Buying a Used 7xx/9xx                                                                                  FAQ Home

 Volvo Maintenance FAQ for 7xx/9xx/90 Cars                                                                                                                     Version 5.0
Buying a Used 740

Buying a Used GLE with B234F

Buying a Used 760

Buying a Used 780

Buying a Used 940

Buying a Used 960

Buying a Used Turbo

Buying a Used Diesel

Crash Test Data for Volvo Cars

Maintenance History

Odometer Fraud

Odometer Change

See the section entitled High-Mileage Vehicle Preventive Maintenance for detailed info.
See the notes entitled Purchasing Used Diesel for detailed info on diesels.

Buying a Used 740: Check the following before buying: (1) cooling system pressure test to check for cylinder head or block cracks, or other cooling system leaks; (2) look inside valve cover for varnishing/condition of rockers/cam etc (should give a fair indication of oil change interval); (3) a compression test; (4) starting the car when cold and noting color of any exhaust smoke; (5) examine the air filter; (6) Rear axle pinion seal for leaks; (7) A check of the rear axle fluid for suspended metal particulate; (8) color of brake fluid, dark meaning high moisture content and no recent change, and likely repairs; (9) Listen for knocks, squeaks, groans from the front end. All the bushings there could be up for replacement. (10) Check the bottom of the front of the engine for leaks; flame trap may be plugged resulting in blowby past the seals; (11) engine wiring harness for loss of insulation, cracking, etc. (12) rust in the tailgate or center and side storage bins in the trunk and the floors (13) Overdrive engagement in transmission if manual.
[Don Foster:] Inspect the aluminum pipe in the A/C line under the metal clamp -- they corrode through, then you have an expensive repair (if you want A/C). Also inspect the operation of the air conditioning system.

Buying a Used GLE with B234F.  [Tip: Jason Kneier] the block is the same as the B230 you are familiar with. Only the head head/manifolds are different. It's good that the car appears to have been cared for, as these engines are slightly less robust than the 8V versions.
The two concerns I have heard regarding this engine are :
1) The head is an INTERFERENCE design. Change the timing belt religiously, and make a point to pop that cover off every now and then just to inspect it, because if it breaks you will bend valves.
2) Keep an eye on the hydraulic lifters, as they are inherently weaker than physical valve lifters.
One other thing - a lot of the 16V engines got the ZF-22 4spd lockup tranny. This tranny is problematic, but is easily replaced with an AW70L or 71L.  With proper care, this will be a great car! [Tip: Abe Crombie] The oil pump bolt is a weak point. It would be a good idea to replace it if it not noted as having been replaced at the same time as cam belt. The bolt is not a high strength bolt and can be obtained at a parts store. Loctite is a good idea when it is installed.  The tensioner for balance shaft belt can lose its plastic teeth and this throws off the cam belt.  Jason's correct mention of the valves hit pistons (interference) is a good reason to not let either of the things I mentioned happen.  The transmission (in the '89 740 GLE) is not the ZF gearbox with the bad history but is a different gear ratioed version of the AW71L called the AW72L. Its gear ratios are revised to better suit the 16 valve engines lower torque production at lower revs as compared to the 8 valve versions.
[Comment: Al Asamov] As this is an interference engine(if a timing belt should break, valves can be damaged at least), you will have to be scrupulous about getting the timing belt(s) changed at intervals. If you love to drive, this car will please you. If you resent paying for scheduled maintenance, something
else might suit you better. 

Buying a Used 760.  [Query]  What is your opinion of the reliability of a used 760?   [Response: Zippy] Not only would I not buy a 760 with a six cylinder engine I wouldn't even buy a 760.  Go for a 740 turbo, as new as you can get. Those are 25 year plus life span cars and have HALF the problems of the 760s.  Failing to find a 740 Turbo, settle for a 940 Turbo.  Skip any Volvo that has "60" in the name, unless you like paying lots of money to repair things like vacuum motors in the AC, costly power seat parts (older is definitely not better with power seats) and other "refinements" over the 7/940s.

[Query:] I'm about to buy a 1990 760 sedan, 85K and all service records.  Opinions?  [Response: Eric D.] The biggest concern on the 760s are the abundance of luxury equipment, which gets pretty expensive if things start to break. Take some time and go over all of the power amenities and luxury features in the car, especially the power assists (seats, windows, sunroof, mirrors, antenna, etc.) and find out if it's all working properly. Make sure the sunroof itself tilts and slides properly, and doesn't leak. Also, make sure the automatic climate control system and A/C are working well--air conditioning units in these cars can have a reputation for spotty reliability and leaking hoses. At 85k miles, the Nivomat auto-levelling rear shocks should still be in good shape and should last well over 100k miles, but be aware that they are very expensive to replace, and cannot be substituted with standard shocks on this model.
I'll assume that this is the V-6 model... make sure that the previous owner changed the oil religiously and at proper 2,500-3,000 mile intervals--VERY critical to the health of the V-6.  It's a good sign that the car has service records. If everything on the car checks out, you should have a pretty decent ride. Good luck!

Buying a Used 780.  See
for great information on buying a used 780.

Buying a Used 940.   Volvo improved the brakes in 1992, by reducing front rotor diameter from 11.3 inches to 11 inches and increasing thickness considerably. New calipers to accomodate the wider rotors. The change was intended to reduce warpage of rotors.  The 1990-on engines are all very good and stronger than the 85-88 motors and stronger than the 88-89 motors. In 93 or 94 oil jets were added to cool the underside of the pistons.  I believe all 92 and later 740/940s were automatics, but the changeover may have been 93.

[Editor's Notes:]  Check some of the 940 anomalies before buying.  These include puckering door panels around the lock buttons which are very expensive ($800 parts) to replace (especially model year 1995), the functioning of the transmission shift lock switch and release button, and functioning of all body electrical components including power seats, power sunroof, power mirrors, mirror heaters, rear defrost.  Check as well the performance of the air conditioning system: repairs are expensive and these cars have suffered from leaking condensers.

See the notes on rust in front frame members at 940 Rust Alert

Buying a Used 960.
[Major Caution:]  See the 960/90 section about sticking valves, cracked exhaust manifolds, driveline noises, leaking rear main seals, and other major problems. Reports from Brickboard buyers are not encouraging about the reliability and cost to repair these cars.

[Query:]  What is the best 960 model year to buy?  [Response: Lars Lundblad]   Regarding Volvo 960, the best year model to buy secondhand is 1996.  Problems with 960:

1996 960 is the best year/model to buy secondhand, at least in my opinion.  The Volvo 6 cylinder engine 3,0 liters (2,5 1995->) is extremely well built it runs and runs. It is the same engine that is in S/V70 (850) only with one fewer cylinders. Before I bought my 960 1996, I looked around and in the southern part of Sweden I met a cabdriver whose 960 1993 had run for 700,000 kilometers with no repairs, just the standard "service".  [Response 2: Ross Gunn]  I have a '95 960 (Canadian market), and it has most of what is mentioned here as new in '96 (2 front air bags, multi-link rear suspension with composite (flat) rear spring.  I'm not sure what changes in the electrical system and engine control system Lars refers to, but mine has the Motronic 1.8 ignition system.  I also don't know what front suspension changes he
refers to.  As far as I am aware, there are no significant changes after '95, so '95 or newer should be a good choice.  The S90 is the same as the 960 and will be discontinued after this model year.

[Tips from Rob Bareiss]  Make sure the timing belt has been changed and is documented. Check the VIN# out with a Volvo Service department, to see if the car has any "open service campaigns". That would mean it was not brought in for a dealer recall item. There could be a minor thing, but it's a good indicator of whether the previous owner cared about the car, or not.  Look under the car, particularly for exhaust leaks at the rear flange or flex-joint of the catalytic converter (next to transmission). If you see or hear leaks, this is an EXPENSIVE fix on a 960. Volvo gets over $1100 USD for a new cat; non-Volvo replacements are over $500. Also look for oil drips at the front end of the transmission- a rear main oil seal is an EXPENSIVE repair. Drive the car- it should have no shake at all in the wheel when braking. Front rotors can warp, and they're over $100 each to replace.  Make sure the Auto Climate Control does everything right. Run the A/C fan on full, and accelerate hard.  The vents must not stop working. If they do, you've got expensive work ahead. And finally, look to see that when you arrive, the back of the car is not sagging. These cars have very expensive Nivomat self-leveling shocks in the back- they're $250-$450 USD each! The car shouldn't sag more than 1 inch overnight.

[Editor's Notes:]  Check some of the 960 anomalies before buying.  These include puckering door panels around the lock buttons which are very expensive ($800 parts) to replace (especially model year 1995), and functioning of all body electrical components including power seats, power sunroof, power mirrors, mirror heaters, rear defrost.  Check as well the performance of the air conditioning system: repairs are expensive and these cars have suffered from leaking condensers.

Buying a Used Turbo.  [Query:]  What are the engine and model specs on the turbo series?  [Tip from Abe Crombie] I don't know what your $$ limit is but the 93-95 940 T will have the engine with piston oil cooling and the improved tolerances on lower end.
The 92 and later have the bigger brakes up front and larger piston size for rear calipers.
The trans on turbo models is the same except the balls used as check valves could deteriorate and cause harsh shifts on 85-87 models.
The 88 and later have the larger diameter mains with a full circle thrust bearing for crank.
The 90 and later have the smaller, fast spool up time turbo but this hurts the absolute limit for boost as the exhaust housing is more restrictive.
92 and later have bigger radiator and intercooler with all electric cooling fans.  The sips structures in 92 and later likely adds some body rigidity.
87 and up have hydraulic engine mounts that are more costly and have a finite life span.
91-93 turbos have the auto locking diff, it was part of cold weather package (heated seats=locking diff) on 94-95.  The auto locking diff is not the best for Hi-Perf track/gymkhana style activities.

[Editor]  Pay attention to the maintenance given the turbo, including oil changes, turbo hoses, etc.

Buying a Used Diesel.  Anyone contemplating buying a used 7xx/9xx with a D24 or D24T diesel engine should see more detailed notes at Purchasing Used Diesel.

Crash Test Data for Volvo Cars.  [Tips]  See the following for crash test data on various used Volvo cars by model year:

Maintenance History.  [Query] If you know the VIN for a car is there anyway to get a history of the service and mileage of last service?  [Response: Beau Springer] Yes, but the "work" has to have been done [recorded] at a Volvo Dealership/Service Center since the system used to record and track the service is on a "closed" Volvo network. In addition to this, the person doing the work history research must be willing to "de-code" the service codes for you.  I tried utilizing this service last Friday at my local Volvo Dealership, so your mileage may vary depending on the level of cooperation that you receive.

Odometer Fraud. Not having that much time, I did an internet search and found Carfax (1-800-FIND-VIN). They search through DMV and auction records and while they don't give a complete ownership history of the car or any details on previous owners, they can tell you if the car was ever totaled, salvaged, stolen, or in my case, that the car actually had 183k instead of 63k.

Odometer Change.  I'd check the maintenance book to see whether the speedometer/odometer has been changed. I believe that quite a few of these had problems, and were replaced. The manual should say what the mileage was on the unit that was removed, if there was a replacement.  Add this to the mileage showing on the odometer in the car for total mileage. Maintenance and repair records often state the mileage at which the car came into the shop, and can substitute for the maintenance manual, if it's not available.

Volvo Maintenance FAQ for 7xx/9xx/90 Cars                                                                                                                     Top of Page