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Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Help, Advice, Owners' Discussion and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's stylish, distinctive "P2" platform cars.

2001 - 2007 V70
2004 - 2007 V70 R
2001 - 2007 XC-70
2001 - 2009 S60
2003 - 2007 S60 R

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Re: Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Post by SuperHerman »

I will address a few of you questions:

First the brother's Lexus - the dealership listed the parts replaced and the labor - all prices shown. The prices for labor of course are crazy high. The price of the parts are way over MSRP - lately all dealers seem to mark prices up 20% or more over what the maker recommends. This is the same with my wife's 2016 XC90.

On to your engine. On my 2001 XC70 that had a blown head gasket. I pulled the head and started measuring and examining things. First thing to look at is the block. The deck has to be flat or within spec. If it is not I would stop and source a new engine. Then look at all of the cylinder walls - there should be no gouging and the bore should be consistent. On mine with about 170k at the time, I could still see the original honing marks. The bores were within spec. This tells you the engine bottom end is in fine condition as well as the pistons/rings are in good condition.

Dropping the pan, in addition to allowing one to clean up all the sludge and replace the o-rings, it allows one to measure the play in the bearings. This tells you the bottom end is still in good condition. If you want to go further you can take out a few rod caps and visually inspect the bearings and crank for wear.

At this point you have spent no money, just time. If things don't look good source a new engine. If the examination is positive attack the head.

For my head, and all heads I have sent to my machine shop, I get charged about $100 for the mill work to have it flattened and cleaned. A head gasket set is about $200 from FCP. The set contains every seal you are going to touch, including the valve stem seals. To lap the valves one needs about $20 in paste and tools. You may need to buy or rent a valve spring tool, but you can make your own. It takes time, but it is not a bad job. If you like baseball, turn on the tube or radio and listen and go at it. It is not a messy job and rather relaxing. Like I mentioned earlier, the valves are used in a large number of Volvo cars, so you can try to source used ones to save cost. Once the head is off you can remove each valve and find which ones are bent and need to be replaced.

Overall if you start with a solid game plan it is not a bad project. The plan should include doing the PCV and timing belt kit at the same time, plus any hoses you find that need replacing. Once the head is off, everything is right there and easy to replace as the "access" work is duplicated throughout. It just becomes a couple extra hours and parts costs.

I would suggest first is to source a replacement used engine in the event the engine is trash. If the cost is still interesting to you then buy the car and move to pulling the head. Once the head is off start looking at its condition. Drop the pan and do more looking. Once content it is viable take apart the head, order parts, and send it to be machined. [Not sure what you have for a mill, but watch some videos on milling heads and decide if you are properly equipped. To be honest you may not even need to mill it as you didn't have an overheat. Best practice is to do it as the price is not bad and it will make for a superior repair.] Basically you want to replace everything you can while the head is off and access is easy. While you are waiting for parts clean everything you can and get ready for reassembly.

As to the suspension. On one XC70 I went with used complete struts from a low mileage donor. They lasted over 60k before I sold the car. On another one I bought new struts and spring seats and re-used everything else. Suspension arms and links wear like any other car. I would replace as needed rather than do entire areas as who knows the future on higher mileage cars.

I don't find the electronics any less reliable on the Volvos than on Japanese cars. In fact, Volvo uses a Japanese transmission.

Overall it is all about planning - it is a large project to do the engine, but not bad. Plan it right and you can knock off 95% of all maintenance issues at the start and be good for 100k miles. For modules, used is your friend, but you have to do some reading on what can be swapped out without dealer programing.

My brother's old Camry of similar year had oil ring issues and a shot transmission at 150k miles. He had the car serviced per requirements at the dealer. His shocks and struts were also gone at this mileage.

Overall the XC70 is a very nice riding wagon. It wears just like any other car. The engine design is more robust than most, but the PCV maintenance and belt change is a must.
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Re: Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Post by abscate »

You won't escape the 10-25 cpm maintenance cost on any car, with the lower being the owner labor and the upper limit bring all mechanic labour.

Volvo is not a brand to buy and drive as a beater, parts are too expensive.

Cars over 10 years old reflect their history, not brand. The idea the Asian brands escape this is false.
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Re: Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Post by E Showell »

I also replaced the front brake calipers. The car now has 175k miles and has been an utterly reliable daily driver. It has been roundtripped to Maine, 820 miles, and back and forth to D.C. , 400+ mile round trip, without incident. Getting almost 28 mpg combined, with 70 percent highway, sometimes at 80 mph.

So, for me, it surpasses beater status.
'98 V70 NA FWD 5 spd, silver sand metallic (sold)
'99 V70 NA FWD Auto, dark blue (sold)
'99 S70 NA FWD Auto, black (sold and resurrected -- Don't cry for me Argentina . . . )
'07 S80 3.2 FWD Auto, Barents Blue Metallic
'06 V70 R AWD Auto, Sonic Blue Metallic
'04 XC70 Ruby Red Metallic
'95 855 auto (sold)
'86 245 manual (sold)
'05 V70 T5 M (totalled)
'06 V70 FWD Auto (totalled)
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