After doing some extensive research on the web, talking to a fellow 850 Turbo owner and purchasing a Haynes manual for the car I found out why it cost so much to replace the seal. There are two options, both time-consuming. Option number one is to drop the entire engine and transmission as a whole. The reason for this is because the engine is mounted directly to the subframe and the only way to remove the transmission is to remove the subframe. Option number two is to support the engine from the top using an engine support hoist. The only problem with this is I didn't own one. However, as I'm always looking for an excuse to buy another tool, it gave me a reason to go buy one. My first choice, of course, was to check if Snap-on made one, and they did. Unfortunately, it's $400 and I probably was only going to use it once, maybe twice at best. So, my next choice was to check the web. Luckily, I was able to find a generic engine hoist for $75 including shipping.
Replacing the seal was an all day affair, and not recommended for your average home garage mechanic. You need both a lift and a friend to help you guide the subframe off and on. The 850 Turbos are fairly notorious for bad rear main seals and if you do plan on purchasing this model be sure to ask if the owner has ever replaced it. If they haven't, be prepared to spend several hundred dollars in the near future because if it hasn't started leaking it will. Once the seal was replaced the oil drips on my driveway stopped, thank goodness. I was sick of busting out the pressure washer every week to remove the oil stains.
Our next concern with the Brick was to address the factory suspension. With 250K clicks on the odometer, the factory shocks and springs were shot and making noises over bumps. Although there is a coil over setup from KW Suspension that's available for the 850, we thought it would be sort of an overkill for the car. So, we opted for a set of H&R performance springs tag teamed with Bilstein heavy-duty shocks. Bilstein offers two types of shocks for the 850: touring and heavy-duty. We opted for the heavy-duty because we wanted a slightly stiffer ride than the factory shocks. Having done our research beforehand we purchased a set of front and rear upper spring perches, as they have been known to fail on older cars.
After removing the front MacPherson strut, we found the culprit for the noises: the front spring perch was completely destroyed. Replacing the front and rear shocks and springs is a straightforward R&R affair. The H&R springs and Bilstein shocks are factory replacements with the exception of the shorter H&R springs. The H&R springs are supposed to lower the vehicle 1-1/2 inches, but since our stock springs were extremely worn and sagging it only lowered the vehicle about 1/2 an inch from before. Replacing the shocks and springs were long overdue. The Brick actually can take corners now, and it doesn't make a God-awful sound each time it goes over a bump. The front bushings and tie-rods probably also need to be replaced in the near future, but for now the car handles much better. We plan to further enhance the handling characteristics of the Volvo by adding a set of stiffer sway bars. Until then, the generic tires that came on the car are already screaming for dear life.
Up next for the Volvo will be to address the need for some cosmetic upkeep. The damaged paint and wheels will have to go. But for now, however, I have a car with heated leather seats that is automatic, turbocharged, rock solid, surprisingly fast (174 whp), and still gets 25 miles per gallon - all for $1500. Take that naysayers.