1983 Volvo 242DL DL logo

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I bought this car in the summer of 1998 from a college aged kid that wanted something newer.  The car originally belonged to his aunt and uncle.  It had approximately 160,000 on the odometer.

At the same time that I purchased this car, I also looked at a 1980 242GT.  If you've never seen one, they were a special model that Volvo came out with 1978 - 80.  They weren't any faster than regular 240's, but they had lots of suspension goodies.

I suppose the almost purchase of a GT made me subconsciously begin to upgrade this DL.

Some of my upgrades were from junkyard acquisitions and some were from ipd.  ipd has conveniently brought back some of the GT  suspension goodies.

242 DL Picture of the car during trip to 1999 VSA East Coast National Meet in Asheville, NC.  (This is before I upgraded to the 5 spoke alloy rims).


This car came with the large clock on the dash.  I switched the car over to the large tach/small clock setup from junkyard parts.

Balu Vandor   snatched a 50mm voltmeter off of some water-cooled    VW at a junkyard and I added it to the empty gauge hole under the small  clock.   I wired it into a spot on the fuse box that is on whenever the key is in either the I or II position.

Turbo sways from a junkyard

Rear Headrests (junkyard)

Large style airdam (junkyard)

15-inch Volvo 5 spoke alloys with Bridgestone RE71 205/55 ZR15's.

Bilstein struts/shocks

ipd (GT) strut tower reinforcement plates

ipd Stainless steel brake lines

ipd (GT) upper and lower chassis braces

ipd (Nissens) all metal three row radiator. 

The Bilstein and Brakes story.

Summer 2001

As the car topped 200,000 miles, the shocks/struts were wore out and the car was beginning to creak and groan during turning.  I began to make plans for some upgrades/repairs.  Conveniently, I was soon to receive my George Dubya Shrub Tax Rebate check and I knew that to do my civic duty, I must stimulate the economy by spending my rebate on foreign made auto parts.

The brakes had also gotten spongy, so I replaced the pads with PBR pads from ipd.  I did a 10 second inspection of the calipers and decided the fronts were ok and the rears were in so so shape (rubber dust boot-wise).  The brake fluid was dark and cloudy, so I decided to take the car in and have the brakes bled.

Well, this is East Texas and Volvos are pretty exotic in these  parts.  Most brake shops wouldn't touch it or didn't want to put Castrol LMA fluid in it.  In fact, it was almost impossible to find Castrol LMA fluid for sale around here.  I finally found some at Pep Boys in Tyler.   One shop said they could bleed the car and then admitted they didn't know how to do it, AFTER the car had been dropped off.  Then a tire shop in Tyler (that  is very popular and came highly recommended), Bill Day Tires, agreed to bleed  the brakes if I provided the fluid.

$50.00 and a few hours later, the car was "proclaimed" ready.

The car felt a little better, but not great.  Then within a few weeks the brakes got much worse.  The pedal would initially give good pressure and then all at once the pedal would sink then firm back up a bit.  It was very predictable and repeatable.

I figured that the master cylinder probably had internal leakage.  I also noticed that the brake fluid was cloudy and dark again.

Not wanting to go through the bleed ordeal again, I purchased an EZIBLEED pressure bleeder from ipd.

I had also ordered Bilstein Struts for the front and Bilstein shocks for the rear.

So I was planning a big suspension and brake repair party.

For readers that don't know, some special tools are needed for doing the front struts.

Top Nut Tool
Spring Compressors
Spanner Wrench to loosen the strut gland nut - can use a pipe wrench
Ball joint separator/press

For things I plan on doing often, I purchase good quality tools.  Most of my tools are Craftsman.
For things I don't plan to do often, I am a firm believer in cheap tools, such as Harbor Freight.

So I ordered a ball joint tool, spring compressors and spanner wrenches from Harbor Freight.

The top nut of the strut holds the strut piston to the upper strut mount bearing.  The piston must be held still with a wrench while the lock nut is removed.  The nut, however, sits deep inside of the bearing mount.  The Bentley manual faithfully shows the Volvo special tools required for the job, while the Haynes manual quite innocently shows the piston held by a regular open end wrench and the locknut being turned by a deep offset box end wrench.

Problem:  the locknut is a 24mm.  Try finding a 24mm deep offset box end wrench!  (or a 15/16")

Every set of deep offset box end wrench set ends at 22mm or 7/8   in.  (Actually I discovered one month after doing this work  that Craftsman does has a 15/16 deep offset box end wrench, but when I visited  the Sears in Tyler, I asked for a 24mm, which they don't have - and didn't  think to ask for the 15/16.  Thinking back - I probably had not run the calculation that 15/16 inches = 23.8125 mm.)
I search on the web and found that Snap-On makes a 15/16 wrench which can be yours for a mere  $50!!! ( The Craftsman wrench goes for $22.50).

I splurged and ordered it.

It didn't fit.  Not enough offset.  (Look at the picture again, the offset would have to be nearly 90 degrees, and the Snap-On and Craftsman wrenches only feature about a 60 degree offset.

So my boss, Brian Capps, using measurements we took off of the car, fabricated a tool to do the job.     He sawed off a socket, welded on a plate and drilled a hole through the plate so a wrench can hold the strut piston.  Here is a view of the tool sitting on top of a strut.  Note that there is just enough room to slip on a 10 mm wrench to hold the strut piston steady.

In the meantime - while I was waiting for tools/parts to arrive (and or  be fabricated), I went ahead and did the rear shocks and started to work on the brakes.  I wanted to make sure the bleeder valves on the rear calipers were in good shape while I had the rear of the car jacked up.

Guess what...  the valves were both broken off.

This means that Jim Day Tire of Tyler either broke off the bleeders when they bled the lines or (more likely) they didn't bleed the brakes at all and took my $50. 

Since the rear rubber dust boots didn't look very good when I replaced the pads earlier in the summer, I went ahead and ordered a pair of rebuilt ATE calipers.  And since I was going to be replacing the calipers I went ahead and ordered ipd's stainless steel brake lines.  It helped that they were on sale.

I had also decided to paint the new calipers red.

When the calipers arrived, one of them was missing the bolt-on bump stop.  What is the exact purpose of the bump stop anyway?     It looks like it is there to limit the crumple of the trunk in an accident.     It also looks as though it would stop the crumpling trunk from shearing off  the brake lines in the rear.  All-in-all a pretty necessary piece of  steel. 

I painted the calipers and gathered all tools and parts and awaited Labor Day Weekend 2001.

At this time, I don't really have a decent paved surface for working  on cars, so I loaded the trunk of the DL with every tool I could think of  possibly needing and a formidable arsenal of aerosol automotive chemicals and headed to visit my parents who live just outside of Dallas, TX.   My Dad cleared the garage for me and we turned it into a impromptu Volvo repair shop.

Day 1

The car went up on all fours and we began taking apart the front suspension.  This was the moment of truth for the "tool".  After several applications of PB Blaster pennitrant an attempt was made to free the stuck strut top nut.

So much planning, tool searching, purchasing, fabricating had been expended.  All for naught - the nut wouldn't budge and we were starting to round off the top of the strut.  The 10mm open face wrench was rounding off as well.

So we pulled off the entire strut and hub assembly.  Before loosening the three upper strut mounting nuts, I marked the suspension setting like it shows in both the Haynes and the Bentley manuals.  I also had to remove the rotors and calipers.  I went ahead and disconnected the calipers because I was going to be putting on the stainless steel brake lines.  There is a good picture in the Haynes manual of the three nuts you have to loosen to remove the control arm off of the A-arm.  You also have to separate the ball joints on the end of the steering rack and to take off the ends of the front swaybar.

With the assembles removed, I used my spring compressors to widen the gap of the coils at the point that the gland nut.  The gland nut hold the strut cartridge onto the strut tube.  In my mad purchase of cheap chinese tools, I had ordered a set of Spanner Wrenches, which are perfectly designed to remove the gland nut.  Typical with my experience in this project, they didn't arrive until 3 weeks after I completed the work.  So I used a pipe wrench - 2 actually - one to turn the nut, and one to hold the strut tube still.  If you do this, and you have the assembly laying on the ground, there will still be some compression on the spring and the strut cartridge will eject out of the tube and travel about 18 inches.  So be careful.

The strut cartridge still had the seized top nut attached, with the old upper strut mount bearing and the upper spring seat still attached.  I had new upper strut bearings, but I needed to reuse that upper spring seat.  So I called around and found a Firestone shop that agreed to remove the top nut for me.  They put an impact wrench on the nuts and spun them off.  All that special tool nonsense and it was as easy as getting someone to do it with an impact wrench.  Best of all they didn't charge me!  So here is a free plug for the nice guys at the Firestone Shop on Camp Wisdom Road in Duncanville, Texas!

By the way, the old cartridges said "V O L V O" on them and were probably the original cartridges - 18 years old!

This ended the work for the first day.

Day 2

On Day 2, we put the assembles back together with the new Bilstein cartridges.

The cartridges were depressed once completely to distribute the strut oil, per manufacturers instructions.  Don't be surprised if the struts act stubborn at first and don't want to compress.  I put a shop rag on the garage floor, inverted the tube and pressed down on the cartridge.

I took a dab of the excess strut oil and smeared it on the threads    of the strut tube and on the Bilstein gland nut.  Bilstein supplies   a special gland nut tool that indicates the proper torque for the gland nut.    Careful that ring tool wants to slip off often!

Next the spring has to be compressed so the infamous top nut can  be put on.  It is a slow, tedious, and exhausting process to crank on  the spring compressors until the top nut can be attached!

With the upper spring seat in place and the NEW upper strut mount    on top, it was time for the top nut torquing.  Being obsessed with  the  top nut removal for over a month, I had also been thinking about it's  subsequent  replacement.  Stock struts (and some other brands) have threads that  run up the piston shaft so far and then the top is flattened on the side to accept a 10mm open face wrench.   The Bilsteins are threaded all the way to the top with an 8 mm allen wrench  hexagonal hole in the top of the strut.  Brian, my boss and inventor of the now infamous "tool", and I simultaneously had a thought.   Why not put a spacer under the top nut that lifts the nut up enough that the special tool is not necessary?  I went to Tractor Supply ("Where America's Farmer's Shop" - it says) and found two shaft collars that were about the height of the top nut and fit the strut piston shaft without any play, but not too snuggly (pic of nut with spacer).   Here is a pic of the torquing .  With the spacer in place, the expensive Snap-On wrench fits nicely.  Trivial note: With the Snap-On wrench turning the nut clockwise, my torque wrench had to turn the shaft counter-clockwise.     I had to turn the knob on the torque and torque counter-clockwise for the first time ever.  Look at the picture again and think about it, if you aren't getting it.

With the top nut in place, the next step is probably the most physically challenging. 

I had to try to cram the assembly back into the strut tower and    get the three bolts on the upper strut mount to pop up through the holes   in the tower.  It was sort of a 10 minute cram and wiggle with this  really heavy assembly while my Dad fiddled with putting the nuts on.  He just concentrated on getting each nut started.  I then went back one by one and reattached the nuts after adjusting the position of the strut assembly to match the timing marks I had marked the day before.  I chose to add the ipd strut tower reinforcing plates.  These sit on top of the strut bearing and under the tower.  I'm glad I didn't forget them, or I'd have had to to the cram and wiggle for 10 more minutes!

I experimented with many different bizarre ways of trying to get  the control arm and the A-arm to line back up with little success.    I was concentrating on how to get the strut assembly and control arm to line   up with the A-Arm.  But that means you have to compress the spring.     Then the 5 watt bulb in my head went off and I realized that it is way easier   to lift the A-arm and make it line up with the control arm and the strut!  30 seconds later, bingo...

Another of my cheap Chinese tools was a Ball Joint Tool.  This monstrous thing that I got for little dough from Harbor Freight must have been designed for working on diesel trains or something.  I had to jack up the assembly some to give this tool clearance, but it worked at squeezing and holding the joint still so the nut can be attached.  Without pressure on it, the ball joint wants to freely rotate when you turn the nut.

I then reattached the swaybar ends.  This is an annoying job to do solo.  If you get one end attached, the other end gets jammed up.  I usually spend a lot of time running back and forth from one side of the car to the other.

TA DA!  suspension DONE!

End of Day 2 - We cleaned up and went to my niece's wedding.

Day 3

Remember, there was brake work to be done...

Since I had removed the front calipers in order to remove the strut assemblies on Day 1, I took the brake lines off of the calipers and painted these calipers red to match the rebuilt ones for the rear.

First I removed the old rear calipers and attached the stainless steel brake lines.

Then I attached the rebuilt rear calipers.

In the cheap Chinese tool department, I thought I had really done my homework.  I had bought a set of Flare Nut Wrenches so I wouldn't round off any brass fittings.  It turns out that the 3 main sizes of wrench needed for brake work on a Volvo are 8, 11, and 14mm.

My cheap set of flare nut wrenches didn't come with 8 or 11!

I attached the front stainless steel lines.  

Then in my haste to attach the front calipers, I cross threaded one of the brass fittings where it attaches to the caliper itself.  For hours, my dad and I carefully filed on the threads to try to reattach the fitting.

BE VERY CAREFUL when messing with these fittings.  Lesson:  Attach the fittings to the caliper by hand, backing out at the slightest resistance. After it is hand tight, only then do you touch it with a wrench.

I gave up and assembled as much as I could of what was left to do.

He fiddled and filed some more and then he gave up.

I repacked both front bearings with grease - almost leaving off the cotter pin on one side (that would have made for a wild trip home!)

I wiped off my hands and walked over to the work bench and casually attached the fitting on the first try!  

Side note:  It is tedious work getting the brass fittings and the brake lines to want to mate.  The threads are very fine and neither fitting wants to be at the proper angle.

With everything attached, we gave up for the night.

Pics of painted calipers (and stainless lines/Bilsteins) - right front - left front - right rear

Day 4

Only thing left - New master cylinder and brake bleeding.

The master cylinder was a breeze, the fittings cooperated, etc..

I had purchased the ipd EEZI-bleed, the one that uses tire pressure to feed the liquid so it is a one man job.

I followed the sequence in the Bentley Manual:

Left rear
Left front top chamber
Right front top chamber
Right rear
Right front lower chamber (both sides)
Left front lower chamber (both sides)

Left rear - lots of air and lots of dark fluid.  so far so good.

Left front top chamber - nothing.  What?  Nothing came out.  at all!

I bled the rest of the sequence in disbelief and tried it all over again.
Same thing.

I disconnected the EEZI-Bleed and started the car (on the jack stands) and tried the brakes.


I felt like an idiot.

I replaced the rear calipers with rebuilt ones because the bleeders were broken and the dust boots looked bad - I didn't even think about the fronts being bad.

I removed the left front caliper and tried to blow through the top chamber and nothing came out - it had a blockage.

Before doing any of this work, the pedal feel was week and I new the fluid was old.  That's why I had those criminals at that tire shop in Tyler "bleed" the brakes.  We know that they didn't.

I should have tested the calipers when I had them off doing the suspension work.

I have a portable air compressor that I use for tire filling with me.  I attached the soccer ball needle and put it in the brake line to the top chamber.  Holding this connection as tight as I could, I opened the bleeder valve and got the air pressure up to 100 psi and still couldn't bust through the blockage.  When I hooked the needle to the lower chamber, it immediately moved the pistons.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so my Dad and I dashed off  to a nearby Dallas area junkyard - one that I had never been to before.     The one that I had been using was down to only 2 or 3 240's.  Well we hit the jackpot with the second place.  I have found the Dallas Volvo Valhalla - the great hereafter for Volvos!  They had several rows of  240's.

The tricky part was I needed a 240 with NON-VENTED front rotors.

Found one - squirted PB blaster on everything in sight and then went sight seeing for a few minutes.

Came back, caliper bolts budged, but the brake lines wouldn't separate. More Blaster...

Found 2nd Non-vented car.  Someone had already removed the brake lines... good...  Blaster...  caliper bolts budged...  removed caliper and set it on the hood of a BMW...  (brake fluid is good for beemer paint).  Blaster on the bleeder valves...  no budge...

Back to 1st car...  more Blaster...  no budge...

Found 3rd car...  Blaster...

Back to 2nd...  more Blaster...  bleeders no budge...  paint on beemer starting to run...

3rd car...  caliper bolts budged...  brake lines no budge...  explained to Dad why you can't just cut the lines - the fittings are attached sandwiching the bracket.  More Blaster...

Back to 1st car...  more Blaster...  no budge...

Back to 2nd...  more Blaster...  bleeders no budge...

Back to 3rd car... brake lines budge!  removed caliper and placed it on hood of a Saab.  Blaster on the bleeders...

Back to 1st car...  more Blaster...  no budge...

Back to 2nd...  more Blaster...  bleeders no budge...

Back to 3rd car... Bleeders budge!  I apply lips to brass    tubes and blow - brake fluid flies all down feeder of Saab (brake fluid is good for Saab paint as well)!  Pistons    move when I squeeze with fingers.  WE HAVE A WINNER!

In between all this running around, I was taking inventory of what I saw at the yard and it had several noteworthy cars including several with the heavy 2-door Turbo trim that I want to put on may tan car and there is even a 2 door 240 with BROWN interior, so I can replace my rotten door panel.

Anyway - these things will have to wait for a later trip.

We went back to my parents house and I attached the caliper - just as it starts sprinkling rain.  I begin to hurry through a bleed as it gets dark and I'm not too happy with the pedal feel - better but not good.

(pic of junkyard caliper not painted)

I decide I need to stay one more day.

Day 5

Call into work and tell them I'm stuck in Dallas with no brakes.

Do another bleed - slowly, carefully.
Do a second bleed - slowly, carefully.

Here is a picture of all of the fluid collected .  The bottle on the right is  from the final bleed and it is a tiny bit cloudy from some Diet Coke that was still left in the bottle! 

BTW:  Castol LMA brake fluid is all I use.

Finally I have brakes.  The pedal isn't as rock solid as I have experienced in the past.  Actually, no, that's not the problem.  The pedal feel is fine - it's the pedal travel - it travels an inch or so further before you feel the brakes start to work.  then they work just fine.  It's very predictable, but weird at first to get used to.  Since I have more than one 240, every time I switch cars,  the brakes feel funny, the acceleration is different, the clutches let out differently, the seats feel different, etc...  blah, blah, blah.

One the 2 hour ride home, I had the benefits of a full Bilstein suspension and good brakes.
And 3 out of 4 painted calipers aren't so bad!

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