The Epic Saga of Repairing a 1989 Volvo 240

The subject: A 1989 model Volvo 240 station wagon.
The problem: It won’t run. Sometimes. Sometimes it runs just fine.

Day 0

En route from point A to point C, the engine suddenly cut for just a second, but then kept running normally.
– “Ok, that’s probably not good…”.
– “Maybe it was just a temporary glitch?”
– “I hope so.”

We got to point C with no further incident.

Day 1

Coming back from point C, the engine died midway between points C and B. I pulled over, popped the hood, and we had a look. Nothing out of the ordinary. We wiggled some ignition leads, had a cursory look around, closed the hood, and re-started the engine. A kilometer later, it died again, this time for good.

– “What’s wrong with it?”
– “Probably something with ignition. If it was fuel, it would’ve coughed or sputtered at least a bit.”
– “You’re probably right.”
– “Oh well, can’t do anything here.”

We towed the car to a gas station at point B, and took the train home.

Day 2

I bought most of the components for the ignition system. And duplicates for several of them, since I didn’t have the exact model number at the auto parts store. We took another car to point B, and replaced the spark plug leads, the coil lead, the distributor cap and the distributor rotor.

No effect.

Of the three ignition coils I bought, none fitted. Went back home.

Day 3

Got the right ignition coil. Drove from point A to point B again. Replaced ignition coil. No effect.

Let the damn thing rot.

Day 15

Went back to the gas station at point B. The guy who was going to tow the car knew something about auto repairs, and had me pop the hood. He pulled off a fuel line and had me turn the engine. Nothing. The engine wasn’t getting any fuel.

The ignition system was probably completely fine.

Towed the car from point B back to a garage at point C. Emptied the flooded garage pit. Pushed the car in the garage.

Now, what’s wrong with it? Fuel pump? Fuel filter?

Went under the car, and removed the cradle holding the pump and the filter. Using an angle grinder. The bolts were a bit rusty. Took the fuel line off the filter and turned the engine. Nothing. Hmm.

Measured the voltage coming to the fuel pump when turning the engine. Nothing! Ok, so the fuel pump’s probably fine, as is the filter.

Re-installed the pump cradle with new bolts.

Day 16

Started by pumping more water out of the pit.

Measured the voltage going to the fuel pump, again. Got 12 volts! What the fuck? Re-attached all leads, and started the engine like nothing was ever wrong. Cursed heavily.

Got on the Internet, and found that the fuel pump relay tends to break on the 240s. Ok, that makes sense; That would explain the intermittent voltage. Right. I need to get a replacement relay. Let’s find this relay, then.

Got my Haynes manual and checked the locations of relays. All under the dashboard on the driver side. Fine, this should be easy.

Took apart most of the upholstery on the driver side. Found a lot of relays. Checked their serial numbers on the Internet.

“Windshield wipers, headlights, turn signals, etc…”

No fuel pump relay. Back to the Internet.

“Oh, it’s under the dashboard on the passenger’s side.” Accessible without turning a single screw.

Took the relay out, went back home to point A.

Day 19

Bought the replacement relay, and took back most of the ignition system parts that I never needed.

Day 22

Went back to point C. Replaced the relay, started the car with no problems. Killed the engine. Re-started. Repeated a few times. Left the engine running for several minutes.

No problems whatsoever, so I decided to drive back home.

En route from point C to point A, the engine suddenly cut for just a second, but then kept running normally. Cursed very loudly. Luckily, I got home without any trouble.

Day 23

Started the car, and left it running to scrape the ice off the windows. The engine died.

“Oh no you don’t!”

Tried starting the engine. Got nothing.

Back to the internet to find more information. And then, I found it.

Non-Turbo 240? – Remember to check the LH Fuse for corrosion

On 1983 and later 240 non-turbos, the LH fuel injection system uses a 25 amp fuse located under your hood on the left side fender. It is not in any type of sealed fuse holder, so the elements will cause corrosion to invade the connector after a number of years. Often pulling out and re-inserting the fuse will cure this issue temporarily.

I popped the hood, and located the fuse holder. Sure enough, there had been a bad contact. One terminal of the flat fuse was partially melted, and the fuse holder wasn’t in any better shape.

I cleaned the fuse, stuck it back in, and started the car. I then headed for the auto parts store to buy a new waterproof fuse holder. On the way back, the engine coughed once. Half a kilometer later, it died.

“Ah-ha! Now I know what’s wrong!”

I pulled over, popped the hood, wiggled the hot-to-the-touch fuse and holder, closed the hood, and restarted the car. Drove back home without issues.

Day 30

Finally got around to buying the missing tools needed for replacing the fuse holder. Replaced the burnt part. Car works fine now, unsurprisingly, although I haven’t driven too far with the new parts yet.

I hope someone with the same problem happens to find this post before going through all the trouble I did.

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4 Responses to The Epic Saga of Repairing a 1989 Volvo 240

  1. Mary says:

    Great post – many thanks! Very thorough. Already cleaned my filthy fuse up, but still no joy in Mudville, which, for me, is an island in the Bahamas. I can hear both of my pumps whirring, so I’m guessing my fuel filter is my problem, but the bolts are rusted solid. PB blaster not working and I’m scared to use an angle grinder near gasoline! How did you remove your filter bolts??

    • amplifier says:

      Are we talking about taking off the triangular cradle that the pump and the filter are mounted on, or the filter itself? I didn’t take off the filter itself. As for the bracket: “Went under the car, and removed the cradle holding the pump and the filter. Using an angle grinder. The bolts were a bit rusty.

      There was another problem with the car (which I no longer have): There’s some kind of sensor at the end of the crankshaft that supplies timing information for the ignition system. This sensor gets filthy over time, causing the car not to start since the ignition system isn’t getting the signal. I don’t know any more details, this is just what I heard from a friend of mine that had a same kind of Volvo. If you have trouble starting, you might want to check that as well.

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks Amp! It’s actually the filter bolts that are rusted solid. Thanks for the tip on the sensor. I’m actually sitting in the airport, heading stateside, so will pickup some supplies and raid a Volvo shop whilst there. Thanks again for your post AND reply.

  3. Andrew Hurst says:

    I had a heck of a time with mine and will now have to replace my nylon fuel lines. I did see a great idea on another post, too late for me this time, but likely helpful for someone else. The intelligent owner simply used an impact wrench (air or electric) on the banjo bolts. Why didn’t I think of that! I also strongly recommend new washers, I am trying the kind with rubber seals built in, and I gave them a light wetting with grease in the hopes that they won’t be so hard to get off next time!

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