By on August 29, 2012


Craig writes:

My daily driver for a while has been a 1988 Volvo 240 sedan with about 100K miles. I do have some nagging maintenance issues I need to address when the weather warms up.

The main one is the suspension bushing, specifically the trailing arms. The car sits a little ass-low, and it gets worse if I put a lot of weight in the trunk. I have read that this is from the bushings, not the springs and also that they are a bitch to change. It this a doable repair for a home mechanic? In the last few years I’ve replaced the master cylinder, water pump, and my proudest moment took my broken wiper motor, another broken one from the junkyard and McGuivered the two together into a functional motor.

Thanks, Craig.

(the 240 is the Swedish Panther)

Sajeev answers:

The 240 (or 940, according to the B&B’s Volvo experts) is indeed the Swedish Panther!  Who-hoo, thanks for making that connection for all of us!

I was surprised to see a control arm bushing causing the sag you described but–according to Google–it is possible! At the ripe old age of 24, do a visual on all of your bushings. Consider replacing ’em all.  This is certainly labor intensive compared to your previous projects, but this website looks like a great big help.

With the age and low mileage in mind, quite honestly, it’s time for new shocks, springs and a lot of new rubber bushings.  They are all toast: go do ’em all. Also consider replacing entire control arm assemblies to get new bushings in the process with less labor involved. I suspect the aftermarket for 240s can make that happen easily, and it might be worth it to you. So consider it, cost-benefit analysis style.

For what its worth, I have my independent mechanic do jobs like this.  It’s too much time for me, and my shop is worth every penny in labor cost. And I’ll do it all over again, 15-20 years from now, if needed!

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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24 Comments on “Piston Slap: Butt Draggin’ Bushings?...”

  • avatar

    The 240’s the “Swedish Panther”? Funny you should say that since I was having the same thought yesterday.

    I’m still curious to know if its true, are Volvo parts expensive?

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo parts aren’t expensive, unless you want OEM or NOS. There are many places to get inexpensive parts online, not to mention the many areas around the globe that have strong community support and swap meets.

      With only 100k on the clock your bushings should be fine, though that’s not accounting for age. Most OEM Volvo bushings start to go somewhere around 300k. Even though the picture shows a very worn bushing, bear in mind that the deflection there is probably about half an inch – which probably isn’t enough for you to notice if your 240 is at stock ride height (IE 4×4 status).

      Go hit up and grab a set of overload springs. They’re made for wagons but 99% of the parts are interchangeable (the only big things that aren’t are the tailgate/trunklid and some interior bits at the rear) between wagons and sedans. While you’re there, drool over the sway bars and lowering springs. They’re based in Portland, OR and have a small showroom if you live in the PNW.

      • 0 avatar

        Bushings are an oft overlooked item, and are an easy diy. Want that new car feel ? Sway bar bushings, end links. Rear Trailing Arm bushings or front control arm bushings can be more work but last longer. Lots of folks replace the expensive shocks and ignore the cheap rubber bits held by two easy-access bolts.

  • avatar

    Put some powerflex bushings in that volvo.

  • avatar

    The suspension and engine mount bushings all sag over a decade or more especially in the NE where Camcords are rusted out in less than 15 years. Sounds like a similar problem with the first generation SAAB 9-5. I blame it on the conditions that Swedish mobiles see in the NE with snow, salt and freeze/thaw cycles. But my 9-5 spent 12 years in Buffalo when it snows they get feet where most get inches of thew whites stuff. The bushings were still intact but aged. Some blame road quality of the NE taxing the suspension’s soft points. I injected 3M Window Weld around the bushings, harder than rubber but not as stiff as polyurethane.

    For the Saab your looking at $50 per bushing x 10 just for the subframe. Trailing arm and sway bar bushings would be on top of that.

  • avatar

    Volvo springs don’t go bad. It’s just the bushings. You can DIY them, IIRC IPD will rent you a tool that makes it mostly painless, or you can fab something up out of threaded rod and plumbing bits. Google is your friend here. At 100K the shocks may or may not still be OK – change the bushings and see how she rides, then decide. Though 240 rear shocks are especially cheap and easy.

    240s have too many built-in dilemmas to be the Swedish Panther – that is the job of the 940. Or as I think of them, a 240 with all the stupid evolved out.

    • 0 avatar

      After re-doing my research I have to agree, 240’s are too pricey to keep going and too moody to be “Swedens Panther”, though the gas mileage figures are similar.

      That and Panthers are far more comfy to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting, I will edit my post accordingly. Thanks!!!

      • 0 avatar

        Having never owned a Panther series car, I don’t know how prices compare with RWD Volvos, but I never found the Volvo parts to be too expensive.

        Check eeuroparts and IPD (though they have some specialized parts they make themselves) for prices.

        But Kevin’s right – the 240 has a reputation for being durable and reliable, but the 940 is even better.

      • 0 avatar

        The early 240’s are very moody by now thanks to the rotting wiring harnesses. For a daily driver you really do want a late 700 series or preferrably a 900, those get the job done with far drama and the interior is far more modern and comfortable.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually the rear springs on my 740 were bad, sagging, and had to be replaced. This was common, as per Brickboard.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed – the 7 and 9 series (excluding the 780, I suppose) really are the Swedish equivalent. Plenty of room, durable, possessing reasonable handling characteristics, and able to run over curbs all day. They made great police cars in Europe (as did the 240, of course).

      I think of the 240 as being more similar to the Fox-body cars, a bit smaller and with a huge aftermarket.

  • avatar

    So if the 240 is the Swedish Panther, the 850 must have been the Swedish Taurus.

  • avatar

    One further thought – aftermarket bushings for Volvos are abject junk. You want genuine Volvo blue-box parts in this application, or you WILL be doing it again in a couple years.

    • 0 avatar

      I need to add to this. While replacing many, many parts on my 740 (often unnecessarily) I found that any parts not made by Volvo are absolute junk. Except for the IPD sway bars. Even many parts you can get at the Volvo dealer are just Volvo-branded crap from who-knows-where, often China or eastern Europe. Not Sweden. I discovered this with a timing belt tensioner bearing and A-arm cone bushings, among other things. You’ll find that many things are just basically unavailable from Volvo now, except for items like timing belts or oil filters.

      I’ve also found the B-series 2.3 engines to get brutal mileage, and premium is recommended. That project was such a disappointment for me, sad to say. Good luck.

      • 0 avatar

        Premium in a 240?!? Assume you must have had a Turbo 740. Yes the mileage on those sucks, I never did much better than 21 on the highway with any of my Turbos – the non-lockup transmission is a killer. The N/A cars do much better, 26-28 was easy even on my short-geared late 940s. A stick-shift 240 will get 30+ while running on urine.

        These cars are getting OLD. The newest 940 in the country is now old enough to vote, the newest 240s and 740s are nearly old enough to drink. You can’t expect Volvo to stock everything forever for a dwindling pool of cars. I too noticed the Chinese substitutions though – I blame Ford for that one.

        I’ve owned 3 240s, 4 740s, 2 940s and a 960. 4cyl n/a, turbo, 16v, and inline 6. Never had a diesel or a V6 though. Love these cars. All but two were station wagons.

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo had / has really insane specs for their rubber parts. My heater hoses started leaking last year and they were date stamped 07/87! Same thing with the turbo hoses, they’re old as hell but still holding tight.

      I did go with the polyurethane bushings from iPD for the torque rods on both of mine, didn’t feel like having to re-do them constantly.

  • avatar

    I tried the DIY bushing tool, about 10 years ago, but couldn’t make it work. I ended up buying the real tool and it worked great. I then sold it on ebay. If you can rent it or find a mechanic who has it I’d go that route.

  • avatar
    Spanish Inquisition

    Well, while you’re taking everything apart…

    You know you want to.

  • avatar

    So from the comments that I’ve read here, Volvos are tough cars but parts cost alot. I’ve been looking for a decent Volvo for a good while but the parts prices and their many “quirky” habits have always worried me.

    This would explain why I’d see 2 or 3 at junkyards on a usualy basis, thats probably a better place to get my parts.

    • 0 avatar

      No, the parts are not particularly expensive, and compared to the Germans there are not that many of them. A RWD Volvo will tolerate an amazing amount of abuse, but many mechanics seem to see anything European as an excuse to abuse the owner.

      • 0 avatar

        Actual parts or Fords cheapo junk?

        I’m looking to get a decent low mileage 240, I need to know what to expect as far as parts costs and gas mileage on regular gas.

        I don’t drive hard (except for on occasions), and I try to maintain my cars by the book.

        I would buy a 700-900 series, but the 240 I’ve found is the better deal.

  • avatar

    My parents drove a 145 wagon to about 350k miles with IDP suspension parts and ugprades, then a 245 to about 300k if I recall right. This was some time ago.

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