Downpipe and Exhaust Manifold

Having replaced the front suspension and control arm-related hardware it was time to take the car to get inspected. I didn’t anticipate any issues, and I thought I’d take the opportunity of having the car in the shop to get the alignment done. On a whim I also asked them to change the transmission fluid. This is something that I could have done myself, but it’s sort of a pain in the ass and I didn’t want to have to worry about disposing of the old fluid, so I figured I’d pay someone else to do at least this one thing. My mileage was pretty low for the year, so I didn’t even have to get my emissions done. I dropped the car off expecting to get it back later that day.

When I did get the call I was told that everything was good… except that my exhaust had fallen apart. For those not familiar, when I had originally replaced the original rusty exhaust system the end of the downpipe attached to the catalytic converter broke in half. I fixed it by binding it back up with muffler tape and a stainless steel clamp. That stopgap measure was obviously no longer stopping that gap.

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Front Suspension

So I decided that in preparation for inspection I should replace the front shocks. I had already replaced the rear ones a year ago. That was quite easy, but I knew the front would be more challenging and include things like spring compression and other sort of scary procedures. I foresaw the following set of actions I’d have to do before getting a place where I could remove the old shocks:

  1. Up top, remove plastic cover that hides the 24mm nut that holds the shock absorber as well as the three nuts that hold the strut assembly to the body.
  2. Remove the tire
  3. Disconnect the brake line from the brake caliper and then remove the caliper from the steering knuckle
  4. Unbolt the steering end link from the steering knuckle and the sway bar end link from the sway bar. This will allow the lower control arm to move down far enough to get the strut out.
  5. Remove the four bolts that connect the strut to the ball joint and remove the strut from the car
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Keyless Entry Installation and Amateur Dashboard Repair

Ever since my driver’s side central locking mechanism self destructed I’ve wanted to either find a replacement part to fix it or come up with a better way to accomplish the same functionality. After viewing a YouTube video about installing a keyless entry system I decided that such a feature would do just that.

Required Parts

To make this sytem work I needed to find two new parts:

  1. A linear actuator to actually move the door lock. Volvo makes this already (part no.1315178) and thankfully they are widely available on eBay which is where I got mine.
  2. A controller kit. China makes billions of these and they’re all basically the same with the main difference in the number of buttons on the key fob. I just needed one for my doors, so I eventually settled on this one from Amazon.

With my parts in hand, I set out to put it together.

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Fixing the Ignition

Now that the dashboard was off and the new blower was installed I could turn to the ignition issue. I had proved that both the starter motor and the engine itself worked, so the issue had to be somewhere between the key and the starter. I looked around on the forums and saw it suggested that the most common cause of what I was seeing is a broken neutral safety switch. This is a simple switch connected to the gear selector that prevents cranking when the car is not in park. Unsurprisingly the switch itself is located in the gear selector housing. The entire assembly is a sort of wedge shaped plastic bit that is connected to the gear selector by a plastic lever with a hook on the end. When the transmission is in park the lever connects a circuit that allows current to flow to the starter. When it’s not, the circuit is broken and no crank. I undid the two screws holding it in place and lifted it out gingerly. Once on the bench I prised the tabs holding the metal cover on and took a look inside.

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Changing The Blower Motor

As the photo at the end of the previous post I decided to take my interior half apart. Since my starter was working I figured that whatever was preventing my car from starting was more than likely in the dash. The prime suspect was the aftermarket ignition switch I had installed last summer. Getting to it was a real pain as the dash was in the way. I figured that since I had to replace my blower motor which would require removing the dash I might as well do it all at once. So out went the dashboard and a few other bits, bobs, odds, and sods.

Everything out of the way
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Really Stepping Into It Now

My car’s been running fine recently, but I’m worried. This is because when it runs well for any length of time it usually means that something is about to break. In this case that thing was the ignition switch. You may recall last August I changed out this switch from the one that came with the car. I bought an aftermarket part from iPd as the originals are no longer made. I figured “It’s just a rotary switch! How crappy could aftermarket be?” And that’s where it began, really.

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Changing an Exhaust Hanger Donut

Recently the weather has been particularly cold. During that late winter snap I had noticed that a lot of exhaust was coming out of the connection between the catalytic converter pipe and resonator. When the weather improved slightly I and my son went to tighten the clamp, but what we found was that the clamp had actually been knocked back from the junction and that one of rubber donut hangers had broken off and disappeared. This probably happened when I ran over some compacted snow or something. I didn’t have any spare hangers so at that point I readjusted the clamp to the correct position and said a prayer for the remaining hanger . It wasn’t looking great itself, but it would have to last until I could get a replacement for the missing one.

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Changing the Crank Position Sensor

It’s been a bit since my last entry. The weather’s been pretty awful, and Gudrun’s been running pretty well so there honestly hasn’t been a lot of need to do work. There was still that set of codes indicating a malfunctioning crank position sensor, so my next bit of work would be replacing that.

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Central Lock Mechanism Revisited

I live in a pretty safe area and don’t bother to lock my car very often, but when I do I appreciate the central locking feature. One day about a week ago while running some errands I did actually lock my car only to find that the key didn’t seem to want to unlock the other doors when I came back. Central locking not a critical function to me, so I figured something had gone wrong with the janky switch on the lock and that I’d eventually get around to repairing it in the future. However, the next day when I went to start my car I found that the battery had been drained. I immediately suspected the lock switch. Sure enough when I opened up the door panel I found that the little plastic tab that connects the lock to the switch had broken, probably because the action of moving it was too hard. This had left the circuit permanently energized, hence my dead battery.

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New Radio

Now that the original radio was out of the dash it was time to put in a new one. I’m no audiophile, but I do have a few requirement. This is 2020 after all. The car may be old, but the audio system doesn’t need to be. First, there’s no need for a tape deck like the original, or a CD player. An auxiliary in and Bluetooth connectivity will do. I am somewhat cheap, though. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. Luckily the date was close to the Black Friday sale time.

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Horn Troubleshooting and Radio Removal

Recently my horn stopped working, and although I seemingly fixed it for a time it eventually stopped again. Since I didn’t have properly sized insulators, I was initially suspicious of the bullet connectors I had used reasoning that they were coming undone due to the vibrations of the running car. On eBay I found someone selling the same model of horn, a Klaxon brand model TR90 “low”, that used spade connectors instead. When it arrived I hooked it but still got no honk. My multimeter told me that I was getting 12 volts at the horn when I pushed the button. Manually grounding the other side of the horn to the car definitely produced a loud, sharp honk. This lead me to believe that the ground wire from the horn to the steering wheel switch. Thus began a day of disassembling a good amount of the dashboard.

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She’s Touchy

The new exhaust gasket came sooner than I thought but I didn’t have time (or good weather) to address it until this past weekend. The car stayed up on jacks for a few days. This may become significant later because after I did put the gasket in and let the car down I attempted to start the engine and got nothing but the starter cranking. This made no sense to me since the engine had run just fine a few days earlier. Did being tilted to the side on jacks for a few days somehow upset something? I can’t imagine why that would be, but what else could it be? The engine was running fine just a few days ago and I hadn’t changed anything related to it. Time for diagnostics.

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HONK HONK

The other day I was driving to the store and found myself in that common situation where the guy at the light in front of me was busy looking at his phone and didn’t notice the light change. I went to give him the little “toot toot” horn to refocus him but, to my dismay, found that my horn would not toot. When I got home I took the grill off to get access to the horn and see what the story was. The story was one that has become well known to me: everything was corroded to hell. Verdigris had eaten away at the copper connectors and the plastic insulation around them was falling apart

The horn on my car is a single horn type (some Volvos have two apparently) that connect to the horn switch with two wires that terminate in 3.5mm bullet connectors. Of course the only connectors I had on hand were the 3.9mm type. One trip to Amazon for a small kit of the correct size connectors and a couple of days wait later I was ready to fix it. I made two short pigtails and soldered them to female connectors. These went into the existing connector housing. The insulators that came with the new connectors were nowhere near thick enough to fit the space inside the housing so I ended up wrapping them with vinyl tape about 2 or 3mm thick. I clipped off the existing crappy connectors and soldered the new assembly in their place and zip tied it in place. The result was a working horn. TOOT TOOT!

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Yeah, It Was the MAF Sensor

To test my theory that my stalling issue was due to a failed MAF sensor I ordered a replacement. Since original Bosch sensors are pricey and I wasn’t even sure if this was the problem I went with a cheap aftermarket part this time. I know, I know… “Buy Cheap, Buy Twice.” I fully expect this part to die in a few years at which point I will replace it with a better one. Who knows? Perhaps this part will defy the typically shoddy workmanship and QC of these sorts of manufacturers and go the distance. Stranger things have happened.

For the record, the part I bought was made by Bapmic. I looked them up to see where the parts are made and found a corporate website that was doing its level best to look like the homepage of a German manufacturer. A little more digging told a different story. A story where Bapmic, which may have at one point been German, was actually a trademark owned by Shanghai Tongzhi Auto Parts. They also own the brands Topaz and Autopa. So, yeah, one of many cheap Chinese auto part manufacturers. We’ll see how well it does in the long run. I’m just happy that my car is running.