Question about 1996 Volvo 960

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Oil leak? My 1996 Volvo 960 takes 7 qts. of oil up on a oil change. after 1,000 miles, the dipstick shows no oil. Add 1 qt. it is full again. Another 1,200 miles, same outcome. I changed the 3 seals in the oil filter housing, changed the coolant hoses that connect to the housing, also the gasket on the oil pan drain plug. All of these places I believed were the main leak, but I was wrong. Still leaks. Please help me troubleshoot this problem.

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  • Anonymous Apr 28, 2009

    i have a burn mark and oil reside over my front passanger side wheeel well. how dangerous is this and what could be the cause?

  • Anonymous Mar 28, 2014


  • Algernon Homer
    Algernon Homer Oct 01, 2014

    are you sure there is an oil leak . you might be burning oil . are you seeing blue smoke when you start the car or while driving ? Excessive back pressure can cause oil seals to leak , defective pcv valve can damage seals and gaskets .



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Whoa whoa ... You've said that the car takes 7 quarts of oil. That's 14 pints. Depending on which engine variant is fitted, engine oil capacity is either:

  • 5.75 litres + 0.4 litre if the oil cooler is drained
  • Turbo - 3.85 litres + 0.6 litre if the oil cooler is drained
  • These figures are for a UK 3 litre version of the 960
If you've filled the car with 7 quarts of engine oil that's almost twice as much oil as should be in the engine. Did you mean pints when you wrote quarts?

If you've filled it with 7 quarts it's overfull. Way too full. Check your oil dipstick - remove it, wipe it clean and then dip the oil level. At the bottom of the dipstick there is a flattened wider part. The oil level should not be below the bottom of this marker, and nor should it be above it. If the oil level is way above the flattened marker bar - you're overfull and will have to drain some oil out of the engine. An overfilled engine will try and blow oil out from wherever it can as the oil system will over-pressurised.

Ok .. so there's no problem with the engine compression. The crankcase isn't overfilled with oil (the crankcase is known as the oil sump in the UK). There's no oil fouling of the plugs and the car isn't burning oil, just leaking it. There's no misfires or running

If the engine isn't overfilled with oil there may be a problem with a broken/sticking piston ring or piston/cylinder. That high oil loss you mention seems severe. A problem with a piston/ring/cylinder can allow the compression to leak past the rings/piston into the engine oil sump and pressurise it. Under pressure, the oil will try and leak to atmosphere from anywhere it can.

A blue smoky exhaust is also an indication of piston/ring problems. A quick check is to start the car. If there's a cloud of blue smoke at start up which clears quickly, it's like to be worn valve guides. If, when driving the car with a warm engine there's blue smoke on acceleration - it points to a problem with rings/piston.

A quick check is to remove the spark plugs. Is there engine oil on one or more of them? An oiled up plug indicates that the engine oil is finding its way up past the rings/piston - and if oil can find its way up to a spark plug, then exhaust gasses/compressed fuel/air can find its way into the engine oil sump and pressurise it.

Another quick check is to start the engine and remove the oil dipstick. If fumes are 'chugging' out of the tube or oil is spitting out, that's another sure-fire sign that the oil sump is becoming pressurised due to a piston ring/piston/cylinder problem.

If you possess or can borrow an engine compression tester there is a further test you can do yourself to confirm whether or not there are piston/ring problems. Basically, a compression tester is just a gauge that screws into the cylinder head in place of the spark plug.

Warm the engine for 5 minutes so that the pistons expand fully in the bores.
Remove the spark plugs
Fit the compression tester into No1 cylinder and crank the engine for 10 seconds. Make a note of the compression reading on the gauge.
Do the same for each cylinder.

Here's an example of what you might find (the figures are for example only)
Cylinder Reading
1 115
2 120
3 118
4 95
5 96
6 117

Figures vary, but there should not be more than a 10% difference between the readings.
In the example above you can see that cylinders 4 and 5 have readings that are well below those of the other cylinders. This is indicating problems within those two cylinders. The lower compression could be due to a head/gasket fault or piston ring/piston problem. A split or worn exhaust valve in the head may cause low compression, a misfire and uneven running but it won't cause the engine oil sump/crankcase to pressurise. Now, some fine tuning to locate the exact problem:

Put a liberal squirt of oil into each cylinder - something like Redex, WD40 or engine oil.Put a cloth over each spark plug hole and spin the engine to get rid of the excess oil. The idea is that the oil you have squirted into the piston bores will form a 'seal' around the outside of the piston/rings.

Do the compression tests again and note the readings. If the readings go up significantly it indicates that the rings/pistons/bore has a problem. Readings that go up significantly are due to the oil forming a seal around the piston which raises the compression whilst testing. Here's an example:Cylinder Reading on 1st test 2nd test
1 115 118
2 120 121
3 118 120
4 95 110 Significant rise - more than 10%
5 96 98
6 117 119

Ok .. all this means is that cylinder 4 has compression problems due to the rings/piston/bore. The 2nd compression reading (with the oil squirted in) is higher simply because the oil formed a seal. Cylinder number 5 still has a low reading which didn't increase significantly on the 2nd 'wet' (when oil is added) test. This suggests that the problem is an exhaust valve/head gasket/head problem.

If there had been no significant increase in the reading on number 4 cylinder, this would suggest valve/gasket head problem. Low readings on adjoining cylinders (and which don't increase with the 2nd compression 'wet' oil test) would indicate a faulty head gasket between those two cylinders.

I'll continue this article ... ran out of word space

Posted on Sep 18, 2008

  • Glenn Smart
    Glenn Smart Sep 18, 2008

    For some reason a couple of paragraphs were in the wrong place and the formatting is wrong ..

    Ok. If all appears ok with the car - it runs ok and there's no burning of oil, blue smoke, misfires or compression problems, get some engine degreaser, spray the engine and then power-wash it.

    With a clean, dry engine it's easier to find an oil leak. Any oil drips found - follow it up to the highest point. No, it's not always easy to find that leak. They're often hidden - such as the crankshaft oil seals.

    The rear crankshaft oil seal is usually the favourite suspect. Drips of engine oil may appear at the bottom of the engine/on the transmision unit. The oil gets blown around when the car is moving making detection difficult. If the oil leak can be traced to the rear of the engine (even though you can't see the actual leak) it may - may be the crankshaft oil seal.


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Taking it back to the shop in the am, I paid them to fix the oil leak, should I have to put out more money because they did not fix the problem

Posted on Sep 21, 2013


Im having a similar issue with my 95' 960. From what Ive read on several forums, there are a few things which may cause this. In my case, i can see alot of oil "blow-by" collecting under the hood (where the heat-protecting material is under the hood) as well as on the engine head (where you add the oil). Ive concluded that the issue (in my case) is the oil cap itself; no longer sealing it all shut and causing some oil spillage. If not, i would suggest to check more "common" areas of leakage, such as the "O" ring on your oil filter, Valve cover, etc. Your local mechanic is more than equipped to find the solution.

Posted on Aug 13, 2008

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