Volvo vehicles are renowned for their quality and reliability, but even the best cars can have issues from time to time. One common problem that many Volvo owners have encountered is transmission problems. From the popular Volvo XC90 to the Volvo XC60, and even in their trucks, transmission issues can be a frustrating and costly problem. If you are experiencing problems with your Volvo’s transmission, it’s important to understand the causes and potential solutions.
Whether you are dealing with stuttering, slipping gears, or a vehicle that won’t accelerate, troubleshooting Volvo transmission problems can be a complex task that requires an expert. In this article, we will explore some of Volvo vehicles’ most common transmission problems and provide tips on diagnosing and resolving these issues.
If you drive a Volvo, don’t be surprised if you get a warning message such as “transmission service required,” “transmission service urgent,” or a gear symbol with a “Service Required” message. Along with this error, you may experience harsh shifting between gears or transmission stuck in “Limp Mode.”
Volvo transmission problem symptoms vary. A complete list of possible symptoms includes:
- Delayed shifting or harsh engagement between gears
- 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
- Transmission slipping
- Hesitation to accelerate
- The transmission is 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, and P0734.
If your Volvo transmission hesitates to shift gears, it bangs into gear; the problem could be the B4 servo. The B4 servo weak links affect Volvo cars with Aisin AW AF33 transmissions.
This is an inexpensive part mounted on the side of the transmission. You don’t need to remove the transmission; replacing it takes about an hour. You will need a B4 Servo Kit for Volvo (30751262).
A defective valve body was a common problem, especially with the Aisin AW55-50SN and AW55-51SN transmission found in many Volvos. When the vehicle is stopped, the valve body installed inside your transmission is programmed to put your transmission in neutral. 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 updating the Transmission Control Module (TCM) software. The update disabled the neutral feature.
If the problem existed for a long time, the clutches might wear to 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 out in time, internal transmission wear could have developed, so a complete transmission overhaul or replacement is necessary.
Volvo transmission fluid may break down prematurely, causing internal wear to the automatic transmission. Even if your Volvo owner’s manual states that the transmission fluid is sealed for life, we recommend changing it and filtering it 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 ensuring the dealer flashes the latest TCU software.
Flashing the latest software can fix the problem, but not always. Sometimes, 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. You may notice that your car doesn’t go past 40 mph or gets stuck in gear (limp mode). The up arrow shows on the dashboard, and your check engine light will eventually 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 worsens, you will have no gear at all.
You may want to carry out the TCU software update as soon as you notice these symptoms, which can sometimes fix the problem. You will either have to replace the valve body or rebuild the transmission if it doesn’t. Replacing the valve body costs around $1000 but is not a guaranteed fix. Rebuilding or replacing the transmission can cost between $3500 and $5000.
Volvo XC90 transmission problems
The Volvo XC90 is a popular luxury SUV, but it’s not without problems, especially regarding transmission. One of the most common issues reported by XC90 owners is a jerk between 2nd and 3rd gear, particularly when accelerating to catch up with highway traffic. The problem worsens, leading to stuttering while shifting through the higher gears under a slight load. Sometimes, the transmission has even gone into limp mode, slipping in all gears.
Another common issue is burnt transmission fluid, which can cause the vehicle to shudder when accelerating. Some XC90 owners have reported erratic pump noises and stalling while driving. These problems are all signs of a failing transmission, which can be a costly and frustrating issue to deal with.
Unfortunately, Volvo used an inferior Aisin AF33 AW55-50 transmission in XC90 and many other Volvo models, which was not strong enough to handle the engine’s torque. These transmissions will likely fail, and many XC90 owners have experienced problems. In response to these issues, Volvo redesigned the transmission in 2006 to better handle the engine’s power.
For those who have experienced transmission failure, the best action is to contact Volvo’s Goodwill Assistance Program. They may be able to offer financial assistance to help cover some or all of the cost of a new transmission. However, XC90 owners have had to pay out of pocket, even if the transmission was no longer under warranty. For example, one owner reported spending $4,000 on a rebuilt transmission, while another had to pay $9,000 to replace the transmission, radiator, and cooler kit.
In conclusion, the Volvo XC90 is a great SUV, but its transmission problems are a real cause for concern. If you own an XC90, it’s important to be aware of the signs of a failing transmission and to take action promptly to avoid costly repairs. For those who have already experienced transmission failure, the Goodwill Assistance Program may be able to help, but you may also have to pay out of pocket for a new transmission.
Check transmission fluid level.
If your Volvo transmission fluid level is even slightly low, it can cause problems such as the transmission slipping or the engine revving up when you slow down, the 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, and 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 the 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 or invest in a good Volvo scanner, like the YOUCANIC Full System Scanner, and read the codes yourself. Don’t rely on the codes alone; 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.
Your dealer should install the updates free if your car is under warranty. 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.
Correcting the transmission fluid level, changing the fluid and filter, updating the transmission software, and replacing the valve body will fix it. If none of these remedies fix your problem, you might need the transmission replaced.
DTC Fault Codes
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, and transmission overdrive relay can also be the culprit.
Volvo manifests transmission problems by hesitating to engage or taking too long to change gears. You notice a bang or hard shift between gears as the problem worsens. If you ignore the problem 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, check the transmission fluid level and read the fault codes from the transmission module. The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner can read and clear fault codes from every control module of a Volvo vehicle.
Frequently Asked Questions
What transmission fluid do I use on my Volvo?
W55 and TF80-SC require JWS 3309 transmission oil. At the same time, a four-speed automatic transmission requires Dexron IIIG or Dexron IIIH. If you are unsure which transmission fluid to use, look it up at the back of your owner’s manual.
How long can a transmission fluid last?
Most manufacturers will recommend changing the transmission for 30,000-60,000 miles.
How much does it cost to change transmission fluid?
It costs around $125-$150.
We hope you find the Troubleshooting Volvo Transmission Problems guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your Volvo.
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