Volvo transmission problem symptoms vary. A complete list of possible symptoms includes:
- Delayed shifting or harsh engagement between bears
- Hard shifting between gears or hard downshifts.
- Volvo does not move when placed in Drive or Reverse.
- Hesitation and erratic shifting
- The engine revs up before going into the next gear.
- Delayed P to D engagement
- Harsh 1-2 upshift
- Harsh 2-3 downshift
- Hesitation to accelerate
- Transmission stuck in gear.
- Slipping between gears
- OBD-II Code P0811 Clutch Slippage Excessive
- Squeaking noise during low speed turns (TNN 43-11)
- Harsh lockup engagement (SB 43-0029)
Common fault codes are TCM-002A, TCM-002B, P0733, P0734.
Common Problems with Volvo Transmissions
If your Volvo transmission hesitates to shift gears, it bangs into gear; the problem could be the B4 servo. The B4 servo is the weak link in many Volvo cars with Aisin AW AF33 transmissions.
This is an inexpensive part mounted on the side of the transmission. You don't need to take out the transmission; it takes about an hour to replace it. What you will need is a B4 Servo Kit for Volvo (30751262).
A common problem, especially with the Aisin AW55-50SN and AW55-51SN transmission found in many Volvos, was a defective valve body. The valve body installed inside your transmission was programmed to put your car in neutral when stopped. This was a new feature aiming to increase fuel economy.
While it barely improved your fuel economy, it caused excessive wear in the first gear clutches. Volvo's fix to this problem was to update the software for the Transmission Control Module (TCM). The update disabled the neutral feature.
If the problem existed for a long time, the clutches might wear the point that a complete transmission overhaul is required. Replacing the valve body can sometimes fix the problem, but this is not a guaranteed fix.
If the software update were performed early on, it would save your Volvo transmission. If the update was not carried in time, internal transmission wear could have developed to the point that a complete transmission overhaul or replacement is necessary.
Volvo transmission fluid may break down prematurely, causing internal wear of the automatic transmission. Even if your Volvo owner's manual states that the transmission fluid is sealed for life, our recommendation is to change the transmission fluid and filter every 60,000 miles.
Volvos may develop hard shifting or slippage due to the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) software issues. If you are starting to have problems with your Volvo automatic transmission, the first step is to make sure the dealer flashes the latest TCU software.
Flashing the latest software can fix the problem but not always. In some cases, a transmission software flush will temporarily fix the problem with the same symptoms returning 5,000 or 10,000 miles later.
Transmission overdrive relay
If you are having problems driving on the highway, the issue could be the transmission overdrive relay.
You may notice that your car doesn't go past 40 mph, or it gets stuck in gear (limp mode). The up arrow shows on the dashboard, and eventually, your check engine light will come on.
Valve body solenoids - Delayed shifting when hot.
If your Volvo transmission starts to act up once it warms up, the problem could be the valve body solenoids. These solenoids are mounted on the valve body and start to "stick" when the transmission oil gets hot.
This, in return, causes hard shifting, typically downshifting from 2nd to 1st gears, or once the problem gets worse, you will have no gear at all.
You may want to carry out the TCU software update as soon as you notice these symptoms, as this can sometimes fix the problem. If it doesn't, you will either have to replace the valve body or rebuild the transmission. Replacing the valve body costs around $1000 but is not a guaranteed fix.
Rebuilding or replacing the transmission can cost between $3500 and $5000.
Troubleshooting Volvo Transmission Problems
- Check transmission fluid level.
If your Volvo transmission fluid level is even slightly low, it can cause problems such as transmission slipping or engine revving up when you slow down, transmission banging into gear, etc.
Here are instructions on how to check Volvo transmission fluid level.
- Drive the car for at least 15 minutes. Manually shift the gears between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 during your warm-up drive.
- Park the car on a level surface. Set the parking brakes and place the shifter in Park.
- Allow the engine to idle.
- Open the hood of your Volvo.
- Carefully remove the transmission dipstick. The dipstick will have a yellow handle. It is located below the air filter housing. Removing the airbox is required on some models. Be cautious as the engine is hot. Wipe clean the dipstick and reinsert it. Remove it to get a reading of the transmission level. If the level is low, add genuine Volvo transmission fluid recommended for your car. Do not overfill past the Max mark.
- Read Transmission Fault Codes
Read the fault codes from the transmission module. You can have a mechanic do this procedure or invest in a good Volvo scanner and read the codes yourself. This video shows you how to read Volvo fault codes with iCarsoft for Volvo. Don't rely on the codes alone but get a second opinion from an experienced mechanic.
- Update TCM Software
If you are experiencing hard shifting between gears, it could be caused by Transmission module software. This was a widespread problem in many Volvos from 2001 until 2007.
The good news is that a simple software update performed by your Volvo dealer can often fix your hard shifting issues.
Call your Volvo dealer and give them the VIN of your vehicle. They can check if a technical service bulletin (TSB) is available from Volvo. They can also check if your Volvo has ever had the TCU software update.
If your car is under warranty, your dealer should install the updates free of charge. Otherwise, you are looking at $120 to $200 to update the transmission software.
- Change transmission fluid and filter
Even though Volvo may state transmission is sealed for life, you can extend the life of your transmission by doing a transmission filter and fluid change. Doing transmission service will often improve the shifting quality. Make sure to use the recommended Volvo transmission fluid.
In most cases correcting the transmission fluid level, changing fluid and filter, updating the transmission software, and replacing the valve body will fix it. If none of these remedies fixed your problem, you might need the transmission replaced.
The most common fault codes found on Volvo transmissions.
- TCM-002B Incorrect gear ratio in fourth gear. This code will be stored if the gear ratio varies by 10% of what the TCM is programmed for.
- TCM-002A Incorrect gear ratio in third gear.
- P0734 Gear 4 Incorrect Ratio
- P0733 Gear 3 Incorrect Ratio
- P0730 Incorrect Gear Ratio
- P0715 Input/Turbine Speed Sensor Malfunction
Volvo transmission issues date back to the early 2000s Volvo models. Transmission Control Unit (TCU) software is to blame in many cases, but problems with the valve body, shift solenoid, worn clutches, transmission overdrive relay can also be the culprit.
Volvo first starts to manifest transmission problems by hesitating to engage or take too long to change gear. As the problem gets worse, you will notice a bang or hard shifting between gear.
If you ignore the problem for too long, the car will go into Limp Mode and get stuck in one gear. Don't ignore these symptoms, or you may completely damage the transmission.
Have a mechanic diagnose your Volvo transmission as soon as possible. If you are a DIYer, make sure to check the transmission fluid level and read the fault codes from the transmission module.
Frequently Asked Questions
What transmission fluid do I use on my Volvo?
AW55 and TF80-SC require JWS 3309 transmission oil. At the same time, four-speed automatic transmission requires Dexron IIIG or Dexron IIIH. If you are not sure which transmission fluid to use, look it up at the back of your owner's manual.