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Dive in to Volvo 850? - 1997

kaborgenkaborgen Posts: 2
edited March 2014 in Volvo
I have recently discovered a fantastic bargain on a 1997 Volvo 850 Sedan - Automatic non-Turbo with 56K miles at a local used car lot for $10K.

After checking CARFAX I have discovered that the car was in an accident about a year ago (cannot tell from the exterior). Also, the title was never listed as a FLEET but it was listed/sold at an auction as a FLEET (hmm?).

I intend to have a diagnostic survey performed to determine whether there are any hidden mechanical problems.
-Is there anything that I should pay specific attention to? (Evap. cooler/Air conditioning/Transmission/Brakes??)

I have seen a lot of negative information regarding the reliability of Volvos (with the exception of the 850 base model), am I getting myself into a mechanical mess?

Please let me know whether you believe this could be a lemon or a dream come true.

Looking forward to becoming an official member of the Volvo family!


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    First thing I'd do is examine the title and see if it is "salvage" or "rebuilt". If so, you are paying too much for it.

    If not, it could be okay or maybe not, depending on how much damage and what the nature of the damage was. Getting checked out is a good idea.

    In any event I don't see the car as a bargain price since it has a "mark" on the record, plus it is a Fleet (rental?) vehicle. So really you should only be paying wholesale for it and that's less than what the dealer is asking. He probably picked it up for $5-6K at auction.

    The car's reliability is shown to be "average", good in most areas except electrical and brakes and body hardware (typical Volvo problems of that time).

    I'd say the car is worth $8,000 at most with a clean title, and that's what I'd offer if the mechanical checkup is good.

    This same car, perfectly clean, untouched, from one owner and in pristine shape, is maybe a $12K car, so you can see that $8K is plenty.
  • brennekebrenneke Posts: 43

    I worked at a Volvo dealership back when that car would have been new and I would like to tell you that, in my opinion, you would likey be better off with a Japanese car. The 850 was notorious for A/C problems, mostly evaporators. To change an evaporator back then was about $1500. I saw cars where new evaporators would last only 1-1/2 to 2 years! These cars are also famous for squeaks & rattles. Something else I have seen problems with is the aluminum subframe under the engine - smack a curb hard enough and you can expect to replace it for big dollars! The automatic transmissions were no screaming hell either - wasn't too uncommon to see these being replaced under warranty.

    I like Volvos, but I would say that when they went to the FWD platform, they went downhill big time.
  • bodydoublebodydouble Posts: 801
    That's interesting stuff what you said. How about the new platform that the V70, S80, S60 are based on? The S80 had quite a few problems early on, likewise with the pre-2001 V70, from what I have read.
  • johnk9jgsjohnk9jgs Posts: 1
    I have been looking at a Volvo wagon, a 1994 Turbo with 128,300 miles on it. It looks great and appears to have been well cared for. The previous owner traded it in at the local dealership. I've read that you should get 300,000 miles out of a Volvo, but I have also gotten the impression from many posts that Volvos are a maintenance nightmare.

    Could a vehicle with this, which of course is out of warranty, be anything other than an expensive venture? I had a 1957 Volvo sedan years ago that was just a wonderful automobile, fun to drive, delightfully quirky in appearance, and virtually maintenance-free. Would this 1994 wagon at $9,000 give me the same driving enjoyment or would I spend half my time taking it to the shop?

    (Note to REVKA: Is this the right place for this post or should it be a new thread, posted elsewhere?)
  • vguardvguard Posts: 78
    My Volvo 850 Sedan has been a real charm !!!

    It is the base model and has the 5-speed manual transmission (from what I read, these are a rare find). We have over 160,000 miles on our Volvo and have not experienced anything other cars would not require, with the possible exception of having to replace engine mounts every two years or so (they all don't go bad at the same time, but they do seem to fail in The Service manager here said the fact we have the 5-speed manual transmission contributes to the engine mount failure. who knows.

    The AC issue is well documented, at least in the '95 model (I don't know about any other year). We have found it cheaper to just have the AC serviced each year. If and when we strike a big enough leak to justify replacement, I assume we would spend the money ($1,000+), unless the car had other major problems at the time. Otherwise, it is still cheaper to drop a grand, than purchase a new car.

    I have said this before and I will say it again.....our '95 850 sedan is as much fun to drive today as it was when it was new (160,000 miles ago).

  • bodydoublebodydouble Posts: 801
    That's assuming they were fun to drive to begin with! :)
  • vguardvguard Posts: 78
    a '95 Volvo 850 sedan with a 5-speed manual transmission?

    They are a hoot !!!!!!!!

  • pluckonpluckon Posts: 12
    I have a turbo sedan with automatic transmission. It came with low-profile tires and 16" rims, which were a disaster. This has been a common problem among lots of manufacturers who sell cars with low-profile tires in the United States, where city streets are often in bad condition.

    There was a class-action lawsuit against Volvo on the issue (as well as against other manufacturers). I got a check for $500, which covered about half the cost of replacing the wheels and tires. Now I have 15" tires and a smoother ride and no more flats.

    The AC crapped out at 38,000 miles, 4-1/2 years into my ownership. Volvo replaced it under a "secret warranty." Now I have 60,000 miles on the car and the only problem is that the seat heaters don't work. For all I know, it's a bad fuse. I think I can let that one ride until December.

    Other than what I've mentioned, I am quite satisfied with the car. It's fast, comfortable and reliable. The ergonomics and controls are fantastic, and it's impossible to lock yourself out of the car. The climate control is great. Set it and forget it. The stereo is unbelievable.

    In some areas of the country Volvos have become very common vehicles, which has depressed the resale values. This is good news for the buyers of used Volvos. From what I've read, I think the 1995 Volvo 850 may well be the highest quality car those people built in the past 15 years, the AC issue notwithstanding.

    I'd highly recommend that year's model for a used car, but I think there were more problems in 1994 and 1996, and when they renamed it the S70 in, what, 1997 or 1998?
  • Hi,
    Does anybody know what year the 850 met the U.S. 1997 side impact standards? I am assuming they actually met the standards a year or two ahead of schedule. The NCAP site has no side impact data prior to 1997. Thanks for any help!
  • My 1995 volvo 850 station wagon non turbo 112,000 miles has had a check engine light going on for the past 3 months. The first time my mechanic hooked it up to his computer he said it was the EGR valve. That was changed and 300 miles later the light went on again. This time he said he took it to a friend of his at a volvo dealership in town and they diagnosed it as an EGR switch. That was replaced and I am now into this for about 500 dollars. 200 miles later the light went on again. I asked my mechanic if I should just take it to volvo, and he said no,, it would cost too much. He brought it to Volvo again and he told me that he should have reset the light after the part was changed and not he just reset the light and well 200 miles later guess what? The light came on again. This time it actually went off for about 50 miles on its own but now it is on again. Can anybody point me in the right direction please. I should say that the whole time that the car seems to be running fine. The only thing I do notice is that when I go to add gas, I do not hear the sound of escaping fumes when I unscrew the gas cap. Should there be a hissing sound when the gas cap is loosened? Does anyone think that replacing the gas cap will solve the check engine light problem?. I ran this by my mechanic(non-volvo) and he said no, that it would not help. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you
  • cbgrfxcbgrfx Posts: 1
    My 1996 850GLT 104K also has the same problem with the Check Engine light. Car runs fine . Dealer says gas cap code keeps setting light off and I may need about $350 in repairs to get light to go off. That was a year ago and check engine light is still on. My solution was to take a small black piece of paper and cover the light on the dashboard. If the car runs fine I wouldn't worry about the light. The computers are very sensitive and doesn't take much to set that light off. If you need to turn the light off temporarily you can always disconnect the positive cable to the battery and then re-connect it, however about 2-300 miles later the light will come back on .
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    I'm pretty sure the 850 met the side impact standards right off the bat--the 850 was basically unchanged (save minor cosmetic changes in '94) and became the S70. I'm almost positive they built '97 side impact standards in from the get-go.
  • thanks cbgrfx for your input. You say that you are getting a gas cap code. Wouldn't replacing the gas cap help? Does any one out there think that replacing the gas cap could help my situation since I don't hear pressure escaping when I loosen the gas cap?
  • don850don850 Posts: 1
    I have a 1993 Volvo 850 GLT with 198,000 mostly highway miles.I've had the car serviced regularly, and was just informed that the engine compression is too low. I was advised that engine needs to be rebuilt or replaced with another rebuilt engine ($5-6K?). Other than a few difficult starts, the car seems to drive well, it passed the NJ emissions test in May. How much longer can I expect to drive the car? The car is due for a timing belt change at 200,000 miles.
  • So here's the dilemma. I have $10k to spend on a mid-90s wagon, and I want the 850. I've been focusing my efforts on the 850GLT, and found one. It's a one-owner '95 GLT model with 88k miles, is immaculate, and the service records bear out that it's been babied for 7 years, at the dealer. It has about 80% left on the tires, new timing belt and brakes, and everything seems to be in order. They won't budge below $9800.

    I also just found a '94 Turbo with 88k, from a second owner who has no records. This one, also with new tires and very clean, has some perks the other doesn't--top-of-line trim package, CD changer in the trunk, hands-free phone set, and drives like a bat out of hell. It has some minor damage to the front spoiler and some door dings. The owner says it was the 'sport package' for '94, but I can't find any documentation that says there even *was* a sport package. (?) He's asking $9500, and I suspect will go to $9k or just below.

    My dilemma is that I've heard so many times to NOT BUY A TURBO. Everyone keeps warning me about the woeful horror of the turbo, but I have to say, it is extremely fun to drive. I'd certainly like any knowledge people have on turbo vs. non-turbo, and '94 vs. '95. Also, I've heard that the '94s had flakey electrical systems. I ran a Recall check on Edmunds, and there's a list a mile long for the '94, but virtually nothing for the '95. Any input anyone? Help!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    And I'll bet you 99% of the people who warn you against turbos never owned one.

    DON---I don't see how your engine could have low compression and still pass emissions. I am suspicious of this diagnosis. Have a shop do a compression test with a tester that makes a graph, or watch them do it. Also, can the valves be adjusted on this engine? If so, do so.

    As for the 200K mark, a car is getting pretty tired at this mileage, and I certainly would not put another engine in it under any circumstances unless it has some huge sentimental value. After 200K, all kinds of weird things can (and do) happen, either structurally or with more than usual number of failures.

    If it's just a belt, sure, you can do that, drive it to 225K-235K or so and then bail out. This is about the reasonable end of a car's life--the outside end.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Currently I am looking for a second Volvo just to go back and forth to college and home on the occasional weekend. I test-drove a 1996 850 wagon at the local Volvo dealership this weekend. It has 138k miles, and it's an automatic. Here are the known problems with it:

    Brake pedal almost goes all the way to the floor
    Pulls sharply to the right when braking from high speeds
    Harsh, and I mean, really harsh upshifts from 2nd to 3rd gear
    Smokes a little bit on startup

    The dealer's asking $8500 for it. This is the exact same Volvo wagon that I wrote to you about over the winter a while back. It was used by my acquaintance, and she put all highway miles on it until she traded this one in on a new '02 V70.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well pulling to the right and a bit of smoke on start up aren't too much to worry about (unless this is a turbo model) but the auto trans shifting is a bit worrisome, especially on a model known for transmission issues. The brake pedal must be fixed by the dealer, he can't sell a car with bad brakes.

    Also the car needs a price adjustment because of high miles and possible repair costs. I'd think around $7K-$7.5K would be more than fair, but only after a thorough inspection.

    If it's a turbo and you're getting smoke, there is turbo wear no doubt.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Luckily, this 850 is not a turbo.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Okay, so probably dried out valve stem seals then.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Then what should be done to remedy the dried-out seals?
  • The reason anyone's AC craps out every 40,000 miles is that Volvo sold these cars with no air filters for the AC system, so any and all road junk gets sucked into the compressor and fan assembly. This was highly irresponsible of Volvo, but it keeps the dealers in maintenance. You should have a filter installed for about $150-200, and it will save you on $400-500 AC motors. I couldn't believe it when my very skilled New Hampshire mechanic showed me. Volvo used to be a great company, but this was irresponsible. Also, I have a 95 Turbo and all it needs is maintenance--if you are not willing to pay for maintenance, then do not buy a Volvo.
This discussion has been closed.