Notes: The XC90 took its “freshman 15” of transmission complaints and turned it into a “sophomore 45.” The 2004 XC90 saw 3X as many complaints about the transmission failing as it did in its inaugural North American model year! By the following year, transmission complaints fell back in line with the 2003. That sharp spike in complaints means we recommend avoiding the 2004.

On top of transmission complaints, the 2004 XC90 also has problems with a sudden loss of power. The lucky ones are met with a “reduced engine performance” message, while others are left stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
98,739 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2004 Volvo XC90 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2004 Volvo XC90 Owner Comments (Page 7 of 8)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

Jan 062010


  • 72,600 miles


Electrical issue resulting in supposed brake failure and SRS failure. This is without a doubt a safety issue that Volvo cars of America needs to address. The warning lights come on intermittently possibly due to a weak battery and/or faulty computer. Other operating components go on and off (e.g. speedometer, tachometer, turn signals).

- Fairfax, VA, USA

problem #20

Dec 182009


  • 81,000 miles
On a road trip one night, my car lost all electrical power on the dash. I cannot read any gauges, turn on blinkers or emergency flasher. Windows and radio, A/C is disabled. After arriving, I restarted the car and has an "SRS failure message". I read that this happens to many XC90 owners and the dealers/manufacture cannot confidently fix the problem. They think it's a central electrical module (cem) failure. I think it's a great safety issue when traveling on a darkened highway. I'm replacing the cem unit at the cost of more than $1000 for parts and labor.

- Orange, CA, USA

problem #19

Dec 172007

XC90 5-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving on the highway in rainy conditions, the electrical system shut down for a few seconds. The lights, radio, windshield wipers, and steering also shut off. The failure continued to occur intermittently within minutes until the vehicle was completely turned off and restarted. He only noticed the failure while he was driving on the highway. The dealer made several attempts to diagnose the failure and was unable to find the cause. It was suggested that he replace the computer and software system. He replaced the software (upgrade) but the failure continued to occur. The manufacturer was not informed of the failure. The current mileage was approximately 106,000. The failure mileage was approximately 70,000. Updated 01/06/10 updated 01/07/10.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #18

Sep 282009


  • 71,000 miles


I was wondering if there has been a recall for 2004 xc-90's because of there extremely dangerous electrical failure. This past weekend after about 3 hours of highway driving the whole dashboard and navigation flickered and restarted. It did they 3 or 4 times until it did a similar thing where the entire dashboard and navigation shut down. The ABS light came on and it told me there was break failure and to pull over slowly. I had no blinkers or hazard lights and the headlights even went off. This is extremely hazardous. I pulled over and turned the car off. Turning it back on it drove ok for a few minutes until it flickered again. I finally made it to my destination and took it to a Volvo dealership who could not figure it out. They charged $160 to try and "figure it out" but they just ended up upgrading the software. On my trip back down to nyc, the same thing began happening after about 3 hours of driving. It flickered a few times and again went completely dark telling me to pull over on the freeway. After pulling over the airbag message comes on. I have read various places online of this happening to other people so this is not a rare condition. This seems like a very dangerous situation which Volvo should really take care of. Asking customers to pay $1200 to replace a cem when it really should be a recall is a little ridiculous.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #17

Aug 012009


  • 106,000 miles
Occasional power failure, likely due to heat. A problem with the cem due to heat soak on a long drive - 2004 Volvo xc 90 has a split-second severe "thump" in the front end due to the power loss, which is then followed by a very brief (split second) internal (meaning dashboard lights, hi-fi, dome lights, etc) power failure. Power then returns and the car continues to drive - however, this is clearly a safety issue when driving on the freeway. Seems to be a design issue - symptoms as per here: frustratingly, Volvo do not recognize this as a problem with the vehicles and there is no outstanding tsb/recall for this item. I have discussed at length with both the dealer and Volvo na and neither will admit that there is a problem with the cem design. As far as I can tell, it is susceptible to heat failure - however, even paying $1,000+ to have it replaced does not seem to guarantee any improvement as the part design has not changed since 2003. Volvo customer care contact details are: Email: contact: Lisa telephone: 800-458-1552 X1953

- Front Royal, VA, USA

problem #16

Jul 232009


  • 65,000 miles
2004 Volvo XC90 2.5L transmission. Complete failure at 65,000 miles requiring replacement of entire transmission. Four days after repair, vehicle has loud engine thump and check engine light comes back on. Repeats thump with entire electrical system going out requiring a 3.5 hour tow home from 1/2 to our vacation destination. Dealer replaced alternator. Had for 2 days and check engine light comes back on and the thump/electrical issues start again. Barely got to dealer who has had for a week. They replaced alternator as put in the wrong one, but still haven't fixed it yet.

- Katy, TX, USA

problem #15

May 012009


  • 105,000 miles


When working on the audio/cd/radio of the car, this generates an SRS service urgent message to be displayed on the dash. This appears to be a common problem with Volvo if you check the message boards. People should be able to work/change out their stereos without the fear of the airbags working after words.

- Washington Court House , OH, USA

problem #14

Apr 252009


  • 113,825 miles
While driving in heavy traffic on April 25, 2009, my 2004 Volvo XC90 began jerking and then there was a sudden loss of power, the instrument panel swooped to the far right and then back to left with no other movement, the radio shut off, the windshield wipers began wiping, and the door locks and windows would not work. Shortly thereafter, the message box displayed "brake failure-stop safely", and then changed to "SRS airbag _service urgent". once we stopped, the vehicle would not start again. I disconnected the battery in hopes of resetting the computer. Once this was done the car started again. Messages are still displayed. We contacted Volvo corporate and have an appointment with a local dealership tomorrow. This is a serious safety issue and it is not the first time I have submitted a complaint for this same type problem. I have been a faithful, repeat Volvo customer, and would like to continue to support Volvo. My loyalty is slowly fading, especially after reading several complaints of the same nature. Volvo please don't let a death occur before you take action.

- Decatur, GA, USA

problem #13

Mar 222009


  • 42,100 miles
On March 22, 2009 I was traveling with my two daughters East on I-75 from naples to miami when the car suddenly jerked and the dashboard and instruments flickered and lit up, and then the instrument panel displayed the message "SRS - airbag service urgent". was able to continue driving to look for a rest area as that stretch of I-75 is in the everglades. After a few miles the car jerked again, but this time all the dashboard lights, instruments (speedometer, RPM), radio and interior lights did not work. Was able to continue driving to a rest area about 7 miles down the highway. I stopped, turned off the car for 15 minutes then it started up again with all the electrical systems working, but still displaying the message "SRS - airbag service urgent". not wanting to B stuck in the everglades I continued driving, and the jerking motion and issue with electrical occurred again two more times. The last time was when I was pulling off the highway onto my exit for home it displayed the message "brake failure! stop safely". I was able to stop, turned off car, started it again with everything working, but still displaying the message "SRS - airbag service urgent". this same issue happened last summer when my wife was driving with our kids from miami to jacksonville. She took it to a Volvo dealer in daytona beach and one in jacksonville. Both dealers were not able to diagnose the issue. When back in miami, I took it to an independent mechanic who is Volvo-certified and he was not able to fix the issue either. Based on what I've researched it seems to be an issue with the onboard computer. This is a very scary problem that needs to be addressed by Volvo, especially when you are driving 70 miles an hour on the highway and the car suddenly jerks and loses power.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #12

Jan 062009


  • 109,780 miles
On January 6, 2009, my wife and daughter were driving on I-20 when they heard a "thump" and then experienced a sudden loss of power with the electrical systems. The engine never stopped, but the radio, windshield wipers, door locks, dashboard and everything suddenly stopped working. They continued to drive and about 5 minutes later it happened again. They never stopped and about 5 minutes later it happened again. They immediately exited the highway and waited about an hour before trying to drive again. We have not been able to duplicate the problem since then. In reviewing the website, this appears to have happened to a few folks.

- Decatur, GA, USA

problem #11

Oct 052008


  • 68,000 miles


While driving northbound on interstate 405, my wife heard a loud "thump" from the engine compartment. Immediately after this noise, the electrical system completely shut down, and all the dash lights and associated electronics shut down.

- Encinitas, CA, USA

problem #10

Oct 182008


  • 33,193 miles
On October 18 at approximately 8pm we were traveling West bound on I-4 when we experienced a severe "jerk" of the vehicle and the interior seatbelts lights lit up. We continued to drive and experienced the same thing a few miles later. We decided to exit and then there was another "jerk" of the vehicle and we lost all interior electrical, no dash lights, no A/C, no windows, nothing! we limped to a parking lot and called road side assistance to have the vehicle towed. This is a serious issue with this vehicle and I have found multiple instances of the same on your website! Volvo needs to recall the vehicle and make the repairs before someone is killed! Volvo can't seem to replicate the problem and the computer in the car did not register an event! seems like the computer is the problem, but they won't "own" up to the fact that it's a Volvo problem!

- Saint Petersburg, FL, USA

problem #9

Aug 292008


  • 64,500 miles
While driving on I-10 at night at approximately 75mph with my family, we experience complete failure of the vehicle's electronics such as loss of braking, steering, odometer, speedometer, all instruments, and transmission. We had a total loss of every electrical function of the vehicle at the most dangerous point and time of our travel - at night, on an interstate, and far from major cities. After much stress and fear, we limped to our destination barely. In short, we had the car towed to a Volvo dealer. The dealership stated that the C.E.M. (one of few "brains" of the vehicle failed) needed to be replaced, and of course we did. I know for a fact that C.E.M failures are an common problem with this type of vehicle. Two dealerships have told me that they have dealt with this issue recently. This is a major issue. Our lives were at risk given our circumstance. I cannot imagine what others have experienced. A fire, property damage, crash, and report to police should not in this case be the genesis of a recall. The simple facts of our near grave experience should be sufficient to have a recall.

- Charleston, SC, USA

problem #8

Sep 042008


  • 60,000 miles
While driving my 2004 Volvo xc-90 at night I experienced a momentary loss of control, followed by the headlights pausing and then going from high beams to low. The instrument cluster lost some of it's displays and the door locks became inoperative. The data display warned me of an "urgent SRS failure". I was at low speed a block from home so I crept home and the next day sent the car to triad Volvo by roll-back wrecker. Problem was failure of central electronic module. I called Volvo corporate and they seemed disinterested.

- Statesville, NC, USA

problem #7

Sep 212007

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
On June 15, 2007, while on a highway traveling 65 mph, my 2004 Volvo XC90 made a jerk, as if it had suddenly fallen out of gear. About 5 minutes later, the same thing happened. It felt as if something locked the tires for an instant, then let go. About another 5 minutes later, we received an error message that said "brake failure, stop safely". moments later, we lost all control of the car - total electronic shutdown. No lights, no hazards, no power steering, no brakes. My husband was able to glide to the breakdown lane, and we rolled until the car stopped. We had our two young children in the car, on the side of the highway, in the dark. It was a terrifying predicament, and we couldn't leave the car due to the danger of not being seen. We had the car towed, and a few days later, the Volvo dealer said it was a $60 software upgrade that needed to be done. After the car was returned to us, we took it to another Volvo dealer and had them perform a 45K check-up, had them reevaluate the situation, and also had a va state inspection done, and they told us everything was fine. Just barely 3 months later, in exactly the same scenario, the same exact thing happened. On 9/21/07, we were on a highway at night, and once again felt the car jerking, followed a few minutes later by total electronic failure. No lights, no hazards, nothing. Once again, we managed to get off the highway safely, but I fear the next time this happens, we may not get so lucky. All 3 dealers that have looked at this car have never heard of this problem before, which is very unsettling, as I can never be convinced it is fixed. I am terrified to ever drive my car again, even if they do "fix it". the car is currently still being evaluated, so we do not know the latest prognosis for it.

- Oakton, VA, USA

problem #6

Aug 102006

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,000 miles
2004 XC90 has had three computer/electrical problems, perhaps related. Urgent message appears on panel, "SRS needs attention - urgent". car taken to dealer with message active, dealer unable to diagnose problem, resets system. 3 months later, SRS message reappears, car won't start, no lights or other accessories left on. Battery diagnosed as dead, replaced, SRS message clears with new battery. 3 months later, SRS message reappears, two control modules replaced.

- Minneapolis, MN, USA

problem #5

Mar 012006

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
My 2004 XC90 AWD began experiencing odd electrical problems this spring at about 45000 miles. While driving at cruising speed, the vehicle would suddenly and without warning experience a hard jerk followed by activation of the windshield wipers and loss of power to the radio. First time, the dealer could not replicate the problem but downloaded electrical software updates. Same thing second time and back to dealer, again could not replicate, and they downloaded transmission updates focusing more on the jerking issue. Third time it happened, I continued to drive the car to the dealer so they could see what I was experiencing. On the way there, I had complete loss of electrical power: No power to speedometer, to gas gauge, to windows, to air conditioning, radio, etc. Also had less than full power to drive with. The dealer again downloaded electrical software updates and gave me the vehicle back. Same problem for 4th time this Friday and they tell me they have put new computer into car. Fortunately there have not been any deaths or crashes, but this defect causes a serious safety problem without any warning.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #4

Aug 152005

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,600 miles
I parked my vehicle in my driveway on the evening of Friday, August 12, 2005. I left on vacation the following morning leaving my vehicle in the driveway. I returned from vacation late on the evening of August 21, 2005. The following morning when I went out to leave for work, the vehicle would not start. I called aaa in order to have the car jumped. It would not jump. I then called the Volvo dealership and they told me to call the Volvo hot line for a tow. The vehicle was towed to the gengras Volvo dealership in East hartford, ct on the morning of August 22, 2005 and it remains there at this time. The dealership service department reports that all of the computers are malfunctioning. They report this to be "an act of god" as in the car was struck by lightening. I was advised to report this to my insurance company which I did. An appraiser was dispatched to look at the vehicle and then special engineers from North eastern technical services. Inc in fall river, MA went to the Volvo dealership to view the vehicle. They removed two computer modules with permission of the service department and microscopically examined them to determine if any connectors, circuit board or component damage was present. Neither module showed any indicators of damage. At this point the claim has been denied by my insurance company saying that the problem is a warranty problem. Volvo disputes this saying it is "an act of god". the vehicle is less than two years old and has less than 24,000 miles on it. I have not been able to drive the vehicle since August 12, 2005. It does qualify for the lemon law, but more importantly, I found that there have been other reported electrical system failures of this model. I am concerned that this is indeed a problem with this particular model and the Volvo is trying to cover it up.

- Storrs, CT, USA

problem #3

Oct 012004

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles
I have had numerous failures with my 1990 Volvo: I am on my third set of tires, and I have 30,000 miles. I have had several shock absorbers replaced, a tie rod break, and many electrical problems.

- Roscoe , NY, USA

problem #2

Aug 302004

XC90 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
Since I have owned this car I have had small electrical problems - moonroof won't open or close, G door opener not working after 3 days, must press unlock button several times to unlock doors. Also, the car bounces at all speeds, and shifts late. Labor day, 2004, I was driving the car when all gages went out - speed od, gas, oil press, entire ABS system, etc. I found it was fuse 24 and replaced it. This fuse blew 4 more times over the next 3 days - once it blew when replacing it. The dealership said this was not a safety issue and scheduled repair for 2 weeks later. (the ABS system still reported warnings on the message display). Once the dealership finally worked on it, they replaced the central electrical box and ordered a new transmission which still needs to be installed. I still have the above electrical problems along with the other problems which the dealership claims are all related. There is 10,000 miles on this car. Previously, I owned a 1999 xc. I continued to have electrical problems with this car until I started it at a daycare to have the battery explode. Solution to this problem was to upgrade me to the 2004 with the assurance the problems I had on the 1999 were "highly unusual and unheard of". due to my past experience, and the very similar problems I am having with the 2004, I feel very unsafe in this vehicle.

- Grand Haven, MI, USA

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