4 Most Common Problems with Volvo Penta Outdrive

Volvo Penta outdrives are quite popular. Especially amongst small watercraft owners. To boats that span from 20 to 60 feet, this sterndrive gives a direct response. 

An outboard drive is a propulsion system. In boats, they are the most common propelling method that is motorized. 

Volvo Penta Outdrives have been delivering power and performance since 1959. It is a pretty reliable choice for small boaters too. 

However, in this article, I will discuss the common problems with this engine. I intend to give you a clear picture to help you make a smart purchase. So keep reading till the end!

Common Problems with Volvo Penta Outdrive & Possible Solutions:

A Quick Overview to Volvo Penta Outdrive Issues and The Reasons Behind Them:

Problem with Manifolds and Oil Pans.Saltwater gets in the bilge causing the oil pan to rust.
Bad Piston on CylindersWater in the cylinder.
HydrolockEngine ingests water. 
Outdrive failsProblem with the outer propeller.Problematic shaft.Defective counter-rotation gear.

1. Problem with Manifolds and Oil Pans 

Like other gas inboards, Volvo Penta outboard faces problems in saltwater, there is a problem. 

The common symptom of corroded manifold and oil pan is finding oil in the bilge. 

Another symptom is the motor seizing up. This happens only when the problem gets severe.

Rusted manifolds can cause an exhaust leak. 

Reason for the Problem:

  • Saltwater can enter the bilge and cause rusting. This creates corrosion or hole in the manifold or the oil pan. 

Possible Solution:

Replace the corroded parts. If this does not help, change the starter. In persistence of the problem, change the risers. 

To fix this, Things You’ll Need:

  1. Screw Driver.
  2. Rag.
  3. Small Crank Truck.
  4. Vinegar.
  5. Water.

Step 1.1: Unbolt the Motor

The motor doesn’t need to be removed completely to change the oil pans. Just unbolt the screw and raise it high enough to take out the corroded oil pan. 

Step 1.2: Raise the Motor

With a small crank truck, toe up the motor enough to reach the pan. Then take out the oil pan. Remember to remove the gaskets along with the pans. 

Step 1.3: Install New Pan

After taking out the old pan, clean the oil spillage with a clean rag. A piece of cloth will also do. 

Then install the new pan. This is a $200 job but you can DIY for free. 

Step 2.1: Soak with Vinegar

Say your manifolds have rusted but not corroded. Then soak them with vinegar water until the rusting comes off gently. This should work for lightly rusted manifolds.

Step 2.2: Replace the Manifold

If the manifold has corroded, replace it. Take it to the servicing center and get a new manifold. 

2. Bad Piston on Cylinders 

The most common symptom of the bad piston on cylinders is rusting. It is found on cylinder heads. It is found on the inside plugs of the engine as well. 

The injectors of the engine may also not fire. Engine seizes or cranks over. 

Reason for the Problem:

The Volvo Penta outdrive does not have an enclosed cooling system. So, saltwater enters the engine block made of iron. This causes rusting. 

Possible Solution:

Unfortunately, this requires a complete rebuild of the engine. 

Things You’ll Need:

  • Lubricants.

Step 1: Primary Troubleshoot

Follow this order of instructions:

  • Cut out the water cooling flow. 
  • Remove plugs 
  • Inject in some motor oil that may lubricate the cylinder walls. 
  • Remove residual water. 
  • Crank the engine.
  • Do a compression test.

Does the engine do fine? Is there poor compression?

Poor compression may just be valves that are bent. Troubleshooting that may help. 

Step 2: Unsink the Engine

Suck out all the water using the starter. From the oil slump and the cylinders Check how it’s doing. If it gets started then the problem solved.

Step 3: Last Resort-Engine rebuild.

Pull out the engine and rebuild everything. This includes resurfacing cylinders, rings, gaskets, everything!

3. Hydrolock

The most common symptom is the engine not turning over. You may turn the key to start the engine. The engine will engage, but it would not start. 

Reason for the Problem:

  • When the volume of the liquid becomes greater than the volume of the cylinder at its minimum. 
  • The water in the cylinder or cylinders is incompressible. As a result, the engine cannot compress it. So, it becomes locked. 
  • Water enters because of faulty installation of the engine.
  • Sometimes overheating can cause damage.

Possible Solution:

You need to check for water first. Upon finding water, take it to the servicing center. There is no DIY solution for this problem. 

Let me provide you a step by step guide for checking for water below: 

To fix this, things You’ll Need:

  • Strap Wrench.

Step 1: Remove Spark Plugs

Remove the spark plugs entirely from the engine.

Step 2: Turn the Crankshaft

Try turning the crankshaft in the opposite direction. Use a strap wrench to do this. Avoid turning the crankshaft center bolt. 

Step 3: Check for Water

Peek through the spark plug ports. 

If you find water in the cylinders, unfortunately, there’s nothing much you can do. Take the engine for servicing. This should be an expensive deal.

4. Outdrive Fails 

The most common symptom is the engine stops or halts. 

Acceleration slows down before completely stalling. The engine may make loud banging noises too. 

Reason for the Problem:

  • The outer propeller breaks or faces any damage.
  • The shaft seems to get frozen or stuck. 
  • The counter-rotation gear is broken. This is what mainly causes the shaft to freeze. 
  • The top box overheats. Leakage may occur because of this. 
  • Jackshaft gets shredded in pieces. This happens due to rusting. Another problem with the Volvo Penta outdrives design. 

Possible Solution:

Changing the outdrive is the solution here.

Unfortunately, there is only one solution to this problem. That is changing your outdrive. This is a costly business. But this is very common in Volvo outdrives. Especially XDP ones. 

You can try changing the propeller and the shaft. However, it is likely not to work. Because usually the damage lies deeper. 

What Majority of the Users Feel About Volvo Penta Outdrives?

Majority of Volvo Penta owners reported the hydro locking problem. This is an persistent issue. 

To add on top of that, rusting of oil pans is irritating. So many of the owners reported bad customer service. 

Despite being bad, there isn’t enough experts that can help on this issue. Unavailability of customer help is pretty common. 

Some customers back off at the beginning. They think the warranty being such a long time says a lot about VP’s confidence of their product. 

Moreover, the troubleshooting costs big bucks! Not every boater’s cup of tea! If you have big pockets, then go for it. 


The hydro locking and damaged cylinders are pretty common in the Volvo Penta outdrives. 

People have reported suffering financially due to these problems. Moreover, many similar engines do not have this kind of issue. 

So, it is better to go for an Alpha outdrive instead of a Volvo Penta!

Related Posts:

Similar Posts