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Who said physics has no real-world applications for the average person? It does if you're an auto mechanic. Your automobile is a rolling physics laboratory!

I am no professional mechanic. There are times when I'm stumped. When I am, I go to brickboard and volvoforums. The experience of many enlightens the tasks of the few. Thanks, fellow do-it-yourselfers. Thanks also to some professional mechanics, who have given me valuable tidbits of information.

With most new cars (and their plastic bumpers) costing upward of $20,000 these days, perhaps it's not so bad to keep old Volvos and work on them. After all, once you're familiar with a particular engine, it's difficult to learn about a different engine in a newer car from a different car manufacturer. The Volvo 4-cylinder engines are roomy. A mechanic can get his or her hand amongst all the engine components. And most components take a minimal effort to access. In some vehicles (a Japanese model), a professional mechanic once told me that it took him 3 hours just to access the starter motor!

The B20, B21, B23, and B230 engines in 240/740/940 Volvos are non-interference engines, meaning that the camshaft can be rotated independently of the crankshaft and no damage will be done. That is, if the timing belt breaks, the valves will not hit the pistons; the engine will simply stop (I've experienced this personally). This is not true in newer Volvo models. And, I've since read that many automakers have incorporated interference engines because they are supposedly more efficient. But, owners run the risk of damaged valves, pistons, and cylinder head if the timing belt breaks. But, hey, it's just more money for mechanics and auto dealers! So, it may well be that these engines of the 240/740/940 Volvos may be the last of breed. So, hang on to these old Volvos!

And though I lament the disappearance of the carburetor, I've since found that there is some logic to the fuel injection system, especially the LH-Jetronic one. On the 240, there are a lot of mechanical parts to the fuel injection system, but in the 740, many of the fuel injection components are electromechanical. This means the mechanical function of the component is driven electrically, so if there is no electrical current or voltage delivered to that particular component, then it can't do its job. On the other hand, if there is a current or voltage present, and the component doesn't function, then that component is faulty. The best websites for fuel injection wiring diagrams are the autoelectric 740 and autoelectric 940 ones.

Some words of wisdom: I have been a do-it-yourselfer for many years now. I learned from my father when he had my brother and me (teenagers) work on our Ford Falcon. Over the years, doing things myself has probably saved me thousands of dollars in labor costs. I've learned a lot and gained a certain satisfaction from being a DIYer. My advice, though, is not to get carried away. A case in point: I was really set on replacing the clutch assembly on my 740 Volvo, but the more I thought about it, the wiser I got. I did not have a transmission jack. I was about 55 years old, if I remember right. I thought to myself, "What if the car shifts and falls on me. If it doesn't kill me, it sure would maim me. Is it worth it?" I finally decided, "No." I paid the professionals a few hundred dollars to do the job. At least I had my life and limbs intact.

I avoid jobs where I have to be underneath the car for long periods of time and where I have to rely solely on jackstands. Ever look at the footprint of a jackstand? It's small. Therefore, if there is a small force at the top of the jackstand, it will topple. I've experienced this myself when I rotated the tires on my wife's 940. I'm trying to recall the incident. The car was set on a slight incline. I believe the right front wheel and left rear wheel were supported by jackstands, with their respective tires removed. I thought I could jack up all four corners of the car at once, and leisurely rotate the tires. But, as I was jacking up the left front wheel, the car started to shift to the right front, even with the unjacked wheels chocked. The jackstands were leaning like the Tower of Pisa. I quickly lowered the left front wheel and decided to immediately put the left rear tire onto the right front, to support that end of the car. In finishing the job, with only two wheels off the ground at once, I used a concrete cinder block with 2x6" pieces of wood on top to back up one of the jackstands and used the floor jack to back up the other jackstand. The on-the-ground wheels were chocked.

Whew! I barely prevented the car from toppling onto its brake rotors, perhaps bending an axle. (My wife would never have forgiven me.) Do not trust jackstands with your life! Recently, a man was working on his transmission when the jackstands failed and the vehicle came crashing down, killing him. Professional mechanics have hydraulic lifts, which makes life safer and easier. Look at the cost/benefits, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of your health. Sometimes, it is just plain wiser to spend a little money to have the professionals do it and live to see another day.


Gremlins, to me, are those strange occurrences that happen when testing a circuit. You expect one result and you get quite another. I don't mean surprises that lead you to a good conclusion where you finally identify the problem and correct it.

Gremlins are short-lived surprise results when testing a circuit, and when that test is repeated a few times, quietly disappear. Gremlins are inconsistent test results. For example, recently I was using a Cen-Tech CE P37772 model multimeter, a fairly high end model. I strongly suspected that there was NO ground connection between the negative pin of the #1 fuel injector and ground. With no key in the ignition, I put the multimeter on beep (diode tester) mode. I then probed the negative pin of the #1 fuel injector with one lead and touched the other probe to battery ground. I got a beep! I couldn't believe my ears! How could this be? I did this test again. Same result! Then, I did it a third time. This time there was no beep, which confirmed my initial suspicion. To be sure, I probed two to three more times and got no beeps. Therefore, I now had conclusive proof that there was no ground connection to the negative lead of the #1 fuel injector. My only guess as to why I initially got a beep was that I had to lift the head of the fuel injector up to run the test and somehow that motion connected broken wires somewhere.

So, when you get inconclusive results, keep running the tests until they are all consistent. If need be, use a different model multimeter to run the test. Of course, if you get consistent results, then that tells you something, as well.

For those of you not familiar with electrical circuits and multimeters, here is a link to help you learn: multimeters. It starts with continuity, then you can click on the upper left for resistance and voltage.

Replacing the Hall Sensor Cable

Replacing/Repairing the In-Line Distributor

The Brass Gearbox Plug from Hell Fiasco

It won't start!
Diagnosing No-Starts on Some 740/940 Volvos

"I have been looking for a simple flow chart for problem solving no-starts. The Bentley/Haynes have lots of
info, but they are difficult to use when trying to do a simple diagnosis. Your manual is just what I was looking for."
John W., Florida

"Thanks very much---your website is super. Very helpful for DIYers with great pics. What a contribution!"
R. Pates, Virginia.

Now here!
A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing the Timing Belt on the 240/740/940 Volvo, B230 Engine

Refurbishing the Window Switch (including Physics of the Window Switch)

Real-Life Volvo Quiz. Can you diagnose these real-life problems?
(including a new twist on No-Start)

Image background: 1987 740 Volvo turbo, B230FT intercooled engine,
Bosch LH-Jetronic 2.2 Fuel Injection System, EZ117K Ignition System, manual transmission


(Something different; for my wife) 
The Engine of Our Days

I have fixed the Volvo,
sitting dead these many months.
It coughs back to life, but is not healthy.
I need to work on it some more,
but these summery days without you
sap me of my will.
It is like the engine of our lives
is sputtering along,
slowed by the pull of family obligations.
Your father dead, your mother alone, you there, me here--
a funeral of our expectations.

Our engine will not run forever.

Come home, love, and chase away my loneliness.
It is time to climb mountains again,
poke our heads into clouds,
dance among lupine and avalanche lilies,
and once more feel like gods
before our fall from grace.


If your 740/940 engine has died, then go to page Diagnosing No-Starts on Some 740/940 Volvos. While this booklet is not a bible, it does address the most likely suspects for a no-start. The booklet is free! Pay only if it helped you and you're satisfied. How's that for a satisfaction guarantee?

If your waterpump leaks, replacing it is a very manageable job. Go to Replacing the 740 Waterpump.

And coming soon, A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing the Timing Belt on the 740/940 Volvo.


Also, for the 240 non-B230 engine, the task of changing just the timing belt is an eminently doable procedure by the home mechanic. That's because the crankshaft pulley is held on by six fasteners rather than by a crankshaft pulley bolt. This booklet is also free. Pay only if you find it useful. Go to page A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing the Timing Belt on the 240 Volvo non-B230 Engine to download.

Caveat: These guides are best-faith efforts provided by someone who is not a professional mechanic. Users assume all risks and liabilities, including material damage and costs that may be caused by incorrect information and injury and/or death caused by not following safety precautions. Use of these articles is an agreement that parties shall hold harmless the author and bytewrite LLC. Observe all safety precautions!

   Click on Fred's photo to email him. Because
of spam, please put "Volvo" in subject line.


Fred is a physicist turned writer who works on his Volvos when he has to. In his award-winning novel, An American Sin (ISBN13: 978-0-9711206-0-0, original price $15), the protagonist’s 1970 145 Volvo breaks down outside Missoula, Montana, leading to a meeting with a pivotal hero of the Vietnam War. “Great book!” many have said. More info at

An American Sin can be ordered directly from the publisher: $10 with free shipping in U.S.

bytewrite LLC
P.O. Box 2635
Bellingham, WA 98227


An American Sin was a finalist in the 2009 Eric Hoffer Awards. It has also won an IPPY and was a finalist for a Benjamin Franklin Award and a John Gardner Fiction Book award. More info at

Excerpt from An American Sin:
(Wong's 140 Volvo breaks down outside Missoula, Montana, leading to a meeting with one of the heroes of the Vietnam War--the cowboy mentioned below.)

Wong pulls out the high tension wire from the coil to the distributor, holding it in a bamboo salad tong about three-eighths of an inch from the engine block. “Okay, hit it!” The starter and engine turn; a large spark arcs across the gap. “Okay, hold it!” He replaces the wire into the distributor. Now, he has a suspicion. He opens the oil filler cap, sees the rocker arms and valves. “Okay, once again.” The engine and starter turn, but there is no motion of the rocker arms. “Okay. Good!” He walks back to the driver’s side. “Well, I think I know what the problem is,” he says.

“What?” the cowboy asks.

“I think it’s the timing gear.”

. . . Read more.

© 2008-2022 by Frederick Su. All rights reserved. Step-by-Step Volvo is a web publication of bytewrite® LLC.
bytewrite is a registered servicemark of Frederick Su.

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