Troubleshooting Volvo: Won't Start

Vehicle:   Volvo
Difficulty: ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
DIY Cost:
Est. Time: 30 min - 2 hr

Volvo has a reputation as being a very reliable car that will rarely leave you stranded.

In this guide, we discuss those rare cases when a Volvo won't start. 

Volvos's most common problem is that the dashboard light turn on, but the engine won't start. In some cases, you may hear a click from the engine.

Other problems include Volvo refuses to turn over, especially in cold weather, key getting stuck, or immobilizer issues which prevent engine start.

Common Problems

volvo won't start common causes problems S60, S80, V60, V70, XC60, XC70, V60XC

The most common problem that will prevent your Volvo from starting is a weak or dead car battery.

In many cases, the dashboard lights may come on, which can be misleading because it makes you think the car battery is fine.

Ensuring your battery is fully charged is the first thing you should do.  If it is not, follow these instructions to charge a Volvo car battery.

Other problems that will prevent your Volvo from starting include:

  • Empty gas tank
  • Bad Starter
  • Defective Central Electronic Module (CEM)
  • No fuel pressure / Defective Fuel Pump
  • Clogged fuel filter
  • Bad Key
  • Fuel Pump Relay
  • Immobilizer Defective
  • Seized engine

Troubleshooting a Volvo that won't start

First of all, you need to distinguish between two very different situations.

Battery

volvo not starting due to dead battery

If your Volvo won't start, but lights come on, the battery is often the problem. A flat or weak battery is one of the most common problems that will prevent a Volvo from starting.

To confirm that the problem lies within the battery, watch the dashboard lights as you turn the key. If they are dim in ON position or go dim when you turn the key to START, then the battery on your Volvo is probably bad.

Before doing anything else, visually check the battery. Corroded battery posts or the cable clamp is not snuggly fitted can cause a voltage drop and prevent your Volvo from starting.

The next step is to try jump-starting your car, either by using a jump starter or borrowing electricity from another car with jumper cables. Be careful not to mix positive and negative terminals while doing this!

If this helps you, don't forget to investigate why the battery drained in the first place. Maybe something such as stereo or lights was accidentally left on. Otherwise, your battery might be going bad, or your car has a parasitic drain.

If you need to replace the battery, follow this guide to replace your Volvo battery.

Also, it is possible that the alternator is not providing enough charge. Checking the battery voltage with a multimeter will reveal a lot.

You should get at least 12V across the battery terminals with the engine off and around 14V with the engine on.

Central Electronic Module

volvo cem problems preventing car from starting

The connections at your Central Electronic Module or CEM could be corroded, preventing engine start. If you have been having intermittent electrical issues such as wipers randomly turning on, for example, CEM could be the problem.

If your Volvo doesn't start in extremely cold or hot weather, the CEM module could also be the culprit. This guide explains common Volvo CEM electrical problems.

Bad Starter

Bad Starter Preventing Volvo from Starting

Another possibility is that the engine starter is bad or seized. Tapping the starter a couple of times with the mullet may allow you to start the engine a few more times.

Defective Key

bad volvo smart key preventing the car from starting

Volvo has transponders in the keyfob. It is possible that Volvo's immobilizer does not recognize the key due to a bad transponder. Even if the key fob unlocks the car, the key may still have a bad transponder chip inside.

Although this will prevent a car from starting, it is usually accompanied by a crossed-out-key light on the dashboard.

If you have a smart Volvo key, a weak key fob battery can prevent the car from starting. Follow this guide if you need to replace the battery in your Volvo key fob remote.

Shifter Position

volvo may not start if shifter is not in park

To start a Volvo with automatic transmission, the shifter must be in Park, and the brake needs to be applied. Cars with manual transmission require that the clutch is pressed to crank the engine.

Volvo engine turns over but won't start.

If experiencing this situation, the first thing you should do is press a throttle pedal while starting a car. This can help in situations where the idle control is not working properly.

No fuel

volvo fuel test port

A bad fuel pump can prevent your Volvo from starting. The fuel pump is located in the fuel tank, either under the back seat or under the trunk floor.

Have somebody turn the ignition on while you listen for a buzzing sound that indicates a working fuel pump. If you can't hear anything, the chances are that the fuel pump is dead.

Check the fuel pump relay, as that can also be the culprit.

To verify your fuel system is working properly, perform a fuel pressure test by connecting a Fuel Pressure Gauge to the Schrader valve located on the fuel rail on top of the engine.

Read Codes

As modern cars are loaded with various sensors and other sophisticated systems, Volvo no start scenario can be caused by many possible faults.

The only reliable way you can narrow down the problem is to use a Volvo all system scanner.

General notes

Avoid prolonged cranking if your car refuses to start, as this can damage the engine starter. Also, it will drain the battery quickly.

Crank it only for several seconds and then stop. If it doesn't start after two or three attempts, you should investigate the problem.

Common causes for crank-but-no-start are:

  • faulty ignition coils or leads,
  • crankshaft position sensor
  • dead fuel pump.

If your Volvo doesn't start, make sure to check the basics items. Poop up the hood, and check all the connectors and ignition leads to see if they are unplugged or loose. See if all the intake hoses are in place and don't have any cracks on them. Do the same with fuel lines, both in the engine bay and underneath the car.

Frequently Asked Questions

Volvo won't restart after running out of gas.,

When you run out of gas your fuel lines get filled with air. Even after you add fuel, your Volvo may not start. To get the car started, you may have to crank the engine quite a few times. Don't crank the engine for more than 3 to 4 seconds at a time. Make sure to wait a couple of minutes between cranks.

Volvo won't start after an accident.

Your Volvo may not start after an accident. For safety reasons, Volvo designs cars to cut power, fuel and prevent engine start when the car has been involved in an accident. For more help, read this article.

By YOUCANIC Automotive Experts
Nov 2020

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