Reviving a 'Decommissioned' Volvo Tech Article

originally published 04/02  R. Kwas  (Continuously updated) (Comments added) 

Freeing Piston Rings section added  11/08 

What the...! No clutch???

Fuel Delivery Problems

Link to:  Storing a Vintage Volvo Tech Article (Not yet on-line)


This can actually be challenging and kind of fun, but the chances of successfully reviving a vintage Volvo from an extended Snow White sleep, and preventing problems during and/or immediately afterwards can be significantly improved with the following information.

Note: The information and procedures following has been prepared with the utmost care, is however strictly a general guide, to be used in conjunction with normal cautious shop practice. I cannot be responsible for your actions. Work safely!

General:  Check for leaks under the vehicle, especially the engine compartment and at the four tires.  Wet spots (ahem!) are not a good sign, but their location are a good indication of which system is in need of particular scrutiny!  Besides, its a conservation of liquids thing...if there's a puddle, it had to come from somewhere, meaning some system is low...'nuf said.  

Preliminary:  The amount of preparation required before staring and running is a function of how long and in what shape the car was stored, and by whom...from just over the winter since the previous fall's driving season by yourself, to after "that fender-bender" by your favorite uncle Olav, "a couple of years" before he went back to Sweden for his triple by-pass surgery...but this is the fullest list I could think of which you can use to prepare your own checklist.     

Uninvited Guests:  Moving the family into a nice cozy vehicle for the winter is the rodent equivalent of moving to Florida!  The size of the crevasses through which they can find their way into the interior, including door seams(!), is truly remarkable.  They may be gone by spring, but if not, usually find their way out in short order with the noisy, threatening activity of a vehicular rejuvenation about.   Nut shells and a winters worth of scrounged bird seed husks are a mess, and other things they leave behind can smell pretty bad, but these are easily vacuumed up...otherwise, except for the damage they may have done to the interior, they are usually more of a nuisance than a problem.  I've heard of various methods for "...discouraging" these visitors but haven't tried any of them...they consist mostly of subtle chemical warfare mothballs...but in that case why not use those little pine tree deodorizers (which are in fact the reason dogs stick their panting heads out of car windows...they can't stand that wretched stink either!).

During warm weather on the other hand, mean, flying, stinging insects can often be a real problem, and these squatters tend to be a lot more "territorial", insisting that they now own the car!  I've found, that just about any type of carb cleaner (quite probably on hand!), is instantly effective against all but a huge colony if the element of surprise is on our side (use the snoozle to increase long-range accuracy).  Initially, a few minutes of careful surveillance of the vehicle, even if stored inside, will usually reveal if insects are present...and note, the longer a vehicle was stored, the better the chances it is occupied!  Below is an interesting location for one of these colonies.  Usually, insects prefer to locate their nests under the vehicle or in fender or door crevasses...apparently these guys preferred to also see the world though "rose (or in this case, amber) colored glasses".   


Fire Safety:  Besides being the subject of fable and lore, good and bad, and known for their simplicity, SU carbs are unfortunately also known for leaking.  A fire extinguisher, type C might be a good idea to have on hand...preferably NOT type AB which uses dry chemicals highly corrosive to aluminum and electricals.  A type C (CO2) extinguisher will do less damage...then again, its a "color of the lifeboat" issue...if the boat was sinking, I wouldn't be terribly concerned with the color of the I'd use just about any extinguisher I could get my hands on, and after emptying that, probably start extinguishing with articles of my clothing until those ran out! an observer (CPR qualified, cell phone, Epinephrine and Halon equipped) standing by, might be a good idea too...of course, I was a Boy Scout, so your level of "preparedness comfort" may not be quite as high!  For the same reason, you might want to push the vehicle out of the storage garage lest you light that up, what a rotten day...standing around bare-ass, greasy, and with the garage on fire, hoping the fire department gets there, while there's still something to save... afterwards, it looks kind of like this:

One less! 
(Actually a picture from the aftermath of the California fires of 2003. 
Photo source:  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Its all a matter of risk it's your call! 

Electrical:  Install a good, fully charged battery.  Check fuses.  This is a good time to clean and prep both with emery cloth and anti-corrosive paste.  For battery posts and clamps,  those cute internal/external wire brushes do work well.  (Ref 1)

Engine compartment:  Check cooling, oil, brake/clutch fluid reservoir levels.  (Ref 2.

Fuel:  I've seen long-term stored vehicles leak from the bowl-vents as soon as the engine fires (or even before!).  Besides the obvious cause of foreign particles, I believe additional carb overflowing problems can be caused by the no-octane goop/lacquer that the EPA approved fuel turns into after six months or a year. In the tiny fuel orifices of your only seasonably used lawnmower or snow-blower carb, this is often enough to completely block them, necessitating a careful cleaning, but on our SU equipped cars, which have bigger passages, this gum can effectively bind up the bowl-valves. I prefer to also upgrade to the Grose-Jet bowl-valves...(I have yet to see leaks from carbs so equipped under normal operating conditions), but I wouldn't hold it against even Grose-Jets if even they leaked after a long storage.  Besides, if they didn't leak before the vehicle was parked, why should they all of a sudden?  Clearly, the fuel gumming or what it leaves behind after completely drying has everything to do with it!

As part of the pre-starting procedure, I suggest removing the bowl lids and blasting whatever bowl-valves that are installed with a good shot of carb-cleaner (a couple of times, with some time in between, to let the solvents do their thing!).  It's also a good time to clean any settled particles out of the bowls while they are open (the more random flotsam you find, the less convincing for the installation of a post fuel pump filter is probably necessary)!  You should find, this will prevent bowl leaks, and the resulting dreaded external combustion B18/20 syndrome!  

Up to a year is not that long of a storage time for the fuel, so although definitely down on octane (Ref 3.), the fuel in the tank is probably still OK (but some pre-ignition may occur on that salad oil (thanks EPA!) up tank with fresh fuel at first opportunity), but pre-filling the cleaned bowls with fresh fuel (about half way) will do wonders for getting it started the first time!  Naturally if we're the one who parked the vehicle, adding fuel stabilizer to the tank will prevent a lot of this degradation.  [Note to self:  Start compiling notes for new Tech Article:  Preparing a vehicle for long term storage. ]

Link to:  Fuel Delivery Problems

Freeing Piston Rings:  Remove spark plugs and dispence a small amount (5oz. or 15ml) of Marvel Mystery Oil into the combustion chambers and allow this to sit for a while...a week would be great...this will serve to free up piston rings which have been bound up in their grooves by carbon combustion by-products since the vehicle was parked, and which wouln't seal so good after start - up without being freed-up [See: History of the J5R No3 ].  The simplest and most effective technique for dispensing the oil I've found to be a four foot length of aquarium style (and size...about 3/16" ID), see-through tubing, marked for 5oz. from one end...the other end is placed in mouth of the operator who sucks this amount from the container (Beware:  Judgement is called for here, to prevent less than pleasant hydrocarbon tasting surprises!), and dispenses this into each cylinder.  I marked the clean "operator" and less than tasty "oily" end of the tube, and I store the tube vertically - "operator end" up -  the next time I use it to prevent more yucko hydrocarbon tasting...see above.     

Pre-oiling:   The oil in an engine which has been sitting idle for an extended time, has pretty much all drained into the sump.  Sure, as soon as the engine is cranked over, the oil-pump will send this oil back to all engine extremities, but as they say on that oil commercial: "most engine wear occurs during start-up", so if you really want to be good to your engine, pressure pre-oiling is the best thing you can do to minimized this "start-up wear".

[Temporarily remove the distributor, distributor drive gear, insert a flat-bladed shaft and spin CCW for 30 seconds or so until oil is seen oozing out from between rockers (watch rockers with oil cap removed).  Reassemble distributor and Static Time.  If this a bit too involved, but if you still would like to minimize "start-up wear", read on.]  

Not quite so involved, but still very good towards minimizing "start-up wear", is to just remove the spark plugs (to prevent compression and resistance against cranking), and crank engine for 30 seconds or so, until oil is seen oozing out from between rockers on shaft.

[Temporarily disable the ignition system with an electrical connection across the points to prevent high voltage spark generation.  Of course you could just leave the Ignition Switch OFF, and crank the engine using your SwEm under-hood Service Switch *.]

Wait for starter to cool a minute, repeat.  During the wait, carefully feel around high current connections from battery to starter for warmth at any connections (including chassis to engine block braid, located at bell housing on the exhaust side).  Finding any warm spots indicates a poor connection whose voltage drop is depriving the starter of a full voltage, and resulting in heat, as power is dissipated (at the wrong place...the starter is supposed to be getting all of the voltage [and therefore] power!).  Naturally, a REALLY BAD connection may even smoke (or even spark)...go back to Electrical and fix!

Tires:  If car is to be driven, check and inflate tires to proper pressure.  Those cute little 12V pumps will work fine for minor tire inflation/topping-up, but if all tires are pretty well deflated, lots of air from a portable air-tank will spare that cheapo little pump and keep it ready for a real emergency!  Also, BEWARE!, (whether tubed or tubeless) the rubber extensions on which the tire valves are located, can get quite brittle due to age, UV and ozone, that (not too much) bending force can be enough to crack them.  One might think, "so much for getting that corner inflated", but here's a hint:  As (strictly an emergency) repair, break off cracked valve stems the rest of the way (it's beyond help anyway!), lightly (over)inflate (to compensate for some momentary air loss), and quickly screw a large gauge sheet metal screw into the remaining rubber post to seal it (it's not pretty, and not recommended for extended or highway use), but if a spare isn't available, will get you to where proper repairs can be done.     

Brakes:  Since many of our vintage Volvos have single system hydraulic brakes, a working emergency brake is NOT AN check it BEFORE you need it, besides, you will need it for the next step!

Clear Prop!:  That's what pilots say when they're about to "turn the key **" a warning to anyone in the danger area.  Similarly, check to make certain engine is clear to run, no gear engaged, hand-brake applied, apply full choke, and "fire her up" (I sincerely hope this is NOT a bad choice of words!).

After the Reawakening:  It's truly amazing how one of these cars will come back to life despite them self!  Release the choke, and tickle the throttle as necessary to keep engine running...adjust idle if required.  

Check for leaks under hood, especially fuel bowl, oil, and cooling system. 

With an assistant, check lighting, particularly brake lights... if these don't function at all or require stomping on the brakes (nothing unusual there), it can probably be blamed on a sluggish or even failed Pressure Sensing Switch ***.  Working brake lights are real nice to have, they keep other vehicles out of your trunk, and subsequent wrangling with your or their insurance company about the value of your failed brake lights ASAP! 

What the...! No clutch???  If there was fluid in the clutch reservoir and it didn't leak empty during storage (this is quite typical with an original - maybe high wear - hydraulic system using the standard Castrol GT LMA, but improvements are also available **** and later upgrades notwithstanding, we want to deal with the vehicle as it sits)!  The actuation of the clutch mechanism may be working fine, but another problem at the clutch-disc itself may exist...a clutch disc, frozen to the flywheel and/or pressure plate by rust.  This can be verified in the following manner...the clutch pedal feels normal, first with a bit of free travel, then requiring a firm pressure to the floor, but when the engine is running, it is impossible to shift into any gear (pressure on the clutch disc is released, but that rust is preventing it from slipping!!!).  Turning OFF the motor allows normal gear selection when clutch pedal is depressed.  Caution!  Do not shift into gear, and keeping clutch depressed, thinking it will disconnect engine from drive wheels, start car.  Since the clutch is effectively locked, the engine is directly connected to drive wheels...a car with a frozen clutch, started in gear, WILL LUNGE!!!  

The degree to which this happens is a function of the length of storage time, the amount of moisture present during that time (cars parked on an unpaved surface being the worst off - not to mention what this is doing to the undercarriage), and the rate at which moisture is able to migrate through the friction material.  Unfortunately, with the replacement of asbestos from friction surfaces like brakes, but more importantly the clutch of vehicles, by "organic" friction materials ***** (whatever the hell that means...maybe solidified tofu, besides what's more organic than asbestos, a mineral mined from the earth?)...the situation of a frozen clutch caused by rust seems to be getting more frequent.  

Fortunately, with the application of some (impact) force to the drive train, the clutch can often be freed up.  I found this very good procedure on the Chicagoland MG Club's site (Ref 4.), ...I couldn't have written it better myself.  (Gentle) Plan A uses the vehicle's brakes, and (a bit more violent) Plan B uses inertia of the vehicle to create an impact force which will break the bond between friction material of the clutch and the rusted flywheel/pressure plate, presented here, with permission:

Procedure for Freeing a Seized Clutch Disc:

  1. With the engine and parking brake OFF and the vehicle pointed in a safe direction, use a gas station type hydraulic jack to lift both rear wheels so they are clear of the ground by about two inches.

  2. The driver then climbs into the car and confirms that there are no obstacles or people in front of the vehicle.

  3. With the engine and parking brake still OFF, the transmission is shifted into high gear.

  4. The engine is started and throttled up to a constant tachometer reading of about 1500 rpm.

  5. The driver depresses the clutch pedal and KEEPS IT DEPRESSED.

  6. With the clutch pedal depressed the brakes (parking or foot pedal, it doesn't matter which) are GENTLY applied. If the rust bond between the flywheel and the clutch disc is fairly weak, the clutch disc should pop free during light to medium braking.
    Plan A.) Brakes should not be applied excessively hard or allowed to slip for extended periods because this will only overheat the shoes and drums unnecessarily. However, we do have a back-up plan!
    Plan B.) If the clutch disc does not come free after a few gentle attempts as described thus, proceed to more drastic measures as offered in step 7, and here you will need an assistant!

  7. Confirm that the following conditions exist:

Your assistant "snaps" open the valve of the hydraulic jack and the rear of the car drops to the ground. Because the clutch pedal is depressed, only rust is holding the clutch disc to the flywheel. When the rear wheels hit the ground the engine attempts to move the car forward (transmission in high gear remember?) but the rust bond between the clutch disc and the flywheel breaks under the torque load. The clutch disc should break away from the flywheel with the finesse comparable to that of an experienced child who can separate an Oreo cookie from the white stuff without generating a crumb!

This method is gentle and effective even if step 7 must be repeated (a rare situation) because the vehicle is never subjected to the "irresistible force meeting an immovable object scenario", since the car can move forward should the clutch disc not break free when the rear wheels hit the ground.

Legal Considerations:  If you're planning to hit the road, having all of your papers in order would be wouldn't want to spoil the fun of the day with a disappointing run-in with the constabulary.

Time for a test drive!:  Observe engine temperature to make certain thermostat opens and works to keep engine temperature within a normal range.  An easy shakedown drive considering the poor quality of the vintage fuel is called for..."highway blasts" should be left for after assuring the octane of fuel on-board, and a thorough inspection of coolant hoses, brake system, including brakelines and brakelights, such that a bit more confidence and safety margin can be assured.


I'm sure there are other problems which can come up, but did I miss anything critical?  Comments on this article (including requests for additional sections) are invited and appreciated.  Ron



Am I preoccupied with fire?...don't think so, and as the blind man said in Young Frankenstein:  "Fire is good, fire is our friend", I'll add to that..."as long as it stays where it the cylinders only"...just being careful!

Are these tech articles a forum for presenting SwEm kits?...maybe, but that's not their only intent...and the reader can hopefully understand why I came up with some of them!


1.  The Gas-Tight-Joint 

2.  Amazonig with Silicon Fluid

3.  For everything you always wanted to know about fuel...not the most entertaining reading, but very good information about why fuel is what it is, contains what it contains, does what it does, how and why, and how it got where it is today. 

4.  Full article on freeing a Seized Clutch Disc:

Is it time for some upgrades?

*  See:  Service Switch Upgrade

**  See:  Start Switch Upgrade

***  See:  Brake Light Switch Upgrade

****  See:  O'ringed Clutch Slave Piston

*****  Comment:  Although the frozen clutch effect is not new, I've notice an increased acceptance of moisture into these "organic" friction materials.  In the case of the clutch, even though both sides are locked and fairly well sealed to the metal faces, the moisture still makes its way through the friction material and to the surfaces where it allows these to rust, with this rust "growing" into the friction material quite effectively locking them together.  Now I'm not saying that (the proven harmful, small fiber) asbestos shouldn't be eliminated from our environment (the large fiber type has been shown not to be carcinogenic yet has still been lumped into a kneejerk abatement hysteria), but it looks like the EPA with all of their good intentions have once again made things worse with the unintended consequences!  All I know is what I see! 



Fuel Delivery Problems - Thread B18 Fuel Pump Failure

After a long inactive time, he found the engine difficult to start, and no fuel coming from Fuel Pump when he checked...after replacing pump, and the car sitting again, he again had fuel delivery issues, and was even thinking about installing an electric Fuel Pump.

My response:

"  Walter;

Your SU Fuelbowls are vented to atmosphere, so they dry out when car is parked for a long time...prolonged cranking is often necessary to get fuel up to the bowls again if pump prime is OK...but sometimes, prime of the Fuelpump is lost also, so no amount of cranking will help...this is not necessarily a failed fuelpump!  ...I'd recommend blowing some exhale pressure into Tank filler as a helper monitors for fuel coming from Fuelpump outlet.  When it does, reconnect to carbs, but prime Fuelbowls manually (and spray some carb cleaner into Bowl-valves to flush them, see below) so you can start immediately.

After start, monitor fuel bowls for overflowing...they like to overflow at first start after prolonged parking, caused by the gum fuel left behind in bowl-valves.  See also:,Floats,and_Bowlvalves 

Cheers "


Walter responds: 

...Priming the SU bowls did it. Fired right up, runs fine. Fuel in filter & carbs.
I'll remember this tech tip for storage starting.

I'll bet my old pump was good also.  If it pumped fine when car was stored, I expect it was!


...similar subject from a FB posting:

The same varnish and gum products (add to that crystals of God knows what courtesy of the EPA) which block the tiny idle passages in your lawn mower or weed whacker in spring (store this equipment dry, or only religiously with fuel stabilizer!), serve to bind up the SU Bowlvalves after a long layup of a Volvo.
Recommendation: Clean Bowlvalve before first start!

Link to:  Inspection of Fuelbowl Lids, Floats and Bowlvalves


External sources attributed.  Otherwise this information is Copyright © 2002-2019.  Ronald Kwas.   The term Volvo is used for reference only.  I have no affiliation with this company other than to try to use its vehicles, keep them working for me, to maybe help other enthusiasts do the same, and also present my highly opinionated results of the use of their products here.  The information presented comes from my own experience and carefully considered opinion, and can be used (or not!), or ridiculed, or worshipped, at the readers discretion.  As with any recipe, your results may vary, and you are, and will always be, in charge of your own knuckles! 

You are welcome to use the information here in good health, and for your own non-commercial purposes, but if you reprint or otherwise republish this article, you must give credit to the author or link back to the SwEm site as the source.  If you donít, youíre just a lazy, scum sucking plagiarist, and the Boston Globe wants you!  As always, if you can supply corrections, or additional objective information or experience, I will always consider it, and consider working it into the next revision of this article...along with likely the odd metaphor and probably wise-a** comment. 


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