So far my tales of woe and bad luck with cars is pretty dire. I was hoping my next substantial purchase was a little better, I took the plunge and bought a big safe performance car. It was a 2002 Volvo S60 R, now this wasn’t your average big caravan puller, this was the special R edition which came with 300BHP of stupid, forced through a rather crazy tip-tronic gearbox and to the road through a rather sophisticated 4 wheel drive system. I knew it wasn’t perfect when I bought it, there was a slight ding in the front and a headlight glass was cracked. There was also a the issue of rather high mileage (148000), yes I should have known but Volvo’s are reputed to go forever?
So to get this car I had to travel to Bolton from Telford, I spoke at length to the seller on the phone who assured me that the car was mechanically sound. He listed its slight faults and was very believable and honest on the phone. As we were planning on buying a car we left ours at home and decided to take the kids for a train ride up to Bolton and make a day of it. He offered to pick us up from the station and even asked if we wanted to go for a drink/meal when we arrived, so far everything was going well. He took us back to his incredible house, it was like a mansion, huge driveway, personal roundabout and acres of immaculate garden and an all glass extension the same size as sports hall.
He was in his thirties and apparently his dad was in demolition and appeared very successful. I went round the outside of the car, checking the body work and as he explained on the phone I found its slight dent at the fron and one or two imperfections. I got inside the car and it was pretty clean, albeit a little oily smelling, it reminded me of a garage smell? I pressed on and found everything worked inside and popped the bonnet. There was a little flap open under the steering wheel which I thought was the bonnet release and embarrassingly I was pushing and pulling on it not realising it was the ECU connection point which had been left open!Underneath was the huge 2.5 straight 5 engine with a HUGE turbo charger bolted on top of it. It looked honest and and fairly well looked after, there was no obvious faults and all was looking ok. I sent Jo to the back of the car and fired it up from cold. No blue smoke, no delay in starting and god it sounded angry (in a good way).
I then took it out for a test drive, I was driving in a car that weighed the same as a church and Jesus it shifted, 0 to 60 was delivered in a little over 6.5 seconds and it kept on accelerating. I was directed to a country road which stretched on for about 5 miles and asked if I could give it the beans, the answer was yes. 60-100-120-140mph came and went in no time at all, I guessed I would run out of talent before the car ran out of pace, it was relentless. It drove like a small car, cornered like a train and accelerated like my old Lotus Carlton. We arrived back at his house and I went back under the bonnet, I noticed that the strut brace holding the top engine mounting was cracked but nothing else seemed wrong.
I offered him half the money he was selling it for and kept my fingers crossed, he laughed and said he couldn’t go that low. In the end I managed to get about a quarter of the price off telling him that I would take it on a sold as seen basis (BIG MISTAKE). We went into his house and that was when he told me he was a trader and I then felt a little uneasy but ignored my head and went with my heart and exchanged money for keys.
So I loaded the family into the car and set off in air conditioned leather luxury, we hit the motorway and I set cruise control and sat back. After a while I took control of the car and needed to overtake one of those people who hate being overtaken. You know the sorts, they sit in the middle lane at 73mph and when you goto the outside to overtake they speed up, you eventually overtake at 90mph and when you tuck back in and slow down to 75-80mph they overtake you again and slow down to 65-72mph. Anyway, I needed to get past this car so floored it. The kickdown took us down to 3rd (at 75mph), 300 angry horses started shouting and off we went, I pulled back into the left hand lane at an indicated 110mph and felt a slight vibration. I slowed down and the vibration got worse, it felt like something was seriously wrong. I pulled into the next service station and checked around the car, all seemed ok and got back on the road. I figured the problem was related to the engine mount rubber bush being cracked and when we checked on the internet it seemed that it was a common problem under deceleration with rubber bushes. The fix was to buy a poly bush kit for around £50, as I had already seen that problem and knew it was going to cost we continued home.
When we got to Stafford we decided to hit Tescos and get some Bread/Milk etc, when I got back to the car and started it, the engine management light went to amber and stayed on. I pulled over and did a few stop start cycles but it stayed lit, I couldn’t read the fault as the display was faulty (a fault I had been told about). I then got back on the road and started to drive home with the car in limp mode (can’t go over 40mph or 3000rpm). After about 2 miles the light went out and the car woke up, I figured that it was probably transmission fluid temperature, it was 29C outside and we had just travelled a while, quick fix top the trans fluid up).
After a few weeks of the car driving like a dream I noticed the gearbox was getting a little jerky, so decided to top the fluid up in the transmission. After reading that it you should not top it up, rather just service the transmission I checked the internet for possible faults. Something caught my eye about someone getting ripped off with the same car and he said that the dash warning display had the bulb removed so he couldn’t read the warnings. He managed to read it by shining a torch to the side and the display was readable, I tried this and saw the errors for the first time.
“Transmission Fault & Engine Management Fault” was the cars’ diagnosis so I decided to call a mechanic who came out to read the ECU. He told me that the fault with the engine was a fuel issue and the transmission was overheating. I didn’t realise there was a fuel fault so I read some more internet sites and found that these cars suffer from corrosion around the fuel filler fuel lines. Right enough there was serious corrosion and signs of a bodge repair. My mechanic had reset the ECU and it was a few hours later the car put its warning lights back on. I then did some more checking on the transmission fault and discovered that there was a transmission fluid leak. This could have caused the gearbox to overheat so I put some cardboard on my drive to catch the oil and have a look at it. The fluid looked brand new, not a spec of metal or burnt gearbox, not bad for a 10 year old gearbox? After some more tests I discovered that the transmission solenoid was not functioning, so I had a look and found that the solenoid was buried inside the transmission and it wasn’t a driveway job and I called a gearbox specialist.
After a long conversation I found out quite a bit, firstly this is a very common problem with Volvo’s fitted with the geartronic box and to fix it I was looking at £1500 +VAT. I was also told that if a dodgy dealer is selling one of these they normally replace the transmission fluid and reset the ECU, apparently this can give you a couple of days driving without showing any signs of damage. So I sat back and thought about the purchase and realised I had been stitched up like a kipper!
- ECU connection point open
- Brand new fluid in gearbox
- Dropping the price by so much
- Eagerness to sell as seen
- Reluctant to give a VAT invoice
- Brand New MOT with no advisories even though there were problems that would fail
Now who is this geezer? At the moment I am unable to give full details but in a couple of days the sofakingcool full disclosure act will reveal all!