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Wagon East! California to Montana

Hello All. So I’m moving from Southern California to Western Montana and will be taking my 2005 Volvo V70 wagon as my primary vehicle. What brings me to the state is actually working for the State of Montana after nearly 12 years of municipal public service in California I have never lived or even driven in snow or maintained vehicles in environments such as Montana. Does anyone have any helpful tips about keeping my Volvo in good working order and or driving tips? Thanks!

When you get settled, find a local reputable independent shop that specializes in Euro makes and have them tend to your car needs. Ask your friends, neighbors, coworkers for recommendations.

Not that my opinion matters, or that you even brought this up, but you don’t say if you have AWD on your Volvo. In my opinion you don’t need it. Once you learn how to drive in the snow you’ll be fine. My brother spent 35 years living all over Montana, from small towns like Thompson Falls and Lincoln (home of the Unabomber) in the west to Poplar in the far NE corner, and near Billings. Never once owned a 4WD vehicle.

My oldest son lives in northern Utah in the mountains. His best friend there owns an S80 (I forget the year model…) which is a FWD car and has said there are no problems getting around in the slightly rugged and lot of snow area where they live.

My suggestion is don’t worry about the car and if there is anything to be concerned about it may be relatively minor and revolve around tire traction depending upon the type of tires you have.

I’d get 4 good snow tires and 4 steel wheels to mount them on.

FWD with snow tires is actually better in snow than AWD without.


I agree with getting a full set of winter tires on rims because you haven’t driven in those conditions. Cheap insurance.

I hope you have GPS in your Volvo. You can’t get from anywhere in California to Montana by going east. But all that aside I agree with what’s already been said.

Quoting PvtPublic

“You can’t get from anywhere in California to Montana by going east.”
I had to pull my atlas to check that out. It’s partly true. While far western MT is almost directly north of Blyth or Needles in southern CA, eastern MT is definitely more east than north of northern CA. It’s because California is a long crooked state, and Montana is BIG too.
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Going from eating Avacado on your Tofu burger…to ordering your Elk burger rare with a side order of Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Besides I thought that Californians only got around on Skate Boards, roller skates and unicycles…I’ve seen the commercials.

I don’t think you’ll have a problem driving, just remember that you have much less traction when you spin the tires on ice or snow. I think a set of “all season radials” will be fine.
You’ll learn it in no time.

Once there, be sure to find a good recommendation for a mechanic. Don’t wait until the day the car breaks down.

And good luck on the move.


Check you car’s coolant for low temperature strength, buy a good set of winter tires and check the battery for low temperature cranking ability. I would replace the battery with a “heavy duty” type.

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Roller skates …

I recall walking along the strand in Venice, where I saw a man on roller skates with an electric guitar and the amp on his back. He also had a rainbow Afro hairdo; I assume it was a wig. Only at Venice Beach…

I also vote for finding a mechanic once you are settled in. If you are in a major city area, there should be a shop that works on cars like yours. It will probably be more difficult to find a mechanic for your car if you will live in a rural area. You can check the commercial phone book on line now for mechanics in your new home to see if anyone advertises Volvo repairs.

As others have already mentioned, tires are important. Winter tires are measurably better than all-season tires, not only in going, but also in turning and stopping. As you’re new to driving in snow, I’d recommend that you use a set this winter.

Depending on the local conditions, you might be able to get away with all-season tires down the road, but you absolutely need good tread on them (nowhere near the wear bars). You also need to drive more conservatively and possibly stay off the roads during the worst conditions.

Winter tires on steel rims for the winter season. Have your coolant replaced (its probably due anyway) with a slightly richer mixture. 50/50 is only good to -34°F and some places in Montana can get colder than that. You can go up to 67%, but 60% is probably good enough for the whole state.

Be sure to drain your window washer reservoir as well and refill it with “winter mix”. The summer stuff will freeze solid and your washers will be inoperative until spring. And probably sustain ice damage.

For wintery conditions… the biggest advantage ?

See the video in another post here entitled '‘post stupid car video’'
the jeep is 4x4 and he can’t get out of the snow bank on his right side.
why ?
Well, for one thing, he keeps looking , perplexed, at the wrong side of his car for the solution to his predicament.
but his hiway tread…or perhaps well worn, tires just spin , and spin, and spin,

Just like you choose the right shoes to wear for those conditions…the tires are your car’s shoes.

Is your Volvo a rear wheel drive or front wheel drive? If it is a rear wheel drive, you might want to think about buying a front wheel drive car for Montana winter driving. Rear wheel drive isn’t a good choice for icy, snow packed roads. BTW, Montana doesn’t get as much snow as you might think it would, given its location. I wouldn’t stress over the snow part, unless will be living in a high altitude community. It does tend to get a lot of wind blown snow and drifts can pile up on the roads in unprotected places.

If you are going to park the car outside at night, the other thing to inquire about is whether you should get an engine heater installed. It’s an electric gadget you plug in, that keeps the engine warm on cold nights. Sometimes it gets so cold that without one, its near impossible to start the engine in the morning.

I also am the owner of a 2005 Volvo V70 wagon - naturally aspirated engine. I would like to share my experience with you and others on this site. If you already use full synthetic engine oil you are all set and do not need to read this.

At 135,000 miles I had a piece break off of one exhaust valve head while driving at highway speeds. I replaced the bad exhaust valve.

At 180,000 miles I had the same exact failure but on a different cylinder… This time the cat was also destroyed. I am thinking the burning conventional oil sooted up the cat causing it to be partially plugged causing high back pressure and the exhaust valves to run hot. There is a piece chipped out of the valve head. It is not a conventioal burnt valve which comes on slowly. This was instantaneous failure.

I had been using Valvolene conventional 5W-30 engine oil as recommended in the owner’s manual. The engine had been gradually using more oil at highway speeds but was fine around town. After much research I discovered a Volvo TSB (No, 20-05 dated 01/31/2007 - very last page) where they recommend using full synthetic oil. I now use Mobil One and the high oil consumption at highway speeds issue seems to be corrected. The Owner’s manual does suggest full synthetic oil for highway driving but does not say why. Under 100,000 miles the conventional oil was fine at all speeds. The dealer never suggested using synthetic oil despite my complaints of high oil consumption. The TSB suggests purchasing a sticker for the top of the radiator warning to use only synthetic oil, Volvo P/N 30748024.

Been turning wrenches for 54 years and never ran into anything like this. I guess modern engines with low tension piston rings run hotter especially as they age and burn off conventional oil at highway speeds.


Interesting. But didn’t the check engine light come on when the cat started to get plugged up @jxkeefe ? Modern fuel injection systems use pre- and post-cat O2 sensors to measure how well the cat is working, and will turn on the CEL when it fails to pass that test.

I might suspect an EGR system fault or air leak as the cause of failed valves rather than the type of oil being used.

Valves not rotating on their seats for whatever reason can also fail due to hot spots.

I lived in eastern Idaho for 5 years and occasionally noticed studded tires around town, especially on law enforcement vehicles.
I noticed that the smaller towns would not keep their roads very clear (possibly due to funding constraints). In the winter I remember numerous occasions where I-15 was covered with ice.

I would advise any winter driver to:
go easy on the gas, break, and turns
drive slowly (not dangerously slow) Other cars will likely follow your reasonable pace
try not to spin your tires

P.S. Be mindful of contaminated environments (groundwater, soils, and air) in western Montana. These are largely from old mining/smelting operations.

I actually got a used XC70 instead. This is the first time I have lived and drove in snow. I must admit driving a Volvo XC70 AWD has saved me so much. I did end up getting snow tires with studs and that thing grips these cold icy roads like it was nothing. I will be moving back to California this summer.