The first generation Volvo S60 is the more or less forgotten rival of the BMW 3 series, Audi A4 or the Mercedes C-class from that time. I would say that the S60 is the least popular from them but this can be an advantage, since the Volvo is cheaper to buy than the Germans and you should be able to more easily find a never crashed example in a good condition. Why? Well because it’s not very popular among those young, you know more enthusiastic drivers. As we all know that they like to drive the remaining shit out of the older – mainly German cars while spending nothing on the maintenance, except maybe buying bigger wheels or an aftermarket radio.
Currently the price for these cars starts at 300 € in Germany. For this much money you get a spacious, safe(if not previously crashed) and a still drivable Volvo V70 made in 2001. It’s equipped with the 2.4 l naturally aspirated 5 cylinder petrol engine mated to the 5 speed manual gearbox. Of course the mileage of this particular example is 446 000 km but you can with no problem find cars with even higher mileage which are still running. These 5 cylinder engines can really withstand a lot (with a little regular maintenance of course).
The interior of these cars definitely has numerous advantages like the very good ergonomics, comfortable seats, good visibility, mostly durable plastic materials (except a couple of weaker spots like the sticky/peeling radio buttons for example) + the dashboard has clean control layout and it’s inclined to the driver. The standard and the optional equipment of these cars can contain various-mostly usual features, but also not that usual things like the integrated rear child seats or an integrated table for the rear passengers.
On the other side there are also some disadvantages as well:
-like the not sufficient back seat area in the S60 saloon version which is strictly limited for smaller creatures only
-the build quality is also not that great which means that for example the glove box compartment and the front center armrest are pretty cheaply made + if the car was used on bad quality roads then you can a lot of the times hear various squeaks or rattles from the interior
“The door panels are also not the most high quality parts either, so they can make various noises over time and the plastic coating of the front interior door handle can often start to peel off.”
You should also check if all the speakers are working properly since replacing them is not very easy as in most other cars: The speakers in the doors are held in place by rivets and not screws, so if you need to replace them then you need to drill the rivets out and put new rivets or some screws there.
On the other side the facelifted cars do have improved/more durable interior plastic surfaces, although the peeling interior door handles and the worn radio button still can be an issue.
Body, paintjob, rust protection
The rust protection of the body panels is good so there should be no rust on the visible parts of the body. However cars used on winter salty roads can have rust underneath the front strut towers which is a pretty bad place to rust, since if the rust spreads then it can easily eat through the metal and in this case it will ruin the strut tower to the point when you won’t be able to to repair it correctly – in other words to maintain the factory rigidity of the strut tower.
So if you are buying a car which was used in harsh winters then it’s definitely good to remove the strut and look for rust in this area or preventively treat it with some special paint. Of course it’s good to check the undercarriage of the car for rust as well – at the end these are not the newest cars and the road salt is doing it’s job very well.
-I will start with the instrument cluster which can be faulty. It can die completely or just partly, the symptoms can be: flickering, random shutting off or an SRS airbag warning massage. In this case you can have it repaired for approx. $150 but even for less than $100 – you can search on the internet for DIM repair
-then there are cases of headlight condensation which should be easy to resolve, just put some silicone sealant on the upper headlight seam where the front part connects to the the plastic housing and this should fix the issue
–the alarm siren often won’t work because of a battery in it which will sooner or later fail. If you don’t replace the battery in time then it can ruin the circuit board in the module and you have to replace the module entirely not just the battery itself. So to fix this you either disassemble the siren module and replace only the battery-if the circuit board is ok, or you can buy a cheap used or a brand new more expensive siren unit – it’s up to you. If your alarm siren fails you can get a warning massage on the dash, and some say that it can cause battery drain as well (to avoid the possible battery drain you can simply remove the fuse for this unit). Interestingly, the not working alarm siren can cause the sunroof to not work as well, so this is another thing to keep in mind
–the sound system amplifier can fail since it’s under either the front driver or passenger seat (the location depends on if it’s a left or a right hand drive car). All in all, if you got a water leak into the interior then the water can easily flood the amp and ruin it. What a big surprise!
-then there are the other usual things which can fail: like the auto dimming mirrors if the car is equipped with them, the blower motor can make strange sounds and fail at the end, and there are occasionally issues with some of the door locks as well – like they won’t lock, but in this case it’s usually enough to spray some grease into the latch
-you should also check if the air conditioning is working properly because a lot of times the AC compressor pulley clutch gap will get wider over time causing not working AC. In this case you can buy the new AC clutch which is not really cheap or you can just use some shims to tighten the gap which is more like a temporary solution
“but as in the other cars the refrigerant can leak as well”
Also another AC related issue is the faulty heater core which can cause coolant smell inside the car, steamed up windshield or weak heating.
how to replace the heater core video
+there is a bonus issue: the facelifted cars can have more often faded headlight plastic covers (but this more or less affects other modern cars with plastic headlights as well), the before facelift cars on the other hand don’t have this problem, since they have the headlight covers made from glass
It’s really important to check the brake system, specifically:
-the front brake hoses can be easily cracked on older cars
-then there are cases of leaking brake booster which will cause a hissing/air leaking sound which will change when you press the brake pedal. In this case the braking force can be reduced too + because of this leak the vacuum pump will work too much and it will eventually fail as well. You can either buy a new brake booster or you can replace just the worn out seal which is located under the dust shield + you also need to put special grease to this area. This is not the easiest job since you have to remove the brake booster and there is a serious lack of space, although some say that it’s also possible to replace the seal without removing the brake booster. By the way, even if you don’t have issues with it yet, then it’s good to preventively replace this seal or at least clean and re-grease this area.
how to replace the brake booster seal on the removed brake booster video
-the last issue related to the brake system can be with the ABS module (brake control module in other words) which can fail, causing not working ABS and malfunction massages. In this case you can again buy a new expensive module or just find somebody who can repair it. The ABS module is located under the ABS pump, but sometimes the ABS pump itself can be faulty as well.
Lastly there are 2 cases of fuel leaks
-the first can occur because of the cracked rubber filling tube which connects to the fuel tank, the tube itself is cheap but replacing it is not easy. This leak is interesting since in this case you get a slight fuel leak while you will filling up the car with gas. The another interesting thing is that replacing this cheap rubber filling tube is not an easy job since to access it you have to loosen the rear subframe and remove the other stuff because there is a pretty bad access to it, although some say that it can be replaced without loosening the subframe-this can depend on the actual model of the car. (you can buy a genuine VOLVO fuel filler neck for less than 15€)
-the second leak is caused by a leaking fuel pump which should affect only cars made to 2005 and there is also a recall for this. In this case the fuel pump can develop cracks in the fuel pump flange which will result in a fuel leak on the top of the fuel tank. When you experience this you should just replace the fuel pump, or you can try to ask the dealer if they won’t replace it for free since there should be a recall for this issue at least in the US. Some owners simply put some special fuel resistant glue on the top of the fuel pump to stop this leak, so this is also a solution although not the best.
Most of these possible issues are not affecting the overall drivability of the car, only the actual annoyance level of the owner + there is a well known and a more or less cost friendly repair procedure for most of these problems. +plenty of guides/videos on the internet
WATER LEAKS INTO THE INTERIOR
Let’s move on to the next awesome topic – the water leaks into the interior.
The leaks are mostly caused by the clogged sunroof water drains. In this case you can clean them with the edge trimmer line
for example, or you can pour warm soapy water directly onto the sunroof drainage channel – but this is mostly good as a preventive maintenance.
As in most of the other cars, even in this Volvo it’s good to keep clean the area under the windshield scuttle panel. The plastic scuttle panel is held in place by plastic clips + you have to remove the windshield wiper arms as well. You can check out how to remove the plastic scuttle panel in this video from 4:50. In this case the water can leak into the interior because of the damaged seal under the black plastic part which is attached to the interior air intake (as you can see on the picture below).
The water will leak directly to the blower motor and while the blower motor is rotating it will slowly let the water inside, very nice performance. The owners who got leaks because of this damaged seal just put some silicone sealant under this plastic part-instead of the factory seal basically, and this way they get rid of this leak.
“In some cases the water can leak in even thru the worn door speaker seal, since there is a seal behind each of the lower door speakers. + Occasionally the AC drains under the dashboard can be also clogged so keep that in mind.”
Except the amplifier the water can also damage a so called CEM-central electronic module which is located on the driver’s side above the pedals, and it’s of course hidden behind the plastic interior trim. The water can leak in this CEM and damage it-which will result in various electronic gremlins but just in cars made from 2005 to 2006, since these cars have a badly designed CEM box which is more prone to water ingress. The new CEM at the dealer can cost around $1 400, but luckily it can be repaired for a much better price.
This Volvo was available with the:
–standard shock absorbers
-the optional electronically adjustable shock absorbers /4C system/
“replacing the 4C electronic shock absorbers at the dealer can cost up to $4 000″
-and the V70 versions can be equipped with the also optional self-leveling suspension on the rear axle /NIVOMAT shocks/
The regular shock absorbers can withstand more than 100 000 mi without any issues, on the other side the electronic shocks can be worn earlier and they are obviously more expensive to replace. Lastly, if you are buying the estate version with the self-leveling shocks on the rear axle, then be prepared that they are also more expensive than the regular shocks, although there are cheaper conversion kits available so you can put regular shocks instead of them.
These self-leveling shocks are actually interesting. This system is not a regular air suspension system or a electronically controlled hydraulic system – like in the Mercedes S class with the ABC suspension for example. These Nivomat shocks are using kinetic energy to maintain the height, which means that after you loaded the car, the rear of the car will still sag but just until you start driving. Since after you started driving these shocks will pump themselves up to the normal ride height. However if these shocks are leaking or if the car seems to sag all the time then your Nivomat shocks are worn out.
Then you should be prepared that the other suspension components can be worn at around 100 000 mi but sometimes even earlier at 80 000 mi. Specifically the front control arm bushings, ball joints, sway bar links or the very common strut mount rubber bushings (spring seat in other words-by the way you can buy stronger aftermarket spring seats for around $35). So definitely check for all those clunking, knocking and creaking noises and check all the bushings visually before buying.
Also keep in mind that the best is to buy only genuine parts or high quality aftermarket parts for the suspension since it’s not uncommon for the cheaper parts to fail very early after 1 year or even after half a year.
All the petrol engines are overall very reliable and even the turbocharged versions, so the turbochargers can last way over 124 000 mi / 200 000 km unless the previous owner abused or not maintained properly the car. However there are a couple of things which are worth mentioning:
First of all there are numerous cases of more or less clogged PCV system + PCV hoses on all of the petrol engines sometimes even after 70 000 mi. This will cause oil leaks from various parts of the engine, check engine light, uneven idle, loss of power and eventually oil consumption as well and low oil pressure in the worst case.
The PCV box with the hoses is buried under the intake manifold so it’s not really a quick or an easy job, but you can find guides or videos how to do it. It’s good to preventively replace this box with the hoses every 90 000 or 100 000 mi. But before buying you can check if the PCV system is clogged by removing the oil filler cap while the engine is running at idle and if you feel suction from the the oil filler hole then the PCV is ok, but if it blows out then you have a clogged PCV system – you can use some plastic bag or a rubber glove and put it on the oil filler hole.
how to replace the PCV system parts video
Then the upper engine mount and the lower engine mounts can be worn causing a thumping/clunking noises or excessive vibration from the engine. – there are 4 engine mounts + 1 transmission mount
how to replace the engine mounts video
Lastly the throttle body gets dirty over time so after buying it’s good to check and eventually clean it. Of course on older very high mileage cars it can also fail but that’s not a big surprise. Symptoms of failing or dirty throttle body: power cutting out at higher RPMs, hesitation, limp mode, rough idle, check engine light. If it fails completely then you don’t need to buy a new part since you can find refurbished throttle body for sale as well.
“Cleaning the MAF sensor is also a good idea.”
+the owners complained that the coolant thermostat can fail, but this is not the only thermostat since there is also a special thermostat in the air filter housing which can fail too. This air filter housing thermostat can let either cold or hot air in the engine(depends on the outside temperature) and if it fails then it will let only warm air in, which will result in bigger fuel consumption and a warmer engine.
air filter housing thermostat visual explanation video
The diesel engines don’t have any unexpected issues except one. But first the usual stuff:
-the injectors can fail (issues with starting the car/long cranking)
-the EGR can clog
-and the intercooler can leak: in this case you will experience loss of power, black smoke during acceleration or oil under the radiator + a hissing sound from the engine (how to replace the intercooler video)
Then you should check the oil level more often on the facelifted cars which are equipped with DPF, because due to the improper DPF regeneration the fuel will slowly mix with the oil-mainly if the car is not used regularly on long distances. Because during the DPF regeneration the injectors inject bigger amount of fuel into the combustion chamber to increase the exhaust gas temperature.
And lastly there is a rather unusual issue which is related to a small rubber core plug which is located behind the flywheel. In cars made to 2004 this plug can just get loose and turn or completely pop out. In this case you get either a smaller but usually a bigger oil leak from the area where the engine is connected to the gearbox. This can happen any time after 100 000 mi but usually just in higher mileage cars which have more than 150 000 mi. Volvo updated this plug to a metallic one in the facelifted cars so just the before facelift cars can have this issue. The plug itself is obviously cheap but to replace it you have to remove the gearbox and that’s why it’s the best to replace it preventively while you are replacing the clutch and the dual mass flywheel.
+keep in mind that the swirl flap actuator arm can break on the later engines and they can be also clogged with carbon (how to repair the swirl flap arm video)
+of course the engine mounts can be worn out as in the cars with petrol engines, but that should be obvious
All the engines are equipped with a timing belt, so make sure that the previous owner replaced it in time, and it’s of course good to check the belt at least visually before buying anyway. You should replace the belt with the pulley and the tensioner every 100 000 mi or 10 years. At the end the timing belt replacement kit is not expensive and there are numerous guides how to replace it, so I would not recommend stretching this interval much further even if the original interval can be longer-check your manual for the correct interval. On the other side, the genuine water pump can withstand a lot so you don’t need to necessary change it while you are changing the belt, however after 200 000 mi it’s good to consider replacing it.
If the previous owner replaced the timing belt then check if good quality parts were used, because if not then you should replace the belt with the pulleys again. Also if the previous owner replaced the water pump with not the genuine one then you should replace it as soon as possible with the genuine one because the aftermarket water pumps won’t last a long time – they can fail just after 1 or 2 years. The manufacturer of the genuine water pump is the Japanese Aisin.
This Volvo was available with:
-5 and 6 speed manual transmissions
-5 and 6 speed automatic transmissions
The manual gearboxes are as usual reliable, just pay attention to the clutch and the dual mass flywheel which can be worn in high mileage cars. + there are cases of leaking clutch slave cylinder after approx. 80 000 mi, symptoms: leaking brake fluid, clutch slipping, judder, and in the worst case it will leave you stranded. To repair this you have to remove the whole gearbox – $500-1 000 to repair it at an independent mechanic.
“Dual mass flywheels are fitted only in cars with turbocharged engines”
The automatic transmissions are made by the Japanese Aisin so they should be reliable, right?
Well, with regular oil changes they can easily last more than 186 000 mi / 300 000 km mainly in the facelifted models which have more reliable automatic transmissions than the before facelift cars. However since Volvo claims that the gearbox oil is lifetime then most of the owners never changed the transmission fluid, which means that the various issues with the automatic transmissions are not uncommon at all. In other words the old dirty gearbox oil will cause the well-known issue with sticking solenoids, but don’t worry because over time the mechanical parts of the gearbox will get inevitably damaged as well. All of this will result in problems like shuddering, jerking, hard shifts, hesitation, slipping or the gearbox wont shift past some gear. All in all definitely check the gearbox properly before buying and avoid cars with more than 74 000 mi / 120 000 km if the previous owner never changed the transmission fluid. And I would also avoid cars which were used for towing.
Without regular oil changes the automatic transmission usually won’t last more than 124 000 mi / 200 000 km without some issues.
Then there is the all wheel drive system which uses the well known haldex clutch to connect the rear wheels when the front wheels are slipping. But this system is in a lot of cases not working at all, so if the car is equipped with it then check it properly before buying.
There are basically 3 possible causes of not working 4WD:
-first of all the haldex electronic module-DEM can fail because of water ingress which will result in corrosion and failed module obviously
-then the haldex pump can also fail usually because the previous owner never changed the oil in it. Yes, surprise surprise! You have to change the oil in it at least every 60 000 km. The haldex unit is bolted to the rear differential and the low oil level in it can cause not working AWD too
The haldex unit has oil and the rear differential has also oil in it, and the transfer case next to the gearbox has oil in inside it as well, which means that you should replace the oil in all of these things regularly!
haldex unit – change the oil after 60 000 km
transfer case, rear differential – change the oil after 90 000 km
-and lastly, the transmission splined sleeve or the angle gear connection sleeve in other words can be worn out. But the good thing is, that you can check this before buying. Just lift the car and try to turn the propshaft with hand – if you can turn it then the sleeve is completely stripped and the AWD is obviously not working. To fix this you can buy a genuine Volvo sleeve service kit, but keep in mind that it’s not the easiest job since you have to remove the exhaust, prop shaft, front side driveshaft, transfer case and some other stuff.
All in all, the haldex system will never be that reliable or that good as the good old mechanical systems-like the torsen for example.
“If you really want the AWD system then I would buy only the cars with the updated AWD system made from 2006.”
Lastly check the power steering fluid level, because mainly on older cars used on winter salty roads the power steering pipes will rust causing the power steering fluid to leak. But also the power steering fluid reservoir can leak and sometimes the steering rack or the power steering pump can slightly leak as well again, on older cars. Also check the power steering fluid color-it has to be green, the red fluid can easily cause various issues.
To summarize things up: change all the fluids in time, buy only a car with a proper maintenance history, find a good independent specialist, check all the already mentioned things and keep at least 1 500 € for the possible repairs if you are buying a car with manual gearbox and if you are buying a car with the automatic transmission or with the AWD then keep twice as much money.
And if you have personal experience with this car or more information about it, then you can write it into comments!