Volvo 240 - Engine Won't Catch

***UPDATE: I tried cycling the key again and shortly after - about ten minutes - spouse tried starting the car up and it worked! Car started up again! Battery monitor light started blinking green. It’s still running and battery is showing yellow light on monitor now (usual).

Engine starts to crank but never catches.

We thought it was the battery, initially. Battery monitor indicates red i.e. battery is not up to full power, but tried to jump it and that didn’t work. I hope we didn’t do any damage to anything by jumping unnecessarily. We cleaned up connectors and made sure connections were tight.

We’ve also checked the fuses inside the car and they look to be fine.

Not sure how to go about inspecting the spark plugs, if that’s even relevant, here.

Could the problem be the fuel pump? The hiss/buzz sound that is always present when we start our car up is weaker or isn’t there at all anymore. I think that must be related to the fuel pump system.

We have a bit of a limited frame of reference for testing and checking things because many things don’t work correctly in the car like the gas gauge or dash lights. Also, limited budget.

Has this same problem of the engine not catching happened to anyone before?

Is this a new problem or a continuance of the problems you had in May of 2017 where you had smoke onder the hood ? If this is the 1993 240 Volvo a large repair cost might not be worth it unless this thing is in excellent condition.


No fuel is one possibility. Turn the key from Off to Run (not all the way to Start) and listen for the fuel pump to run for a couple seconds. Repeat this Off to Run key dance a few times, then turn the key to Start and see how it goes.

Of course if the fuel pump is not running at all, that is a problem with the pump motor, the fuel pump relay, or maybe the ignition switch. But if the pump is weak or erratic, or there is a pressure loss in the fuel system, the key dance might at least get it started.

Not altogether sure. We have had to save for something else or would have likely fixed many things that need attention for awhile.

We were under the impression there was a drain on the battery and still think so, in spite of a mechanic (not a good one) having looked at it and basically telling us we were wrong about the possibility of excess draw coming off of the battery.

I cannot say for sure, yet.

We tried that - put fuel in. Didn’t seem to help. Maybe not enough gas though? Would driving around on a tank that’s not full for an extended period lead to a fuel pump failing?

Tried the key cycling thing too. It may have helped some but not enough to get it to work to the point of the car starting up. Maybe I’ll try again.

Given my experience with a Volvo 242GL (the absolute worst car that I ever owned…), I would not be at all surprised if the problem lies in the fuel pump.

I had to replace the Bosch electric fuel pump on my Volvo so often (approximately once each year) that I learned to carry a spare fuel pump in my trunk. Being stranded once as a result of a bad fuel pump was enough to teach me to always carry a spare fuel pump.

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You can try spraying “Starting Fluid” (from the car parts store) into the air intake for the engine and then cranking it. If it starts and runs for a second or two, and then stops, or if it even pops, then you know that you have working spark plugs, and probably gas isn’t getting where it should go.

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Bizarre but relieving…runs again now, after cycling the key more. Is the starter failing, then?

The fuel pump is powered by an electric motor which is cooled by the gasoline surrounding it inside the tank; if the tank was run close to empty most of the time, that could lead to premature fuel pump failure. Running completely out of gas to the point the engine stalls could damage the pump (and the cat) too. People run with not much gas in their tanks all the time of course w/out problems, so it must not be a 100% sure thing that doing so damages the pump.

For a cranks ok but won’t start, a mechanic’s first objective would be to determine if the problem was either

  • spark
  • or fuel.

If no diagnostic codes were present, and nothing obvious by visual inspection of the engine compartment, they’d check for a visible spark at a spark plug, then the starter fluid mentioned above.

If cycling the key several times works to get it started, that strongly points to the fuel pump as the problem.

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The starter is the electric motor that turns over the engine. That is working OK.

You have a fuel delivery and/or fuel pressure problem. It could be the fuel pump, or an anti-drainback valve, or a leaking injector. If the key dance works reliably and all the drivers know how to do it, you can just live with it and put your money elsewhere.

Cold weather plus a gas tank low on fuel may make this problem more likely to crop up. That’s been the case on my 1999 Honda Civic.

Someone mentioned that this is a '93 240?

On a '93, the most common problem that would cause this car to crank but not start is the fuel pump relay. One of your fuses is between the relay and pump. If you find that fuse and jumper 12 volts to it from any other fuse and the car runs, the problem is the relay which is under the dash, passenger side near the center if I recall correctly.

The second most common cause would be the lead that runs up the back of the engine from the crank position sensor to the ignition. The insulation chafes off and it shorts out against the engine block. Sliding a split plastic wiring harness sleeve down the lead may help for a while. That got me home from Monterrey the night mine failed.

Oh. an the third most common problem is the ignition computer (probably behind the passenger side kick panel) has a failed transistor that is supposed to send a trigger signal to the fuel pump relay. If you are good with a soldering iron and know your way around electronics, you can fix it. I got another computer from a junk yard.

I drove a matched pair of Volvo 240s for many years, and I saw all three of these problems.

I drove from MT to WI many years ago with a friend in his Volvo 240(?) big green wagon. He had been having fuel pump problems and he told me it actually had two fuel pumps. That so?

(I don’t think he was referring to carrying a spare.)

I don’t know about other years, but my 1983 240 had a pre-pump to get things up to the right pressure, then a main pump to deliver the fuel to the engine. My 1971 144 had a mechanical fuel pump that was driven by the camshaft.

IIRC, my POS '74 Volvo 242 had one pump in the tank, and another one located in the left rear wheel well. Thankfully the one in the wheel well was very accessible, as that was the one that I had to replace every year or so. However, I can’t say for sure if later 240s also had that two pump design.

It seems like a lot of us owned Volvos over the years. Mine was an 82 245 (wagon). I also owned a PV544, which was a much more interesting car. For years I was hungering for a PV445 (a wagon), but I think I’m over it now.

Maybe a failing in-tank pump was causing your outside pumps to fail.

[quote=“shanonia, post:14, topic:111906”]It
he told me it actually had two fuel pumps.
It wouldn’t surprise me

I seem to recall some Benzes from the 1980s had 2 fuel pumps . . . both of them under the car, NOT in the tank

I’m pretty sure Benz and Volvo both used Bosch fuel injection systems, so I’d expect there to be some similarities

Ha ha . . . that reminds me of many Benzes. The relay would fail, due to a bad solder joint. Of course, the relay was a little bigger and more complex than a 4- or 5-pin ice cube relay. Nevertheless, a savvy person could do a work-around, using banana plug leads, if you REALLY needed the car to start.

Even though this has not been helpful to OP, I do not apologize. This whole discussion has brought back some “colorful” memories for me :laughing:

In retrospect, that thought has occurred to me, but then that leaves the following questions:

If the in-tank pump was “failing”, why wouldn’t it have finally died–long before I dumped the car after 7 years of misery? The only fuel pump that ever failed (5 times, IIRC) was the “exterior” one.

Neither the dealership, nor two different well-reputed independent foreign car specialists, ever thought that there was a problem with the in-tank pump.

Who knows?