240 260 buying tips
The Volvo 240 or 260 is the most recognisable Volvo ever made. It’s a very reliable and rock-solid car which is very comfortable and fun to drive. If you’re thinking about purchasing an used Volvo 240 or 260 there are many things you should be aware of, because there might be some suspicious cars around, although most 240s and 260s are pretty good (especially the late versions). With this buyer’s guide for the Volvo 240 and 264-series I will help you to find the right 240 or 260 for you! It’s a long buyers guide, but you can find a summary at the end (also very useful when you’re going to check a car, so take a print of the summary with you).
The Volvo 200-series is available as:
– a two-door coach, called the Volvo 242 and 262 (very rare)
– a two-door coupe (designed and built by Bertone): the Volvo 262C
– a four-door sedan, the Volvo 244 and 264
– a stationwagon, the Volvo 245 and 265
Since Modelyear 1986 all cars are called Volvo 240 (the 260 was already out of production).
As you can see the last digit represents the number of doors of the car, and the 4 indicates the number of cylinders. The Volvo 164 is a 1-series car with 6 cylinders and 4 doors. For more info about the history and development of the Volvo 240 and 260 please check the Volvo 240 & 260 series history page.
Please note: if you’re going to have a look on a Volvo 240 or 260 it’s pretty much impossible to have a detailed view of all hints, tips and information below. You can’t ask a seller to waste several hours of his time to check his car as thoroughly this buyers guide goes. My advice: just read it several times, print out the summary (or the complete article and read it quickly it now and then during a inspection) and have a look on a car. Good luck!
The Volvo 240 or 260 as a daily driver
Both Volvos are very suited to use as a daily driver: both cars have excellent seats, provide a lot of space and are a bit more comfortable on the highway than an Volvo Amazon. But both cars aren’t very quick because the weight is much higher compared with the Amazon. Especially the 140 with B18A engine is slow in overtaking on the highway. The B20A is much faster, but the best performance is given with a B20E or B30E engine: much more torque and horsepower. But you don’t buy a Volvo 140 or 164 for racing and keep in mind it’s a classic car.
The brake system is also very reliable: both cars have a dual brake circuit, whichs means if one of the brake system fails, 80% of the brake power will be still intact (especially on the front wheels). The Amazon (until 1967) and PV doesn’t have a dual brake circuit, which makes the Volvo 140 and 164-series a much better choice if safety is an issue for the driver.
Your plans with the Volvo 240 or 260
Before starting your journey for a classic car you’ll need to ask yourself what the intention of your purchase will be: do you want it to use it as a daily driver, do you want to restore a car, are you planning to buy a spotless car that won beauty contests or do you want a car that isn’t perfect but needs a bit work? All these factors will give you the idea for the car you are looking for and also determines the budget. You won’t find a car that is in a showroom condition and only costs $ 1.000,– (unless you’re extremely lucky).
Please keep in mind the tips below are a indication for a car that is in a good state. A perfect car is hard to find but they are available (but they won’t be cheap). So don’t try to get a bargain for a car that has the price for a car that needs (a little) work. Decide for yourself what budget you’ve got and how many work a car is allowed to have.
The Volvo 240 and 260 buyer’s guide
Below you can find the complete buyers guide for the Volvo 242, 244, 245, 262, 264 and 265. I’ve seperated each section of the car, so you’ll get a detailed description where you should extra pay attention to when you’re looking for a Volvo 240 or 260. A summary is included at the end of this buyers guide. Enjoy!
Volvo 240 & 260 bodywork and rust
The Volvo 240 and 260 are very reliable cars, but the bodywork of the older types can rust a lot! It’s one of the weakest points of the Volvo 240 and 260-series. All bodywork parts of these Volvos are very good available and pretty cheap, but if you can’t weld it could cost a lot of money to recover a 240 or 260 from rust. The late Volvo 240 (modelyear 1988 and later) have a much better protection against rust since Volvo partly galvanized most bodywork parts.
When you’re going to have a look on a Volvo 240 or 260 please make sure the following bodyparts and parts of the chassis aren’t rusty:
- the area around the grille have some rust, especially between bumper and the body part just below the grille.
- At the first modelyears (produced from 1974 until August 1976) the front fenders can rust badly at the area above the headlights, behind and below the indicator lights and at the wheel arches. The inner parts of the wings can rust badly as well. Since Modelyear 1977 Volvo installed plastic inner splash screens at the front wing which prevents the fenders to rust (but the area around the indicators and between wheel arch and door can rust badly). You can replace the front fenders (they are still being reproduced and are cheap to buy), it’s very easy but pretty expensive if you’re going to repaint the front fenders by a professional.
- Check all areas under the hood (also the hood itself, very important), especially the crossmember (radiator support). Also check the battery box, firewall and chassis legs.
- The sills are also very rust-susceptible. The sills of the Volvo 240 and 260-series are made of three parts: the sills on the outside, inner sills and a bodypart that is welded into those two. When one of the sills is rusty you can expect the other two will also have rust. In most cases the sills on the outside have rust.
- The part just above the sill (the underside of the front fender) is very rust-susceptible, just like the area at the rear wheel arches, spare wheel containers and the area just above the spare wheel containers.
- Check the area around the windscreen and rear window for any rust, caused by a bad rubber or the metal clips that holds the chrome window trims. Also check the places where water would make its way down. A good indication is the windscreen and rear window: if you see any white “fog” (sort of haze in the window itself) it means moisture is within the window and that’s caused by a leak or rust at the bodywork next to the window.
- The doors are also bodyparts that can rot badly, especially at the underside of the doors. Because Volvo thought that day only a partial seal was needed for a door water could easily get into the door and when the drain holes are blocked this water could lead to serious damage. Check the bottom of the doors carefully for any rust, also the doorway above the sills. The rain gutter of the 240 and 260 is also pretty rust-susceptible.
- At the bottom: check the floor panels, jack supports, front crossmember (must also be inspected under the hood), inner sills, chassis legs and spare wheel containers.
- Test the hinges of the doors and hood. The hinges of the hood should be rustfree, just like the bodywork where they’re mounted on. If it’s replaced in the past: be sure it’s done correctly.
- At the rear of the car: check the wheel arches and the inner parts of the rear wings. The spare wheel container is another weak spot, just like the bodywork part on the other side (almost the same as the spare wheel container but slightly different). Check the trunk for any rust and look inside the trunk for any rust. Have a close look on the area below and between the rear lights because this area can also rust badly.
- Be sure the fuel tank is in good condition and doesn’t have any rust.
- In case of a Volvo 245 or 265 stationwagon: check the rear side windows area for any rust, and the tailgate: especially the underside of the tailgate and area of the rear window can rust badly.
- In case of a 262C Bertone: check the area around the roof. Especially the C-pilar can rust badly, just like the top of the rear wings (next to the trunk).
If everything of the list above is looking fine, the condition of the bodywork shouldn’t be a problem! If you have any doubts about the bodywork (for example: the owner uses putty to cover hidden rust on the bodywork) please bring some small magnets (to check the bodywork: if putty is used the magnet won’t stick to the car) and a sharp object (like a screwdriver, to test the bodywork when too much undercoating is used).
Please note the costs for welding a car are very expensive (unless you can do it yourself). If you can’t weld yourself (or you don’t know a cheap welder): welding bodywork is much more expensive than engine problems or replacing brakes and suspension parts.
The engines of the Volvo 240 and 260-series
The engines of the Volvo 240 are very reliable. The PRV-engine (also known as the Douvrin-engine) is also reliable but good maintenance is a must.
Volvo 240 with B20 engine
The first Volvo 240 had a B20-engine, which was replaced after a year by the B19 and B21-engines (although the B20 was available for another year in some models). Keep in mind a B20 shouldn’t run “too smooth” (or: like a charm) because it means it will be worn out also. When a B20 is running idle it should have sometimes a “dip” in revolution.
Be sure you don’t see any oil leakages caused by broken seals or filt gaskets. A seal or gasket isn’t expensive but it can be a hell of a job to replace one. Also check the oil level and the condition of the oil.
Replacement parts are very easy to get for the B20-engines, but the parts of the Bosch D-Jetronic injection system (used on the B20E and B20F, they were only available at certain markets) are more rare and sometimes pretty hard to get. Due the rareness prices of some items (like injectors, cable harnesses, air pressure sensors and fuel pressure controllers) for the B20E and B20F-engine are rising.
The B20-engines can handle high mileage, so don’t be scared to buy a car which already drove 250.000km (or 125.000 miles).
Check the exhaust system for its color: when it’s completely black in the inside the car has a serious problem with the oil consumption. If it’s gray it will be OK. Another great test is to check the color of the gasses when the engine is running: step on the gas a few times and check the color. If it’s gray there is no problem, blue gasses from the exhaust means the pistons are worn out, water in the engine (due a broken head gasket) or the car consumes too much oil (but it can also be the valve seal rubbers, which aren’t a big cost to replace) and black gasses means the engine or carburator isn’t adjusted well.
Also be sure the cam gear set is replaced (in case it’s made of steel and fiber) or a steel version is mounted. The steel camgears will make some more noise but they will last forever!
The best indication of the condition of the engine is a compression test. A engine in a good condition will have a high compression. All cilinders shouldn’t be below 10 bar. A revised B20-engine will have about 13 bar (or above) compression.
Another simple test: when you take out the car for a testdrive, speed up to about 60mph (90kmh) and release the gas pedal. When the car is dropping to about 35-40mph (60kmh) put the pedal to the metal and look in the rear view mirror: if black or dark blue smoke is visible you’re certain the car is consuming a lot of oil. It can be caused by valve seal rubbers or in worst case: broken pisten rings. In case of the last option: the engine needs to be rebuild and that’s expensive.
The carburators are pretty easy to maintain. The SU- and Zenith-Stromberg carburators were used for a long time and also on other brands than Volvo, meaning parts are pretty easy to get. If the previous owner replaced the carburators by a Weber carburator: the Weber-carburators are also very reliable and parts are also easy to get.
If you’re planning to buy a Volvo 240 with B20E or F-engine: these cars are equipped with a fuel injection system. In both cases it’s the Bosch D-Jetronic system. It’s very reliable but when you’ve got problems with it, you can expect high bills. Some parts are pretty hard to get or needs refurbishing. In both cases it wouldn’t be cheap. Be sure the engine is running nice and doesn’t hick up in lower rpm’s when accelerating. Also be sure it doesn’t smell of petrol (which can be caused by leaking injectors or a broken fuel pressure accelerator). Also the cable harness of the B20E and B20F is sensitive for hitches and/or bad connectors. If there are problems with the distributor you should consider to replace it with an electronic ignition.
Volvo 240 with B17, B19, B21, B23, B200 or B230 engine
The redblock-engine are actually almost the same, except the capacity of the cylinders. The shortblock of the redblocks are painted red (hence the name “Redblock” and are the B17, B19, B21, B23, B00 and B230-engines in the Volvo 240-series. All B23, B230 and B200-engines are non-interference engines (except some B230-engines, depending on the cylinderhead that’s installed and all B204 and B234 16V-engines, in case a hobbyist upgraded the 240 to a 16v-version), which means the valves and pistons aren’t damaged when the timing belt breaks. But you should always change the timing belt if it’s not sure when it’s done for the last time or the belt needs a change due mileage. Better safe than sorry!
The B21E-engine of my old Volvo 244 GL was modified to a B21A-engine with Stromberg carburator after the engine had a lot of troubles with backfires (the car runs on LPG). When the injection system was removed and a carburator was installed the backfire-problems were gone
Here are the weak spots of the B17, B19, B21, B23, B200 and B230-engine that needs a close attention:
- Remove the oil cap and check for any sludge. If the car has any sludge it means it has a serious trouble (like a broken cylinder head gasket).
- Check the entire engine for any leaks of oil or water/coolant. Also check the fuel system for any leaks.
- Check the color of the oil and oil level on the dipstick. If it’s too black/dark the car needs new oil, or when it smells burnt there could be a problem inside the engine.
- If the oil level is too low it could be caused by a leak (check the front and back of the engine) or a bad crankcase ventilation (which is mostly caused by a blockage or broken flame trap).
- In case of a 240 Turbo (with or without intercooler): be sure the car doesn’t consume any oil. During a testdrive use the turbo several times and check if you don’t see any black or white smoke in your mirror. You also shouldn’t hear a metal scraping sound (which means the axle of the turbo is damaged). Check the pressure meter in the instrument cluster for the right turbo pressure: without using the turbo it should be just before the yellow area and while using the turbo the needle shouldn’t enter the red area. Also check the cooling fluid and be sure the service interval is well maintained (a Turbo is very sensitive).
- Check for any leaks at the waterpump.
- Check the air filter, it’s very easy to access and gives you an indication when the car has been serviced for the last time.
- There shouldn’t be too much oil on the engine, especially at the cylinder head. Some oil at or just under the valve cover means the gasket of the valve cover hasn’t been changed in a while (which can also mean the valves hasn’t been adjusted for a while, does not apply for the 16V-engine since the 16-valve engine has self-adjusting valves).
- Have a close look on all vacuum hoses and other hoses.
- When the engine is running: check for any knocks or other strange sounds, and listen carefully how the engine is running. When running idle the engine should run smooth. Drops in revs can be caused by some troubles in the fuel injection system. If the engine shakes too much it means the engine support rubbers are worn out. Replacing them isn’t expensive.
- Check the engine wiring harness for any damage or cracks.
- If the Volvo 240 has a carburator (B17A, B19A, B21A, B23A, B230A, B200K and B230K engine) be sure it’s running fine and wen running idle the revcounter should be around 850rpm. If it’s too high (like 1200-1500rpm) the carburator isn’t adjusted well, has a vacuum problem or there might be a problem with the choke. Parts of most carburators are pretty easy to get, but for the late Pierburg carburator of the B200K and B230K engine most parts are very hard to get or even not available anymore!
Check the exhaust system for its color: when it’s completely black in the inside the car has a serious problem with the oil consumption. If it’s gray it will be OK. Another great test is to check the color of the gasses when the engine is running: step on the gas a few times and check the color. If it’s gray there is no problem, blue smoke from the exhaust means the pistons are worn out, water in the engine (due a broken head gasket) or the car consumes too much oil and black gasses means the engine or carburator isn’t adjusted well.
The best indication of the condition of the engine is a compression test. A engine in a good condition will have a high compression. A Volvo 240 with a redblock engine will have about 9 bar (or above) compression and not more than 2 bar difference between the cilinders (in that case a cilinder might have a big problem, like a broken piston ring). If the compression is below 9 bar the engine can be worn out or there’s an error in the adjustment of a engine part or parts.
The best choice is the injection engine with Bosch LH-Jetronic 2.2 system: it’s very reliable, very easy to diagnose (it has its own diagnose unit at the later versions) and won’t give a lot of troubles. The K-Jetronic system is also pretty good, but when the engine doesn’t run well the right diagnose can be pretty tricky and not all parts are available anymore. Refurbishing and repairing parts of the K-Jetronic system might cost a lot more than repairs on a LH-Jetronic system (applies on all petrol engine types, including the B27 and B28).
Volvo 240 D6 diesel
The diesel-engines of the Volvo 240 are very reliable and are made by Volkswagen. The D24 in the Volvo 240 D6 (despite the 6-cylinder engine the car is called 240 D6, mainly because in some countries the 240 diesel was sold with a 5-cylinder diesel which was actually the same but with one cylinder less) is made by Volkswagen and doesn’t have a turbo-charger. Some people upgrade the D24-engine to a version with a turbo (D24T or D24TIC which also has an intercooler), but since the engine compartment of the 240 is smaller than the engine compartment of the Volvo 740 and 760 these engines will have a cooling-issue when a turbo is installed. On paper the D24 is slow, but it’s very good to use in daily traffic and doesn’t perform bad at all. Some people say the diesel-engines are weak, but they aren’t: Volvo used them for a very long time (the 940 had the same engine) and if you treat it right it will last forever. It’s as reliable as the redblocks.
The D24-series diesel engines have a higher compression: a new or rebuild engine should have 33 bar on each cilinder. If a D24 (or D24T or D24Tic) has a compression of 24 or lower it’s worn out. The cilinders shouldn’t have more than 6 bar difference. Note: the valves needs to be adjusted before you can test the compression of the diesel engine, unless the engine is replaced with a newer/later version of the D24 which has hydraulic self-adjusting valves.
A Volvo 240 D6 with diesel-engine is very comfortable. Keep in mind the diesel engines must be warmed up before you stress them. If you don’t do that, the engine will wear out very fast and has an enormous oil consumption.
When you’re planning to buy a Volvo 240 with diesel engine, please have a close look on the following items:
- Check for any cracks and leaks, especially at the cilinder head and fuel pump.
- Service interval is very important at the diesels: please be sure the service history is complete and the Volvo 240 diesel is always serviced with the right interval.
- Since diesel motor oil is immediately black and dirty once you’ve started the engine after an oil change it doesn’t say anything about the last change. You should check the airfilter (opening the airbox is very easy) to have an indication for the last maintenance.
- Be sure the timing belt is replaced: the diesel engines are all interference engines, which means the engine will be damaged when the timing belt breaks.
- Make sure the cold start goes very well. If the engine is shaking and not running very well it could be the glow plugs that are worn out. Replacing them isn’t hard, except for the last 2 on the motor block (the fuel pump must be removed to replace the last 2 glow plugs).
- Bad starting or even not running at all can indicate a worn engine because the compression is too low to make the D24 running.
- Check the exhaust: the gasses/smoke of the car after a cold start tells all about the condition of the engine (it’s probably the best indication of the condition of the diesel engines): black smoke means the fuel pump isn’t adjusted well, blue smoke indicates serious troubles (like a broken cilinder gasket or a worn out engine). The car is allowed to smoke about 30 seconds (depending on the weather conditions: it will have more gasses when it’s colder) and then stop smoking. If the exhaust keeps smoking: don’t buy the car, because the engine is worn out.
- In case of a turbodiesel (D24T) or turbodiesel with intercooler (D24Tic): be sure the turbo is working fine (notice exhaust gasses and oil level) and the intercooler doesn’t leak. If the turbo doesn’t make the whistling sound it means the turbo doesn’t have any pressure and needs replacement (which is pretty expensive).
Volvo 260-series with B27 or B28 PRV V6 engine
The PRV (Peugeot Renault Volvo) engines are pretty infamous at Volvo-lovers. But they aren’t as bad as their reputation says: a well maintained B27, B28 or B280 is very reliable. But be sure (especially the B27) the car is serviced on time and has a full service history. The B27 needs very regular oil changes (every 3.000 miles) to keep the lubrication optimal, otherwise the oil channels will be blocked, leading to severe engine damage (especially the camshafts and replacement of both camshafts is very expensive). The B27 is the weakest of these engine (but with good preventive maintenance it can reach high mileages), the B28 has a lot of improvements but the B280 is the best version of it and is a popular upgrade if a B27 or B28 is damaged. The oil channels of the B280 are a lot bigger and doesn’t have the problems of the B27 and B28, but changing oil on the B280 takes a little more time: you’ll need to remove the splash plate below the engine and also remove the hose of the airbox to enter the oil drain plug and oil filter.
When you’re planning to buy a Volvo 262, 264 or 265 with V6-engine, have a close look on the following items:
- The PRV V6 engine has a distribution chain instead of a rubber timing belt, in most cases it doesn’t need a replacement unless it’s making noise or the tensioners are worn out. Be sure the chain isn’t noisy, because parts of this system are very hard to get and even some parts like the chain tensioners aren’t available anymore (some Renault-dealers have them as New Old Stock).
- Check for any leaks, especially around the valve covers and front and back of the engine. Oil leaks on a PRV V6 can be very expensive!
- Remove the oil cap and check for any sludge. If the car has any sludge it means it has a serious trouble (like a broken cylinder head gaskets, pretty expensive to repair on a B27, B28 or B280 engine).
- Check the engine wiring harness for any damage or cracks.
- Be sure the valves adjusted (no shims needed, it works with special adjustable screws) every year.
- When the engine is running: check for any knocks or other strange sounds, and listen carefully how the engine is running. When running idle the engine should run smooth. Drops in revs can be caused by some troubles in the fuel injection system. If the engine shakes too much it means the engine support rubbers are worn out.
- Service history is very important when you’re planning to buy a Volvo 262, 264 or 265 with V6-engine. It tells you if the car had its much-needed new oil on time, otherwise you might have big problems in the future due poor maintenance.
Volvo 240 & 260 intake and exhaust system
The exhaust system of the Volvo 240 with 4-cilinder engine is pretty easy and not hard or expensive to replace if you do it yourself (going to the garage or dealer for replacement is actually pretty expensive). Be sure the exhaust isn’t making too much noise and doesn’t leak. The frontpipe for the diesel-engines is harder to get these days, just like the frontpipes for the Volvo 260-series.
Be sure the lambda sond-light isn’t on in the instrument cluster (in case the car actually has a lambda sond sensor): it could mean there’s a problem with the intake manifold, air mass sensor (made by Bosch), lambda sond itself, catalyst (depending on engine type) or exhaust system. Repairing it isn’t very difficult (but could be expensive if the air mass sensor is broken) but it could be difficult to track down the cause. Be sure the catalyst is working fine: a replacement is very expensive. A lot of Volvo 240s have the lambda sond warning in the dashboard but doesn’t run bad at all, have a normal fuel consumption and even doesn’t have any problems during a MOT!
Volvo 240 & 260 transmission and powertrain
The Volvo 240 and 260 can have 12 types of transmissions: the first 240 had a M40 4-speed gearbox or M41 4-speed manual transmission with electronic overdrive. These were replaced by the M45 4-speed manual gearbox (also available als M45WR with wide range ratios, but very rare) and M46 4-speed manual gearbox with overdrive. The M47 is a manual 5-speed gearbox. The Volvo 260 was also available with M50 4-speed and M51 5-speed gearbox. For the automatic gearboxes there were several versions: the BW35 automatic transmission, which was replaced later by the BW55 and AW55 three-speed automatic gearbox. The AW70 and AW71 gearboxes are three-speed gearboxes with build-in automatic overdrive.
All transmissions are very reliable but you should listen carefully for some noise: a high/whooping noise means the needle bearings can be broken (manual gearboxes). If the top gear is quieter than the other ratios it means the gearbox is worn out. The condition of the automatic gearbox can easily be checked by looking at the automatic transmission oil (ATF): if it’s clear red everything seems to be fine, but if it’s darker red or black the gearbox might have some serious problems! Also check how the automatic transmission changes gears while driving: too late gearchanges or hicking indicates problems with the gearbox. But late gearchanges can also be caused by the kickdown-cable. Replacing a gearbox will take about half a day (plus the costs of a new/rebuild or used gearbox).
Manual gearboxes of old Volvo-cars always sweat some oil, so don’t panic if the gearbox is a bit wet. But if you see oil traces from the bearings or propshaft there are some worries. Fixing it means the gearbox should be disassembled, fixed and reinstalled again (again: the costs of replacing the parts aren’t expensive but it will take a few hours).
The clutches of the Volvo 240 and 260-series are very reliable. To test the clutch: put the transmission in the thirth gear and release the clutch slowly. When the car stalls the clutch is fine. If it keeps running the clutch is worn out. Please be aware that not all car sellers like this test so ask them if you’re allowed to perform this test. If the gearbox and clutch produces a screeching / rattling noise or doesn’t t fully engage the release bearing and/or the pressure plate is worn out. Note: please also notice the gasses from the exhaust when you test the clutch: if big black smoke is coming out of the exhaust (coloring the street or pavement entirely black) the engine can be worn as well!
When you drive the car and you’re switching gears the revs of the engine should drop immediately when the lever is in the higher gear. When the revs are rising for a moment it means the clutch is slipping. Replacing the clutch will take about 4 hours of work plus the costs of the new clutch set (clutch plate, pressure plate and always replace the release bearing as well). In most cases it will be about $ 675,– / € 500,– (including parts, wages and VAT) if you can’t do it yourself.
To test the overdrive: take the car for a testdrive and the overdrive should work when you drive 45mph (70kmh) by slightly push the clutch pedal and use the overdrive switch. When you release the clutch pedal the revs of the engine should be a lot lower. Please test it several times and also for a longer time because overdrives can fall out due tilting pistons or solenoid problems.
Check the condition of the cable under the hood because it can break. Clutch cables aren’t expensive but you don’t want a broken cable when you’re driving home! In case the car doesn’t have a clutch cable (like the RHD-version of the 240 and all versions of the 260): the master- and slave cluch cylinder doesn’t have any leaks and are working fine without making noise when you’re releasing the cluch pedal.
Also check the driveshaft for noises and shocks. In most cases of noise and shocks the universal joints of the prop shaft are worn out. If you hear a screaming noise it means the bearing of the propeller shaft is worn and needs to be replaced. Please replace the rubber (bearing support) as well. Replacing these parts are easy and pretty cheap.
Make sure the differential isn’t noisy. If it’s “singing” or whistling it might take a rebuild. Rebuilding a differential with new bearings and pinions can cost some serious money!
Volvo 240 & 260 heating & cooling system
Check the condition of the radiator and all hoses. If you see any traces of coolant (or anti-freeze) it means there are some small leaks. Also check the radiator of the heating system because it’s more expensive to overhaul than the radiator for the engine.
When the engine temperature is high enough (the thermostat should be opened) check the heating system at the interior of the car. Use the heating controls and fan to check if they’re working fine and the car is getting hot and cold air blown in. When the heater controls don’t respond well (only warm or cold air is available, no matter the controls stands at warm or cold temperature) it means there is a problem with the heater valve (or maybe with the links to it) or heater radiator. Both aren’t a cheap fix.
Test the blower motor of the 240 or 260. It’s a very time-consuming operation to replace. It’s not really difficult but if you don’t do it yourself you can espect big bills from the workshop (replacing the heater motor of a 240 or 260 will take about 4-6 hours labor, plus about $ 100,– for a heater motor and resistor).
Especially the Volvo 240 D6 diesel needs a good radiator. If the radiator of a diesel-engine is pretty worn or has a leak, it should be replaced as soon as possible! When a radiator is worn, it could result in an engine that’s running too hot, resulting in severe engine damage. Replace the radiator if you have any doubts about its condition. The hoses of the 240 diesels also needs a close look: especially the hoses behind the engine (just in front of the firewall) can crack easily due oil that sweats out of the engine and hits the hoses. If the hoses are leaking, the cooling system will loose coolant very fast, resulting in the engine running hot.
Check the expansion tank of the 240 or 260 for any leaks and while the engine is running there shouldn’t be boiling water. Be sure there isn’t any oil in the coolant, otherwise it could mean the cylinder head gasket is broken.
Volvo 240 & 260 braking system
The Volvo 200-series has front and rear brake discs and a dual brake circuit. It makes the car very suitable for daily use!
Be sure the brake booster is working fine. The brake servo can leak which means the brake system can loss its pressure resulting in poor-working brakes! These brake boosters can be repaired (but it isn’t easy and not in all cases the servo can be fixed) or replaced by a new one, which isn’t cheap.
During a testdrive you can test the brakes. Be sure the car is braking fine and won’t pull to one side, which means a brake caliper isn’t very good anymore. Bad braking and improvements in brake power while the speed is dropping (during braking) means the brake pads are worn out. Also check the state of the brake hoses, brake pipes, brake booster and brake cilinders for any leakages or defects. Fortunately most of these parts aren’t very expensive and pretty easy to replace. To test the brake system for any leaks: press the brake pedal for a longer time. The brake pressure should be the same. If the pedal is moving down you’re sure something is wrong, like a leak in the brake system, master cilinder or brake servo. Check if the handbrake is working fine (it shouldn’t move for more than 2 inches/5cm).
Also check the state of the brake hoses, brake pipes and main brake cilinder for any leakages or defects. Fortunately these parts aren’t very expensive and pretty easy to replace. To test the brake system for any leaks: press the brake pedal for a longer time. The brake pressure should be the same. If the pedal is lowering you’re sure something is wrong. The brake fluid should also be checked: check the level and the color: if it’s too dark it means the fluid is pretty old and you might have other problems in a short term on the brake system.
Most parts of the brake system are very good available and not very expensive (except the brake servo, as mentioned above). Working on the brake system is pretty easy as well but you’ll really have to be sure what you’re doing because making a mistake can give some serious troubles! In case of an ABS brake system: be sure the ABS system doesn’t have any errors and is working fine. If the ABS-light in the dashboard is on, or the ABS-computer has a problem, the system will act as a single-line brake system. Repairing it can be expensive, so be sure it’s working well.
Volvo 200-series steering & suspension
The steering- and suspension system of the Volvo 240 and 260 is very reliable. But of course they have some weak spots. Take a close look on the tie rods, steering rods, bushes of the wishbones, sway bars and the torque rods/support arms (and their silent blocs) of the rear axle. The weakest part of the steering system is the steering rack itself: it can leak and repairing it is pretty expensive. The power steering fluid tank can also leak, but that isn’t expensive. Check the steering rack, power steering parts and the pressure hose of the power steering for any leaks and damages. During the testdrive you should check for any play in the steering wheel and column. It can tell a lot about the condition of the steering parts, ball joints and steering house itself.
To test the shock absorbers and suspension: lean on the car and push it down. After releasing the car should stand still immediately after it’s coming up. When the car is still shaking the shock absorbers have to be replaced. The condition of the springs can be assessed during a testdrive: if the car is too jumpy and can’t handle big shocks the springs needs to be replaced. Springs and shock absorbers are pretty cheap and not difficult to replace.
At the rear of the car: check if the car doesn’t have a “sagged down”look: it could mean the silent blocs of the rear axle are worn out (especially the estates have these problems since they carry more weight). Replacing them isn’t difficult and expensive. It could also be caused by springs that are worn out. But you’ll notice during a testdrive if that’s the case.
Volvo 240 & 260 rims & tires
Tires are the most important parts of the car: it’s the only way of contact with the road. In my opinion you must never save money on tires because a cheap Chinese tire is $ 10,- cheaper than a good brand like Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli or Vredestein. Make sure the tread is deep enough and there are no cracks caused by dehydration. The radial tires are the best choice for a 240 or 260: it provides a better road handling and are safer than bias plys (radials are stronger, stiffer and handles a lot better). Look after the tirewear:
- Over inflation: the center part of the tire has excessive wear, caused by a too high air pressure. In this case the tire is riding on the middle of the tread and wearing out prematurely.
- Under inflation: the outer parts of the tread are more worn than the center part. It isn’t caused by a too low tire pressure but caused by a bad wheel alignment (which may indicate a worn tie rod or ball joint).
- One side wear: a inner or outer rib of the tire is worn more than the rest of the tread. Caused by bad wheel alignment, worn kingpins or ball joints or bad bushings/silent blocs of the control arms.
- Cupping: damage on the sides (cups or scalloped dips) means worn suspension parts (mostly shock absorbers, kingpins, ball joints or springs). If you see a brake spot on the middle of the tread it means the car has made a emergency stop. It will cause a noisy tire (rolling noise) when you drive the car. Cupped tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible: tire trimming is a bad option (the tire is trimmed in cold condition but when the tire is warm again the noise can appear again).
- Feathering: the edge of each tread rib has a rounded edge on one side and is sharp on the other side. You’ll need to feel it because it isn’t always visible. If you have a closer look you’ll see every rib is pushed aside. It is caused by a bad wheel alignment due worn bushings.
The tire wear indication chart (click on the image for a larger version)
Please note tires only last for about 6 years. After 6 years the rubber lost its best of its compound. In most cases the production date is found on the tire: the week and year is mentioned on the tire and is called the DOT age-code. For example: 2607 means the tire is produced in week 26 of 2007. If you see a 3-digit number it means the tire is made before 2000 (for example: 187 means: week 17 of 1997). Needless to say but such old tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Check also the spare tire!
The wheels needs to be rustless and have no visible damage like bumps or dents. Some curb damage isn’t nice but it doesn’t effect the safety of the car. Some people put custom-made widened rims under their Volvo 240 or 260 but if it isn’t done professionally it can be a big risk for your safety. Other nice options are the Wolfrace-wheels (or Ansen Sprint, almost the same design), Minilites (do not buy the replica of them, but the original). Wheels of the 700-series and 900-series wil also fit excellent on the Volvo 240 and 260 since they have the same hole pattern (5×108). The 960-wheels used until 1994 also fit, the later 960-wheels doesn’t fit since they have the same ET-offset as the 850. Some people want to install wheels of a 850 or S60/V70/S80 but these wheels have a different ET-offset. Spacers are required to prevent the wheels scraping the inner side of wheel arch or bodywork, but in my opinion spacers aren’t very safe and suspension parts will suffer a lot more with spacers.
If you hear any rolling or humming sounds when you take the car for a testdrive please check the tires and the bearings of the wheels.
Volvo 240 & 260 interior and upholstery
During the years it’s most likely the interior and upholstery has had its best day. Sun (UV) and aging will cause cracks and tears in the dashboard padding, leather upholstery might be abound and worn, and rubbers can be as dry as the Sahara. Also moisture is a big enemy for the upholstery and interior. The Volvo 240 or 260 can get very wet inside if door rubbers, window rubbers (like guide channels, windowbrushes, scrape rubbers, etc etc) and grommet or rubber plugs are worn out or are too dry. Check the windscreen- and rear window rubbers for any damages or leaks, because a broken rubber can cause rust to the chassis. Broken side window rubbers will lead to rust inside the doors, so those rubbers needs to be in good condition as well.
Replacing rubbers isn’t very hard (except the windscreen- and rear window rubbers, it can be a hell of a job) but if many rubbers needs to be replaced it’s expensive. Dashboard paddings are still new available but are pretty expensive.
Lift up the carpet set (or rubber mat) to check for any rust at the bottom of the car. Especially check the sides (sills) and at the pedals, firewall, corners behind the dashboard and kickpanels: if there is any rust it means there could be a leak at the windscreen.
When you have a look at the doors: check for rust at the bottom of the doors and check the condition of the door panels. Open and close the side window and feel how smooth it goes (if it’s hard: the cable of the door window can have a problem but it’s pretty easy to replace). Check the hinges of the doors: if the door falls a bit down when you open it the hinges are worn.
The upholstery of the 260 isn’t new available anymore, so if you want to replace the upholstery you should approach a joiner or furnisher who is specialized in car upholstery. Producing a custom-made interior isn’t cheap. New seat padding (foam) is very good available and not expensive. New upholstery of the Volvo 240 can be ordered at VP Autoparts.
The headliner of the Volvo 240 or 260 won’t suffer a lot so in most cases it is in good condition. If it needs to be replaced it isn’t expensive but it’s not a very easy job.
Volvo 240 & 260 electronic system
Check all wire harnesses for any cracks or rusty plugs and connections. Check all lamps of the car if the lights are matching with their light output (differences may indicate earth-problems or rust at the housings of the lights). Test the indicator lights (if there is a problem with it: in most cases the relay is defect). Also test the horn of the car: if it won’t work there can be a problem with the horns or breakage in the cable in the steering wheel.
Check if the car starts well: it indicates the condition of the battery and starter motor. Check if all instruments are working fine, especially the fuel gauge (if it “dances around” or doesn’t respond it means the fuel tank float is broken) and the temperature gauge (if it doesn’t go to the middle it could mean the thermostat is broken).
A 240 or 260 that will start but won’t keep running could have problems with the hall sensor (or BDP sensor, this problems applies for the carburated and fuel injected engines) or have a problem with the electronic control unit (ECU, only at the electronic injected versions). Replacing a hall sensor is easy and not expensive, but if the ECU is damaged it could be expensive.
If something isn’t working fine, it could be caused by a bad ground or a damaged cable harness. Check for any corrossion if possible and for any cracks in cables. Be sure items like the heated rear window, the wipers and rear wiper motor of a Volvo 240/260 Estate is working fine (repairing it can be expensive).
Volvo 240 & 260 registration papers & VIN
Please check if the licence plates and papers are complete. Check if the chassis number (VIN) on the registration papers matches the VIN-number on the car. The VIN-plate is located under the hood , but the VIN is also stamped on a other location: check the registration papers where it should be located. In most cases it’s the A-pilar on the right side of the car. Also check if the owner has a service history. A lot of Volvo 200-series cars are maintained by the owner itself: check if the seller has any copies of invoices of parts.
Volvo parts availability for the 240 and 260
About all parts for the Volvo 240 or 260 are very good available. Most parts can be bought as brand new product at many webshops, most of them aren’t original Volvo-parts but they’re good enough as replacement (in some cases: a lot better than the original). When you buy a Volvo 240 or 260 please don’t try to fix it with only second-hand parts because some day you’ll be punished for that. Some parts are out of production and aren’t being produced by other suppliers but that kind of parts can be refurbished at specialists (like radiators or alternators). Most rubbers are also very good available.
All parts of the 4-cylinder engines are very good available, for the diesel-engines it could be sometimes difficult at the Volvo-dealer but you can find it at Volkswagen or Audi dealers or specialists. The PRV-engine parts are sometimes hard to get, but a visit at a Peugeot-dealer, Renault-dealer or DeLorean-specialist could help you.
Volvo 240 or 260 for sale: what to pay?
It’s pretty hard to say what the right price is for a Volvo 240 or 260. Prices of a 200-series car may differ per country, so the prices I mention here is a indication for most countries in Europe and I think the USA will have about the same asking price. I must admit: prices for old Volvos in The Netherlands are a lot higher than in Belgium or France, but Germany has almost the same prices as The Netherlands. And the prices of the Estate-versions are a lot higher than the sedans because most people in The Netherlands prefer a stationwagon. The 240 is more popular than a 260 because most people think the 260 isn’t reliable. But a 260 will have a lot of more options, which could increase the asking price. But in reality a Volvo 240 running on petrol or LPG will be sold a lot quicker than a 260 or 240 diesel due the reputation of the PRV- and the diesel-engines. A 240 or 260 that’s tax-free in The Netherlands (all models until 1987) is a lot more expensive than a 200-series car that isn’t tax-free.
The biggest factor for the price is the condition of the car: a 240 or 260 that needs work and doesn’t have a MOT (due too much rust or brakes that won’t work) the price should be about EUR 500, – and – EUR 1.000,– (US Dollars: between 750.- and 1.200,–), a car that is suitable as daily driver (with a little rust but nothing big) should be around EUR 2.000,- ($ 2.500,–) and a 240 or 260 in perfect condition should be up to EUR 8.000,– ($ 10.000,–, depending on modelyear). These prices may vary per country and of course the exact condition of the car determines its price. Also extra accessories and/or service history can rise the price a bit. But beware the value of the car depends on the market: as mentioned earlier the tax-free status of the car increases the price a lot! A Dutch Volvo Polar (240 Estate) of 1993 in good condition doesn’t have the same price as a 245 of 1985, because the 240 Polar isn’t tax-free.
The Volvo 240 & 260 buyers guide: the summary
As you can see the buyers guide for the Volvo 240 and 260 is very long. Of course you can read it completely but when you arrive at the car for a closer look you’ll forget the most of all the tips above.
Always be realistic with the price the seller is asking for his 140 or 164: you can’t expect a showroom-condition at a 164 which should cost $ 1.000,–. Keep in mind what your intention with the car is (daily driver, hobby-car, to restore it completely or partial, or you want a car that is actually in a brand-new mint condition) and also think what you want to spend.
And always make a testdrive with the car!
Please use this summary and take a print of it with you when you’re going to have a look:
- Bodywork: check for rust, especially the area below the grille, undersides of the front fenders, the hood (also the hinges), sills, bottom and hinges of the doors, front and rear window areas, rear wheel arches, the parts in front and behind the rear wheel, spare wheel containers, radiator support, area between the rear lights and bumper, and floor panels.
- Engine: check for oil usage or cylinder gasket problems during the testdrive (color of smoke coming from the exhaust). If possible: perform a compression test. Check for any oil leaks.
- Transmission and driveshaft: check for noises and test the clutch (ask for permission) by putting the car in thirth gear and engage the clutch pedal. If the car stalls the clutch is fine, if it keeps running the clutch needs replacement. Listen carefully for noises during a testdrive: a constant screaming sound and banging means there is something wrong with the driveshaft (but not expensive to repair).
- Cooling system: check the hoses, radiator and when the engine is hot enough test the heating system in the car. At a closed cooling system: check at a hot engine the coolant isn’t boiling in the expansion tank.
- Braking system: check for any leaks and test during a testdrive if the cars is pulling to one side when braking. Also check the brake booster and brake cilinder for any leaks. In case of ABS: be sure the ABS warning light isn’t on.
- Steering & suspension: test the shock absorbers and springs by pulling down the car. After release the car should get up and stop shaking immediately. If it keeps shaking the shock absorbers needs to be replaced. Check for any play and noise from the front- and rear axle during the testdrive. Be sure the car is steering fine and not too heavy (check the power steering parts and steering rack for leaks and wear).
- Wheels & tires: check for any damage at the wheels or rims and tires. The condition of the tire can tell you a lot about the wheel alignment and condition of kingpins, ball joints and tie rods. Check the tread and the age of tires (DOT-code, tires shouldn’t be older than 6 years). Check for rolling sounds (caused by bad tires or bearings).
- Interior: check for rust at the inside (especially the inner sills and floor panels) and the condition of the upholstery. Take a close look at the rubbers (especially the rubbers of the windows and windscreen). Check the seats for its support and the seats shouldn’t be sagged (otherwise it needs new foam and/or new seat straps).
- Electrical system: check all lights and have a look all lamps are shining at the same strength (if not: the car can have some troubles with its negative/mass). Also check the condition of all cable harnesses and electrical wires.
- Paperwork: check if all registration papers and service history (if possible) are complete.
If you have any doubts (in the car or yourself) you should consider a purchase inspection. If the seller don’t want to co-operate with a inspection you know there is something wrong with the car. A purchase inspection will cost some money but can prevent you spending money on big repair costs, and the defects that will appear can be a good reason for negotiating on the price.
And of course: take someone with you when you’re going to have a close look, because two pair of eyes see a lot more than only your eyes.
Good luck with finding the right Volvo 240 or 260 for you!
Any questions or comments? Please feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
© Volvotips August 2012