I see more problems coming up. Needed a new radiator at 85'000 miles and at 86'000 miles A/C system started to fail. After refills and dye, it was determined that evaporator had to be replaced. Was reluctant to do this costly repair. Now at 101'000 miles the water pump was leaking, which I had replaced, of course. Even with all services performed as scheduled, I think car has not a terrible repair history, but worse than average (see also consumer union reports). After nearly 16 years of driving Volvo, I will return back to BMW.
  • akuma1akuma1 Posts: 37
    Is there a fix for the A/C problem? What's the going price for a '93 850GLT?
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    ...on the brickboard ( ) it seems A/C was a pretty big issue with the early (pre-95) 850s. Condenser replacements seem to be really common; that you've gotten eight years of use out of yours, I think, is pretty good. I wonder if A/C in general is a weak point on all Volvos; I just picked up a pristine '89 740 (RWD doesn't bother me) that had just had a brand new A/C system (converted to R134a) put in by the previous owner. Ironically, a new water pump, too. The car's got 102,000 miles.
  • mikenkmikenk Posts: 281
    I recently traded in my 1994 Volvo 850 turbowagon with 80K miles for a new Subaru Outback. I had planned on keeping the Volvo for 100K+ miles. I reviewed my repair costs on it over the the last few years and it was quite bad: steering column, power seats, ac problem, turbo oil leaks, motor mounts, lots of front brake problems. During the same time frame on my 1993 Toyota Supra; repair = $0.00)

    I talked to an independent Volvo specialist as to what to expect in the next 30,000 miles. He said probably the evaporator ($1500), the rear oil seal ($1500), the transmission ($?), the radiator, and some other big ticket that I forgot.

    In my opinion, the engine on these cars are very durable, including the turbo, but's it's overall reliability and the cost of ownership is very high. I enjoyed the car but not at that price.

  • elmanelman Posts: 1
    My 1997 850 GLT w/60k purchased last year used, got 3rd party warranty which seemed comprehensive. A/C now works intermittently. Repair shop where I bought it tried to fix it once, it blew its freon while driving away. They now say it's high-pressure switch ($80) and the electronic control unit ($800), both of which the warranty company say aren't covered. I was prepared for the evaporator to go (common in 850s) but not the ECU. Will replacing the high-pressure switch only maybe do the trick? Thanks fo any help.
  • From what I have been reading below my maintenance experience has been fairly good compared to others. Under warranted had electrical cut out engine speed while driving. Fixed. Now fine. Only big ticket items I paid for were: the AC evaporator at 88,000 miles and replaced brake front rotors at 70,000. Car has been solid otherwise. Am now at 100,000. Is it worth keeping another for 25,000 or should I trade for something more reliable?
  • On a few occassions now our 97 850 GLT wagon has failed to start. It won't even try to turn over. When it does this, nothing electrical in the car works. Not the power door locks, not any interior lights, nothing. Then a few minutes after this happens, everything works fine. One of the times it didn't start, the hazards started flashing, and wouldn't shut off. Has anybody experienced anything like this?
  • symatsymat Posts: 3
    Hello, all. This is my first message. In recent weeks I've become somewhat acquainted with used Volvo 850s, mostly online, because we are looking for a first car for our daughter (the prospect of her driving at all terrifies me). Despite messages I've read about them being problematic, we are going to by an automatic. I have a few general questions that my husband and friends can't answer, so it occurred to me to register here and ask them. Any help will be much appreciated.

    1. Are we better off with older model with fewer miles (eg, '83 with 120K) or newer model with more miles (eg, '85 with 169K), assuming other aspects of the car to be about equal? Also, are highway miles really much better than non?

    2. Does anyone know if traction control really helps in snow/ice? We live in Maine, and I had intended to buy Subaru AWB until I investigated crash results, in which Volvo is way better. Should we figure on studded tires?

    3. Would the acceleration on a 5-cycle 1983 be sufficient to be safe for a new driver?

    Thank you all for taking the time to answer, if you do. This is a great use of the Internet, I think.
  • symatsymat Posts: 3
    Hi, I just want to correct year in my question #3 above. I'm wondering about 1993 (not 83) 850.

  • symatsymat Posts: 3
    I'm so embarrassed, but I just reread my message #59, and I mis-wrote 83 and 85 there also in question 2. I mean 94 and 95.

    Sorry. Thanks.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    If you're looking between a newer model with higher miles vs. an older model with less miles, I'd say it's more important to look at the maintenance history of the cars. Proper maintenance is more important, IMHO, than what's on the odometer. 1993 was a unique year for the 850 in the US; it was the 850's first year here but it had already been out in Europe for a year; several minor changes were made in 1994. Therefore, 1993 850s will have a few unique parts to them, which might make finding some parts, like four-lug wheels vs. five lugs on later models, headlight assemblies, and a few body parts, difficult. Traction control is very good to have in the snow, but I think you'd be doing your daughter a disservice by getting her first car with traction control. If she learns to drive a car with traction control, she'll be used to having that "crutch" to lean on. If she then subsequently gets a car without it, she'll not know how to handle low-traction situations. I feel the same way about automatic transmissions, but that's a different subject entirely. Good snow tires, however, are important. Also, the traction control can be switched off in a Volvo; it would be good to at least turn it off in a parking lot or somewhere similar and teach her how to control a vehicle in the snow without it.

    Highway miles: Yes, highway miles are better; they put much less strain on a car, not just the engine, than continuous stop and go driving. Having said that, however, it's difficult to prove that the miles on a car are indeed "highway" miles and not "rallying up Mt. Washington" miles.

    Power- The 850 5 cylinder has more than enough power for a new driver, even in non-turbo form. In fact, make sure you buy a non-turbo; it's just one less thing to worry about--less stress on the engine, and turbos, when they fail, are upwards of a thousand dollars to replace.

    As always, make sure any car you buy has been thoroughly inspected by a specialist mechanic. In New England, Volvo mechanics are not hard to find.

    For more information than you ever wanted to know about Volvos, check out

    They've got tons of useful information on all models of Volvos. Good luck.

  • dwinerdwiner Posts: 13
    Does anyone know how critical it is to replace the timing belt at 70K miles? I've heard that when it fails in this engine, it can cause a piston to smoosh the valves. Is it likely to fail at 75K or 80K or 100K if not replaced when suggested, or is this another recommendation that is made to absolutely guarantee that it does not fail prior to the recommended service interval, and it will likely last for another 50K miles? Is there a way to check the condition of the belt without performing much of the labor required to replace it anyway?
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308

    That goes for any interference engine design, not just Volvos. Actually, I think the interval is 60k miles. Better to get it done and spend a little money now, or take the gamble and probably lose (I would NOT want to be paying the bill to rebuild a Volvo engine.)
  • javadocjavadoc Posts: 1,167
    I agree with Lancer on this, don't skip this service. The actual "book" time for the timing belt on a '96 is in fact 70k miles, although a few years do spec at 60k for this service (I think the '93s even say 30k). The motors on the 850s are "contact" motors, meaning if the belt breaks, the valves make contact with the pistons, which translates into contact between your platinum card and the mechanic, to the tune of about $4000. It's always prudent to change this belt early. Expect to pay $2-300 for this service at a competent shop, and make sure you use the Volvo belt and not a corner parts store belt.

    I've heard of many, not a few, 850 belts braking between 70k and 80k, so I'd not dare risk this. I changed mine @ 60k, and I have a '96 Turbo.

    my $.02.

  • If my a/c is not working (I've had it charged a couple of times, but it barely lasts half the summer) and dye added didn't show leaks, how do you know if it's the condenser or the evaporator? Garage told me it was probably condenser (to the tune of $600). Two months later my a/c is out of juice. I've noticed a lot of a/c problems with 850's. Are others also having problems? Recommendations? Just keep charging it (garage charges $90 each time!)? Replace the evaporator? I don't understand the difference between the two parts. Help would be appreciated. Any good mechanics in Mpls-StPaul area?
  • justinjustin Posts: 1,918
    for a 200o model S70. Out of the normal one, and the GLT, is there one that is more reliable than the other? The GLT has more power, but is the turbo going to be an issue? Since the S70 was the last year, do all of the bugs seem to be worked out from the older 850's?


    I really don't like the S60. No one makes a boxy car anymore, so I figure late model used S70 would be a good buy...
  • dwinerdwiner Posts: 13
    Do any of you have instructions for replacing the stabilizers for the cargo door on a 1996 850 wagon? It sure was easy on the 740 when they were exposed!
This discussion has been closed.