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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.

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mlc611
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Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Post by mlc611 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 5:40 pm

Hey guys,

It's been half a year since my '06 XC70 Water Pump failed, tossing the timing belt and damaging the head:

viewtopic.php?t=88509

I want your opinion about whether these cars are "over engineered". I've had enough experience with modern BMWs and Mercedes to not want to touch them (and let's not mention Audi). Eventually, complicated stuff starts breaking that makes the car undrivable and then it costs a bunch to repair. Sweden isn't far from Germany. Is it that much better? Should I expect a steady stream of headaches if I keep this vehicle? Or do you think it will be reliable if I fix it up?

I have practically ZERO issues with my 1999 Lexus GS300. Could you ever consider P2 Volvos to be as reliable as a Toyota if the metric is "It will start up in the winter and get you home."?

I'd consider driving it and letting it turn into a winter beater IF I can believe that it's going to be reliable. This car seems to have been well taken care for before I purchased it. Timing belt (but not water pump!) had been done on time at the Volvo dealership. A new Volvo battery was in it. So the owners were getting dealership service. The car itself feels solidly built (albeit atop coil springs that eventually fracture?!).

Here's a partial list of what I had fixed in the year between purchasing it and it dying:

1. Right front coil spring had broken. Replaced
2. Black tranny fluid flushed with new tranny fluid (no slipping in transmission)
3. Fixed cracked / leaking windshield washer fluid pump
4. Replaced hood pistons that didn't hold up hood in cold weather
5. New battery (didn't actually need it after all, see 6 for real culprit)
6. Coil packs
7. Patched tires that weren't holding air (plenty of tread, but old)
8. Replaced brake pads. Replaced E-Brake Shoes and Pads
9. Headlight ass'y replaced with clearer unit
10. CEL cleared by something I eventually did after swapping out fuel pressure regulators and stuff.
11. New valve solenoids and ass'y near the variable valve timing


Need to do to sell:
1. Replace the head
2. Timing Belt and Water Pump
3. Cut down on the mouse smell

Need to do to keep:
1. New suspension all around (Big $$!)
2. Studded winter tires
3. New head gasket at same time as head?
4. All new engine valves as accessible during TB job
5. Brakes are sometimes squishy. They need to be bled including computer modulating the ABS to get squishiness out?
6. Peeling headliner from passenger pillar
7. Torn CV boot to be replaced
8. Wheel alignment (part of suspension job)
9. Get completely rid of mouse smell, including possibly pulling a bunch of carpeting and pulling out entire air system to clean all tubes
10. P0089 Fuel Pressure Regulator recurrence. Filter fixed problem first time. Now perhaps it's a check valve?


So is it worth it? I like old RELIABLE cars, but I just don't know what to think about this car. I hear about Volvos being very reliable, but my personal experience hasn't lined up with this despite the car being well kept and very clean from original owner. My mom had owned an '05 XC70 with a transmission that gave out at 148k and it had other miscellaneous problems (bad electric ground?).

I like putting work into cars, but only if it's not going to present a perpetual string of miseries after putting that work in.

I feel like I'm forgetting something.... Oh yeah!! Noticed a leak that might be from steering rack? (old photo here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=88015&p=493040#p493040)

I also have a partial memory that the fuel pressure might not be right all the time?

So let's say that were all fixed up, what do you think? Is a reliable XC70 beater possible, or should I just go spend the big bucks on a 4Runner?

Just thought this would be fun food for thought. They're cool cars, and it's fun to see what people are willing to do to keep them on the road.
Last edited by mlc611 on Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.



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

Post by mlc611 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 5:45 pm

I should mention that I'd do all the work myself. So it's very expensive in terms of time, but not necessarily money considering how much used 4Runners and WRX's sell for.



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

Post by oragex » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:55 pm

I remember you said it has 170k miles. I don't think it's worth fixing it engine wise at these miles, especially since there are more repairs coming up, suspension, etc

I know older Toyota and Lexus have a good reputation. They are no by no means perfect, often times car owners don't really disclose all repairs they had to do. I'm sure a Volvo will need more attention than an older Lexus, because these have some european components that don't last the life of the car. A good Volvo is a Volvo that had a previous owner that fixed everything timely with quality parts. Even then, these cars need attention past 120k miles. The good part with a Volvo is that once fixed at some 120K miles with everything it needed, suspension, some sensors, PCV, alternator and so on, these cars keep going and going.



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

Post by SuperHerman » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:04 pm

I don't see the issue. Your water pump failed at a high mileage and harmed the head. It happens to all cars regardless of make.

The Volvo engine is rock solid. It has to be maintained - usually the PCV system is the cause of many of the problems.

Why do I say this - I have owned Volvos, Audis, Range Rovers, BMWs, VW, Fiat, Subaru, Hondas, and my brother drives Toyota. I have worked on them all.

I don't think the Volvo engine design is any more or less problematic than the Japanese engines. It is superior to everything German I have worked on. To be honest, even Fiats are not bad - they have their maintenance issues (older ones) that need to be addressed. But the Volvo 5 cylinder, which ever displacement, is a very solid engine.

All cars have failed suspensions around 150k (actually earlier) - shocks and struts fail over time. I did the suspension on my nieces Lexus ES300 and my brother's Camry at said miles.

I did a new head gasket on my 2001 XC70 due to an overheat about 170k. Normal head gasket job. Have the head milled, lap the valves, change all the seals and the engine top end was as good as new. Looking at the bottom end I saw an engine in great shape. Cylinders looked great - very little wear. In your case you can buy used valves, check the part numbers, but from what I learned when I looked the same valves are used in many models. I would have no issues at 170k, rebuilding a Volvo engine, if it was maintained fairly well. The bottom end design is very robust. Excellent design, plenty of bearings and all large. You need to pull the head and look at the engine condition. Dropping the oil pan and taking a look is a smart move, both to make sure the bearings are in good shape and to replace the O-rings that fail (one design flaw in the Volvo engine). But parts for this are under $20 and it is pretty straight forward. For under $500 you should be able to do all the engine work needed, including new timing belt, tensioners, water pump, head work, seals, PCV ...

My brother just spent $2400 at the Lexus dealership to have his front and rear brakes and rotors done. Mileage was 45k. Even my XC90 is better on brakes.

Nothing on your list is exceptional. The only issue is that nothing was done and the total bill is facing you at once. I have seen every item on your list on all of my cars at some point. Personally I think the P2 based cars are the best Volvo has made. Easy to work on, parts are affordable and plenty of information out there on how to do the fixes.



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

Post by mlc611 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:54 pm

Thanks guys.

SuperHerman, I push back on the Volvo because it's an unknown quantity to me and right now it's asking for a large up front investment. The reason I'm thinking of putting the work into the Volvo is because deep down, I believe it's a quality vehicle: going by the weight of the parts, quality of the leather and stitching, the heavy duty suspension components, and general lack of rust. But I'm afraid that even if all those things are built well that there's plenty of little electronic things left in there to fail.

The maintenance issues that it requires are standard. What I'm concerned about is putting in several weekends and a few grand into it and then facing an endless list of "The XYZ module", "JRB Lifter Solenoid", and "Turbo Encabulator Sensor" issues over the next three years that come about with the European cars that I've seen. I didn't own the Volvo long enough to know whether it suffers from those kinds of issues, or whether it's going to be a good car after putting in the necessary work.

And driving it as a winter car in the mountains, I don't want to be stranded because of some BS electronics, a computer, or complex ignition system failing.

I should look through a list of all the common issues on the forum and decide whether I'm excited to fix all of them. I just remembered two more on this vehicle: The right front window can fall completely out of the frame down into the door. The gas filler door either gets stuck open or closed. It's a bit odd, the car's interior actually looks perfect, but all this little stuff and maintenance issues seem to hit at once.

> You need to pull the head and look at the engine condition.

What should I look for down there?

>Dropping the oil pan and taking a look is a smart move, both to make sure the bearings are in good shape and to replace the O-rings that fail

Good idea. But pulling the engine to replace bearings would probably be the limit for me! One thing I read suggests that they should look shiny. What else to look for?

> For under $500 you should be able to do all the engine work needed, including new timing belt, tensioners, water pump, head work, seals, PCV ...

That's encouraging. I was going to go with a used head, but with all the other work that's involved, the extra amount of time it will take to lap valves and bring it to a machine shop is like 1/20th the total work. Have you ever milled a head yourself? I might look that process up. I have access to a milling machine.

$2400 for brakes is unfathomable to me. Did the dealership attempt to justify it?

> The good part with a Volvo is that once fixed at some 120K miles with everything it needed, suspension, some sensors, PCV, alternator and so on, these cars keep going and going.

Exactly, so for $3k, I could end up with a "new" car instead of spending $12k on a used car that will need all the same work very soon. But could also end up with a "new" car that has little things and critical electronics break all the time. And that would be way too much like buying a 2019 model.

Thanks!



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

Post by E Showell » Sat Jul 27, 2019 4:09 am

The window issue is dead simple to fix. You need two plastic slider blocks (about $12 total from FCP) and a half hour to spare. There are online videos for the procedure.

My local dealer parts guy told me all the techs drive mid 2000s XC70s.

I don't live in the "mountains," but it is pretty hilly around here and we can get decent snowfall. Last winter was first of '04 XC70 ownership. It has all season Michelins from prior owner and I never felt a need for snow tires (I run studded snows on my FWD P80) and was never stranded.

I have replaced both front springs after one broke, and done tie rod ends, lower front control arms, ball joints, sway bar end links, front brakes (pads and rotors), trans drain and fills and oil changes. I also replaced a leaking power steering fluid reservoir and a cracked windshield. The car has been utterly reliable. Mileage is now around 175K.

It is a pity I care neither for the color (Ruby Red Metallic) nor the styling.

If you have an Oak (color) interior, I have a pair of plastic A pillar trim pieces I'd sell you. They let you nix the cloth ones. It is a one and done repair (upgrade as far as I am concerned).

My one tow home was from the broken coil spring. It went in my parking garage at work 44 miles from home.

Other than that, always starts and never stranded, although I had two random stalling incidents. Prior owner says they are due to a bad key fob. Once I went to the valet key, no stalling.


'98 V70 NA FWD 5 spd, silver sand metallic (sold)
'99 V70 NA FWD Auto, dark blue (actively for sale)
'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

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

Post by MDK » Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:33 am

Hmm... After reading your post you have to look at your original price that you paid, plus the cost of what you've done so far .. time and part costs plus time and part costs for the new work. Add your total. Divide it by how many years you have had this unit and ask yourself... Will it go another 5 yrs? 7 yrs? Is the "Lady in the Lake" summoned me to the bottom where I will drowned financially? Swedish folklore by the way courtesy of Travels in Europe by Rick Steves... I prefer Rocinante myself. Take care.



mlc611
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Re: Turning an XC70 into a Rugged and Reliable Beater - Can it be done?

Post by mlc611 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:44 am

Let's put prices on this list

Need to do to sell:
1. Replace the head: $400 at machine shop including valves.
2. Timing Belt and Water Pump (Aisin): $135 RockAuto
3. Cut down on the mouse smell: $70 of chemicals
4. P0089 Fuel Pressure: OE Bosch Fuel Pump $155 RockAuto
5. FelPro Head Gasket Kit: $125
6. Cam Seals: $20
5. Whatever comes up: $300

Total: $1205.

Sale price in current condition: $150
Sale price after fixed: $2000
Expected "profit": $645.

So if I can do all the work in less than 60 hours, I'm making above minimum wage :|


To Keep:
1. New suspension all around: $1000 without replacing worn bushings
2. Studded winter tires: $400
3. PCV Kit: $140
4. Brake Bleed (activate ABS by lifting entire car and running engine and brakes at same time?) ($150 estimated)
5. $5 glue
6. ShoeGoo and rubber $20
7. A lot of cursing at rusted-frozen tie rod ends
8. Steering Rack $20 to $550 depeneding on issue
Subtotal: $1800-$2300.

So $3000 to $3500 to get it into shape that *should* last several years.

An AWD Subaru or Toyota would be ~$10 k for a sample with 100 k miles, would depreciate at $1k / year and would have other maintenance issues.

Financially, the choices seem about equivalent. The Volvo seems riskier since if something else blows up (Haldex, Transmission, another engine issue), its value goes back to $0 whereas a Toyota would almost certainly not die completely.



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

Post by dj_v70 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:09 am

I have had 5 Volvo’s and 5 Toyotas (Lexus). My Toyota’s has been much much more reliable. I have never been in an accident yet, but if I ever do, I hope I am in my Volvo.



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

Post by matthew1 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:29 am

mlc611 wrote:
Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:54 pm
I should look through a list of all the common issues on the forum and decide whether I'm excited to fix all of them.
viewtopic.php?t=47641 have a look at that.

Great thread.

mlc611, you've got a bit of a gravity well to climb out of with that head repair, but once you're out of it these cars are good through the 100k-200k miles range. At 176k, you're moving out of the P2 Mid Life mileage comfort zone. But your sample might go easily to 300k like many others here. If you're going to roll the dice, the P2 XC70 isn't a bad car to do it with.


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