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Engine overheated and won't start

Help and Advice on Volvo's extremely popular car line, powered by Volvo's nearly indestructible, versatile inline 5-cylinder engine.
1992 - 1997 850, 850 R, 850 T5-R, 850 T5, 850 GLT
1997 - 2000 S70, S70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70, V70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70-XC
1997 - 2004 C70

Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 25 May 2013, 17:53

My wife was driving the car and suddenly experienced white smoke coming from the exhaust and then from under the hood. She pulled over and shut the engine off. When she tried to restart the car after a time, it wouldn't start so we had it towed home. I did some investigative work and found an apparent leak in the cooling system. The carpeting and floor mats were soaked with coolant on the drivers side and I found a hairline crack in the heater hose coupling that caused the problem. I replaced the coupling and refilled the system with coolant but, when I crank the engine, it sounds different and more high-pitched. I followed the guidance on the site for doing a compression test. Unfortunately, I had to do the test on a cold engine because it still won't start. Got readings of zero in all cylinders. But I'm not sure the readings are valid. When I pulled the plugs, only #3 was dripping with oil. Also pulled the dipstick, which looked full and clean with no coolant in it. Any thoughts on why the car won't start other than no compression?

At this point, I am not sure if this is conclusive evidence that the problem is a blown head gasket, warped/cracked head, etc. but, with a clear case of engine overheating, fear this may be the case. I think I could do a head gasket replacement but am concerned about other damage caused by the high heat such as seal damage or harm to the lower engine. I'd like to get your thoughts on things to think about before embarking on a major repair like this. I wouldn't want to do a head job only to have a bunch of other issues come up later. The car has 233,000 miles and has always run well. Of course if I took the head out, I would have it looked at by a qualified machinist and rebuilt. Any thoughts and comments would be appreciated.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby mikealder » 25 May 2013, 18:30

What state is the cam belt in - Mike
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 25 May 2013, 19:02

I just replaced the timing belt, along with the water pump.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby polskamafia mjl » 26 May 2013, 01:17

So the water pump didn't fail in the process and destroy the timing belt?
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 26 May 2013, 02:01

No, that was one of the things I closely inspected after the problem and both and both are fine.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby Pauloil » 26 May 2013, 02:16

WHEN you put key in Pos.II , do you have fuel at the cap? maybe you need to put a bit of oil into each cylinder and hold gas pedal down while cranking it to start it.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby Ozark Lee » 26 May 2013, 03:09

I replaced the coupling and refilled the system with coolant but, when I crank the engine, it sounds different and more high-pitched


Dump a teaspoon of oil into each cylinder, replace the plugs and see if it will start. Do it outside because after it starts it will smoke heavily for several minutes. It may stutter and spit a bit but keep cranking until the engine will run on its own.

...Lee
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 26 May 2013, 14:55

I checked the schrader valve and there is fuel at the injectors. I followed the advice and put a little oil in each cylinder. The first couple cranks sounded closer to normal, like the engine had compression again, but after that went back to the sound it was making before. Still wouldn't start. In an ominous sign, I notice a drop or two of green coolant on the tip of the #5 plug when I pulled it again, although the car had been sitting for a week or two since I first pulled the plugs.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby wheelsup » 26 May 2013, 14:57

1995 850 GLT Wagon w/ 175,000 miles
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 26 May 2013, 15:58

I don't disagree about a known new engine vs. head rebuild but I am struggling with the age of the car (14 years) and miles on it (233,000) and whether to invest further. I have always been a DIY guy and kept the car going this long but am concerned about all the other things that could go wrong (i.e. lower engine, transmission, exhaust, starter, oil pump, etc.) and the expense of fixing vs. buying another new or used Volvo. This is more of a philosophical debate I realize but you have all faced it at one time or another. Any and all thoughts are welcome.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby E Showell » 26 May 2013, 18:18

I have so been down this road, and recently too. I'm on my second used engine -- 2nd was a warranty job and then the exhaust system went to the tune of about $600 for a full system replacement. The only, and I repeat, only thing that made me dump more cash into mine is that it is a five speed. If it were a dime a dozen auto trans and I had the garage space, I would have attempted to scrape a few bucks together by parting it out. I would run away (best Monty Python voice) and not look back.

Plus, yours is a '99 which means you're ultimately going to have throttle body issues -- even more reason to run quickly and don't look back.

Here's a tip for some extra cash when parting it out, though. My local scrap yard gave me $70 bucks for my shot CAT converter when I replaced the exhaust system.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby jlindse1 » 26 May 2013, 19:01

Thanks for your thoughts, which further reinforce my initial instinct. I have done the usual major fixes required of this year/model such as the evaporator/heater core, ABS module, radiator, timing/serpentine belts, water pump, wheel hubs, brake calipers, and throttle body issue (done by a Volvo Dealer 3 or 4 years back at no cost to me) but it's what I haven't done yet that worries me. I also have a 2006 S60 with 80,000 miles that will start needing more attention.

Thanks for the tip. Your thoughts are appreciated.
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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby Marcobrick » 26 May 2013, 23:38

If you have done all that other work to it getting the evap, brakes, suspension, and etm sorted, it may be worth a used engine (assuming the body and interior are good) otherwise for me the only models I would bother with serious engine work on are the special ones like 850R, T5R, V70R and then only if the body and electrics are any good.
At the end of the day, only YOU know what the car is worth to you.

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Re: Engine overheated and won't start

Postby E Showell » 27 May 2013, 11:14

Bear in mind, with that work having been done, my advice is completely different if you are a capable wrench and will drop a known good used mill in yourself. In that case, the numbers may add up. Otherwise, they don't.

Let's play a little math game. Known good used engine might be obtained for $750-$1,000 plus say $100 shipping. You don't know what kind of shape the used mill is in, or what the true mileage was on the vehicle it came from. It will be a similar vintage engine which means the internals are just as old as your current ones.

Labor to put it in is going to be about 15 - 18 hours at whatever your local independent charges. I am in a high cost area of the country so that number is $95.00/hr. (as opposed to about $135/hr. for a dealer). There will be a fist full of miscellaneous parts needed to do the engine swap, seals, gaskets, timing belt, tensioner, etc. Figure those will run you about $200-$300. So, you are already up to say $3,100.

The car, with that kind of mileage, regardless of what other regular maintenance you've already taken care of, on a good day is a $2,000 car, and that would be if it were running perfectly. Right now, it's a $500 car.

Parting it out, depending on what shape the body panels and seats are in could easily bring you north of $1,000, plus $300 from the scrapper when he comes to dispose of the shell.

Only you know whether those numbers work for you, but I'm not far off on the math -- trust me, I know these numbers well.
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