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Volvo transmission

My wife’s 2004 Volvo S80 with 120,000 miles has started doing “hard downshifts” when she slows down to about 5 or 10 mph. The car makes an abrupt jolt when it does the downshift.

The problem arises after she has been doing local driving, with stoplights and stop signs, for a while. (When she first gets off the freeway onto local roads, it does not do it for the first 10 or 15 minutes.)

Occasionally in addition to giving a hard downshift, it also gives a hard upshift, as it accelerates at about 5 mph. This too only happens after doing at least 20 minutes of local driving. And I think it only happens on light acceleration, or though I’ve never really confirmed this since it is kind of rare that this happens.

The Volvo dealer “diagnosed it” said it needs a new transmission, for a price of $4500. I asked how they diagnosed it, they were a bit vague on this point.

The dealer did not suggest replacing the transmission fluid, but on other cars I’ve seen that help on this issue. So I took the car to an independent repair shop, and had the automatic transmission fluid flushed and replaced. That made a minor lessening of the problem, (it does not happen as often now) but it did not go away.

I am wondering if there is a problem with the transmission fluid overheating during the local driving.

What do you think?


Most automatics have a transmission cooler built into the car’s radiator. After 120K miles without a fluid change, anything can happen. I suggest you consult an independent transmission shop in your area. The dealer probably doesn’t repair transmissions, they just replace them. An independent transmission shop may be able to help you.

Please stay away from any of the national transmission repair chains. They might make thing worse.

When you had the transmission fluid flushed recently, was that the first time that the transmission was serviced? If so, inadequate maintenance is the likely problem. Also, was that a “regular” mechanic who serviced the trans, or was this done at a specialized trans shop?

Automatic transmissions need to have their fluid (and filter, if so equipped) changed every 3 yrs/30k miles, whichever comes first, in order to avoid premature transmission failure. Going by that schedule, the recent fluid change should have been the 4th fluid change for this trans. When this schedule is not adhered to, a trans can fail any time after 90k miles, and failure by 120k is fairly likely. And, a “Hail Mary” fluid change late in the game will not reverse the damage done by inadequate servicing.

I would suggest that you take the car to an independent transmission shop (if you have not already done so) for an evaluation of the transmission. Even if they concur that you need a transmission overhaul, the price is sure to be cheaper than the quote from the dealership.

Incidentally, many car manufacturers have dropped a listing for 3 yr/30k transmission servicing from their maintenance schedule, apparently in an effort to make their cars look maintenance-free. However, de-listing this procedure does not make it any less important. This is a case where doing more maintenance than the vehicle manufacturer recommends is important.

I don’t know the repair record for fluid changes.

I don’t know how to find a reputable independent transmission shop, I’ve had bad luck with that in the past. But I will look into that.

Does anyone know if a transmission that is not cooling correctly would give symptons like this?


Agree with what these guys said. For this vehicle I wouldn’t pay $4500 for a new tranny. You could have it rebuilt for probably $3000, or maybe get a used one for less. I mean, how much longer are you going to keep this vehicle?