Another Volvo that won't start

We have a 2002 Volvo S60, which has been a fabulous car… until the past 6 months or so. Sometimes when we go to start the car, it just won’t start. No click, no lights, no nothing! Then, a few minutes or hours or days go by and it will start again like nothing happened. We’ve brought it to the dealer three or four times – I’m losing count. They have given us new keys, but we have the same problem. They have mentioned the immobilizer, but they’re not sure if that’s the problem. And they can’t recreate the problem there (they are actually having a staff person use our car instead of his own to see if it happens to him).

We would be so disappointed if this car is no longer reliable. Has anyone heard about this problem or have any suggestions for us? We would be SO grateful!!

With no click or what I assume no dash warning light indicators, my first suspect would be the electrical part of the ignition switch.

Thanks for your input! I hadn’t witnessed this firsthand in a while – it’s my husband’s car. So I didn’t realize that in fact, there IS a click and the dash lights come on, but then nothing. So the electricity seems to be flowing. The dealer still says that they can’t replicate the problem, even after having the car for a week. So we’re still out of luck. :frowning:

When there is an electrical power interruption, switches and solenoids are always high on my suspects list, especially if the problem is intermittent. On your car, power goes through the ignition switch (a suspect) to the starter motor relay (another suspect) to the starter solenoid (a suspect). The starter motor relay is a 1 1/2 inch cube in the fuse/relay box, usually under the hood. It takes three minuets (or less) to swap with one of the other (less used) relays. A non-mechanic could do it. Even if there is not a replication of the problem, the circuits, switches, relays, solenoids of the start circuit can still be tested, repeatedly. Needed: “voltmeter”, wiring diagram, capable mechanic.

My old jeep (rarely used) had an intermittent no-crank condition for months until it finally failed consistently. It turned out to be a bad neutral safety switch.

I am having the exact same problem on a 2001 Saab 9-3 (see my post Saab Intermittent no-start). Kgandal, I’m sorry I can’t solve your problem, but if I find a solution to mine, I’ll fwd to you. If I were you, I’d start with the relay- a cheap and easy fix. Hellokit, I have replaced my ignition switch and the starter relay. All my dashboard lights are normal when I turn the key. I hooked a test lamp to the positive side of the starter and the negative battery terminal. During the failure, the light does not light- ie no power getting to starter, right? When the problem cures itself magically, the light lights during the start. Do you think it could somehow be the solenoid? What else is in there? A chafed wire or loose connection somewhere? Craig58, what is a neutral safety switch? How do I now if my car has one?

I told you I would get back to you- I have done some more research on my Saab and having replaced everything but the Neutral Safety Switch, I am fairly certain that it is the culprit. Sounds like your problem is very similar to mine. I concur w Craig58’s assessment to look into your Neutral Safety Switch. I did a google search for your make/model/year + Nuetral Safety Switch (sometimes called a gear position sensor) check this out Looks like for $146 you might be in business- and lucky. The equivalent for my Saab is $320 :frowning:

An intermittent start problem is one in which there is a failure to start after a number of successful starts, right? This means there were a lot of successful attempts; but, along came an unsuccessful attempt, yes? So, test the start circuit in a similar manner: Connect a voltmeter to the end of the start circuit… to the disconnected wire on the starter solenoid. Turn the ignition key to START a dozen times, a hundred times. Observe the voltmeter. When the volt meter doesn’t show a voltage indication in START, move the voltage meter probe one switch, relay, or solenoid closer to the ignition switch in the starting circuit. Again, while observing the voltmeter, turn the ignition key to START a dozen times (or, a hundred) until there is zero voltage indication. Move the voltmeter probe, again, one switch, relay, solenoid further from the starter (still in the start circuit). Repeat the procedure. When, there are no more losses of voltage, during the keyings, the LAST item you tested is the defective one. It’s the last item where the voltage fell to zero with the ignition key in START, right?

Dear kgandal,

I have a 2003 Volvo s60 which over the past 5 weeks has been giving me the same problem as you describe above. It won’t start and if I leave it alone for 2 hours, it starts!! THe dealer said no codes could be found to indicate anything that needs fixing. It was working fine for 4 years until now when it is so unreliable. Did you fix your problem? Please share the fix. It will be much appreciated.



I have a 2004 Volvo S60 which I have been so happy with except the last few weeks has the same problem you have in which it won’t start but then a few hours later it starts like nothing even happened. Today will be the third time I am taking it to the dealer for the same problem. The last two times there they said no codes indicated there was any problem w/ the car only to have the problem happen again a week or two later. This problem seemed to have started after my very expensive 60,000 mile service??

Not every type of failure produces a code. When the dealer tells you “no code no problem,cant fix” Ask the dealer if the system is even capable of setting a code for a no crank condition.I bet not,tell him lack of code does not mean lack of problem.Fix it.

There is rarely one particular item which is at fault when there are several equally possible ones. So, there is no single “fix”. What all of you seem to be lacking is a mechanic capable of testing and troubleshooting. The start circuit is not that complex, or difficult. Ask around for the better shops/mechanics.

I am having the exact same problem with a 2001 Volvo S60 that went out of warranty in August (and the problem started in October). It happens about once every 6 weeks. My mechanic can’t figure it out because he cannot replicate the problem. It happens in all temperatures, all conditions - I can’t find any pattern. Everything seems to check out perfectly when it is in the shop. The dealer says they have never heard of this problem (!!), but could start replacing things … I hesitate to pour money into the car when I do not know what’s wrong. My family is encouraging me to sell it - (I am now stuck 250 miles away from home waiting for the car to decide to start; I am afraid, on long car trips, to ever turn the engine off - not good!) I am willing to try to fix it one more time, but would like to know what to try first. These postings have given me start, so thanks! If anyone figures this out, please let us all know!! I’ll do the same. p.s. I have always been a Volvo owner - for 30 years. They are getting worse, not better. This may be my last one! Are there any reliable, safe cars out there I should consider next time?

It seems that everyone is looking for that ONE answer, to change ONE part, and everything will be fixed. I can understand that desire; but it doesn’t happen like that. This is why some mechanics can troubleshoot and fix problems, while other “mechanics” are (experimentally) changing every part in the afflicted system, hoping for a fix. Put method into the troubleshooting approach, and solutions will have a much better chance of finding you.
I’v outlined this approach before, above, and have been ignored. That’s ok. This is a land of free choices, good, or bad.

My Volvo (I wrote about it in a July 12 posting) finally refused to start for two days last weekend, long enough for a mechanic to take a look at it. He found a loose connection in the starter. He tightened it and I just picked it up from the shop; it seems to be working fine. I hope that solves the problem. Maybe that’s what your mechanic can look for before you start replacing things. Good luck!

I have a similar problem with a 2001 S60 with 68000kms! My S60 starts when cold, if I use it and turn it of and start it within the next 5 minutes, it will start fine, but if i leave it off for the next 10 to 30 minutes, then it wont start, the engine wont even crank, and a warning light will come on saying “start refusal, try again”. However, after about 40 minutes it will start as if nothing had happened. Any suggestions?

I also have an 04 volvo s60 that has ran great until the past few mos, my lights will come on and the battery testes fine but I would go to start it and it wouldnt crank over, they first told me it was probably the key security bad to try another key we did that stil nothing but a few hours latrer it would start well this past friday I had to have it towed in becaue it wouldnt start again the lights radio all that worked, they called me this morning and said its the starter relay, so im hoping they are right please keep me posted if you find anything on yours and ill do the same with mine thanks

I had the same problem with my Volvo XC90. Most of the time it would start, but occasionally it would not. We changed the battery and checked the starter relay (as one blog suggested), but that didn’t solve it. One time while out of town, it decided not to start and we had it towed to the Volvo dealership. They had it happen (not start once) but then couldn’t get it to repeat the problem and were going to give it back to us with no answer. After some complaining, one of their mechanics suggested checking the starter wire. That was the solution.


The problem is that most dealers, mechanics, and even Volvo’s internal service hotline don’t know about this problem. It is a really simple fix and probably the first thing a mechanic could easily check, but Volvo’s internal communication is so poor that they just don’t know about it.

Mags - We have a 2001 Volvo V70XC. I don?t know how similar the electronics of our cars are. We used to have the ?intermittent won?t crank? problem once a year or so, would leave it overnight & with absurd confidence get in the next day & start as if nothing abnormal ever had occurred. A couple of months ago it started happening every few days. We took it to the Volvo dealer 90 miles away - who couldn?t repair a problem that couldn?t be replicated at the shop. Battery is new. Immobilizer message nearly always does NOT come on. Locking & unlocking multiple times w/key (we have no remote) has no effect. Neither does rotating ignition key 180 degrees. No conflicting keys on key ring or anywhere. Sometimes we have had success by holding the ignition key fully turned to on for up to 5 seconds. The last time it refused to crank till we left it overnight, when it did start the next day we immediately drove it to the marine/automotive electronics specialist, where it worked flawlessly day after day. Their best supposition is that “it’s probably the starter” - so one is on the way to them. Each winter we drive through foot deep water that occasionally floods the coast highway - which well may have corroded connections. Such a good car if we could eliminate the dreaded intermittent no crank issue!

I had the same problem with my 2002 S60- mysterious case of random inability to start that had been recurring with more frequency over the last 2 months. The good news is I think I found a solution that I haven’t seen posted anywhere else.
After bringing it to the Volvo dealer for servicing yet again and not being able to diagnose nor duplicate the problem, I went to pick up my car defeated and confounded. When I arrived they told me that as they were going to bring the car around they had the non-start problem and were finally able to diagnose it. If I remember correctly, the technician described there are 3 wires that go to the starter- 1 to the ignition, 1 to the computer and the 3rd to the electrical. One of these wires was corroded and slightly loose, so he cleaned it up, re-attached it and voila it seems like she is fixed. I hope this is helpful for other folks out there!

Good luck.