What's up with this Volvo 940 Turbo?
November 19, 2007 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide whether to buy a 1991 Volvo 940 Turbo. But I need to know, what's the likely cause of play front end "play"?

I'm looking at a 1991 Volvo 940 Turbo sedan to purchase. It runs great, looks great, and seems to be well-kept. I like everything about it, and the price is right. But...it definitely needs a front end alignment, which the dealer says he will do for me before I buy it. It pulls pretty strongly to the right. But my concern is, it might need more than just a front end alignment.

There seems to be some play, which is noticeable when going over bumps; it just feels a tiny bit sloppy. Also, on braking it seems like there is some front-to-back play when the brakes grab. At "crawling" speed when the brakes grab, it seems like the car lurches forward for an instant; like something in the front end is loose. (Or maybe some play in the brakes themselves?) There is no clunking, clanging, or other noise.

So, is this simply related to poor alignment? Or is the poor alignment due to something more serious?

Pardon my poor description. I'll answer any questions you have. I'm hoping someone with more mechanical brains and experience than I will know what's up. I'm looking to buy this car to get through a year or two, and I don't expect an old car to be like new; I just don't want a safety issue or an immediately expensive and non-optional repair. (It's a Volvo... I guess any repair is expensive!) Thanks all!
posted by The Deej to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Please before you buy it, take it to a mechanic for an independent inspection. Worn steering or suspension parts, such as ball joints, could give way, which would not be pleasant for the car, or you.

On first read, this car sounds a little shaky - if you're going for a volvo that old, I'd steer toward a 240 series, which had a much better reputation for reliability.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:56 PM on November 19, 2007

I don't know, but this site and its related mailing list were invaluable to me when I was trying to troubleshoot problems with my friend's '83 Volvo. Very friendly folks with a lot of knowledge. If you ask there you'll get some answers within a couple of hours. Start here.
posted by autojack at 4:57 PM on November 19, 2007

Response by poster: (Thanks so far. BTW: the vehicle has 125,000 miles.)
posted by The Deej at 5:01 PM on November 19, 2007

Not overly au fait with Volvos of that era, but the first sounds like both upper and lower ball joints are worn, while the second sounds like worn shock mounts &/or tie rod ends. All of those will screw up the alignment, and there's not much point getting one done until those things are fixed - it'll be out again as soon as the car moves.

Basically, all that is an indication that the whole front end is worn out. Not necessarily unusual for that mileage, and not particularly expensive or hard work for the average home mechanic - but not something I'd be wanting to pay someone else to do.

Agreed, a 240 is probably a better bet. Or just buy a Toyota...
posted by Pinback at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2007

On principle I would not buy a 17 year old turbo, with or without front end play. As for that play, I agree with Pinback, probably not a big deal but you should have a competent mechanic look at the car. Also, Volvo's are built well and can last a long time but are notorious for being rather expensive to repair.
posted by caddis at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2007

Best answer: seconding everything above: don't buy a 17 year old turbo unless it hasn't been far (50,000 miles tops), it will likely be worn out and replacing that will be expensive. At 125,000 miles, the turbo is likely completely worn out. If the previous owners haven't been absolutely perfect in the maintenance, it will be destroyed.

As for the front end, it sounds like all the bushes are sloppy (top and bottom ball joints, tie rods, inner wishbone bushes, etc): you'll need a complete new set and probably all new dampers as well. Say $400 for dampers, $200 for bushes and maybe $500 labour; actual cost could be 50% to 300% of those numbers.

If you do buy it, get a competent mechanic to look at it and specifically get quotes on all the suspension bushes as well as the condition of the turbo, particularly its oil seals and thrust bearing.
posted by polyglot at 6:05 PM on November 19, 2007

Bushes = bushings (USA)
posted by artdrectr at 7:56 PM on November 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks polygot and everyone else.

Unfortunately, even though I don't mind fixing my own cars, it's not something I have the time or patience for right now. I'm not set on a Volvo. I'm just looking for a good car for short trips around town, and this one was first on my list. Sounds like the work is not something I could put off doing safely, so the search continues.
posted by The Deej at 8:47 PM on November 19, 2007

the search continues

Good call.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2007

Good call. The "turbo" models are notorious for wearing out their engines early. If you find a regular 940, they're great.
posted by wzcx at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2007

Second on the good call by The Deej. Just for the sake of anybody looking at this thread later on, I'm going to add my two cents.

I owned one of these vehicles; 1991 940 turbo (wagon). It was okay (not great, okay) for a couple of years, but then died in an awful way. It started stalling out randomly, unpredictably. After stalling, it wouldn't restart for several minutes.
Once it actually stalled out, dead, when I was at speed on the highway. You can image the fun that is, no power brakes, steering gone, no restart.

The Volvo dealer who looked at it did the usual "oh it's the computer" and did a ~$900 swap. No dice, still stalled. They then proceeded to try half a dozen other fixes none of which worked. Finally, in a weak moment, they admitted that the early 90's 940s and 740s had real issues with the electronic controllers, and there wasn't much hope. When the dealer service group says a model is a dud, I think that means something.

Ditched that thing. Now we're onto a 99 xc which I'm not so happy about either, but that's a different story.
posted by Pliskie at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2007

1. I used to love my old '91 940 (non-turbo) sedan. It was a trooper of a car, bought it well-used, drove it '02-'05 or so. Car and me, we were like that.

2. I got rid of it at around 120,000 miles, when it kept needing repairs so frequently that it was no longer cost-effective (including front-end alignment repairs, and your prospective Volvo sounds a bit rougher than mine was). Now I've got an '05 Camry. Car and me, we are like that.
posted by stleric at 11:25 AM on November 20, 2007

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