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1996 Volvo 850 runs great, needs work

I’m the proud father of a 1996 Volvo 850 and a 1996 daughter – both have just turned 15. The Volvo has been my primary car, but the air conditioner doesn’t work and it has other minor problems so I recently replaced it with a new primary vehicle and am planning to keep the Volvo for my daughter when she turns 16. I’ve never done any significant mechanical work but have done minor repairs on the Volvo myself. Now to get it ready for my daughter (who apparently has higher standards than I did for the last 3-4 years) I need to replace the A/C evaporator, and once I have the dash off I might as well replace the squeaky heater fan, fix the broken odometer, and replace the burned out instrument panel lights. And then the front struts need to be replaced. I’m guessing something like $1000 for parts and a lot of my time. It runs fine other than the front suspension and the A/C, and it has new brakes and good tires.

Am I crazy to put more money into a car this old, especially considering that it will mostly sit for another year waiting for my daughter to turn 16? I know I could probably find a reliable used car for several thousand dollars, but three factors are swaying me toward the Volvo:

  1. I enjoy tinkering
  2. I know this car has been well-maintained
  3. my daughter thinks she deserves a new(er) car and I want to teach her a lesson about hard work and thrift.

I have an idea how you can make this project come out for the best. You and your daughter do the work. It will be a great teaching year. She will learn how a car works: how to repair and maintain a car; the consequences of failing to maintain a car; financial responsiblitiy; and being a responsible driver.

If she doesn’t want to spend time and help you on this car, she doesn’t get the car. She can find and fund a car of her own. If and when she breaks it, she can repair or have it repaired at her expense. I bet the $1000 you spend repairing the car will be cost less than a unit of her higher education i.e. college.


HTH – bloody brilliant! I like it. Thanks for the input!

It would be worth it if you follow Researcher’s idea, because it would have benefits beyond making the car work right. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be caught dead putting money into an old Volvo. Money pit does not begin to describe it.

Keep in mind that it’s likely she will need financial assistance from you to keep it running over the next few years, as Volvo parts tend to be on the pricey side.

BTW, has your AC been completely evacuated the last few years? If so, you may have more to fix than just the evaporator.

Researcher’s idea worked well on my son when he was approaching driving age. But he had some actual interest in auto mechanics. And so he got a cool restored 1976 Fiat Spyder that lasted him throughout high school and four years of college. In your case, even for a Volvo, I say give it a go!