Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2004 Volvo XC90 Transmission

We have a 2004 Volvo XC90 with about 88000 miles on it. It has been regularly maintained by the Volvo dealer from which it was purchased. Recently a “Transmission Problem” message appeared and the transmission has started to slip and fail to shift when it should. We took it back to the dealer and they quoted $9000 for a rebuilt transmission and a required replacement of the transmission cooling system.

I don’t have that kind of money so I took the car to a local mechanic instead. He is quoting $3000 for a rebuilt transmission, but also recommends replacing the cooling system for an additional $2000. The mechanic could not really explain why the cooling system needed to be replaced.

I can understand the need to replace the transmission, but why is it necessary for the cooling system to be replaced? The transmission fluid looks clean and there’s no smell or discoloration as evidence that it has overheated. Can’t the existing cooling system be flushed and left as is?

You should ask your dealer about the class action lawsuit that was filed over these transmission. If your dealer continues to want to pretend that this should all just be your own $10,000 problem, then I’d climb over their head to Volvo corporate.

Wow, I had not heard about the lawsuit against Volvo. Thanks for the link. We’ll try to contact Volvo Corp. directly.

In the event that they don’t provide any help, and I need to get the transmission replaced, do you have any advice as to whether we need to replace the transmission cooling system?

I would advise that you not get too caught up in the class action lawsuit thing too deeply. Class actions are filed constantly and usually the only ones who really benefit from it are lawyers. Some suits have merit, many do not.

By no means am I a Volvo expert but I assume Volvo, like most others, use a transmission fluid cooler that is located in the engine cooling system. A leak in the cooler means contaminated trans fluid and once coolant dilutes the fluid the transmission won’t last long.

Rather than replace the cooling system what I would do is add on an aftermarket transmission fluid cooler and this will solve any fluid contamination issues permanently.
The engine cooling system can then be left alone.

I wasn’t suggesting getting onto any kind of lawsuit. I wouldn’t. (I think the last time I got a notice that I was eligible to claim something in one of these it had something to do with one of my credit car companies. I think I was eligible to get up to $10 or something).

But the fact that it is there says that there is a good chance that this transmission has some kind of widespread & chronic defect that the manufacturer would not own up to.

One does not want to go having to eat a problem themselves if there is some reasonable justification for getting assistance from the manufacturer. Mere knowledge of such an issue can get often get one pretty far in some “goodwill” assistance from the manufacturer/dealer.

cigroller - Thanks again for the info about the lawsuit. I understand your point - the information may help get a fair response from the Volvo dealer and / or corporation.

ok4450 - There was no evidence that there was a leak in the cooling system - the transmission fluid is clean and clear - no evidence of mixing of water into the fluid. But I like the idea of the aftermarket cooler, and found one for just $150. That’s alot better than $2000 to replace the original cooling system!

If we have to make these repairs at our own expense, we’ll get a remanufactured transmission, and I’ll put on the aftermarket cooler myself.

Thanks everyone for your info. I’ll keep you posted …

Well I have some good news, and some bad news.

First the good news: after we showed the Volvo dealer the article about the lawsuit, within 24 hours Volvo corp agreed to replace the transmission and cooling system, no charge. Thanks again, cigroller, for the reference!

Now the bad news: the Volvo dealership has called us with a list of items which they “found during the course of the repair” that they say need to be replace. One such item is the coolant reservoir, which is just a plastic bottle. They want to charge us $250 to replace it! I found the same item online for $40.

Mind you, we have had all the scheduled maintenance done at the dealership, so why are they only now finding out about these extra items? Are Volvo customers really so dumb, that they fall for this kind of fraud and abuse? Or are Volvo dealers just trying to gouge their customers, no matter what?

So here is the closing report.

The Volvo dealer repaired the transmission, and the cooling system, at Volvo’s expense. It took them about ten days to get the job done. No courtesy vehicle loan or offer to cover the cost of renting a car for the two weeks the Volvo was out of service.

Once confronted with a demand to speak to the Volvo dealership manager and to Volvo corp, the service department backed down from the laundry list of newly-found, urgent repairs … and replaced the coolant overflow bottle for $45 extra.

We are crossing our fingers, that the car can limp through another year or two on this remanufactured transmission.

Thanks again to cigroller and ok4450 for their helpful comments.