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02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
10/28/22 10:27 a.m.

Finally got a little time yesterday to swap out the fluid and filter in the power steering system. The short version is that it didn't fix the problem. The slightly longer version is that it did seem to make a difference, which I think helps to narrow down the root cause. The steering seems a bit smoother overall, and the pump is quieter. The lack of assist when cold (42F this morning) is now much more noticeable when turning left, whereas turning right it seems almost normal right off the bat. This suggests to me the problem lies in the control valve for the rack, rather than the pump. It also makes me wonder if I should drive it a bit more, drain the reservoir again, and refill with more new fluid. Not that it's going to magically fix the rack, but the improvement from the fluid swap makes me think the old - probably original - fluid was well past its prime.

When the time comes to fix the problem, is it possible just to swap the control valve, or is it better to just get a used rack and throw it in there? New is prohibitively expensive for a winter hauler.

02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
11/8/22 6:21 p.m.

Took a good chunk of the afternoon working on the preventative maintenance on the V50 before the winter hits. I started with the AWD system, since I had no indication of its service history. I started with the angle gear; as much as I would have liked to pull it out to lubricate the collar splines, there was just no time. I sucked out the fluid, which was dark but not terrible at all, and replaced it - nice and easy. When I went to the rear, I planned to do both the Haldex and the diff, but in the end I only did the latter. The fill plugs are basically right next to each other as far as I can tell; I can only assume the forward one is for the Haldex, since what came out of the rear one smelled like gear oil (as opposed to the weird smell of the new Haldex fluid), and a lot more came out than seems to be in the Haldex system. Access is awkward, to say the least, but I filled it and buttoned it up. Both units got new drain plugs and washers.

At that point the light was starting to fade, and I still wanted to make sure I got the trans fluid taken care of, so I moved forward and started in on that. The drain plug is easy enough to access, thankfully. I measured the drained fluid and took exactly 4 quarts out - again, the fluid looked old but not burned up, and smelled like trans fluid. I refilled with the Aisin OE fluid through the stupidest dipstick arrangement ever (seriously, I know space is tight, but one should not have to start removing the dipstick from underneath the car), put the car back on the ground, and went for a ~15 minute drive to warm everything up. When I got back it was basically dark, but I still wanted to confirm the fluid level in the trans. I checked it a few times, and best I can tell (it's really hard to accurately read a dipstick you have to remove sideways in the dark) it's reading ever so slightly over the HOT mark. I've always heard not to overfill automatic transmissions, but never understood why and I haven't had one in 15 years, so I don't know how serious a couple millimeters over the marks really is. Do I need to get under there and drain out the excess? Shifting was absolutely fine before the fluid change, and felt even better with the new fluid in there.

I still need to get the Haldex fluid done, and I want to flush the PS system again, but the first chance I'll have is probably Saturday. I might throw the snows on at that point too, but we'll see how the forecast looks.

 

02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
11/18/22 6:44 p.m.

Snow tires on, ready for winter.

The tires are in great shape, but the steel rims are pretty rough - quite a bit of rust on them. I'm going to be looking for a set of 17" Volvo alloys come spring. I still need to get under there and change the Haldex fluid and do one more PS flush (the steering problem hasn't changed noticeably since the last one), and spray some Fluid Film or similar on everything I can get to before the first snow.

I'm torn as to whether or not the car wants a little bit of a lift, maybe an inch or so. Any more than that and I'll probably start running into more issues than I care to deal with, but I'm guessing 1-1.5" should be OK without other modifications. I've got plenty of low cars - it might be nice to have one with a little actual ground clearance.

02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
11/22/22 7:41 p.m.

So I've put about a thousand miles on the Volvo, and I figure it's time for a little initial assessment.

On the plus side, it is a very comfortable car. The seats are comfortable, the suspension is comfortable...it's just a nice place to spend time. It does highways very well, and it's not too bad on the sort of sweeping, hilly backroads we have a lot of around here. It's not razor-sharp, but it can get out of its own way and not feel too unsettled doing so. The cargo area isn't huge, but it's big enough for most of the stuff I carry, and makes the most of the available space; I added a trunk liner and cargo net, which really increased the utility of the space for random junk. It makes pretty decent power, and the transmission isn't hateful (really about the only thing I expect from an automatic).

Negatives? Well, nothing really so far. It's got a few rattles, but it has 200k miles on it, so it's pretty much expected. Same for the sunroof portion of the headliner starting to fall down (I'll replace the whole thing in the spring). There a bit of rust on the subframes, but the unibody is shockingly clean for a car that's lived in the Northeast for 16 years. It's worn very well for the mileage, and should be even better once I have a chance to buff out the paint. There is the issue with the power steering binding a bit when cold, but that's improving with a couple of fluid changes, and if it persists I'll swap out the rack - not ideal, but also not the end of the world.

I know the Haldex AWD system works, but I haven't had occasion to test it on actual low-traction surfaces - it will be interesting to see how it does in the first real snow. With a full set of General Altimax snows, I'm hoping for a very entertaining experience.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with my purchase. It lacks the character of the Saab 900S it replaced, but it isn't without its own charms. It certainly seems as though it will fill the role of winter/utility car quite well, at least based on my experience thus far.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
11/22/22 7:52 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

That was a great update. I'm glad to hear that you're pleased with this car. 
 

Volvo certainly does a great job when it comes to rustproofing the bodies; such a refreshing change from most other manufacturers. I think they understand that their customer base views cars as long term investments.

I didn't understand the loyal Volvo fanaticism back in the 80s and 90s, but I fully appreciate it now.
 

With the prices of new vehicles now, I don't understand how someone would choose to buy a vehicle that they know will rust through before they're done paying off the loan.  

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
11/28/22 9:33 p.m.

A little more work done, and I think I'm as ready for winter as I'm going to get. I topped off the Haldex (I made a separate post on setting the level, so this may not be news), and sprayed down the more exposed areas with PBlaster Surface Shield. I have used Fluid Film in the past, but I heard some good things about Surface Shield, so I grabbed a few cans at Home Depot. I goes on pretty much the same way, but apparently dries to a tougher, waxier film, providing increased resistance to salt and abrasion. Even though the car is shockingly light on rust for being 16 years old and living the Northeast, I figured more protection couldn't hurt. I covered the subframes (which have more rust than any other part of the car) and the exposed body sections. I didn't go to the trouble of pulling the plastic wheel well inserts and spraying behind them, though I would have if I had more time (there's almost no rust back there).

At this point I'm looking forward to the first real snow, which of course means that we won't get more than an inch or two all season....

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
11/28/22 9:36 p.m.

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

Volvo loyalists always seemed a bit bonkers to me too, but I'm starting to get it. There are certainly more positives to these cars than I anticipated; lots of little things you don't think about, but put together they show that the engineers were thinking very clearly about what they wanted to achieve.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
11/29/22 9:06 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

^Well said.

Dirtydog (Forum Supporter)
Dirtydog (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/29/22 9:39 a.m.

Very true about Volvos.  I gave my son my '08 S-60.  He has beaten the beejeezus out of that thing for 80,000 miles.  He does maintain it, and it just keeps going.  So far, rust hasn't been an issue, but front end parts do require attention.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
11/29/22 8:13 p.m.

I had a chance to take the car on a few miles of dirt road for the first time today. The grip coming out of corners was impressive. Unsurprisingly, it drives like a FWD car on turn-in, but once you get on the power it just grabs and goes, even when being completely brutal with the pedal (locking it in a gear helps a lot; if you let the automatic shift, the downshift upsets the balance). Snow should be very entertaining.

One minor complaint I should note: gas mileage. For a 2.5L engine, this thing sucks down a lot of fuel - mixed driving has been netting around 23mpg. Cold starting seems to have a significant impact as well. I've tried 87 and 93 octane, with no measurable difference. Not that I bought it for economy, and it's a small price to pay, but I would have liked to see the numbers a little better.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/29/22 10:04 p.m.

If the control algorithm is like my previous generation S40, which had the same trans but no Geartronic shifter, you could command a downshift before a corner by blipping the throttle, and the trans would hold the gear for a certain amount of time.  It was also smart enough to not upshift while braking.

Done right, it was just like driving a manual trans with your right hand and left foot not actually doing anything.  The throttle blip required was just like you'd do for a double clutched downshift.

Sadly the 6 speed auto isn't as smart.  I think they phoned in the controls package because it could be just shifted manually.  The older 5 speeds without a manual option had something like seven different shift strategies it could choose from, would downshift automatically for hills if it saw you riding the brake and not decelerating, etc.  I am not sure if all of that got grandfathered in to the Geartronic five speeds.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
11/29/22 10:23 p.m.

In reply to Pete. (l33t FS) :

I posted this somewhere previously, but if this page from Transmission Digest is correct, there is a "sport mode" shift program even in the Geartronic units. They describe it thus:

Sport mode – The TCM changes from economy to sport mode if the accelerator pedal is depressed quickly and the vehicle exceeds 31 mph. Sport mode raises the shift points to provide the best performance, and downshifting occurs at lower engine speed. When the accelerator pedal is moved less quickly, the TCM resumes economy mode automatically.

I will have to play around with it and see if it matches the behavior you describe. I'm very much unfamiliar with driving an automatic, so I tend to default to the Geartronic in anything but straight highway driving or stop-and-go traffic.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/12/22 4:39 p.m.

Nothing major happening with the Volvo. I've been commuting in it for a few weeks, and making a list of things to address when spring rolls around. Yesterday, however, we got our first snow of the year - pretty pathetic accumulation on the roads (the rate of accumulation was too slow, and they dump salt at the first flake around here), but I did get a taste of what this car will be like in snowy conditions on a few miles of remote, hilly back road. It's pretty impressive. Handling and braking are down to the Altimax Arctic 12s, but when I came to a stop on a snow-covered patch and then planted the throttle, the AWD kicked in and launched the car like it was dry pavement.

The first real snow is going to be fun.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
12/12/22 7:50 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

The AWD system is mostly proactive, but it is also reactive to an extent.  As you are aware, it works really well, to the dismay of people who are all "lol Haldex not real AWD"

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/12/22 8:02 p.m.

In reply to Pete. (l33t FS) :

I look forward to putting it to the test. I've only done a few miles on the local dirt roads - which are mostly frozen at this point anyway - and the aforementioned bit of snow, but between the remainder of the winter and more time to explore the dirt, I should have plenty of opportunities to see just how good it really is.

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