PV as daily driver
Using your Volvo 444, 544 or Duett as a daily driver is possible. But especially the Volvo 444 (with B4B, B14A or B16 engine) and 544 with B16 engine will need some extra care for using it every day. In this guide I’ll discuss the several options. Be sure to check the Volvo PV & Duett Buyer’s guide as well, since it can help you a lot with things that need some attention.
The Volvo PV & Duett as a daily driver
Many people are wondering if a classic car like a Volvo PV 444, 544 or Duett is suitable for today’s modern traffic. Most people think it’s too old and could give too much troubles, no matter what age or condition the car has. Unfortunately it’s a bias a classic car has to deal with it. But fortunately a classic car is pretty easy to maintain and with the right maintenance you’ll have a car which is as reliable as a modern car.
Volvo 444, 544 and Duett with 6V system
In my opinion all types of the Volvo PV and Duett are suitable to be used as a daily driver, but some models are less suited for daily usage and needs some extra care or some modificitations should be made. First of all: the maintenance interval of the Volvo PV 444 is pretty tight (so if you use it on a daily base you’ll have to service it often) and the seats are not really comfortable. The heater is pretty weak and the 6 volt system isn’t really modern (but it’s pretty reliable). A very simple example: if a light bulb needs to be replaced and you don’t have a spare bulb, you can’t simply buy one at a gas station when you’re on a trip (with a 12V system it’s not a problem). To use a car with a 6V electrical system you’ll need to take extra care:
- always take a set of 6V bulbs and fuses with you
- since old type wiper motors can stop working out of nothing, use a solution like RainX (it works excellent for light raindrops moving away from the window)
- some extra blankets aren’t a bad idea when driving in the winter (in case the heater stops working)
- put some wipes and a sponge in the car within reach (use a tunnel basket), in case the windshield or side windows are studded
- please be sure the brakes are working fine and nothing is worn out. The brake system of a Volvo PV or Duett is only a single-line system, which means when the brakes or brake lines have a failure the car won’t stop at all!
The B4B, B14A and B16 engines don’t like driving longer distances at a speed of 50mph (80kmh) or above. The crankshaft will wear out faster because it only has 3 bearings. Using the car daily on a highway isn’t the right way to go.
Some people convert the 6V system to a 12V system and replaces a B4B, B14 or B16-engine with a B18 or B20 engine. It’s a good upgrade, but not very easy: when you replace the engine to a B18 or B20 a lot of other items and parts needs to be replaced as well: all electrical parts must be changed to a 12V version, the clutch and gearbox needs to be changed (including some changes in the bodywork since the 444 has a smaller tunnel in the floor panel for the driveshaft and gearbox) and if you want to sell the car: a potential buyer who’s looking for a 444 (for example) mostly wants the car in the original condition.
Volvo 544 and Duett with 12V system
A Volvo PV or Duett with 12V electrical system and a B18 engine is much more suitable for daily use: the crankshaft of the B18 (and also B20) engine has 5 bearings and can easily handle higher speeds than the B4B, B14 and B16-engines. The 12V electrical system is also much easier to maintain and a lot of more options and accessories are available (like: a small extra electrical heater or fan, more options for a radio and so on). The 544 and Duett of 1960 and later are improved a lot, compared with the first 444s and Duetts: the heater is much better, other electrical equipment like the starter motor, generator (replacing it with a alternator is highly recommended when you want to drive it everyday) and wiper motor are also replaced or improved a lot. But I recommend the list mentioned above to use for your 544 or Duett as well. Better safe than sorry!
My advice: if you’re just starting with a classic car for daily use and you want a PV or Duett: please buy a late type 544 or Duett. They have the best engines (B18) and a lot of improvements compared with the early types.
Improvements for the Volvo PV & Duett for daily usage
If you want to use your PV or Duett daily and you really don’t care about originality I recommend the following improvements:
- since the seats of the PV and Duett aren’t the best you can change them to some much better pair of seats, like Recaro, Scheel or any other seat. For the Duett the seats of a Volvo 340 3-door hatchback are an excellent choice, because these seats can be fold to enter the rear seat. For all seats the rails needs to be adjusted to install other type seats than the original ones. Install a set of seats with headrests: much safer.
- in case of a 12V car: replace the generator with an alternator. It’s much better, especially when you want to add some accessories.
- Install an electric fan in front of the radiator, with a seperate switch (which will be installed in the dashboard), very helpful for cooling the engine down when you’re in a traffic jam or use the car in very hot circumstances.
- Install a 3-channel radiator, it has a much higher capacity.
- Extra foglights (can be installed on or just above the bumper) is highly recommended.
- Install a tunnel basket between the front seats. Very useful for some wipes, a sponge and some other useful stuff.
- Buy an emergency flasher system. They are made by Hella, Volvo and some other aftermarket manufacturers. Since the Volvo PV and Duett doesn’t have hazard lights it’s very useful and safe to install a set yourself. Installing it is pretty easy.
- Install seatbelts if your car doesn’t have it. Volvo provided the cars with mounting points for seatbelts since the 444 L-series.
- Mudguards / splash screens (like Lokari) will prevent your car for many rust at the front- and rear wings. Highly recommended!
- Prevent the car for any rust by protecting the floor with undercoating and weak spots with tectyl and/or wax-oil.
- Install right tires for the season (like winter tires if you drive your PV or Duett in the winter) or use good allweather-tires like Goodyear Vector or Vredestein Quatrac. Tires are the only contact on the road, so be sure you’ve got the best tires for your car.
- Install mirrors on both sides of the cars, it decreases the dead spot of the PV a lot.
- Always have a set of bulbs and fuses with you.
- Some people conver the brake system to an Amazon disc brake system, including a brake booster. There’s also a kit available to install rear brake discs (instead of drums). It can be found at Huke Bassart.
- And of course: be sure your car is in good condition, especially the brakes. And be sure you’ve got a subscription for the road & traffic support (like AAA, RAC Adac and ANWB).
More nice accessories and improvements can be found at the Volvo PV & Duett accessories page.
If you have any comments or questions: mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org