4 Common Problems With Volvo D13 Engine

When you think of Volvo, we bet that your mind immediately jumps to those safe and understated sedans driven around by middle-aged accountants. But, this Swedish company has a more hardcore side to it as well. You see, Volvo manufactures some of the biggest trucks and truck engines on the roads too! And the massive 12.8-liter D13 engine is one of their best creations.

No engine is perfect, and the same goes true for the D13 as well. This article will give you a comprehensive overview of some of the most common Volvo D13 engine problems.

Volvo D13 Overview

We thought of giving you a quick overview of the legendary Volvo D13 before diving into all of its issues. This mammoth powertrain made its first appearance in 2005, and comes in several models which include:

  • D13 335
  • D13 375
  • D13 405
  • D13 425
  • D13 435
  • D13 485

The D13 is an inline-six engine equipped with direct injection technology. As you might have already guessed, it is powered by diesel. The compression ratio is set at 18:1, and the engine carries an approximate dry weight rating of 2635 lbs.

With 12.8 liters of displacement, performance is hardly what the Volvo D13 lacks. This engine produces anywhere between 335 and 500 horsepower based on the specification you choose to go for. A variable geometry turbocharger aids the D13 in producing this power.

The Volvo I-VEB engine braking system is one of the most impressive technologies found in the D13 engine. It allows the driver to switch between three engine brake increments using a brake stalk switch. Exhaust gas recirculation, rigid deck cylinder heads, a camshaft damper, and a smart fan clutch are some other impressive features of this powerplant.

Being a truck engine, you might expect the D13 to be a menace to the environment. However, you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Volvo D13 comes with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to keep the NOx emissions at a minimum.

Just the peak torque figure of 1900 lb-ft is enough to prove what a capable engine the D13 is. The efficiency of it is quite impressive too. The D13 achieves class-leading fuel efficiency figures through the use of optimized internal components such as an improved crankcase ventilation system and seven-hole injectors.

12 years after the introduction of the original D13, Volvo gave it a comprehensive update. The new 2017 D13 brought along new rigid pistons and a common-rail fuel system aimed at improving fuel mileage. It was followed by the D13TC, which boasted a 6.5 percent fuel-efficiency improvement over its 2014 counterpart.

Volvo D13 Engine Problems

However, not everything about the Volvo D13 is sunshine and rainbows. Several high-profile issues have plagued the owners of these engines for years. Some of the most notorious Volvo D13 problems include:

  • Bad Fuel Injectors
  • Faulty Turbo
  • Issues With Idling
  • Cooling Problems

Let us dive deeper into each of these issues. This will help you to better understand the causes behind them as well as the common symptoms.

1. Fuel Injector Issues

Fuel injectors are an important part of any diesel engine. The same goes true for the Volvo D13 as well. Simply put, the responsibility of the fuel injectors is to deliver fuel to the combustion chamber.

As we mentioned earlier, the Volvo D13 comes with a high-pressure common rail fuel injection system. It is one of the most advanced fuel injection systems available on the market today.

However, even the mighty can fall sometimes. The same goes true for the Volvo D13 fuel injection system. Luckily, there are some obvious symptoms you can use to identify injector issues beforehand.

If you are having a hard time starting your Volvo truck after leaving it sitting for a couple of hours, the injectors might be on their way out. Rough idling and sudden power loss also come to mind as two of the most common faulty fuel injector symptoms.

Fuel injector issues may cause your truck to take a severe downturn in fuel economy. On the topic of fuel, leaks leading to the injectors and strong fuel odor emanating from the engine are also signs of bad injectors.

Another common Volvo D13 bad fuel injector symptom is the check engine light turning on. To confirm your doubts, plug in an OBD scanner and identify the error code related to the issue. P0171 and P0174 are the two most common OBD fault codes related to fuel injector issues.

Many reasons can cause the fuel injectors of the Volvo D13 engine to fall defective. A few such causes include;

  • ECU Issues
  • Clogged Injector Spray Tips

Causes of Volvo D13 Fuel Injector Problems

ECU Issues

As with any other vehicle, the Engine Control Unit (ECU) is an integral part of the Volvo D13 engine as well. Sometimes, defects in the ECU may cause it to send faulty signals to the fuel injectors. In turn, the fuel injectors may start to act erratically.

Faulty or damaged wiring is a leading cause that makes the ECU send wrong information. On the other hand, bad sensors can also cause the brain of the engine to have some short circuits.

There are several things you can try to restore a faulty ECU. First and foremost, ensure that all the sensors and wiring components are properly connected. Clean out any foreign debris, and replace any worn-out components.

If simply cleaning the wiring components doesn’t help, you can try resetting the ECU. If all else fails, the only option is to replace the ECU with a brand-new one. A professional mechanic will charge around $1000 for a Volvo D13 ECU replacement.

Clogged Injector Spray Tips

Clogging of the fuel injector spray tips is another leading reason why your Volvo D13 engine is acting up. As the engine continues to run, the injector tips get clogged up naturally. This hurts both the truck’s performance as well as its fuel economy.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to clean out a clogged spray tip. Simply remove the injectors from the D13, and blow out any dirt on them using compressed air.

Next, get hold of a fuel injector cleaning kit. These usually include the said can of compressed air, along with some cleaning fluid and a set of gloves. Soaking the clogged injectors in this fluid overnight will loosen up any remaining debris.

Now, all you have to do is to reattach the injectors. 9/10 times, the D13 will run like a charm!

2. Faulty Turbo

The D13 engine uses forced induction to produce impressive power. For this, it comes equipped with a massive geometric turbocharger. Faults in the turbo are made evident by loud noises coming from the engine bay, bad fuel economy, and excessive smoke out of the exhaust.

The boost pressure sensor of the Volvo D13 engine is one area that is prone to failure. This sensor is essential in preventing the turbocharger from self-destructing.

The check engine light on the dashboard will turn on as soon as the boost pressure sensor goes off. Additionally, you will experience abnormal drops in speed when accelerating as well.

A faulty boost pressure sensor has to be replaced immediately to prevent further damage to the engine.

On the other hand, a restricted exhaust system can interfere with the performance of the D13’s turbo too. A blocked exhaust limits the boost pressure, resulting in poor engine performance.

3. Issues With Idling

The Volvo D13 is notorious for rough idling. While a truck usually idles between 600 and 1000 RPM, a Volvo D13 suffering from engine issues will idle at a figure exceeding this threshold.

The Mass Airflow (MAF) sensor is linked with these sudden RPM spikes. It may have gotten clogged due to dirt or debris, so cleaning it out might be enough to fix the issue.

If that doesn’t work, you can try cleaning the IAC valves too. It is also a good idea to take a peek at the air filter. If there are any broken vacuum lines, replace them with new components.

Misfires caused by worn-out glow plugs may cause your Volvo truck to vibrate excessively while idling. These plugs are bolted to the cylinder head of your engine and might be worth taking a look at once in a while.

In addition, dirty fuel lines or worn-out belts can cause this issue as well. On most occasions, replacing the faulty component is enough to get rid of the vibrations.

4. Cooling Problems

Overheating due to issues with the cooling system is another widespread Volvo D13 engine problem. The high temperatures are triggered by a broken water pump, faulty radiator fan, clogged hoses, or a coolant leak.

Steam coming out of the hood is one of the most recognizable signs of engine overheating. Other symptoms include a burning smell coming from the engine, or an overheating warning on the dashboard.

It is important to remedy these cooling system issues before they get out of hand. If left untended for a long, overheating can cause the head gasket to blow. And if this happens, you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars to get your Volvo truck back on the road.

Preventive Maintenance Tips To Keep Volvo D13 Running Smoothly

There is a famous old saying that goes “Prevention is better than cure.” The same is applicable when it comes to engines as well. Here are some ways you can ensure the longevity of your Volvo D13 engine.

Use High-Quality Fuel

Filing up your big rig with cheap quality fuel might look like a great way to save a few bucks. However, doing so over long periods of time can wreak havoc on the fuel injectors.

Ensure that you only use high-quality fuel in your vehicle. This will undoubtedly make the fuel injectors last way longer. If the fuel inside your tanks has been contaminated, flush it out as soon as possible and swap out the fuel filter too.

Keep An Eye On The Coolant Level

Running the D13 engine with low coolant is one of the most common ways truckers end up with blown head gaskets. So, it is important to always pay attention to the coolant level. If it’s running low, fill it up to the manufacturer’s recommended level.

Make sure to inspect the coolant reservoir cap once in a while. This will help you determine the health of the head gasket. Doing so will give you a good understanding of the coolant temperature too.

Follow The Maintenance Schedule

We get it, maintaining a massive truck is not cheap. But, the size of your vehicle – and its engine is exactly why you should religiously follow the maintenance schedule.

Unlike a small four-pot engine, powerplants like the Volvo D13 have to endure high stress over sustained periods. Getting engine maintenance done at the scheduled intervals is the best way of limiting Volvo D13 engine problems.

If you are a trucker who relies on a truck with the Volvo D13 engine to provide for your family, now you know what issues to expect down the line. Use the information you learned today to take care of this behemoth of an engine, and we’re sure it will serve you reliably for years to come!

Related articles:

5 Common Chevy 6.0 Engine Problems (Is It Reliable?)

6 Most Common GM 2.7 Turbo Engine Problems

7 Most Common Dodge 4.7 Engine Problems (And Solutions)

Who Worked on This?



I'm the guy responsible for ensuring that every blog post we publish is helpful for our reader.

Mahir Ahmed


I'm the guy responsible for ensuring honest, informative, accurate and helpful guide to the reader.

1 thought on “4 Common Problems With Volvo D13 Engine”

Leave a Comment