Volvo has a reputation as being a very reliable car that will rarely leave you stranded. But even Volvos are not 100% immune to breakdowns, and one day you might find that your Volvo won't start.
Common problems that Volvo owners face including hearing engine not starting but you hear a clicking noise, Volvo refuses to start in cold weather, key getting stuck or immobilizer preventing engine start.
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.
No crank no start
This is when you turn the key, but instead of hearing engine crank, nothing happens. Or you just hear a clicking sound from the engine bay.
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 lays within the battery, watch the lights on the dashboard 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.
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
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.
Also if your Volvo won't start in extremely cold or hot weather the CEM module could also be the culprit. This guide, explains common Volvo CEM electrical problems.
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.
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 too. Follow this guide if you need to replace the battery in your Volvo key fob remote.
To start a Volvo with automatic transmission, shifter must be in ‘Park’, and brake needs to be applied. Cars with manual transmission require that the clutch is pressed in order to crank the engine.
Volvo engine turns over, but won't star
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. Things get a bit more complicated if that does not help.
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, 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.
As modern cars are loaded with various sensors and other sophisticated systems, Volvo no start scenario can be caused by a whole range of possible faults. The only reliable way you can narrow down the problem is to use a Volvo scan tool to read stored error codes.
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 that 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.
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