Volvo Coupes/Sedans/Wagons 1970-1989 Repair Guide



Repair information 1970-89 Volvos is intended to teach you more about the inner workings of your car and save you money on its upkeep. The first two sections will be used the most, since they contain maintenance and tune-up information and procedures. The sections following concern themselves with more complex systems. Operating systems from engine through brakes are covered to the extent that we feel the average do-it-yourselfer should get involved. In certain cases, we cover more complex procedures that will benefit both the advanced do-it-yourselfer mechanic as well as the professional. For example, this guide will explain such things as rebuilding the transmission. It should be advised, however, that the expertise required, and the investment in special tools makes this task uneconomical and impractical for the novice mechanic. On the simpler side, we will tell you how to change your own brake pads and shoes, replace spark plugs, perform routine maintenance, and many more jobs that will save you money, help you avoid problems, and give you personal satisfaction.

A secondary purpose of this guide is for it to serve as a reference guide to owners who want to better understand their Volvo, communicate more meaningfully with their mechanic, or both. In this case, no tools at all are required. Just knowing what a particular repair job requires in parts and labor time will allow you to evaluate whether or not you are getting a fair price quote and help decipher itemized bills from a repair shop.

Before attempting any repairs or service on your Volvo, read through the entire procedure outlined in the appropriate section. This will give you the overall view of what tools and supplies will be required. There is nothing more frustrating than having to walk to the bus stop on Monday morning because you were short one gasket on Sunday afternoon. So read ahead and plan ahead. Each operation should be approached logically and all procedures thoroughly understood before attempting any work. Some special tools that may be required can often be rented from local automotive jobbers or places specializing in renting tools and equipment. Check the yellow pages of your phone book.

All sections contain adjustments, maintenance, removal and installation procedures, and overhaul procedures. When overhaul is not considered practical, we tell you how to remove the part that failed, and then how to install the new or rebuilt replacement. In this way, you at least save the labor costs.

Two basic mechanic's rules should be mentioned here. First, whenever the LEFT side of the Volvo or engine is referred to, it is meant to specify the DRIVER'S side of the Volvo. Conversely, the RIGHT side of the Volvo means the PASSENGER'S side. Second, all screws and bolts are removed by turning counterclockwise, and tightened by turning clockwise, unless otherwise specified.

Safety is always the most important consideration. Constantly be aware of the dangers involved in working on or around an automobile and take proper precautions to avoid the risk of personal injury or damage to the Volvo. See the subsection following entitled, "Servicing Your Vehicle Safely," and the SAFETY NOTICE on the acknowledgment page before attempting any service procedures.

Always read carefully the instructions provided. There are three commonly made mistakes in mechanical work:

  1. Incorrect order of assembly, disassembly or adjustment. When taking something apart or putting it together, doing things in the wrong order usually just costs you extra time; however, it CAN break something. Read the entire procedure before beginning disassembly. Do everything in the order in which the instructions say you should, even if you can't immediately see a reason for it. When you are taking apart something that is very intricate (for example, a carburetor), you might want to draw a picture or use an instant camera to record how it looks when assembled at one point in order to make sure you get everything back in its proper position. We will supply exploded views whenever possible, but sometimes the job requires more attention to detail than an illustration provides. When making adjustments (especially tune-up adjustments), do them in order. One adjustment often affects another.
  3. Overtightening (or undertightening) nuts and bolts. While it is more common for overtightening to cause damage, undertightening can cause a fastener to vibrate loose and cause serious damage, especially when dealing with aluminum parts. Pay attention to torque specifications and utilize a torque wrench in assembly. If a torque figure is not available, remember that if you are using the right tool to do the job, you will probably not have to strain yourself to get a fastener tight enough. The pitch of most threads is so fine that the tension you apply with the wrench will be multiplied many times in actual force on what you are tightening. A good example of how critical torque is can be seen in the case of spark plug installation, especially when you are putting the (steel) plug into an aluminum cylinder head. Too little torque can fail to crush the gasket, causing leakage of combustion gases and consequent overheating of the plug and engine parts. Too much torque can damage the aluminum threads or distort the plug, which changes the spark gap at the electrode. Since more and more manufacturers are using aluminum in their engine and chassis parts to save weight, a torque wrench should be in any serious do-it-yourselfer's tool box.

There are many commercial chemical products available for ensuring that fasteners won't come loose, even if they are not tightened just right (a very common brand is Loctite®). If you're worried about getting something together tight enough to hold, but loose enough to avoid mechanical damage during assembly, one of these products might offer substantial insurance. Read the label on the package and make sure the product is compatible with the materials, fluids, etc. involved before choosing one.

  1. Cross-threading. This occurs when a part or fastener such as a bolt is forcefully screwed into a casting or nut at the wrong angle, causing the threads to become damaged. Cross-threading is more likely to occur if access is difficult. To avoid cross-threading, it helps to clean and lubricate fasteners, and to start threading with the part to be installed going straight in, using your fingers. If you encounter resistance, unscrew the part or fastener and start again at a different angle until the threads catch and it can be turned several times without much effort. Keep in mind that many parts, especially spark plugs, use tapered threads so that gentle turning will automatically bring the item you are threading to the proper angle if you don't force it or resist a change in angle. Don't put a wrench on the part or fastener until it has been turned in a couple of times by hand. If you suddenly encounter resistance and the part or fastener has not seated fully, do not force it. Pull it back out and make sure it is clean and threading properly.

Always take your time and be patient; once you gain some experience, working on your Volvo will become an enjoyable hobby.