Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A - Volvo Forums - Volvo Enthusiasts Forum

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.

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Old 12-09-2006, 06:42 PM
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Default Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

For starters, a few days ago the girl's '90 740 took a Chevy 1/2 ton to the passenger's side rear quarter panel while backing out of the driveway. All of the trunk is now over on the driver's side half. The impact was so violent that the driver's side of the roof is rippled all the way to the windshield. The truck was estimated at about 50 mph on a very small residential street. The truck left no skid marks...he hit her on the fly. She's a little stiff and sore, but she walked away clean. She is most definitely getting another Volvo.

We're looking for a '95-'97 850. I would much prefer she have a FWD car as 1) she's a girl and 2) she drives quite a distance for work. I'll just feel more comfortable with her driving FWD in bad weather. Maybe I'm silly, but...oh well.

This forum has yielded valuable information and answered the vast majority of my questions. I'm not a Volvo guy, so there were a few. One still stands out, though. Actually, it's not mine, directly. She's got a brother and uncle that supposedly "work on Volvos all the time" (the condition of her car when I met her makes me question either the validity of that or their ability). She's saying they're telling her NOT to get a turbo car because that significantly decreases engine life. Now...again...I'm not a Volvo guy...but I'm fairly familiar with the theories and dynamics of FI and I've got a blown Miata in the garage. I contend that they are incorrect in their statement, provided the car is properly maintained. Knowing Volvo's reputation, I would not expect them to put a turbo on an engine without the proper internals. They're just not going to risk something that will significantly impact engine life. Theoretically, proper boost levels and proper internals should not impact engine life, again assuming proper maintenance.

So...my question is...is there any evidence that an FI 850's engine will fail significantly earlier than an NA 850, provided both are maintained properly?

Personally...I'd rather stick with NA because I don't really trust her right foot, but I don't want to artificially limit our options with no cause. There aren't a lot of these things in Northwest Arkansas, but there seems to be a collection in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We'll, most likely, be trekking that direction early next week if anyone has any suggestions of mechanics that might help look a car over.

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Old 12-09-2006, 06:55 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

I think they are full of ****.

If properly maintained both cars will last a long time.

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Old 12-09-2006, 07:46 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

They should both last about the same.

Proper maintenance is more important with the turbo, but as long as it's being maintained it will be fine.
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Old 12-09-2006, 09:31 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

Hello Mr. imbeej,

Greetings from Chicagoland.

I agree with the first two gentlemen. I'll just add some of my prejudice here:

A turbocharger does put additional stress on the engine by forcing more air to enter the engine than NA engines. A turbocharger also produces a bit more heat (not so much that it affects engine life), and oil management is the most important protection. The stress level depends on the given RPM, and at lower RPM's the stress would be negligible. If the engine has been abused (run at above 5,000 RPM frequently & unnecessarily), then you can see engine wear by looking for oil leaks. Well, you probably knew these things without my writing. However, it helps a bit to idle the engine for a few minutes before driving away & before shutting down. This is done to provide sufficient oil for the turbine bearing, as well as cooling it down after high-speed/hard driving especially in hot climate.

If you decide to go with a turboed Volvo, a maintenance log is a must. If the car is missing maintenance record, forget it. This also applies to NA engines. Again, looking for oil leaks and test driving the car would pretty much reveal the car's condition. My 850 is a 1994 Turbo T5 model with 144,000 miles on it, but the engine & tranny still operate smoothly & quietly.

A small oil leak under the turbocharger is normal, even the dealer technician told me that there is not much you can do about it and as long as the oil level is properly maintained, it doesn't affect anything.

As for your girl's right foot, it probably doesn't matter if it's turbo or NA model (either way I assume she has a heavy foot). One advantage for turbo is that when you merge into a freeway, a turboed 850 gives more than enough punch to beat the 65mph traffic and safely merge into it. The biggest downside of turbo is fuel consumption. Whether your girl goes for turbo or NA, FWD is definitely a safer choice in slippery roads. Also, good tyres are a must.

There are some parts on 850's that require replacement, such as suspension components, oil cooler lines, brakes, alternator, etc... and don't be surprised to spend as much as $3,000 for parts alone, just to make the car as good as it should be. This is pretty much the same for any older cars, though. However, as you know Volvo uses heavy gage, high-quality steel (unlike many Japanese cars except maybe Lexus), and this puts enormous stress on the front end. I recently rebuilt the front end of my 850, the only items that I didn't replace were the sway bar (stabilizer) and control arm bush. But these parts should last 80,000 miles or more.

As with many other cars, oil change is of extreme importance on Volvo's. Since my 850 is turboed, I change oil & filter (I only use Mann filter, which is OEM filter for Volvo) at every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. This may sound overkill for some, but with Chicago's harsh winter & hot summer, I feel comfortable to have clean oil in the engine. Additionally, I use Valvoline synthetic blend 10W-30.

Another downside of Volvo is poorly designed electrical/electronic systems. You'll see blinking lights, dash lights, etc... As long as you don't have drivability problem, many of these warnings are not serious.

Last advice: Do not save money on cheap parts, you definitely get what you pay for in Volvo maintenance. Always buy OEM or of higher quality parts. They may be 30% or more expensive than generic parts, but they are well worth the money. I often buy parts from FCP Groton.com

PS: As for ABS, 1995 or earlier models have defective control modules and many places don't repair them, they only deal with 1996 or later models.

I wish you find a nice Volvo for your girl.

Happy Holidays,

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Old 12-09-2006, 11:06 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

If maintained you could easily get 300,000 miles or more out of a turbo engine.
Maybe only having to replace the Turbo itself.

I have many come in with over 200,000 miles on then N/A and Turbo.
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Old 12-10-2006, 03:33 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

Agree with all of the above. Proper maintenance (as with any piece of machinery) is the key to longevity.

FYI, my sons 95 850 Turbo has 174K on it, and it runs fine We got it with 170K on it and the previous owner did some preventative maintenance but mostly fixed stuff only when it needed it.

Needless to say that after buying it, I put about another $1000 in it for repairs and freshening up.

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Old 12-10-2006, 08:58 PM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

Turbo obviously will be "less relaible" because there are more moving parts.

That said, it's all about maintenance. A well maintained Turbo will outlast a horribly maintained NA anyday of the week.
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Old 12-11-2006, 03:15 AM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

Basic psychology dictates people prefer turbos because of its perceived superior performance.

To get this performance edge the vehicle has to be driven harder, and hard driving is more expensive on all components.

A turbo, driven relatively sedately, is no more expensive to run than the N/A version.

I don't thrash my T5 and get about 30 mpg.

Of course, if a person is an inherent thrasher, then any car they drive will be expensive to maintain.
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Old 12-12-2006, 12:10 AM
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Default RE: Engine Life; Turbo vs N/A

Differences between turbo and N/A engine

-Engine compression is 8.5:1 versus 10.5:1
-Oil squirters are added to spray oil on bottom of pistons for cooling
-Boost compensation fuel pressure regulator adds 1 psi of fuel for corresponding 1 psi increase in boost. (may or may not be true for Volvo 850) -- thus maintaining same amount of fuel spray from injector.
-ECU retards ignition timing per each 1 psi increase in boost

Maintenance Concerns
- Change Oil at more frequent intervals. 2,500 miles for conventional mineral oil, 5,000 miles for synth.
- Never use 5W30 or 10W40 conventional mineral oil. Use Castrol GTX or Valvoline 10W30.
- Most folks here prefer Mobil-1 synth. I am running AMSOIL ATM 10W30 in my Volvo. I put over 200K miles on my turbo Mitsubishi with Castrol GTX and Valvoline 10W30 -- original turbo.
- Use Wahler 87C/190F thermostat that is mentioned in Owners Manual. Volvo Dealerships no longer sell 87C/190F - superseceded with hotter 90C/195F. I use Stant SuperStat 82C/180F in my turbo Mitsubishi.

Driving Concerns
- Accelerate slowly for first 3 miles at start of each trip.
- Accelerate slowly for last mile at end of each trip.
- Listen to radio for 20-30 seconds before turning off engine at end of each trip.
- Alow engine to idle at 1,000 rpms for at least 1 minute after long trips or hard acceleration before turning off engine.

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