Volvo 940SE and the Junk Yard Adventure

Jeffrey and Becca at the YardMy oldest daughter and I spent our Saturday at a junk yard for the first time.  It was good times.

I had made a list in my Evernote Notebook of things we wanted to find.  We had some neat finds, some success and some frustrations.


We found one 960 sedan and one 960 wagon.  Both are gold, and have great, rust free doors (I need the drivers side door at some point – but didn’t feel like I was ready to pull it this time.)  We found a red 1996 960 wagon.  You can tell they really did make the 960 more of a luxury car – much more nose insulation; a much nicer steering wheel.  I also did confirm (which I’ll write here as I can’t seem to find confirmation about this out on the web) that my 940SE (940 SE) is really a first version of the 960.  Short of the fact I have the Turbo 4 (sorry, Volvo aficionados – don’t have my exact engine model number handy) and doesn’t have the upgraded interior trim and noise insulation, its interior design changes are all 940.  It was neat to explore these cars and learn more about them.

Donor Volvo 960 Wagon


We found the rear seat with the kid booster (that I want to find a way to put in the 940SE to be Charlie’s future seat.  We found the desired instrument cluster bezel (some previous mechanic tour mine up to no end), as well as better looking trim (will show in another post), and new headlight lenses (yay!  Finally!  With those and the new grill from ebay I can start reducing the ghetto look!).


We spent a lot of time on two items (being the amateurs we are).  The back seats took us a lot of time to get out.  And, now, looking at my 940SE, it looks like the latches and the way the seats connect is significantly different. (Sounds like a phone call to Allison Customs again!)

We also spent a lot of time getting the glove box door out.  We ended up in a Passenger Air Bag Equipped car, and getting the glove box and door out of that was basically impossible.  Upon post research, and as demonstrated by getting my glove box out in about three minutes, finding a non-airbag car would have made for an easy win.  Oh well, live and learn.

Over All Excited

All and all, I’m excited that we have some good parts to keep the project moving forward.

The Project and The Accomplishment

Driving the New Purchase Home

Several months ago, I got back into my “tied for first place” dream car.  I purchased a used 1991 Volvo 940 SE Turbo Wagon.  I love these cars.  They are fun to drive; they are comfortable; they are versatile with their room.  The plan was for this to be a project car and rebuild it / build it into what I’ve always had in my mind’s eye.  Well, with the move to New Mexico, that got put on hold until recently.

Necessity required me to get “back into the grease” recently.  From day one, the car’s interior electronics would not come on until you revved the engine to about 3 or 4 grand.  I kind of always wondered what would happen if you didn’t.  A friend of ours borrowed the car one day and, well, we found out.  It dies; completely draining the battery.  I’ll write the rest of the gory details below for anyone who is interested.

I was able to figure out and fix the “revv or die” issue – which felt good and has motivated me to push on with the dream car.

If you are interested in following along, keep an eye out here.  Also, I’ve set up an Evernote notebook for the project.  Make sure to sort by “Note Title – Ascending” to see the notebook in the right order.  The numbered notes are my “To Do’s.”  The rest are self explanatory.


The Repair Details

I started to do some testing and found that the alternator was not charging the battery until you did the revved up.  More research, plus input from my buddy at Allison Customs, told me that either the alternator was bad, or, the “exciter wire” was not connected.  So, a couple of weekends ago I pulled the alternator (an accomplishment for a code monkey like me as it required pulling apart the intercooler to get it out) and had it tested.  It tested good.  So, it must have been that exciter wire.  I found a post in the Inter-web that said it goes through the instrument cluster – directly connected to the “Charging Problem Light.”  I did a quick test to confirm that there was no connection.  More searching revealed that Volvo, sadly, did not do a good job with their solder joins.  So, I pulled the cluster, resoldered all the joints, and, victory(!), the instruments all work and the car charges on start.

Specifics about what to resolder, as well as pictures of my situation, are in my Evernote notebook above.

Funny, though – with all the warning lights working again, the Brake and ABS warning lights are now on – ah, just some more TLC to perform. 😉