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S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Help, Advice and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's extremely popular car line -- Volvo's 1990s "bread and butter" cars -- powered by the ubiquitous and durable Volvo inline 5-cylinder engine.
1992 - 1997 850, 850 R, 850 T5-R, 850 T5, 850 GLT
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S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Carly245 » 16 Jul 2011, 03:08

Hi All!
I have a 1999 Volvo S70 and it randomly goes into limp mode (arrowing flashing, battery symbol, oil can symbol). Every time I drive my car I am a nervous wreck because I never know when it will happen again; sometimes it happens months apart, sometimes weeks, sometimes days, sometimes hours, minutes, etc. The Electronic Throttle Module was replaced in 2008, and the PNP switch was replaced in May 2011, and everything was going fine since May until yesterday and today when the limp mode came back. The car also rumbles and shakes when this happens too, and the whole event takes place minutes after I am driving/running the car. I had the battery as well as the alternator replaced about a year ago. I've taken the car into the dealership about once a month, way more than I want to spend at the dealership and they have no clue every time I bring it in. Replacing the PNP switch was a shot in the dark decision made by my dad. I'm worried because when my car is hooked up to a computer it shows no codes whatsoever, and the repairman said that all of the codes have been wiped out, so they updated the software system but my car still fails to show any codes. And of course whenever I take my car in, the mechanic can never get the car into limp mode (last time he drove it 85 miles and nothing happened).
I'm having my car towed on Monday to a small Volvo repair shop to see if they can see something that the dealership could not, but, I am worried that they will be left clueless as well. It looks like the PNP switch and the Electronic Throttle Module can be thrown out of the equation, since they have been recently replaced. Any ideas?

Thanks for reading!
Carly
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby jreed » 16 Jul 2011, 11:11

Welcome to the site!
Hopefully others with more experience with automatic transmission problems will chime in with advice...
For me, I've only had the limp-home problem once about 6 years ago on my '97 850 and it was during very cold weather (20F). I "rowed" the transmission gear selector back and forth about 10 times and that helped clean up the contacts enough that I haven't had any trouble with it is since then.
1997 855 GLT (Light Pressure Turbo) still going strong. Previous: 1986 240 GL rusted out in '06, 1985 Saab 900T rusted out in '95, 1975 Saab 99 rusted out in '95, 1973 Saab 99 rusted out in '94
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Gentleman Mac » 16 Jul 2011, 11:58

I have experienced this, too, but I have not replaced the pnp yet. My best solution is to "row" the shifter back and forth rapidly, but I do it about 20-30 times with the key in position II, foot on brake. Sometimes it takes two times of doing this to clean it. I know that doesn't eliminate the cause of the problem, but it does keep it at bay for quite some time. My indy volvo mechanic doesn't know exactly what the problem is either. If anyone does know how to permanently solve this, I would love to hear it, too.
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Xilikon » 16 Jul 2011, 12:04

Even if the ETM was replaced in 2008, it could fail again if it use the same technology as the original. This can account for your issues but it's not the only cause. I'm saying this so you could consider all possibilities.
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Carly245 » 16 Jul 2011, 19:42

Thanks everyone for responding!

I don't know anything about cars, so I'm not sure what some of you mean when you say to "row" the shifter back and forth rapidly...my shifter is kind of hard to move, I have to tug on it to get it from park to reverse, so I can't imagine rapidly moving it...or am I getting this all wrong? Also my car seems to go into limp mode in all sorts of weather, maybe hotter weather more than colder weather, and it seems to happen when I haven't driven the car in 12 hours or more, when it's sitting in the hot sun, I'm not sure if that has anything to do with anything. It's just a really frustrating situation, I've loved this car until about a year ago when this all began, now it's just a very unreliable, "piece of junk" (sorry to say) that's only worth $2,000 and I've paid about $2,000 in repairs on it within the last year!
Also I am worried that the ETM went out even though it was replaced in 2008, and I'm no longer under warranty for that so I really hope that isn't it! If my car doesn't put out any codes, does this mean that the mechanic can only guess what's wrong? I'm not sure that guessing is good enough for me anymore, because this is getting a little too ridiculous! I wish this car was more like my old 1988 Volvo 240 DL station wagon, that car ran just fine for more than 20 years!
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Gentleman Mac » 16 Jul 2011, 21:42

By rowing it, we simply mean to turn the key to position II, and then move the shifter from P to 1 (the length from top to bottom of the gear selector) rapidly, or as fast as it will allow you.
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Carly245 » 18 Jul 2011, 20:07

I took my car in today, but on my way there, when I had just half a block more to go until I reached the repair shop, my car went into limp mode again! Anyway, I just got a call back saying that while there are no codes stored, the mechanics noticed that my battery cables are badly corroded and this could very well be the reason why my car goes into limp mode and shuts down, and why the "generator not charging" (battery) indicator light pops up as well as the ominous flashing arrow. So, hopefully this will fix the problem; they just didn't want to poke around and guess at what might be wrong, so I'll let you guys know if it ends up working!

Carly
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby jreed » 19 Jul 2011, 00:14

I'm delighted to hear the car acted up at almost the right time (I guess it would have been perfect if it did it just as you were pulling into the mechanic's place). If the problem is corroded electrical connections, they should be able to clean that up without too much trouble. Be sure they check the cable connections at the alternator, starter and fuse box as well.
My '97 850 had a corroded connection at the B+ terminal at the battery, which I found pretty easily, but it also had a loose bolt connecting the B+ cable to the alternator, which was a little harder to reach.
1997 855 GLT (Light Pressure Turbo) still going strong. Previous: 1986 240 GL rusted out in '06, 1985 Saab 900T rusted out in '95, 1975 Saab 99 rusted out in '95, 1973 Saab 99 rusted out in '94
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Carly245 » 29 Jul 2011, 15:42

So after I got the battery cables fixed, and after driving the car about 250 miles, it went into limp mode last night and I tried it out again this morning and it did the same thing. I tried the "rowing technique" rapidly moving the shifter back and forth and that did absolutely nothing so I have no idea what to do!

Carly
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Gentleman Mac » 29 Jul 2011, 15:51

I have had to row several times of 30-40 reps and then it starts working correctly. If that doesn't help, there is an excellent tutorial here on cleaning the pnp. Try that before replacing.
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby dcarlson12 » 29 Jul 2011, 19:17

Do you still get no DTC codes when it is in limp mode? i.e. when you limped it to the dealer, did they not find any codes?
Last edited by dcarlson12 on 29 Jul 2011, 22:00, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby BEJinFbk » 29 Jul 2011, 19:31

I think you may have already answered your own question.
You stated that you have nasty battery cables. They may need replacement.
These cars are getting old enough that unseen damage to the cables may be
affecting how well your car keeps the battery charged and the system voltage up.

Since you have an electronically controlled engine and transmission, weird things
will start to happen if you don't provide good, solid power. Check ALL of your
cabling and be sure that the battery and alternator are up to snuff.

And if the dealership wasn't keen enough to check this out, you might consider
looking for a good, independent Volvo mechanic for a quote. Unlike some dealerships,
those indy guys stay in business because they know what they're doing.

Good Luck!
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby Carly245 » 30 Jul 2011, 23:14

All of the codes in my car have been wiped out, and they have been for a while. My dad was on the internet and he found some articles about how replacing either the battery or the alternator (I had to do both about a year ago) can result in an accidental code wipe out, and coincidentally all of these problems happened after I got my battery and alternator replaced. So the Volvo dealership doesn't know what to do, and I took my car to an indy guy who exclusively services Volvos, and the answer I keep getting is, "Well since there's no codes, we don't know what is wrong, we don't know where to start." So they fixed the obvious thing which was the corroded battery cables, and I would hope that they checked all the connections to the battery/alternator as well. So it's just been a long run of trial and error, and I'm taking this car into a very reputable mechanic on Monday, Volvos aren't their specialty, but they've been around for over 30 years and if these guys can't can't figure it out, then I'm done!
Maybe I should ask this question: if your car's codes have been completely wiped out, how can you get them back? But I'm afraid I already know what the answer is....
Thanks everybody for helping me out!
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Re: S70 Loves to Be in Limp Mode, Dealership Clueless

Postby BEJinFbk » 30 Jul 2011, 23:48

Again -Before you go any farther, be sure the the electrical supply is stable.
Battery, Alternator, Cables - Everything. Especially the B+ supply cables that run
from the battery to the fuse boxes. This doesn't require any codes, just common sense
and the knowledge and ability to use simple meters. It aint rocket science... :roll:
A mechanic that knows the ropes should be able to do this in minutes.

Unfortunately, it seems like there are more and more wrenchers out there that
have never learned about the basics. They've become so dependent on "codes"
and repair software, that they don't know how to check the obvious.
But be assured, the good guys are out there! :wink:
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