Monday, March 31, 2008

Stayin' at home, stayin' at home

Our mystery car problem has resurfaced. So far, the old gray wagon has visited the school shop, the dealership, an independent Volvo mechanic and the Firestone down the street.

We've also got a call in to Car Talk. (Keep your fingers crossed!)

Until then, I'm temporarily grounded. And you know what? I spend so much less and get so much more done!


Anonymous said...

Meredith, What a lovely "old-fashioned" thing to do - stay home! :) It is especially cozy to do so on a cool, rainy day like today. Would you like to tell us what the "mystery car problem" is in the hopes one of us has had a similar problem? Wouldn't it be fun if one of your "fans" could point you in the right direction?
Have a great day with the kiddos.

Meredith said...

Good idea, Vicky! I'm sure there are more than a few old Volvo drivers who read this blog : )

The problem: the car dies while driving. Just cuts off completely with a total loss of power. Could happen anywhere, anytime, with no warning.

What we've had replaced: the crank sensor, the coil, knock sensor, the master air flow sensor, the main computer module.

After the main computer module was replaced, we had a week of good driving. Now the problem is back again!

So if you have any ideas, let me know : )

Anonymous said...

oooh, I hope you get on Car Talk!! I love listening to that show!
In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy being at home. I've had that happen too due to car problems and I'm afraid my attitude wasn't the best. Like your picture, though, I always got caught up on the ironing!

Anonymous said...

How old is your Volvo and how long are you planning to keep it? I had a 1990 and it was great until 2002, but then I starting putting too much money in repairs so bought a new car (unfortunately, couldn't afford another Volvo this time.) I don't know how you know when it is time to give up the ghost! My sister has a 1989 Volvo that is still humming right along. They are great cars but I guess even Volvos bite the dust sooner or later. I do hope you find the problem and it doesn't cost a fortune to repair.

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

My parents had the same problem with their Volvo! They ended up getting rid of it after trying a ton of was 16 years old at that point so pouring money into fixing it was making less and less sense. I hope you find the problem!

Meredith said...

No, no, don't tell me that : )

This wagon is a 92, and we've had very few problems with it. We didn't pay very much for it, but we had hoped to drive it at least 4 more years.

It's a catch-22 at this point: we have to fix it to sell it to someone else, and we have to fix it to keep it.

So we'd better find a fix! Firestone has been eXTREMELY generous in helping and not charging for repairs which did not work.

Anonymous said...

Meredith, This is possibly a great coincidence, at least I hope so! We had a '93 Dodge Caravan and it did the same thing!! I was telling a friend about it and she said her car did that too and told me how they fixed it. If your car has a fuel injector then it has a throttle body. My husband took the throttle body out and cleaned it with carborator cleaner. It was verrrry dirty! Ta-da! After that, he had to clean it about once a year, I think, until the car finally died. Maybe that's it??? Oh, I hope so!! If you need more detailed info let me know and I'll have my husband send you a detailed e-mail of what all he cleaned, etc.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm an old Volvo driver who reads your blog. My car, however, is new. I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist! LOL I do hope you get your car problem solved. Nothing is more annoying!

Kirsten Hill said...

Wow. We have a 94 volvo wagon (also with basically the same problem, except that ours sometimes also doesn't start. After the shop couldn't figure it out for two weeks, we took it home and my husband has been trying to fix it himself. He has replaced over a dozen parts including the ones you mentioned, and still hasn't gotten it completely figured out.

We really didn't want to take out a car loan for another car, but we had gone two months w/o a reliable car, so at the end of January, we got another vehicle, but we have been praying that we could get the volvo fixed soon to sell it and pay back the loan.

So, please keep us updated if you figure it out! If my husband figures something out, I'll come back to comment and let you know. Good luck!

Jan said...

Staying home. What a novel idea. I am pleased you are adapting. In our modern culture we spend far too much time on the run and sometimes things like this (car trouble) help us see a better way.

Anonymous said...

I am really sorry to hear of your car problems. I know all too well how expensive it can be to try to get a car fixed. We are lucky in that my brother in law is in auto repair with his own shop. That is a HUGE help to us. I really hope that you get an answer to your question soon. My suburband is a 1998 with about 130,000 miles. I love the thing. It is so expensive I can not afford to drive it, but for trips it is great. The boys each have their own seat with plenty of room in the rear to carry our things. My husband has a 2004 Ford truck. Not our first choice of a brand, but when we HAD to buy a truck it was what we found that was in really good shape that we could pay cash for. I hope we never ever have another car payment.
Thank you for the reminder, that yes, if we do stay home we tend to save money. Though with the internet I tend to 'shop' in the web sites of my favorite places.
I was so proud of myself on Saturday. I actually went into a favorite store, The Container Store and even with a special coupon I did not buy anything. NOTHING, ZIP, NADA...for me that was big. My husband could not believe I made it out of the store with nothing. Thanks again..Roxie

Anonymous said...

Meredith, my Volvo did that exact thing a few times and I replaced several things, but as I recall the actual fix involved replacing a filter. I can't remember what filter, because that happened 10 years ago. I think it might have been on the catalytic converter. I'll try to see if my husband remembers.

Anonymous said...

My father has been an import auto mechanic in MI for the last 30 years, so I forwarded your description on to him, saying that any thoughts would be helpful except "get a new car." A friend of mine in OH bought a Volvo a few years ago, and his advice to her was "find a mechanic you trust and bake him lots of cookies - you're going to see each other often!" My dad's quite a character, plus he likes baked goods....

Grace in Nashville

Mrs. Darling said...

Boy aint that the truth!

Andrew Forsyth said...


From the husband of one of your readers....

I have had issues like this with volvo before and although they sound SO SO simple my problems boiled down to a Loose battery cable, a block air intake and a clogged fuel injector. This had a similar effect on our BMW where the exhaust output was not good enough and as such the car choked on it's own monoxide and died. This needed a bigger pipe going to the back and a new muffler.

The thing with Volvos is that they are like Kids... 8 can have the same issue but there are 8 different ways of fixing the issue.

You can also hunt down the forums at and as both of them have helped me more times than I can count.



Ann @TheAssetEdge said...

Oh, I'm so sorry!!! I love that you called Car Talk. We listen to them every weekend. My 6yr old son even likes to listen to the "car guys". Good luck getting it fixed!

Toadzilla said...

I love your blog! We had a similar problem with our jeep. I googled the problem. We were able to fix our problem for $1.12. It happened to be some bolts that were to long. We spent over 500.00 before that trying to figure it out. My advice google it if you haven't already.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have a local radio or TV station in your area...but if you do they might be willing to do a consumer news feature on your problem and in the process get your car fixed.....especially if they have a dealership or car repair sponsor....I was in broadcasting for 27 years and we used to do this type of story all of the's a win-win situation. God Bless, Pam, South Bend

lfhcreative said...

We have 3 Volvo wagons ranging from the early 80's to the late 90's and have had our share of mystery problems with them all. I feel your pain!

I know our '83 Volvo died repeatedly because of loose harness wiring and our newest Volvo freaks out periodically because of the ABS system. My husband uses to get help from other Volvo enthusiasts when we have a problem. They are usually more helpful than a local shop!

I love your blog! Thanks for sharing your creativity and frugality!

Marsha said...

We have a '92 Volvo 740 and my in-house gearhead suggests:

- checking for bad grounds
- checking the ignition switch (the 740s had several different kinds, once of which he categorizes as "a nightmare")
- doesn't think it's a throttle body, as Volvo's don't have the same kind of thing as the Caravan that a previous commenter fixed, but perhaps a fuel intake might be wonky

Given your comment about the computer change giving you a week of good driving, he strongly suggests checking the grounds. There are places that corrode and can interfere with the proper flow of electricity and other places where the tendency to leak oil can interfere. Anywhere that wires are connected to the car body, take the bolts apart and clean with a good contact cleaner (Deoxit is nice, he says). The computer change preceding some good driving suggests that perhaps a contact was jostled enough to "fix" temporarily.

Nicole said...

What a great attitude you have about it. We are having similar problems and I dont have nearly as good an attitude about it as you do. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

Carolyn said...

I wrote a post a couple days ago about how I'm going to try to drive less to save on gas and money spent in the store. I think it's good to focus on the positive side like you are instead of like so many people around me who always seem to say, "Oh, I hate being stuck in my house all day!" I think our homes should be a place we love to be. If it's not, then we should find ways to change that. Of course it's not good to be a hermit, but for some reason I've noticed that even women who are "stay-at-home moms" really don't like being at home. Why is that?

Anonymous said...

We had this happen twice with our old car, a Plymouth, and the first time it stopped b/c of the timing chain. The second time both the cam shaft and computer had problems. It's pretty frightening isn't it, when you're driving and the car just stops? I pray that God blesses your family. :) We are a one car family now, for now at least, and it is a blessing more than anything. It took time to realize that, and I don't always feel that way, but it is doing more good than bad-just like when the laptop broke and I could no longer get online in the daytime. SUCH a blessing! :) Funny isn't it, how we sometimes don't see that until we are forced to slow down. Thankfully you are close enough to walk to some things; though hopefully you will have your car working again soon!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this will help. but my 1990 Jeep did the same thing (on the highway no less) and we ended up with a new oxygen sensor, which fixed the problem. Just another thought-make sure there are no recalls outstanding on your vehicle, the oxygen sensor problem we had could have been diagnosed much more quickly if the garage had checked for recalls because even thought the vehicle was old there was a recall notice for this part.

Anonymous said...

I really like staying home--I used to always be on the go with my boys, but have transitioned in to slowing down and enjoying each moment...and, the bonus of saving money from gas or shopping is nice, too!

Anonymous said...

Trust me, I have no advice to give since about the only thing I know how to do is get in my van and drive it (and spend tons of money filling the gas tank!), but I sure do think the readers of this blog are a wonderful group for offering all these suggestions. I sure hope that something they've said, or the call to the car program, brings you some answers soon!!

Anonymous said...


I have a '92 wagon. I just found out that mice get into my car at night and chew on the battery cables. Apparently they like the silicone in the cable lining. I was parking it under a tree that drops a tiny nut-like "thing" which gets under the hood and they were attracted to the warm environment plus the "food".

My car kept dying and I spent a ton fixing it at the Volvo dealership. A mecanic at a gas station finally noticed it (he saw droppings right under the hood closest to) the windshield. We replaced the cables and haven't had a problem since.

He also told me to put a box of Decon under the car.

Maybe that's it.


Anonymous said...


We have a 95 Volvo wagon and just had the same problem. It turns out replacing relay switch fixed it.

Renee said...

Keeping you in my thoughts with your car. I love the look of volvo's and have heard great things about them. So sorry to hear that it's giving you trouble.

It does make life a lot different without having a car with planning your week arount this. It also like you said helps you stay at home, and the money saved.

With gas prices here and probably everywhere else I am staying home more, but really need to buckle down and plan a once a week shopping day.

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Hi Meredith,

It's very scary and dangerous to lose power while winging down the highway. I had a Dodge Caravan that did this. Turns out the problem was that I had replaced the battery. When you do this, you have to reboot the computer and so the solution was to unattach the battery cables, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then reattach cables. Problem solved.

I had a friend years ago with a VW bug that keep conking out on the highway. She had it in the shop MANY times, no luck. Finally, in desperation, her mechanic removed the gas tank and drained it. There at the bottom of the tank was the little paper seal that comes on the top of a bottle of dry gas. She had been adding dry gas to her tank in the winter and the little seal fell in one time. Every so often it would rise to the top of the tank and block the fuel. Removing it solved the problem.

Good luck. Love your blog. Read it first thing when I log on to my computer.


Sandy said...

Hi girl - we had a Volvo for years. Guess what? We bought it at a yard sale. We wish we hadn't sold it. I love being housebound, seriously I'm more creative w/my time!

Hey, where's your APRIL FOOL's post? Crazy "snow" dinner we had, uh? It's just fun to do something different and creative. Did you like our new patio heater? ? ?

Happy Day!

chona said...

Sandy - I love that you bought your car at a yard sale! We've been in the same boat with old cars that are sometimes undependable, but it sure beats being in debt for a car. The key is to have a good towing service and patience! We have been blessed from a few people giving us their old cars as well, which allows us to bless others.