Safety, reliability, long life expectancy
I need to introduce the situation. I frequently house-sit for a family and they had a Volvo 240 Wagon in the driveway that wouldn't run. Last summer I spent a lot of time and a little money and got it running (and they ended up giving it to me). My situation is not typical and good maintenance practices will avoid the problems I have encountered.
First off, the original engine was seized due to low oil by the previous owner's son and was replaced at 200,000 miles. The shop that replaced it with a rebuilt one either didn't know much about Volvos or they were careless and poor with this car. After about 10,000 miles of driving on the new engine, the Volvo failed to start and sat in the driveway for a few months before I started working on it. The following items were found to be bad:
The fuel pressure regulator was stuck closed and thus the fuel injectors were dumping in too much gas (burning very rich).
The Oil Trap needed to be cleaned and flame trap needed to be replaced ($5 part). This is essential to the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system and if either of them clog, the engine will 'bleed' oil out of every gasket and can damage the gasket seals. (This excessive loss of oil lead to the first engine's demise.)
The timing was set incorrectly at 24 degrees before Top-Dead-Center (it should have been 12 degrees).
Cheap spark-plug wires were used that fell apart at the boots. (I replaced them with Volvo/Bougicourd factory wires)
Sparkplugs fouled (due to the stuck pressure regulator).
Idle Air Control Valve was flooded with oil and non-functional (due to the clogged PCV flame trap)
The ignition fuse holder under hood by driver's side strut tower was replaced by a 3rd party garage with a non-waterproof socket, which had corroded away.
-----The following items were replaced or are being replaced and were not related to the poorly installed rebuilt engine:
Rear brake pads. (front pads will follow shortly)
Front-right passenger-side wheel bearing. (It started to go bad around 211,000 miles)
Water-pump was nearing death at 200,000 so it was replaced when the engine was changed.
Several bulbs dead on interior dash lighting.
A small crack in vinyl driver's seat (which was repaired at the dealership).
The car has a lot of front-end body roll in turns, and removes driver confidence when cornering. The factory sway bars will be replaced next week by a stiffer pair I'm getting from a salvage yard from a 1981 240 GLT, and this should solve the problem. Any Turbo model will have stiffer bars than the base DL version that I have.
Some rust on underside of passenger compartment. Note: this rust would not have occurred if a 3rd party shop hadn't hoisted the car incorrectly.
Rear wagon hatch/door is rusting around the window glass trim, -but this is due to poor painting procedures done by an independent garage (rear door was repaired after accident by previous owner).
Rear differential fluid was badly in need of changing after 210,000 miles.
Water collects behind one of the headlight lenses due to a bad gasket, but all lights still work great. One of the plastic lenses has started to yellow.
Fuel filter, air filter, oil filter, spark plugs, and spark plug wires were changed when car was acquired.
The car is exceptionally well built. It's very sturdy and you feel safe and secure while driving it (even has side impact beams in the doors). If you're looking to buy a used one, search the web for the keywords of Volvo, 240, and FAQ. You'll find a lot of good information and a tip list for used Volvo shoppers. As soon as you get your new Volvo home, immediately replace the Air filter, flame trap, engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, and possibly the spark plug wires. Expect to spend about $75 to $150 for all of the above.
The engine is of exceptionally superior design to anything that I've owned before (sorry GM). I've talked to mechanics that have done work on them and they are impressed with the quality of the parts used. These parts come with a higher price and therefore repair parts cost more than the average car, but this is to be expected for vehicles that will drive well past 300,000 miles with all the scheduled maintenance done on them. Avoid buying cheap imitation parts and go with the Original Equipment if you can afford it, it really does last longer and will require less service.
The body roll is an issue, especially on older cars. Before buying your used Volvo, crawl under it and look at the bushings. If they're deteriorated, the car will have excessive body roll. (and you can take a bit more off the seller's price) If the bushings are fine (which mine seem to be) but it still rolls in the corners more than you'd like it to, upgrade the swaybars. Increasing swaybar diameter a few millimeters will have a huge improvement on the vehicle's handling. All turbo models have the larger swaybars or they can be purchased new from IPD.
All Volvo 240 cars and wagons come with 4 wheel disc brakes and the rear disc breaks are actually both disc and drum. The drum brakes can only be activated by pulling the emergency break and this truly demonstrates Volvo's commitment to safety. (How many vehicles out there have a completely independent emergency brake system?) The disc brake pads are prone to squeal due to the hardness of the material used, but the Volvo factory replacement pads now come with Teflon backing pads to help eliminate this problem. Replacing pads is easy and you don't have to remove the caliper (which is a pain to do on my Pontiac).
A variety of transmissions were used and several manual and automatics were available. The automatics offered in 1987 were the AW-70 and the heavy duty AW-71. In mid 1987 the AW-70L and AW-71L were introduced and these are basically the same transmissions, but they use a lockup torque converter. This improves gas mileage by a few miles per gallon and makes the automatic transmission as efficient as a stick-shift when at cruising speeds. The transmission model tag can be viewed by crawling under the driver's door of the car and looking just above the transmission pan flange. The tag will say something like "30-70" for the AW-70 and "30-70L" for the lockup version. My particular car has the AW-70 without the lockup and seems to be in decent shape. As always, change your transmission fluid every 25,000 or 30,000 miles and I strongly recommend removing the pan and cleaning the magnet (which collects metal shavings as the transmission wears). I use a synthetic or semi-synthetic transmission fluid to help improve the life of the seals and moving parts. Since I plan to do some strenuous driving and towing in warmer climates, an external transmission cooler is already purchased and will be installed soon. By reducing the automatic transmission temperature by 20 degrees, you double its service life.
I strongly advise changing your rear differential fluid when you get the vehicle home. Volvo doesn't expect that this fluid needs to be changed and therefore most owners don't. Unfortunately, mine was cooked/burned I'm hoping that it didn't shorten the life of the rear differential too much. I replaced the fluid with Valvoline DuraBlend 80W90 (semi-synthetic).
I've been very impressed with the station wagon 240 DL that I have, the rear seat can be removed and the backrest folds flat. This opens up the rear cargo area to over 6 feet in length. I have the rear facing 3rd seat and it collapses into the floor of the cargo compartment and is hidden from sight. The door locks have a selectable child safety lock in them, allowing parents to lock the doors from the inside and not the outside (if so desired). Power locks are standard even though you don't see the switches. When you lock the driver's, all the other doors lock automatically.
The seat heaters in my car are nice (standard equipment 1987 and up) but the thermostats that control them are dead and need to be replaced. This is a common failure later in life.
The lumbar support in the front seats is nice, and great for long trips.
The interior feels a little retro. The instrument cluster is lit from the face (lights shining on the gages rather than from behind them). The large clock in the instrument cluster is easily changed to a tachometer to show you your engine RPM and I'll be performing this upgrade soon.
The stock stereo/cassette still works well. The radio can pick up stations farther away than the radio in my 1986 Pontiac, but the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired. The stock stereo system has only 2 speakers and they are mounted in the front driver and passenger doors. Additional rear speaker were available and can be added easily, but if you keep the stock radio, you will need the external 2x15 amplifier that plugs into the back of the stock radio (these are commonly found in salvage yards in vehicles with 4 speaker stereos). I plan to eventually replace the radio and all speakers to improve audio clarity.
The Volvo 240 line of cars is excellent in my opinion and I plan to see the car well past 300,000 miles. For the safety, comfort, and reliability of these cars, you probably won't find a better deal. Working on the Volvo and performing repairs has been much easier than on any other vehicle I've owned, (and I've driven fuel injected vehicles my whole life). If you keep to the maintenance schedule, your Volvo should have a very long life. (there are Volvos still on the road with over a million miles on them)
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th February, 2003