850 T5 Estate - head gasket & related maintenance work?

Discussion in 'Volvo 850' started by AJ MacLeod, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. AJ MacLeod

    AJ MacLeod Guest

    My '93 850 (2l 20v ) had head gasket failure at 101,000 miles, shortly
    before I bought it (it was the reason the PO was selling, having bought a
    new car (if the Avensis, or any other vomit inducing plastic Toyota can be
    labeled so with any degree of validity) in the meantime).

    Anyhow, the fact the radiator was replaced at the same time possibly
    indicates a reason for failure.

    The repair bill (from a main dealer) came to 970 quid, 430 of which was
    labour, 60 of which was "specialist work [mechanical]" on the head and the
    rest parts charges, the most expensive of which were the radiator, head
    gasket, plugs and thermostat.

    Hope your problem turns out cheaper, but it does sound like the head
    gasket to me.

    On the brighter side, the engine sounds great and performs extremely well
    - and I'm pleased to have had one of the more expensive "consumable" parts
    replaced immediately before buying the car!


    AJ MacLeod, Nov 24, 2003
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  2. AJ MacLeod

    tim-1275 Guest

    Volvo 1996 850 T5 Estate, 90,000 miles, not had Volvo dealer
    maintenance since 50,000 mile service, but had regular oil
    changes/basic servicing at non-volvo garages ..

    About four days ago, on a short journey (about 3 miles) I noticed that
    the temp gauge had gone just into the red. I stopped and also noticed
    small amounts of steam from the engine bay, and on further inspection
    is was coming from the coolant tank where hot water/steam was
    escaping. It had emptied quite alot too. Since then, I've only taken
    it out on one or two very short journeys (under 2 miles) as I'm afraid
    of doing some damage to it.

    The fan's working fine and there's no loss of power noticeable, though
    it did struggle to start this morning for the first time in two years
    (maybe water getting into cylinders?). There's no obvious leaks in the
    hoses or radiator, and the coolant looks slightly discoloured, as if
    very small amounts of oil might be getting in, or at least some dark
    deposits. The car does not overheat when standing still idling - it
    maintains normal, level temperature and sounds just fine.

    After reading the posts in this group (thanks guys)it looks fairly
    conclusively like the beginnings of a head gasket problem and I'm
    thankful that I haven't made any longer journeys since the problem

    Since I'm not exactly clear on what has been done to the car in the
    last 40,000 miles, I have a couple of questions to ask to try and
    rectify the problem and prolong it's life a little...

    1. Assuming the head gasket diagnosis is correct, and I will get this
    verified by having a pressure test and checks for exhaust gases in the
    coolant expansion tank, what else should be replaced (as a
    preventative measure) whilst this work is being done?

    * Water pump?
    * Flame guard?
    * Oil & coolant + filters?
    * Any hoses?
    * Manifold gaskets?
    * Plugs?
    * Any others recommended?

    2. Would you recommend that I replace the timing chain whilst doing
    the head gasket to save on labour costs - whilst they are in there? I
    don't have any documentary evidence of the timing belt ever been
    changed, though it may (and should) have been done at 60,000 mile
    service before I owned the car (this service was not done by a Volvo
    garage though, and there's no note in the service record that it was

    3. Could this head gasket problem have been caused by a generic oil
    filter having been fitted during the last service or the omission of
    some essential work due to it being serviced at non-Volvo garages?
    There appears to be a number of Volvo-specific checks that might not
    be obvious to technicians who were not well versed in Volvo

    Any advice is welcomed. I realise that this is likely to be an
    expensive bit of work to get done, but I'd prefer to get everything
    done at once and save future costs if possible.


    PS. Anyone know of a reputable Volvo specialist in the UK, Midlands
    tim-1275, Nov 24, 2003
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  3. AJ MacLeod

    Dori Guest

    Well then, my advice is to eat a can of beans and blow
    yourself away.

    Blow yourself to the mooooooooooon!!!!!!

    Dori, Nov 24, 2003
  4. AJ MacLeod

    Guest Guest

    Firstly, you are wise not to drive it too far in this condition, certainly
    not under appreciable load until you have it checked properly, but it sounds
    very much like HGF, which incidentally is quite rare on the 5cylinder unit
    unless it has previously been over heated or running alot of boost. Anyhow
    seems like you have been unlucky.

    I cant recommend anyone in the midlands area for Volvo's having not needed
    any other than a small firm in telford who I have used in the past for 2nd
    user parts (heater matrix and leccie mirrors etc) Don;t know if they are
    still in business though. I would only use someone who has stripped a grey
    block before, as they require special tools (home fab-ed is fine) to hold
    and pull the cam carrier (and cams) back to the head upon reassembly without
    snapping the cams off or cracking the cam carrier. Note there is no gasket
    twixt head and cam carrier, nor cam cover- Volvo supply a special sealer
    with short hair roller to apply it with. DO NOT USE silicone!!

    If the HG is indeed leaking then I would do the job fairly quickly as alot
    of oil in the cooling system is a nightmare to flush out! The exhaust gases
    check in the expansion bottle is a good as any check. also look for more
    than normal steam from the exhaust, but without running the car under load
    for 10+ miles to blow out water in the exhuast thats going to be kinda

    Depending on past maintanance all the cooling system hoses should be fine-
    oil wont have been in contact long enough to do damage, however from past
    experience the factory hoses clips will have to be hacksawed off as they
    seem to rust up quickly.

    Replacement as a matter of course items would be:

    1) timing belt, and tensioner.
    2) Water pump.
    3) aux drive belt.
    4) coolant- use 50% monoethylene gycol + water. (u might want to do the
    initial fill and test run with plain water if there is alot of oil in the
    cooling system.

    Thats about it.

    Guest, Nov 24, 2003
  5. AJ MacLeod

    Guest Guest

    Newsreader cut my reply short for some reason last night- feel free to email
    me for more detailed "how-to".

    Guest, Nov 25, 2003
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