The_Jed PowerDork
4/16/19 8:15 a.m.

My Crown Vic is due for another steering and suspension refresh, the heater core leaks, as does the plastic coolant crossover on the intake. It has 175,000+ rough ass miles on it and, after four years, I'm ready for something a bit different. Also, the door open/closed switch in the door latch is on the Fritz.


One of my co-workers is selling his ex-wife's ex-car (she upgraded to a new BMW SUV of some sort) which is the vehicle in question; a 2004 XC90, 2.5T, AWD with 136,000 on the clock.


I drove it home this morning and, while it's not perfect, it's pretty nice.


But it does have a few strikes against it straight out of the gate:


First and foremost I assume it needs a timing belt. Best to err on the side of caution.


The rear shocks are blown.


The dash is alight with warnings of imminent doom due to ABS failure despite the fact that the brakes work perfectly.


The radio display does not... display.


The cruise refuses to co-operate. (related to the warning lights? VSS?)


It's overdue for an oil change and the level is a bit low. There were no ticks, rattles or misses and the turbo did turbo things. 


I know next to nothing about Volvos so, hopefully, some of you fine folks will chime in and share some of your knowledge, and/or point out any of the above issues that would cause you to walk away.


He's asking well under challenge money for it and I'm hoping it will fit my need for a mostly trouble-free DD for the next four years or so.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/16/19 8:34 a.m.

ABS, VSS, and No Cruise control are probably all due to one bad ABS wheel speed sensor. 

Vigo UltimaDork
4/16/19 9:03 a.m.

I've done a bunch of timing belts on 2.5 and 2.9 Volvos. If you're willing to do a timing belt at all then you do it once and forget about it for a long, long time. I would just say based on what ive seen from these motors that you can't skip the cam and crank seals like you can on a lot of other engines. They will turn around and bite you!  

I like the cars a lot. The main things i dislike about volvos of that era are coatings and upholstery peeling/coming loose and the hypochondriac dash display that's constantly informing you of problems that aren't really problems.  Pulling the instrument cluster is really easy if you want to disable it. cheeky

mtn MegaDork
4/16/19 9:04 a.m.

I had an uber driver in one--he said he loves it and it is surprisingly easy to work on. He said it was his second, and he'd just purchased it specifically to drive for uber for a few months while he took apart his V70 to do basically everything that he'd been putting off; he literally had some new brake pads and an alternator for the V70 sitting in the back seat next to me. 


It was a very nice car to ride in. Don't know if that random uber drivers claims can be backed up with other folks, but he was happy with it and seemed like a GRMer in spirit.

Dirtydog Dork
4/16/19 9:20 a.m.

Service records?   At 136K, timing belt and tensioner, maybe water pump while your in there.  Low on oil?  Pull the oil fill cap, put a latex glove over the filler, run the RPM up a little, if the glove blows up like a balloon, PCV replacement.  Look around underneath for oil leaks, a sign of bad PCV.  Check front Strut mounts for play and noise.  Rear shocks are pretty straight forward.   As stated, ABS sensor for cruise.  The radios are finicky, you may want to go aftermarket.  Around the turbo inlet, a little oil is OK, a lot, not so.

You are looking at $4-$500  in parts, cheaper if you shop around, maybe.  With you doing the work.  Good luck.

nedc Reader
4/16/19 12:13 p.m.

I have a 2005 2.5T FWD (didn't want AWD). It's a good motor...change timing belt/tensioner but leave the water pump, they are very long lasting. My ABS warning comes and goes but doesn't affect anything. I even did the hack fix of bending all the contacts to try and get the light to stay off and it did for a while. Now I don't worry about it. Cruise could be as simple as the switch not making contact, they are finicky. Push from the front right corner to activate. You will need VIDA to read codes, etc. Leather is pretty thin and cracks easily but you can buy replacement bottoms on ebay and they are nice, that's what I did for both front seats.

nderwater UltimaDork
4/16/19 12:22 p.m.

My wife and I really like the XC90 and have almost bought one on a couple of occasions (we chickened out and got cars with a warranty instead).  If you're willing to get your hands dirty, this sounds like a no-brainer.

fanfoy Dork
4/16/19 12:49 p.m.

Timing belts are nothing special on them. Like most FWD.

Rear shocks are easy peasy, but check that the front have been changed. The front are the fragile ones.

The ABS/no cruise/etc might be a wheel sensor (easy to change), but it might also be the reluctor wheel that cracked (just changed mine and it was PITA because of a stuck CV axle). Or worse case scenario, it might be the ABS control module (easy to change, but $$$). You would really need to have it scanned.

Used radios are cheap and easy to replace.

With no ABS, you also have no AWD. If that's important for you.


With what you are describing, it would have to be very cheap.

The_Jed PowerDork
4/16/19 2:22 p.m.

In reply to fanfoy :

He's asking $1,500.

The_Jed PowerDork
4/16/19 2:27 p.m.

Thanks for the input, everyone. I think maybe it's been a little bit too neglected for a little bit too long. The oil thing really scares me; turbo, VVT, etc. 


On a side note what in the hell do the Swedes put in/on their cars that prevents rust?! This thing has NONE on the body!

nedc Reader
4/16/19 3:33 p.m.

I wouldn't be afraid of it for that price and the relatively low mileage. 

dculberson UltimaDork
4/16/19 3:43 p.m.

Hmm, how overdue for an oil change? And how low are you talking? If it's just a couple thousand miles and the car was less than a quart low, no big deal. Assuming they aren't topping it off between changes it shows it's probably not leaking or burning a bunch. That's good. Mechanically these are pretty robust, I don't think a reasonably delayed oil change interval is a death sentence. That makes the big assumtion that they're not doing 50k oil change intervals or something horrendous.

$1500 is a pretty great price.

Also, they galvanized the heck out of these things. My 850 was completely rust free after many hundreds of thousands of neglectful miles.

The_Jed PowerDork
4/16/19 4:25 p.m.

I asked the owner what oil he used, then topped it off. There was sludge on the underside of the oil fill cap and on the little metal tray/screen/baffle on the inside of the cam cover. It was as black as crude and seemed to have a few granules in it and very low viscosity/lubricity when I gave it the forefinger-thumb rub test.


It took a quart and is still just below the "safe range" crosshatch on the dip stick. 


I drove it 26 miles home this morning and didn't smell burning oil so, I'm assuming there isn't much of a leak.

The_Jed PowerDork
4/16/19 4:27 p.m.

It also needs tires. Bad. The fronts were slicks. I rotated them a few minutes ago. Now the rears are slicks.



Vigo UltimaDork
4/16/19 5:45 p.m.

I mean, maybe bump it down to 1000? Last september i bought an 03 S80 T6 with 119k for $3k for my mom, but it had less issues than what you're describing.  I still think the price is more or less in the ballpark of a good deal and I'm only saying to lowball further to make you feel better about putting some tires on it right away when you get it. angel

The_Jed PowerDork
4/20/19 4:35 p.m.

He seemed pretty firm at $1,500. 

car39 HalfDork
4/21/19 10:33 a.m.

XC90's eat tires due to weight.  The 5 cylinder is pretty strong, but as stated, change the oil seals with the T-belt, or else you'll be back again.  Change the oil often, cheap insurance.  

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
4/21/19 10:48 a.m.

White Blocks aren't known for sludgging, but anything will with enough neglect.  You finding sludge is a good sign of neglect.

White Blocks are robust, only trouble spots are the PCV system, the internet blows it out of proportion like a lot of things, in reality it's just a bigger pain in the ass to replace/clean than most cars, then the fact that it's a interference engine so a snapped timing belt will ruin your day.

The replacement intervals changed a little over the years, rule of thumb, timing belt should be done every 100K or 5 years which ever comes first.  It's cheap insurance to do idlers, tensioner, and water pump at the same time.  Water pump needs new bolts, they should come with any reputable pump and/or complete timing kit.

Some have a reputation for leaky cam seals, but that's more a symptom of a clogged PCV system.  Keep the crank case venting properly and your cam seals will be fine for 200K miles.

AWD system can have issues, most common is the collar that connects the angle drive (transfer case) to the transmission, they're known for stripping the teeth in the collar, and you no longer have AWD.  There are repair kits available at most of the Volvo/Euro supply houses, and plenty of youtube videos to show you how to fix it.

I've got a lot of White Block experience, lost count of the number of "FWD Volvos" we've had in the family at this point, 850s, S70s, S90s, S40s, XC90s.  We currently have 3 XC90s, all AWD, an '05 2.5T and an '13 3.2l at my folk's place, and a neglected low mileage '05 2.5T sitting in my driveway as I type this. 

The one in my driveway is going to get some love and attention, and road tripped to AK to live the rest of its life at the vacation rental my folks bought in Ketchikan.

Vigo UltimaDork
4/23/19 9:56 a.m.

Some have a reputation for leaky cam seals, but that's more a symptom of a clogged PCV system.  Keep the crank case venting properly and your cam seals will be fine for 200K miles.

I agree with you that crankcase pressure can push out cam seals, but i have also seen them so loose that they wouldn't be secure anyway. I guess the rubber around the outside shrinks. 

1kris06 HalfDork
5/15/19 12:17 a.m.

Figured I'd add to this thread than start a new one. Would using the wrong oil cause a smoking issue? Or more likely the turbo/something else is berkeleyed.

Vigo UltimaDork
5/15/19 1:11 a.m.

Overfilling will cause smoke. Clogged PCV will cause smoke. Preferably you would need to get to the car while it's cold and have enough time with it to watch it warm up to get a good idea why it's smoking. That is, if pulling the dipstick doesn't tell you right away, which it probably won't. 

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