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 1 of 8)

problem #141

Dec 062016


  • 166,000 miles


When traveling at high rates of speed (on the highway) the car completely shuts off. The dashboard and all electrical shuts off, the hazards do not seem to work or the turn indicators, ABS does not work so it is a very slow heavy stop. This happened to me in this car one other time in 2010, and there was an immediate computer module upgrade issued.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #140

May 292016


  • 130,000 miles
2004 Volvo XC90 sudden engine stall with lose of headlights: I was traveling on the interstate at night with the cruise set at 75 mph when suddenly it was like someone turned the ignition key to off for about 3 seconds, and then turned the key back on without restarting the engine. With all the warning lamps illuminated, and the engine at a stall I pulled into the emergency lane, and stopped. I then shifted to park and attempted to start the vehicle, where it took several attempts to start. The headlights did not stop working while pulling over, and when I stopped I switched the lights off before I restarted the engine. The first thing at mind was a fuel pump that was starting to act up. After restarting I revved the engine up a few quick times (to clear the engines throat). I then got back on the interstate accelerating to 75 mph, but doing so manually this time(no cruise control). About 10 min had passed when suddenly the engine started losing power as I was having to press the accelerator harder to maintain speed. While still coasting at 65 mph or so I placed the transmission into neutral, and attempted to restart the engine, when I turned the key to the start position I lost all the lights, I quickly released the key to the on position, and the lights remained off. I quickly pulled to the emergency lane and used the force to avoid the guardrail and the ditch. All the warning light were illuminated, and the engine was at a stall. I then turned the ignition key off and then back on, and that restored the headlights. It took 5-8 attempts to restart the engine, and again I'm thinking fuel pump acting up. Each time I attempted to restart the engine it would spit and sputter like if the fuel pump were only delivering half the pressure needed for the fuel injectors. After the engine restarted I made it home, and the problem has not arisen since,

- Austinville, VA, USA

problem #139

May 042016


  • 237,000 miles
The car is leaking a substantial amount of water my driver and passenger side floods with water. Now when I brake I can hear so much water moving back and forth. I have water damage on the roof of my car floor is damaged so badly. Just waiting on electric problems to arise. This has happened over 5 times... sunroof does not open so security alert as well. The car has been stationary parked in the parking lot of our townhouse 0

- Elgin, IL, USA

problem #138

Oct 072015


  • 84,500 miles


After driving for at least an hour the vehicle suddenly shuts down for a split second. All gauges go out, loss of power briefly, wipers sometimes kick on and fog lights reset and shut off and there is a thump from the transmission. This happens mainly at freeway speeds but has happened a few times at 30 mph and slower. Can happen several times on a 2.5 hour trip. Once it happens it can happen anytime. Doesn't do it on trips around town. Called Volvo of North America and they denied any problems with the cem and said since it's an '04 with 85,000 miles that I'm out of warranty and they can offer no help.

- Vancouver, WA, USA

problem #137

Jan 192016


  • 160,000 miles
I had this problem a few times a year ago and now it has returned. I was driving my car at night in the rain on a two lane freeway when all of a sudden I lost the headlights, dash lights, speedometer, radio, power windows, electric transmission, and much more function of the car. The engine is still running but it seems to almost reset or something then start shutting stuff down. I see on your website someone put this in as a complaint also this is very dangerous you cant see at night the car is hard to drive its obviously this same problem with water getting into the ECM. I read through your information and it seems like Volvo knew something was up with ones produced before or after March. It seems like they have been well aware of the problem and still want to charge you $2000 to fix it! people shouldn't have to pay to fix a problem Volvo has been well aware of and has had a cheap and easy solution for years. I called my local Volvo dealers and not one of them had any information or knowledge of this problem. When Volvo has a service notice about this problem and has obviously spent a lot of time looking into it. The problem seems to be really bad when it rains or I use the wipers further leading me to see that it is the same thing in investigation PE-10-025. These are only the people who are complaining to you this seems to be a very common issue that Volvo is sweeping under the rug to make a buck. It's disgusting.

- Bellingham, WA, USA

problem #136

Jan 152016


  • 170,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving various speeds, the power steering failed and several warning indicators illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle stalled. The contact stated that a new alternator was placed in the vehicle two days prior to the failure. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 170,000. The VIN was not available.

- Deale, MD, USA

problem #135

Oct 272015


  • 133,000 miles


This report is about a hazardous situation with our 2004 XC90. The engine shut down without warning on the I5 freeway! the car suddenly lost power and we had to coast to the side in the dark. We were lucky to not get hit! the display showed the following error code: ECM-981A. We are aware of the fact that this problem is not new to NHTSA and that you have received several reports on it already. It appears that the problem has to do with the cruise control, and ever since the incident we have been driving the car without engaging it without any problems. The mileage on the car is 138,000 miles. The problem occurred when engaging the cruise control on an uphill slope. We speculate that it might be caused by engaging the cruise control at the same instant as the car shifts down automatically. I talked to a Volvo service technician who aid that he had experienced the same problem with his own 2004 XC90 but he was unable to find what had caused it.

- Redmond, WA, USA

problem #134

Oct 022015


  • 140,000 miles
While driving at any speed the vehicles electrical system completely shuts down with out warning as if the vehicle was off. The engine stays running with very minimal power. This happened to me at night while driving on the highway, it was raining and all the lights, wipers, every electrical part just shut off, I am lucky I did not crash. After researching I that a lot of owners have the same problems and that Volvo is aware of the dangerous problem but does nothing about it.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #133

Jan 152015


  • 113,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving at any speed, the vehicle jerked and lost power. The contact also heard water running on the right passenger side door and underneath the dashboard. The air bag warning light illuminated. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 113,00. The VIN was not provided.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #132

Feb 012015


  • 104,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving at approximately 65 mph, the vehicle began to jerk and the instrument panel failed. The accelerator pedal was depressed and failed to respond. The vehicle was restarted and the failure recurred frequently. The contact also stated that on several occasions it took several attempts to start to vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, but the failure was unable to be determined. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 104,000.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #131

Sep 212015


  • 180,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. The contact stated that while driving at 35 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was able to restart however, the failure recurred. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 180,000. Djr

- Belle Chasse, LA, USA

problem #130

Sep 172015


  • 117,000 miles
Exiting driveway in reverse, upon switching to drive the dashboard lights started flickering and a jerk was felt in the transmission. Soon the dashboard gauges and the indicators went dead. Several error messages quickly "scrolled" (brake failure, airbag failure, ABS failure, engine failure) then the check engine light came on and remained on. No power to dashboard controls (gauges dead, no lights/turn signals, no radio). Front windows work, but not rear. Vehicle drives as if in low gear. Unsafe to drive so had towed to dealer. They are running diagnostics so tbd on specific issue and cost to repair. Concerned as no recall and situation is so dangerous (what if I'd been on freeway!) Volvo should recall all the 2004 XC90 as others report same defect

- Eden Prairie, MN, USA

problem #129

Aug 102015


  • 137,600 miles
I was heading towards a supermarket on a expressway on a an afternoon where there was a clicking sound near the dashboard on drivers side. And then suddenly the dashboard lights started flickering and a jerk was felt in the transmission. Soon the dashboard gauges and the indicators went dead while driving and that too without any warning. There was several error messages that were popping up like brake failure, airbag failure, ABS failure, engine failure and then the check engine light came on. The power was totally cut off and the steering was very hard. It appeared as if the vehicle is in a low gear. Ibhad to take the next exit to come to a safe stop as no indicators were working. I tried to turn off the ignition and then tried to restart. The vehicle started but all the gauges on the dash were down. Had to push the gas pedal hard since the vehicle was behaving as if it was in low gear. Power windows, power steering, indicators, lights, gear shift indicator, audio was totally cut off. I called a local technician and to check the problem, but he could not find the fault. However he cleared the errors and check engine message. The vehicle was restored after almost 1 hour. Then I tried to return back to home. The next day, the same problem occurred, and it kept occurring several times. I heard several reviews from several customers about the same issue with 2004 XC90. And every issue is related to cem. The module costs $1200+ which is a very high cost. This situation is so dangerous while you are on freeways and may cause accidents. Volvo should recall all the 2004 Xc90S and replace these modules and also compensate all the owners who have replaced their cems.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #128

May 152014


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving approximately 70 mph, a loud abnormal noise emitted from the front of the vehicle. The vehicle lost electrical power briefly. The failure recurred. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that there was an electrical module failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- Annandale, VA, USA

problem #127

May 312015


  • 84,380 miles
I switched from headlights on to daylight driving lights on. I received a "bulb failure" for the daylight driving lights. I switched back to headlights. I received a "bulb failure" for the hids. I have verified that the fuses are good, and that there are now no working headlights on the car. Had this happened at night it could have been bad, very bad. Thank god it happened during a sunny day and that the teen driver wasn't behind the wheel.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #126

Jun 182011


  • 60,000 miles
Hello Volvo, for the record, we love our Volvo SUV (2004, XC90). Over the years the service from michelle balside at Volvo on plainfield road in cincinnati has been truly excellent, her contact information is attached. However, we have has an issue since 2011 that has not been resolved, which is so uncharacteristic of Volvo. I am hoping you can help me change the outcome. For years my husband's right headlight has been turning on and off intermittently. This is very dangerous when he drives to and from work at night on an old 4 lane highway (columbia parkway) that has no separation between East and West bound lanes, which means cars travel head-on at 70 miles an hour. Our dealer looked at the issue several times and said they could not fix it; so we lived with the dangerous issue because we thought the problem was unique to us. Recently, someone told us they were having issues with their Volvo headlights and they found a blog on edmonds which listed a lot of other Volvo owners with the same issue. I have attached the blog for your reference. The blog refers to a repair kit. Please let me know if Volvo corporate can send a repair kit to our dealer in cincinnati. We have been loyal customers and we are thinking of giving our used Volvo to our daughter when she turns 16 next spring, and buying a new Volvo for my husband, bill. Please show your customers that you care and you will resolve the headlight issue, it could save a life someday. For now, we "hope and pray" on a daily basis that the headlight functions as it should.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #125

Jan 012015


  • miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While in park, the contact heard a noise. All the warning lights on the instrument panel failed to illuminate and the vehicle stalled. In addition, the contact stated that the odometer displayed an incorrect reading and there was a fuel odor in the vehicle. The contact was unable to restart the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the battery needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired; however, the failure recurred on numerous occasions. The vehicle was towed back to the independent mechanic who was unable to diagnose or repair the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to another independent mechanic who diagnosed that the central electronic module and the fuel pump needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was unknown.

- Hoffman Estates, IL, USA

problem #124

Apr 132015


  • 143,000 miles
My 2004 Volvo XC90 with a 2.5T engine, 7 pass, intermittently and inadvertently stalls while driving it. It is scary because all electrical goes off, instrument panel, radio, lights, etc, several warning messages appears, such ABS, air bags failure, brake failure, engine failure, etc. It won't respond to acceleration and brakes are very hard to push, the engine does not stop. I have to stop, turn it off, wait few minutes, then start it, everything comes to normal again but with the check engine and the air bags message, then after some minutes of driving the same stalling and electrical issues happen again. This is serious because you are on freeway and you loose brakes and engine control, no information in instrument panel, etc. I found that the relays in the cem (control electronics module) are super hot possibly due to loose connections, in the video below you will see the problems and infrared pictures of the cem. Please help!!!!!! please help!!!!!! please help!!!!!! please help!!!!!! please see my youtube video and other videos with the same issue search for XC90 issues, XC90 stalling, XC90 electrical problems, etc. Https:// thank you

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #123

Oct 102014

XC90 5-cyl

  • 133,514 miles
Car lost all power and message window read "reduced engine performance". we were traveling in the left lane and had to coast through traffic to the shoulder. There was absolutely no throttle response, so we shut the car off. Upon restarting it, the message disappeared and we were able to continue our trip. It happened again, and we reset it once again. We stopped at the first Volvo repair facility we found and had them scan all the computers using the Volvo diagnostic equipment. The code they retrieved was ECM-981A. They cleared our computer using the Volvo computer, but the problem returned on our return home. We were barely able to get out of the way of a semi barreling upon us! the problem still persists, and I finally went to my computer to find some information on my own. Apparently, this is not so uncommon a problem with these cars. There is already a recall on some of the 2003-2004 S60's and V70's. we have already spent close to $2,000 trying to remedy this problem, but that becomes inconsequential if someone gets killed because the issue doesn't get resolved.

- Rogue River, OR, USA

problem #122

Oct 262014


  • 167,000 miles
In October 2014 myself my boyfriend and my 7 year old we're driving home when all of a sudden the car would not accelerate when I tried to push through the traffic light the vehicle then slowed down in the middle of the road their was no way of me trying to pull over bc the car completely stopped I then proceeded to get my 7 year old out the truck and her spelt belt in the back was stuck and would not come out we were almost hit from the back due to the vehicle stalling in the middle of the road in a curve we were stranded for about three hours in the dark when we were finally towed home I was told that the transmission was no good and this is the reason our vehicle stalled and was disabled.

- Jonesboro , GA, USA

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