Troubleshooting Volvo that Won't Start

Troubleshooting Volvo that Won’t Start

Volvos’s most common problem is that the dashboard light turns on, but the engine won’t start. In some cases, you may hear a click from the engine. Volvo has a reputation as being a very reliable car that will rarely leave you stranded.

This guide will discuss rare cases when a Volvo won’t start. Other problems include Volvo’s refusal to turn over, especially in cold weather, the key getting stuck, or immobilizer issues that prevent engine start.

Common Problems

A weak or dead car battery is the most common problem preventing your Volvo from starting. 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.


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 preventing a Volvo from starting.

Watch the dashboard lights as you turn the key to confirm that the problem lies within the battery. If they are dim in the 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 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 a stereo or lights was accidentally left on. Otherwise, your battery might go bad, or your car may have 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.

The CEM module could also be the culprit if your Volvo doesn’t start in extremely cold or hot weather. 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.

Although this will prevent a car from starting, it is usually accompanied by a crossed-out-key light on the dashboard. If you have an intelligent 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, you should first press a throttle pedal while starting a car. This can help in cases where the idle control is not working correctly.

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, under the back seat or under the trunk floor. Have somebody turn the ignition on while listening for a buzzing sound indicating 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 correctly, 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. A Volvo all-system scanner is the only reliable way to narrow down the problem.

General notes

Avoid prolonged cranking if your car refuses to start, damaging the engine starter. Also, it will drain the battery quickly. Crank it only for several seconds and then stop. You should investigate the problem if it doesn’t start after two or three attempts.

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. You may have to crank the engine quite a few times to start the car. Don’t crank the engine for more than 3 to 4 seconds. 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, and fuel and prevent engine start when the car has been involved in an accident. For more help, read this article

We hope you find the Troubleshooting Volvo that Won’t Start guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your Volvo.

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One Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a Volvo 2004 s60 was driving one day came home car running fine shut it off and 2 hours later I go to use the car and turn the key no lights and nothing else either don’t turn over or anything. Tried using a new battery and the battery started to spark pretty bad.