C30 T5 manual engine swap or head rebuild?
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    1. #1
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      C30 T5 manual engine swap or head rebuild?

      This is a cautionary tale and an ask for advice

      2017 I bought a used 2012 C30 T5 Premier stick, 110k km, and immediately the lemon problems started. It came from Quebec which apparently with their salty winters is a red flag!

      First, somebody power washed the engine bay and a month later, moisture in ECM caused limp mode. Tried driving to dealer, stalled out on a hill, hero in truck cracked the read bumper pushing me out of the way.

      Then, leaking sunroof drains - not clogged but completely pulled out, (probably was like that when I bought it, but mostly garaged so didn't notice until way too late) slowly building up 2 gals of water underneath both waterproof mats. After two months of drying out in winter, started it with the seat disconnected and this shuts off the whole airbag system. Needed a dealer reset.

      Finally, it suffered 1 second of engine overheat, which apparently is enough, and 2000km later the engine is toast.

      In total I put only 8k km on the car in a year!

      When I got it, it had a small crack in the coolant reservoir which I stupidly ignored. However, it was safetied in that condition, and Volvo dealer didn't mention it when diagnosing the ECM problem. Also, the reservoir is multi-chambered, so it can look almost full from the front but be dry in the back. And unforgivably, P1's don't have a low coolant sensor. (but they have a low windshield fluid sensor, Volvo priorities...)

      In retrospect it was slowly boiling off coolant, and over a couple of tanks in the summer it was heating up to operating temp more quickly and after shut off it would make a subtle ticking sound for a few seconds like boiling water. Because it was. But I was distracted by other personal issues and wasn't thinking straight (also having owned Toyotas and Hondas which can't be killed)

      After a coolant flush everything was ok for 1000 km then it started running rough at start up for a few seconds and white exhaust, coolant level dropping. Oil has never fouled except the oil trap collected yellow goop and clogged giving the evil howling sound (diaphragm was fine). I replaced this (access was brutal, yfkmr?), fixed the howling problem, but just before putting it up on blocks it gave a "reduced engine performance" warning and since then runs poorly with very low power, can hardly get up a small hill. I had hoped the oil trap replacement would fix that but it's a separate problem. Probably due to oil sludge somewhere it shouldn't be.

      So I have a lovely shell of a car with a dead engine.

      Currently it's a third car which we don't really need. I replaced it with a 2011 C30 which is in much better shape underneath, gets about 10-20% better mileage, but is subtly worse re noise, stereo quality, throttle response and acceleration, ie less fun to drive. I really like the 2012 more. And yes, I'm like the princess sensitive to peas. I've never really been into cars until driving a C30, it's just perfect for ride handling balance, a refined daily driver that was also a blast on the back roads.

      Question, scrap it (at 1/10 of previous value), head job or replace the whole engine? Both the local dealership and private volvo mechanic seem reluctant to do anything, which I gather is due mostly to the difficulty of working in the P1 engine bay. Also used engines are about C$3k not counting about the same in labour at minimum from what I gather. Which is almost the price of a used C30 in that MY.

      And I can find absolutely nothing online about anyone having done a P1 engine overhaul.

      Any two cents of diagnosis or advice is appreciated.

      2012 C30 T5 Premier Manual, Black (life support)
      2011 C30 T5 L2 Manual, Silver, (the replacement, yes I did that)

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    3. #2
      Global Moderator MyNameIdeasWereTaken's Avatar
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      I wouldn't call it a lemon, just neglected by the previous owner.

      With the mindset of going the DIY route, I'd invest in either Vida/Dice or the iCarSoft Volvo handheld. These can help diagnose all things and also reset the airbag system. One trip to the dealer can cost more than the iCarSoft.

      One second of overheating isn't enough to kill the engine if you pulled over and addressed it quickly enough. But to overheat, there has been an underlying problem that could have caused additional damage.

      The chambers in the coolant reservoir prevent fluid from sloshing around in the turns, so you will always have coolant feeding down the inlet hose. But the chambers won't allow coolant to sit high in one section and not in another, unless there was some obstruction inside your reservoir.

      Just remember that Volvo coolant reservoirs are part of the cooling system and not just an overflow tank like on many Japanese cars. It's a $45 part that takes about 2 minutes to replace, so never let this slide on your other C30s.

      I wouldn't say P1 engine bays are that complicated to work on, especially compared to modern cars. So don't let the dealers refusal intimidate you. They're likely shying away due to the fact that fixing the engine probably won't fix the underlying problems with the car, resulting in further diagnostics.

      If you're financially comfortable with the idea, scrap it. Less headache this way and it doesn't sound like you need the 3rd car.

      If you plan to keep this car, then I'd consider repairing it. But for the time and money that it may require, you'd likely never get your investment back out of it if you decide to sell it.

      You need to determine if you warped the head, blew the head gasket, or cracked a cylinder. A head replacement isn't bad, neither is an engine swap, but you won't really know what the culprit is until after you get the head off the car.

      I've swapped engines but did not take the time to document the process. Simply put (not derogatory at all), if you can't figure out what you're doing without the aid of a video, then you shouldn't be undertaking such a task on your own. For the most part, it's very straight forward. Disconnect harnesses, hoses, and pipes - out comes the old engine - in goes the new engine - reconnect everything. With the way all the hoses and connectors are bent and bundled together, they line up easy and you'll know exactly where they go.

      If you have the space, store it to part out and keep for spare parts on your other cars. Since you do have cars to spare, fixing this one could be a fun long-term project. Even if you take the time to disassemble the engine and then scrap it, use it as a learning opportunity.

    4. #3
      Member lookforjoe's Avatar
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      I'll give you $500 for the non-running shell

      But seriously, Michael covered it all. Keep it if you can find a way to do the work yourself. If that is not an option, sell it.

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    6. #4
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      Thanks for the advice. For probably a month before the incident it was running on low coolant but the temp needle didn't budge from the middle. So the head might not have been properly cooled for a while. Temp went into the red for literally a second or two, by the time I had pulled to the shoulder it (too) rapidly returned to normal which could have contraction-cracked something as the coolant started circulating again.

      To clarify, the reduced performance warning happened after the dealer advice. They seemed to want to do a full swap rather than head job. I can see the point of that, it could go well or turn into whack a mole and require a swap anyway.

      I regret not pulling the head sooner, as it may have damaged other stuff in the cooling and emissions systems. However the local Volvo guy did a compression test and it was fine so he advised no hurry.

      Didn't mention I spent a few days (!) trying to get Vida to work, on roxanaschram's VM platform, and it seems to run fine on the computer, but all it can get from the car is the year and VIN and no diagnostics are available.

      Kind of done with Vida... but could give another go with a reinstall and some Scotch.

      Is iCarsoft more plug and play?
      2011 C30 T5 Manual
      2012 C30 T5 Manual, head gasket replacement

    7. #5
      Global Moderator MyNameIdeasWereTaken's Avatar
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      iCarSoft is a plug and play OBDII tool. They make one specifically for all manufacturers. I have the Volvo and Porsche ones and have never needed anything else.

    8. #6
      Member lookforjoe's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by MyNameIdeasWereTaken View Post
      iCarSoft is a plug and play OBDII tool. They make one specifically for all manufacturers. I have the Volvo and Porsche ones and have never needed anything else.
      Hey Michael does it also read the haldex operation? I'm tired of having to use a clunky old laptop with an ancient browser to run VIDA

    9. #7
      Global Moderator MyNameIdeasWereTaken's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by lookforjoe View Post
      Hey Michael does it also read the haldex operation? I'm tired of having to use a clunky old laptop with an ancient browser to run VIDA
      I can't remember if it does... I want to say yes. I don't get any communication with the haldex since switching to the updated controller.

    10. #8
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      Quote Originally Posted by MyNameIdeasWereTaken View Post
      iCarSoft is a plug and play OBDII tool. They make one specifically for all manufacturers. I have the Volvo and Porsche ones and have never needed anything else.
      Thanks for this info! I think i will go this route over the Vida way if i can get the same functionality in a modern compact package.
      2011 C30 T6M R-Design - Black Sapphire Pearl/Off Black - 50k miles
      Past: 1998 C70 T5A Coupe / 2000 C70 T5M Coupe

    11. #9
      Global Moderator MyNameIdeasWereTaken's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by JA VOLVO View Post
      Thanks for this info! I think i will go this route over the Vida way if i can get the same functionality in a modern compact package.
      I don't want to discredit vida entirely. It's without a doubt the best software for doing anything on these cars.

      But for a glorified scan tool, iCarSoft has suited 99% of my DIY mechanic needs.

    12. #10
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      This is an old thread but I am in the same predicament. Warped head , warped block, to re-surface both is not that expensive but according to the mechanic I need a thicker head gasket because the material to be removed from the head and block is out of tolerance already. Would a cylinder head shim work? or it is safer to just buy a used low mileage engine? Thanks.

      BTW my temp gauge did not register the car was overheating until the steam started coming out

    13. #11
      Global Moderator MyNameIdeasWereTaken's Avatar
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      For a road car, I'd just go with a new or low mileage engine, assuming it's in good condition.
      A head shim would theoretically work just fine and be a cheaper option, but why introduce one more point for failure if you don't have to?

      The temperature sensors on these cars have a very broad window of tolerance. The moment the needle budges above normal, you've overheated and likely warped the head.

    14. #12
      Junior Member VGM912's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by MyNameIdeasWereTaken View Post
      I wouldn't call it a lemon, just neglected by the previous owner.

      With the mindset of going the DIY route, I'd invest in either Vida/Dice or the iCarSoft Volvo handheld. These can help diagnose all things and also reset the airbag system. One trip to the dealer can cost more than the iCarSoft.

      One second of overheating isn't enough to kill the engine if you pulled over and addressed it quickly enough. But to overheat, there has been an underlying problem that could have caused additional damage.

      The chambers in the coolant reservoir prevent fluid from sloshing around in the turns, so you will always have coolant feeding down the inlet hose. But the chambers won't allow coolant to sit high in one section and not in another, unless there was some obstruction inside your reservoir.

      Just remember that Volvo coolant reservoirs are part of the cooling system and not just an overflow tank like on many Japanese cars. It's a $45 part that takes about 2 minutes to replace, so never let this slide on your other C30s.

      I wouldn't say P1 engine bays are that complicated to work on, especially compared to modern cars. So don't let the dealers refusal intimidate you. They're likely shying away due to the fact that fixing the engine probably won't fix the underlying problems with the car, resulting in further diagnostics.

      If you're financially comfortable with the idea, scrap it. Less headache this way and it doesn't sound like you need the 3rd car.

      If you plan to keep this car, then I'd consider repairing it. But for the time and money that it may require, you'd likely never get your investment back out of it if you decide to sell it.

      You need to determine if you warped the head, blew the head gasket, or cracked a cylinder. A head replacement isn't bad, neither is an engine swap, but you won't really know what the culprit is until after you get the head off the car.

      I've swapped engines but did not take the time to document the process. Simply put (not derogatory at all), if you can't figure out what you're doing without the aid of a video, then you shouldn't be undertaking such a task on your own. For the most part, it's very straight forward. Disconnect harnesses, hoses, and pipes - out comes the old engine - in goes the new engine - reconnect everything. With the way all the hoses and connectors are bent and bundled together, they line up easy and you'll know exactly where they go.

      If you have the space, store it to part out and keep for spare parts on your other cars. Since you do have cars to spare, fixing this one could be a fun long-term project. Even if you take the time to disassemble the engine and then scrap it, use it as a learning opportunity.
      You took the time to write a lengthy, well thought-out reply to the OP. Not only did he appreciate it, but I did, too. Thanks for caring.

    15. #13
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      Quote Originally Posted by MyNameIdeasWereTaken View Post
      For a road car, I'd just go with a new or low mileage engine, assuming it's in good condition.
      A head shim would theoretically work just fine and be a cheaper option, but why introduce one more point for failure if you don't have to?

      The temperature sensors on these cars have a very broad window of tolerance. The moment the needle budges above normal, you've overheated and likely warped the head.
      I was contemplating on this too, thank you

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