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Volvo 400 Series Register reports

A selection of reports taken from back-issues of the Club's magazine, 'Volvo Driver'.

To keep up to date with these reports join the Club and receive the magazine. Joining will also allow access to the back-catalogue of magazines on this web site.

Volvo 440 Volvo 440 Volvo 440

Firstly I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas and New Year! I was lucky and received an extremely nice present (chosen and purchased by myself – more of that in the 400 series report!) There is an old saying that when something seems too good to be true it probably is. Yvonne decided to purchase a car cover for her S40. Looking online a couple of days ago it had been reduced to £9.99. With hindsight used Tesco carrier bags held together with Sellotape would have been more effective and stronger. It tore before it even made it on to the car! Thank you very much for all the response regarding the VVT gear, including the very long and detailed letter from Bob Chambers, and email from John Robinson. It seems that perhaps we need to get this done sooner rather than later, particularly as there are absolutely no plans at the moment to change the car. I will let you know how I get on. Apart from popping bulbs (always different ones) my own V40 continues to delight with its 50ish MPG, and with the insurance renewal from Chris Knot being under £300 with a high level of cover, (business for both of us, and goods in transit), not to mention £130 road fund tax! When I bought it some 18 months ago, I would also have accepted a S40 if available – lugging ride on go karts from store to store this Christmas made me appreciate the load lugging capability of the Volvo estate. I am sure someone will be able to correct me, and come up with other alternatives, but I seriously wonder if the V40 diesel is the most economical car for its actual size and age? A few days ago the boss’s (wife’s) S40 started to play up, and although the symptoms were major, and took the car off the road – the fix (only with hindsight as many more hours were spent trying to cure it) took less than 15 minutes – see article in the Technical section! Many who have read my ramblings before will know how reliable the V40 and S40 have been, but just to re-iterate, racking my brains, the nonservice repair costs of three ’40 series’ Volvos over nearly 16 years, over 300,000 miles has been less than £1500 which equates to less than £500 per vehicle per 100,000 miles! I look forward to seeing many of you at the various events throughout the year.

Both mine and the wife’s continue to perform without issue apart from mine needing a new set of brake pads and a service – it is amazing how quickly this came around having only had it done some 6 months ago. It is highly likely with increased mileage at work the next service will be even sooner still. When money is tight it is all too easy to miss out services, however from experience a regular oil change if nothing else is absolutely vital. Some 15 years ago there were 2 Astra diesels at work, one with 60,000 and one with 190,000 – everyone used to fight over taking out the 190,000 one which drove ‘so much better’ having been serviced on time, every time. The next area where saving money can be false economy is the cambelt. A broken cambelt is NOT good news and can easily write a car off. A very big thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding this matter, and hopefully there will be an article soon! A quick scan of the classifieds shows that you can get a very nice diesel which will return a genuine 50+mpg for not a lot of money. The Sport and Sport Lux trim levels are also very highly specified with a lot of creature comforts.

I am extremely pleased with my recently purchased 480, although I have not used it as much as I would like due to the typical British weather. Parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find although I am delighted that Skandix have new stocks of the rear lights available, and I am assured that further parts will follow. I will of course provide updates on this as and when/if they become available. With regard to parts I managed to find a replacement rear centre panel which goes between the rear lights from a business called Seymour Horwell who have a selection of 400 parts available – if you visit their website you can download a list of the bits available. The AGM, which is in two weeks’ time, (at time of writing) will be its first major journey since collecting it, although following some issues with my wife’s S40 it was used for over a week to do the daily commute. The plan at the moment is to bring it to the Southern and BKV. I have just purchased two small car dehumidifiers from Ebay hopefully to keep the inside dry – I will report back how well they work in the next issue. Hopefully by next winter I will have totally emptied my parents’ garage and have a nice dry place to store it. I have just spoken to a member who is planning to buy his 17 year old daughter a 480 as a first car – my immediate reaction was the insurance, but he has been quoted £1100 – Not bad!

The V40 plods along doing what it is good at – namely an economical reliable form of motoring with a large load space, and acceptable performance. The service last month was routine with the exception of a set of front brake pads – not bad considering the last ones had done over 40K! A niggle from when I got the car was the failed lights on the heater control. These have now finally been replaced – tip – replace all of them not just the one blown whilst you have got it apart! To add to the excitement the bulbs I think have to come from Volvo. Whilst taking the heater control out I also decided to have a look at the fan speed control – a few ‘blobs’ of solder and a few ‘squirts’ of contact cleaner later – problem solved. This seems to be a Volvo issue as it was a common problem on the 480 too! Finally, I decided to fit a Bluetooth receiver to enable me to be (quote daughter) ‘dragged in to the 21st century’ and using my ‘phone as a music source. By the time of my next report the MOT will have been and gone – hopefully it will be very uneventful.

The 480 had its first real outing of the year yesterday, namely to the Classic Car Show at Colne Valley Railway, the show was limited to pre 1985 cars but the 480 was accepted due to the lack of them that are around now! It was however not the only Volvo there, but was accompanied by a very original and well preserved 264GLE. However, driving back in glorious sunshine suddenly gave me the impetus to get on with the jobs on the cars I have been meaning to do for ages, not only on the 480, but the V40 as well. Electrics have been one part of cars I don’t tend to mind working on, however it is a long time since I have done so, and I suddenly became very conscious that I am not young any more, and the back is not as supple and flexible when it comes to lying in footwells. So first job was to replace the radio – a search on Ebay some time ago found some cheap radio removal tools which made getting the old one out easy. Then the gods must have been shining on me, as on its removal I found standard radio connections, apart from the aerial, and a quick trip to a certain electronics store soon sorted that issue. In it went, powered up, and it worked first time. (The concern was that having sat in the garage for nearly two years since the demise of my blue V40 it might have seized up!) The next pleasant surprise was that my car DID have rear speakers fitted – they were in the side panels as opposed to by the rear seats. A suitable demo with Swedish music from the 70s sounded very impressive – well to me anyway! On a roll now, and the next thing was the rear lights centre panel, having sourced a brand new one a few weeks earlier. Two nuts holding the old one in place were removed and new one fitted! Excellent. It is amazing what a difference having the right tools for the job makes Finally the number plates – for some reason the front one did not like the snow and had become very tatty. So a quick word with my brother two number plates were sourced with the specific instructions they were NOT to have the Jaguar emblem on them. So all in all a good result. Finally, on looking in the boot the four plastic screws holding the trim in place were missing from the back panel. Assuming they were no longer available from Volvo, I found that the carpet mat screws from the V40 which I scrapped were a perfect fit. Sadly I suspect with spares the way they are improvisation is going to be a very common word. Well done FORD for your disastrous policies on spares when you owned Volvo. Finally my thanks to Peter Poole for his letter on his 480 Celebration and his experience on parts – much appreciated.

The V40 and my wife’s S40 plod along without any nonservice issues. The V40 is really racking up the miles at the moment due to a change in work which has seen numerous long journeys recently. A couple of weeks after writing this I will have owned the car for two years and added some 50,000 miles to the clock. It passed its MOT with no issues other than a couple of tyres and a report that it will need new rear brake pads soon. The only other non-service issues have been a pair of rear calipers, and a wheel bearing, both of which were faulty when I bought the car. So it would be fair to say that had it been ‘perfect’ when bought it would indeed have given 50,000 miles trouble free motoring. Not bad for a 10 year old car with over 150,000 on the clock! So if you are looking for some cheap motoring then a V/S40 diesel could well be the answer. My right foot is not the lightest in the world, but I still manage to return over 50 mpg on a run and 47-48mpg around town. In addition although not as big as the V70, the space and load carrying capacity of the V40 is still considerable. There are many bargains to be had out there and the last of the original V/S40s were very highly specified with all the toys on them. The new V40 has been very well received from the comments and articles I have received – sadly a bit out of my price range at the moment!

My daughter is 13, and as everyone who has a teenager knows they are exceptionally skilled at nagging and ‘pester power’ – I am not sure who teaches it to them, but somehow suspect it is a natural instinct they are born with. However there is one area where this is appreciated and I have instructed Lucy to nag me to make sure I use the 480 on a regular basis… Regular use on the 480 is vital if it is going to be maintained in a roadworthy condition. They like being used, and if they aren’t things start to go wrong, and when many things go wrong you can end up in the position I was with my grey one, when it ended up at the scrapyard. Spares are becoming a real issue, and I suspect that is what will cause them to come off the road. Despite being assured by VCUK that a genuine demand for spares would be looked at by Volvo’s classic parts supplier, my research and contacts with them would seem to prove otherwise. This would perhaps explain why many enthusiasts have donor cars. However on a positive note, I have now taken mine out several times this year, and still get a real buzz out of driving it. Long may it continue.

With the ‘new job’ (which finishes in 2 weeks six days, 4 hours 34 minutes) I have certainly been racking up the mileage at some 3,000+ per month, and with this of course comes increased running costs. However, and this is credit to the reliable and well-built virtues of the 40 series, (even if they lack character like the 480, and other models) the costs have been what I can only describe as routine servicing. There is always the question of when to change the cambelt and according to Volvo’s schedules it was some 6,000 miles until it was due and so the gamble was do I leave it or do it slightly early? I decided to play it safe and get it done early – better safe than sorry, and I don’t fancy the aggro and cost of a broken belt. I thought I had ‘got lucky’ at the National and purchased a complete genuine timing belt kit for the V/S40 diesel, however it turned out it only fits the 1999 and 2000 models, and so I had to purchase the correct one at well over £100 even with a substantial Club discount. So if anyone needs a genuine kit then please contact me. So a cambelt fitted, full service, all filters, and new brake pads front and rear, hopefully it will be good for a few thousand more miles.

It is now coming up to a year since I bought my 480, and I have still got it saved as a search on Ebay to see everything which comes on the market. There are still some excellent examples available, as with all the 400 series, and sadly some which will be destined to go for scrap. There was the issue with my speedo, and a very long shot was based on previous knowledge that the 480 does indeed like a good battery. So I fitted the one which had seen very little use on the old grey 480 and nothing changed, however after it had run down after only two weeks I came to the conclusion that it probably was not as good as it once was. So whilst buying a friend some wiper blades in Halfords I bit the bullet and bought a new top of the range battery, fitted it, drove off the drive, and hey presto the speedo returned. Just got to sort out the info centre now! I am currently speaking to the Dutch 480 register who are planning a trip here next June at the same time as our National. All being well they will put on an impressive display

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