View Full Version : Car sitting for one year - what should I do to get running again?

02-10-2007, 10:33 PM

I have a great 1987 740 GLE that I drove from California to New York - no problems (although I kept an extra fuel pump in my trunk.)

Once I got to New York, I realized that owning a car could actually be a *problem* here. (Imagine!)

Needless to say, I parked my car in the driveway of my roomie's parent's home in one of the outer boroughs (Bronx) while becoming accustomed to New York City living.

Recently, I myself moved to an outer borough where, wow, I can actually drive a car again (on the weekend). Now normally I took excellent care of my car. However, during the one-year adjustment I tragically neglected my parked car. Other than starting it every once in a while, I really didn't do anything except, well, think of it fondly in the back of my mind.

Anyway, now I'm thinking about what I need to do to make my car spiffy again (and not hate me for committing vehicle neglect).

First thing first, I changed the battery. Then, I took the car and got an oil change and had the tires/fluids checked and filled. I bought the fuel cleaner for my very old-sitting there gas but haven't put it in yet. And I know I need a tune up - new spark plugs most likely. Probably the entire fuel injection system is dirty.

Today, I noticed that the car steering wheel was hard (it has been really cold) and that the wheels are squeaking upon turning. So, I am thinking I need an alignment and also need to warm up my car much much more before driving it (it is a california car after all).

Also, it was dropping acceleration periodically. I am hoping it doesn't stall soon. I am thinking fuel pump. I have to get it checked out.

I am just wondering, because you all are experts, and I am just a Volvo Car Appreciator (although you couldn't tell by my recent offenses) what steps I should take to get it in tip top shape after sitting for so long.

Any advice you could give me would be appreciated.

Thank you.

02-10-2007, 11:34 PM
You might have mice in the air box.

02-11-2007, 02:43 AM
Yes, mice, I have had many mice in many Volvo's.........

You probably pumped all the bad gas into the lines and filter. Put a pint of dry gas or STP gas treatment along with Techron, then fill with fresh premimum.
If that doesn't work, drain the gas tank completely, drain the fuel lines and replace the fuel filter. I would replace the filter anyway.

02-11-2007, 06:21 AM
Firstly you NEED to strip down and free off the brakes. 700's are notorious for seizing calipers etc so you want to remove the pads, push the pistons in to make sure they aren't sticking and then reassemble with copper grease on the slide pins and hte backs of the pads.

Check all the lights/wipers/horn etc and clean up any terminals that have got corroded due to it being stood. Check the wiper blades for damage.

Check the tyres for damage/flatspots/pressure etc.

Grease battery terminals/locks/hinges (including bonnet and boot).

Basically do all the parts of a service that aren't related to tuning. Then use the car (gently at first) and this will help get rid of the old stale petrol and burn off any deposits in the engine. After a couple of tanks of fuel and a good 'Italian Tune Up' it will then be time to change the oil, filters and coolant and do the rest of the service.

02-11-2007, 06:54 AM
What he said.

This man's an expert at leaving cars standing for extended periods of time.

Les, slight limp
02-11-2007, 07:54 AM
They are not standing, they're "projects" it's completely different.

02-11-2007, 10:51 AM
I also agree with our british brethren. Use about 2x the normal amount of whatever fuel deposit cleaner you prefer then go and have fun with your italian tune up. In case any of you guys out there are curious as to what that is you drive your car around at 5000 rpm for at least 6 min, it allows the valves to rotate burns all the deposits out of the combustion chamber and off the valve bottoms.

02-11-2007, 11:25 AM
After the Italian tune up, a full tune up will probably help. Plugs, cap, rotor, wires, air,fuel and oil filters. Bleed the brakes and make sure all the wheels are turning freely.

BTW the mouse issue is no joke. I have restored several cars which after a long rest had rodent nests in strange places. Last year a good friend got a GREAT deal on an RX7 that was running poorly. There was a mouse nest in the air box. After removing the nest and replacing the air filter, the car ran great.

02-11-2007, 01:42 PM
Thanks everyone for your responses.

Is "Mice in the Airbox" similar to "Bats in the Belfry", but for a car?
Seriously, I hope those darn critters didn't take up residence in my Volvo. :grrr:

I checked the lights/wipers/horn (I actually had to fix a rear bulb) and I checked the tires for damage first thing. They were relatively new when I parked the car. However, my tires do not turn well now, lots of squeaking.

I hear what you say about the brakes. Checking the brakes and checking mice nests is now top priority and then off for a full tune-up.

Poor Volvo, it probably hates me now - it has hated me ever since I left California.

Thanks again. I plan to give an update.


02-11-2007, 04:34 PM
tires will not be round for a while because the tires will have gotten underinflated over time and will have deformed their tire plies. If you start driving they will feel all wobbly. But drive a 100 miles on them and they will get round again. Don't do anything other then inflating them untill after you have driven at least 100 miles on them, preferingly over a long distance so they get the chance to warm up properly. If they still wobble after that, have them checked for balance.

02-12-2007, 12:11 AM
tires will not be round for a while because the tires will have gotten underinflated over time and will have deformed their tire plies. If you start driving they will feel all wobbly. But drive a 100 miles on them and they will get round again. Don't do anything other then inflating them untill after you have driven at least 100 miles on them, preferingly over a long distance so they get the chance to warm up properly. If they still wobble after that, have them checked for balance.

Thank you very much for that. And to think that, if I had not run out of time, I was going to take my tires to be rotated and balanced today.

I did go out and specifically buy the STP gas treatment today though. I am kind of concerned because the steering wheel is just turning so hard.

Thank you very much for all of your help.


02-12-2007, 12:47 AM
I am kind of concerned because the steering wheel is just turning so hard.

Do you still have enough power steering fluid in the reservoir? Have you checked the condition of the rubber accordion boots on the steering rack? Do you still have a belt on the power steering pump?

02-12-2007, 12:51 AM
Check the fluid level of the steering pump, mine gets stiff once a year and I need to top it up, the week long bouts of 6 degrees also makes it a little stiff, and take it to a decent garage for the oil change and ask them nicely to lube everything connected to the steering.

02-12-2007, 01:17 AM
Hard turning wheel? Tires squeaking?

Tighten up or replace your power steering belt. Your tires aren't squeaking, your wheel alignment won't fix this... it's your power steering pump and/or belt.

Like everyone else has said, be sure your power steering fluid level isn't too low. It's a check that'll take all of 30 seconds.

As for the rest of it... do the normal maintenance and stuff, drive it until the wheels fall off and you'll be fine. It's an old durable tank volvo. Ideal for being put up for a while and then being driven cross country at a moments notice... :-D

02-12-2007, 11:18 PM
240on280 - I've got to say - your signature made me crack up. Wonderful!

Everyone, thank you so much for saving me from a wasted alignment. Especially since I may have to spend the money on a new power steering belt. I did check the power steering fluid and it was almost full. Did look a bit grimy though.

I really appreciate your experience and advice. You are all right - it's got to be the power steering.

And about the tank comment - you sound just like my old Swedish mechanic I had in California (who would say the parts in Swedish - I had no idea what he was fixing sometimes - but he was very cheap - and hilarious. His 'real' job was fixing the Volvo big rigs, but would fix cars on the weekends on the side.) He would say that the volvo was a tank and I had "no worries" - what was I so worried about all the time he would say? I had Volvo "good car."

:) Thanks everyone.


02-13-2007, 06:57 AM
I have been in the same rope. Mice were also my prime suspects.


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02-13-2007, 01:26 PM
Well I took my car to the mechanic who did not take long to declare that my power steering belt was bad.

As I type this, I am getting a tune up and a new power steering belt.

Hopefully, with that and the gas treatment, things will start looking up. I also asked the mechanic to check for "mice".

Please tell me - when you guys say that there may be mice in the airbox. Do you mean that the mechanic will find "actual mice" or just mice nests?

How can the mice live in the car with it running? And wouldn't you hear them squeaking?

:) sorry - please forgive my naivety. :-P


02-13-2007, 04:42 PM
I have had mice live in the airbox, in the throttle body of a '78 242 GT, and yes, I displaced them when I opened it up the first time. I've also had mice live under the dash on a 140, and scurry out after I stopped the car and opened the door. I even had mice live in my lawn tractor air cleaner housing.

Also, not long ago had mice eat the A/C evaporator drain line out of the floorboards in a '96 960 and live behind the heater box. I seldom drove the car, always garaged, but when I did drive it, the carpets got wet every time. It was a year and a half before I discovered the mice and what they did. By then I had mold growing everywhere, and even after I got rid of the mice and fixed the problems, the mold continued to grow back to where I couldn't take driving it and had to get rid of the car. It was a beauty otherwise and only 70k mi in the 9 yrs I owned it.

I hate Mices to Pieces

02-13-2007, 05:11 PM
Oh another piece of information about mice and Volvos that is somewhat humorous.

When I took my 960 to the dealer to fix the problem (and eventually trade it in), I told them the story of the mice. The service manager took me into the shop and led me to a new XC90 that was having the entire engine wiring harness replaced because mice ate through the insulation and wires. He said it happens a lot, especially if you live in the country.

02-13-2007, 06:38 PM
I suddenly have the urge to set mice traps in my car.

I wonder if that would help.

After reading your stories, I now have a hatred for mice. They better not eat through anything on my Volvo. I live in the city, however, New York is "Rodent Heaven".


Oh and here's an update: the mechanic said he didn't see any mice (although there seem to be numerous places to find them, other than the airbox, so maybe I should have someone else check the car out thoroughly). And also, remarkably, after he put in the new power steering belt, not only does the power steering wheel miraculously turn now, but the wheels no longer squeak!

He also tightened the alternator; it was really loose as I thought (I mean duh, can't anyone see it's really loose.)

Anyway, thank you everyone for your help. I admire you all for being able to fix your own cars.

I do have one last question: how did you all learn to fix Volvos? I really would like to be able to change a power steering belt myself, for example, instead of paying someone else to do it.

Thanks again.

<-- goes to get the mouse glue traps from the basement.

02-13-2007, 09:30 PM
Just buy a haynes manual and read here and the brickboard to find out most of the solutions.

Also use something other then a glue trap, had a sad/funny incident where the German students in the upstairs apartment set out a glue trap and caught a mouse. They didn't know what to do once they caught it since they didn't want to kill it. No one liked the idea of drowning it since that is a slow way to go. They tried to pull it off breaking its legs which was uncool and caused it to make lots of noise. End result is I ended up smashing the poor thing with a brick to put it out of its misery quickly and I'm sure fairly painlessly. Get a have-a-heart or just a straight trap that kills them out right.