Volvos are known for being luxury cars with many comforts and specialties that aren’t found in lower-priced vehicles. The Volvo XC90 is a premium mid-size SUV that has been produced since 2002. They have had their problems just as all cars do.
Knowing what to do and getting your XC90 back on the road as soon as possible is the best solution. We will explain what we found to you.
Some of the main problems and issues in the Volvo XC90 are transmission failures, timing chain issues, auto-braking problems, issues and also climate control, and premature tire wear. Volvo XC90 owners have also reported problems with loud engine noises, fuel filler pipe leaks, and other problems. We will explain these and possible solutions to try, as well as recalls that have been issued by Volvo.
There is no charge for repairs resulting from manufacturing defects, so it is a good choice to make an appointment with your Volvo dealership to have recalls repaired. We will also let you know which models are affected the most by certain problems.
Is Your Volvo XC90 Having Issues?
You probably believed that a European-made luxury car with many safety issues would not have as many problems as everyday American cars. Volvos do recall far fewer vehicles but they also sell fewer vehicles.
The best thing to do if your Volvo is having one of the above-mentioned problems is to make a maintenance appointment with your Volvo dealer. If you have received a recall notice, do not ignore it. Some problems worsen with additional miles and can be a safety hazard.
How Reliable Is the Volvo XC90?
Other vehicles such as Honda and Toyota rank higher in reliability studies than the Volvo XC90. The XC90 falls at the mid-point at a score of 51 for reliability whereas Honda and Toyota rank higher in the 80s and 90s. This study is based on how often the Volvo XC90 needs maintenance and the cost of the service.
Some issues are easy to fix such as your transmission shifting roughly simply because it is low on transmission fluid. Unless it has a leak, adding more transmission fluid is easy and most people chose to do this themselves.
Transmission problems and other issues can be much more difficult to repair and may require a trip back to the Volvo dealership. There are some common issues that we will discuss below. If the issue involves a Volvo recall, we will explain that and how to ensure that your Volvo is repaired.
Most Common Issues with the Volvo XC90
1. Transmission Issues (Recall Number R10136)
Transmission failure issues have occurred in the Volvo XC90, especially with the 2003-2006 models. Some of the complaints about these issues were very serious and dangerous, such as the vehicle being stuck in second gear, and unable to shift up or down.
Minor transmission problems have been due to leaks in the transmission system and resulting leakage of transmission fluid. The Volvo XC90 2016 model was recalled to replace the hose.
Here is a list of common transmission problems in the Volvo XC90:
- Not shifting when shifted to Park or Reverse
- Hesitation when shifting
- Taking longer than usual to shift
A minor problem could become a major one if not dealt with. For instance, you may think that a slight leak is not a big enough problem to be concerned about. If enough coolant has leaked onto the catalytic converter, it can start a fire, leading to personal injury. Volvo did recall the 2016 models because of this problem The recall number is R10120.
Possible Solutions to transmission issues in the Volvo XC90 are discussed next.
- Check the coolant levels to be sure that it is filled to the proper level.
- Check it again after driving some distance or in a day or two to determine if some of the coolant you replaced leaked out.
- Check to see if there is a recall on your Volvo XC90 for transmission issues.
- Make an appointment with your Volvo dealership for replacement or repair if leakage has been found.
Transmission replacement is usually required for serious problems. The price for this repair ranges from $6,000 to $8,000, including parts and labor.
2. Suspension Issues
Suspension issues are also common in the Volvo XC90. If the “Suspension Service Required” message comes on, check your Volvo XC90 for these symptoms:
- Your vehicle makes strange creaking noises, especially when going over bumps or rough surfaces.
- Compare your vehicle with photos taken in the past or with pictures of the new Volvo XC90s to see if it looks lower to the ground than it used to be.
- Push down on each of the four wheels to see if the bumper near each tire bounced up quickly. If it stays down for some time, this is a sign that something could actually be wrong with your vehicle’s suspension.
The air struts, or the part that provides bounce as your vehicle moves over uneven surfaces may be going bad. When one air strut fails, it is common for the rest of them to eventually fail.
Regardless of customer complaints, no recalls for these suspension problems have been issued by Volvo.
There are some solutions to fixing the suspension issues in your vehicle. This can be expensive for you if you have the work done at a Volvo dealership.
Estimates are about $800-$1200 for each wheel.
The 2nd generation Volvo XC90 was released in 2015. They are available only with 4-cylinder gasoline engines.
Although this vehicle featured huge improvements over Generation 1, some models still had major problems and issues. One of these was with the 2016 model that had automatic braking system problems resulting in a recall.
3. Premature Tire Wear (Recall Number 29936)
This might seem like a minor problem compared with other issues that the Volvo XC90 has had in the past, but premature tire wear can lead to a tire blow-out with serious injuries to you and to others. Uneven tire wear also causes poor gas mileage.
If a tire loses pressure, the instrument panel has a message to check tire pressure.
Volvo XC90 owners typically reported this issue around the 12,000-mile point whereas new tires should last for about 30,000 miles.
The premature need to replace tires was a problem in early models of the XC90 beginning with the 2003 model.
Replacing tires for your Volvo can be expensive, especially if the new tires also wear out before the normal mileage that the tires usually get. The cost of new tires ranges from $150-$350 per tire. This totals from $600 to $1,400 for 4 new tires.
Solutions to this problem:
- Have the tire pressure checked in your tires.
- Schedule a tire alignment at recommended times.
- If your vehicle has been recalled, make an appointment at your Volvo dealership.
4. Brake Issues (Recall Number R10120)
If you own a 2016 Volvo XC90, you may have had a recall for brake issues. Although 2016 was the year of many updates and improvements for this vehicle, it has still had its share of problems.
Recent models have also had recalls, including 2020 and 2021 models. Here are some symptoms they have experienced:
- Shaking while pushing on the brake pedal
- Squeaking noise when braking
- Brake rotors need replacement at low mileage
- System braking on its own
Solutions for brake problems:
- Realize that the Volvo XC90 is a heavy vehicle and requires a lot of braking power to slow down.
- A different brand and type of brake pad may help with braking problems.
- If your vehicle has been recalled, your Volvo dealership will replace defective parts.
A complete brake job costs $750 or more, depending on the extent of the repairs.
5. Oil Consumption Problems (Recall Number R10100)
An engine problem you may have, but were not sure what is wrong with your Volvo CX90, may be related to oil consumption problems.
2007-2011, 2013-2016, and 2019-2020 Volvo XC90 models have all had complaints regarding oil consumption problems. A class action suit for 2013-2016 models has been filed.
The lawsuit alleges that the oil control ring is defective and it does not allow oil from the cylinder to drain. Continual burning of oil eventually damages the piston rings and heads.
Some symptoms of this problem are the following:
- Low oil light turns on frequently.
- Oil is used too frequently and needs to be replaced before recommended mileage.
- Slow acceleration and loss of power
- Higher tailpipe emissions
- Foul odor from exhaust
- Check Engine light comes on.
Solutions are limited excluding taking your Volvo XC90 to the dealer. They typically keep records of the dates and mileage of oil changes that will prove your point of excessive oil consumption.
You can also join the class action suit for models 2013-2016. You can also call 1-800-LEMON LAW for information about this issue.
The cost of repairing excessive oil consumption issues ranges from $600-$4,500 depending on the extent of damage to the engine.
6. Water and Filler Pipe Leaks (Recall Number 89707)
Second-generation Volvo XC90s made in 2015-2018 are known to have water and filler pipe leaks. In 2016, Volvo began recalling vehicles to fix drain hoses that were not installed correctly. These problematic hoses can lead to airbag problems or to air conditioning issues if not replaced.
Some of the symptoms of water and filler pipe leaks are the following:
- Check Engine Light comes on.
- You can’t pass emissions inspections until this problem is fixed.
- The problem does not affect the drivability of the vehicle.
- Take your Volvo XC90 to a Volvo dealership to have the hose replaced along with your recall information.
- Have your mechanic replace the hose for you.
The cost to replace this hose is $0 if your vehicle has been recalled. If it has not been recalled but needs a new hose, the price is about $3,581.
Fuel filter leaks in 2nd Generation XC90s. You can replace the fuel filter in your vehicle.
7. Crash Safety Features (Recall Numbers 03V434 and R10120)
One problem in the 2003-2006 models of the Volvo XC90 was with the ball joints that make parking difficult. This problem led to a recall that is recall number 03V434.
This was especially important because the defect could affect major parts of the vehicle, including the engine, transmission, brakes, and other parts of the vehicle.
Volvo advertised their 2016 model XC90 as being exceptionally safe. Volvo owners who have experienced problems with their previous models did not believe this to be true. Crash testing did verify that it was indeed a very safe model if it would be involved in a crash.
The 2017 model of the Volvo XC90 also tested “Good” in crash testing in every category. This is a great feature for prospective used car buyers.
8. Loss of Power Steering (Recall Number 14V286000)
2010 and 2011 models of the Volvo XC90 have been recalled for loss of power steering fluid from the oil pipe connection at the steering gear valve housing. This could lead to the inability to steer your vehicle, especially when going around corners.
Power steering symptoms are common in many different types of cars from Volvo XC90 to Benz ML350. Symptoms that you may experience a loss of power steering are lower levels of power steering fluid that reduce with little driving and black, dingy power steering fluid seen during a change.
Since this problem is caused by a manufacturing defect, there are no definite predictions that this could happen. If you have received a recall notice from Volvo, take your vehicle to the Volvo dealership immediately.
What Years Did the Volvo XC90 Have Problems?
The 2004 and 2005 Volvo XC90 should be avoided because of all of the problems these vehicles had. A newer model to avoid is the 2016 Volvo XC90. Below is some information that will tell you more about these models.
2004 – The 2004 model of the XC90 included problems with the sudden loss of power, and electrical problems, including software and ignition issues. Other problems that it had were transmission issues, interior accessories problems, engine problems, and paint. There were 6 recalls on the 2004 Volvo XC90.
2005 – The 2005 Volvo XC90 also had 6 recalls. They were for engine problems, transmission issues, electrical problems, interior accessories problems, body and paint problems, and brake problems.
2016 – The year involved many problems with the Volvo XC90 model. There were many recalls on this vehicle. Here is a list of the recalls and their numbers for you:
- Electrical system software (Recall Number R10093) – 162 vehicles were recalled because liquid or condensation on the rear seat control display may cause the front passenger seat to move back as far as possible.
- Front seat belts (Recall Number R10029) – Volvo will replace both of the front seat belt anchor seat belts.
- Visibility sunroof assembly (Recall Number R89702) – Switch is not recessed and can be unintentionally touched.
- Electrical system wiring: Fuses and circuit breakers (Recall Number R39574) – The starter motor fuse may blow resulting in the inability to start the car.
- Engine and engine cooling (Recall Number R29936) – Heat and humidity may cause the engine bleeder hose to crack resulting in a coolant leak and possible fire if it leaks on the catalytic converter.
- Airbags (Recall Number R89707) – Water damage in the passenger compartment may cause the airbag to not work during a crash.
- Side and window airbags (No recall, but the dealer will fix the issue free of charge) – Dealers will modify the airbags so the third row of the XC-90 has airbag protection in case of a crash.
- Front seat belts (Recall Number R89708) – Problems with front seat belts not working properly could result in injury in case of a crash if not repaired.
- Airbags: Side and window (Recall Number R89571) – If the wiring harness is not properly situated, the front side seat impact bag could be disabled. This increases the risk of injury.
Best Generation Volvo XC90 Models
Volvo XC90 can be a safe and comfortable ride for you. The best years for the Volvo XC90 model were the following:
2013 – This model has been dependable and durable for owners. There have been no investigations and no recalls for this model.
2014 – The 2014 model of the Volvo XC90 is another great year to buy this Volvo. Owners have remarked that it is comfortable and that they feel safe riding in it. The interior design is excellent with a built-in USB port, satellite radio, and automatic climate control.
2015 – This model presented the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and it is more flexible than earlier models. It can go faster and is made to last longer. The engine works for years without problems and the interior is more spacious for families.
Recent Recall Numbers
A Recall Number is a specific number that a car manufacturer assigns to address a problem that one of their models may have. This is in response to customer complaints about a specific issue or because their internal inspectors discovered a problem.
The Recall Number is a way of identifying this problem and tells information about it that the Volvo dealer needs to know in order to repair the issue.
Owners of Volvo XC90s are mailed a Recall Notice if their vehicle needs to be checked to see if it has a particular problem. Not all vehicles recalled have the problem. In fact, there have been as few cars affected as 18 although thousands of cars have been recalled.
Here are some recent Volvo XC90 recalls that you should know about if you own one of these models:
21V716000 – Service brakes; hydraulic – A welded rotor and shaft may separate and cause brake failure.
21V682000 – Seat belts – Automatic locking may release too early, preventing the child restraint system from working properly.
21V001000 – Airbags – These may not have been attached to the vehicle properly.
These are for 2021 vehicles. Recalls normally take over a year to be declared by Volvo and posted online.
Check to See Whether Your Vehicle Has an Open Recall
Use this address to check to see if your Volvo XC90 has any open recalls:
After you click on the address, enter the VIN number of your vehicle. This 17-digit number can be found on the lower left side of your windshield. Each vehicle manufactured has a specific number. Follow the easy directions after entering your VIN number. Be ready to enter the make, model, and year of your vehicle.
How Is It Compared to Similar Cars?
Volvo XC90 Versus Audi RS Q3 – Both vehicles seat 7 people comfortably and have a lot of interior design features. Both makes are large, safe, and reliable, especially those in certain models. The Q3 has all-wheel drive whereas the XC90 has a front-wheel drive with an option for all-wheel drive. The Q3 has had only 3 recalls over a period of years.
Volvo XC90 Versus BMW X3 – These vehicles are both luxury models with fast pickup and sleek designs. The fuel economy of the X3 is a bit better than the XC90. The X3 has rear-wheel drive whereas the XC90 has a front-wheel drive with the option of all-wheel drive. The BMW X3 has had 19 recalls in recent years.
Volvo XC90 Versus Jeep Grand Cherokee – One difference between these two vehicles is that the X90 is still considered to be new while the Grand Cherokee has been available for centuries. The Grand Cherokee costs less than the X90. Both models are deluxe and have many interior features.
The Grand Cherokee has a larger 3.6L V6 engine, which is larger than the X90 or the X3, and it gets less gas mileage per mile. It is reliable and unlikely to have major problems during its lifetime.
What Is the Life Expectancy and Mileage of the Volvo XC90?
Despite the problems and recalls with the Volvo XC90, there have been some models with excellent records. Between 2003-2013, it had a life expectancy of 200,000 to 250,000 miles or 13-17 years.
Is It Worth Buying Used?
The Volvo XC90 is a good car to buy used, but it is best to avoid certain models as we discussed in this article. 2004, 2005. 2006, and the newer models when the XC90 was first released have had many issues.
The sleek design of the XC90 didn’t change much over the years, so a used Volvo still looks modern. The 2008 model is known to be reliable, but it consumes a lot of gas with its V8 engine.
You can check a vehicle’s history by visiting Carfax.com and entering the relevant information. You will see if the vehicle had the recommended maintenance and can judge a lot about future repairs that you will need to make by doing this.
What Is Good and Bad About the Volvo XC90?
All vehicles have good and bad histories in some ways. The Volvo XC90 is no different. Here are some good and bad things about this SUV.
- Sleek appearance
- Luxurious interior with modern technology
- Safety features like lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, a driver drowsiness monitor and more
- Seating capacity choices
- Limited room in the 3rd-row seating
- More expensive than similar SUVs
- Lack of updated technology such as USB plugs in the 2nd or 3rd rows
What Do Owners Say About the Car?
Here are some reviews by owners of the XC90:
“I have always wanted a Volvo XC90 and waited 3 years to get mine. I have now bought my 4th and I wouldn’t buy anything else!” – VickiA: March 5, 2018 Via Cars.com
“The XC90 has met our expectations! It is very spacious and the gas mileage is not bad. Our choice of the XC90 was the right one!” –Chris R.: April 27, 2020 Via Edmunds.com/volvo
“I am really impressed with my new XC90. It’s fun to drive and extremely comfortable! This is the 1st time to back to the dealer since we purchased it, and this only for an oil change!” – Jeffrey T: August 24, 2022 Via Edmunds.com/volvo
In general, the Volvo XC90 is known for its reliability and safety features. Most owners love this SUV and are loyal Volvo owners who continue to buy the brand.
It is sleek and luxurious yet not flashy in its design – just a good family car with plenty of room for everyone.