What’s this blog about…?

February 16, 2012

I wanted to document my efforts in fixing up a 1997 Volvo 850 wagon to help my three children understand and appreciate what it takes to get an older car fully functional and running reliably.  They may be doing something like this for themselves in the future, so this blog is for their reference.  If it helps other Volvo 850 owners along the way, all the better.

Parts and labor at most shops–Volvo dealers in particular–are very costly.  This effort approaches reasonable economy if you do it yourself (DIY), so most everything shown was done at home where labor is free.  Cost of parts is given at the end of each task.

Postings are presented in order of task performed with most recent at top.  Seemingly random, I did these tasks as time, parts and weather permitted and issues were observed.  Previous owners had some work done already so I did not need to tackle those items which might seem more urgent (brakes, tires, struts).

Note:  This is not a step-by-step repair document.  It shows only the basic task accomplished.  There are plenty of internet repair forums for this.  However, many posts are detailed and somewhat educational (explanation of what/why/how).  I don’t pretend to be an expert or authority on Volvos; this blog is just sharing my experience and opinions with my kids and other readers.

Jim Peisker  |  Cedar Park, Texas

#117 No Start, P0314

February 28, 2017

Daughter got stranded by this red wagon project car.  It would crank strongly but showed no signs of the engine catching and running.

Suspecting fuel (pump or relay) or ignition problems, I didn’t have to work very hard to figure out the trouble.  The car itself reported a bad camshaft position sensor (CMP) via OBD code P0314 [Camshaft Position sensor (CMP) signal missing or faulty].

If the CMP is defective spark is disabled to prevent damage to the engine so a defective sensor will be definitely cripple the engine.

Thankfully the sensor itself was OK.  It was just corroded connector contacts causing an intermittent signal to the engine controller.  Unplugged and plugged the connector a few times to wipe the contacts clean and reset the Check Engine light.  Engine fired right up and we drove the car home for me to do some work in the driveway.

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At least one pin was coated with green crud

To make that CMP connection more reliable, I first cleaned the male pin contacts with isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush.  Then I applied electronic contact cleaner to both the male pins and female sockets and mated/unmated the connector several times to work it in.

Car should be reliable for a while yet, at least as far as the cam position sensor goes.  It’s quite possible when I replaced the sensor long ago that it was not the sensor itself but a bad connection like this.

In addition to cleaning this connector contact I cleaned the MAF sensor (code reader showed that the ECU was complaining about that as well) and replaced a cracked vacuum elbow at the SAS valve.  Also checked the air filter and found that it needs replacing soon.

$0, free!

#116 Yet Another Corner Light Problem

October 12, 2016

Well, this time the lens didn’t pop off.  What happened here is that the black plastic tab broke that the corner light retainer spring attaches to.  With no retainer the light assembly popped out and rattled around on the fender and broke the lens.

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Retainer spring attachment tab broken.

No way I am going to replace this whole black plastic shroud around the headlights so I needed to fix it.  Really we need almost anything for the retainer spring to hook on to so I drove a self-tapping screw with a large head into the plastic near the broken spot.

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Now I could simply hook the retainer spring over the screw and it stays put. Of course we had to buy a new lamp assembly to replace the broken one.

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Spring hooks over screw to keep the assembly secure.

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No cost but for a screw I had laying around.

Medical Interruption

September 13, 2016

Readers who are following this blog will have noticed that there have been no recent posts.

This is mainly due to the fact that the author suffered a major hemorrhagic stroke (brain bleed) in April.  Jim was hospitalized for over four weeks and went home to recover since then.  Thanks to a lot of prayer from friends and family the effects of the stroke were not as bad as it could (or should) have been.  As it is my main deficit is partial sensation on the left side (that and I drool a bit occasionally).  Numbness is mostly limited to the fingertips and feeling is slowly coming back so hopefully some weeks or months down the road I’ll be back to normal.  Doing well enough now that I returned to work a couple of weeks ago with minor limitations.

So working on the cars has been challenging lately, as is photographing and typing up these posts.  Hasn’t been much exciting to report anyway.  But I did manage to work on a couple of things recently so expect some new posts soon.

#115 Windshield Washer Woes

March 24, 2016

Alliteration in the post title courtesy of the sense of humor required to cope with the head-banging frustration experienced while working on these cars.  Sometimes the simplest of problems turn out to be a nightmare to diagnose and/or repair.

Long post so the executive summary is here:  Windshield washers would not spray or would do so very intermittently.  We could hear the washer pump whirring at all times so it was not dead.  Worked back from the nozzles to the washer pump and found a few issues along the way but most of those were time-consuming diversions.  In the end it was a misbehaving washer pump (intermittent mechanical problem) but the first replacement pump was apparently defective so it required a second replacement part to fix the problem.  Not wanting to believe that a new part was bad I ended up tearing the whole washer system apart before wising up and testing the pumps outside of the car.  Read on if you want the details.

The spray nozzles are fed from a hose splitter/tee that often fails.  The symptom here is that the seal inside the tee wears out and then the pressurized fluid leaks out the back instead of going to the nozzles.

Washer Tee

Windshield washer tubing splitter (tee connector) is a known high-failure item.

Some people call this a check valve but I can apply both pressure and vacuum through all ports of a new part and there is no one-way check valve action so I don’t think this description is accurate.  I believe it provides some flow control for equal spray patterns but for now let’s just call it a tee connector.

Well, it turns out that there was nothing wrong with the part that was in the car.  It was not leaking nor was it clogged so I did not have to replace it.  Some people have had success sealing up the leaking splitters by cutting out a replacement rubber disk and repairing the guts of these without replacing them.  But they are very inexpensive to purchase so money should not be the big motivation for repairing one.

However, I did observe that the splitter/tee was plumbed incorrectly.  The supply hose from the pump should go to the center barb fitting and the two spray nozzle hoses should connect to the two side fittings.  In this case the supply hose and one of the nozzles were swapped so somewhere in this car’s history somebody had fiddled with the tee and didn’t put it back together correctly.

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Incorrect hose connections to splitter tee.

Not that it matters much how you connect the hose, from what I can tell.  It still works when it is swapped.  Whatever, I simply swapped those two hoses to make it proper.

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Correct hose connection to splitter tee.

Access to this tee connector is gained by removing the heat pad from the under side of the hood (bonnet for our UK friends.)  It is held in place by a good number of quarter-turn plastic fasteners and is easy to detach and re-attach.  If you are a contortionist and don’t mind muscle spasms, or if you have a helper holding back the pad, you can get fair access to this tee connector without removing the pad.

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Heat pad secured to hood with large quarter-turn plastic fasteners.

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Two sizes/shapes of fasteners. Just turn 90° CCW to free up.

Moving back to the washer pump I got distracted by some exposed wiring at the washer fluid reservoir/tank.

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Exposed wire from dried-out insulation.

Thinking this was washer pump wiring, I thought there was a partial short across the wires so the pump wasn’t running hard enough.  So I insulated the wiring…

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Preparing to re-insulate wires.

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Releasing connector contacts from housing.

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Heat shrink tubing slid over connector contacts. Had to be large enough to fit over contacts.

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Re-assembled connector and repair is finished. Elected not to shrink the tubing although I could have.

…and hoped that this would solve the problem.  It didn’t.  Because this is not pump wiring, it is fluid level sensor wiring.  Still it was good to fix the wiring.

Then I thought maybe the wiring connector to the pump is getting corroded and limiting pump speed.  So I fiddled with the connector by spraying contact cleaner on the connector sockets and mating/unmating a few times to freshen up the connection.  This didn’t help at all.

Now we’re down to either the pump or a clog in the tank.  Started by playing with the pump.  It would always make a whirring sound when the control lever was pulled from the driver’s seat so it didn’t seem like an electrical problem or a motor failure.  Occasionally it would squirt cleaning fluid but mostly it just made noise as if the tank was empty.  Eventually it would never spray anything, even with a full tank.

To remove the pump for inspection or replacement requires small hands and some patience. It is tucked down in the right front corner of the car.

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Washer pump is down behind all this stuff.

Moving a few things out of the way is helpful:

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Pull the fill tube up and out to get it out of the way.

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Moving the hood latch out of the way helps but is not absolutely necessary.

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To get to the pump you need to pull the washer filter out of the pump outlet hose.

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Inspected filter for sediment or particles which might cause clogging. Pretty clean inside so just cleaned it up outside.

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Unplug the connector from the pump and it is now free to remove.

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Just grab the top of the pump and pull up while twisting. It is not secured below, simply pokes into a rubber grommet in the tank.  Needs to come out with the outlet hose.

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Pump removed from tank. You can see where the inlet port fits into the tank grommet.  When the pump is removed washer fluid will drain out the opening down to gravity level.

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New replacement pump compared to original part. Physically identical, which is good because it’s a tight fit.

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Replacement pump installed. It’s a bit tricky to snake it around the sheet metal with the hose and then blindly push the inlet nozzle into the tank grommet.

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Connector plugged in and filter re-connected, ready to test after adding some more fluid.

And we were sure this would do the trick, but no, it tricked us!  The darn thing would still not spray fluid on the windshield.  It did make noise when it should, just like the original pump.

Played with it some more; disconnected the filter at the outlet tube and checked to see if the pump would push any fluid out of the tank before the long lines of hose, but nada.

Seemed to be a clogged port in the reservoir/tank.

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Reservoir to pump connection where I suspected an obstruction or clog or something.

Tried in vain for some time to remove this grommet from the reservoir but it is in a deep, narrow recess and I couldn’t pull it out for cleaning.  So that meant I had to remove the tank from the car, which starts by removing the pump above and then:

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Remove the rear (wagon) washer hose to its pump and unclip the rear washer pump connector from the tank. The tank will completely drain now. Unbolt/unscrew the tank from below.

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This screw is hard to access. Long reach past wheel liner that needs to be pushed out of the way.

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Once unfastened, lower the washer reservoir/tank down and pull out for service.

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This grommet where the pump inlet mates with is where I suspected a clog.

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It’s more than just a grommet, it’s a long tube that reaches down to the bottom of the tank.

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Only outside the car was I able to get a prying tool under the tube to pull it up and out.

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Cleaned tank, tube and filler screen/sock in the kitchen sink. Some small debris in tank but not much and not enough to really cause problems.

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Re-assembled clean reservoir. Ready to put back in car.

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Everything put back into place and re-connected. Still wouldn’t spray. 😦

At this point I know it’s not a clogged inlet and the outlet is clear as well.  Must be the pump.  But it’s new, so it should work, right?

Tested the pumps outside the car with a separate 12VDC power supply and a container of water.  Old original pump would always make noise but only occasionally move water.  New pump would always make noise but never move water.  Both are bad.

Hard lesson learned.  The replacement pump was defective, apparently.  That or it picked up some chunks of debris from the tank upon first use.  Its motor would spin but not the impeller that moves fluid.  Unfortunately I threw away the box that it came in so could not return it.  I would like to disassemble one of these and see if I can repair it but it appears that I would have to destroy it to take it apart.  At least they are cheap.

Ordered another new pump and this time I got smart and tested it before installing.

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Checking pumps outside the car. New one worked this time. First replacement did not, nor did original pump.

Installed 2nd new pump and tested in car before hooking up filter to spray nozzles.

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2nd new pump installed. Hoping for the best…

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Quick in-car test of new pump to make sure it pushed cleaning fluid out. Yay! Nice and strong.

Feeling good about it now, I reconnected the nozzle hose via the filter and did a quick final check.

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2nd new pump installed and everything connected back up properly.

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Success! Washer sprays onto windshield.

So after lots of fits and starts the windshield washer is working as it should.  Wasted a lot of time chasing bogus problems.  Should have tested the new pump outside the car in the first place.  Now I know not to trust replacement parts out of the box.

$13 for a new after-market washer pump from Amazon (twice).

Instrument Cluster Attachment Repair

March 23, 2016

The last post mentioned that we are still chasing an elusive evap leak on the white 850 sedan.  So much so that the CHECK ENGINE light (CEL) is on almost continuously.  After hundreds of hours of being lit and no idea how old that lamp is on this 20 year-old car, the CEL lamp failed.

You guessed it: We got overly excited that we had solved the evap leak because the CEL didn’t come on.  Well that was only because it was burned out. 😦

Before we popped the celebratory Champagne cork, on a hunch I asked my daughter to watch if the CEL briefly lit up when the key is first turned on.  It did not, meaning the lamp was gone and further confirmed by plugging in the code reader to verify that the dreaded evap leak error code was still with us.

Needing a state inspection soon and knowing that the CEL being out is an immediate disqualifier, I bought an instrument cluster replacement lamp kit to replace many of the lamps in the dash.

Of course this means removing the dash pad for access (see post #23) and this just gets harder with age as the plastic gets more and more brittle (time and temperature.)  Anyway, when I went to remove the instrument cluster from the dash I observed that the two clips that secure it to the front of the dash were loose and broken.

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Broken instrument cluster tabs.

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The plastic tabs on the dashboard had broken and there was nothing keeping the front of the cluster secure.  One more thing to fix.

Once I had replaced numerous lamps in the instrument cluster I had to secure the cluster back in the dash.  Not fond of plastic weld or epoxies (haven’t had good luck with small parts subject to vibration) I decided to just remove the clips to prevent them from rattling and then secured the front of the cluster to the dash using cable ties lashed to what remained of the tabs.

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Cable ties used to lash cluster to what was left of the broken front dash tabs.

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Further pushed the cluster forward to take some strain off those cable ties and tabs by wedging a short length of rubber hose behind the cluster.

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Short length of rubber hose wedged behind cluster pushes it up and towards the driver.

Seems to work pretty well; time will tell.

$0.  No cost, since I have a bunch of cable ties lying around and some scrap hose.

Evap Purge Valve Replacement

March 22, 2016

Still chasing that infuriating P0455 code on the white 850 sedan which indicates a large evap leak.

In the process of diagnosis I stumbled upon a leaky evap purge valve.  This is the electrically driven valve under then fan shroud which is opened by the ECU at certain times to draw stored fuel vapor from the charcoal canister into the engine.  It was not sealing closed so the evap system would never see pressure; instead it was drawn down to engine vacuum.

We were running out of hoses and fittings to replace in the evap system and so I started to think what else it could be.  On a hunch I pulled the purge valve out of the car and drew vacuum on it with a hand pump tester.

Could not pull vacuum in either direction, indicating that the valve was leaking through internally.

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Evap purge valve would not pull a vacuum in either direction, indicating internal leak-through.

A good (new) purge valve holds a hard vacuum in one direction and about 10″ of mercury in the other.

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New evap purge valve holds vacuum >20mm Hg on the engine side.

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New evap purge valve holds vacuum around 10mm Hg on the canister side (pulling against valve spring.)

The difference is when pulling against the spring (towards the canister, away from the engine) the force of the internal spring is being worked against.  Apparently this is (with my sample of one) around 10″ of Hg.

So this didn’t solve the evap leak problem but needed to be done anyway.  I am surprised that the issue did not trigger an evap purge valve error code because I see that on the list of potential problems.  Perhaps the internal leak was not big enough.

Also when replacing the purge valve I observed that the elbow between the valve and the plastic tube that runs to the charcoal canister was cracked and leaking.

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Cracked and leaking elbow at inlet of evap purge valve.

Replaced this with a factory part.

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New elbow installed.

$18.45 for a new aftermarket emissions purge valve on Amazon

Radiator Replacment

January 6, 2016

For the moment it looks like the white 850 sedan needs more attention than the red wagon.  The car was here for Christmas and I hoped to tackle a few things on it.  Daughter complained that the coolant level warning light was on so I inspected the cooling system and as expected the level was low.  No major leaks but I did observe a shiny spot on the radiator.  At first I thought it was dripping down from the upper radiator hose connection but the moisture started lower.  Uh-oh.  May be a cracked radiator.

Coolant seeping out of the radiator side tank.

Coolant seeping out of the radiator side tank.

To confirm this I tried my trick of pressurizing the cooling system with the Motive Products brake bleeder.  This caused the coolant in the radiator to seep out and be more visible.  Unfortunately the cracked side tank was leaking.

Pressurizing the cooling system helps make small leaks more visible.

Pressurizing the cooling system helps make small leaks more visible.

Appears to be the original radiator for this car (18-19 years old) so I guess it’s had a good run.  After those many years of heat and vibration I guess the plastic gets weak.  I didn’t want to mess around with leak seal products so was determined to replace the radiator.

After pricing a genuine Volvo radiator I chose to go with an after-market replacement from the local auto parts store.  I had only a day or two to get this done and I don’t expect the car has more than five years left in it anyway so no sense spending a lot of money for a factory part.

First order of business is to remove the leaky radiator.  Started by driving the car up on ramps to give me some elbow room (and drop the radiator out).

Lifted the car up to work on it. This is wheels-on work so it's easier to use ramps.

Lifted the car up to work on it. This is wheels-on work so it’s easier to use ramps.

If you have a lower splash shield installed it should be removed first but this car doesn’t have one so I didn’t need to do this.

The coolant must be drained so after removing the reservoir cap I drained the radiator into a clean container to re-use the coolant (it was fairly fresh and clean).

Drained the coolant from the radiator.

Drained the coolant from the radiator.

While the radiator was draining I removed the upper hose

Upper radiator hose removed.

Upper radiator hose removed.

Once the radiator was empty I removed the lower hose and, as expected, got a little wet from coolant remaining in the hose and radiator.

Lower radiator hose disconnected.

Lower radiator hose disconnected.

This being a manual transmission car with normal aspiration (non-turbo) there are no more connections to the radiator so it was ready to be removed.  Automatic transmissions have an oil cooler loop to one side of the radiator and turbochargers have an oil loop going to the other side.  This car is easier than most others.

To pull the radiator out requires that the fan shroud be removed and that is somewhat involved.

First you remove the engine control unit cooling snorkel and the engine air intake snorkel.

ECU snorkel removed.

ECU snorkel removed.

Engine air snorkel removed.

Engine air snorkel removed (two separate pieces.)

Then we need to disconnect all the wires and vacuum lines from relays and and valves located on the fan shroud just below the front of the hood.  This involves unplugging many connectors and moving wire harnesses out of the way and pulling vacuum elbows out and such.  Some low and most higher up.  Basically disconnect anything that is tethered to the fan shroud.

Wires and vacuum lines removed from relays and valves on the fan shroud.

Wires and vacuum lines removed from relays and valves on the fan shroud.

Once the shroud is liberated from the spider web of wires and vacuum lines it gets unfastened from the radiator with two screws near the top (body attachment) and two bolts just below them (radiator attachment.)  The shroud with fan attached is simply lifted up and out. This is easier if you remove the throttle body cover.

Throttle body cover removed to provide more clearance for fan shroud removal.

Throttle body cover removed to provide more clearance for fan shroud removal.

The lower part of the shroud has two tabs that nest in slots in the radiator to keep it in place down below.

Shroud with fan lifted out after unbolting from radiator and grille.

Shroud with fan lifted out after unbolting from radiator and grille.

With fan shroud removed the radiator is nearly ready to pull out.

With fan shroud removed the radiator is nearly ready to pull out.

Now to get the radiator detached, which is secured to the frame below and the air conditioning condenser on four corners.  First we need to support the AC condenser so it doesn’t drop and strain the refrigerant hoses.

Floor jack used to support AC condenser.

Floor jack used to support AC condenser.

Then we can unbolt the radiator from the frame underneath.

Radiator to frame bolts, one on each side from underneath.

Radiator to frame bolts, one on each side from underneath.

While underneath to detach from the frame, you can unbolt the two lower bolts securing the radiator to the condenser.

Two lower bolts removed which secure the radiator to the condenser.

Two lower bolts removed which secure the radiator to the condenser.

With the radiator free from the frame it can tilt back to gain access to the two upper screws attaching it to the condenser.

Remove upper radiator-condenser screws. Need to tilt the assembly back for this.

Remove upper radiator-condenser screws. Need to tilt the assembly back for this.

Some instructions suggest four bolts up here instead of two.  Not sure if this is a variation dependent on radiator type or what but it should be obvious.

Now the radiator is free and can be removed.  Instructions make it look easy.  It was not.  A lot of fussing and maneuvering was involved and I had to unbolt the air pump bracket to give a little clearance for radiator removal.

Had to unbolt air pump mounting bracket to nudge it out of the way to get the radiator out.

Had to unbolt air pump mounting bracket to nudge it out of the way to get the radiator out.

Only way I could move the radiator was down; another reason to have the car raised.  Not sure how some people lift it up and out– the mounting frame is really in the way.

Radiator seemingly can be removed only from below, not lifted up.

Radiator seemingly can be removed only from below, not lifted up.

Looks pretty empty in there with the radiator and fan shroud removed.

Looks pretty empty in there with the radiator and fan shroud removed.

With the radiator out we can get a closer look at the cracked and leaking radiator.  In addition to multiple cracks there appears to be a general bulge in the leaking area.  Risky to repair this with epoxy or other sealants.

Leaks evident at cracked and bulging radiator (side tank).

Leaks evident at cracked and bulging radiator (side tank).

There is an excellent radiator replacement tutorial video by FCP located here.  It was useful to me and includes details about turbo and transmission cooler connections to the radiator.

So now we have to do a little prep work before installing the new radiator.  A comparison shows them nearly identical with one different feature on the replacement.  The new part has a pair of transmission oil coolant connections which we won’t use and can ignore (leave plugged).

Side-by-side comparison of original radiator and replacement.

Side-by-side comparison of original radiator and replacement.

The prep work involves transferring the fastener clips from the old radiator to the new part.

Fastener clamps transferred from the old radiator.

Fastener clamps transferred from the old radiator (six total.)

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With the fasteners clipped onto the new radiator we can install it back in the car in reverse order of removal.

New radiator roughed into place, loosely secured to frame from below.

New radiator roughed into place, loosely secured to frame from below.

Minor details to report here.  First we replaced the upper radiator hose just out of precaution because it was readily available and fairly inexpensive.

Installed new upper radiator hose.

Installed new upper radiator hose.  Lower hose was in good shape.

The lower hose is much harder to replace and costs a lot.  It was in good shape (no cracks, splits or bulges and reasonably pliable) so we just re-used it.

As mentioned before, the new radiator has transmission cooler ports which we don’t need so they simply go unconnected.  Left the plugs in place to prevent debris from entering.

Trans cooler ports unused and left capped off.

Trans cooler ports unused and left capped off.

The other thing to report is that it was a pain to get the radiator and condenser back together because things didn’t quite line up and I had to push, pull and pry to get the clips and screws in place.  Same for re-installing the fan shroud; lots of moving parts and lining up holes.  All in all it wasn’t so bad, just not as easy as advertised.

Fan shroud back in place with relays and valves connected up.

Fan shroud back in place with relays and valves connected up.

Everything back together and secure.

Everything back together and secure.  Ready to refill the coolant.

Last thing to do is pour coolant back into the system via the reservoir.  Re-used what was removed because it was in good condition (clean, clear, no rust.)  Filled to the high level before running the engine.

Refilled coolant to high level.

Refilled coolant to high level.

While filling coolant I was checking for leaks around and under the radiator.  Happy to find none.

Ran the engine until hot and watched the level drop with the reservoir cover removed.  As expected it dropped a little and then a bit more when I switched the engine off.  Topped off the coolant reservoir to the high level again and ran the engine some more while checking for leaks.  It takes a few hot-cold engine cycles to get the coolant level stable.

$166 for auto-parts store direct replacement radiator.

Broken Oil Dipstick

January 4, 2016

The white 850 sedan had an oil level dipstick problem where the orange finger ring broke off and left the stick in the tube.  Presumably heat and age made the plastic brittle.

Handle broken off dipstick.

Handle broken off dipstick.

Fortunately I could grab the end of the dipstick with pliers and pull it out.

Pulled broken dipstick out with long-nosed pliers.

Pulled broken dipstick out with pliers.

After examining the dipstick it seemed the only way to repair it was to glue or epoxy the plastic back together.  My experience with gluing plastic back together is not good or reliable, particularly where heat and vibration are involved, so I decided to replace it.

The Volvo part number is stamped on the end of the dipstick but the part in this car (same as the red wagon project car) is now obsolete and unavailable anywhere I looked.  Junk yard part?  I decided against this because the old wrecks will likely have old, brittle handles as well so I wanted to get a new part.

Original dipstick P/N 1271921 is no longer available anywhere.

Found a nearly identical part on Amazon under a different part number.  Looked the same so I bought one: Professional Parts Sweden W0133-1629225-PPS Oil Dipstick.  Ordered this as the most identical replacement.

Professional Parts Sweden

Professional Parts Sweden W0133-1629225

Replacement has P/N 21431921.

Replacement has P/N 21431921.

While researching replacement dipsticks I found many references to a new part number that required an updated oil dipstick tube.  The newer dipstick was designed to match a new tube with a larger top opening to accommodate a more substantial end plug with two o-ring seals instead of the original single seal.  This would require a fair bit of work to replace to the tube, not to mention an additional $50-60 for the new tube.  So I chose the one I bought as the nearest part to the original dipstick.

The red identification disk was transferred from the old dipstick to the new one.

Red disk transferred from original dipstick to new one.

Red disk transferred from original dipstick to new one.

The new dipstick fits in the tube fine but one problem observed with the replacement part is that it is roughly 1/2″ (12.5mm) longer than the original dipstick.  Meaning that the oil level would read artificially high by roughly half a quart (0.5 liter).

New dipstick is approx. 1/2" longer than original, meaning it would read ~ 0.5l high.

New dipstick is approx. 1/2″ longer than original, meaning it would read ~ 0.5l high.

New dipstick is approx. 1/2" longer than original, meaning it would read ~ 0.5l high.

This bothered me so I sought a way to make the end of the dipstick at the correct position in the oil pan.  This could be accomplished by putting some sort of blocking spacer at the handle end where the orange plastic flange seats against the top of the dipstick tube.

I had many assorted rubber washers laying around and found a tapered one about a 1/2″ thick and had an inside hole just larger than the orange plastic handle at the flange.

When installed on the new dipstick the rubber washer seats against the dipstick tube opening and makes the oil level position read correctly.  The washer takes up the difference in lengths between the original and replacement dipsticks.  The wide side faces the tube to stop it at the tube face.

Installed rubber washer ~ 1/2″ thick to make up the length difference.

Comparing original from other car (lower) and new dipstick (upper) with added rubber washer.

Comparing original from other car (lower) and new dipstick (upper) with added rubber washer.

Close-up of one end to show nearly exact spacing with washer added.

Close-up of one end to show nearly exact spacing with washer added.

Close-up of other end to show nearly exact spacing with washer added.

Close-up of other end to show nearly exact spacing with washer added.

One thought regarding this rubber spacer is that it would not provide a good seal at the tube end but I have not experienced much oil splashing out the tube anyway so don’t understand how this is really a big concern.

Yes, it did cross my mind to transfer the original metal dipstick to the new orange plastic finger ring.  That would have been an ideal solution.  However, after examining the part it seems to be a one-way assembly.  The metal rod is inserted into the plastic handle and then a punch is used to press the rod flat through the hole just below the o-ring seal.  Once the rod is swaged like that it cannot really be hammered back to a round shape to allow removal.  At least not without special tools, skills and patience.  So I didn’t even try.

$11.03 for new dipstick plus pennies for the rubber washer laying around.

Yet Another Evap Leak (P0455)

August 18, 2015

The white 850 sedan has had a recurring check engine light (CEL) for quite some time now and I hope we finally took care of it.  Time will tell, as it takes a few days of driving for these to show up.  It would sometimes be a small leak code but usually report a large leak, code P0455.

Some people live with on-going emissions faults but a constant CEL may mask a new error that you won’t catch without frequent scanning with a code reader.  Here in Texas we can’t pass annual inspections with error codes, so this needed to be dealt with.  Emissions leaks are some of the hardest things to chase down without specialized equipment (smoke machine).

This time it was a cracked hose between the charcoal canister and the evap shutoff (vent) valve.  I had suspected this area because we have replaced most of the other fuel vapor hoses in the car except for the few hiding in the left front wheel well.

On model year 1997 (and several other years) the charcoal canister is hiding in front of the left front tire and the vent valve is behind the tire with a rubber hose connecting the two.  Access requires removal of the wheel, then drilling out several rivets and removal of a few plastic nuts holding the plastic liner in place.

Access to charcoal canister and shutoff valve requires removal of left front wheel liner.

Access to charcoal canister and shutoff valve requires removal of left front wheel liner.

Once the liner is out of the way you can see the charcoal canister towards the front.  This is where I expected problems because the J-shaped tubes are known to crack and leak, but they seemed to be in good condition.

Evap canister is the rectangular box; stores fuel vapors to be sucked into the engine later.

Evap canister is the rectangular black box; it stores fuel vapors to be sucked into the engine later.

J-shaped hoses or rubber tubes are common failure items but were in good shape on this car.

J-shaped hoses or rubber tubes are common failure items but were in surprisingly good shape on this car.

Looking towards the rear we see the evap shutoff valve which is opened by the engine control to allow air into the canister at certain times.  A long run of rubber hose connects this shutoff valve to the charcoal canister, up and over the wheel.

Evap shutoff (vent) valve towards rear.

Evap shutoff (vent) valve towards rear, under hood (bonnet) spring.

To my surprise, a leak was found at the shutoff valve where the hose was cracked open above the clamp.

Cracked hose at shutoff valve allows air in to canister at all times, causing large leak error code.

Cracked hose at shutoff valve allows air in to canister at all times, causing large leak error code.

The hose is too short to cut and the Volvo parts place was closed and I didn’t have replacement 8.5mm hose laying around so I scared up the closest thing at a local auto parts store, 11/32″.

Generic replacement hose was larger in outside diameter but very close inside and fit nicely.

Generic replacement hose was larger in outside diameter but very close inside and fit nicely.

I cut it slightly longer than the original hose for better strain relief and routed it and connected at both ends (canister-shutoff valve).

New hose at canister.

New hose at canister.

New hose at vent valve.

New hose at vent valve.

Then I re-installed the wheel liner.  Here I tried using smaller (1/4″) “Christmas Tree” push-in fasteners but could get one in place.  Will have to try even smaller ones next time (previously tried 5/16″ size).  Ended up riveting the liner back in as per procedure.

Could get only one of these 1/4" fasteners to push into place so ended up riveting the wheel liner.

Could get only one of these 1/4″ fasteners to push into place so ended up riveting the wheel liner.

Of course, the job isn’t finished until the wheel has been re-installed and properly tightened.  Car is back on the road and three days out with no CEL yet, so we’re hoping it stays this way.

$12 for six feet of 11/32″ hose

#114 Roof Trim Re-Coating

August 16, 2015

If you saw way back in post #76, the roof trim strip coating had started peeling off and I removed it with the intention of re-coating.  Now it’s finally time to try one method of re-finishing the trim.

Because it’s a common problem on these older cars there is a lot of information on the web about it along with many suggestions for re-coating.  A good summary of one method is found in the comments by Jay on that previous post; click the link above to get there.

The method I chose to try first appealed to me because it seemed the easiest and least expensive, plus it was easily reversible.  This involves spraying a rubberized coating on the bare metal that would look somewhat like the original finish.  I’m generally happy with the results and so will share the process here.

The product used is a spray can version of a flexible coating known as Plasti Dip.  I bought an 11oz can of flat black at a local home center.  The cap color and texture match the 850 dark gray trim fairly well.

DSCN4051

Started by roughing up the bare metal trim strips with some fine grit sandpaper or sanding sponge, followed by a wet wipe to remove all grit and residue.  This will hopefully improve adhesion of the coating so that it lasts longer and resists peeling.

DSCN4049

Roughed up the bare metal for improved coating adhesion.

Roughed up the bare metal for improved coating adhesion.

Ideal surface is rough, clean and dry.

Carefully masked clean edge along existing trim to prevent coating spray on painted surface.

Used masking tape to protect paint and glass.

Used masking tape to protect paint and glass.

Carefully masked trim to give clean edge.

Carefully masked trim to give clean edge.

Then used trash bag plastic to mask paint and glass further out.

Masked further out to protect paint and glass.

Masked further out to protect paint and glass.

DSCN4055First coat should be very light to make good foundation for subsequent coats.

First coat down.

First coat down.

Applied three more coats, four total, with half hour between coats to dry properly.

After four coats and drying, I peeled the masking away to leave a nice clean line.

Result looks pretty good from a distance.

Result looks pretty good from a distance.

Looks pretty good from a distance, similar to existing trim.

Up close there is some texture and a few spots noticeably thick or thin.  I suspect my spray technique contributed to that so some practice is in order.  It would also be improved if I shook the can longer to mix up the contents better and also maybe kept it in the shade the whole time (instead of in the open on a nice hot, sunny day).

In the end I think it looks OK at a casual glance.  Better than the bare metal, although some people may prefer that.

Biggest question now is longevity.  Plasti Dip is not technically permanent but can last for years if not abused. Reportedly it can tolerate car washes, rain, wind and sunlight.  So we will see how well it holds up and I will report back here later.

If it gets ugly I can peel it off and start over with something else.

Plasti Dip has become quite popular lately for many automotive applications.  Besides coloring wheel rims, some people even color their whole cars.  Quite a few applications out there.  Besides Plasti Dip’s YouTube channel, here are a couple of excellent references:

DIY: Repairing Rubber Coated Vehicle Trim
The Ultimate Plasti-Dip Guide – Tips, Ideas & More for Cars

$6 for an 11oz can of Plasti-Dip

Sagging Bumper Repair

July 11, 2015

So the white sedan got kissed from behind in our neighborhood.  No real damage because the car that hit it was barely moving but strong enough to jolt my daughter and make the rear bumper sag just enough to look not quite right.

Permanent rear bumper sag due to minor rear-end collision.

Permanent rear bumper sag due to minor rear-end collision.

The damage is really minor and we could live with it but it does look funny; slightly worse in person than what is shown in the photo above.  I researched this online and learned that 850s have bumper mounting brackets that corrode and weaken over time and sometimes the bumper sags with little or no force, and minor accidents cause them to really bend.

Anyway, without disassembling this car I felt confident that these brackets were the problem so ordered them (both left and right) and had the lady who hit the car pay for the parts.

The bumper assembly is secured with only four bolts plus six rivets.  To get to one of the main bolts requires removal of the exhaust tip (tail pipe) and that was the one thing I was most concerned about.  My experience with the red wagon project car with the tail pipe was that it broke when I removed it.  So I began the project with this part knowing it was the most likely to cause trouble and delay the project.

DSCN3973

Tail pipe needs to be removed to allow the long bumper bolt above it to drop down.

Gave the fixing bolt a shot of PB blaster penetrating oil the night before to help break it loose.

Tail pipe removed for bumper bolt extraction.

Tail pipe removed for bumper bolt extraction.  You can see the dimple in the exhaust tube where the fixing bolt held the tip in place.

I carefully and slowly loosened the exhaust tip bolt to avoid shearing it off as they tend to get corroded and weak with moisture and heat over time.  Fortunately it remained strong and solid so I was able to twist the pipe off the exhaust tube.

Next up was removal of the rivets securing the front-facing edges of the bumper assembly to the rear wheel liners.  I thought I would be clever and avoid the hassle of removing the wheels to do this.  With limited space I managed to cut through the plastic-coated aluminum rivets using an old wood chisel and hammer.  It worked pretty well.

Shearing the heads off the wheel liner rivets with a hammer and chisel.

Shearing the heads off the wheel liner rivets with a hammer and chisel.

Head removed from first rivet.

Head removed from first rivet.

All three rivets removed from one side.

All three rivets removed from one side.  Bumper is now held by two large and two small bolts.

Separated bumper from wheel liners on both sides (six rivets total) so the front-facing edges were free.

Next we removed the side fixing bolts.  On the left side the trunk (boot) liner had to be moved to get to the nut.  This takes a little bit of fussing but only three twist fasteners had to be removed.

Left side nut accessed by moving trunk liner (three twist fasteners).

Left side nut accessed by moving trunk liner (three twist fasteners).

Left side bumper nut removed.  Stud protruding through wall connects to bumper side.

Left side bumper nut removed. Stud protruding through wall connects to bumper side.

It’s different on the right side.  Here the side nut is accessed not through the trunk but from underneath near the fuel filler tube.

Right side bumper nut loosened from underneath car, ready to spin off.

Right side bumper nut loosened from underneath car, ready to spin off.

After removing these two nuts the sides of the bumpers were free and I pulled them out.  The side attachment bolts are tied to plates which slide in slots in the bumper, which allows some front-back movement.

Finally we remove the two long vertical bolts which hold the bumper to the mounting brackets.

Remove two bolts which secure the bumper assembly to the mounting brackets.

Remove two bolts which secure the bumper assembly to the mounting brackets.

After removal of these two long bolts the bumper is now free to pull off the car.  It is sort of wedged between the top and bottom bracket flanges.

Main bolts removed, ready to pull bumper off.

Main bolts removed, ready to pull bumper off.

Bumper pulled off.  Not very heavy (less than 20 pounds).

Bumper pulled off. Not very heavy (less than 20 pounds).

DSCN3988

Here are the problematic bumper brackets that are slightly bent from the rear-end collision.

Here are the problematic bumper brackets that are slightly bent from the rear-end collision.

You can see from this mounting bolt position in the lower hole how the bracket is slightly bent in and down, which is why the bumper sagged.

You can see from this mounting bolt position rearward in the lower hole how the bracket is slightly bent in and down, which is why the bumper sagged.

Now on most 850s these brackets are badly corroded and weak.  In this case the brackets are in rather good condition, considering they are factory original.  It helps that this car has lived its 18 year life inland in mild climates (California and Texas) where roads are not salted and there is no ocean air.

At this point I could attempt to straighten them out a little since they are not badly bent.  However, we already have the parts in hand and new parts will be stronger and more reliable long-term, so they were replaced.

Bent brackets removed.

Bent brackets removed.

Old and new parts compared side-by-side.

Old and new parts compared side-by-side.

At this point, assembly is basically reverse of the removal procedure (don’t you love seeing this phrase in instructions?)  I re-used the mounting bolts to attach the new brackets to the frame since they were in good condition.  The bracket mounting holes are fairly large to allow for up/down/left/right movement.  I used the dirt marks on the frame to line things up horizontally and pushed the brackets up as high as they would go.  Note that the brackets want to wander when you tighten the bolts so I had to hold them tightly to keep in place.  If the bracket is badly corroded as many people find, all associated bolts may also be in bad condition and should be replaced.

After pushing the bumper back into place I started by pushing the side bolts through their respective openings and spun nuts loosely on to keep them in place while moving the rest of the bumper around.  This is the only tricky part of the job and it’s really not hard at all once you figure it out.

Next I secured the bumper in place; re-used the long bumper fixing bolts after cleaning them up since they were in very good shape.

Re-used original mounting bolts after cleaning the threads.

Re-used original mounting bolts after cleaning the threads.

Getting the holes in the bumper to line up with the bracket took a little manipulation.  Had to tap on the bumper a bit to move things into place but once it got close the bolt lined up nicely.

After securing the main bolts I tightened the side nuts and put the trunk lining back in place on the left side.

To make the car safely drivable I re-installed the exhaust pipe by slipping it back into place and tightening the fixing bolt.

The last part is where things didn’t go as planned.  I had intended to avoid removing the wheels (which is why I chiseled the rivet heads off) and use these “Christmas Tree” push-in fasteners instead, which required little clearance.  However, I found that the ones I bought (5/16″ dia [7.9mm]) were just a little too large in diameter to fit into the bumper hole.  I could not push them through to secure the two pieces together.  My guess is that 1/4″ fasteners would work since these almost fit, but I didn’t have any of these.  So I had to go with plan B…

Black nylon push-type wheel arch retainer clip (christmas tree style) was a good idea but slightly too large for the hole in the bumper; could not force it in.

5/16″ push-type retainer (christmas tree style) was a good idea but slightly too large for the hole in the bumper; could not force it in.

Close but not quite.  Could not push these fasteners all the way in to secure the bumper.

Close but not quite. Could not push these fasteners all the way in to secure the bumper.

Plan B involved using the proper rivets to secure the wheel liner to the bumper.  Unfortunately the clearance required for the rivet and the tool demands that the wheel be removed.  Since I had to remove the wheel, I could have just drilled the rivets out as we would normally do.

Genuine Volvo wheel liner rivet requires common rivet tool.

Genuine Volvo wheel liner rivet requires common rivet tool.  You can use normal aluminum rivets but these really stand out against the black liner.  I suppose black nylon rivets would also work since there is not a strong mechanical load on these parts.

Wheel liner properly riveted to bumper, three per side.

Wheel liner properly riveted to bumper, three per side.  Wheels must be removed for clearance to install the rivets.

So I had it all back together and now it looks just like it should:

Yay!  The bumper is back in its rightful place after replacing the bent mounting brackets.

Yay! The bumper is back in its rightful place after replacing the bent mounting brackets.

Project took only a couple of hours and was less work than I anticipated after looking at instructions.  It was easier than I expected and everything went smoothly (for once, no big surprises), which was a blessing on this hot Texas summer day.

Here is a good writeup on MVS.  The procedure shows the bracket corrosion more commonly found on these cars.

And for a dose of humor, I will sign off with this:  My baby drives the car which might be called a buggy in some cultures and the bumpers have some elastic material in them, so I can officially say that today I worked on rubber baby buggy bumpers.

$49.39 for factory replacement bumper brackets

Note that there are different part numbers for left and right and also differences between wagon and sedan brackets.

Corner Light Epidemic

July 8, 2015

Well, just like the project car red wagon, the white 850 sedan lost its right front corner light (front parking/turn signal lamp) lens.  You can read up on the details in task #98 from last spring.  Based on feedback from some readers plus this experience, I’m ready to pronounce this common problem to be a plague or epidemic and recommend that all 850 owners check theirs and repair as needed.

Like the red wagon experienced last spring, the front right corner lens fell off somewhere down the road.

Like the red wagon experienced last spring, the front right corner lens fell off somewhere down the road.

It seems pretty obvious that the adhesive weakens and vibration causes the lens to drop off while driving; it’s gone forever unless you happen to know when and where it launched.  18+ years of heat and sunlight cause the glue to dry out and lose its grip on the lens.

Lens adhesive gets hard and crusty over time and loses grip on the lens.

Lens adhesive gets hard and crusty over time and loses grip on the lens.

New light assembly installed.  Easy and looks great.

New light assembly installed. Easy and looks great.

Because both 850s lost lenses I thought I should check the lenses on the left side of both cars.  The red wagon’s lens was secure but this white sedan’s lens popped off with almost no effort.  So it was due to fall off on its own, part of the reason I termed this an epidemic.

Left side corner light lens popped off while gently tugging on it.  Was ready to fly off on the road.

Left side corner light lens popped off while gently tugging on it. Was ready to fly off on the road.

The good news here is that the lens didn’t fly off while driving so we can repair it to save the expense of replacing the whole light assembly.

I used some clear silicone adhesive caulk to glue the lens back on the assembly and let it cure for a while while clamped.  Just for grins I tugged on it to make sure it would stay attached.

Glued lens back on assembly using clear silicone adhesive caulk and clamped it while curing.

Glued lens back on assembly using clear silicone adhesive caulk and clamped it while curing.

Repaired (glued) light assembly re-installed.

Repaired (glued) light assembly re-installed.

My recommendation for all 850 owners is to tug on their corner lights lenses to make sure they are secure.  This is best done with the hood (bonnet) lifted up for better grip.  If they are loose or pop off, congratulations!  You saved the expense of buying a new light assembly.  All you need do is glue it back on.

#113 Darken Bumpers

June 9, 2015

With time, weather, and sunlight, the dark gray trim on these 850s starts to fade.  The large surface area on the textured bumpers gets particularly ugly with an uneven, splotchy appearance.

Uneven fading of bumper tops, typical of older 850s.

Uneven fading of bumper tops, typical of 850s now 18+ years old.

There are various products and methods for improving the look of these faded surfaces.  I wanted to report the results after trying WipeNew on the bumpers.  WipeNew is relatively inexpensive and easy to apply.  Basically you wipe it on and the chemistry reacts with polymeric surfaces to make them appear both darker and shinier.

More specifically, the 20 year-old daughter who drives the car does the work while you relax indoors with a cold beverage.  Let youth and chemistry do the job.

Small bottle of WipeNew product was more than enough to cover bumpers and other exterior trim.

Small bottle of WipeNew product was more than enough to cover bumpers and other exterior trim.

Applying WipeNew with rag towel.  You can see the difference between the treated area vs. unfinished.

Applying WipeNew with rag towel. You can see the difference between the treated area on left vs. unfinished.

This shows a dramatic difference with the untreated area under the sheet metal.  Could have reached under there with a swab but didn't want to go to the trouble.

This photo shows significant improvement; see untreated area under the sheet metal. Could have reached under there with a swab but didn’t want to go to the trouble.

Before

Before

After

After.  Looks darker when viewed in person; camera exposure minimizes contrast.

The results are OK, in my opinion.  Not horrible but not spectacular, either.  The bumpers (and dark gray trim elsewhere) are darker and shinier, more like new.  But they aren’t exactly like new.  I wasn’t expecting miracles so wasn’t disappointed.  Generally happy; it’s certainly an improvement.  Perhaps a second application in the near future will improve the look even further.

$13 for WipeNew kit (product plus application accessories)

Back in Action, Mostly

June 9, 2015

Well, I’m now physically able to do some things on these 850s.  My case of spinal stenosis required back surgery which went well.  Several weeks out now I am mostly functional but my lower back is still stiff and sore.  It will take some time for the back to heal up completely.  I’m not ready yet for any major jobs that require a lot of exertion or contorting my body but there are a few things we can do.

So you will see a few more posts this summer.  Speaking of summer, it quickly set in here in Central Texas.  After record-setting rainfall for the month of May, we’re drying out now and heating up– seasonably warm here.  Local flooding also tied me up helping with emergency communications and disaster relief since I’m a ham radio operator supporting two local agencies.

A couple of cosmetic things coming up.  Then an interesting topic of replacing brackets to fix a sagging rear bumper.  Still chasing a small evaporative emissions leak.

To the many new followers of this blog who haven’t seen much activity lately, let me explain a few things–

First, with 112 tasks completed as repair or maintenance items on the project car, we’re running low on things to do.  Of course, since the car is 18 years old now there are more things to fail.  But we’ve done almost all of the common repairs and replacements plus many other little problems that the 850 throws out.  We haven’t yet had to replace the fuel door hinge or fix the horn button or repair/replace the PNP switch; those are all common problems with 850s.  I’m sure we will find more in time.

Second, my health and the weather (cold winter, wet spring) has limited what we can do.  Thankfully the car is in fairly good working order; nothing to keep it off the road.

Lastly, for those of you who only see this blog via email, you may not know you can click to the home page.  There you will see categories to search for particular topics.  That’s a quick way to jump to a post of particular interest or browse for something that might interest you.

Thanks for reading, and have a great summer!

Jim

Rear Main Seal Failure and Clutch Replacement

March 28, 2015

Now don’t get too excited to learn much DIY here– this was a situation for an independent shop so the car was worked on there.  But both issues are a common occurrence on Volvo 850s and I wanted to share what I know.

One day I noticed that the white 850 sedan (not the red wagon project car) had a big dark spot under the front end and I went looking for trouble.

Remnant of oil puddle on driveway under engine.

Remnant of oil puddle on driveway under engine.

My worst fears were confirmed after verifying that it was, unfortunately, the rear main seal that was leaking.  No other fluids were low except the oil.  Also, I checked that oil wasn’t leaking down from the camshaft end seals near the top of the engine, which tends to drip directly down to the same area, giving an appearance of a main seal leak.

The car had 174662 miles on it (281091 km) so it’s no surprise that this seal wore out.  The rear main seal (RMS) prevents oil loss from the engine where the crankshaft (engine output) protrudes from the engine.  Because the crankshaft is constantly rotating, the seal will wear out eventually; the sealing material will naturally disintegrate over time.  I think this car did well to last 175K miles on the original RMS.

There appears to be a weep hole just below the transition from the engine to the transaxle.  That is where I saw a lot of dark oil dripping out.  My guess is that this opening was deliberately put there by Volvo to detect a seal leak.

Weep hole between engine and transmission visible in reflection on inspection mirror.

Weep hole between engine and transmission visible in reflection on inspection mirror.

In this situation I know it requires removal of the transaxle to access the rear main seal for replacement.  That’s a big job and done right it requires special tools, lifting equipment, and room to maneuver.  Plus it takes a fair bit of time and in my current physical condition I really couldn’t see tackling this on my own.  Hurts me to say so since I am really keen on DIY.  People have done the work themselves and have posted the procedure on forums [one good one is here ] but I chose to take it to a shop.  ($$$)

Anyhoo, to add insult to injury, the clutch started acting badly according to my daughter.  This car has a manual transmission which has always felt or behaved erratically since we inherited the car.  [This is my chance to rant and get it off my chest–  Why my father-in-law went out of his way to buy a car with a stick shift when he worked in San Francisco (famous for steep hills) is beyond me!]  The only saving grace is that the bulk of the labor for these two jobs is the same.  Both require removal of the transaxle, for which labor is the most significant cost.  Therefore it makes sense for the RMS to be replaced when you do a clutch job and perhaps replace the clutch when you do the RMS, depending on wear.

After driving it the shop technician wanted to replace the engine flywheel as well because by feel and experience he suspected it was damaged.  Because we were traveling and had time to leave the car with the shop, I negotiated that they inspect the flywheel before ordering one (factory part only at about $500!)  Good news in the end was that the flywheel was not badly damaged and only needed some machining to resurface it for about $100.

Got the car back with new main seal and clutch.  No more oil leak and the clutch now operates better than when we inherited the car; it’s quite nice to drive.

I am aware that rear main seal leakage is a symptom of a clogged PCV system (oil separator and flame trap on 850s).  To make sure this wasn’t an issue, I checked the car for this condition by putting a latex glove tightly over the dipstick tube and verifying that it did not inflate, which would indicate a pressurized crankcase (plugged PCV).

Glove (or balloon) tightly coupled to dipstick tube did not inflate.  If it had, it would indicate that the crankcase was being pressurized.

Glove (or balloon) tightly wrapped around dipstick tube did not inflate. If it had, it would indicate that the crankcase was being pressurized.

Also checked that there was no smoke coming from the dipstick tube, which is another indicator of the same problem.

No smoke from the dipstick tube.  Good indication that the crankcase is not pressurized.  Smoke usually means the PCV system is clogged and can lead to oil seal failures all around the engine.

No smoke from the dipstick tube. Good indication that the crankcase is not pressurized. Smoke usually means the PCV system is clogged and can lead to oil seal failures all around the engine.

Since the red wagon has nearly the same mileage, we’ll have to keep an eye on it for the RMS leak.  Hope the project car lasts even longer than this one!

$1778 for new RMS, clutch kit (pressure plate, disc and the throw-out bearing).  Of this, nearly $1000 is labor.

Not Much Happening Right Now…

March 10, 2015

Sorry it’s been a good long while since I posted anything.  The car has mostly been off to college since early fall and when it has been here the weather has been uncooperative.  It’s dark outside when I get home from work so Saturdays are the only day I have to mess with the cars, and those are often busy.

Another factor is that I am dealing with a physical problem that limits my movement and comfort.  Spinal stenosis in the lumbar region frequently gives me a lot of pain in my lower back and upper legs.  So I haven’t been in good shape to work on these 850s even if I had the occasion.

Anyway, daylight saving time just bought us an extra hour of daylight and the weather will be warming up.  When the red wagon is here I plan to tear into the evap lines to fix a small leak that’s trowing a trouble code once in a while.  Also some cosmetic things including re-covering the roof trim strips with flat black coating.  The dash pad needs to be better secured and I’m sure something else will need fixing by then.  Probably fool with the engine torque mounts to minimize vibration (go back to rubber instead of polyurethane?)

On the white sedan I need to replace the control arms and there is a big issue with the clutch and rear main oil seal.

Stay tuned; you never know what will happen next with two 1997 Volvo 850s!

#112 Engine Sub-frame Mount Bushing Inserts

December 26, 2014

I’ve had these sub-frame bushing inserts laying around for months before I finally got around to installing them.  IPD has several unique Volvo 850 products that are really good and this is one of them.

IPD sub-frame bushing kit includes four PE inserts, two tubes of lubricant and one small tube of thread locking compound.

IPD sub-frame bushing kit includes four PU inserts, two syringes of lubricant and one small tube of thread locking compound.

The general idea is that these inserts tighten up the engine sub-frame mounting bushings that degrade over time.  Users have reported a big improvement in steering and handling in general.

Polyurethane (PU) insert tightens up existing sub-frame bushing.

Polyurethane (PU) insert tightens up existing sub-frame bushing.

850 engines sit on a separate sub-frame which is then connected to the car chassis via mounting bushings on four corners.  These bushings are made of rubber and give some of the same vibration isolation that the main engine mounts do.  Over time rubber degrades and depending on mileage, driving conditions and chemical exposure these sub-frame mounts can get really sloppy.  The whole engine sub-frame can move front to back and side to side a little compared to new bushings.  Symptoms of worn bushings include clunking noise, uneven tire wear, steering play/movement and steering influenced when accelerating or braking.

Replacing the mounts is both expensive and time-consuming.  IPD came up with this reasonably priced solution that takes only an hour or two to install.  They fill in the gaps of the original bushings to tighten them up and give a factory-new feel.

Start by lifting the front of the car.  This can be done with wheels on so this is a good time for ramps.  You work on the four bushings one at a time so that the sub-frame doesn’t need extra support.  I started with the front right as shown.  The process is presented below.

Driving the car up on ramps gives good access to the front bushings and adequate room for the rear.

Driving the car up on ramps gives good access to the front bushings and adequate room for the rear.  Don’t forget to chock the rear wheels.

Front bushings tackled first.

Front bushings tackled first.

Large, long bolt removed.  Bushings now viewed clearly.

Large, long bolt removed. Bushings now viewed clearly.

Half of the lube per syringe is squirted into the voids where the inserts will be placed.

Half of the lube per syringe is squirted into the voids where the inserts will be placed.

Insert pressed into place in bushing.  In this case the bushings were in good condition and I had to hammer them in with a rubber mallet.

Insert pressed into place in bushing. In this case the bushings were in good condition and I had to hammer them in with a rubber mallet.

New bolts are recommended for reattachment but this is not always practical.  IPD provides a small amount of thread locking adhesive for more security when the original bolts are re-used.

New bolts are recommended for reattachment but this is not always practical. IPD provides a small amount of thread locking adhesive for more security when the original bolts are re-used.

Original bolt secured to torque specification with thread locking adhesive.  One front corner complete.  Repeat for other side.

Original bolt secured to torque specification with thread locking adhesive. One front corner complete. Repeat for other side.

For the front bushings I found that the engine dropped a bit too much so supported the sub-frame with a floor jack.  This was not necessary for the rear bushings.

For the front bushings I found that the engine dropped a bit too much so supported the sub-frame with a floor jack. This was not necessary for the rear bushings.

Rear bushings treated the same way with an additional step of unbolting the delta-frame plate from the chassis.

Rear bushings treated the same way with an additional step of unbolting the triangle-shaped frame plate from the chassis.

After installing the inserts on all four corners I drove the car off the ramps and took it for a test drive to see if things had changed.  There is a slight improvement in steering feel/play but nothing dramatic.  In the case of this project car the original bushings were in surprisingly good shape after 18 years.  In fact, I had a hard time pressing the inserts into the bushings which indicated the rubber was still fairly intact and strong, plus we had no significant issues with steering or vibration.  Surely there are many older 850s out there with really worn bushings because there are a lot people who report a big improvement after installing these.  I don’t regret doing this job on this car because it is preventive maintenance so we shouldn’t need to deal with these in the future.

IPD recommends checking front end alignment when sub-frame bushings are worked on as the steering gear/rack might have moved a small amount.

Details and ordering info on the IPD website.

$59.95

#111 Exhaust Rattle

November 30, 2014

The last thing I looked into while the car was home this past weekend is a rattling noise under the car.  It happened only when the car was in drive (automatic transmission) and the brakes were applied.

This symptom told me the problem was related to the slight shift in engine rotation when the car is in drive.  Reference post #105 to learn how the engine tilts to the back when in drive and the car is not moving.

Because the rattle is not heard when the transmission is in reverse, park or neutral, it also means that it is a very slight amount of engine rotation that causes metal-to-metal contact.

So I went looking for possible exhaust contact points under the car with the front up on ramps.

I spotted a heat shield just under the pipe connecting the exhaust manifold to the catalytic converter.

This shield is clipped onto a round tube and then lightly secured in one corner with a screw.  The sheet metal is very flexible so the shield can move quite a bit, rotating on the clips.  Apparently I bumped it up towards the exhaust pipe while working under there recently.  Or perhaps the daughter drove over something that pushed it up.

At any rate, once I moved the shield down the rattle went away.

Shield pushed up nearly touches exhaust pipe.

Shield pushed up nearly touches exhaust pipe.  Rattles when engine rotates back.

Rotated shield down so that there is no metal contact.

Rotated shield down so that there is no metal contact.  No more rattle.

Get Rid of K&N Air Filter

November 30, 2014

On a side note to the previous post where we discussed how important the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor is, I want to bring up the topic of K&N brand air filters.

K&N makes a unique type of air filter that has a fine mesh screen that is saturated with oil.  The oil is supposed to trap dust and debris but also let more air flow through.  Some automotive enthusiasts swear by K&N because they reportedly increase engine horsepower.  Another benefit is that they can be cleaned and re-oiled so long-term cost is less than replacement filters.

In the case of these normally aspirated (non-turbo) 850 engines, there is no apparent increase in horsepower, at least in my experience.

The downside to the K&N filter is that because it is oiled, some of that oil will leave the filter and pass on to the intake manifold.  Immediately after the filter is the MAF sensor and it is reasonable to assume that some oil will end up on the sensor.  This would affect heat transfer and sensor accuracy.

With these two facts in mind, I opted to remove the K&N air filter from our 850 sedan and replace with a standard filter.

Removed and discarded K&N filter.

Removed and discarded K&N filter.

Installed new standard Wix filter.

Installed new standard Wix filter.

Air cleaner cover had alert stickers advising any service personnel that the air filter could be renewed instead of being replaced.

Air cleaner cover had alert stickers advising any service personnel that the air filter could be renewed instead of being replaced.

Removed K&N stickers from the air cleaner cover.

Removed K&N stickers from the air cleaner cover.

I welcome feedback in the comments from any readers who have more experience with K&N filters, pro or con.

#110 Preheat Air Valve Stuck, Affects MAF Sensor

November 30, 2014

Summary:  Mass air flow (MAF) sensor was misbehaving so it was cleaned along with sensor electrical connector contacts.  Also observed that the preheat air valve was stuck in preheat position so MAF was always seeing hot air.  Solved this problem by mechanically fixing defective air control valve in the position for fresh air only.

Details:  Along with the engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor, the mass air flow (MAF) sensor is one of the two most critical sensors for Volvo 850 (and most other cars) engine operation.  Either being defective can cause the engine to run rough or not run at all and both affect fuel economy as well.

We had an incident a few weeks back where this project car was running very roughly.  I fiddled with the MAF sensor connector which is located next to the air cleaner housing and the engine started running smoothly again.  That told me there was an issue with the sensor or its electrical connection.

While the car was home this weekend I tore into the air cleaner to get to the MAF sensor and gave it a good cleaning.  Debris or dirt on the sensor elements can significantly affect the air flow reading and sometimes just a few taps will dislodge particles.  This may have been what happened when I wiggled the connector to restore smooth engine idle.

Cleaning of the MAF sensor is best done by removing the sensor from its housing.  However, on this car the screws from the factory require an unusual 5-point Torx security bit, which I don’t have.  Interestingly, our other 1997 model 850 has 6-point security screws which I can remove, so Volvo is inconsistent here.

This car had 5-point Torx security screw head and I don't have the tool for this.

This car had 5-point Torx security screw head for the MAF and I don’t have the tool for this…

...so I removed the whole MAF assembly for cleaning.

…so I removed the whole MAF assembly for cleaning.

So I sprayed MAF cleaner with the sensor still installed in the housing.  The sensor elements are very fragile and should never be touched or disturbed.  This is an expensive part to replace.

Cleaned MAF sensor with special spray.

Cleaned MAF sensor with special spray.  Other cleaners may leave residue which can harm or alter sensor reading.

Spray special MAF sensor cleaner on and around the sensor elements.

Spray MAF sensor cleaner on and around the sensor elements.

Make sure the laminar flow grid is also clean because air flows towards the sensor from this side.

Make sure the laminar flow grid is also clean because air flows towards the sensor from this side.

While I had the air intake and filter housing dissasembled, I checked the preheated air valve for proper operation.  This may be unique to North American 850s because of emissions requirements; I don’t know if this is a feature elsewhere.

There is a flapper valve under the air filter which selects between ambient air and preheated air (passes over exhaust manifold), or a mix of both, depending on air temperature.  On older 850s there is a thermostat that moves a rod to operate the air valve directly.  This is a known common failure item.  On late-model 850s and early V70s there is a thermostat in the air cleaner housing that modulates a vacuum valve to regulate the air valve in conjunction with a mechanical thermostat.

Access to the preheat air valve requires removal of air cleaner housing.

Access to the preheat air valve requires removal of air cleaner housing.  Valve can be seen hanging below the air cleaner

Preheated air valve is fastened to the air cleaner housing, on the right (bottom view).  Fresh air intake is at upper left, pre-heated intake far right.

Preheated air valve unclipped from air cleaner housing, on the right. Fresh air intake is at bottom, pre-heated intake far right, outlet at top.

On this car the air valve was stuck in the heated air position only, even with strong vacuum.  This means that the MAF sensor has been getting pre-heated air all the time.  The sensor reading will be affected by this and also may be damaged by constant flow of hot air.

Air valve always stuck in this position, blocking fresh air and open to pre-heated air.

Air valve always stuck in this position, blocking fresh air and open to pre-heated air.

Took apart the valve assembly to see if I could replace the thermostat and to get a better look at the vacuum valve part.  It gave me a good idea how it works but I quickly realized it was broken.

Preheat air valve disassembled.

Preheat air valve disassembled.

I applied a vacuum directly to the vacuum valve and could see the piston moving up and down as designed.

Piston extended with no vacuum.  Would select preheated air.

Piston extended with no vacuum. Would select preheated air.

Piston retracted with hard vacuum.  Would pull air valve to cold air inlet.

Piston retracted with hard vacuum. Would pull air valve to cold air inlet.

So the vacuum valve itself seems to be working but when the flapper is connected to the piston and the whole thing reassembled, it doesn’t move.  When I apply vacuum the piston does retract but the plastic connector to the flapper pulls around the thermostat and the flapper stays in preheat position.

Vacuum valve pulls piston down but plastic coupling stays up and valve stays in preheat position.

Vacuum valve pulls piston down but plastic coupling stays up and valve stays in preheat position.

There is clearly a different result when the flapper is attached.  I surmise that the plastic rim that pulls in was worn out and so it just slips around the thermostat when the vacuum valve pulls it in.  If the hole in the plastic were smaller it should pull the whole thermostat (metal rod) down as it does without the flapper attached.  So a proper fix would be to replace this vacuum valve assembly.

If this were the older preheat valve design it would be a simple part (thermostat) to swap out.  Unfortunately I can find no parts information on the vacuum-operated valve for this car (both of our 1997 850s have the late design).  It’s not mentioned in the usual parts places (FCP, IPD, Volvopartswebstore.)  The only mention of it is on the AllDataDIY site without parts info.

I suppose I could go to a Volvo dealer parts department and ask them to chase it down but we know how expensive that would be.  After reading the functional description of the design, I decided that we really don’t need the preheat feature here in central Texas where it rarely gets below freezing.  With 9-10 months of the year in a warm climate, the preheat valve should be open to cool air almost all the time, and there is no real consequence to not having preheated air.  So I rigged it to stay open to fresh air at all times, blocking the preheated air.

This was accomplished by drilling a hole in the flapper valve and using a long 2″ machine screw with a jam nut to keep it open.

Air valve held open to fresh air (closed to preheated air) with long screw and jam nut.

Air valve held open to fresh air (closed to preheated air) with long screw and jam nut.

In addition to preserving the life and functionality of the MAF, we hope to gain a little power out of this mod.  Other people with stuck air valves have reported an increase in power when they defeated the preheat intake.  I expect this is because the fresh air intake has a slightly larger cross-sectional area than the preheated hose so more air can get to the intake manifold.  Cooler air may also give a more accurate reading of air flow with the MAF as its principle of operation is to measure heat transfer in the sensor.  More accurate air flow measurement should give a better fuel/air ratio, resulting in more efficiency (better fuel economy?) and power.

Reassembled the air cleaner and reconnected everything else.  Also sprayed electrical contact cleaner on MAF sensor pins and sockets and mated/unmated a few times to wipe off oxide and prevent future intermittent connections.

Sprayed contact cleaner on both mating connector contacts to prevent future intermittents.

Sprayed contact cleaner on both mating connector contacts to prevent future intermittents.

??????????

Car runs fine now and time will tell how well the engine runs with this modification.

$0- no cost, using supplies and parts laying around.

Technical Notes:  The “new control method for preheating air” is described in the Technical Service Bulletin 2-25-818, excerpts given here:

The system controls the intake air temperature so that it remains between +27°C (81°F) and +37°C (99°F) in the 850.

Function

The intake manifold vacuum in the plastic tubes is distributed from the multi-nipple (1) via a bimetal sensor-controlled damper (2) to a vacuum tank (3) which controls a damper, which opens and lets hot air into the cold intake air. When the throttle is wide open no vacuum is created and the air damper remains closed.

When the outside temperature is cold and with wide open throttle (WOT), the center damper is held open by a wax thermostat (4), which is located between the vacuum tank and the center damper.

You can tell if the car has the new control scheme by the presence of two vacuum ports on the rear of the air cleaner cover.

Preheat air vacuum control thermostat on back of air cleaner cover with inlet and outlet tubing nipples shown.

Preheat air vacuum control thermostat on back of air cleaner cover with inlet and outlet tubing nipples shown.

Inside of air cleaner cover showing vacuum control thermostat.

Inside of air cleaner cover showing vacuum control thermostat.

Regarding the MAF, excerpts of the description and operation are given below:

The Mass Air Flow (MAF ) Sensor supplies the Engine Control Module (ECM ) with a signal describing the intake air mass.

This information is used to calculate:

Injection period

  • Ignition timing
  • If the engine coolant fan needs to run-on.

The mass air flow (MAF) sensor consists of a plastic housing containing a connector, electronic circuitry and an aluminum heat sink. The mass airflow (MAF) sensor measuring device is a heated film mounted in a pipe which is cooled by the intake air to the engine. The heated film consists of four resistors:

The mass air flow (MAF) sensor is supplied with battery voltage and has separate power and signal ground points. The signal from the sensor varies from 0 V to 5 V depending on the mass of air passing. Voltage increases with air flow.

Since working temperature is relatively high (170°C ), and the flow and temperature sensitive resistors are mounted on the side of the hot film, a burn-off function is not required.

The engine control module (ECM) will adopt substitute values if the mass air flow (MAF) sensor signal is missing or faulty.

The mass air flow (MAF) sensor is located between the Air Cleaner (ACL ) cover and the fresh air intake.

#109 Remote Keyless Entry Battery

November 30, 2014

One other complaint arrived with the car for the long weekend that involved the remote door lock/unlock feature that I retrofitted back in task #90.

When keyless entry was installed on this car it came with an old, used remote transmitter (key fob) with an aged battery inside.  Turns out the two coin cells inside were running low and the remote would work only in close proximity to the car.

Installed two fresh coin cells and now the remote transmitter works just fine.

Two things I learned while playing with the key fob:  First, the transmitter chirps once when the lock or unlock button is pressed and the batteries are fresh.  When the coin cells are low the key fob chirps three times when a button is pressed.  So that is one clue that the batteries need to be replaced.

Volvo 9442982 Key Fob

Transmitter chirps only once upon button push if batteries are fresh; more chirps indicates low battery charge.

The other thing I learned (actually, I knew this, but was reminded) is that lithium coin cells will test fine on a voltmeter even when they are fairly discharged.  Their chemistry still provides nearly full voltage with no load as when measured with a modern digital multimeter (DMM).

Battery charge is low even though both (2x3V lithium cell) read 6VDC with no load.

Battery charge is low even though both (2x3V lithium cell) read 6VDC with no load.

So to properly check the coin cells you need a special load tester to measure actual battery capacity.  Since few of us have such a thing, my suggestion is to listen to the key fob and replace batteries when you hear more than one chirp.

With fresh batteries the transmitter chirps only once and the doors can be locked/unlocked from a practical distance.

One other thought here on this topic– Sometimes the key fob transmitters go bad.  Even with fresh batteries they may not work.  If you suspect the remote is bad, you need to check for radio frequency (RF) signal being transmitted.  Some auto parts stores have a tester at the counter.  One other way to check at home is use your own RF sniffer.  I have this cheap one from Harbor Freight Tools that detects RF signals.  When you push the lock and unlock buttons, the tester will flicker and chirp to indicate a signal.

RF sniffer indicates that the remote is transmitting a signal when a button is pushed.

RF sniffer indicates that the remote is transmitting a signal when a button is pushed.

#108 Front Right Engine Mount

November 29, 2014

The car has come home from college for our Thanksgiving holiday and I got to work on a few things.

First up is the front right engine mount.  Daughter complained about vibration and I have replaced the other two engine pads already along with the upper and lower torque mounts so this is the last of the engine mounts to tackle.

The front right engine mount is the smallest of the three mounts and is located in the front right side of the car.  It is actually on the front left side of the transverse-mounted engine and is sometimes referred as front left.  At any rate, it is known to fail frequently and sooner than the others and it is the only one I have not replaced yet.  Visual exam showed no issues but I thought I should replace it based on time and mileage.

Starting point is with the front of the car lifted up securely on jackstands with the front right wheel off.  The wheel well flap is also folded back and secured to access the lower front of the engine.

Right front engine mount is visible just below and to the left of the crankshaft pulley (below red handle clamp).

Right front engine mount is visible just below and to the left of the crankshaft pulley (below red handle clamp).

Before removing the mount I measured the distance from the bottom of the oil pan to the top of the sub-frame for reference.  It was right around 3/8″ (9.5mm), just enough for me to stick my pinky finger in the gap.

Measured 3/8" gap between oil pan and sub-frame.

Measured 3/8″ gap between oil pan and sub-frame…

...which is just enough for me to stick my pinky finger in the gap.

…which is just enough for me to stick my pinky finger in the gap.

Removal of the mount involves unscrewing the two bolts to the engine (horizontal) and then two bolts to the sub-frame (vertical).  The three bolts on the right are easy to remove.  The one on the left requires swivel adapters and a short socket wrench to remove because it’s surrounded on all sides.

Two bolts to engine removed and two to sub-frame to free the mount.

Two bolts to engine removed and two to sub-frame to free the mount.

Once the engine mount is unbolted we lift the engine up slightly with a floor jack under the oil pan with a block of wood as a cushion and to spread the load around.

Lift engine off mount slightly.

The mount is now free to remove.

Old mount removed.

Old mount removed.

Compared old and new mounts and I was surprised to see that the old mount was actually in pretty good shape considering the car’s age.  Maybe it was replaced by previous owners; hard to believe this one is still going strong after 180K miles and 17 years.

Old mount was in pretty good condition.  Often the rubber tears out and the metal triangle collapses down, a sure sign of failure.

Old mount was in pretty good condition. Often the rubber tears out and the metal triangle collapses down, a sure sign of failure.

Old mount, top view.

Old mount, top view.

Old mount, bottom view.

Old mount, bottom view.

I could see some signs of the rubber tearing on the bottom which means it would eventually fail.  Since I had the new part I decided to be proactive and replace it anyway.

Now we slip the new mount in place (it has a keying feature to prevent installing backwards) and bolt to the sub-frame.

New mount bolted to sub-frame.

New mount bolted to sub-frame.

Then lower the engine back onto the new mount and then bolt the mount to the engine.

New mount bolted to engine.

New mount bolted to engine.

As expected the old mount was not seriously degraded so the new mount provided only a slight height increase.

New mount provides only a slight increase in gap since old mount was not badly worn.

New mount provides only a slight increase in gap since old mount was not badly worn.

Next we put the wheel back on, lower the car and tighten the wheel lug bolts and then run the engine to test for noise or vibration.  No problems.

$39.95 for a high-quality (Febi) after-market engine mount.

Sedan Drive Axle Broken

November 9, 2014

The white 850 sedan that I had been driving for 11 years has been sold to my oldest daughter so now the two girls both drive 850s.  I’m rocking a nice 2013 Honda Accord now.  I’m still caring for both 850s so they will still be featured in this blog.

The white sedan really let us down recently.  Daughter reported it making strange noises and vibrations so I drove it to see if anything obvious was wrong.  Sure enough, it made some horrible sounds accompanied by strong vibration and shuddering.  Then the car stopped moving altogether even though the engine was running fine.  No matter what gear I selected (this one has a manual transmission) the transaxle would not engage with the engine.  We managed to push it off the road and called for a tow truck to come haul it to the repair shop.

Car had to be towed (or more accurately, dragged onto a flat bed truck and driven) to an independent shop.

Car had to be towed (or more accurately, dragged onto a flat bed truck and driven) to an independent shop.

I just didn’t have the time or equipment to deal with this problem myself so we had it towed to an independent shop specializing in European cars.  I suspected the clutch was bad and that’s what the shop thought at first also.  But once they started disassembling the transaxle to get to the clutch they discovered that one of the driveshaft bearings was seized up or something like that.  Bottom line, one of the drive axles was broken and this caused the transaxle to not engage (something about differential gearing in there).  The clutch still had some life left in it, they reported.  So instead of a $1600 clutch job it turned out to be a $300 drive axle replacement.  The clutch will need to be replaced at some point in the future but we bought some more time with this one.  It’s back and running fine, although the shop found several things that needed attention.

#107 Windshield Wiper Arm, Round 2

October 21, 2014

The project car has been off to college since August so I haven’t posted anything lately.  It came back for a fall break visit with my daughter complaining about the driver side windshield wiper.  The arm was replaced early on with a generic part which was a mistake.  Even factory arms have a reputation for bending out of shape and then not making complete contact with the windshield and generic parts fail faster.

Much of the left side was not wiped.

Much of the left side was not wiped.

Hard to tell from these photos but the blade doesn’t make good contact on the left side of the windshield and this is a problem for the driver when needed.  You can see how much I had to bend the arm to make even moderate contact and this is as much as I could improve it.

Even with arm bent a ridiculous amount the wiper blade wasn't working well.

Even with arm bent a ridiculous amount the wiper blade wasn’t working well.

I even tried the suggested tricks to shave off some metal down at the base to allow the spring to pull the arm in tighter but that accomplished very little.  The real problem here is the cheap substitute arm that I used the first time; it is weaker than the factory parts marked Bosch.

Because this is an important safety issue and because I already wasted money on a cheaper part, I bought an expensive factory part from the local Volvo dealer.  Replaced it and now it wipes tight against the windshield like it should.

Genuine ($$$) arm has Volvo part number stamped on it.

Genuine ($$$) arm has Volvo part number stamped on it.

Genuine arm is also stamped Bosch and probably made in Belgium.

Genuine arm is also stamped Bosch and probably made in Belgium.

Wiper properly clears the windshield with new arm.

Wiper properly clears the windshield with new arm.

$66 for factory wiper arm LH

Gas Shock Failure Reference Video

August 31, 2014

The Volvo 850 has a number of gas-charged shocks on it.  Primarily the rear suspension shock absorbers and gas shocks as part of the strut assemblies on the front suspension.  Suspension shocks allow linear movement with some resistance  where they dampen natural oscillations.

I wanted to share this outstanding video explaining how gas shocks operate and how they fail over time.  Particularly interesting is the multi-stage valves inside that respond to the force of different events:

How Shocks & Struts Wear

I’m not trying to push a product, just acknowledging that the industry guidance for changing shocks and struts at 50K-60K mile intervals has some validity.  By the time shocks or struts are visibly or obviously bad the shock is way past needing replacement and you would have experienced a big improvement in ride comfort, tire wear and handling if they were changed sooner.

Manual (non-electric) front seats and the wagon tailgate also have gas shocks, or, more appropriately, gas springs for lift support and I changed these in previous posts.  They are less prone to constant vibration so they don’t have the same failure mode but the general principle of a gas-filled cylinder still applies.  Over time and use the gas (usually nitrogen [N2]) will leak out and they lose their force to push the rod out and do the job.  At this point they need to be replaced.

#106 Strut Replacement

August 3, 2014

Struts were replaced, giving a huge improvement in ride, noise and turning smoothness.

Besides making squeaking noises and a less-than-comfortable ride, the struts needed replacement because the spring seat on the right side was failing.  The rubber seat where the top of the strut spring sits is a well-known failure item on Volvo 850s.  If you take a wrench to the upper nut and turn it, there should be little movement on a good seat and it should quickly snap back to the relaxed position.  You can get quite a bit of twisting movement on spring seats that are failing and the nut spins freely when they are torn completely.  The nut could twist quite a bit on this car so needed a seat replacement along with the gas shocks and who knows what else in these strut assemblies.

If you can get any real movement out of these nuts at top of strut, the rubber spring seat is failing.

If you can get any real movement out of these nuts at top of strut, the rubber spring seat is failing.

Struts should always be replaced in pairs to give equal ride on both sides, even if only one is bad.  In this case the right side strut had a torn spring seat while the left side was rather squeaky.  Both really did need replacement.

Started by lifting the front of the car securely on jackstands with the wheels removed.

Strut replacement begins with car on stands and wheels off.

Strut replacement begins with car on stands and wheels off.

Next is to support the wheel hub with a jack to just take a little load off the strut.

Support the wheel hub so the shock is not extended.

Support the wheel hub so the shock is not extended.

To free the strut for removal involves unscrewing six fasteners in three locations.  First unbolt the sway bar link from the  strut mount (one nut).

Sway bar link disconnected from strut.

Sway bar link disconnected from strut.

Then unbolt the lower strut from the steering knuckle of the wheel hub (two bolts/nuts).

Strut unbolted from steering knuckle (wheel hub).

Strut unbolted from steering knuckle (wheel hub).

Finally unscrew the nuts securing the upper strut bearing mount under the hood (three nuts).

Top of strut (bearing plate) unbolted from under hood allows the strut to drop.

Top of strut (bearing plate) unbolted from under hood allows the strut to drop.

There is also an anti-lock brake (ABS) sensor cable grommet that needs to be pulled out of the bracket on the strut.

ABS sensor cable pulled out from bracket.

ABS sensor cable pulled out from bracket.

The actual sequence here is not important but all four things need to happen to free the strut from the car.  Now that it’s free, the support can be removed and the strut can simply be dropped down and removed from under the wheel well.  The old struts (not original, but not sure when they were last replaced) were very grimy, worn and torn up.

Struts in bad shape.

Struts in bad shape.

At this point the strut is typically disassembled with special tools and then reassembled with new parts as needed.  The spring is almost always salvaged and the other parts may be replaced depending on condition.  It’s generally a good idea to replace everything but the spring.

For this job, however, and this is where many Volvo purists will get upset, I did not rebuild the struts.  Instead I bought complete strut assemblies ready to go.  This gives us new gas shocks, coil springs, dust boot, bumper, bump stop, spring seat, bearing plate, retaining nut, upper cushion and top nut.  The quality of each of these may not be factory level but I’ll be happy if we get five years out of these.  I used Gabriel ReadyMount complete strut assemblies (G57040).  Three factors in choosing these: 1) Price was unbeatable with the pair running only $250 after instant rebate; 2) Time saved not rebuilding the struts; this cuts my effort down by at least three hours per car; 3) Favorable reports about these struts by certified buyers on their 850s.  Volvo forums lean towards factory only parts, or at least high quality after-market level.  I have no way of knowing where these complete assemblies fit in to this mix so this is something of an experiment.  I will update this post if and when there is an issue with the struts.

Comparing the old and new strut assemblies is very favorable.  The only missing detail is the ABS sensor wire bracket which needs to be screwed onto the appropriate side.

Complete strut assembly matches original perfectly.

Complete strut assembly matches original perfectly.

??????????

Installation of the new strut assembly is straight-forward; just reverse the removal procedure.  Orientation of the strut is impossible to confuse as both top and bottom have to be turned a certain way to install.  The upper mounting is easy but the lower connection to the steering knuckle takes some effort to line up the bolt holes.  As long as you can move the wheel hub around it can be done.

Secure upper part of strut loosely with nuts.

Secure upper part of strut loosely with nuts.

Strut roughly fastened at top.

Strut roughly fastened at top.

Strut roughly fastened at top.

Strut roughly fastened at bottom.

One extra detail is to screw the ABS sensor cable bracket into the appropriate side.  The strut has holes pre-drilled for this and self-tapping screws are provided.

Screwing in ABS sensor cable bracket is easy.

Screwing in ABS sensor cable bracket is easy.

Now it’s just tighten all the fasteners to the factory torque spec.  Again, in no special order:

Lower strut secured to steering knuckle.

Lower strut secured to steering knuckle.

New fasteners are recommended for the lower strut bolts but I didn’t order any so just re-used the old ones.

Sway bar link to strut nut.

Sway bar link to strut nut.

Slip ABS sensor wire grommet into bracket.  This takes a bit of force.

Slip ABS sensor wire grommet into bracket. This takes a bit of forceful massaging.

Upper mounting nuts.

Upper mounting nuts.

Once everything is replaced and secure on both sides, just put the wheels back on and lower the car and make a test drive.  Listen for any unusual sounds and feel how the front of the car rides and steers.  For this task the ride was much improved; all the squeaking and popping was eliminated and the turning was smoother.  I attribute much of the improved feel to the new springs which give more support than the originals with 17 years of compression on them.

New struts require front end alignment check and adjustment as needed because they alter the geometry of the front wheels, thus affecting caster, camber and toe.  Fortunately we purchased lifetime alignment at Firestone so I’ll bring the car in for free alignment shortly.

I dissected one of the struts to see how bad it was and present a short photo essay below.

You need some kind of convenient and sturdy work platform.

You need some kind of convenient and sturdy work platform.

Top nut and cushion washer can be removed at any time; these are not under spring compression.

Top nut and cushion washer can be removed at any time; these are not under spring compression.

To disassemble the strut further, you must compress the spring to relieve tension.  These two-piece screw compressors are most common but the cheap ones are scary fragile.

To disassemble the strut further, you must compress the spring to relieve axial force. These two-piece compressors are most common but the cheap ones are scary fragile.

Alternative spring compressor is this massive monster that is sturdy but gets in the way.

Alternative spring compressor is this massive monster that is sturdy but awkward.

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I like the sturdiness of the big red one but it doesn’t clamp the coils as neatly as the two-piece compressor which is less likely to damage the finish (and let the coil rust).  So the two-piece ones are probably better for these smaller coils (compared to larger vehicle springs).  Just keep a close eye on them in case they show any signs of breaking.

With spring compressed the retaining nut can be removed.  This takes a special star-shaped tool and another tool to hold the gas cylinder shaft from spinning.

With spring compressed the retaining nut can be removed. This takes a special star-shaped tool and another tool to hold the gas cylinder shaft from spinning.

Retainer nut removed.

Retainer nut removed.

Bearing plate pulled out from rubber spring seat nipple.  They may have to be pried apart.

Bearing plate pulled out from rubber spring seat nipple. They may have to be pried apart.

Bearing plate in fair shape but bearings were a little rough and worn.

Bearing plate in fair shape but bearings were a little rough and worn.  Rough bearing reduces steering smoothness.

Spring seat, the weakest link in the whole strut assembly.  Many folks recommend using a more sturdy part from the XC90 which fits the 850.

Spring seat, the weakest link in the whole strut assembly. Many folks recommend using a more sturdy part from the XC90 which fits the 850.

You can see the rubber torn in a ring around the shaft on top...

You can see the rubber torn in a ring around the shaft sleeve on top…

...and bottom.

…and bottom.

Bump stop almost disintegrated.

Bump stop almost disintegrated.

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Shaft protective boot badly torn which lets dirt get into gas cylinder seal and make it slide roughly.

Shaft protective boot badly torn which lets dirt get into gas cylinder seal and make it slide roughly.

With gas cylinder removed all that's left is a compressed spring.

With gas shock removed all that’s left is a compressed spring.

At this point if you were rebuilding the strut you would put in a new gas shock and replace any other worn parts as it is re-assembled in reverse order.  There is a starting compression length for the spring that pre-loads the force when you tighten the retaining star nut.

Spring compression length spec when reassembling strut.

Spring compression length spec when reassembling strut.

It’s also important to observe correct placement of the spring ends at top and bottom on the gas shock and spring seat, respectively.

$250 for two Gabriel ReadyMount complete strut assemblies on Amazon

Technical Notes:  Strut assemblies are the primary front end suspension components.  The coil spring around the gas cylinder provides the actual suspension of the chassis to the ground while the gas shock absorber provides dampening of the up/down motion for comfort and control.  Unlike the rear suspension which has separate shocks and coil springs, these are integrated for minimal use of space.  They need to rotate with the wheels when turning so there is a bearing at the top which allows for the struts to pivot with the wheels.

#105 Rear Engine Pad/Vibration in Drive With Brakes On

August 3, 2014

Finally solved that nuisance issue with the car vibrating/rumbling heavily when the car is in drive with the brakes on.  Replacing the rear engine pad was the trick.  Until now whenever the car was in neutral/park or reverse, there was minimal vibration felt in the driver’s seat.  However, when in drive with the brakes applied, the car would really rumble and vibrate strongly.  This problem is unique to the automatic transaxle where the idle torque of the engine is dissipated by the brakes.  When the brakes were released, the rumbling would stop.

I zeroed in on the rear engine pad by observing the engine rotation when I had the upper torque mount bolt removed to allow it to move freely.  In neutral or park the engine is centered on the upper torque bolt.

Upper torque bolt centered when...

Upper torque bolt centered when…

...the transmission is in neutral/park.

…the transmission is in neutral/park.

In reverse the engine wants to twist towards the front of the car, applying pressure on the front engine mount/pad.

Engine twists to front when in reverse.

Engine twists to front when in reverse.

In drive the engine wants to twist to the rear, applying pressure on the rear engine mount/pad.

Engine twists to rear when in drive.

Engine twists to rear when in drive.

Observing this it is apparent that the rumbling in drive only must be related to the rear engine mount so I replaced the rear engine pad (left side of transverse-mounted engine).  This made a huge difference and I was not surprised at the results when I saw the old pad and installed the new one.

Started replacement by unbolting two items from above before the car was lifted.  First is the upper torque mount.  Unbolting this allows the engine to move up on the left side of the car, just above the rear engine pad.

Upper torque mount unbolted.

Upper torque mount unbolted.

Next is the upper nut fixing the rear pad to the engine.  It’s deep under the hood so a long socket wrench wobble extension really helps, as does removing the air pre-heat flex pipe for more direct access.  It can be done with a shorter socket working underneath all that but you need long arms and some dexterity.

Upper rear engine pad nut removed.

Upper rear engine pad nut removed.

For this it helps to have a long socket wrench extension and to remove the air pre-heat pipe.

For this it helps to have a long socket wrench extension and to remove the air pre-heat pipe.

Now the front of the car needs to be lifted securely onto jackstands.

Front of car lifted onto jackstands with rear wheels blocked.

Front of car lifted onto jackstands with rear wheels blocked.

Three things need to be unbolted with the front lifted.  First the lower torque mount to the automatic transaxle.  This allows the left side of the engine to lift up.

Lower torque mount unbolted from sub-frame so engine can move up.

Lower torque mount unbolted from sub-frame so engine can move up.

Second the bolt securing the rear engine pad to the frame.  This is recessed so you need a socket wrench extension run between the frame and drive axle.

Rear engine pad unbolted from below.

Rear engine pad unbolted from below.

Long socket wrench with wobble extension needed to unbolt engine pad from below between sub-frame and drive axle.

Long socket wrench with wobble extension needed to unbolt engine pad from below between sub-frame and drive axle.

Finally unbolt the engine from its left mount to allow freedom of movement at the rear of the engine.  This is not in the factory instructions or in the Haynes manual but I found it to be necessary to get enough movement of the engine.  Others on the internet also mention this requirement.  For this the right front wheel needs to be removed and the plastic flap lifted up for access.

Right side engine mount unbolted (two screws just below to the left of main pulley).

Right side engine mount unbolted (two screws just below and left of main pulley).

Now that everything is freed up we need just lift the left rear corner of the engine to remove the old pad and install the new one.

Old (probably original) pad unbolted top and bottom, ready to pull out.

Old (probably original) pad unbolted top and bottom, ready to pull out.

Service manuals indicate 30mm maximum lift to avoid damaging the inner tie rod ends so I took a reference measurement of the bottom of the engine (actually, transmission body bolted to the engine) to a point on the sub-frame.  I measured about 10mm.

Engine lifting reference measurement about 10mm.

Engine lifting reference measurement about 10mm.

For lifting I used a floor jack with a block of wood to spread the load and cushion it.  I got just under 30mm of lift before it started lifting the car, indicating that I had maxed out engine movement.

Lifted left rear corner of engine nearest pad.

Lifted left rear corner of engine nearest pad.

The rear pad was now free to move so I pulled it out for inspection.

With engine lifted pad was now free.

With engine lifted pad was now free.

Empty space where pad was located.

Empty space where pad was located.

The pad fell into three pieces when I removed it.  The lower metal mount had separated from the rubber cushion and the safety wire came off.  Comparing old and new mounts, the original was significantly shorter and somewhat softer than the new one.

Side-by-side comparison of old and new pads.

Side-by-side comparison of old and new pads.

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You can see how much length was lost in the old pad in the tapered section.

I used an after-market pad for about half the price of a factory part.  I’m not concerned about getting another 10 years life out of this car and I’m trying to be economical.

When installing the new pad, there is an orientation to be observed.  The triangular pin needs to fit into the offset hole near the upper bolt hole.

Triangular pin must locate in this...

Triangular pin must locate in this…

...mating hole offset the axis to provide pad orientation.

…mating hole offset the axis to provide pad orientation.

It took a little bit of fussing and twisting to get the new pad installed but did not require forceful prying.  Guess I had just enough lift to slip the new pad in.

New pad in position, ready to lower engine.

New pad in position, ready to lower engine.

The engine was lowered and as expected, the resting height was now greater with the new pad.  The old pad had collapsed by the 9mm measured difference.

Engine lowered and resting on new pad.

Engine lowered and resting on new pad.

About 19mm clearance now with new pad.  Old pad had collapsed 9mm over time.

About 19mm clearance now with new pad. Old pad had collapsed 9mm over time.

Now all we have to do is fasten everything back together again and torque to specification.  Right engine mount bolts, rear pad lower bolt, lower torque mount nuts and then wheel back on right front.

Right engine mount bolts secured.

Right engine mount bolts secured.

Lower rear pad bolt secured.

Lower rear pad bolt secured.

Lower torque mount nuts secured.

Lower torque mount nuts secured.

Lower the car off the jackstands and then secure the rear pad upper nut, pre-heat pipe and upper torque mount.

Upper rear pad nut secured.

Upper rear pad nut secured.

Upper torque mount bolts secured.

Upper torque mount bolts secured.

At this point I was not surprised but was very pleased to confirm that the strong rumble and vibration was gone when the car was in drive and the brakes were applied.  This one has been bugging me since we got the car a year and half ago but has never been my highest priority.

I suspect that the rear engine pads in automatic transaxle cars driven mostly around town get a lot more wear and will fail sooner than manual transmission cars because there is so much more force and wear on that pad from all the idling in stop and go traffic.

 $54.87 for new after-market engine pad.

#104 Muffler Replacement

July 16, 2014

Oh, well– that muffler patch didn’t hold.  A couple of the larger holes blistered out their patches and there is at least one small hole again, so now we need to replace the muffler.  As mentioned in post #101, exhaust leaks are a safety concern with the potential for deadly carbon monoxide gas building up in the cabin.

This is a long and detailed post.  If you’re interested in the topic, read on.  Otherwise, here is the…

Summary:  Previous attempt to patch muffler holes failed.  Removed old muffler assembly (large muffler, long inlet and outlet pipes).  Installed replacement assembly.  Original exhaust tip/tail pipe was coming apart so I rigged it up temporarily while waiting for a new end pipe.

Details:  In researching a muffler replacement I learned a few interesting things.  First, it is unusual for Volvo mufflers to fail, unlike most other cars.  The factory mufflers are made of steel and coated with aluminum (aluminized steel) for corrosion resistance.  I read on the internet that Volvo has a lifetime warranty on their mufflers, but after checking with the dealer service shop this does not apply to North America, if it does anywhere, so that may be an internet legend.  One local independent Volvo shop doesn’t stock mufflers because he never sees them fail and would have to special order the part.  We surmise that this car was exposed to salty ocean air somewhere in its life because it came from coastal California originally and when we bought it there was a Texas beach parking sticker on the windshield.  I suppose in colder climates where the roads are salted for ice they see more exhaust failures, or, more likely, the cars rust out faster and are scrapped at a younger age.

Second, this car has a large and unusually-shaped muffler and none of the exhaust repair places have a generic replacement, so we’re stuck buying a factory muffler or an exact-fit after-market unit.

Third, the muffler comes with long pipes permanently welded at inlet and outlet, so it’s more than just a muffler; there are also several feet of exhaust tubing.  The whole assembly is about seven feet (2.1m) long.

The good news is that there is only one simple clamped connection aft of the catalytic converter directly below the hand brake lever.  The rest of the muffler/pipe assembly just hangs under the car.  So replacement is fairly straight-forward but it’s not physically easy.

For a replacement I hesitated at the price tag of a factory muffler assembly.  The best price I could find on the only valid part number that a Volvo dealer shop gave me (31372150) is about $400.   Add an hour of labor if I paid someone to do the work, plus any other parts that may need to be replaced.

So I decided to do the work myself and buy a quality after-market muffler assembly.  I chose a direct-fit Bosal unit, part number 290-517 for under $200.  The unit fits exactly and the quality and workmanship are close to Volvo OEM.  At any rate, even if it doesn’t hold up as long as the original one, I doubt that this car will be around another 17 years.

The biggest surprise with the new muffler is that the supplier just slapped shipping labels on it and sent it via FedEx.  Showed up on our porch with no box or packaging.

New muffler assembly arrived with no packaging; just as shown here.

New muffler assembly arrived with no packaging; just as shown here.

At least they wrapped some protection around the pipe ends and it is in good shape.  I guess these mufflers are pretty robust and don’t need much packaging.  The supplier claims this is standard procedure.

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To start the replacement, I removed the end pipe from the exhaust tube while it was still on the car to reduce the weight by a couple of pounds.  With the exhaust still on the car another advantage is that the tube is fairly stable for wrestling the rusted end pipe off.

End pipe before removal.

End pipe before removal.

End pipe before removal.  Fixing bolt removed.

End pipe before removal. Fixing bolt removed.

The end pipe was also pretty well stuck on the exhaust tube so I had to break it loose with a hammer and wood block, then rock and twist it off.

End pipe removed.

End pipe removed.

End pipe removed.

End pipe removed.

Unfortunately the fixing screw was corroded solid so the nut just pulled out of the end pipe.

End pipe fixing bolt chemically welded to press nut just pulled through the pipe.

End pipe fixing bolt was fused to press nut so it pulled through the corroded pipe when I tried to unscrew it.

End pipe before removing corroded bolt.  It's pretty corroded just at the seam.

End pipe before removing corroded bolt. It’s pretty corroded just at the seam.

To replace the muffler assembly I lifted the the car and set on jack stands as high as practical to get plenty of working room under there.

Lifted the car and rested on jack stands.

Lifted the car and rested on jack stands.

Then I unbolted the exhaust coupling beneath the driver’s seat.  This took some effort as the bolts were rusty with years of heat working.  I gave them a good shot of penetrating oil (PB Blaster) days in advance and another dose before trying to unbolt the clamp.

Sprayed penetrating solvent onto clamp bolts days in advance to help loosen them up.

Sprayed penetrating solvent onto clamp bolts days in advance to help loosen them up.

I did this first because it was the big unknown that might cause lots of trouble or even make me resort to taking the car to a shop.  Fortunately a socket wrench with long arm did break the bolts free so I was pleasantly surprised that it went easy and well.  The clamp and fasteners were in much better shape than they appeared.

Once the bolts are loose, the nut on top will spin free.  Need a short socket to hold the nut.

Once the bolts are loose, the nut on top will spin free. Need a short socket to hold the nut.

Clamp removed. Joint still stuck together rather solid.

Clamp removed. Joint still stuck together rather solid.

Now that the exhaust pipe was unclamped I unhooked each of the exhaust hangers, starting with the muffler.

Released muffler hangers both sides.

Released muffler hangers both sides.

Moving to the back with the two hangers near the end of the tail pipe.  Note the muffler and tailpipe hangers are slightly different parts.

A shot of silicone lube really helps the hangers slide off the chassis hooks.

A shot of silicone lube really helps the hangers slide off the chassis hooks.

Tailpipe hangers  released.

Tailpipe hangers released.

With all four hangers loose the whole exhaust is free and rests on the rear suspension arm.

With all four hangers loose the whole exhaust is free and rests on the rear suspension arm.

Now we need to break the corrosion weld in the front joint so the whole assembly is loose.  For this the easiest thing was to grab hold of the muffler and twist along the axis.  The unclamped joint to the catalytic converter broke free easily this way and the whole assembly could now be removed.

Coupling freed up by twisting muffler.

Coupling freed up by twisting muffler.

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Before pulling the muffler out I removed the rubber hangers so they wouldn’t get damaged or snag on the chassis.

Removed rubber hangers so they wouldn't get damaged or snag the chassis while pulling the muffler out.

Rubber hangers removed.

The whole muffler assembly weighs about 30 pounds (13.6kg) so it’s not too heavy to handle under there.  Having a helper is best but I was able to muscle the thing around.  Because of the way it fits under the car, the muffler assembly must be pushed towards the front of the car to remove it to clear the rear suspension arms.

Now comes the trickiest part of the whole process.  The tail pipe has to snake over the rear suspension arms and through a small area between the fuel tank and the rear spring.  The tail hanger hooks really stick out so the whole assembly has to twist around at different angles while drawing the muffler forward.  For this to happen you need a fair bit of clearance between the muffler and the ground.  I was right at the edge for height with my jackstands.  The muffler hooks really scraped the driveway but I managed to pull it out.

Pulling the assembly forward requires a lot of pulling and twisting; need ample ground clearance.

Pulling the assembly forward requires a lot of pulling and twisting; need ample ground clearance.

Old and new muffler assemblies are very similar.  Minor difference in hanger hooks and muffler shape, none of which affect fit.  Dimensions are very close but I didn’t measure anything.

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New muffler on hood for size reference.

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New muffler has some dark spots but those are not rust; it’s heat discoloration from welding.

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Only with the muffler removed could I see that the top was also rusted out with leaky holes.  So it’s good that we replaced it, even if the patch had held.

Old muffler had leaks on top as well.  Couldn't be seen until it was removed.

Old muffler had leaks on top as well. Couldn’t be seen until it was removed.

The new exhaust gets installed in the reverse manner. First we have to roll the tail end in over the rear suspension arms.  Once again this involves a lot of pushing, pulling and twisting.

New muffler being routed over rear suspension arms.

New muffler being routed over rear suspension arms.  Wrapping left on to protect ends.

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New muffler twisted into rough tail position.

New muffler twisted into rough tail position.

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Now we can unwrap the protective plastic and carboard from both ends.

Protective packaging removed from both ends.

Protective packaging removed from both ends.

??????????

Time to couple the front pipe to the outlet of the catalytic converter.  The connection is sort of a shallow ball and socket joint.  No gasket, just the two pipes cupped together.

New muffler inlet pipe connected to engine exhaust.  Simple ball and socket coupling.

New muffler inlet pipe loosely connected to engine exhaust. Simple ball and socket coupling.

Before clamping the joint we need to position the muffler in its approximate location so things are stable and in place.  Used the car lifting jack to support the muffler.

Supported muffler with jack to keep joint in place.

Supported muffler with jack to keep joint in place.

Also cleaned up the original clamp parts with solvent and a wire brush.

Cleaned up original clamps and fasteners.

Cleaned up original clamps and fasteners.

Secured clamp over joint and tightened it.  I pulled hard towards the back to make sure it didn’t separate.

Clamped joint with original parts.

Clamped joint with original parts.

Now it’s time to start hanging the muffler and tail pipe.  Slipped the rubber hangers over each hook on the exhaust.  It is easier to hang with the rubber hangers attached to the exhaust than it is to slip the exhaust into the hangers already in place.  One of the rubber hangers was really cracked and coming apart so I replaced it with a new part.  Then lifted the muffler and/or pipe and positioned the hanger on each chassis hook one -by-one.

Replaced one bad hanger with a new part.

Replaced one bad hanger with a new part.

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Once again, silicone lube really helps the hooks slide into place.

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There, we’re done with the muffler assembly.  I ran the engine to check for leaks while the car was still on stands.  No apparent leaks and it sounds just like a typical 850 exhaust note– good news!  Took a couple of hours so far

But we’re not quite done and the rest took most of the afternoon.  The exhaust tip or tail pipe is called the end pipe by Volvo.  This is the last 11 inches of pipe that connect to the end of the muffler outlet pipe and through the cutout in the bumper.  I removed the original one way back at the beginning and as mentioned it was broken.  Turns out things were even worst because a big part of it–a internal tubing sleeve–was fused to the old exhaust pipe.  So we need a replacement.

End pipe not only lost its fixing screw but the inner sleeve was stuck to the old exhaust tube.

End pipe not only lost its fixing screw but the inner sleeve was stuck to the old exhaust tube.

Unfortunately it’s not a stock part at the Volvo dealers and they want $55 for one with one week leadtime.  After-market tailpipes run about $40 but none are stocked anywhere in town.  So I ordered an aftermarket part to be delivered next week and rigged up the old one to be temporarily functional.  Ugly but secure.  Just not good long-term.

Played around with various techniques and a visit to two hardware stores before I finally found something that worked, more or less.  Basically added a pair of new fixing bolts to clamp the tail pipe to the exhaust tube.

Drilled a couple of holes near the original fixing bolt hole.

Drilled a couple of holes near the original fixing bolt hole.

Ran a pair of bolts through the holes held captive by two nuts inside.

Ran a pair of bolts through the holes held captive by two nuts inside.

Shoved the end pipe over the exhaust as far as the nuts would let it go, then tightened the bolts against the tube to secure.  Nuts want to spin so a screwdriver was used as a wedge.

Shoved the end pipe over the exhaust as far as the nuts would let it go, then tightened the bolts against the tube to secure. Nuts want to spin so a screwdriver was used as a wedge.

Temporary end pipe looks OK and is functional.

Temporary end pipe looks OK and is functional.

Shoved a mass of steel wool into gap between end pipe and exhaust tube to minimize gases forward.

Shoved a mass of steel wool into gap between end pipe and exhaust tube to minimize gases forward.

There, it’s all in and ready to roll.  Sounds good now and no more concern about exhaust leaks.  Test drive OK except it reminded me that I should have removed all the labeling from the muffler and tubing.  I had removed what I could but some labels were really stuck on so I just gave up.  Unfortunately they got very smelly with some smoke after the exhaust heated up.  So next time (if there is one) I will go to the effort of removing all labels.

Couldn't get these labels off easily so they started removing themselves in a smoky, smelly manner.

Couldn’t get these labels off easily so they started removing themselves in a smoky, smelly manner after the pipe heated up.

Update 7/27/14: Removed temporary end pipe and replaced with high-quality after-market exhaust tip.

Used a Walker 41827 end pipe, which was much cheaper than the factory part and it fits just fine.  Note that the wagon part is slightly longer than the sedan pipe, which is a different part number (both Volvo and Walker).

Started by removing the label (see, I learn from my mistakes!) with xylene solvent and a putty knife, then wiping off with towels and finished with all-purpose cleaner and towel dry.

Used solvent to soften label, then scraped label off and wiped remaining residue off.

Used solvent to soften label, then scraped label off and wiped remaining residue off.

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Comparing factory pipe (R) to new Walker pipe (L), you can see the after-market pipe is tapered to fit the exhaust where the factory part had a sleeve inserted in the end beneath the fixing bolt.

New pipe necks down to fit over exhaust tube where factory pipe had an internal sleeve.

New pipe necks down to fit over exhaust tube where factory pipe had an internal sleeve.

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Slid the new pipe over the end of the exhaust just past where it necks down and tightened the fixing bolt.  I chose to rotate the pipe where the bolt was parallel to the ground.

Bolt turned parallel to ground.

Bolt turned parallel to ground.

Tightened fixing bolt on exhaust pipe before it necks down.

Tightened fixing bolt on exhaust pipe before it necks down.

Positioned just right.

Positioned just right.

Looks great now with the new end pipe.

$197 for a mail-order muffler with free shipping and no sales tax (and no packaging!) +$40.90 for end pipe = $238 total.

#103 Replace Radio Lights

July 13, 2014

Half of the lights on the Volvo factory radio have been out since we bought the car.  It was hard to see the radio buttons and controls in the dark without them.

Several lamps out on the radio so driver can't see buttons on the right side after dark.

Two lamps out so driver can’t see buttons on the right side after dark.

I think this is a safety issue since at night the driver’s eyes spend more time trying to see and figure out all the invisible radio buttons and less time on the road.  So I should have made this a higher priority.

Anyway, this is a relatively simple fix and rather low cost.  There are two good on-line turorials for this and I recommend them both:

http://www.atthetipwebs.com/technologyinstructions/radio_volvo.htm

http://www.matthewsvolvosite.com/volvo-radio-light-bulb-replacement.html

Neither applied 100% to my experience but they both cover the basics.  Mainly because these writeups cover the CD version SC-815/6 and this car had the cassette tape feature, SC-710.

Getting the factory radio out of the car is really simple.  Just push in the two rectangular tabs which will then pop out to create finger pulls.  The radio is pulled out using these handles.

Push in tabs to release radio with finger pulls.

Push in tabs to release radio with finger pulls.

Radio pulled out most of the way.

Radio pulled out most of the way.

Before unplugging power make sure you have the radio security code written down somewhere so you can use it again.  Unplug the radio cable by pulling straight back and push the release button to unlatch the rectangular connectors before pulling them out.

Radio uplugged.

Radio uplugged.

Take the radio to a bench or table with appropriate padding to disassemble.

Radio ready for disassembly.

Radio ready for disassembly.

First you pull the volume knob and tone slider knobs off and set aside (no tools needed).

Volume control knob and three slider knobs pulled off.

Volume control knob and three slider knobs pulled off.

Next you have to get the front bezel off.  A couple of screws need to be removed on each side (maybe more with SC-81X).

Two screws on both sides need to be removed.

Two screws on both sides need to be removed.

Now you need to simultaneously release six plastic tabs while pulling the bezel forward.  This isn’t easy so it helps to release the four on top and bottom and wedge something under the tab (such as a toothpick) to keep them released.  Then release the two on the sides and you can pull the bezel off.

Pry up on four top/bottom tabs...

Pry up on four top/bottom tabs…

...and wedge something under each one to keep it unlocked.

…and wedge something under each one to keep it unlocked.

Pry up on both side tabs to release bezel.

Pry up on both side tabs to release bezel.

With the bezel off you can see the printed circuit board (PCB) which contains the pushbuttons and lights.

With front panel (bezel) off you can see the PCB underneath.

With front panel (bezel) off you can see the PCB underneath.

Light pipes on back of faceplate/bezel direct lamp light to individual buttons.

Light pipes on back of faceplate/bezel direct lamp light to individual buttons.

PCB has pushbuttons (red) and backlight lamps (blue), plus slider controls and LCD display.

PCB has pushbuttons (red) and backlight lamps (blue), plus slider controls and LCD display.

Now you need to remove the PCB to get underneath it to remove/replace lamps.

Remove three screws to release PCB.

Remove three screws to release PCB.

With this cassette model there are three screws holding it in place.  With the CD version there are twist tabs that secure the board.

Now just lift the board up/out by gently prying and wiggling.  The lamps are screwed into the PCB from behind.

Back side of PCB showing lamp sockets (black).

Back side of PCB showing lamp sockets (black).

Since we’re going to this much trouble, we will replace all the lamps, even those which are still working.  They are likely to fail soon anyway.  This way they are all the same age and brightness.

This cassette version has six lamps while the CD version seems to have only five.

1/8 turn CCW loosens lamp from PCB so it can be pulled out from behind.

1/8 turn CCW loosens lamp from PCB so it can be pulled out from behind.

All six lamps removed from board.  You can see the holes where they were installed.

All six lamps removed from board. You can see the holes where they were installed.

The lamps have a blue filter sock over them to diffuse the light and give it a cool color.  Need to remove these blue booties and transfer them to the new lamps.

Carefully twisted and pulled the blue boots off the old lamps.

Carefully twisted and pulled the blue boots off the old lamps.

Replacement lamps from Honda (part number 35505-S84-N01.  Gray plastic base is different but color is not important.

On my 850 sedan I used JKL part number CNW1-23 which works fairly well.  You can also get the blue boots, JKL 39-02-5A.  Both of these can be purchased from Mouser electronics.

Honda replacment lamps work perfectly.

Honda replacement lamps work perfectly.

 

Blue gel filters transferred to new lamps.

Blue gel filters transferred to new lamps.

Now screw the new lamps into the board.

New lamps installed onto PCB.

New lamps installed onto PCB.

New lamps with filter socks installed.

New lamps with filter socks installed.

Now plug the board back into the unit and secure with screws again.

The CD version seems to also have a lamp or two behind the LCD display for backlighting.  This version has two lamps buried deeper inside.  Those use different lamps that are soldered to the board, which would require some more electronics skills and different lamps.  I didn’t deal with that here and will wait for them to fail before replacing them.

LCD backlight uses two different lamps soldered to another PCB.

LCD backlight uses two different lamps soldered to another PCB.  These were not replaced here.

Now just put the whole thing back together and plug it into the car for a test.  Have to do this after dark to see if all the lamps are lit.

All lamps on now even with radio off.

All lamps on now even with radio off.

Turning radio on adds LCD backlight.

Turning radio on adds LCD backlight.

$1.40 x 6 = $8.40 for Honda lamps.

#102 Power Steering Fluid Flush

July 5, 2014

Not trying to solve a problem here, just a little preventive maintenance (PM) to delay power steering failure.

As far as I know this car has mostly original power steering fluid in it.  Now 17 years old with 175K + miles on it, the power steering fluid was old and smelly so I decided to flush it and fill with fresh fluid.  Like many cars the Volvo 850 has no specified maintenance interval for power steering fluid so it usually gets overlooked.  I guess the manufacturers think the pump will be replaced eventually so you’ll get new fluid.  Problem with this idea is that the fluid does degrade with time and temperature and who knows what else.  Plus tiny metal particles that wear off in the pump and steering gear and swim around in there that could cut into seals.  So it’s just a good idea to flush the hydraulic system out and put fresh fluid in there every so often.

First thing to do is lift the front end of the car so we can rotate the wheels easily without scuffing up the tires and driveway.

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Front end on stands allows easy movement of wheels to flush the steering gear and hoses.

Next is to lay down some oil absorbent pads because this will be messy.

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Even when you work quickly and carefully some power steering fluid will be lost and drip onto the ground.

Started by dipping a strong magnet into the power steering reservoir and then rotating the wheel from stop to stop with the engine running.  Thought I would catch any metal particles that were stuck in there with this but was pleasantly surprised to see very few.  That means that the pump and steering gear aren’t wearing badly.

Dipped a strong magnet into the reservoir to capture any metal particles...

Dipped a strong magnet into the reservoir to capture any metal particles…

...but there were only a few tiny ones (good news!)

…but there were only a few tiny ones (good news!)

Next I used a bulb syringe to suck out as much fluid as possible from the reservoir.  This minimizes the mess in the following step.

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Sucked fluid out of reservoir.

Then I unclamped the power steering return hose at the reservoir and pulled the hose off.  This is where it gets messy as whatever fluid remains in the reservoir will leak down onto the alternator.  As quickly as possible I slipped a vinyl cap over the nipple to stop the flow.

Blue vinyl cap seals return port to keep fluid in reservoir.

Blue vinyl cap seals return port to keep fluid in reservoir.

    Fuzzy close-up view of capped return port. Hose just removed is to the right.

Fuzzy close-up view of capped return port. Hose just removed is to the right.

Next I slipped a length of 5/8″ clear vinyl tube over the hose just removed.  It’s just the right size to seal but still slip over the hose easily.  The other end of the hose went into my waste container.

5/8" clear hose slipped over return hose fits nicely.

5/8″ clear hose slipped over return hose fits nicely.

Other end of clear hose drains into waste container.

Other end of clear hose drains into waste container.

Filled the reservoir with fresh fluid.  Volvo spec for this is Dexron II or III or Mercon automatic transmission fluid (ATF).

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850 power steering fluid is specified to be Dexron-III or Mercon auto trans fluid (ATF).

It’s best at this point to have a helper to start/stop the engine and run the steering wheel back and forth. The basic procedure is to run the engine and quickly spin the wheel from left stop to right hard stop and repeat.  Fluid will quickly drain from the reservoir through the steering gear then back up and out to the waste container via the hose.  So you need to keep filling the reservoir while it’s draining.  If you’re working alone you have to work quickly and stop the engine before it runs dry, then refill frequently.

Flush with fresh fluid while draining into waste container.

Flush with fresh fluid while draining into waste container.

I ran about two quarts of fluid through to flush.  The old fluid was rather smelly, not quite burnt, and fairly dark.  Needed to be changed.  New fluid has a mild odor and is a transparent red color.

Old fluid was dark and smelly.

Old fluid was dark and smelly.  Half of what you see here is fresh fluid from the flushing process.

Then you re-connect the return hose to the reservoir and re-fill the reservoir.

Re-clamp return hose in position on the pump reservoir.

Re-clamp return hose in position on the pump reservoir.

Run the engine again while spinning the wheels back and forth until all air is bled out of the lines (no more foam).

At this point we’re done flushing and we just need to make sure the fluid level is correct.

Lower the car back down to a level surface and re-check fluid level.  Add or remove fluid as needed.  It’s probably a good idea to check the level again in a week or so in case there was still some air in the system.

$6 for three quarts of ATF.

#101 Exhaust Leak/Muffler Holes-Temporary Patch

June 29, 2014

Noticed a different sound from the car when standing next to it while idling. Sort of a sharp gurgling sound that seemed to come from under the left rear passenger seat.

Crawled under there with the engine running and could feel exhaust pressure coming from several holes in the muffler. Oh boy, time to repair or replace.

Multiple holes in bottom of muffler of varying sizes.

Multiple holes in bottom of muffler of varying sizes.

Exhaust leaks are potentially dangerous if deadly carbon monoxide (CO) creeps into the cabin.  If the floor is solid and tight, not much exhaust can get in but cabins aren’t always exhaust-tight.  For this reason automotive inspections don’t allow exhaust leaks ahead of the tailpipe.  Better play it safe with this and fix the leak, even if we have several months left on the state inspection tag.  The proper way to repair this is to replace the muffler but right now we don’t have the time or money to do this.  So I’ll patch it temporarily to fill the leak and make it safe until we can have the muffler replaced.  Basically buy us some time to do it right.  I’m also curious to see how long this method holds up before it fails or more holes break open.

If they are not obvious, one good way to check for exhaust leaks is to block the tailpipe with a rag or something.  The engine should stall if the exhaust is tight.  If you block the tailpipe and the engine stays running  you can locate leaks by listening for noise and feeling for hot gases.

I searched the internet for a variety of exhaust repair products.  Few had good reviews.  Found a couple of Permatex products at my local auto parts store that looked promising.  Both might work OK on their own and the package suggests that a combination of the two makes a secure, permanent repair.  I’ve learned not to trust marketing hype so am not overly optimistic.  If it lasts six months I’ll be content.

Tried using these two exhaust repair products from Permatex.

Tried using these two exhaust repair products from Permatex.

All exhaust repair starts with scrubbing loose rust and dirt off the metal first so I had to do some prep work.  The first layer of patching is a high-temperature (1000°F) paste or putty that is spread over the holes, then fired to cure it hard and strong.  The second product is a tape or bandage that is also cured with heat.

The patching procedure is presented in the photos below.

Close-up of holes in muffler before cleaning.

Close-up of holes in muffler before cleaning.

Chipped away loose rusty steel then cleaned hard with wire brush, followed by alcohol rinse and towel dry.

Chipped away loose rusty steel then scrubbed with wire brush, followed by alcohol rinse and towel dry.

Applied one coat of paste.  Putty knife didn't work well on this convoluted surface so used a gloved finger, pressing into the holes to seal.

Applied one coat of paste. Putty knife didn’t work well on this convoluted surface so used a gloved finger, pressing into the holes to seal.

Cured the putty with a heat gun.  Too much heat makes it soft and bubbly so went slow and methodical.

Instead of running the muffler hot, I cured the putty with a heat gun. Too much heat makes it soft and bubbly so went slow and easy.

The hardened light gray putty is hard and secure so is a promising fix.  Time will tell.

The tape/bandage would not stay secure hanging below the muffler at all.  The adhesive simply wasn’t strong enough so this was a disappointing experiment.

Bandage just wouldn't stick to muffler so I gave up on this second product.

Bandage just wouldn’t stick to muffler so I gave up on this second product.

Instead I slathered another coat of the putty over the first pass, hoping this helps even more.

2nd coat of paste is kind of thick and lumpy but hopefully makes it hold up well over time.

2nd coat of paste is kind of thick and lumpy but hopefully makes the patch hold up well over time.

Looks good and tight now and sounds much better.  No sound from below rear seat and I could feel no exhaust pressure under the muffler as before.  I’ll keep an eye on it to see how well it holds up;  will report if the putty fails.

Update 7/14/14:  The patch failed pretty quickly.  It seems that those four large holes had too much surface area to cover and the putty blistered out in a couple of spots from hot gas pressure and a couple of cracks formed so I can now feel exhaust pressure hissing through the new holes.

Cracked blisters allow exhaust to escape.

Cracked blisters allow exhaust to escape.

New muffler will be delivered shortly and I will replace it.  Check out those details on post #104.

$12.13 for two exhaust repair products

#100 Add Keyless Entry, Part 2

June 28, 2014

Wow! One hundred repair and maintenance tasks since we first got this car back in February 2012, along with 37 additional blog entries.  I would really like to post something exciting or significant for this century mark but the timing is just not right so #100 is relatively trivial.


As mentioned back in task #90 when adding a remote lock/unlock feature to this car, I planned to also add an alarm horn and dashboard indicator.  This makes the keyless entry/alarm system complete.

Picked up both the dash top indicator and alarm horn from wrecked cars in a salvage yard.  Removing and installing these was not as easy as I had hoped but worth the effort.

The red light (LED) on top of the dashboard just below the forward center of the windshield come in two flavors.  One is for cars with electronic climate control (ECC) and this one has an additional light sensor on the unit.  My first mistake was pulling one of these from a scrap car only to discover that the wiring connectors are different.

Alarm indicator (white bubble)  also includes light sensor for ECC equipped cars.  Not the right module for this car with manual climate control.

Module for alarm indicator (white bubble) also includes light sensor for ECC equipped cars. Not the right module for this car with manual climate control.

So the next time I visited a salvage yard I made sure to get the light unit with a single red light.

Lacking a factory alarm system the hole filler was in place on this car and that was removed by prying it out.  This was easy to do because the forward part of the dash just below the windshield was badly cracked, especially around this rectangular hole.

Removed filler piece to leave square hole for LED module.  Wiring is underneath.

Removed filler piece to leave square hole for LED module. Wiring is underneath.

The cars come pre-wired with most options and accessories so there was a functional wiring connector below the hole.  Fishing this connector out of the hole was much more difficult.  There is so little space just above the hole that I could not grab the wires to pull them out.  Neither is there any real room for manipulating normal tools down the hole.  Having very small hands or specialized tools would be needed.  Or removing the windshield, which would be a last resort.  Since I had to pull the entire dash out to repair the forward mounts being broken, I had direct access under there so pulled the wire through the hole and taped it on top.  It was already above the hole when I reinstalled the dash.

Then I simply plugged the new LED module in and verified that it blinked when the doors were locked.  I had to glue it in place with black silicone because the dash was so badly cracked and broken (probably because of broken front dash mounts) that there were no solid edges to hold the unit in place.  Looks amateurish but you don’t really notice it unless you’re looking for problems.

Since square hole was really broken, the module would not snap into place.  Had to glue it down with black silicone.

Since square hole was really broken, the module would not snap into place. Had to glue it down with black silicone.

Blinking red light is most visible in low light and tells you that the car is locked and may be a deterrent to a thief.

Blinking red light is most visible in low light and tells you that the car is locked and may be a deterrent to a thief.

The horn is also pre-wired whether or not the alarm is installed.  Access requires removing the cowling behind the hood just in front of the windshield.  Some effort but not too bad, about a half hour total.  A single bolt holds the horn in place.  I just removed the cowling and bolted the “new” alarm horn in place, then plugged it in and tested it before replacing the cowling and wipers.

Photo essay below is the basic procedure for installing the alarm horn.

Empty place where alarm horn will go.  Wiring harness plugged into dummy plastic holder.

Empty place where alarm horn will go. Wiring harness plugged into dummy plastic holder.

First step is to remove both wiper arms.

First step is to remove both wiper arms.

Remove large and small weather seals from cowling.

Remove large and small weather seals from cowling.

Disconnect cowling drain hoses on both sides.

Disconnect cowling drain hoses on both sides.

Remove five screws securing cowling to chassis.

Remove five screws securing cowling to chassis.

Pull cowling out and set aside.

Pull cowling out and set aside.  This is also a good time to shake out loose debris from the cabin air filter.

Here is the alarm horn with bolt needed to secure it.

Here is the alarm horn with bolt needed to secure it.

Pull sealing plug out of alarm horn bolt hole and discard.

Pull sealing plug out of alarm horn bolt hole and discard.

Bolt alarm horn onto chassis.

Bolt alarm horn onto chassis.

Alarm horn in place.

Alarm horn in place.

Unplug wiring connector from dummy bracket, plug into horn and discard bracket.

Unplug wiring connector from dummy bracket, plug into horn and discard bracket.

Tested horn function by holding in the panic LOCK button on the remote keyfob.

Then re-installed the cowling, weather seals and wipers.

Cowling back together with wipers back on and horn in place.  Ready to roll.

Cowling back together with wipers back on and horn in place. Ready to roll.

$10.16 for alarm horn and dash indicator from wrecked cars in salvage yard.

 

 

#99 Safety Repair of Rear Brakes

June 15, 2014

Alert reader Ken Gill sent a message about a problem with the rear brake job in post #70.  He experienced the same thing and observed that I had not driven home the caliper guide/retainer pins.  They could not be hammered secure because the retainer ferrules were too large.  I failed to realize this and mistakenly thought they were secure enough.  Boy, was I wrong.

This safety task was to fix the problem with very loose and nearly inoperative rear brakes because of the loose pins.  Scary because my girls were driving around for months with faulty rear brakes.  I also updated the original post with a lengthy description of the situation and remedy.  This is an important safety issue so please read my comments if you have any concern that your rear brake pins are secure.

All better now, thanks to Ken’s heads up.

Which reminds me to ask for reader comments when you see something on this blog that was done wrong or could be improved.  We have hundreds of readers all over the world (on six continents!) who find it useful for DIY 850 drivers.  I want it to be complete and correct, so don’t be shy.

#98 Replace RF Corner Light Assembly

May 14, 2014

One day we noticed that the lens was missing from the right front corner light (front parking/turn signal lamp) assembly.

My first thought was vandalism where somebody smashed it but after examination I observed that the lens that wraps around from font to side was completely gone with no trace of damage.  It seems that the factory light assemblies have the lens secured with adhesive or tape.  Now I’m guessing that the glue simply came loose after 17 years of heat, sunlight and vibration and that the lens simply fell off while driving down the road.

Lens missing

Lens missing

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Fortunately the lamp housing was still attached to the car and functional so no worries or hurry here.  Bonus that the Volvo part number is molded into the lamp housing and visible so I just wrote that down and went searching for replacements.  Had a hard time identifying this part on my favorite factory parts locator, volvopartswebstore.com, or in Vadis so I really did need the part number.

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This particular part is Volvo 6817774 and costs over $70 with shipping for a new factory part.  That’s a little steep and I was hesitant to get a junkyard replacement because they are likely to be in poor condition.  After looking I couldn’t find any at a scrapyard anyway.  Back to the internet, I did find what appears to be a high quality aftermarket replacement with good customer reviews from Amazon.  Ordered one only to have the supplier inform me the next day that there is a recall on that part so they wouldn’t ship.  So I ordered another part on Amazon and it looks great.  Apart from plastic color I can’t tell much difference between the factory original part and this one.

Good news for this task is that it doesn’t require any tools.  Just open the hood and release the spring holding the assembly in place.

Removing old lamp assembly with missing lens.

Removing old lamp assembly with missing lens.

After unplugging the wiring harness we can work on swapping a couple of parts.

Remove spring and lamp socket from old assembly.

Remove spring and lamp socket from old assembly.

Side-

Side-by-side comparison of the old and new light assemblies.

Install spring and socket onto new light assembly.

Install spring and socket onto new light assembly.

Now just put the new assembly in place by plugging the harness in and inserting the module in place and locking with the spring hook.

New light assembly installed.  Looks beautiful.  Original one on left side seems hazy and crusty in comparison.

New light assembly installed. Looks beautiful. Original one on left side seems hazy and crusty in comparison.

Did a quick check of light function with running lights and turn signal.  Working fine so we’re done with this one.

Functional checkout OK.

Functional checkout OK.

Now I’m keeping an eye on other light assembly lenses on both cars to see if they show any signs of coming apart, or if this was a rare event.

$22.50

Update 7/8/15:  Lenses popping off all over the place and readers (below) seeing the same thing.  See my post entitled, “Corner Light Epidemic”.

#97 Replace Shift Knob

May 11, 2014

As mentioned in post #95, I scraped the top off the shift knob when wrestling the dash back into place.  I was planning to replace it eventually because even before this damage the knob was in rather poor shape.

Note: this applies to the automatic transmission (transaxle) 850 variants so likely only the North American readers will be interested in this.  But I would love to hear from people in other continents who have automatic transmissions to gauge how common it is outside North America.

Tore shift knob up when replacing dash.

Tore shift knob up when replacing dash.

Original knob was already in bad shape.  Top had a heat-melted plastic look and feel with lots of cracks.  You can still see what it looked like on the top right.

Original knob was already in bad shape. Top had a heat-melted plastic look and feel with lots of cracks.  You can still see what it looked like on the top right.

Pulled a couple of knobs in varying condition from a scrapyard at a very good price (see previous post on this if interested).

Two shifter knobs pulled from scrapyard cars.

Two shifter knobs pulled from scrapyard cars.

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One knob was a matching dark color and had an intact release button but it was fairly cracked.  Still better than knob now in car.

The vinyl coating on the other knob was in excellent condition but it was a lighter color tending toward brown.  It had a broken release button.

I prefer the knob in better condition despite the color so needed to swap the release button with the other knob.  This isn’t terribly difficult but it does take some mechanical dexterity.  And the otherwise excellent instructions found on IPD for a shifter knob repair kit gloss over a very important step of getting the upper pin into a slot in the plastic lever inside, which takes some manipulation.

The spring which apparently fails frequently (enough to create a repair kit) was in good condition so I just swapped the good button to the good knob.

Push old button out by prying after moving it out with a screwdriver from inside.

Push button outwards by pulling with fingers after moving it out with a screwdriver from inside.

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Release spring from button, then push pin out to release upper part of button, then unclip lower part to remove button.

Now I have a good button to transfer to the good knob.  Repeated this button removal for the good knob to remove the broken button.  Then I installed the good button onto the good knob:

Clipped good button onto bottom of good knob and then positioned spring properly onto button.

Clipped good button onto bottom pin of good knob and then positioned spring properly onto button.

Pulled internal lever out to line up with upper pin, then secured pin in slot.

Pulled internal lever out to line up with upper pin, then secured pin in slot.

Then I just pushed the button all the way in and it was ready to go.

Now that I had a new knob assembly in good shape, it was time to replace the knob.  It’s much easier to pull the knob when the shifter is in the neutral position.  Obviously not when the engine is running, and you can do this by inserting the key and turning it one or two clicks clockwise without starting the engine.  Then push the shiftlock override button in and move the shifter to the middle.

Move shifter to neutral position with engine off by turning key partially then pushing shiftlock override button while moving lever.

Move shifter to neutral position with engine off by turning key partially then pushing shiftlock override button while moving lever.

Removing the old shifter knob isn’t terribly hard; you just pull it straight up very hard.  I get better leverage while kneeling on the passenger seat than when sitting in either of the front seats.  It’s also more ergonomic and easier on my lower back.

Pull straight up (rather hard) to remove shift knob.

Pull hard straight up to remove shift knob.

Then installed the new knob by simply pushing it down into place and then pulling the leather-like boot covering the shaft back up to the knob and snapped into place.  The plastic tangs at bottom of the knob clip under a square plastic ring inside the sleeve.

Pulled leather-like cover (boot) back up to knob and locked into place.

Pulled shaft sleeve back up to knob and locked into place.

All done and the new knob looks better than it appears in the photos in real-life.  There are several different shades of gray in this interior anyway.

New shift knob installed, ready to go.

New shift knob installed, ready to go.

$5.54 for two shift knobs removed from scrapyard cars.

Box of Scrapyard Parts

May 10, 2014

For various reasons I needed quite a few parts to replace or add to the car and several of these are either unavailable or expensive.  At times like these it’s good to have an automotive salvage yard (junk yard, scrapyard, wrecking yard– whatever you want to call it) nearby with several 850s.  As mentioned in the post on where to get parts, the scrapyard is an excellent source of used parts, particularly for large and/or expensive pieces.  The downside is that they may not have the part on a car (or the wrong color) and the condition is always as-is, so plastic and rubber parts will be dry and brittle.  It’s also messy as you are climbing in or around wrecked cars and you need to bring the right tools to remove whatever part you want.

All that said, I think it’s worth the trouble and scored a boxful of parts, mostly from one 1997 850 that hadn’t been picked clean yet.

Miscellaneous parts pulled from an 850 in a salvage yard.

Miscellaneous parts pulled from a few different 850s and an S70 in a salvage yard.

This assortment includes a couple of dash speakers, steering column upper/lower shrouds, heated air intake pipe, alarm buzzer/horn, dash cover alarm light, recirculating air damper motor, two shift knobs, a muffler hanger and two dash end defrost trim pieces.

Will mention installation of these parts in future posts.

The scrapyard is an hour drive each way and I spent almost two hours in the yard but it was worth the trouble.  Cost was very low for all this: $42.

For those of you who haven’t experienced a junk yard pull, here are photos of cars typically found in a scrapyard.  It’s a little creepy when there are personal effects left in the wrecked cars.  The cars are frequently a real mess with loose parts strewn all over so it’s often a lot of work to pull a part that you need, if the parts are even still with the car.

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#96 Visor Repair

April 21, 2014

Driver’s side sun visor was worn where it clips into the roof so that it was loose and vibrating and would easily pop out of place.

Vinyl worn off so that visor was loose.

Vinyl worn off so that visor was loose.

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The proper fix would be to replace the whole visor but that would be expensive as a new part or would likely be fairly worn as a used or salvage part.

Started a repair by carefully cutting away the remaining worn vinyl around the retaining rod where it clips to the roof.

Repair begins by cutting away worn/torn vinyl from rod.

Repair begins by cutting away worn/torn vinyl from rod.

First tried to increase the diameter of the rod to match the clip by slipping some plastic tubing over it.  Even when I cut a diagonal line, this popped off the rod when unclipping from the roof.

I really couldn’t think of a good solution to slip on or clip on something that would increase the diameter of the rod.  So I tried using epoxy putty to build up the diameter.  It’s hard to get it nice and smooth and just the right diameter but I did as best I could.

Applied epoxy putty around rod to build up diameter.

Applied epoxy putty around rod to build up diameter.

I made the diameter of the epoxy so that it is snug in the clip.  It cures quite hard and adheres well.  The putty can be filed or sanded smooth but I don’t think I need any refinements.

Visor now snaps in tightly.  A little ugly but works well enough.

Visor now snaps in tightly. A little ugly but works well enough.

This works quite well, at least for now.  Snaps in and out well and rotates up and down.  We’ll see how well it holds up long-term but it should be stronger than the original vinyl.

$0 no cost for epoxy putty I had in hand already.

#95 Repair Broken/Loose Dashboard

April 20, 2014

Well, this was a big project, taking up a large chunk of my Easter weekend.

I grew tired of listening to the dashboard rattle and squeak with minor road disturbances and my daughters who normally drive this car confirmed that this nuisance bothered them as well.  At first I thought it was due to deteriorated cushions in the dash top cover or pad.  So I removed the top pad and found no real cause of squeaking or rattling, such as a worn foam strip.  This was also my last chance to do anything big before one daughter soon returns from her semester abroad, as the car would be un-driveable for a few days.

Dash pad/cover removed to look for looseness/squeaks.

Dash pad/cover removed to look for looseness/squeaks.

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Did a little research online and learned that the 850 has a very common problem with the front dashboard mounts failing, resulting in the whole front of the dash to be loose.  That’s what causes all the rattling and squeaking. This was verified on this car when I found I could move the whole dash freely front to back with the pad off, meaning the front bolt mounts were completely broken free.

So I removed the dash entirely to find what I expected:  the front mounting tabs (nut retainer plastic) had torn away completely from the dash assembly.

Front mount broken off, remained in place when dash was removed.

Front mount broken off, remained in place when dash was removed.

One mount completely ripped out of dash, leaving gaping hole.

One mount completely ripped out of dash, leaving gaping hole.

All four mounts broke and stayed on chassis when dash was removed.

All four mounts broke and stayed behind on chassis when dash was removed.

Fortunately the mounts were somewhat intact, not shattered into many small pieces as some people find.  This meant a relatively easy repair, and I adapted fixes as suggested by several people in Volvo forums.  Repair was easy but getting the dash out and re-installing is quite an ordeal.

First I used cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) to secure the broken plastic mounts back into place.

Super-glued mounts back into position as best as possible.

Super-glued mounts back into position as best as possible.

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Then I applied epoxy putty to the broken joints for a stronger bond.  These two steps are intended only to get and keep the nut in position temporarily; they are not expected to hold firm.

Putty epoxy used to further secure mounts in place.

Putty epoxy used to further secure mounts in place.

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Then I screwed a short length of metal pipe strap over the mounts to create the new fastener.  The repaired mount now consists of the strap secured to the dash with the nut captured underneath.  Located the large holes directly over the nut thread.

Metal pipe strap screwed into dash forms new mount.

Metal pipe strap screwed into dash forms new mount.

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Repair looks cheesy but it is solid and really works.

All four mounts created by strapping over nuts.

All four mounts created by strapping over nuts.

Verified mounting screw cleanly passes through metal strap.

Verified mounting screw cleanly passes through metal strap in all four positions.

Re-installed the dash and was pleasantly surprised that all four repaired mounts held together and I was able to tighten them all down.  I was going to be happy with only three solid ones and settle for two.  Four is just totally sweet!

Update 4/24/14:While others have concerns about the exact positioning and contour of the strap, I found it was not critical.  The strap was loosely wrapped around the mount shape in some cases.  Also had no trouble getting the long bolts to line up with the captive nuts.  For those who are curious, I used #8 truss head self-drilling screws, 1/2″ long, using care not to over-tighten them and strip the plastic.  I verified strength by prying hard under a couple of straps to make sure the screws would not rip out easily.  If the screws were to pull out, I would use blind rivets to secure the straps instead.

After the dash was mounted back in place I re-installed the dash pad and put everything back together.

No more rattling or squeaking now.

The process of removing the dash pad and dash is too involved to detail here.  Here is a look at everything removed for this procedure:

Everything removed for this repair.  Quite a task.

Everything removed for this repair. Quite a task.

A load of parts removed.

A load of parts removed.

An experienced person can probably do this task in one long day.  I spent parts of three days to do it all.

Strange to see the car with the whole dash removed:

Entire dash removed as seen from left side...

Entire dash removed as seen from left side…

...and right side.

…and right side.

Technically you can remove the dash with the dash pad/cover in place but it is that much heavier and hard to maneuver if you leave it on.

Update 4/24/14: The dash pad plastic is now so old and brittle almost any disturbance of it is sure to cause damage beyond what is likely already underneath.  This one had a lot of big cracks and chunks broken off.  In addition it is difficult to get these back into place properly, especially at the right corner above the center vents.  I would recommend not removing the pad/cover unless needed for other repairs.

Also, if your air conditioning evaporator is leaking (common problem), this is the best time to replace it because dash removal is required for that repair as well.

When removing and replacing the dash, use caution around the shift knob.  I tore this one up by scraping the dash over it.  Better to move the knob back out of the way if you can’t be extra careful.

Tore shift knob up when replacing dash.  It's OK because it was crusty already and I have intended to replace it anyway.

Tore shift knob up when replacing dash. It’s OK because it was crusty and gummy and I have intended to replace it anyway.

$0- No cost beyond some glue, weld and pipe strap, which I had around the house.

#94 Steering Wheel Cover

April 13, 2014

The steering wheel on this car is getting really worn and rough.  It is uncomfortable to grip it so I need to do something.

Wheel was worn rough; uncomfortable to grip it.

Wheel is worn and rough; uncomfortable to grip it.

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Tried softening the rough patches with a heat gun but it didn’t flow and even if it did it would be smooth instead of textured for better grip.

So my choices are to replace the steering wheel or cover it.  A replacement wheel would be expensive and a fair bit of work so I chose to try the cover approach.  Got a gray after-marked cover that looks nice and seems to fit well.  It’s a tight fit and took some muscling to get it on but very do-able.

Installed slip-on cover.  Looks and feels nice.

Installed slip-on cover. Looks and feels nice.

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Camera flash exaggerates color contrast. In real life, the cover looks darker and is a closer match to the steering wheel.

If this doesn’t work I will try the more expensive lace-on covers that are customized for each car model.  They require some time and effort to install but are quite nice.

$8.96 for slip-on cover

#93 Front Speaker Replacement

April 6, 2014

Since I had been driving this car to work recently, I noticed all sorts of little things that need attention.  My commute is at least a half hour so I listen to the radio quite a bit.  The speaker in the driver’s door was dead and that became quite obvious in a hurry.  It seemed like I lost hearing in my left ear because there was little sound from the radio on that side.  This was confirmed by playing with the L-R balance control and F-R fader to localize the dead loudspeaker.

So I investigated to see if it was the speaker or the wiring that was misbehaving.  Can’t be the amplifier since I get sound from three other speakers on the left side.

Removed the driver side speaker by prying off the grill and then unscrewing the speaker.

Door speaker with grille removed.  Four screws secure the speaker itself.

Door speaker with grille removed. Four screws secure the speaker itself.

While attempting to disconnect the wires from the speaker, the blue terminal block popped off and two wires with it.

Blue terminal block snapped off when pulling wires off.

Blue terminal block snapped off when pulling wire disconnects.

It’s hard to get access but I measured resistance across the voice coil wires with a multimeter and found them to read around 4Ω as expected, meaning the speaker coil is OK.

In this design the voice coil wires are soldered to the flexible terminal wires and glued to the speaker cone.  While this arrangement may be common, I believe it is a poor design because the mechanically fragile solder joint is constantly vibrating and will probably fail over time.   I surmise that one of the joints failed and came loose which is why the speaker stopped working.  The other one may have been weak and popped off easily when the terminal block broke away.

Poor solder joints glued to speaker cone.  Not a good design.

Poor solder joints glued to speaker cone.  Not a good design.

Flex wires separated from contact solder joints.

Flex wires separated from contact solder joints.

It is nearly impossible to re-solder these flex wires to the voice coil because of a small opening and very short leads.  And  a factory speaker from a salvage car is likely to suffer from the same problem.  So a new speaker is in order.  Factory speakers are rather expensive so I decided to get a decent quality low-cost after-market replacement.  To sound the same on both left and right sides, these speakers should be replaced in pairs, which is how they are usually sold anyway.

Factory speaker.

Front door factory speaker.

Main specifications are 4Ω impedance and 4 inch (100mm) diameter.  Power rating is not critical with the factory amplifier which is relatively weak.  There are many different ways a person could replace these but the following is how I chose to do it.

At Crutchfield I found what seem to be decent speakers at a very good sale price ($20 per pair).  Customer reviews are generally favorable and most people report a big improvement over factory speakers on most cars.  Looking at the one that came out of the car I don’t think they are particularly good; seem to be very cheap and basic.  I didn’t want to put much money into these speakers (people often do spend a lot for speakers) but at this price I thought I’d take a chance.

These new speakers are actually coaxial with a tiny tweeter over the woofer (mid/bass) cone.  On the 850 the front tweeters are up in the dash pad where the highs reflect off the windshield.  So these coaxial replacements will add some highs to the front.  This helps because I also tore one of the tweeter cones when working on the dash earlier so it isn’t performing well anyway.

Crutchfield’s replacements are slightly smaller.  The speaker cone is 3-1/4″ compared to the factory 4″.  The package seems much smaller because the original speaker had a wider metal frame and surround (the flexible part connecting the cone to the frame).

Front side of original and new speaker.

Front side of original and new speaker.

Back side of original and new speaker.

Back side of original and new speaker.

Because it’s smaller, the mounting holes are about 1″ further in, meaning I had to adapt the mounting. It’s much easier to work on this outside the car so I removed the speaker frame from the door.

For mounting adapters I used plastic cable clamps and cut the loop off, then screwed these strips into the bracket.  The lower right screw fastens directly to the door so I just used a screw to loosely locate this adapter.

Cut plastic cable clamp just past where it starts to curve and trimmed sharp corners.

Cut plastic cable clamp just past where it starts to curve and trimmed sharp corners.

With four adapter strips fabricated and installed I marked where the new speaker holes should be and drilled a small starter hole.  Then used short self-tapping screws to bite into the plastic adapters.

Adapter strips installed on speaker frame.

Adapter strips installed on speaker frame.

New speaker screwed into adapter strips.

New speaker screwed into adapter strips.

I was concerned that these thin plastic strips might not be strong and secure enough but they held together very well even when I pulled on the speaker.  I’m confident this adaption scheme will last a long time.

The new speakers have different sized disconnect terminals so I had to cut the original connectors off and splice in to the wiring adapters provided with the speakers.

Spliced in adapter wires to match new speaker terminals.

Spliced in adapter wires to match new speaker terminals.

Now I could install the speaker frame back into the door and secure that fourth (lower right) adapter strip.