• Hello Guest, welcome to the initial stages of our new platform!
    You can find some additional information about where we are in the process of migrating the board and setting up our new software here

    Thank you for being a part of our community!

Stage 0, where to begin, the road to performance, mainly 200/700/900 series


New member
Mar 1, 2003
California, USA
There is often this misconception, even from some current members on this board (not limited to newbies) that the only, cheap, easy way to get performance gains is to turn up the boost. I personally believe that there are many other things that should be done prior to bring a vehicle up to par before increasing the boost and that there are other ways to improve performance, some of them very inexpensive, some of them will cost you nothing, some just take a little effort. Hopefully, the example below will help clarify my theory to all.

Let's have a drag race between two identical Volvo 700 Turbos

Let?s put two identical Volvo 700?s together, one neglected (dirty grounds, dirty throttlebody, loose kickdown cable, soft turbo hoses, vacuum leaks (brittle and spongy vacuum hoses w/possible hairline cracks), plugged PCV system, weak ignition, weak charging system, dirty air filter, airbox restrictions or an intake with no heatsheild) or airbox with the preheated stuff removed while the inlet is still open allowing hot air from the engine compartment to enter. Well, OK, all this may sound a bit harsh (pretty unfair right?) so you don't have to necessarily take into account every single maintenance related issue mentioned, just combine a few. This is how you'll often get a typical used 12+ year old Volvo that hasn't had the best of maintenance. "It's a Volvo it'l just take care of itself right?"

Now, lets take one immaculately and thoroughly maintained, pretty much the opposite and the cool thing is that almost every maintenance related thing mentioned above has a very minimal cost if you do it yourself.

Now, let's race, picture both Volvos at the track about to drag race, identical, same turbo, transmission, fuel, weight, the only difference is the maintenance mentioned above. Honestly, do you really believe that these 700?s would tie in? Although, sure the first "poorly maintained" Volvo may drive ok, may seem to accelerate ok under full throttle, do you think that the first one even has a chance compared to the second one that has been maintained properly? Any reasonable person should know that the well maintained 700 is going to probably pull far ahead of the first example Volvo, and even more with some tweaks.

What's the quickest way to help the "poorly maintained" Volvo example to get even in this race, turn up the boost right? That's correct, however why should you have to turn up the boost to compensate for a poorly or improperly setup/maintained Volvo in the first place? Depending on the level of boost and the condition of your fuel system, there are also risks involved, such as the risk of "detonation" an event that occurs when the engine suddenly leans out, it can happen instantly without warning depending on the situation, which can put a rod through your block completely destroying your engine! Other potential drawbacks of running boost, depending on how much is also a risk of blowing a headgasket and decreased fuel economy. Some guys here may tell you, "I run 14PSI and my fuel economy is just fine", well sure, maybe lightfooting it like a Grandma a lot of the time but if you're like me, you'll want to use what you have quite often so it might be wise to limit how much boost is available, especially if this is your every day driver or your financial situation isn't that great. Back to fuel economy, I've seen as little as 100 miles per tank around 14PSI, hard driving. Additionally you'll have to allow for pretty extended turbo cooldown periods. For example, at just 8PSI after a hard drive at night, a section of the Exhaust Manifold where the Turbo meets can remain glowing red up to 7 minutes at idle! Think about having to let your Volvo idle down for 10 minutes or more so oil doesn't cook in the Turbo lines. Premium fuel is also very important for turbo vehicles, specified or not, not just for those guys that run 14PSI or more of boost either. Good quality fuel is also aways pretty important so try to avoid Valero or super generic fuels. I was cheap and was running Valero midgrade for a while, filled up the tank with 76 and there was a noticable difference! Definately not worth the decrease in performance, use good fuel and use premium, there is usually a difference you can feel in most older vehicles with premium fuel! Premium fuel also helps reduce the risk or pinging and can decrease risk of detonation and can sometimes yeild improved efficiency.

The story of the identical 700 Turbos in two different conditions

When I first bought my '88 745T with about 190K on it, I drove it for a while, always thought it was ok, it certainly wasn't the slowest car on the road and could still pull ahead of Civics and quite a few Integras, nearly 50,000 miles later it is significantly quicker than it was when I purchased it. I'd even bet the previous owner would feel very sorry for selling it if he seen how it runs and performs now! Almost every little thing, if you're doing it right, can make a small difference, and combined if done right with a couple of light upgrades can make a significant difference altogether. I tried 10PSI for a while and wasn't impressed so I turned it down to 8PSI (stock was 7PSI), thinking there has to be other things that can be done to gain a few extra HP out of this thing.

I started with a K&N Filter, didn't really notice a difference, wasn't really impressed. Then I finally figured out that there were easy to remove restrictions in the airbox, like the restrictor cone you can pull out of the side where the air inlet is to the fenderwell, the plastic restrictor piece inside the airbox, then figured I'd remove the AMM outlet screen, keeping the first screen to prevent debris from entering potentially damaging the wire. Went for a hard drive and what do you know, the engine sounds a bit throatier, is more responsive and feels a bit more powerful. Was I satisified, a little but it still felt like more could be done . . . . Next, working with trying to get the Mitsubishi TD05 to breathe better and spool faster, complimenting the free-er flowing intake, for $190 I professionally had the resonator removed with a pipe welded straight through and had the rear muffler replaced with a Dynomax Ultraflow straight through design muffler. Did this help, to be honest just a little. Later I unscrewed the Airbox Thermostat base, used a Dremel Tool and cut the Airbox Thermostat clean off it's base where it looked like it was never there, removed all of the preheated stuff and used a heavy duty plumbers cap to completely cap off the preheated inlet of the Airbox. and as nice looking as possible I removed some of the material from the Airbox Inlet from the fenderwell where the plastic tube becomes smaller.


Later I purchased a BOSCH Super Blue Coil, I was dissapointed, the car would start bucking and cutting out even though the wire was in there tight. I pulled it and replaced it with a real Coil, an MSD Blaster2, after installing it the Volvo seemed smoother under acceleration and seemed to maintain its power better at higher RPM's. Later I noticed the charging system seemed a little weak with the Voltmeter often registering pretty low. Strangely, it also seemed that every time it would get low, acceleration wasn't as quick and the Volvo didn't feel as powerful. I replaced the Battery with a DieHard 700CCA, cleaned the Battery Cable connectors, two months later the Voltmeter was registering pretty low output again. About ready to replace the Alternator, I decided to try a new Altnerator ground cable first. I purchased a revisied, slightly thicker (thicker, more heavy duty connectors also), Altnerator Ground Cable from an independeant Volvo dealer for $6.00, I also used some rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush to clean the contact surfaces for the cable. 2 weeks later my Voltmeter was registering pretty high and performance seemed to slightly pickup after that. Around this time I read in some import magazine at my buddies house, that better, thicker or reinforced grounds and a strong charging system can actually yeild up to a few HP increase which has been dyno proven. I seriously thought this was a joke and didn't put much stock into it then I started thinking about how acceleration seemed to sort of lag when the Voltmeter registered lower voltage. I added a secondary ground wire for the alternator and grounded it out on top of the single fuel injector ground toward the back of the engine. I also pulled the Engine Ground Strap that bolts into the firewall behind the engine, used rubbing alcohol to clean the connectors, contact bolt and recrimped the connectors so they were better attached to the wire. After doing this my Voltmeter registered 14.5 steadily all the time and about 13.5 even with the Headlights and Fog Lights on. The engine also felt more responsive with absolutely no hesitation whatsover. Around the same time I pulled the AMM connector cleaned it with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol, other connectors under the hood, the ECU connector and grounds, it certainly didn't hurt and only seemed to make the Volvo run a little smoother.


Cleaning the entire PCV System, putting hose clamps on the PCV Turbo and Oil Trap Box hoses, replacing all the vacuum hoses, pulling, cleaning and resealing the Fuel Injectors, replacing the Fuel Filter also seemed to help the Volvo run significantly better, I also noticed the tone of the engine also slightly changed to being slightly deeper, after doing this I assumed this was because one or more of those hoses had a hairline crack or two in them. Cleaning the Throttlebody, replacing the Turbo Hoses with cheap replacements purchased online, pulling and flushing out the Intercooler also seemed to help a little. Around this time with replacing the Kickdown Cable, tightening it nearly all the way and playing with the Throttle Cable and lubricating them I was also able to get the AW71 Transmission to respond and shift exactly how I wanted it, shifts firm and defined, puts the power to the wheels never slipping anymore under full throttle, even high RPM shifts. Later, after experimenting with several different brands of plugs from copper to platimum, I decided to try some Autolite Double Platinum APP64 plugs, which are also designed for turbocharged, supercharged and high performance applications (not a typical v or u groove plug). Gapped at .028 ,especially when compared to copper you could feel a small difference in the amount of punch the Volvo had. I later decided to increase the gap taking it as high as .050, I found that the optimum gap seemed to be about .044. With this and installing a set of 8.5MM wires and advancing my ignition timing a little bit by rotating the Distributor a bit toward the passenger side (you can do this with LH2.2), that all of this seemed to work very well together, in all, with all of these things combined vehicle performed significantly better than when I first purchased it, you'd be very surprised. Later when I could afford it, for another $190 I had the factory kink (where the exhaust pipe becomes disgustingly small, replaced with a larger pipe, bent a bit more gradually before the rear Axle, also had a Carsound/Magnaflow High Flow Catalytic Converter installed, now we're talking, the turbo spools up significantly better and the Volvo feels like if it has gained a little more HP yet again, not bad at all.


Combined with some suspension upgrades (IPD Sway Bars, Cherry Turbos Chassis Brace, TME 1.25" Lowering Springs along with tires that actually stay glued to the road and some decent overall performance and smooth running), this Volvo has been a very fun car to drive. The funny thing is that I never, ever thought I'd get this Volvo to run so smooth, I was very simple minded at first thinking "this is just how it's supposed to run and drive, I mean there's nothing wrong with it". Sure there was nothing wrong with it, yes it drove, no it wasn't falling apart. It just wasn't the car I wanted, I was about to crank up the boost to try and get it to perform how I wanted to, to compensate for other things or was going to sell the choppy running, not impresively performing thing, which either would have been a big mistake. It performs so well now and runs so smooth even at 239,000 miles, that I wouldn't get rid of it for anything, not even if I was able to afford a new Volvo. Ive been thinking ever since, "man, this is how they are supposed to run, how come I didn't know this!" I'm not saying maintenance in itself is a performance upgrade, however, maintenance performed properly should be stage 0 for anyone that would like to see their Volvo run great and additionally perform well when combined with some light upgrades and a little bit more boost. Sure, it may be difficult for some to believe, which is fine, but if you do things properly, it can go a long way and I've proven that to myself!

Hopefully, this writeup will help a number of Volvo guys just starting out that might not be really sure where to go or what to do with their Volvo or where to begin.

Stage Zero "modifications"

While there are some good points made in the post above, I feel that the author failed in his attempt to properly inform the new person about the requirements of Stage Zero.

To that end, I have compiled a small list of items that should be considered mandatory for anyone who cares about their brick. I mean if you don't care if the car runs next week, by all means go ahead and shoot for 18 psi. Just don't expect any sympathy if suddenly you have a change of heart and decide to keep the car after it explodes in your face.

The first steps should be carried out immediately after purchasing/ inheriting/ finding your "new" Volvo.

  1. Change the oil and flush the coolant
  2. Inspect the hoses and belts
  3. Check the tire pressure and make sure that nothing is about to fall off of the car

Assuming that the car runs, you can start on the list below:

-Remove and clean the positive crankcase ventilation breather and associated hoses.
- this may require removal of the intake manifold, but that is okay. Your car probably needs a new intake gasket anyway​

Oil leaks should be fixed first.

  1. Valve cover gasket/ half moon seal
  2. Oil cap seal
  3. Turbo return line o-ring
  4. Turbo return and feed gaskets
  5. Distributor o-ring (740/ 940)
  6. Front/ Rear engine seals (AKA crank/ cam/ aux shaft and rear-main)
  7. Oil pan gasket

  • Inspect wiring harness for damaged wires - Extremely common problem in ALL Volvos built before 93!!! The wires degrade when exposed to oil and long periods of heat
  • 240 models only - clean fuseblock and replace fuses
  • 740 models only - remove foam insert in airbox
  • 740 models only - inspect (or remove) preheat bypass valve - this will cause multiple AMM failures if not replaced when faulty!
  • Change timing belt and accessory belts
  • Check base timing
  • Flush coolant (if not done before)
  • Inspect hoses/ waterpump
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Inspect cap, rotor and wires
  • Replace air filter
  • Replace thermostat
  • Change heater hoses
  • Replace heater valve (740/ 940?)
  • Flush transmission fluid (auto and manual)
  • Adjust kickdown cable (automatics)
  • Adjust clutch cable (manual transmission)
  • Check all suspension bolts/ bushings
  • Inspect brake hardware and pads/ rotors
  • Flush brake fluid
  • Replace fuel filter (main and in-tank - replace fuel line in tank as needed)
  • Inspect transmission/ rear-end for leaks
  • Replace rear-end fluid
  • Inspect/ replace vaccum lines
  • replace check valves for CBV and Brake Booster
  • inspect turbo hoses for softness or tears - look for oil inside hoses, replace as needed

Congratulations! you have just done a 30,000 mile service on your car and it no longer leaks oil!

If the car is still running good at this point it is probably okay to bump the psi by at least 2 points. Just make sure that you have a calibrated boost gauge!!!

Before going crazy with the MBC there are a few more things that need to be done:

  • Replace intake gasket
  • Replace throttle body gasket
  • Replace battery clamps - I use high quality audio competition type
  • Replace ground wire for alternator
  • Replace voltage regulator
  • Check voltage draw on main and intake fuel pump (varies by model - do search for specifics)
  • Check fuel pressure
  • Replace injector o-rings
  • Have injectors professionally cleaned
  • Buy a high flow catalytic converter
  • Start saving money for stage 1!!!
Last edited:
Identical, yes except what was mentioned above, obviously and there's a point to be proven there with those differences other than being the same cars otherwise (what I meant) . . . . Nice addition to this thread swedefind, yeah I didn't wanna seem to go on and on forever, I just mainly wanted to hit a key few points I mainly felt emplored to make not to mention I had to leave for work while writing it up. Thanks guys, hopefully this will be something we can direct newcomers too, to help them in preparing for performance . . . .
Last edited:
By removing the rear screen in the AMM, does that increase the risk of allowing debris that has passed the first screen to get in? Or does this just protect the wire inside the AMM?
Last edited:
Well, in my personal opinion, the first screen is really the important screen, it does help straigten the air flow across the wire as mentioned by others, not to mention most importantly protects the wire and prevents any type of significant debris from entering and causing any type of damage to the wire. I personally don't believe the second screen (the rear screen) is necessary, I mean if your motor blew something back out through the intercooler and back through the AMM/MAS from the opposite direction, I think they'red be other serious problems at hand. 25K and absolutely no problems. I can also say that in itself, just removing the screen is not going to yeild any significant gain, it's best to do small mods like that in combinations, for instance, do an intake or remove all the restrictions from your airbox at the same time you do that, they you'll notice the difference and it will yeild and increase for you. After I opened up my airbox and removed the rear screen, throttle response improved, the car felt a bit torque-ier and the engine sounded deeper. I think there is very little risk, as long as you leave the first screen closest to the air filter in.
Last edited:
Alright, thanks. I do have a cold-air intake setup with a cone filter. Once i did that I really noticed the deeper engine tone and the "torque-ier" feeling. I might as well just pull the rear screen.
wow i really needed to read this I never new stage 0 was so involved. I am not experienced enough to do all the gasket changes and what not. Does anyone have an idea how much all of this would cost. I wonder if anyone on here would be willing to help me do a stage 0 haha.
Alright, thanks. I do have a cold-air intake setup with a cone filter. Once i did that I really noticed the deeper engine tone and the "torque-ier" feeling. I might as well just pull the rear screen.

Cone filter = sand and little bug bits in your engine. Take that crap out and put a real filter back in.

Feed it some Seafoam.

Hell yes.

Stage zero should absolutely include new front suspension bushings, tie rods/ends, and shocks. If you're going to drive it like it's fast, you'd better make sure you can steer it like it's fast. New RSR, CPS, and Ignition/igniter/power-stage thermal paste replacement, and resoldering all your relays. Don't forget a fuel filter. Woot.