Intercooler Review

This is a review for the Volvo 850 intercooler kit, reverse intercooler piping kit, and silicone coolant hoses.

I don’t review that many products on this blog, but I think this is worth a quick writeup.  do88 is a small company based in Nykvarn, Sweden, and they primarily sell intercoolers, radiators, and the related pipes and hoses.

The Project

While I was taking apart my Volvo 850 to put a manual transmission in it, I noticed that most of my rubber coolant hoses and intercooler couplings were in poor condition.  The rubber was getting old and starting to crack a bit.  So, I searched online and found do88.

There are a lot of other options out there for silicone hoses for you Volvo – it’s a competitive market.  IPD, Snabb, ARD, Mishimoto, and others all make or resell silicone hoses.  What I like about do88 is that I could get ALL the hoses, even the stupid little coolant hoses that no one ever replaces, and in black, red, or blue.  I went with black, since that is the only color that really went with this car.  As far as I know, do88 is the only retailer where you can buy every hose and pipe you need, matching, and in stock, for a Volvo 850.

What did I buy?  Radiator hoses, coolant bottle hoses, heater hoses, air hoses, drain hoses, reverse intercooler piping (metal pipes and silicone couplings), and the upgraded intercooler. I already had a set of the black IPD turbo coolant hoses, but do88 makes those too.

A side note on Intakes

I skipped the do88 air intake and inlet pipe (they also have a stock replacement pipe) and went with the Snabb intake combined with the IPD airbox (shown in the picture above).  While the do88 intake appears a bit larger than the Snabb and IPD kit, it unfortunately pulls in hot engine air.  Maybe not a problem in the cold Swedish climate, but an issue for me. The do88 stock replacement pipe would be nice, but it is primarily designed to fit larger turbos than the Mitsubishi 15g that comes on U.S. turbocharged 850s.

With the IPD airbox replacement, hot air intake is minimized, and the IPD air filter still has about a 40% increase in filter surface area versus the stock air filter.  The Snabb pipe is still a huge upgrade over the stock pipe as well.  I think the do88 intake would be great if you could separate it from the heat of the engine (maybe with a similar baffle setup like IPD’s design, or maybe a scoop cut out of the hood).  The do88 model also looks good if you are going for the largest intake possible or are using a larger air mass meter.



The Silicone

This is good stuff.  Probably as high of quality silicone as you can get.  Five-ply with a tough coating, not the usual three-ply.  It’s very resistant to changing shape.  But, good silicone is a commodity these days.  What really matters is the fit for your car – does it work, or will you go crazy trying to get it to fit?

All of the silicone fit fine for me, so that’s excellent.  If you are running a thicker intercooler or radiator (such as the do88 intercooler), then the main radiator hoses will be a little long and you’ll want to cut some off to fit your car.  Not hard to do – do88 has a good guide for cutting silicone here.

I also did follow their recommendation for the throttle body silicone and shorten it a bit, as I was still using the stock Volvo cold air intake pipe for the airbox, and needed some space.  Once of the nice things about the do88 kit is that you can get it for either the stock 850 Turbo throttle body, or for the larger 850 non-turbo throttle body (if you have upgraded).

A side note on Heater Hoses

Also, if you buy the 850 heater hoses, note that you will have to cut the metal collars off of the stock OEM Volvo heater hoses.  If you have aftermarket hoses, go get a pair of brass heater hoses from any 1994-98 Volvo 850/S70/V70 Turbo model at the junkyard.  Note that the collars need to be cut off carefully, cutting parallel to the length of the hose, and then pulled off with pliers.  A handheld hacksaw can do this.  do88 has some pictures of this on their website.



The Clamps

The do88 “BigPack” intercooler and charge pipes also come with high-quality clamps, no problems there.  Fitment was fine.

For the coolant hoses, one word of warning: do88 sells coolant hose clamps separately, so if you want nice shiny new hose clamps for their silicone coolant hoses, you will have to buy those as an add-on.  Or you can re-use your old hose clamps.


The Charge Pipes

The polished aluminum pipes fit well enough.  It’s only two pipes for the intercooler, and a third if you buy the intake as well.  They seem fine.  However, don’t expect them to stay pretty for long – you will almost certainly scratch them up during the installation or while working on the car at a later date. Scratches can be remedied with a bit of polishing compound, but you will want to test your polishing compound on a hidden area of the pipe to make sure it won’t be too coarse and leave scratches.


Since these pipes are larger than the stock ones, it’s a tight fit (see above pictures).  The car was engineered for a smaller pipe, so there’s less clearance around everything with the bigger do88 pipes.  It took me about five tries to fit the “hot side” intercooler pipe (from the turbo to the intercooler), and the pipe was scratched up quite a bit in the process, where it would hit the cylinder head (see above).

There is maybe 3-4mm of clearance on the underside of the hot side pipe where it passes over the cylinder head.  But with some careful test fitting, you can eventually get it installed without anything touching or rubbing.  The cold side intercooler pipe is a pretty easy fit without a lot of problems.



The Intercooler

The above image is from the do88 website.  The intercooler I received looked just like the one in the pictures. You can see some “unboxing” and comparison images in this review over at VolvoSpeed.

First off, this is a big intercooler.  While it is the same length and width as the original Volvo 850 intercooler, the core is much larger, and the overall dimensions are a bit thicker.  The outlets are also larger in diameter, and it is much heavier.  Overall, it is a much better-quality unit.

I don’t have the ability to test intercoolers properly, but do88 has some good graphs on their website.  The Volvo 850 intercooler is also notorious for its poor performance (the later 2001+ intercoolers were much better) so almost anything is going to be an upgrade over the original 850 intercooler anyway.

The fit of the do88 intercooler is very good.  It has the four bolt holes in the right location to fit right in to the stock intercooler location, and it comes with longer bolts to accommodate the thicker design. To fit the top charge pipe, I had to file down a little bit of the black plastic of the fan assembly, near the top intercooler port, but it is not a structural change.  To fit the bottom charge pipe, I had to bend a non-structural part of my radiator up and out of the way.  This was easy to do with a pair of pliers.

Warning: it is totally possible to install this intercooler upside down!  If you do, your charge pipes won’t fit right and you’ll wonder what you did wrong.  So, make sure you pay attention when removing your old intercooler.  The intercooler is displayed right-side-up on the do88 website in case you forget.  I installed the intercooler upside down the first time, and I was going crazy trying to figure out why I was having so many fitment problems.

A Few Other Notes

Customs Fees and Shipping

If you are in the U.S. and order from do88, prepare for a unique shipping experience.  I have ordered auto parts from foreign countries countless times – from Sweden, Norway, England, and Japan – over the last fifteen years.  This was the first time I had to pay a cash-on-delivery customs charge.  This charge can be paid to the UPS driver with a check only (personal check or certified/money order).  However, if you miss the delivery, or don’t have a check, you will have to pick up the shipment at a UPS distribution facility and pay with a certified check/money order only.

So, if you are in the U.S. and order from do88, I recommend emailing them first and ask them to give you a total shipping charge with customs fees pre-paid so you don’t run into this cash-on-delivery issue.  I would have gladly paid the fees in advance to avoid the three hours of my life it took to get my packages from UPS.  Heck, I would have paid an extra $100 to avoid that horrible evening, even if it just went straight into do88’s bank account.  What is your time and aggravation worth?

The upside is that the shipping was fast – halfway around the world in about three days.  Not bad at all.  Also, the boxes were very securely packaged, and arrived without damage, so that’s good.

Customer Support

One the positive side, I did have a good experience with do88’s customer support by email.  They were responsive to my emails and helped get me another throttle body hose after I damaged mine during the install.  Well, I thought I damaged it but really I just had the intercooler upside down, whoops.  So, now I have a backup hose I guess.

Overall, do88 was responsive and helpful, which is important because installing parts like these usually means that you car won’t be running for quite some time, and you may need help before you can get the car running again.  Further, if you have never taken your 850 apart to this level (removed the radiator and intercooler, and changed out all the coolant hoses), it can be a bit of a challenge depending on your level of mechanical skill.

Overall, I’m pleased with the products and the support, and I look forward to seeing what do88 comes up with in the future.

Ten Years Gone, Like Dusk to Dawn

Earlier this year, in March, we marked ten years here at  Over that decade, I’ve owned at least 14 Volvos, and documented them here on the website.  Tons of things have changed in my life, but one small consistency has been the cars.

Usually in these anniversary posts (which themselves are usually several months late), I end up writing about my future car plans.

I’ve been shopping for 2004-07 Volvo V70R’s for several years.  I’ve test driven several of them, but I just can’t pull the trigger and actually buy one.  I always pay cash for cars, so there’s that – it’s a big outlay.  But they are also incredibly needy and very expensive to maintain, and none of them are ever in as nice of shape as they appear online.  People list a V70R at twice the blue book, and you go to look at it thinking it must be immaculate, and it turns out it actually still needs $4,000 of suspension and drivetrain work!

So, I’m building what I call my “almost R” – taking the solid platform of the 1996 Volvo 855 platinum edition that I already own and building that up.

I also bought this:


A 1997 Volvo 850, non-turbo, that’s been beat up, is making some scary engine noises, and has a funky-smelling interior.  Sounds terrible, but it was cheap and has a very nice 5-speed transmission.  Since it’s only seen non-turbo power, the transmission still shifts smoothly even with 180,000 miles on the clock.

This past weekend I pulled the transmission out of this car.  It wasn’t an easy task, but was doable with an engine support beam, floor jack, transmission jack, and a LOT of patience.  Over the coming weeks I’ll be putting it into the 1996 855 platinum, with a list of other goodies:

  • Volvo M56H manual transmission, shifter, etc.
  • Replacement of wear items, such as hydraulic clutch cylinders, hoses, seals, subframe bushings, etc.
  • Euro 850R clutch kit
  • Quaife Limited Slip Differential (inside the transmission)
  • Snabb Short Throw Shift Kit (on top of the transmission)
  • Snabb intake pipe
  • Snabb 960 throttle plate
  • big intercooler and piping kit
  • silicone hoses throughout
  • Non-turbo throttle body and intake manifold (from 1997)
  • Non-turbo camshafts (from 1997)
  • Gates blue timing belt
  • OEM valve guide seals


  • Platinum-painted OEM rear wagon spoiler with LED brake light
  • Volvo windshield banner vinyl (silver text on black background)
  • European side markers

So, onward with the car projects and the Volvo adventures.  Who knows what I’ll be driving in 10 years – maybe a Tesla – but for now, still racking up the miles on my Volvo wagons.

Spyder Auto Projector Headlights Review

In the last six months I’ve noticed that my headlights on the Volvo 850 kept getting dimmer.  They were HID projectors that were installed by the previous owner, as shown in the picture below:


Doing some research, I found that it could be the projectors or the HID ballasts causing the problem, and I’d just have to replace them to find out.  Since the person who built these custom lights didn’t even use clear lenses (they were fluted glass intended for a regular halogen bulb), it didn’t seem sensible to spend any more money on a one-off design.

From searching around online, I found that a company called Spyder Auto made replacements for the Volvo 850 in both black and silver.  I chose the silver model (since they match the color of the car and the chrome grill), and bought them on for about $220 for the pair (here is the black version).

The headlights came well-packed, in a large box.  Each headlight was packed in styrofoam to keep it safe.  The fit and finish is excellent, and for this car, they are a one piece design.  The original headlights are two pieces per side – a turn signal assembly, and a headlight assembly.  Combined with the fact that these are clear projectors, this headlight upgrade automatically makes the car look about ten years newer.

The headlights came with bulbs installed, which I used.  The plugs on the back fit the car’s wiring harness well.  So far, the headlights have been water-tight in the last month or so of Oregon winter, but we’ll see how they are in a year.

I do have one complaint about the wiring.  The main headlight bulbs – the ones you need to be road-legal – all come pre-wired into the harness, just plug them in and go – great!  But the LED bulbs – on this model, the angel eyes and the small pair between the angel eyes – are not wired in at all – the wires are on the back of the headlights, but they are not hooked up.  So, you have to wire in three ground wires and three hot wires on each headlight.

To wire the LEDs, I spliced them into the circuits that were part of the Spyder headlights themselves, leaving my car’s wiring harness intact.  I simply cut the appropriate wire in the headlight, and used a crimping butt connector to wire in the very small LED wires.  Before the final crimping, I slipped a piece of heat-shrink tubing over the wire, then crimped, and then shrank the tubing with one of those long barbeque lighters.  A lot of extra work, that could have been avoided if these headlights came with the LEDs pre-wired from the factory!

In Spyder’s defense, there may be a good reason for this.  There may be different state laws regarding automobile lighting, or there may  owners that want to customize their lighting or not use the LEDs at all.  I wired the angel eyes to be always on (wired to the parking bulb) and wired the LED pair to blink with the blinker (wired to the blinker bulb), as shown:



My other complaint specifically has to do with fitment of these lights to Volvo 850s that came with headlight wipers.  There is NO provision on these headlights for the wiper support that bolts to the factory Volvo headlights.  All that would be needed is a small hole on the bottom of the light for the headlight wiper support to screw into.  I think it is a single M10 x 10mm screw on the bottom of each light.  Basically, it is a metal bar that sticks straight out from under the headlight, and the wiper arm rests on it when not in use.  While not all 850s have headlight wipers, the overwhelming majority of them DO, and so I consider this a design oversight on Spyder’s part.

You can see the gap where the headlight wiper support is supposed to be coming out, in this photo:


So, what to do about headlight wipers?  Will they scratch the plastic lenses of the headlights anyway?  After all, they are designed for glass lenses, not plastic.  When Volvo switched from glass headlights to plastic with the 2005 S60/V70, they also switched from headlight wipers to headlight sprayers.   So, I just unplugged the headlight wipers on the 850 (a brown plastic wiring connector behind the headlight on each side), and stuck the wipers in the gap below the headlight.  Not perfect, but it looks fine for now.  (In the future, I might try to find a plastic piece for below the headlight from a car with no wipers, and have it painted to match.  Then I would remove the headlightlight wiper assembly entirely).

Overall, I’m happy with these lights.  They are bright, the beam pattern and cutoff is very good, they look great, and the price is reasonable.  The install takes some time due to the extra wiring needed, but it’s not terrible.  And, Spyder is good enough to provide installation videos for most of their products, so it was easy to get started.  Long term, we’ll see how they hold up – I’m a little concerned about water leaks and UV radiation fogging the plastic (common with some cheaper aftermarket lights), but hopefully Spyder has done a good job with UV coating and weather sealing.  In about a year, I’ll update this with some long-term test results.


2006 V70 2.5T – Further Front Wheel Drive Adventures


So I ended up making another upgrade, biting the bullet and diving into a black 2006 V70 2.5T.  Volvo’s reliable 5-cylinder whiteblock, but in something a bit more modern.  I averaged 32 MPG on the way home from picking it up, and the ride is comfortable, quiet, and surefooted.  I shied away from the more powerful V70R model due to the reliability issues that come with that much power.  Beautiful wagons, but you have to pay to play, and for me, the value just wasn’t there.  A good V70 can sell for about half the cost of a comparable V70R, and that doesn’t count the higher insurance, worse fuel economy, more maintenance and more expensive maintenance.

You do occasionally see manual transmission T5 cars – “T5M” as they are called.  But the T5M is very rare, and only available from 2001-04.  The T5 and R cars, while more powerful than the 2.5T, also tended to be harder on the automatic transmissions.
The manual transmission 2.4 N/A cars are more common and get very good gas mileage, but the main issue with them is that most were base models with few options.  It is rare to find a manual transmission, 2.4 N/A car with leather and heated seats for example.
You can look up the options specific for each year (here, by changing the link to the appropriate year).  The available options, and how they were grouped, changed a lot from year to year.
I bought this particular 2006 V70 2.5T because of these reasons, which may provide some insight:
  • later years are better for these cars, especially the 5-speed automatic.
  • transmission fluid flushes were on the CarFax report and were done on schedule – extremely important.  transmission fluid was not new, but still red. I  flushed the fluid shortly after buying it for the 90k service (car has 89k).
  • car was from Southern California, rust free with one owner from 10k miles to now.  from 0 to 10k was a “corporate fleet” owner, likely a dealership.
  • car was black, and most of the colors that V70s came in are not appealing to me.  Silver, silver-green, silver-grey, silver-blue, silver-yellow, etc.  I was looking for white or black non-metallic ideally, or maybe blue or burgundy metallic.  V70R’s came in better colors (Passion Red, Sonic Blue, Magic Blue, and Flash Green for example) but sadly most of the ones for sale are usually black, gray or silver.  Boring!
  • car had most of the options I wanted (climate package, premium package, 17″ wheels, roof rails and cross bars.  missing: Dolby sound) and none that I didn’t want (nav, satellite radio).

So there is the V70 story so far…  I had the windows tinted a few weeks ago, put in a bluetooth radio adapter (so I can listen to some music from my phone), and have some maintenance work to catch up on (spark plugs, coil packs, vacuum lines) to sort out a very slightly rough idle.

I spent quite some time researching the P2 V70 cars and talking to mechanics about them.  Here are my notes from my search:

US engines:

  • 2.4 non-turbo (N/A) (01-07) (just “V70” badging)
  • 2.4 (01-03) or 2.5 (04-07) low-pressure turbo (“2.4T / 2.5T” badging, and the only option on all XC70s, 01-07).  The 2.5T was available in 03, but only on AWD models.
  • 2.3 (01-04) or 2.4 (05 only) high pressure turbo (“T5” badging)
  • 2.5 (04-07) even bigger turbo (“R” badging)

Mechanic notes:  All engines are solid, N/A easiest to work on and most reliable.  R least reliable due to high power and driver abuse.

US transmissions:

  • five speed manual M56 (01-04 on T5 models, 01-07 on 2.4 N/A models)
  • five speed geartronic (01-07, all models except 06-07 R, and only option on all XC70s, 01-07)
  • six speed geartronic was only available on the 2006 to 2007 V70R.  It never came on a non-R V70 or XC70.
  • six speed manual M66 was only available on the R cars.  It never came on a non-R V70 or XC70.

Mechanic notes: M56 very reliable.  6 speed GT (06-07 R models) very reliable.  M66 prone to hydraulic failures, clutch issues.  Look for popping out of gear during test drive – big warning sign.  5 speed GT terrible in early years as Volvo originally spec’d this transmission to never have the fluid changed.  Toyota used the same transmission in many of its cars and spec’d it at 30k.  Volvo later changed their recommendation to 30k as well, but not after many transmission failures on the early cars.  Early cars (01-03, maybe 04) also need transmission software updates from the dealer and “B4 servo cover” fixes that can be had from IPD.  Later year is better for this transmission. Pay attention to shifts, especially 2nd to 3rd.  Watch out for “flaring” where the car misses the shift and takes 5-10 seconds to go into gear – big warning sign.

US drivetrains:

  • AWD: all XC70s and all R’s
  • AWD: optional on 02-04 V70s — 2.4T in 02, 2.5T in 03 and 04 (had AWD badge on back)
  • FWD: all other V70 models

Mechanic notes: AWD systems prone to failure in numerous points.  Typically front and rear bevel/angle gears and/or sleeves.  Watch for any sign of leaks at front/rear diff when buying as evidence of internal failure.  Expect $2500 service to fix each end.  R cars prone to more failures to to high power/torque including axles and driveshaft issues.  “If you can, get a FWD model and snow tires instead”

US Model Year changes:

  • 2001: first year, variety of issues, esp. electronic throttle module – avoid.
  • 2003: updated AWD system
  • 2004: introduction of R model
  • 2005: “facelift” with new plastic headlights instead of glass, new bumpers on XC cars, new center console layout, etc.
  • 2006: updated AWD system, R cars get 6 speed auto
  • 2007: last year, probably best year.

Mechanic notes: never buy an 2001 (heard this from many, although 2001 manual transmission would be “OK” as majority of issues were transmission related), and avoid 2002-03 unless its a manual transmission.  2004-05 are good (but for an auto you want records of transmission service), and 2006-07 are ideal, especially for the XC and R models).

There is some other good information here as well.