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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
121,600 miles
Total Complaints:
11 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (11 reports)
2004 Volvo XC90 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2004 Volvo XC90 Owner Comments

problem #11

Jun 212020


  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles


I am having the exact same problem. Same year and model. It seems to only do it after about 30 minutes of driving, and when its hot outside. I hear a clicking noise right before it flips off and back on right under the steering wheel. Pretty sure its the CEM. Maybe overheating? I thought one day when it was really hot I heard a little fan running under the dash in that location. The cars electrical all went out but the car kept running. It did not run normal, like it had a loss of power. Turned off and back on. It reset but kept doing it every few minutes of driving.

Have you figured out a solution? There is a place I found called XemodeX that rebuilds the CEM but want to see if there is possibly an easier solution.

- Darren G., Shelbyville, US

problem #10

Aug 162019

XC90 2.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 161,000 miles

Driving on highway for an hour going 70 and feel the car lurch and a sort of jolt. Wipers go on and then all gauges go off. It’s like a full electrical power loss. It was scary and unexpected. Pulled off highway. Everything looked normal. Got back on and in another 45 mins happened again, then 10 min later again and finally a total power loss where I was driving without any electrical power but car was going 55-60. Also go sis airbag error. Nuts. I pulled over and turned car off thinking this was it. But after a few mins it started back up and I went on my way only for this to happen a few more times. Took to a mechanic and they tested battery and alternator. All seemed ok. Could not find anything wrong. Now I see this web site and find there are many others touting same issue. But I have not heard any solution yet. Worried. Help!!!!!

Update from Aug 20, 2019: Update: I called Volvo North America to lodge a complaint. They took all my info and said I had to get a Volvo dealer to do diagnostic test then they would consider opening a case. So I will do that. But I also wondered if anyone tried to keep the panel cool by using the bottom vent only as one person suggested? I have to drive this care 4 hours in this unsafe condition and wondered if that little hack worked? Also has anyone thought about a class action since there appears to be so many 2004 owners with this issue? And Volvo knew it was an issue as they apparently changed the 2005 models what about the 2004 owners? I’m not happy about this and do understand the car is 15 years old. But I also understand someone could get killed driving in this condition.

Update from Sep 3, 2019: So the mechanic in Nashville checked everything and found no issues. Not a surprise. The Volvo dealer rep I spoke with in Nashville seemed more than aware of the issue. He was helpful in that described a similar situation with a client and ended up having to get a new cem board. I had to get the vehicle back to Atlanta and decided to try and drive it. I was nervous about this as it’s 4 hours. It was a hot day too. I tried the hack another complainer mentioned. Running the AC on the low vented whole trip. I’m not sure if it was that but I did make it back without a single issue. Hmmm..theory is the coolness kept the cem from overheating? Dunno. Anyway my Atlanta mechanic swears it’s not necessarily a cem issue and he changed some fuses and did some other computer resetting. So far no new issues. Still, I’m skeptical. Maybe this is purely a situation that only happens on long trips and hot days? Will continue to monitor.

- Jeff W., Atlanta, US

problem #9

Jun 012019

XC90 T6 Awd

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,000 miles

The entire dashboard goes out while driving. Can't tell how fast you going and windows don't work. Everything in the car goes black and then brake failure light comes on. Very dangerous when driving. Help!

- Vanessa J., Jacksonville, FL, US

problem #8

Apr 012017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles


All electrical was suddenly shut down while driving on the highway! Extremely scary. I have searched on the internet and there are numerous reports of the same problem and despite that the manufacturer does not acknowledge/offer a solution to the severe problem. I will never buy a Volvo again and I tell all people that I meet the same, recommending them to stay away.

- Chris D., Houston, TX, US

problem #7

Oct 262016

XC90 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

While driving home from work on a major interstate, the the vehicle made a large clunk sound from underneath the hood or transmission area. Suddenly the ABS light came on and a message to stop safely was displayed. The vehicle lost most of its power, then every sensor light on the dash came on. The vehicle continued to drive but was lacking most of its power. The instrument panel then went completely dark and the radio shut off. I was able to make it home having to push the accelerator to the floor to drive approx. 40mph. I shut the car off and then turned it back on and drove it around my neighborhood for a mile or two to try and hear any strange noises to diagnose the problem. The vehicle drove like normal, but an error message displayed (SRS service airbag). I now know this is a problem for many 2004 Volvo XC90 owners, after researching the symptoms. Sounds like I need a new Central Electronics Module (CEM) which isn't cheap and the vehicle is no longer under warranty. This is the first time this has happened, but it sounds like it only gets worse if the problem is ignored.

- Kurt D., Atlanta, GA, US

problem #6

Sep 292016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Problems with 2004 xc90 causing electronic shutdown in xc90's are abundant on this site. I think it is a design problem that leads to a heat problem. So its not a moisture or a corrosion issue. If you want to replicate the problem at the Volvo dealer take along a blow dryer and an extension cord have them turn the car on pull the 2 panels ( the 1 next to the drivers right knee and the 1 in front of your left knee) and blow the hair dryer on the cem directly for 10 minutes voila you are going to replicate your cars incident. Simple fix you have 3 choices for your ac blowers, face, middle and feet. On long trips and heat wave days keep it on your feet. I was having the same problems as 140 others on this site had with my xc90. This solution worked for me and cost me nothing but some thought. Good luck

- Bill P., Ephrata, PA, US

problem #5

Jul 212016

XC90 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles


I believe this is the fault of a corroded CEM. We had the sunroof drain get plugged by sand about 4 years ago. This issue is a sudden, loud and violent shudder of the vehicle followed by gauges going crazy and immediately going dark in the car. All lights, gauges, radio, etc. goes dark. After turning the car off and then on again it seems to run alright. This first happened in Oct. 2015 while driving 75 mph on the freeway that I am lucky was in the middle of the night so there wasn't any traffic around me. I almost lost control it was so violent and sudden. This didn't happen again for 8 months, again same scenario. And then, a month after the 2nd incident it did it again, this time only going 10 mph on residential streets.

I have taken the XC90 to North Springs Volvo in Roswell, GA 3 times and each time they said they could find nothing wrong and everything checked out OK. I finally Googled it myself under 2004 XC90 Issues and found this issue is way more common than what Volvo led me to believe. The CEM gets corroded because of water in the passenger compartment due to a plugged sunroof drain.

I cannot believe Volvo mechanics wouldn't check the CEM because this is much more common if I can find it on Google with just a basic search. Checking the CEM in the coming days.

- Craig F., Atlanta, GA, US

problem #4

Mar 022015

XC90 T6

  • CVT transmission
  • 94,000 miles

While driving any distance over 10min the car warning comes on saying sudden loss of brakes, stop safely. Within a few moments all the electronics shuts down; all dash, stereo, lights, wipers, windows and lack of power to engine but stays running. This was almost a deadly crash while driving on freeway at dark while pouring rain and there were cars everywhere. No way to signal or flashers, I honestly thought me and my family were gonna get in an accident.

I have to unplug battery cable and wait a few minutes, then reconnect and all good for rest of day. No Volvo can figure it out, I have had it checked several times Volvo and non Volvo mechanics. Every time which is becoming daily since 20 min drive to work. I have sent the DIM cluster in and had it checked but all good $300 cost. Taken to Volvo every time to SRS airbag reset because it comes on every time I unplug battery $50 charge each time. Ridiculous! Checked voltage and never drops below 12.5 and only that low while starting. This is going to kill someone and Volvo does nothing about it.

Please help with any suggestions.i am at a loss and really can't trade in or I lose money.

- Mike R., Albany, OR, US

problem #3

Apr 012015

XC90 2.5t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

While driving on the highway after a loud noise, all gauges inside the car shut down along with everything electric inside the car (radio, air conditioning, etc.). After stopping and turning the car off for 5 minutes and on again the gauges inside the car and all electrical systems came back on. There was a loud noise before all this happened, felt like I was going to loose control of the steering but thank God it didn't happen. I have taken the car to the dealer a couple of time and they can't find anything wrong with my Volvo. Don't know how to deal with this problem so I keep driving it until something happens.

- Ernesto R., Winter Garden, FL, US

problem #2

Sep 012014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,516 miles

Oh no. :( I was SO happy. I had found what I thought would be the best automobile that I had ever owned. I am a single woman and care for my elderly aunt who is in her 80's. I need to get to and from work, and would LOVE to travel to be able to see my son in Nashville. My aunt depends on me for groceries, and to get to her medical visits in comfort.

The issue? I thank you for your patience, dear reader- and possible one who has the same dilemma. While traveling from New Orleans to baton Rouge in I-10, all of the sudden a LOUD thump came from under the hood. The thumps would occur about every 10 miles. I was very startled! Then, I lost all gauges. Then the radio-gone. Air Conditioning-gone....power windows....gone. I was literally pinned in electrically to a searing HOT car on a very HOT day! I knew the problem was electrical in nature (but the transmission problem bewildered me) so, I decided to get off of the Highway to safety as I knew that if I shut the engine down, it may not start again. So, I exited. Stopped. Took out the key. Just to see, before I called for assistance, my trembling hand put the key into the ignition of my "dream car" reputed for safety, integrity and value- and guess what? IT started!!!! I was sooooo happy. Well, to my demise the problem returned.

Now I am TRYING to see HOW to get this fixed! I have been quoted $500.00 just to "diagnose" the problem by a technician and if it is the computer which I am sure it is, from all I have read here, $1500.00. I am making payments on the car, as I am the second owner. The used car salesman is very stubborn and insists that it has nothing to do with the fact that he assured me that the car was "watertight" No- If I go through the car wash water pools on the passenger floorboard EUREKA! Right where the computer is right up under the passenger kick-plate. The tubes from the moon roof are stopped up I am sure. I am very distraught! Can anyone give me some words of wisdom, encouragement, direction, or advice? Gratefully Yours, VF

- Val B., Greenwell Springs, LA, US

problem #1

Feb 062012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

while driving my 2004 Volvo XC90 jerked then all things power went out. I called the dealer where I bought the car from and they said the could not find anything wrong with it. I took my car home it drove normal then 2 days later I was driving to work and it did it again. i called the dealer right then and there, they told me to bring it and when I got to the dealership. I turned the car off and when i and the service guy came back out it started right up and we drove it and it did nothing. This EXPENSIVE CAR HAS BEEN A PAIN IN MY BACKSIDE SINCE I GOT IT!!!!!

- mrsemspencer, Canton, OH, US

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