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1998 Volvo V70 - Head Gasket

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
1997 - 2000 S70, S70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70, V70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70-XC
1997 - 2004 C70

1998 Volvo V70 - Head Gasket

Postby PJRiebold » 10 Dec 2006, 21:54

I have a V70 wagon with 183,000 miles - I was driving to the mountains for the day (about 125 miles into 160 mile roadtrip) when I noticed white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. I happened to be at an exit ramp when this occurred and immediately jumped off the Interstate. I parked the car, shut it off and checked the oil - sure enough (or so I think)... a blown head gasket. The oil had turned into a thick mixture, almost like a chocolate shake. Can anyone tell me with some certainty and without actually seeing the car if this in fact is a blown head gasket? What is the likliness that I did major engine damage? The car never overheated, the white smoke was apparent for only 500 feet before I pulled over and shut the car off. I never even had a warning light on the dash. I am hoping the damage is limited to just the head gasket however my next question: Does anyone know what this type of repair job costs? I just don't want to walk into the garage tomorrow only to have my bank account drained.

Any input will help. Thanks, Paula
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Postby MadeInJapan » 10 Dec 2006, 22:28

You were very very smart to cut the engine off before you started to get over-heating codes. No smoke from the engine bay? How about loss of coolant from the over-flow tank? Is the coolant brown too...like oil is floating in it? These things aren't mentioned. Usually if you have a bad head gasket, you at least have smoke coming up from under the hood...like a mixture of smoke and steam. If you do have coolant loss but no smoke from there, then you might have gotten very lucky, but then maybe not. My best guess is (since you didn't mention smoke from under the hood) that your radiator broke. Our radiators cool the engine by way of coolant and they also cool the oil. A section inside the radiator probably blew and spilled coolant into the oil and thus into your engine. This however often causes a warped head- but then it would leak and you would have smoke under the hood. Just a guess, but very plausable. Get this checked by a good indy mechanic. If you're double lucky, replacing the radiator along with flushing the coolant and engine may render your Volvo drivable again....but I would keep my fingers crossed on this one. Whatever you do, avoid the dealer...they'll try to sell you a rebuilt engine most likely, no matter what has happened to your car- several thousand dollars.

You certainly don't want a blown head gasket. Many just hang the engine up and replace it if this happens....it will cost at least a grand or more, either way. If you repair, the head has to come off (cams come off with it), so it takes special tools to hold the cams in place...timing belt comes off too. Definitely the head and sometimes the engine surface has to be milled to be flush with each other, then everything put back in. Usually during this procedure, valves and valve guides are found to be bad (sometimes from the incident that trashed the head gasket, sometimes from before) and these are replaced. If that isn't enough, the cylinder walls themselves might need milling and made true as well...a Total Engine rebuild, so many don't want to risk all of this...but won't know until the engine is opened up....Thus, it's usually cheaper and less of a risk to just buy another engine from a good reputable place that stands behind them...like www.erievovo.com

I hope the best in your situation. Good luck!
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'04 V70 2.5T Red/Taupe Some Upgrades Mobil-1
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Postby PJRiebold » 10 Dec 2006, 22:51

Thank you for all of the information! To answer some of your questions: There was no smoke from the engine bay, no loss of coolant from the overflow tank and no, the coolant is not brown, it is as green as if it were new! The only indication that something went seriously wrong was the smoke that filled up my back window and the color of the oil when I checked the dipstick (it was mustard/brown in color). I had the car on a flatbed and back in my driveway right now. If I open the coolant overflow - it looks entirely normal and if I check the oil level there is a small amount of that thick mixture on the tip of the dipstick but otherwise the oil looks clean.

Is it really that expensive to repair the head gasket? Does the above sound indicative of a blown head gasket or more like a radiator problem?

Additional info about the car - V70 Wagon GLT - front wheel drive. Don't know what other info might help you but please ask me if you need to know anything else about the car.

One known problem with the car is that the valve cover gasket was beginning to leak and I was planning the repair for next week. Could this be related? Small drops of oil on the garage floor.

Thanks so much.
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Postby JRL » 10 Dec 2006, 22:54

MORE!
It's the same amount as installing an engine, more like $2000-$2500
A BIG job and with 185K more then the car is worth
(Sorry)
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Postby pfeener » 11 Dec 2006, 00:19

Based on the symptoms you described, I think your diagnosis of a blown head gasket is correct. The white smoke out the tailpipe is indicative of large amounts of antifreeze entering the hot combustion chamber and vaporizing out the exhaust. I would diagnose the problem for sure in the following way:

1. remove the spark plugs and look for one, or two adjacent plugs that are all crudded up from the antifreeze passing through. If you find that it's definetely a head gasket.

2. Perform a "leak down" test on the cooling system. With the engine cold the cooling system is pressurized (15 - 20 lbs) and left for several hours to see if it will hold the pressure. If the pressure bleeds down you would look in the cylinders for fresh wet antifreeze or in the oil pan.

Keep in mind, water is heavier than oil and will sink to the bottom of the oil pan after the oil and water separate out.

Assuming it's a head gasket, if you can find a good indy, you may be able to get it done for under $2,000. If you or your friends are experienced DIYers, this can be done at home for a few hundred dollars in parts. Labor would be in the 20 - 30 hour range if it's your first time.
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Postby pfeener » 11 Dec 2006, 00:39

I'm not as pessamistic as MIJ. If it were my car and I dianosed it with a blown head gasket, I would replace the head gasket and have the head planned and leave it at that.
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Postby PJRiebold » 11 Dec 2006, 01:12

pfeener,

Thank you for the info. I am trying to learn as much as I can about the problem because I don't want to walk into the garage looking like an uninformed idiot. What I don't understand about this whole thing is why is the coolant in the expansion tank clean (even at the bottom)? Also, why is the expansion tank full? For example, if I blew large amounts of water through the engine (the white smoke) how come my system levels aren't diminished?

As far as the oil level and appearance being good (except for a small amount of sludge on the tip of the dipstick) - this is due to the oil and water separating and the sludge settling on the bottom of the oil pan, right?

I guess I am beating a dead horse because I was hoping to hear something a little better - like maybe this never happened :-) and it's all a bad dream.

The truth about the car is that it belonged to a friend (husband and wife) and I asked to buy it when they got rid of it. Asking for trouble I suppose but neither one of us expected this to happen. It was a commuter, hence the high miles, but always maintained and quite frankly it's in beautiful condition (or was). The price I paid for the car almost warrants me going the long dollar and making the repairs. I just never expected a $2,000 repair bill! I would hate to drop the bucks into the vehicle only to have another fiasco such as this or maybe worse.

I think I will see what the garage says tomorrow - and like you, I am a bit more optimistic and inclined to spend the cash to get the work done. After all, I really like the car.

Thanks again,
Paula
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Postby pfeener » 11 Dec 2006, 02:14

"large amounts of water" is a relative thing, but I would expect to see the level somewhat reduced, so that is curious. As to the antifreeze being still clean; not surprising especially since you didn't drive the car all that long. As to the water in the bottom of the oil pan; that's an easy thing to see. When they unscrew the oil pan plug and the first few drops begin to drip out before the plug is all the way out, if there's water there you'll see it dripping out first rather than the oil.

It's important that you take the car someplace that's actually "interested" in doing some testing and finding out what happened rather than just painting it with the broad brush of a "blown engine". If it were me I would perform the following steps.

1. drain and refill the oil and replace the filter, observing the condition of the oil for water

2. Remove the spark plugs observing the condition of each for antifreeze fouling.

3. Perform a compression test

4. perform a leak down test on the cooling system

All this should take no more than an hour or so (a little more if they wait for the leak down test results for a few hours) and cost under $200 even with the oil change.

Based on these tests and observations, you should know what your next course should be. Answer back and we'll be happy to assist you.
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Postby pfeener » 11 Dec 2006, 02:17

Another thought. It is possible to have large amounts of white smoke blow out the back without it being a head gasket. I once had a muffler blow apart internally and I laid down a white smoke screen you wouldn't believe.
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Postby MadeInJapan » 11 Dec 2006, 03:24

pfeener wrote:Another thought. It is possible to have large amounts of white smoke blow out the back without it being a head gasket. I once had a muffler blow apart internally and I laid down a white smoke screen you wouldn't believe.


But then in this case it's hard to account for the brown milkshake in the engine. That's what got me and kept me from thinking exhaust issues, although it could happen from just regular moisture. Doing the better part of a trip with mountains though would rule that out.

I agree with Pfeener about checking the spark plugs...that would be easy to do. Also, without moving the car much, an oil drain to see if water comes out...and leak down test...all good ideas. Valve cover leak....nah, don't think it would be related.
'98 S70 T5 Emrld Grn Met/Beige Tons of Upgrades Mobil-1
'04 V70 2.5T Red/Taupe Some Upgrades Mobil-1
94 850 Sedan NA Drk Blue/Tan
'00 V40 Purple/Grey Mobil-1
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Postby bobsnow100 » 11 Dec 2006, 16:32

I would bet my money on a blown head gasket. You have ports in your cylinder head which allow oil to pass through and also water passages which allow coolant to flow. When it gets breached(blown head gasket) than you may get oil mixing with the antifreeze or the other way or both. If you continued driving you would of probably seen oil in the antifreeze also.
I have a 94 850 which I had to change the head gasket due to a bad water pump which caused valves to get bent. I saved a ton of money by doing it myself. I think someone said $2000 -$3000 is quoting a price when your head is bad and your rebuilding your cylinder head,not just for a head gasket replacement. I don't think a head gasket replacement should be more than $1500,probably less.
Once it's apart you should replace the timing belt,tensioner,water pump,serpentine belt,also clean or replace pvc system hoses and oil seperator under the intake manifold. I also put new valve seals on the valves.I also had to replace 10 valves. I did do the work myself so I can't begin to estimate what I saved. If you get a used engine than you could have the same problems shortly down the road.I like fixing the original motor idea.
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Head gasket repair

Postby Emmette » 13 Dec 2006, 18:30

Just went through the process of getting the head gasket replaced on my 850 Tutbo. $1967.63..ouch...The good news is that if they do the job right and replace the timing belt,plugs.wires,ect then you basicly have a rebuilt enging when its all said and done.
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Re: Head gasket repair

Postby JRL » 13 Dec 2006, 21:05

Emmette wrote:Just went through the process of getting the head gasket replaced on my 850 Tutbo. $1967.63..ouch...The good news is that if they do the job right and replace the timing belt,plugs.wires,ect then you basicly have a rebuilt enging when its all said and done.

How do you figure?
The entire BOTTOM end has still xxx amount of miles on it, the pistons, the rings, rod bearings, etc.
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Postby MarkMc » 20 Sep 2008, 03:03

PJRiebold, Whatever happened with this?
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