Renown MVS Volvo Forums Contributor Erik gives us his thoughts on how to approach costly repairs (even if DIY) on old cars — where the cost of the Car Parts approaches or exceeds the car’s value.
xHeart is giving great advice IMHO. Here is how I would prioritize and group the work. To spend this kind of money on the car you have to be thinking you will keep it for a while. For a 1994 car with 140k, this is reasonable.
(1) Timing belt job (if this stuff craps out, the car is worthless): both rollers, timing belt, timing belt tensioner. See above for brands. Since it sounds like we need to consider total $ right now, let the water pump go but know that there is a chance it could start leaking. 140k is low miles though, for a factory pump. I would let it go and put it on the list for 210k. Don’t wait for the 5k more miles and hitting exactly the 140k interval, just do this job and cross it off the list.
(2) Check the control arms. They usually go bad 100k – 120k so if they are 20 years old, you want to know if the ball joints are loose. This is job #2 because it is a safety concern (handling). If they are fine, push them to the bottom of the list but almost for sure you will be doing them by the time you are done with the suspension. Once everything else is tight, they will start to feel sloppy. This is a fairly easy job, no alignment needed. Use Meyle HD from FCP.
(3) Front struts. This job will give you the most satisfaction in ride improvement. Alignment has to be done with struts so this is a good time to do tie rod ends too. But see my comment #5 about tie rods below. Sachs or Bilstein TC brand struts, Volvo or IPD HD brand spring seats, strut bearings (strut mounts) you can try re-using or do some searching I am not sure what brand people are going with (but SachsBoge and Volvo are trusted), bump stops use whatever brand, do not bother replacing any of the hardware unless it is super rusty. The brand on the spring seats is critical – Volvo or IPD HD only. Tie rods don’t buy the $14 ones they will be bad in 8 months, go with TRW or Volvo or search the forum.
(4) Sway bar end links get noisy when they are bad but otherwise have little effect on driving. Replace these whenever you have the time and money. Meyle HD and Volvo brands are good, as is IPD HD. You could even start with this just to get your feet wet on suspension jobs, it’s your call. But not a priority.
(5) Inner tie rods are kinda a headache because you really only want to replace them if they are bad. But if you do this job, you have to get an alignment again. Personally I would gamble and leave all tie rods alone, although I would check to be CERTAIN there is no play in the tie rods right now. You can check that by getting the car up in the air and pulling on the wheels etc. TRW or Volvo or search the forum. Don’t buy the cheap ones.
(6) Rear shocks can be done almost whenever, it is nice to do them with the front struts but it is up to time and $ concerns. I would put this off until you are done with enough of the front end that the rears are getting your attention. Get the same brand/model as the struts, get new shock mounts which can be aftermarket as they are easy to change, get bump stops (any brand) if the existing ones are bad. There is no need to replace any of the hardware unless it is rusted out.