Beloved, Broken Down 1983 Volvo 240DL/GL - Sell or Fix?

Apparently, AKA Volvo 244

OK so first, the Lambda Sond light came on (7000 miles ago). I got the oxygen sensor but my Dad (a retired mechanic) couldn’t replace it, not having the magic tool that removes rusted on oxygen sensors.

It’s been running fine, and got difficult to start when temps dropped, and ethanol content in Oregon gas increased. Adding HEET to the fuel has helped a lot.

Then, it went through a half a bottle of brake fluid in a month.

Then, it quit leaking.

Then it leaked again.

Then it stopped leaking.

Then I started getting vibration in the steering wheel, and a few days later I got brake grind, and went straight to a brake shop.

First was a $1200 estimate to replace brake pads, rotors, lines, and master cylinder.

Then an $850 estimate to replace brake pads, rotors, and “valve/junction block.” The guy said the master cylinder is fine, but “the valve is leaking and the block is full of brake fluid.” I don’t know much but I thought the junction block is supposed to be full of brake fluid??

I came to get the car, to bring it home and let it hibernate till I can afford the repairs, but once I arrived at the shop, they couldn’t get it out of its bay: It would start, but then stall when taken out of park.

It’s stalled more than usual lately, I thought because I had only put half a bottle of HEET in it, instead of a full one, with the last tank of gas (it has a full tank now, btw.)

For what it is worth, on Friday it passed an emissions test. But I had to take the test with the car in neutral (automatic transmission). It was idling at 1500 in park, dropping below the 1100 cutoff for the test only in neutral.

When I got the car towed home, I found not only is it now stubbornly stalling as they described, it has some new electrical problems.

The shop (highly rated here) says they’re sure they didn’t accidentally knock anything electrical loose, and yes they checked the vacuum hoses.

My Dad always fixes the car, but he’s in Mexico for a month. When I phoned his opinion ranged from “it can’t be that bad” to “you should sell it.”

The more research I do online, and in my Chilton Volvo book, the more I think the stalling may have to do with the oxygen sensor, but (did I mention) I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I also see in the IPD USA parts site, an intermittent leak is consistent with junction block problems; someone on the phone there suggested I might not have to replace the whole thing.

For what it’s worth, I mentioned that when I start the car, as it revs the brake pedal gets soft – I’m told this is normal. Yet the mechanic complained, when he tried to start my car, “the brake went to the floor all of a sudden and we had to throw it in park fast to make it stop.”

I bought the car for $600 a year ago, I’ve driven it 15,000 miles, it’s got 171,000 miles. Having passed its emissions test, and being freshly registered for 2 years, along with new tires and alignment, my thought is “better the devil you know”, and I want to keep it. The mileage has been consistently 23+ mpg, until lately (but I thought that was because I changed to city driving).

Sell? Repair? Thoughts on what’s wrong??

You’ve gotten more than $600 worth of use from this car. I’d say quit while you’re ahead.

A car like this is great if you do all of the mechanical work yourself, or if you know someone who will do it free or really cheap. If you have to pay mechanics for the work it needs you can end up spending a ton of money.

But you want to keep the car, so you have no choice but to fix the brakes. It has to be safe, and a car with worn out brakes isn’t safe.

The stalling could be caused by lots of things. You can buy an O2 sensor socket just about anywhere and change the O2 sensor. Maybe that will help, but having a new O2 sensor sitting around, uninstalled, won’t help anything.

If you want to keep the car you have to fix it so it runs and is safe to drive. If you’re unwilling to do that get rid of the car. And stop pouring HEET in the gas tank. You shouldn’t need to use it more than once or twice per year.

Since you know nothing about repairing vehicles, and you don’t have anyone available to help you repair the vehicle for cheap, I would HIGHLY recommend that you sell the vehicle, and buy something else, that will be a bit more reliable than this one, as soon as you can afford to.

Already, you are running into repairs that exceed the cost of the vehicle, and the vehicle still won’t run perfectly after those repairs are performed, as there are multiple issues with it.

Get something else.


I have found the parts for $250, and somebody who will do the work for $100.

Normally, my Dad fixes the car, but he’s on an extended vacation. My grandfather can too, but he just had surgery.

The larger concern is safety: I’ve been rear-ended in a 1994 Escort a few times. The car wasn’t badly damaged, but I was, and I’m told I’m at a very high risk for spinal damage if I am again rear-ended in a car that protects itself better than its people.

Driving 15,000 - 20,000 miles per year, and living below the poverty line because of disabilities from the last crash, it’s difficult to see anything but an old Volvo being very sensible.

I’m not foolish enough to think I can get out of fixing the brakes, or to think having the oxygen sensor on the passenger’s seat can do any good. I was kinda joking when I said I know “nothing”; I know some and I’m capable of learning.

Thanks for the input, it appears my best bet is to start with the current repairs, then be more assertive about my dad & grandfather teaching me to repair it myself, instead of repairing it for me.

I’m told Oregon winter fuel is an exception to only needing to add water removers once or twice …

Yes, you need to learn to care for this vehicle yourself. The best way to do this is to purchase a service manual for your Volvo, and read it. Inexpensive used manuals are available at

Good luck.

Believe it or not there are folks out there . . . and mechanics out there . . . who just LOVE these boxy, frumpy-looking cars. Look around and see if you can find a mechanic who works on them . . especially the older ones . . . and get his opinion, maybe even hire him to get it running. At the very least he’ll tell you where to sell it and for how much. Rocketman

Yeah I think the best part about this specific car was, the guy gave me the Chilton manual when he sold it to me. Powell’s used books is also an excellent source for used manuals.

Having access to my Dad’s Snap-On collection will help too, I bet.

You’re right, that is exactly what I ended up finding!! There are lots of Volvo shops in Portland, OR (and a 1980s 240 on every block), and a popular Volvo parts supplier is based here. Spending most of a day on the phone and internet, I found the right person and the right parts.

If the car is not suffering from rust (other than the oxygen sensor) then it is most likely worth fixing - but not at shop prices. 171k miles is not a lot for an old Volvo, but any car that old is past the point where you can afford to pay someone $90 an hour to do all the repairs it will require. That car will yield a repair estimate much higher than what you paid for the car every time anything goes wrong with it. On a car that old, shops will insist in replacing every part of any system they touch to protect themselves from a comeback. Best to start helping Dad and Grandpa do the repairs while they are still around to help when you get stuck.

I suggest that you join the Brickboard online. You will find a wealth of old Volvo enthusiasts there.