HELP! My Volvo isn't safe!

I own a 2001 Volvo S40 which I purchased from CarMax 3 years ago, a perfect, safe, but very small car. At the time it was just me…now I’m married and have a 2 month old, and thinking of another child in a year or so, still OK for now, a crampped trunk makes putting in the strolled slightly difficult, and family vacations with all the baby gear near impossible, but we are still in a safe car, right? Well, today we took it into the Volvo dealer because the transmission seems to be slipping…twice in the last week. They showed us a huge list of problems…oxygen sensor, new spark plugs, tires,timing belt coming due, TRANSMISSION, which my husband might be able to fix, BUT the guy said “He wouldn’t feel safe putting his family in the car with all of the issues”. So, he suggested selling it. Here lies the rub…it was really more car than I could afford and I still owe about $10,000, paid the interest and just getting into what the car’s asking price was!! Can I sell it with all of the problems? trade in? the Volvo guy said to do a deal with a lease to get me and the baby in a safer car…negative equity or something. Any suggestions???

Try a reputable independent shop and post back with a full list. The tranny may have to go to a specialist.

Do not let this slimebag prey on your sense of security. He’s trying to sell you a car. They’re hurting right now, and apparently this guy thinks scaring people into buying a new car from him is okay. It isn’t.

Having said that, some of these issues, the tires in particular, may need to be addressed. But I would not trust anybody who made that kind of statement.

Whoa! Slow down. Get a grip.

You are being thrown into a panic by a crafty (and hungry) car salesman. All of the “problems” he mentioned are minor maintenance items that every car owner faces every now and then. None are safety related. The salesman is very unscrupulous to suggest your car is almost ready for the scrap heap. With a bit of easy work it will give you many more years of faithful service.

My recommendation is to have repairs made, but not by the dealership, who will charge you Volvo prices. Any independent shop can do the same work, typically for much le$$. Take care of these issues, all routine, and your car will serve you reliably for the next year. Once you have your confidence restored you can renew your consideration of a replacement, and be able do so in a more relaxed, deliberate manner.

The transmission will obviously need repaired, but the rest is regular maint. The S40 is not nearly big enough for a family like yours. The debt part is scary and the best thing to do is sell the car outright, but get the trans fixed first. Buy something you can pay cash for or finance little. The best sight to check for vehicle saftey ratings in the National Insurance Inst for highway safety. The gov crash test rating are not good enough.

As others have said, i’m sure the car is perfectly safe. Most of the stuff he mentioned is routine maintenance. Have it done elsewhere, this car should last until 200-300k no problem.

The transmission problem could be something as little as being low on fluid and/or needing changed. Try having the fluid changed first(cheapest test) and see if that gets rid of the slippage. except for the O2 sensor and tranny, all the other things you mentioned are routine maintenance items. If the fluid change helps, then have the timing belt AND water pump replaced, this will be your most expensive maintenance item on most any car.
Also, unless you can write the entire payment off on your taxes do NOT lease a car. Keep your car until it’s paid off, that $10k has to go somewhere if you get a new vehicle, guess where it’s gonna go, right into the new car loan. They may fiddle with the numbers to make it look like they’re giving you that amount for your trade in, but you’ll wind up paying it off in the next loan regardless.

The only real safety-related issue listed is the tires, and if they are worn out, then you can take care of that issue at a tire dealer. Generally speaking, car dealers charge much more for tires than a tire dealer does, and in most cases, they are simply buying the tires from a local dealer and installing them on your car–with a significant markup.

If you go to, you can find a wide selection of tires for your car, at good prices. The tires can be shipped to your choice of local installers in order to have them mounted on your car. Also, Costco offers very good prices on tires–generally much lower than tire dealers, and Costco does install and balance the tires at no cost.

After you have taken care of the tire issue, then you can carefully plan the rest of the maintenance procedures in order to have a reliable car. As was said, the transmission may only need to be serviced. Go to an independent transmission shop that has been in business for at least 3 years. DO NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, or any other transmission chain, as they are notorious for overpriced, unnecessary repair jobs.

My husband actually did the tranny oil change. I might have mis-spoke that it was a slippage…it happened twice while driving, but it will jerk, like a hard shift, and the second time while I was stopped, it jerked hard when I put it into reverse, then also into drive, then the shift arrow light came on and was blinking. My husband disconnected the battery for a couple minutes, then jiggled the tranny wires…maybe a bad electrical connection. One of the things fixed the problem, the light went out the next day…on the way to the dealer, so they couldn’t get a read on it. It seems, I’ll say OK shifting now, but the same thing happened twice in as many weeks…and maybe will again. Also, the second time, it wouldn’t drive off well when I gave it gas, so I parked it til my husband got there. Any ideas?