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Volvo C30 Automatic Ignition

I purchased a 2008 Volvo C30 T5 last year on the Overseas Delivery Program. (By the way, this is a great way to get a significant discount and a free trip to Europe!).

In November 2009, after the car was here for about 5 months, the auto ignition feature suddenly ceased functioning. To start the car, one is supposed to simply turn the ignition switch to Position III, then immediately release the ignition, whereupon the starter motor takes over and finishes the job.

I have taken the car back to the Volvo dealer 4 times now. Each time they have attempted to fix it, they’ve done some fiddling, such as replacing some switches and sensors in the clutch, then reprogramming the engine control module, and, this last time, replacing something they called the electronics control module. With the exception of this last parts replacement, the ignition would work again for one day, then quit working. On this last attempt, the problem was resolved for 2 weeks, then quit working again.

The auto ignition feature, in itself, isn’t that important to me. The car will start, if I simply use the traditional method of holding the switch until the engine starts. However, it does leave me with that little voice in my head wondering whether or not I have some underlying electrical problem in the car that may come back to haunt me unless they really fix this. The Volvo dealer has kicked this up to the level of having the Volvo regional rep direct testing of my car. He was the individual who suggested replacing the electronics module. Now I’m looking at a 5th visit to the dealer.

Anyone got an idea why this is happening, and how I can get it resolved?

I suspect the dealer has had little or no experience with this function. I would now take it up a notch to Volvo USA and see what they can do to help get it resolved. Keep all your receipts and records. Your state should have a lemon law so once you have a track record you are protected, unless the Euro delivery program messes that up.

Thank you for the suggestion about Volvo USA. I think the regional tech may just do that if his next attempt to test and repair the problem doesn’t pan out.

On the question of the lemon law, my wife and I have had experience with it in Michigan. It really doesn’t work out very well in the end for the consumer here. The way the law is written really favors the car manufacturer and the dealer. In any settlement, the dealer and manufacturer both have to sign on to any resolution that is suggested by a three-person panel assigned by the court. If one of them declines, then you’re back to square one with litigation all over again. I really don’t think this rises to the level of “lemon” yet, but your suggestion to keep all records is a good one that I’ve already been following.

Just the same, I’m curious to know whether there is a mechanic among the crowd who has some notion of what’s going on.

I have this automatic ignition feature on my 2003 Toyota 4Runner and it was on my 2006 Chevrolet Uplander. I think it is a vacuum switch that disconnects the starter as soon as the engine produces sufficient vacuum. My wife always just holds the key over until the engine starts–she isn’t even aware that she could turn the key and then release it. Interestingly, my 2011 Toyota Sienna doesn’t have this feature. I don’t miss it. However, I had a colleague whose wife was deaf. She went through several starters on their Honda as she couldn’t hear when the engine fired.

I had a similar system on my 1954 Buick. When I depressed the accelerator part way down with the ignition on, the starter would engage and then release as soon as the engine fired up. The automatic system isn’t new.

There’s no vacuum switch. The PCM knows when the engine is running and turns the starter off.