1992 Volvo 240 4 cylinder Wagon - sputters, turns off, turns back on


long time listener, first time poster here.

Yesterday my 1992 Volvo 240 engine sputtered for like a second and then died in the left-turn only lane.

I just last week had my oil-changed and at the same time new transmission fluid.

When I tried to re-start the car all the lights came on in the dash, the radio played, no flickering or flashing lights - so I assume it’s not a battery or alternator problem (had to get a new one this spring).

While waiting for AAA to come to the rescue I decided to check on my fuel level and saw that the needle was in the orange but at the upper edge of it - and another thing, the engine did start again.

AAA gave me 3 gallons of gas, I started the engine again and had it idle for several minutes before he took off again.

I finished my errands, even got 3 more gallons and traveled about 4 miles after this incident, parked here and there but no problems anymore.

Anyone got this experience and can guide me towards self-testing my car or even repairing it? I have a Haynes for the car but don’t really know where to start checking for the problem leading to possible issues in the future.

Thanks for reading and getting back to me with your thoughts!!

I’m guessing you just ran out of gas. To check, fill it up, and keep it at 1/4 tank or higher. If no repeat of the problem, you know just to keep the tank above 1/4.

I’ll bet it is the ignition module. This is a known weak spot on older Volvos of this era. This is typical behavior when the module begins to go bad. Hold on to your hat when you go to the parts store for this module. It is pricey at $150 and up. To know if this module is a culprit, wait until the next time it acts up and check for spark. If it has no spark, chances are it is the module. Wiggle the wire harness at the module, and it may fire right back up. The module on the 750 I worked on was on the fender behind the battery.

  1. Old 240s are prone to fuel pump relay failure. The relay is under the dash, about 10" above your passenger’s right big toe. Some bricksters actually carry a spare fuel pump relay in the glove box. I drove a '90 and a '91 over 500k combined miles, and I had only one fuel pump relay failure, so I did not carry a spare. To diagnose a fuel pump relay failure, short between the two fuel pump relay fuses with a paperclip. I think they are fuses #4 and #6 but check the cover on the fuse box to be sure. You should hear both fuel pumps spin up. If the car runs with the paper clip in place but dies when you remove it, the fuel pump relay is not closing.

  2. The second reason why a fuel pump relay might not close is a failed Electronic Control Module. The ECU supplies the ground connection that the fuel pump relay needs to work. When the ECU fails, you have to replace it with a rebuilt or junk yard unit. Make sure you get the correct unit for your car. DO NOT just tie that wire to ground to make the car run. This is an important safety feature that must not be defeated. The ECU turns off the fuel pumps after an accident. I had one ECU failure on my two 240s.

  3. This car has two fuel pumps, one inside the tank and one beneath the car near the left rear wheel. I am not sure why it needs two pumps because it works OK after the pump inside the tank fails, UNLESS there is a leak in the hose in the tank. If that hose cracks (which it will), the car pulls air into the fuel line when the tank is low.

  4. On a car of this age, it is reasonable to expect that the fuel gauge sending unit in the tank has seen a lot of wear, and it wears out first at the lower end of its motion because the gasoline ‘sloshes’ and moves it constantly when it is down there. Therefore, as the gas gauge gets less and less accurate, the problem is more pronounced at the lower end.

If you replace it, don’t use no-name parts from Asia. There are stories on the web posted by folks who have tried to save a couple of bucks on these parts.