Volvo has been in the truck engine business since the 1920s. There have been many models and iterations over the years, and because of all that experience, Volvo has become a master at creating high-performance, fuel-efficient, semi-truck engines.
Many truckers and business owners swear by their Volvo trucks. Modern Volvo trucks will likely have one of four engines: The D12, which was discontinued in 2007, the D16, discontinued in 2017, and the D11 and D13 engines, both introduced in 2007.
These engines are built to run for over 1 million miles. They can consistently work well for over 750,000 miles, and some have been known to run for over 1.5 million miles without any major repairs needed.
Unfortunately, even the most reliable engines will die one day. If you decide to get a full rebuild done by Volvo and using Volvo parts you could potentially pay between $10,000 and $40,000 in parts and around $5,000 in labor.
You can save money by using a regular mechanic and alternative parts. However, you will not get the same warranties and there is no guarantee on labor.
Finally, if the cost of an entire rebuild is cost-prohibitive, you could do it more piecemeal over time. The problem with this approach is that you will eventually pay more in labor.
When should I rebuild my Volvo Engine?
Deciding on when you should get your engine rebuilt can be difficult. Some say you should do it after a certain number of miles, some after a certain amount of time.
Others say that you should just keep checking and maintaining the engine until tests show it’s time to rebuild. In general, if you are trying to save money, you should wait to rebuild until there is a problem, or until an oil analysis shows multiple issues.
On the other hand, if you want to avoid a potentially costly breakdown, you might be happier rebuilding at a certain time or distance benchmark.
Using time or distance as a benchmark for rebuilding.
First, it is worth noting that the amount of time the engine has been in service is often more important than the distance it has traveled.
For example, all other things being equal, a truck that has driven 1 million highway miles over the course of 1.4 hours will most likely have a healthier engine than a truck that has driven the same distance in city miles over the course of 3 million hours.
Idle time counts. Therefore, time in service is a more reliable indicator of engine health. Regardless of whether you use time or distance, if you decide to use one or the other as a benchmark for when you should rebuild your engine, you may be losing a lot of value.
You may decide to rebuild your engine at 1 million miles or 1 million hours in service, but for all, you know your engine may be able to run for thousands of hours or miles longer.
On the other hand, choosing such a benchmark can give you peace of mind. Most catastrophic engine failure happens at the tail-end of the engine’s lifespan.
Many people choose to rebuild an engine right around the end of its lifespan instead of having the engine break down in a potentially precarious situation. This is advantageous because you can choose when, where and how you rebuild.
Most people would prefer this to have their truck break down in a strange place where they don’t know the mechanic, and they are not sure about prices in the area.
Using performance as a benchmark
If you decide to use performance as your benchmark it will be important to be vigilant in your maintenance routine. General maintenance is always a good idea, but much more so as the truck reaches the end of its life.
During the maintenance routine, oil samples should be taken. An analysis of metals and pressure can direct you to potential issues before they become catastrophes.
The disadvantage of this approach is the danger of a breakdown. If you are hauling expensive perishables and you are in an inopportune location when a breakdown occurs, it can become extremely costly.
Deciding what method you will use will depend on how risk-averse you are. The longer you go before you get a rebuild, the greater the likelihood of breaking down, but the more you potentially save.
You are gambling, and the longer you do it the less the odds are in your favor.
How much does it cost to rebuild a Volvo truck engine?
A rebuild is not cheap, but it is cheaper than a new engine or a new truck. However, before considering the cost of the actual rebuild, you should consider the cost of time.
An engine overhaul, or rebuild, can cost you around 2 weeks of downtime if you don’t have a backup vehicle. If you are a commercial driver this can be very expensive. You can rent an alternate vehicle, but then you must consider that cost.
If you decide that you can afford the downtime, the cost of a rebuild will depend on exactly what you do, who you go to, and your location. You can do the minimum and pay the least, get an expensive, top-tier rebuild or do something in between. Each has its own advantages.
Replacing what is broken
If you are strapped for cash, you could just do the minimum and only replace what is broken. This option is not really an overhaul, but it could be a good place to start if you can’t afford a full rebuild.
The cost here will be directly related to what you are fixing, and you will have to consult with your mechanic. Along similar lines, you could choose to only have certain aspects of the engine rebuilt.
You could purchase individual piston and cylinder kits for example. In this manner, you can save thousands of dollars initially, but it will eventually cost more than doing everything at once. Each time your mechanic must take everything apart, you will be charged more for labor.
Volvo Guaranteed Overhaul
On the more expensive end of the spectrum, a Volvo Guaranteed Overhaul has multiple tiers that can cost you from $10,000 to around $35,000 in parts alone. Higher tiers receive better warranties and more extensive replacements.
For example, the premium plan may include a turbo kit, injectors, and a cylinder head, whereas the basic plan will not. Further, to maintain the warranties, you must have everything installed by a Volvo dealer.
You can therefore expect to pay around $5,000 in labor as well. This is one of the more expensive options because you are purchasing all Volvo parts, and they are being installed by a dealer.
However, you get what you pay for. With this option, you know you are getting quality parts installed by someone who is certified in doing such an installation. Further, you are getting iron-clad warranties. This is by far the safest and most reliable option.
Neighborhood mechanic overhaul
Between the two extremes is getting an overhaul done by a regular mechanic. In this case, you can get a full rebuild and not have to pay as much as one of the Volvo plans.
A regular mechanic will not charge as much for labor, and he or she can potentially use alternative parts. There are a few things to consider with this option. You should first consider the expertise of the mechanic.
Make sure you trust him or her. Second, make sure that if you are getting alternative parts that they are of sufficient quality.
Finally, realize that with this option you will not receive the warranties that you would get with the Volvo Guaranteed Overhaul.
Volvo engines are well-known to be reliable. They can regularly run with minimal issues for upwards of 1 million miles. You can eventually buy a new truck or replace your old engine, but often the best, and least expensive, option is a rebuild.
You can use time in operation, miles driven, or engine analysis to determine when you should get an engine rebuild, but regardless of how you decide, you will have a few options to choose from.
You can save money by only fixing what is broken, but at some point, a complete overhaul is the only viable option. You will pay more if you get a Volvo Guaranteed Overhaul, but you will also get peace of mind.
You will know that you got quality parts installed by a professional. Further, you will get warranties. You will not pay as much if you do not go through Volvo for your rebuild, but if you go this route you will have to make sure that you trust your mechanic and the parts he or she is installing.
Thankfully, in the end, a rebuilt Volvo engine can be expected to get many thousands more miles of use. Who knows, it may even outlive the rest of your truck!