Volvo Transmission Problems

Troulbeshooting Volvo Transmission Problems

Volvo makes some of the safest cars on the road, but on the other hand, Volvos are known to have problems with their automatic transmission.

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 "Service Required" message.  Along with this error, you may also experience harsh shifting between gears or transmission stuck in "Limp Mode".

In this guide, we go over Volvo transmission problems, causes, and troubleshooting tips. If you are experiencing problems with your Volvo transmission, take a minute to become familiar with these problems. 

Symptoms

volvo transmission service requried

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 next gear
  • Delayed P to D engagement
  • Harsh 1-2 upshift
  • Harsh 2-3 downshift
  • Transmission slipping

  • 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 Causes

volvo b4 servo problem

B4 Servo 

If your Volvo transmission hesitates to shift gears then it bangs into gear, the problem could be the B4 servo. The B4 servo is known to be 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. What you will need is B4 Servo Kit for Volvo (30751262).  

Valve Body

 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.

This design while it barely improved your fuel economy it did was caused excessive wear in the first gear clutches. Volvo 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 may wear the point that a complete transmission overhaul is required. Replacing the valve body can sometimes fix the problem, but this not a guaranteed fix. 

If the software update was 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. 

Transmission Fluid

Volvo transmission fluid may break down prematurely cauisng internal wear of the automatic transmission. Even if your Volvo owners manual states that the transmission fluid is sealed for life, our recommendation is to change the transmission fluid and filter every 60,000 miles. 

Software Issues

Volvos may develop hard shifting or slippage due to issues with the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) software. 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 as well. 

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 / Solutions

  1. 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.volvo transmisison dipstick location
    Here are instructions on how to check Volvo transmission fluid level.
    1. Drive the car for at least 15 minutes. Manually shift the gears between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 during your warm-up drive.
    2. Park the car on a level surface. Set the parking brakes and place shifter in Park. 
    3. Allow the engine to idle. 
    4. Open the hood of your Volvo. 
    5. 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. 
  2. 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. 
    Video file
    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 by an experienced mechanic.
  3. Update TCM Software
    If you are experiencing hard shifting between gears it could be caused by Transmission module software. This was a very common 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 number 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. 
  4. Change transmission fluid and filter
    Even though Volvo may state transmission is sealed for life, you can extend the file 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 cased correcting the transmission fluid level, changing fluid and filter, updating the transmission software, replacing the valve body will fix the problem. If none of these remedies fixed your problem you may need the transmission replaced. 

Fault Codes

The most common fault codes found on Volvo transmissions. 

  • TCM-002B Incorrect gear ration 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 ‚Äď Incorrect Gear Ratio
  • P0715 ‚Äď Input/Turbine Speed Sensor Malfunction¬†

Conclusion 

Volvo transmission issues date back to the early 2000s Volvo models. In many cases, Transmission Control Unit (TCU) software is to blame but problems with the valve body, shift solenoid, worn clutches, transmission overdrive relay can also be the culprit. 

Volvo first tart to manifest transmission problems by hesitating to go into gear or taking 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 . While four-speed automatic transmission require Dexron IIIG or Dexron IIIH. If you are not sure which transmission fluid to use, look it up at the back of your owners manual. 

 

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