2001 Volvo V70 T5.

I had been using my Volvo S60 T5 as a touring car, whilst using my trusty Marina Estate for work duties plus a packhorse for sea kayaks and mountain bikes. The Volvo certainly made touring a sublime experience whereas the Marina was a bit noisy at highway speeds and with many less creature comforts.

I decided that a Volvo Estate would be well suited as an upgrade to the Marina - which was suffering some body fatigue after 10 years excellent service. I was keen to find a Volvo Estate with the same urge that the S60 managed in great style - so I chose a V70 with exactly the same powerplant. This would hopefully allow me to sell two vehicles as the new one would fulfil both roles. I found one for sale in Auckland that looked pretty clean. It also had 4 new tyres, new cambelt, waterpump and tensioner, plus fresh oil and filter. The price tag was a miserly $2900.! I phoned the seller to sound it out, but his comments were reassuring, and his trading record was without a blemish. I bought it on the understanding that he would hold it until the following weekend when we could fly up and take delivery. He went one better. If I paid him $50 petrol money he would deliver it to the airport when we arrived. And that is what happened. Except I gave him $60 - he saved us a lot of money on all fronts, and was an extremely pleasant chap to deal with. Brilliant way to begin life with a new vehicle.!

We hit the motorway south then deviated to some scenic backroads that were this day exposed to some torrential downpours. Every accessory in the car worked well although it took some reading of the manual to ascertain how one was best advised to do so.! Apart from some suspension rattles that suggested worn bushes to me, the car responded as it should, and handled equally. I was surprised to find that the speedo was underreading when compared to my phone GPS App, but simply adjusted my cruise control settings to suit. An atmospheric shot beside Lake Rotorua some hours in..

We had a fairly ambitious plan to include Rotorua and Taupo while still making it to Napier for an evening meal with a good friend. We did so despite some rather trying weather conditions, and arrived on schedule with a totally compliant and well behaved new purchase. Magic.

In the light of the following day I inspected the exterior of the car somewhat more carefully. There were three small gouges consistent with parking excursions of the "other people" type. The paint was in considerably better condition than our first Volvo and showing evidence of recent polish. The Leather was in very good condition for the mileage covered, and we had used no oil for the first several hundred miles. Twice I had noticed that the engine dropped a cylinder while loitering in traffic, but it cleared itself when I gave it some more throttle. This ceased happening as the mileage increased, so I put it down to a previous diet of town running.

We began day two in great spirits - buoyed by a night of culinary delight with our friend of many talents. I had assumed that this Volvo would have shared the same platform as the S60, but I kept thinking that the rear seats looked a tiny bit further away, and that it felt a little longer. Looks big.!

Although I was not being terribly scientific, I had the impression that our fuel economy was looking rather similar to the S60 as the trip unfolded. I tend to conserve momentum by avoiding harsh braking or acceleration, and this tends to result in favourable economy. Having said that, I plan for maximum speed without tripping any radar, and I tend to favour high cornering speeds. In this fashion we put away the miles to Wellington with very few pauses and no glitches at all. The final burst over the Rimutakas saw me pushing the faster cars on all the passing lanes, despite the fact that we were much longer and heavier than much of the "competition". It were fun.!

Arrived at the Ferry Terminal in plenty time and having lined up with all the other consignees, enjoyed our wait in well appointed luxury. We sampled the "Premium" level of Ferry travel with endless free food and wine on this trip. I was thankful that we would be overnighting with friends in Blenheim rather than continuing south this day - free stuff tends to encourage over-indulgence. Rain again on the short stint to Blenheim, but efficient demisting and heating meant that it was low on stress levels.

Another fabulous night with friends then on the road at a civilised hour in the morning. Splendid - and once again - a superb introduction to a new vehicle. Nothing untoward on the final stage south, and my confidence was continuing to rise as every command met the correct response on this untested vehicle. I have a healthy suspicion as regards the amount of responsibility afforded to the electronics in modern vehicles - even though this "modern" is already 15 years old. That can be a long enough stint during which things can begin to misbehave, but not a single sign of such since the misfiring ceased. I maintain the impression that the Volvo build quality is very high, and nothing has occurred to alter that impression. It all fits together well, and continues to work well even after its current life approaches 200,000K's.

These 5 cylinder engines are extremely smooth in operation, and because of this enjoy 100,000K intervals for cambelt replacements. Considering the work recently done I shall be free of service requirements for a long time. I will of course undertake such things myself from here on anyway - but nice to know that nothing is needed for a long time yet.

We arrive home in a relaxed fashion and feel rather smug about our latest purchase. Next day I park the two Volvos side by side and begin making comparisons. Yes - the wheelbase is longer but only by 2 inches. Internally the two are almost identical, although our old one smells much better. A cleaning foray uncovers much grot beneath a rear seat that has obviously been the territory of children for many years of over-indulgence. Hideous rubbish has found its way down the edges of the squabs, but at least I have the confidence that the ambience will now improve.

The new tyres prove to be a size too large, which explains the slow speedo. Possibly this size was cheaper. The extra rubber probably provides a better cushion whilst detuning the handling slightly. They can stay until they wear out whereupon I shall install the slightly more sporty lower profile option. The performance of the shock absorbers has been very good. I have fitted a completely new set in the S60 - I suspect these have already been done. Good thing then. A few suspension bushes will sharpen things up to a totally acceptable level. The engine noise level is higher in this example. I don't know whether the estate has any less soundproofing, but the resulting noise when applying large amounts of pedal is rather satisfying. Nothing sounds unhealthy, so I shall simply enjoy it. After roughly 1000K's the oil is still right on the full mark. Excellent. No other liquids required other than windscreen washer - which elicits a disconcerting yellow hazard light on the dash. No problem once it decides to tell you what the problem is. The stereo in these cars is top notch, and this one does everything. I had noticed that the cd player in the Alfa was very susceptible to upset due to road surface bumps, but this one does not even flinch. It also has a cassette player - which means I can utilise an mp3 player interface as well. Good-oh.

This new Volvo has both towbar and roof rails. I still need to adapt my existing kayak racks to mate to these rails, but I will manage that ok. The mere fact that these options are present probably adds another $500 value to the car. My Marina estate was my main tow vehicle, so this car will now step into that role and I imagine it will manage it with consumate ease.

I am still astounded that so much car can be had for so little. I understand that the general motoring public are scared to death of the service costs that European vehicles command, but this does not apply to me because I do it myself. This thing is simply astounding value for money - it all works and every single feature that I can evaluate is in excellent working order.

Any Japanese car of similar age and mileage is priced at more than twice what I paid for this.! Add to this the fact that cars like this are light years better from the perspective of driving experience and you have a winner.

Sucks to be me...!


Moving forward to 2020. The V70 has been my work car and has been a great car to spend several hours a day in. I have replaced a few parts along the way, so I shall detail that now.

When we first collected the car in Auckland, there were a couple of times when the car initially ran on 4 cylinders. After a brief distance it would clear itself and there would be no further trouble. The only other thing I noticed was that as the outside temps dropped, so did the temp gauge, and the heater became less effective. This suggested that the thermostat was not doing its job correctly. After I got my laptop setup to talk to the car through the OBD port I found a logged up fault which reported that there was a problem with coil pack 'C'. Being a 5 cylinder that suggested it was the middle one.

I eventually replaced the thermostat, which was a very simple job, and all the temp related problems disappeared, including the coil pack. The old thermostat was jammed half open, so the engine could neither heat nor cool properly. In cold weather the heater lost ground, and in hot conditions the engine overheated, resulting in the hottest coil pack playing up. At least that is my conclusion because it has been sweetness and light ever since.

There were rattles in the front suspension, and I had access to very cheap shocks, so I replaced both front and rear shocks as well as the front top mounts. While the ride improved there was still a rattle which annoyed me. I investigated further and found the front swaybar bushes were worn out. Fortunately the car had after market swaybars fitted, which use replaceable bushes, where the originals were bonded to the bar and the entire assembly had to be replaced. No doubt a previous owner had played this game before. I replaced the bushes both sides and got one superbly quiet road trip out of it before a rattle reappeared. The new bushes had been much lighter duty than the old ones, and I decided that had been a problem. I bought some heavier ones but had not gotten around to fitting them yet.

Otherwise the only thing that had been an issue was a slight loss of coolant. Over a period of several weeks enough water would vanish from the header tank to cause a low water warning on the dash. I would just top it up and all would be well for a few more weeks. One day I noticed that the drivers floor mat was damp. It also felt oily. Damn. It was antifreeze. The heater was leaking inside the car. I found that it was a rather hideous job to remove the heater unit, so instead I purchased some smart leak repair chemical called K-Seal, made in the USA. For that reason plus the price I thought it would work. It did, despite only using half of it, which was a judgement I made due to the volume of water in the cooling system versus the directions on the container. Plus I still had the rest should I need it. I haven't. But the cooling system began to lose water again. In a concrete carpark I noticed signs of water under the car. I had not been using the aircon so it was probably a leak. A good search revealed that it was one of the heater hoses which attached to the cylinder head, and the leak was right at the clamp. I simply chopped the final inch off the hose and reclamped it, and that is still happy with life on planet earth.

2020 covid lockdown arrived and it was a perfect time to catch up with all the waiting list of car repairs. The V70 still had a rattle from the left front and I had some new swaybar bushes. There had also been some play detected in the left side steering rack end, and I had already acquired a pair from FCP Euro in the USA, as their prices were very competitive and their freight system was not only affordable, but very prompt.

I got the car in the air and removed enough stuff to replace the left side rack end. It was definitely worn out. The swaybar bushes on the other hand appeared to be absolutely fine. I aligned the steering and went for a drive, wondering if the rack end may have been responsible for the rattle as well. No such luck. And while the steering was great, the steering wheel was off to the left, so I returned home and set about correcting that. I decided to remove the left side swaybar link rod to see if that stopped the rattle. The moment I removed the lower swivel I knew I had found the problem. Presumably the new shocks had found the weakest link (hoho..) and the joint had given up. I had a spare link rod that had been removed from my S60 before I discovered that its rattle problems were dud shocks, so I fitted that and suddenly the car was totally rattle-free.

What a fabulous thing.! Rattles drive me mad, because I know something is in trouble.

I then treated the V70 to new oil and filter. I use synthetic oil and I figure that is the best thing I can do for this 250,000km old engine. I have purchased a new diagnostic device, an iCarsoft Euro Pro, which can handle 5 European car manufacturers models at one time, so with this one device I can handle my Volvos and my Alfas, and I still have 3 manufacturers I can download. I figure VAG will have to be one as it covers all the makes manufactured by that group. It also makes turning the service light off a 1 click affair.

This car is proving to be an incredibly useful machine. It can manage all my work and play requirements, but feels like a super luxury vehicle, with nice leather, great sound system, sorted ride - I discovered that the tyres were the right size on this car and wrong on our S60 - which delivers a performance level of handling while avoiding feeling harsh, as many sporting 4 doors can be.

The only outstanding job now is to rebuild the turbo. It performs ok but leaks oil, both externally and internally. It does not add much to the oil consumption, but indicates that it is not happy and will only get worse. That will be the next learning exercise. I have already purchased the parts in a kit from China, so hopefully the parts will be of suitable quality. Can't be worse than what is in there now...

Status to 2 May 2020.