Volvo wont start when 1/8 tank of gas

This is the 3rd time this has happened to me. The last two times I added a gallon of gas and it magically worked. I promised myself I would keep it above a half a tank. (Of course, my husband didn’t make the same promise.) The previous times I filled it up it looked like the tank truly did have an 1/8 (or whatever it said) of gas left so I dont think the fuel gauge is the problem.

Other than keeping the tank fuller, any ideas? The engine turns over, it just wont start.

Your gas gauge could be reporting incorrectly. Stick a big E for empty at 1/8 tank or stick some money into parts, your choice.

Agree, but with a Volvo “some money” means lots of money. Gas gauges are expensive to replace on most cars, so a red sticker on the 1/8 mark is a cheap solution.

The dealer might know. Old Volvos used to have a pre-pump for the fuel that would go out and cause this. There could be another gizmo that does this on newer ones.

Thanks for the ideas. The gas gauge is actually working fine. 21 gallon whale’s belly I mean tank. When gauge says half, it takes 10 gallons. When it says 1/4 it takes 15. (Today it actually said just under 1/4, we added 1 gallon and then drove it to the gas station and added 14 more.)

The weird thing is it will do this intermittently. I have also driven it to close to empty (road trip) and make sure I get gas before I pee at the rest stop. No probs.

So I am thinking more along the over-engineered Swedish gizmo gone bad. Will probably take it to a mechanic, but hate doing so. Especially without having done my own research first.

The gas gauge is actually working fine.

I would not be that sure. While it may work fine on part of the range it may not work well on another.

However since you say it will not start with a low tank, my vote is for a weak fuel pump. You might want to make sure the fuel filter is also changed.

What do you mean by part of the range? You mean when it is a quarter empty it works fine but at a quarter full it might misread? Because it seems to need the right amt of gas regardless of whether it is at a half, quarter, or 1/8th of a tank. (And never comes anywhere close to the full 21 gallons unless it is totally empty.)

I had a '98 V70XC with a non working guage - $1,500 was estimate for repair. I used the trip odometer and got gas every 300 miles in town and every 400 miles on an interstate trip.

Your car has 2 tanks and a (its a Volvo) very complicated fuel delivery system. 2 fuel pumps and extra stuff to move gas from one tank to the other. You’ll find any repair will be expensive.

It is now part of the car’s unique “character” to fill the tank somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4. When a fuel pump finally fails it just won’t start. The pump is only available from Volvo, costs about $800 and is a bear to install so a good labor charge on top of the part. A $1,000 job, which is high for most cars but actually low for a Volvo repair bill.

After multiple $2500+ repair bills I just sold the Volvo. You are going to find keeping an older Volvo takes deep pockets, very very deep pockets.

Thanks for the info.

I inherited this car from my parents (after my sister declared she wasnt returning my trusty little corolla - which was of a vintage pre-acceleration problems) and it has been nothing but trouble. I was glad to have it this past winter after moving to Maine (though I think my folks in DC would have gotten better use of its snow capabilities in DC), but for an 8 year old car with 60K on it, it really shouldnt be acting its age. It may have been cheaper to buy my own car in the end.

“It may have been cheaper to buy my own car in the end.” - absolutely correct!

The Volvo is fine when it is under warranty. Once past that, it will be come a money pit. The older it gets the more expensive it gets. You can expect 2 - $2,000+ repair bills a year from now on if you keep the car.

What happens is you’ll get it running great and figure it will be good for awhile. The heated seats are great, it is super in snow, and you are seduced into keeping it. Then something goes snaffu and you find it needs another expensive repair. Fuel pumps, drive shafts, CV joints, front end parts, a full tune up every 30K miles, always brakes (Volvo wagons eat rear brakes every 5 to 10K miles), MAC valves, sensors, guages, switches don’t switch (so your seat only goes forward, not backward), on and on and on.

Just sell it before it breaks down again. It takes 1/10th the money to keep a Corolla on the road. Your sister isn’t spending anything on your old Corolla like you are on the Volvo.

Replace it with anything and just buy winter tires and you’ll never get stuck and you’ll save a ton of money on repair bills.

Sounds like you have had one too many volvos.

Our prior volvo was retired at 16 years of age after it got T-boned (not our fault) and we were using it as an extra car. (Think new teen driver in the house.) That was after 2 clutches, but that was about it for repairs over $100. Of course, that was a few years ago.

This one doesnt have that many miles on it and doesnt get much exercise these days (maybe 5K a year) so hopefully I can keep repair costs down.

I’m not real convinced the fuel level in the tank is the problem and that adding gasoline as you have is likely more of a coincidence.

There’s not enough info known to be specific but this problem could be related to a faulty low pressure fuel pump.

The fuel pump should sit in a “bathtub” which is fed by the low pressure pump (along with return fuel from the engine) and the high pressure pump is what feeds the engine.
If the feed pump is failing this can be an intermittent type of thing and when you add gasoline to the tank from a jug the gasoline flowing into the tank, along with a little bumping by the jug nozzle, could be enough to disturb the low pressure pump and cause it to operate again.

If this is the case, the armature in the low pressure pump is probably worn and any replacement means that the entire module (low and high press. pump along with gauge sender) is changed as a complete assembly, or module. A new fuel filter is also a MUST.
Hope that helps.

(And the purpose of that bathtub is assure a constant supply of fuel during acceleration, cornering, etc. when sloshing could be a problem and divert fuel away from the pump pickup. In the old days of carburetors you could get away with this; with fuel injection you can’t have any hiccups in the delivery.)

One other possibility is a clogged sock. I’m referring to the filter directly attached to the fuel pump pickup itself, not the familiar fuel filter that everyone else thinks about. If there are tiny rust particles in your tank, they can clog the sock.

With plenty of fuel in the tank there is enough gravity pressure to force fuel through the sock into the pump. But when the fuel level is low, not enough gets through. I suppose the only way to test this idea is by fuel pump replacement, a costly repair.