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Buyer's guide - Looking to buy a Volvo 850 or S70? Look at this thread.

Volvo 850 Made from 1993 to 1997, this Volvo line was available in both a wagon and a sedan, both with were graced with several trim levels.

Buyer's guide - Looking to buy a Volvo 850 or S70? Look at this thread.

Old 09-08-2007, 07:57 PM
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Default Buyer's guide - Looking to buy a Volvo 850 or S70? Look at this thread.

This post is "taken" from a Volvo forum from the UK. I found it interesting so I am posting it here.

================================================== ================

here is a full buyers guide for t5 models....
Volvo 850 and 70 series T5, T5R, 850R and R (Up until 2002) Buyers Guide
This guide is intended for use as a base reference source only, you should
conduct usual car checks/inspections for general roadworthiness and perform a
HPI to confirm legibility.

850 and 70 series overview
A little bit about how the 854/855 came to be, and later on the updated v/s/c70

Models & Technical Specifications
850 T5 (1993 – 1996)
850 T5-R estate and saloon (circa 1995 - 1996)
850 R estate and saloon (circa 1996 - 1997), only model to feature an LSD
S/V70 T5 (1996 - 2001)
C70 T5 (1997 - 2002)
S70R - FWD only (1997 – 2001)
V70R - which came in FWD and AWD versions (1997 – 2001)

Model, Engine code, Turbo, BHP
850 T5 1994-1995 - B5234T 225hp/B5234T5 240hp - 15G - conic outlet from turbine
850 T5 1996 - B5234T 225hp/B5234T5 240hp - 15G straight outlet from turbine
850R man - B5234T4 - 16T straight outlet from turbine - 250hp
S/V/C70 T5 1997-1998 - B5234T3 - 16T straight outlet from turbine - 240hp
S/V/C70 T5 1999-2000 - B5234T3 - 16T angled outlet from turbine - 240hp
S/V70R man FWD/AWD 1997-1998 - B5234T4 - 18T straight outlet from turbine –
V70R auto AWD 1999 - B5234RT - 18T angled outlet form turbine - 250hp
V70R auto AWD 2000 - B5244RT - 19T angled outlet form turbine - 265hp

Suspension design remained the same on all models except for the rear struts. As
Volvos are renowned as being load luggers, Volvo introduced a ‘Self Leveling’
(Nivomats) system for the rear suspension, which aids in carrying heavy loads
and/or towing. They are most commonly found on estates, but not all estates have
them, they have also been found on saloons, but very rarely. The ‘R’s are lower
than a stock T5 by about 30mm.

There are two disc sizes available for the 850/70 series cars. Up until 1998,
all front discs were 280mm, later models used a 302mm disc, members generally
upgrade to the 302mm disc as it offers better braking performance. The change
from the 280mm you will need larger carriers and longer brake hoses (might as
well go braided), and of course the larger disc. Caliper and pads remain the
same. Of course there are upgraded discs and pads available.

850 T5 - Columba
850 T5-R - Titan
850 R - Volan
C70 T5 - Canisto OR BBS Split Rim OR Comet
S/V70 T5 - Perfo
S/V70R - Comet

850R & T5-R Specs
Rs should have lower suspension, the R lip front splitter, 17inch rims and the
trade mark 1/2 leather 1/2 suede interior. 850Rs (1996-97) have the suede on the
inserts and leather on the bolsters of the seat. There should be electric memory
seats on both driver and front passenger. 850 T5-Rs (1995-96) have it the other
way around - leather inserts and suede bolsters. They should all have climate
control and CD multichangers. There are a few that dont but generally they all
have very high specs.

70 series ‘R’ Specs
The ‘R’ spec is all about the trim, the toys and the styling tweaks (e.g alloys,
internal trim, front splitter). Just as a starting point make sure the car has R
wheels (comets = 5 spoke) an R front bumper which is basically a lip on the
bottom of the bumper. The R seats have a slightly patterned alcantara in the
middle and leather on the sides. The dash has aluminium inserts plus the dials
are blue. It should have both front electric seats along with heated front &
rear seats.

Buyers Guide


This guide shows the key points that you should be aware of when looking over a
T5/R, if any of these points fail in your inspection/test drive, they are a very
good bargaining point, but bare in mind that they could prove to be very
expensive to fix later on in your ownership.

A high mileage Volvo is nothing to worry about, these engines if looked after
and are well maintained can go on for 200k+ miles without any major problems.
The service book should be stamped and up to date and performed every 10k miles
by either a reputable Volvo Specialist or Volvo Dealers. However, do not be put
off with cars that have been personally looked after by their owners, these cars
are often looked after at a higher standard than with the Dealer networks, they
will have folders full of receipts and spreadsheets of the parts that have been

Dash warning lights
Check that all the warning lights that should be on when the ignition is first turned on work. It is not unknown for unscrupulous persons to remove the bulb from warning lights such as the Lambda light to mask an expensive fault. Compare with the user manual - it will tell you what to look for.
Check for ABS/TRACS light coming on when driving. Probably dry joints in the ABS ECU,which can be repaired via a forum member.

Aircon/Climate Control
Ensure that the air conditioning is functioning as it should. If it isn't it could just be it needs re-gassing but there are other more expensive reasons why it may not get as cold as it should. Check the aircon compressor cuts in and stays in. If it short cycles gas is low. Could be a condenser (approx £100) as they are prone to holing. If it is the evaporator it is a full dash out which will cost approx £500.

Heated Seats
There was a recall on the heated seats effecting 1996 models. If appropriate, ask if the Heated Seats recall has been actioned, this is FOC action by Volvo dealer so it should have been. If the owner plays dumb it might be a bargaining point. Remember it won't cost you anything to get it done if it hasn't been actioned.

Checking the oil
When checking the oil via the dipstick, do not be alarmed if you see creamy gunk at the end of it, it is a trait of most T5 engines to have some condensation inside, this can be easily confused with a head gasket failure, they can look very similar. If the car has been used frequently for short journeys then no doubt you will see creamy gunk when you check the oil dipstick. Check the oil
filler cap for signs of ‘baileys’, if you see it here then suspect either a head gasket failure or a split in the radiator/oil cooler. Make sure the oil level is correct.

PCV System
When the PCV system becomes blocked it leads to an increase in crankcase pressure, this can be seen when the engine is running, take the dipstick out, if you see smoke puffing out then this system will need to be replaced, if it isn’t it will eventually lead to a rear main oil seal failure.

RMS, Clutch & Oil Leaks
Rear main oil seal is a weakness due to the PCV system, to check if this seal is leaking get underneath the engine bay and check for oil residues between the engine and gearbox. If it is leaking then unfortunately the gearbox has to come off which has a 6.25hr labour charge. This makes it an ideal time and makes financial sense to also replace the clutch, as the gearbox will only have to come off again later down the road.

If you find an oil leak further up the back of the engine then a common place for oil to leak from is the oil return line from turbo that goes into the back of the engine. Not a big worry and fairly inexpensive to fix, but always a bargaining point.

Cambelts are due every 70-80k miles or 6years, depending on year. Costs for a cambelt change are £100+. Check there aren’t any unusual noises coming from the cambelt side of the engine, also visually check the condition of the serpentine belt. If appropriate, make sure that a Cambelt change has been documented in

Last edited by rspi; 03-09-2013 at 09:23 AM. Reason: Extend title.
Old 09-10-2007, 03:36 AM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

It kind of sounds like they read our threads very carefully and put their own version together.

Old 11-10-2007, 07:10 PM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

This thread should be stickied...
Old 11-10-2007, 09:34 PM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

Old 11-11-2007, 10:19 AM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

A few things to add after looking at the 850 information from above. You can tell the model by looking at the 6th and 7th position of the VIN:

58 = T5R for 95 and 850 R for 96 & 97 - 240 HP
57 = Turbo for 94 & 95, T5 for 96 & 97 - 221 HP (list above state 225)
56 = GLT model that does have a Low Pressure Turbo for 97 model only (198 HP for 97)
55 = Base NA model- no Turbo 168 HP

In 98 if the 6th and 7th position of the VIN is 53 it's a High Pressure Turbo and 56 is the Low Pressure Turbo.

Old 12-19-2007, 08:17 AM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

Hello I am new to the volvo forums. I have a question and hope JPN(moderator) and anyone else willoffer me some advice. I am considering purchasing a 1996 850 R sedan with 72,000 miles, apparently in excellent condition. The price is $11,000 which seems high to me. I've done some research on auto sites which indicate the suggested dealer retail price is about $11,000. Butother sources have suggested $6,000.

What price range do you think is reasonable? Any thoughts about this model in particular. Is it really that much better than the straight Turbo version? Any other thoughts on issues having to do with reliability,etc...

Also, separate from this I am wondering what are the chances of finding the Limited edition 850 sedan in Yellow in excellent condition? I know there were very few produced, but where could I look to find one? Thanks very much.

Old 12-19-2007, 09:05 AM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

I don't care how good of shape a 96 is in I wouldn't pay $11K for it. Six sounds a whole lot more reasonable.
Old 12-19-2007, 09:21 AM
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Default RE: Buyer's guide

For $11,000 you can have my 95 Yellow T5R that is in excellent condition.

For a 96 850 R with 72K on it, I would go about $8,000 for one in absolutely pristine condition.

By the way you really should start a new thread instead of putting this type of question in this thread which is meant to provide general help to people looking to buy a Volvo.

Good luck!
Old 01-11-2011, 08:25 PM
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My 2 cents for what it's worth (only do the items below if you are serious about buying the car):

I suggest you hire a car inspector to check out the car before you buy it, especially if you are planning to pay more than CLEAN TRAD IN VALUE for it. This is a must if you plan to purchase a car that is across state lines (you have to go get). I use www.NADAGuides.com to check a cars value. If you are looking at a 850, it should still have a clean body and clean interior to be compared to the retail price. If a car has mods on it, I consider it a warning that the car may have been abused. If you hire an inspector, ask if they will do an engine compression test. Takes about 30 minutes but worth the time and $50 extra they may charge to do it. Use the results of the inspection to negotiate the price.

If you are going to look the car over yourself, take your time and let the owner talk as much as they want. Also, let them know that you do not want the car started before you get there to look at it. You want to start it STONE COLD.

*** Are for common problems.

It would be a good idea to have the following items with you.
A. Tire pressure gauge.
B. OBD-II code reader.
C. Flash light.
D. Gloves.
E. Ratchet wrench with a 12mm socket (for looking at the timing belt area).
F. Dental mirror (for checking brakes).

1. Walk around the car and make sure it looks like it will be able to be driven. Look under it for leaks, and check the tire pressure.
2. Open the hood and remove the timing belt cover. It has 1, 12mm bolt holding it on. Once it is off, look at the belt and see if it looks old or new. There may be a sticker on the belt cover, ecu cover, or somewhere in there to indicate the last belt replacement. I usually mark mine with the other items I replaced with the belt, i.e. tensioner, water pump, etc.. If the belt is cracked to looks bad, you may not want to drive the car. If it breaks, it will do major damage to the engine. While that cover is off, look at the water pump***. It is all the way towards the bottom to the rear. If you see coolant down there the water pump is likely leaking. When you put the cover back on, do NOT tighten the bolt back on to tight, you will damage the cover.
3. Make sure there is coolant in the expansion tank, check oil level, brake fluid reservoir, power steering pump reservoir, and all the hoses and vacuum lines look connected.
4. Use the dental mirror and look through the wheels at the brake pads to see if they are worn out.

4. The car should start with no gas peddle assistance. If the car is cold, you should hold it in the start position for at least 3 full seconds, do not just click it until you hear it turn over, it may not start that easy.
5. It is not uncommon for the valves click if the car hasn't been run for a while. The valves are self adjusting so the sound should go away within 5 minutes, by the time the engine warms up. Don't rev the motor over 3,000 RPM's with the valves clicking. You should NEVER rev a cold motor anyway.

6. Look around the engine bay for oil and coolant leaks. Also look under the car. There should not be 1 drop of oil, transmission fluid, or coolant under the car. If you see some, there is a leak. May be minor, may be major. It is hard to determine where a leak is coming from at a glance so if it's not leaking bad, don't be to alarmed.
7. Look around the radiator for leaks. Volvo radiators usually do NOT last longer than 15 years. If it has not been replaced, and you see some kind of leak, it may blow at anytime. The car I purchased was leaking and the radiator busted while it was idling.
8. Sometimes you will see a little oil on top of the motor near the oil filler cap if the PCV system is clogged. I would not advise checking the PCV through the oil dip stick until after the car warms up or after you take it for a spin.

9. If all seems well, take the car for a spin. Then you drive the car, get on a straight street and let pressure off the steering wheel and see if the car pulls to one side or the other. If it pulls either way, there is a problem, either with the suspension or tires.
10. From at least 35 mph, let a little pressure off the steering wheel and press on the brakes. If the car pulls either direction, you probably have a problem with the braking system. Possible bad caliper.
11. Get the car up to a faster speed, say around 50 mph, make sure no one is behind you, and make a fast stop. If you feel grinding you may need brake pads. No big deal, just good to know you need them now instead of later. Also, if the steering wheel shakes while braking it is likely that the rotors are bad.
12. Look in the dash to make sure you have no warning lights lit. If you see a cel or other warning light on, you may want to get it checked out before you strike a deal. ***
13. While driving, look at the engine temperature gauge. It should be right in the middle. If it is low, there may be a problem with the thermostat. If it is higher than the middle, there is another problem. Need to get it checked out.
14. Try to feel how the car is shifting when you start from a stop. Pay attention to make sure it doesn't feel like it's reving to high between shifts. If it is, the transmission may be slipping. Not good. If it shifts hard, the car likely has a bad motor mount or two. ***

15. Stop the car and look under it to see if anything is leaking under it. If the AC is on, you will likely see water leaking under the car just forward of the passenger seat area. No other fluid should be coming from under the car.
16. Pop the hood and pull the oil dip stick out (with the car still running). If you see smoke coming out of the dip stick tube, the PCV system is likely in need of replacement. ***
17. Look at the back of the car at the tail pipe. If the car is warm there shoud NOT be any smoke coming out of it. White smoke means it is burning coolant, gray or black smoke means it is burning oil. Either way it is NOT good.
18. Check all the lights, turn signals, high beams, flashers, brake lights, etc., make sure you do not have electrical problems.
19. Get back in the car and test the power seats, AC, heat, wipers, washers, windows, sunroof, glove box, radio, speakers, and anything else you can check while you are in there. Make sure the AC blows cold, even in the winter. If you do not hear the compressor kick on you may have a problem with the system (expensive fix).***
20. You can test the parking brake. The handle should not pull all the way up. If the cable breaks, the car will be stuck where it is.

21. Turn the car off and make sure the radio antenna goes all the way down. ***
22. Test the door locks. When the car is locked the alarm will arm itself. Also the fuel door will lock. You can roll a window down, lock the car, wait 1 minute, then open the door to make sure the alarm works.
23. Test the remote to lock and unlock the doors.

24. Ask about the service history and don't be afraid to ask about specifics like when the last time the brake pads were replaced, timing belt, engine mounts, battery, transmission service, oil change, how often oil is changed, etc.
25. Ask to see service records.
26. Ask who preforms the maintenance, who does repairs, etc.

After all that, you should see how fair the price is in comparison to what needs to be done to the car to get it in good shape. I usually use the cost of needed repairs/maintenance to get the price down. After all, if you plan to keep the car longer than 3 months you will need to fix everything that is broken or in need of service.

Have fun, buying a 15 year old car is RISKY!!!

Last edited by rspi; 03-09-2013 at 03:35 AM. Reason: addition
Old 03-07-2011, 12:31 PM
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Default 850 Reviews at Cars.com...


I was surfing, trying to help my sister pick out a car for her son and ran across some decent reviews on Cars.com. Most sites that I found with reviews really seemed like a place for people to vent about their problems. The reviews here seemed more balanced and actually had professional reviews from when the cars were released.

I would encourgage some of you guys to go a post a review of your own. It may help reduce some of the questions we get here ALL THE TIME. Also gives you the opportunity to voice your experience on your older cars.

Please let me know if you think we should start a separate thread for REVIEWS and let our users post their reviews for their cars, all different models. Then we can make it a sticky in the different model sites and people can gleen from them.
Old 03-09-2013, 03:28 AM
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If you don't mind watching a TV show on a self pre-purchase car inspection, watch this:

Old 08-02-2013, 09:29 PM
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I am headed out to look at and possible buy an 850 tomorrow. I watched all of this guy's videos and made my own used car checksheet specifically for the 850 from his suggestions. This is what I am going to use tomorrow. This is something that others can print and take with them during a test drive. I still recommend you watch the videos in full. Very good information, I would like to shake that guy's hand.

Before test drive:

Initial walkaround:

Look at tire tread life and same brand on fronts/backs
Check tire pressures
Use a dental mirror to check brake pad life
Check for cracked lenses (Headlight, taillight, etc)
Make sure exterior paint looks and feels smooth
Inspect wiper blades condition
Open and close each door to check functionality
Check fluids (oil, power steering, coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid)
Check for timing belt sticker (and make sure to get documented proof the belt has been serviced)
Take off cover and look at timing belt (12mm socket needed, 1 bolt needs removed)
With cover off, check water pump for leaks. It is located at the bottom of the engine near the rear.
Check for PCV hose stiffness
Check radiator for any cracks/leaks
Bounce car and look for top strut mount movement
Try and turn spring seat and see if it rotates (should not)
Check upper engine mount for cracks


Turn key to on position and check warning lights
Start car (preferably cold), make sure car starts up quick and easy without gas peddle assistance
Plug in OBDII reader and search for check engine codes
Adjust all mirrors
Roll every window up and down (including sunroof)
Check stereo and all speakers
Run the power seats to check for functionality
Test all lights inside and outside car (headlights, taillights, turn signals, dome light, etc.)
Make sure parking brake does not pull up all the way

While on test drive

Check for an idle around 850RPM
Check exhaust for black or white smoke when idling
Check under car for leaks
Drive on all different speed roads for at least 30 minutes
While driving 50 mph, slam on brakes and check for pulling or jiggle in wheel
Hit gas hard and look for puff of black smoke from tailpipe
Take hands of wheel and check for pulling in either direction
Run heat to make sure it works
Run air conditioning and leave on for a while
While AC is on, accelerate hard (AC compressor will shut off). Makes sure AC turns back on.
Make sure temperature gauge stays stable during test drive (should stay in middle)
Check for proper boost pressure in gauge

After test drive

Check for check engine codes
Turn car off and back on and check again for check engine codes
Start car back up and let idle
Check all lights including brake lights and reverse lights
Crank air conditioner and check compressor (beneath alternator)
Pull dipstick out 4 and look for white smoke
Rev engine a few times and look for grey smoke from tailpipe (indicator of bad valve stem seals)
Put car on ramps or jack stands and check for leak at rear main seal (between motor and transmission)
Look for torn CV boots
Check around for any kind of leak
After 5 minutes of being off, check all fluids again
Old 06-26-2014, 07:36 PM
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Old 11-02-2016, 08:30 PM
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what would be a reasonable selling amount/expectation for an 850 with 156K miles with a blown head gasket?
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