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10081 Top 10 Problems with Volvo 240 Models

Created on 2011-03-11 by IPD Staff

Even though the 240 has been out of production for almost 17 years, it is still a popular car among Volvo enthusiasts and a favorite among our staff.Over the past 35 years since it was introduced, we have come to know quite a bit about the iconic model.Here’s a list of some of the most common issues to look out for on the 240 if you are thinking of picking one up for a project or daily driver.

Main Fuses

The main fuse box is located in the driver side kick panel and sufferes from a few design flaws. First, the fuse box is susceptible to corrosion from water that can enter the interior and drip directly onto the fuses.Second, the small contact area of the European ceramic style fuses also leads to corrosion due to electrolosis. Prevent numerous problems associated with the fuse box, by pulling all fuses and cleaning them annually.
If you encounter a intermittent or no start issue on your 240, you can often get going again by simply spinning the fuses in their holders, which reestablishes electrical contact.

Heater Fan

The 240 is famous for it’s powerful heater, which according to urban legend can brown a slice of toast in about 30 seconds, however the heater blower motor is buried in the deepest confines of the dash. It’s like they built the car around the heater motor! Fortunately the motors are of decent quality and if you’re lucky you’ll only have to replace it one time while you own the car. Replacing the motor can take 3-4 hours for an experienced mechanic and we’ve heard of reports of it taking all weekend from some beginner do-it yourselfers!

OD Relay, Wiring, Switch & Solenoid

Why in the world Volvo chose to use an electronic overdrive instead of a real 5 speed manual transmission is beyond us, but they did and we have all suffered that decision! It proved to be a troublesome system over the years and here’s a few of the most common issues.

Most common problem with the overdrive is due to the shift knob accidentally being pulled off of the shift lever (while trying to engage reverse), which results in the OD button wires being disconnected from the switch. Next is failure of the OD wires just below the shifter, where they simply fail from being flexed back and forth thousands of times. The switch in the gear shift knob can also go bad and don’t forget to check the wiring where it connects to the solenoid on the driver side of the transmission as the wires often get disconnected by accident. Last on the list are the solenoid and the overdrive themselves. The overdrive works off of hydraulic pressure and as they age, they begin to lose pressure and engagement will become unreliable. Often replacing the lightweight Type F auto trans fluid used in them with a 30-50 weight will provide a few more years of service.

Motor & Transmission Mounts

The 240 goes through engine and transmission mounts on a regular basis! To prevent serious damage you’ll need to inspect them annually. Be prepared to replace them every 2-3 years depending on how hard you drive the car. The reason for the unusually short lifespan of these parts is due to the safety related design. The mounts are designed to allow the engine to move back and under the car, keeping it out of the passenger compartment in the event of a serious head on collision.

Flame Trap System

Another Volvo oddity is the use of a flame trap system where every other car manufacturer in the world uses a PCV system incorporating a PCV valve. Volvo has had problems with this system since it was introduced in 1976. Volvo's still run into the same issues on their newer models. Possibly in theory Volvos system is better, but in reality it gets overlooked and inevitably becomes clogged up and causes oil leaks and idle problems.

Worn Air Intake hose & Air Box thermostats

240 models with Bosch LH electronic fuel injection have a large plastic accordion style intake hose that connects the air mass meter to the intake manifold. This hose rests on the inner fender, over time a hole will wear through where it touches.The problem is that you now have unfiltered and unmetered air entering the engine, which causes all sorts of erratic behavior. The car will be running lean and if you attempt to correct the mixture and get a decent idle unaware of the cause, you will introduce even more issues.Inspect the hose at every oil change and replace as necessary.
Also related to the intake system is the air box thermostat. This is a small valve located in the air box that routes hot air from the exhaust manifold to aid in cold start performance until the engine reaches normal operating temperature. It commonly fails in the open position allowing super heated air to be drawn into the engine, which reduces performance as well as dramatically shortening the life of the expensive air mass meter.

Lumbar System and Seat Grid

The seats in the 240 are very comfortable when they are in good condition. 240 seats offer excellent adjustable lumbar back support. The lumbar system is very effective, but not the best design when it comes to longevity. These lumbar support systems commonly fail between 50-100,000 miles. We developed an easy to install lumbar repair kit about 15 years ago and is still one of our top sellers! The bottom seat cushion support grid is also a weak spot, causing drivers to struggle when trying to see over the steering wheel when it fails. This part was discontinued by Volvo a few years ago and we will be introducing an improved version this fall. 

Odometer/Tripmeter Gear failure 1986-1993 240 Models

The odometer is driven off of the main speedometer drive shaft by a small plastic gear. The plastic gear eventually splits and loses it’s grip on the drive shaft resulting in erratic or complete loss of odometer & trip meter function.The repair can be done by the average do it yourselfer in an about 1-2 hours using our repair kit with instructional DVD.

Fuel injection Relay 1978-1985 240 Models

The main fuel pump relay can be troublesome causing intermittent stalls and hard starting. The most common failure is overheating of the main 12V power connection to the point that the solder joint fails. This is usually caused by a failed pre pump in the gas tank, which in turn causes the main fuel pump to be overworked and draw excessive amperage that overheats the circuit.You can confirm this failure by popping the cover off the relay and inspecting the solder joints on the circuit board.

Fuel System Pre Pump 1978-1993 240 Models

The pre pump is a low-pressure, high-volume pump that sits inside the gas tank and supplies fuel to the main high pressure pump under the car. When it fails, symptoms include poor idle quality, hesitation when accelerating, reduced fuel economy, loud humming noises emanating from the main pump and accelerated wear of the main pump. Faulty pre pumps can also lead to hi amperage loading of the fuel pump electrical circuit resulting in blown fuses and or failed relays as mentioned above.

Other Common Issues

Heater core & heater control valves leaking into the interior
Worn out ignition switch resulting in the loss of some major electrical circuits
Failed wiring insulation on the main engine wiring harness 1982-1985

Please keep in mind these issues arise due to the fact 240 Volvos, as a whole were built very robust and probably ended up being on the road longer than Volvo ever anticipated. It's one tough car! In general these are not “defects” or poor design, just stuff to be on the lookout for if you find yourself driving one of our favorite Volvos of all time!

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