A no-start condition makes everyone's day just a little bit worse. Whether you're trying to get to work, go for a Sunday drive, or just want to get a bite to eat, a dead Volvo is a useless Volvo. Luckily, a Volvo can fail in the most predictable ways. In no particular order, here's some of the most common failures to make a Volvo nothing more than a lifeless Swedish meatball.
Fuel Pump Relay
The P80 series shared an interesting failure point throughout its 93-04 run. While fuel pumps are their own type of nuisance, (and easy to repair on a FWD car) the fuel pump relay can throw you for a loop if you suspect the pump itself has died. Before replacing what you think is a dead pump, check to see if the pump is receiving voltage before popping a new one in. In some cases, the relay in the underhood fusebox fails, and this sneaky little guy can drain your wallet chasing a problem that isn't pump related at all.
Air, fuel, and spark. The three ingredients of a beautiful explosion that make your car go vroom. As sensors age, they can accrue buildup or fail outright due to the wide range of temperatures a car's engine exposes them to. If the magic ingredient of spark is missing from your no-start equation, check all of the obvious ignition components (Coil, wires, plugs, cap/rotor). If none of them are bad, fiddle with the cam sensor - I even sprayed one with carburetor cleaner and my girlfriend's dead Volvo 850 sprung back to life. I'm replacing the sensor anyway since it's very old, but a severe oil leak or dust buildup can hamper the operation of this vital little sensor and make your car dead in the water.
On 99+ models throttle body control is carried out electronically rather than with a foot-actuated cable. This gives a smoother, easier to press accelerator pedal, with the downside of increased complexity and a greater than average failure rate. Volvo's use of the infamous Magneti-Marelli throttle body was a huge blow to their reputation for reliability and cost them a great deal of cash to recall and replace thousands of units. These throttle bodies (Electronic Throttle Modules) were never redesigned to the point where they were failure-proof, so any 99-01 Volvo with this style of ETM installed is ripe for failure at any time.
Sometimes an ETS light will illuminate in the dash, and is usually accompanied by a rough running vehicle. If yours has experienced these symptoms in the past and now won't start, there's a fair chance your ETM may be on its way out. Luckily, a vast amount of information has been compiled on the internet for this part, along with a great selection of rebuilt and aftermarket solutions to keep your ETM-equipped Volvo chugging along for years to come.
Alex is FCP's Blog Editor and an IT technician from Endwell, NY. He has over 8 years of experience working on a wide array of import makes, but lately is partial to Volvo . For some reason he just purchased a Volkswagen, and is excited to see what breaks first.
Alex is FCP’s Blog Editor and a Desktop Engineer from Endwell, NY. He has over 9 years of experience working on a wide array of import makes, but has found his home with European cars. With a BMW and Volvo at home, the garage is always busy.