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4 day old used 200k miles Volvo 850 dies after 30 min of city driving

I just bought a 1997 used Volvo 850 non-turbo from a private individual with a broken odometer

with the owner estimating the miles on the car at 200k. The check engine, anti-lock brake(ABS on the dashboard), and a light that indicates some kind of problem with the light(s)(a lightbulb on the dashboard) are always on. The car runs fine on the interstate, but in the city after driving around for 30 mins, the car will stall-out at a stop, and will not restart, and has needed to be pushed out of traffic(3 times in 3 days!). After I sit there (in each case less than a mile from my apartment complex) on the side of the road for about 10-20 mins contemplating whether I have bought a lemon, and then try to restart, it will restart with difficulty, but seems like it will re-stall at a stop again. Because the initial stall(s) have occured so close to where I live, after I restart the car, I drive around on streets that don’t have stop lights and keep changing roads in order to avoid needing to stop, so I can get back home.

I live in a warm climate, but try keeping the a/c off, believing this helps, and the next day the car will restart without difficulty allowing me to make use of it in town for on average 30 mins of continuous city driving. The situation has worsened each successive day of rest and use allowing me less and less time before it starts having a problem. The owner who I purchased the car from is the son of the original owner, and he said that the car has had the following work done on it recently(1 year-6 months):

new starter(6 months ago)

new spark plugs(recently(maybe 1 month?))

work on the wiring(not real sure what work was done)

fuel filter was changed

air filter was changed

new fuel pump installed

He also said there was some kind of oil leak, but the oil level was fine when I check it.

I appreciate any help anyone may offer as to what is causing the problem/what needs to be done to fix the problem.


Start by getting the check engine light codes read (Pxxxx) and post back. At this point there are too many possibilities without focusing on the check engine light codes first. Places like Advance Auto and AutoZone may read them for free.

I hope you are OK with spending a lot of money for repairs. Old Volvos are very expensive cars to own if you have to pay someone to fix it for you. Parts are very high, labor is very high, and the old Volvos have lots of problems…

You can expect to spend about $2,000 to $3,000 a year for repairs on your new used Volvo. The MAF, mass airflow sensor, is likely going to be a part of your problem. As someone said have the computer scanned for codes and see where it leads.

Your car is not a Lemon. It’s simply a 13 year old, high mileage car and any car like this may be prone to problems.

If the car is only stalling out at an idle then I would suspect a vacuum leak or an Idle Air valve problem.
When it stalls do you attempt to hold the accelerator pedal down while trying a restart?
If not, try that to see if it fires up. If it does then the Idle Air valve could be the cause.

If it does not start anyway then you need to determine what’s missing; spark or fuel.

You paid less than $1000 for this car, right?

I thought I had the codes with me…(I don’t own a computer) To the best of my capacity to recall, they are P00300,
P00172, P01038, P00108(?P00106?), which from what I recall the mechanic typing on the sheet I thought I had with me did say something about an air flow problem and a piston(?)
timing issue, P01038 was something about manufacturers specs, the other I don’t remember.
However, the mechanic did determine that the fuel pump is bad(low pressure), and surmised that whoever said they replaced it, didn’t necessarily do so. I just want to relate that the car is an automatic and for some reason does not have blinkers or lights or speedometer while the car runs , but in park, a neighbor who pushed down on the fuses, got them to work(we did not check if they worked if the car was in drive because it started to rain. I found out the fuel pump for the Volvo costs around $300 new but managed to find one in a junk yard for $20 plus a 6 month warantee(with two more Volvos to try to salvage).
The mechanic who pulled the fuel pump thought the speedometer problem might be a relay as did the electrician/neighbor who got the blinkers/lights to work before it rained. I will try to verify the codes later.
P.S. I paid $1250 for it, and the county I live in made me pay taxes on the title transfer evaluating the car as being worth $1440.
Thanks for your feedback.

Hooeee am I glad its you who bought this clunker and not me, I have bought my share of these kinds of cars in the past, but once bitten twice shy.