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1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible 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

TBrown00
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1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by TBrown00 » Mon May 04, 2015 3:04 am

Lately I've been having to add oil much more than usual, but haven't had a chance to search for a leak. After changing the oil tonight and going for a short, 50mph drive, I believe I was able to locate the leak. It appears to be coming from the area near cylinder 4 below the intake manifold and running down the outside of the block from there. It seems like it could be coming from where the lower half of the head and the block meet at cylinder 4.

When I changed the oil, there was no indication of any coolant mixing with it. I've had a mysterious coolant leak as well, but it appears to be from the passenger side of the radiator. I noticed white residue there and when I got back from my test drive, coolant was evaporating through the grille and a puddle was forming on the ground. Over the course of a day of driving and the car sitting all night last week, I lost almost all of my coolant in the reservoir. The car has 175k miles on it.

Could this oil leak be from the head gasket and be external only? The car has never been ran above normal operating temperature or overheated and the coolant temp sensor is accurate according to live data from my scan tool. I was able to feel the 2 connections on top of the oil trap and they're secure, but the oil appears to be coming from closer to the driver's side anyway. (I'm hoping it isn't the head gasket and haven't heard of an external leak from one before, but it seems like it might be coming from that area). I can post pics if that'll make it easier, I just didn't get any since it's in a tight/awkward area.
Last edited by TBrown00 on Mon May 04, 2015 3:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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abscate
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by abscate » Mon May 04, 2015 3:09 am

How many miles are on the car? That is an odd oil leak but if you can see it, it's pretty definitive. Maybe look with a fiberscope to make sure it isn't PVC related
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by TBrown00 » Mon May 04, 2015 3:14 am

abscate wrote:How many miles are on the car? That is an odd oil leak but if you can see it, it's pretty definitive. Maybe look with a fiberscope to make sure it isn't PVC related
Sorry, it just hit 175k (updated the OP to add this).

Where would I be looking on the PCV? Around the oil trap area? I don't have a fiberscope, but it looks like I can pick one from Amazon pretty cheap.

Thanks!

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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by abscate » Mon May 04, 2015 3:22 am

The PVC is taking in vapour from a top hose ( connected to the top of the head) a connection into the block, and then drains oil into another block hole at the bottom.

I'll try find a picture here and link...lots of procedures in the VRD,

If it's plugged, the mid-block hole could just be seeping oil, but if the usage is that high it does sound like a pressure leak

:-(
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TBrown00
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by TBrown00 » Mon May 04, 2015 3:25 am

abscate wrote:The PVC is taking in vapour from a top hose ( connected to the top of the head) a connection into the block, and then drains oil into another block hole at the bottom.

I'll try find a picture here and link...lots of procedures in the VRD,

If it's plugged, the mid-block hole could just be seeping oil, but if the usage is that high it does sound like a pressure leak

:-(
It looks to be coming from closer to the driver's side of the vehicle than the oil trap. There's old oil all along the bottom of the block and on the oil trap, but the fresh oil appears to only be on the driver's side of the dipstick tube on both the block and running down the oil pan. I also just did the PCV 5k ago and made sure that hole wasn't clogged.

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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by abscate » Mon May 04, 2015 3:46 am

You did say cylinder number 4, didn't you? That's too far away to be trap, agreed. I got them backwards in my head.
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by TBrown00 » Mon May 04, 2015 3:56 am

Ya it's from the area of cylinder 4. What would cause this leak? Is it just mileage related or is there usually another cause? I'm sure it's happened before, but I've just always heard of it leaking inside the engine, not outside.

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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by abscate » Mon May 04, 2015 4:01 am

I don't ever recall reading about a cylinder head gasket oil leak Tbrown, but let's let some of the old timers wake up and bring their knowledge here.

Head gasket on these cars is pretty easy. Maybe time for timing belt and valve stem seals too?
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by erikv11 » Mon May 04, 2015 9:42 am

Really odd place for a head gasket leak, I concur. I have no good ideas on what would cause it if the car did not overheat or suffer some other trauma. I would get it spotless clean and try to confirm that is actually the source of the leak.
'95 854 T5-R, Motronic 4.4, 185k
'96 855 NA, 145k
'98 S70 NA, 220k (living out west)
'98 V70, T5 tune-injectors-turbo, LPT engine, 286k
'06 S60 R, 167k
'99 Camry V6 :shock: 125k
gone: '96 NA 850 210k, '98 NA V70 182k

TBrown00
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Re: 1996 850 GLT Oil Leak (Possible Head Gasket?)

Post by TBrown00 » Mon May 04, 2015 4:21 pm

It's pretty hard to clean up myself since it's a tight area so it looks like getting it steam cleaned would be my best option.

After getting lunch and coming back home (~15-20 minute round trip), I looked at the leak again and found new oil all over the bottom of the block, intermediate section, and pan. It's on both sides now, but still appears to be concentrated in the area between cylinders 3/4 and cylinder 4. In the daylight I was able to get a look at the bottom of the head/top of the block through the intake manifold and that section is dry. It appears to be coming from the middle block in an area that is hidden by the lower part of the manifold. Is this possible?

I found a photo through Google of an 850 engine and circled in red the area it appears to be coming from. Not sure if there's anything in this area that could leak though.
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Red circle indicates possible leak location

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