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Engine blew up on 2005 Volvo XC70 - Any ideas?

On Dec 1, we bought a 2005 Volvo XC70 with 43K miles. We had it inspected prior to purchase and were told that there was “oil sludge” along with other minor issues. Dealer agreed to fixes, gave us an invoice showing an oil change. One month and 550 miles later, the turbo/engine blew and had to be replaced. We then discovered that the invoice for the oil change was actually dated prior to our inspection…so based on that, car had only 55 miles on it between oil change and inspection showing oil sludge. Anybody have any ideas on why or how an engine would have sludge in such a short run? Do you think it’s possible that the oil wasn’t actually changed at all? Any ideas as to why the engine would then blow? (The oil light had flickered on and off, we took it to shop, pressure was low, replaced sender unit, still low but light went off, drove 4 miles homes to change oil while waiting for new oil pump, when car was restarted after oil change, the turbo blew.)Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Sounds like you just happened to be the … one … who bought an abused car. The previous owner didn’t maintain it, and the seller (owner/dealer?) found you.

Did you buy it from a person, or a dealer? Check the documents, make sure there’s no implied warranty on the bill of sale.

You said the turbo blew, you also said the engine blew. So what’s really wrong with it?

Bought it from an individual who works for a dealer but says he was selling it ‘independently’. DOL Violations Bureau is looking into that since it’s illegal. We bought “as is” although there is an implied warrant of merchantability. We have the guy in small claims court but the judge wants us to somehow prove whether the oil change had been done and/or why the oil would be bad after such little mileage.
According to our repair shop, they found “massive metal in oil…turbo is blown apart…needs engine and turbo”, apparently because the oil was sludgy.

Trust me–that sludge was well-established in the engine long before that last oil change.

Since the car was 5-6 years old, lax maintenance over that period of time led to an inevitable build-up of sludge that just got worse and worse until it clogged oil galleries in the engine and/or turbo unit, and/or prevented sufficient oil from being pulled up past the oil screen in the crankcase. In other words, the sludge led to “oil starvation” for sensitive bearings and other friction surfaces in the engine and turbo.

Unfortunately, finding sludge and expecting one oil change to rid the engine of that sludge was…unrealistic.
If the mechanic who inspected it told you that an oil change or two would rid the engine of sludge then…don’t use that mechanic anymore! Essentially, the engine would have needed to be partially disassembled in order to be cleaned of the gunk that filled it. Once sludge is well-established, merely changing the oil is not the solution.

I know that this is not what you want to hear, but you needed to limit your car purchase to a vehicle whose service records you could inspect and compare to the Volvo maintenance schedule. If you had been able to do that with this car, you likely would have seen oil change intervals in the 8k-10k mileage range–or more. With any engine that can spell danger for the next owner. With a turbo-charged engine, it is a formula for sure disaster–as you have discovered.

I know that this does not help you with this car, but at least you will be more knowledgeable when you buy the next one. I wish you sincere good luck with both this car and your next ones.

Yup…Thye engine didnt suddenly develope sludge. That came from years of running the engine and not changing the oil on time…or at all and just topping it off. Thats where sludge comes from. Did your engine go or did the turbo give up the ghost…two different things. Turbos HATE people who dont change the oil religiously…also not using synthetic as well. I mean the turbo operates at what 20,000 Rpm and above? If it doesnt have nice clean oil its history and will be the first thing to go…

If you’re already in court, let them do their thing. Just have every document (including as many pictures as necessary to cover the entire vehicle and condition thereof) you can find regarding that car handy. You never know what the judge will ask for.

Good luck…sorry, sounds like you may need it.

Thank you. I think our only hope is to show that the salesman was dishonest from the beginning. I agree…we’ll need all the good luck we can get!

The “sludge report” is becomming more common these days and it seems to involve more and more different types of cars and be more damaging. I bought a well used 1977 Cougar with 302 V-8 (I am almost sure it was the 302) and this engine was so sludged up the oil would not drain back from the heads. After a good clean out I was able to get back on the road with no permenant ill effects. With a car of today (or let’s say 10 years old) it seems when these cars are sludged up the damage is permenant.

Thank you very much for the clear explanation of the problem (and also thank you to Honda Blackbird). Yes, sadly, it appears we didn’t do enough homework. We had a Carfax report but evidently didn’t look at it closely enough. The last car we bought was a new Volvo in 1988 so we were a little rusty. An expensive lesson, to be sure.
The help from all of you is much appreciated!

Yes…and evidently, turbo’s are particularly sensitive. I contacted Volvo about this, to see if they could shed light on the problem, and they pretty much said what Honda said - turbo’s are very touchy! We’d never had one, so just plain didn’t know. Ah well, maybe this forum will help someone else before it costs them as much as it’s cost us.

Thanks all!

I’m in agreement with others. This car was doomed from the start. A 6 year old car with only 43k miles means it was lightly driven and odds are the sludge started the first year after the car was originally purchased.

Any claims by the dealer of fixes involving the sludge should be taken with a grain of salt because there seldom ever is a quick and inexpensive fix for this problem.
Now you know why someone dumped the car off. The original owner had already been given the bad news by someone and decided to bail on it.
The dealer may or may not have been aware of this problem. The person who traded it in ain’t gonna 'fess up during the trade and if the dealer got the car at auction they may have never known there was a sludge problem no matter where the car was acquired from. The dealer likely sent the car to detail for cleaning and put it up for sale.

You did not state the details behind the pre-purchase inspection but I’d ask this. Did the person who performed the inspection advise you to take this car back ASAP and look elsewhere?
If they did not then they were dead wrong is not telling you to run from this car.
If they did and you ignored that advice then the mistake is yours.

Cars being sold allegedly as private sales when in reality they’re dealer owned cars is a pretty common procedure and as far as I know there is no law against it as long as the person selling the car holds a license in that state.

“We had a Carfax report but evidently didn’t look at it closely enough”

You could look at most Carfax reports long enough to bore a hole through the paper, but they rarely have the information that you need.

Unfortunately, relying on Carfax was your other fatal error. Despite the advertising hype, these reports rarely tip you off to poor maintenance, and may not even list collision damage.

If a Carfax report is free, that is one tool to use for evaluating a potential purchase. The other tools are examination of maintenance records/comparing those records to the mfr’s maintenance schedule, and inspection by a competent mechanic. Unfortunately, it sounds like you did not utilize any of these three tools effectively.

Actually, a competent machanic DID do the inspection and apparently told my husband that they wouldn’t recommend the car due to the oil sludge issue; unfortunately, he didn’t listen or didn’t understand what was being said. Husband is good with cars, but not new ones, it seems. As to the Carfax, yup, that’s another thing we didn’t know until after this fiasco. Interestingly, the Carfax showed manufacturor’s recommended maintenance in 6/2009 and 10/2009 but nothing since.
All in all, it’s obvious that we aren’t too bright. Lesson learned and we’ll take all this good advice from you people next time we decide to buy a car.

As I mentioned above, the person who performed the inspection did tell my husband it probably wasn’t a good idea but he failed to grasp what a huge problem this was going to be. Sadly, the dealer didn’t say he’d fix the sludge; he just said he’d do the oil change -
and we didn’t know that wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem. Again, our lack of knowledge cost us. Live and learn, I guess!

One oil change won’t clear out sludge. In fact, getting sludge out of a motor isn’t easy at all. There really is no dependable way to clear sludge with any kind of chemical treatment. That means the motor needs to be taken apart cleaned part by part, inspected for bad parts and reassembled, this is called a rebuilt motor.

Turbos are very oil dependant for long life. The turbo runs hot because exhaust gases drive one side of the turbo, so good fresh clean oil is essential. Also good quality oil, such as a full synthetic keep the oil from breaking down which is where sludge comes from.

The recommendation not to buy the car was spot on. Whether the oil change took place before or after your inspection doesn’t seem pertinent to me. But if the court cares about it then it is important. Doing the oil change before the inspect means it is less likely the inspecting mechanic would suspect sludging. In other words the oil change is an attempt to cover up the problem. The inspecting mechanic did a good job for you in finding and reporting the sludge under the circumstances.

People are too reliant on “Carfax” reports. They show some useful info, but much body damage and mechanical problems never get reported so all Carfax reports have significant “holes” in the history of the vehicle.