1995 – 2004 Volvo S40 and V40 Used Buying / Buyer’s Guide

by: Alexandra M.

1. General buying tips

  • Comprehensive service history either main dealer or recognized independent with as many receipts as possible
  • Timing belt should be done at around 80,000 miles or 8 years for all petrol cars and 72,000 miles or 6 years for the diesel cars. Check when the timing belt was replaced and ideally ask for receipt as proof
  • Don’t view the car in the rain or in the evening as you might miss scratches, dents and other problems
  • Listen to the engine for any rattles or squeaks
  • Check engine gets up to the correct temp after a 4-5 minutes or 2 or so miles (Temperature needle should be at the middle)
  • When test driving listen for knocking on rough road surface/bumps (suspension top mount bush or drop links failing)
  • Listen for clicking on full lock left and right (CV joint wear)
  • Make sure the gearbox changes are nice and smooth. Phase 1 (1996-2000) 1.8 and 2.0 and Phase 2 (2000-2004) 1.6 and 1.8 S/V40s have the Renault M3P or M5P gearboxes were the gear lever bushes get worn and the gear lever feels sloppy. Cheap and easy to fix. See here: http://www.volvoforums.org.uk/showthread.php?t=80433
  • Feel for a pulsating clutch pedal. If it pulses, that could indicate a failing DMF (Dual Mass Flywheel)
  • Apply and release the handbrake and make sure the car rolls easy, to check the rear calliper hand brake mechanism is not seized
  • Having driven the car, touch the wheels with your finger tips to see if any of them is hot. If yes, then this could indicate a faulty/seized brake calliper
  • Make sure all electrics/heater/headlight controls are working correctly and that AC (if fitted) is blowing nice and cold. Hazard light switch, heater controls panel, windscreen wipers , headlamp wipers as well as the rear wiper not touching the screen in places are common failures. if front windscreen wipers are squeaking, it could indicate worn wiper linkage.
  • Lock and unlock the car with the fob to check the alarm arms correctly. Also, unlock the car with the fob, but don’t open the doors. The car should lock itself after a few minutes. If not then there could be an issue with the alarm
  • Check the spare wheel are for any signs of water ingress
  • Look for wear on driver’s seat and interior trim as an indication of how the car has been looked after internally
  • Ask the seller if he knows when the suspension bushes and top mounts were replaced (if they have been replaced)
  • Check if the turbo has been replaced and when (Applies to Turbo models only)
  • Get the engine at the correct temperature and drive the car a bit harder on 2nd or 3rd gear with high revs and check for smoke out of the rear view mirror. If any present, this could indicate possible turbo issues (Applies to the 2.0T and the T4)
  • If the car has a Volvo original stereo, make sure you ask where the 4-digit code for it is. You will normally find it in the owners manual or on a card in the pouch the owners manual is in. If the seller does not have the code, you can get it for free by calling a Volvo dealer
  • If the wheels of the car have locking wheel nuts make sure the locking nut socket is present
  • Ask how many car keys and alarm fobs are there. Spare keys and/fobs are quite pricey to get from the Volvo dealer
  • If you have access to an OBD2 code reader check for any codes coming up on the car

2. Engine bay area

  • Check for any obvious signs of oil or other fluid leaks in the engine bay and on the ground as well as any oil deposited on the underbody floorpan
  • Check for any signs of emulsification (white thick creamy substance) under oil filler cap and / or oil in the radiator header tank (coolant in engine, indicating failing head gasket)
  • On petrol cars only, lift the oil filler cap with the engine running and see if there is suction or a blowing air. You should expect a bit of suction; otherwise PCV may be blocked
  • Check the dipstick for emulsified oil as this might indicate blocked PCV
  • Check the engine mounts – bonnet up, into gear with handbrake on and let clutch part out quite quickly. If it knocks, will need doing
  • Check lower radiator hose jubilee clip as it’s prone to rusting and can break causing major engine damage. Stainless steel replacement one is cheap and easy to do
  • With the engine running, check the exhaust manifold (at the rear of the engine) to see if it’s blowing any air. Applies to the turbo models only
  • Check for any smoke from under the car when driving. If there is smoke, it could be leaking turbo oil from the oil return pipe splashing oil onto exhaust which burns and gives out blue smoke (Applies to Turbo models only)

3. Exterior

  • Look for smokey/blowing exhaust on start up and idling
  • Check for uneven tyre wear
  • Check front suspension by grabbing the wheel and pushing/ pulling on either side to check for any play
  • Check the suspension by rocking the car/pushing down at the front and the rear(specially the rear) and listen listen for any creaky sounds. If you hear anything, visually inspect the springs to see if they are broken
  • Check brake discs to see how worn they are and if there is excessive rust. Also check the left and right pads to see if wear is even side to side
  • Check all four brake flexi hoses for any cracks or splits
  • Check for rust the edges of both front wings near the wheel arches and specially close to the sideskirt
  • Check for rust the edges of both rear wheel arches and specially close to the sideskirt

4. More detailed things to check

  • Check the metal brake pipes running from the engine bay and all the way under the car for signs of corrosion
  • Check the wiring harness directly beneath the radiator for water ingress and subsequent corrosion of the wiring leading to electrical faults
  • Check that the VVT (Variable Valve Timing) solenoid connector is plugged in. Applies only to the Phase 2 (2000-2004) Petrol cars 1.6, 1.8 2.0, 2.0T, T4). If the VVT pulley has failed, there will be a rattle with a cyclic clicking noise. By unplugging the VVT solenoid, the noise dissapears and some dodgy sellers have used this trick to hide the problem. If there is any rattle in the engine area, it also might be that some exhaust manifold bolts are loose or missing, so you could have a look to see if that is the case.


Thanks to “gatos” for contributing with this Guide to www.volvohowto.com. Original posted in Volvo Owners Club Forum


The tips of this Buyers guide apply to the following models / years:

– 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 Volvo S40 Buyer’s Guide
– 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 Volvo v40 Buyer’s Guide