Category Archives: 850

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.


The consequences of big wheels

Front drivers corner with new Enkei J10 silver wheels

When I went to wash the 850 recently, I noticed that the front tires were badly worn from rubbing on the inner fenders (the plastic fender liner).  The previous owner had fitted very large 18″×8″ Volvo “Mirzam” wheels, with 235/40/18 Riken Raptor tires, which were too large for the car and had worn away the inner fender liners, and badly damaged the tires.  I replaced these with 16″x7″ Enkei J10 silver wheels and 215/55/16 Bridgestone Potenza tires, and made several repairs to the fenders and steering system.

Click here to read the full article.

FCP Groton (FCP Euro): Good Customer Service

So last month I ordered two things from FCP Groton for my new 850. One was a set of OEM Volvo 850 floor mats and the other was a OEM door light.

When I got the package, it had a huge tear down one side, which had been re-taped by the carrier (I think it was UPS). The floor mats were inside, but the receipt and the small door light were gone.


I chalked this up to the typical UPS shenanigans and decided that for $20 it wasn’t worth filing a damage claim.

A little over a month later, I got an email from Chris Auger at FCP; basically just an automated customer service email:

Adam,Our records indicate that you placed an order with us on 5/28/2013 at our website for automotive replacement parts – order 461575. We wanted to make sure that you received the shipment and everything was to your satisfaction.I hope that you are happy with your purchase and I would like to hear about your shopping experience with us. You can share your thoughts by clicking on the following link:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase or shopping experience, please email us back directly and let us know. We are committed to upholding the highest levels of quality and service.

Thanks again for your order and loyal patronage.


Chris Auger

challenge accepted(1)

Being someone who never misses a chance to complain, I wrote back:

Hi Chris,Thanks for the email. Actually I did have an issue with the order that I’ve been meaning to write to you about. While I did receive all four floor mats, the box was badly damaged (there was a long gash down one of the edges, and it had been re-taped by the carrier). Unfortunately the packing list and the small replacement warning light housing were both gone (on the order it was 9151323 Volvo Interior Door Light (850 S90 V90 960) Genuine Volvo 9151323OE (1) @ $21.95 = $21.95). Maybe better packaging would have saved it, or perhaps taping the smaller items to the inside of the box somehow so they couldn’t fall out. Since it’s only $20, it’s not really worth it to me to file a claim against UPS, but I thought you should know that they were pretty rough on the package.Thanks,

Note that I didn’t ask for a new light or anything (since it wasn’t their fault at all; the packaging was very sturdy), but lo and behold:

AdamThank you for your email response. I apologize that your package was damaged during shipping and that the door light was missing. I am having a new light shipped out to you today. Please let me know if you have any questionsSincerely,



And…. I got my new light today! Time to replace that busted one.

Me gusta. Thanks FCP.


Volvo 850 exhausts: OEM vs. OBX vs. IPD vs. Eurosport

Let’s talk about 850 exhausts.  There are a lot of forum threads out there debating the merits of different exhausts, mostly coming down to the inexpensive OBX stainless exhaust (typically $350-450) vs. the more expensive IPD stainless exhaust. During IPD’s annual sales, you can get that exhaust for 15% off, or about $846, but normal retail is $995.  Why compare these two?  Because they are extremely similar looking… at least, on the surface.

Click here to read the full article.