Monday, April 21, 2014

Trials and Tribulations of the Volvo 850

For the uninitiated, I've taken it upon myself to get more "hands on" when it comes to car care.  I've eschewed more modern cars and embraced several older cars that are, by all accounts, exceptionally easy to care for.  My family and I own three cars:

  1. A 1991 Mazda Miata.  This was the car from which the seed of this great adventure was sown.  While this car is by no means perfect, I think I've got a small oil leak, I've done everything from a timing and accessory belt replacement to routine maintenance.  This is definitely a fair-weather car right now.  I've slammed it down an inch and tuned the suspension to be more aggressive.
  2. A 1997 Volvo 850 Wagon.  The seminal family car.  Unfortunately, the previous owners were less than careful with maintenance.  As a result, I've been replacing...well...a lot.  I've put on new rear shocks.  I've replaced the Positive Crankcase Ventilation system.  I've done routine maintenance.  This car, I don't think, has at it this good.  After taking it on a road trip to Iowa, my wife fell in love with the brand which led to...
  3. My wife's 1997 Volvo S90 Sedan.  Phased out in 1998, this car has less than 100k miles on the clock and was in excellent condition.  It needed some minor interior bits, such as broken safety lights on the doors and a tiny bit of trim.  It has also developed a bit of an oil leak of late.  I think one of the rear cam seals is failing, but I'm thinking the gaskets on the oil cooler lines have gone.
The 850, though, is the most worn of the three.  I've had a recurring issue with the Secondary Air System (SAS) as well as a lingering gas smell.  So, one day - with the help of my Father-in-Law - I replaced the three major parts of the system that could screw up the SAS.  These parts being the air pump, the check valve and the pump relay.  The issue was not resolved, which officially puts the problem out of my knowledge base.  

The lingering gas smell is related to a recall in which the heat shield surrounding the gas tank gets loose and begins to rub the connections with the tank, creating small holes.  This is, of course, a major fire hazard.  The 850 was not serviced for this recall, so, I took the car so it doesn't explode in flames for the recall and am having them check my handiwork on the SAS.

But, I have to say, I'm fairly in love with Volvo's now.  Much like VW's, these cars have a very very solid feel.  Stout, but still nimble.  If I had a gripe, it is that the car is a bit hampered by the automatic transmission - the engine has pep, and would be a hoot to drive if I weren't losing so much torque in the slush box.

As I find out more about the 850, I will let everyone here know.

Now, something a little mellow to round out the evening that appeals to my UU-ness:


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