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Volvo 850 maintenance and repair issues



  • asfan1asfan1 Posts: 4
    I have had intermittent a.c. problems with my 95 volvo 850 turbo for the last couple of years. I had the freon recharge several times and the a.c would work for a little while and then it would stop working. My mechanic, in consultation with the volvo dealer determined that indeed the evaporator was the problem. My mechanic changed the evaporator and showed me where it was leaking. The price was appx. one thousand dollars. It involved appx. 10 hours of labor. They had to remove almost the entire dash to get to the evaporator. I have read many reports of evaporator problems with the 850. My mechanic offered some consolation by offering that if this was a mercedes or BMW, the cost would be double. Five hundred dollars to do the repair, I don't think so.
    After the repair, the a.c. works as well as it worked when I bought the car.
  • vguardvguard Posts: 78
    The mechanic I use (Volvo dealer in KY) also told me the A/C in my model is known to have a leakage problem, after I complained about it not working as well as it did in the past. In fact, while I was talking with him, he pointed out another 850 across the bay that was having the A/C replaced. The guy working on that car had the entire dash out and had been working on it all day. He also said it was a $1,000 job.

    I decided to just recharge my system right before summer, as the cheaper alternative. At the time, I was due for a complete brake job (pads and rotors), so I was in no mood for another $1,000 service bill.

    This problem is common, at least with the 1995 model, due to inferior parts. However, it always seems to start leaking "out of warranty", so the owner is stuck with the entire bill.
  • khoonkhoon Posts: 85

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Its been hot in NYC, and I've been using my a/c since it was charged last week. Guess what? It works like new!!!

    I'm now wondering whether my evaporator was really ever damaged/defective? Or, perhaps, it has a slow leak. In which case I'd rather pay $100 per season to recharge, assuming that the freon will last through the summer - rather that than dole out $1100.

    I'd like to hear your opinions/views.
  • pluckonpluckon Posts: 12
    My 1995 850 A/C went out just after warranty expired, and the dealer replaced it for free. (Lucky me, otherwise it would have been $1,200.) Don't think you can get by with recharges. The system leaks, and the recharges will last a week or two, tops.
  • 850shopper850shopper Posts: 2
    On Saturday, a salesman at a dealership in N. Cal. showed me a '97 854 GLT w/72K miles, and an engine compartment that had obviously been steam-cleaned. There appeared to be a small bit of oil scum on the bottom of the oilpan, but everything basically looked OK. So far so good. But then I asked to see the car's service history, or at least a record of the 60K major service, and I got an answer along the lines of, "Well, this was a lease turn-in. We have no records and can't get them. But trust me--we reconditioned everything." A CarFax title search shows it was registered as a commercial lease vehicle in 1997.

    No matter how bulletproof Volvo engines may be, I don't think this is good enough to warrant the $1.5K over KBB retail he was asking.

    I'd like your thoughts on whether this is a "walk away" problem, or just a "negotiate down" situation. The lack of records and commercial registration make me suspicious. His story sounds silly to me--I can't believe there is no service record anywhere. Is his story likely? Is there any significance to the commercial registration?

    I told him that his dealership should stand behind its reconditioning with a one-year warranty, and he only acknowledged it as a possibility when I started walking off the lot. I'm thinking of offering him around $5K less than his asking price, unless he can prove that this vehicle hasn't been abused. Am I out of line?

    Thanks in advance. I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions.
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883

    "commercial lease vehicle" probably means that it was leased to a company.(More like it was leased to some corporate executive who ran it through the business) So really nothing abnormal there.


    $1,500 over KBB? With 72K? Sounds like a $11K or so wholesale and $13,500 retail car to me...

    Somemore info would help. Color, etc... Where the car is at..etc..

    As far as service records go, when my customers drop off their lease returns it's funny. They are standing there, talking to their salesperson, and grabbing everything with their name on it out of the glovebox. Can't say that I blame them...

    Feel free to e-mail me...

    Bill (No... not with a volvo dealer any more...)
  • surferdavesurferdave Posts: 1
    I'm a first time Volvo buyer. Found a '95 850 turbo for sale at a non-Volvo dealer w/ 90k miles, all options, good condition. I know Volvo are famous for their safety/reliability. But is this a good buy at $9,000? What should I look out for in terms of mechanical problems? I've been learning a lot from these postings. Greatly appreciate any advice from Volvo/850 owners.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I wouldn't recommend ANY Volvo 850 older than 1997. You'd be well advised to stay away from these older 850s at any price.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Why's that, Shifty? I've been under the impression that '96 was a good year as well. I know the '93-'95s has A/C problems, mostly. What else is there to look out for? As you well know, I'm hoping to eventually get one, or if I can afford it, a '98 S70.
  • pjinpjin Posts: 1
    I bought a 1994 850 Turbo sedan. I have had more problems with this vehicle than any other vehicle I have ever owned! This car has many electrical problems. There are always lights appearing on the dash, electrical malfunctions etc.

    For a Car that is "Supposedly" really reliable, I sure got shafted!!

    Seriously, go to ANY Volvo dealership and you all can see for yourself. If this car is so reliable, how come the damn Repair lines are so long!!??? Do NOT Buy the 800 Series Volvo! Trust me!
  • vguardvguard Posts: 78
    Although I will admit the A/C issue bothers me. I have a very small (but growing) leak in my system that so far, recharging has maintained. It is only a matter of time however before I will need to make a decision on whether to fix the A/C (a $1,000 job), or sell the car. With 135,000 miles so far, I just love driving this automobile, so unless some other major issue comes up, I suspect I will fix the A/C and try for another 135,000 miles.

    And for those who confuse "long repair lines" with reliability, what they don't understand is Volvo owners follow "scheduled maintenance", vs. the normal car owners approach of "fix it when it won't start any more".

    I take my Volvo in and have belts, etc changed out "before" they go bad. The timing belt is the best example of this "preventive" type care. Volvo schedules it to be changed out every 70,000 miles. I get a little more "preventive" by having mine changed out at 60,000 miles.

    The net result of following a "scheduled" program is my car has never failed to start, or broken down (knock on wood) since I purchased it new in 1995 (135,000 miles later).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I know a lot of people in the used car and repair business, and they are generally down on the car. Now these are guys "in the trenches" who see a lot of them. One of my friends who owns a very successful lot, has forbidden his wholesalers to even bid on one, much less bring them home from auction, if they are 96 or older. Perhaps he is over-reacting, but when I asked him he said "been burned too many times". Not to single out Volvo, however. He has a number of cars on his S-list besides that particular model of Volvo (Jaguar and certain domestics to name a few) . He very much likes some other Volvo models as well.

    My experience with them has been the aforementioned a/c issues, also the automatic transmission appears to be showing an abnormal failure rate, and quite a few of general quality control issues. I have taken the time now and then to stop an 850 owner and ask him /her how she likes the car, and usually I get a mixed response. I have never gotten a "rave".

    So that's all I've got to contribute. Not the best data, but it is interesting I think.

    Were I in the market for one, I'd certainly do as much research as I could on consumer survey data.
  • vguardvguard Posts: 78
    When I purchased my '95 850, I had to search in order to find what I turbo, manual transmission, no sunroof, no leather, no alarm system, etc....

    In other words, perhaps the main reason mine has been so good to me (excluding the a/c issue), is because I don't have any options on my model (less to go wrong).

    We knew we would be putting many miles on this car, so we wanted the "base" model, with no frills. (we even got the steel wheels vs. alloy).

  • About two weeks ago the horn on my 1994 850 started sounding off on its own. I had my mechanic disable it. He declined to do more because of the air bag. He advised me to see dealer. I went to Volvo of Winter Park and they suggested, based on what I described, that I need a new steering wheel. That sounds strange to me. I mean, do people, actually replace steering wheels? Anyway, the price will be at least $400 for the part, according to dealer. Any suggestions? The car has 123,475 miles. I was hoping to keep it to 250,000 miles. I grew up during a time when people bragged about the mileage they got wih Volvos.I had to replace the transmission about two years ago, at 100,000 miles. I have an appointment with dealer on Saturday, so any advice I can get today will be much appreciated it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    yeah, people got lots of miles out of their volvos, but those cars were also very tired and shabby (I remember, I saw tons of them) and probably the horns didn't work then either!. I think people expect and demand much more out of their new cars than our hippie parents did 25 years ago. I suspect (just my own speculation here) that volvo drivers were more tolerant of the car's failings (exhaust system, u-joints, timing gears, broken speedometers) back then and as long as it kept running (which it would do) all the other stuff falling off didn't matter so much.
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    Old, yellow, rusty Volvo wagons are the war wagon of choice for sailors around here. Gotta be 100 of 'em in the yacht club parking lot here every weekend! LOL
  • Thanks for your advice, Brentwood. I passed for a number of reasons, not least of which was that the salesman refused to move very much on price. I don't know if he was trying to feel me out as a serious buyer or what, but he lost my business.

  • spend2mchspend2mch Posts: 2
    I went to back my car out of the driveway and it shifted into reverse but would not reverse. I could easily move the shifter but could not feel anything "engage" when putting it in reverse. Did not try drive as I was in my garage. I had it towed to a repair shop (authorized Volvo repair) and he said the tow truck had problems getting it out of the garage because it seemed to be stuck in gear. The mechanic looked at it and he said it seemed to be stuck between two gears and he had never seen this problem. Anybody else heard of this? It sounds like more than just a normal transmission problem. HELP! No warranty, of course. It has 80,000 miles which seems kind of "new" to be having this problem.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, this is not uncommon (standard trans I presume?) and I have heard of it happening to Volvos, although not one quite as new as yours. Something fell out of place in the gearbox, some "dog" probably that is supposed to keep the gears aligned while shifting. I'm afraid at 80K you are going to eat whatever the repair is, so get yourself ready. I really hope I'm all wrong and a tap of the hammer will cure it. Also possible that they can fix this by removing the trans but not disassembling it.

    Keep us informed.
  • spend2mchspend2mch Posts: 2
    Thanks for response. It's an automatic transmission with a price tag of $3,000-using an authorized Volvo repair shop, not the dealer. Dealer was approx $4,000. "Tap of the Hammer" would do you mean by that? Should he take it off and then put it back in and try it? (Sorry if I sound totally naive to how long this would take, but I have no idea!) I don't think he was going to disassemble it. I think he was just going to replace it with a new (actually rebuilt from Volvo) one. I asked if he would be able to tell me what had happened once he took it out and he said no, it was something internal and unless I was willing to pay him to take it apart, I guess I would never really know. Didn't really like that answer but I guess sometimes there's no reason to why something happens. Should I prepare myself for other things to start "going out"? What other major thing could go out?
  • 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.
This discussion has been closed.