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Volvo won't start on a downhill slope in the cold. Whaaa?

I have a 2001 Volvo S60 T5 with around 90K and it’s having a weird problem. One cold evening, I had parked it on a semi-steep hill pointing downhill. When I returned to the car 40 minutes later, it wouldn’t start. It didn’t click, it didn’t turn-over, or make any sound. The dash lights, interior lights, and radio would all turn on. It just wouldn’t start.

I returned the next day around noon. It was warmer then and low and behold, the car started on it’s own. No jump needed, it just started up. It was a rough start-up, but it worked.

I took it to a semi-sketchy mechanic (I know…my options were limited and I’m new to the area). He claimed after trying to find the problem for 3 days (!!) that the problem was that the climate control system was going bad and it was causing the interior fans to stay on after the car was parked and shut off. He also said the battery was old and bad and I should have a new one. Now he says he checked all the obvious problems. However, I was very skeptical of this guy and since the climate control was going to cost a lot and take 3 weeks to arrive, I declined to have him fix that. He replaced the ancient battery with a new one and I went on my merry way, always remembering to shut off the fans before I turned off the car.

That worked fine until tonight. Once again, I was parked on a downhill slope that was relatively steep. It was pretty cold out, but above freezing. I left the car parked for 3 hours and when I went to start it, it did the same thing. No clicks, no turning over, no sound. The interior lights and radio all came on, just like before.

This time, we tried to jump the car to get it going, because if the mechanic was correct in his assessment, the battery was just run down from the fans running for 3 hours (even though I shut them off). However, we couldn’t get it to jump start. It just wouldn’t start up at all. We let the starter car run for quite a while and no dice. The car still didn’t make a sound, no revving, no clicks, nothing. Just the interior lights and stuff went on, as before.

So what on earth is going on with this car? I’m half expecting to go try to start it tomorrow and find once it warms up a little, it will start fine. Is it a fuel pump issue, or something like that? Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. I plan to find a new mechanic, but if I was able to go in there with some idea of what the problem is, that would help. Anyone run into this problem before?


Long shot here.  Check both ends of all battery cables, disconnect, clean and securely re-attach them.

The bad fuel pump is a possible. I had a '98 Volvo V70XC and when the fuel pump went it was about the same # of years as where you are now. What the steep hill has to do with it is a mystery? My Volvo actually had 2 tanks and a separate pump to get gas from one to the other. Your Volvo may have a complicated fuel tank(s) fuel delivery system like mine, more stuff to go wrong. If it is a fuel pump mine was $1,000 for the part and then labor, ouch! The local mechanic I had the car towed to was not up to the job. He got it done eventually but this was one time I’d wished I taken it back to a Volvo dealer. Problem was the closest dealer was about 35 miles away.

When you flip the key on did you normally hear a buzz from the back of the car? If you did and no longer hear it, more evidence pointing to fuel pump.

The next time the engine refuses to start, try placing the shifter in neutral and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts, there’s a problem with the park/neutral safety switch on the transmission.


Thanks for the advice! Just an update…the car started up again this morning after last night refusing to start. So this is twice now where it wouldn’t start, then the next day it was fine. Grrr. :frowning: