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:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
98,157 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2004 Volvo XC90 Owner Comments

problem #16

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 #15

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 #14

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 #13

Jun 202014

XC90 5-cyl

  • 152,105 miles


Upon leaving out for the day vehicle hesitated somewhat when I would accelerate on gas pedal. After driving for only 5 mls. Vehicle started sputtering, I thought maybe I should stop and get gas that would solve the problem but no the problem continued and got worse, as long as I was just coasting it was ok, but upon accelerating is when it felt like it was about to stall and there was also fuel smell when accelerating. The sputtering & shaking and rough sound worsen as well. I spoke with an auto repairman and he informed me of the vehicles recalls on fuel system and that it was most definitely what my situation was with my Volvo.

- Youngstown, OH, USA

problem #12

Apr 242014


  • 98,430 miles
I purchased the XC90 dame day once leaving the dealership there was no gas stop to put gas in car once filled up car would get out of park wad stuck there for 15 min tried to take key out would not allow me to called dealer once the car could get to dealer they gave me answers ad I have to pump the brakes and I should B.fine I was scared but had to get home to my town went to work on the 25th of April 2014 was stuck at work for over 30 min terrified im financing the vehicle sine its late I will have to call the dealer and finance in the am cars should not B doin this had the car for two days total nightmare also on dash it says anti skid needs service with a yellow warning symbol also service alarm also showed up what can I do im a single mom now I have a vehicle that I cant drive I need your help they also wouldn't provide a car fax they said they have a safety record but it only shows who owned the car and purchased dates please help if I cant drive I will lose my job and everything I worked hard for I hope to hear from you soon dealerships should not be able to rip of hardworking people thanks [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Newbritain , CT, USA

problem #11

Apr 182012


  • 90,000 miles
The sunroof drain has a design flaw that can cause water to enter the passenger compartment and/or electrical systems. This can present simply as water on the floor boards. But it can also present in more subtle ways with water coming in contact with electrical systems and being drawn throughout the car through copper wires acting as conduit (this effects speaker quality, radio function, cruise control function etc). Most importantly, water can accumulate in the compartment under the front passenger seat that houses the dynamic stability traction control system putting safety at risk. We have experienced this with our XC90 but see many complaints regarding other Volvo models. This is a significant safety concern but most concerning because of its subtle nature, slow progression, and prohibitive costs to repair. Many people are driving around with compromised systems and are not yet aware, unable to recognize the cause, or unable to fund the repair.

- Spokane, WA, USA

problem #10

Aug 012012

XC90 5-cyl

  • miles


2004 Volvo xc-90. Consumer states problem with crankcase vent the consumer received a second a opinion and was informed the throttle body needed to be cleaned.

- Mcdonough, GA, USA

problem #9

Jun 272012

XC90 6-cyl

  • 71,400 miles
While driving on a 40mph busy road, my cd player display began to flash, then a few seconds later, my SRS air bag service urgent message came on. Everything continued to flash and then all my instruments (speedometer, rev counter, turn signals) all died. Lucky I was passing my dealer who I just bought the car from and able to turn into it. After braking, I could not accelerate the car and had to let the momentum carry me into to the lot. I have had the car for 5 days now. I noticed on the first day that simple things were not quite right, including my mirror button only working half the time as well as my window control. Also my wipers would turn on randomly. This seems to be a very common problem with this year and model car if you read any Volvo forums. It seems it has happened to enough people that there should be a recall on the electronics of this car. People's safety are great risk with the failure of these said item in the car.

- Ballwin, MO, USA

problem #8

May 132011

XC90 5-cyl

  • 122,500 miles
Driving from phx to tus at 75 mi out of phx at about 2200hrs. The car completely failed for fraction of a second then resumed normal operation until arriving at destination 10 mi. Later. The second time a week later was traveling to phx at 1800 hrs. 70mi out of tus. The car failed like the first time then a few seconds later did it again reached destination about 15mi. Later. When this happens the lights, radio, windows, dash light and gauges all stop working the mess. Comes on ABS, SRS. Its happened 5 or 6 times now with the worst being yesterday 16 June 2012. I got off loop 202 and pulled in a parking lot and shut down the car and then attempted to restart 4 times before it restarted. The A/C, windows, lights, gauges, turn signals all failed. The mess. ABS, SRS, check engine came on. I drove about 5 mi to destination. I'm now scared to drive it if the SRS, ABS warning are on are they working" if in an accident will the passengers and driver be protected "

- Marana, AZ, USA

problem #7

Dec 232011


  • 68,000 miles
While driving, the electronic panel all shut down and I got msg regarding brake failure and to stop safely. I was on left-most lane of highway and my signals and hazard lights would not turn on!!! even my power window would not work so I couldn't open for me to make hand-signals. Lucky my father-in-law next to me had window open so I told him to make motions to surrounding cars for me to change lanes safely. When I was able to stop, I turned off car, turned on again and got SRS airbag urgent msg on panel. Since car started ok but with msg, I took side streets home but it shut off again 2 times. I did same thing (stop/restarted) and made it home. I had my in-laws with me and my 3 young kids when it first happened on 12/23/11. Because of holidays/vacation and since nearest dealer is 20 miles away (an hour drive with traffic) and service department only open on weekdays, we couldn't take to dealer right away. Since it was an airbag message, my husband not too concerned - he wasn't with me when it first happened so I don't think he realized the gravity. He used it few times and 2 wks later, it happened to him. This time when restarted, there was also check engine msg and noticed difficulty steering. He took to dealer, and both technician and manager could not diagnose problem! they just reset to remove the SRS msg and did a software update. We thought/hoped it was fixed but then yesterday the same thing happened (all shut down)! last night we started checking on-line and found many similar complaints! we are devastated because we love/take care of this car, which we use primarily on weekends and trips. We thought it's safe for our family but now aren't comfortable that taking back to dealer will fix problem. I am very surprised there has been no recall. Something needs to be done because it's only a matter of time before there are fatalities.

- West Covina, CA, USA

problem #6

Oct 082011

XC90 6-cyl

  • 113,026 miles


While driving the electronics shut off and the engine dies as if its in neutral. Took to Volvo service and they said a can software upgrade would solve it, this did not solve it, immediately after we left the same thing happened within a few miles, engine shut down, power went out, when restarted the SRS airbag error code came on as well as the ABS break failure message. I see you guys have completed an investigation (PE10025) on this but what the heck is being done about it. This car is very dangerous to my wife and newborn!!!! the car goes from 70 to 10mph on the freeway, how is this not as important as the issue with Toyota excessive acceleration problem, does someone need to die before you guys take this serious!

- Irvine, CA, USA

problem #5

Oct 012011

XC90 5-cyl

  • 123,200 miles
I was driving on the freeway and there was a slight thumping noise and the electrical systems failed and shutdown in a second. The power was lost and the vehicle came to a sudden halt. Luckily I was on the right side of the road and I had pulled over to the side of the road. It was very scary, as I was on the freeway in the night and I could have very well been in an accident causing damage to my life and others. The electrical failure caused the car to loose complete control of the speed and the car came to an immediate halt. There was a message of break failure for a second before the car shut down completely. Request you to please look into this concern as it is a potential safety hazard. I have researched over the internet and I read that most of the owners of 2004/2005 XC90 are facing similar issues, which is very scary. Kindly help us and help save lives. Thanking you.

- Superior, CO, USA

problem #4

Jun 252011

XC90 5-cyl

  • 130,342 miles
Moving about 70mph in cruise we felt a severe jerk followed by near instantaneous hard acceleration. The jerk/thud action so extreme it was almost like the Volvo tried to reverse gear by itself. It's strange how an ¿event¿ can conjure up common thoughts. After the uncontrolled hard acceleration, I had thoughts of that state patrol officer driving the Lexus in California who was killed along with his family when he couldn't control the bizarre behavior of the car. Turns out it was the same thoughts my brother had. ¿as we pulled over and call for help our Volvo did something bizarre again. We thought the rear wheel going backward at this time, almost at the same time most all the power in the Volvo went dead. O gauges incl. Speedometer, the tack, the gas, the battery, all out. Othe windows stuck in the up position. Ono taillights, no brake lights, no directional. Othe transmission stuck in a gear - either 4 or 5th. ¿while waiting for help at the auto zone, I searched what this issue might be. I found a Volvo forum that shows many people that had similar, dramatic issues with same year same model Volvo. ¿after re-connecting the battery, the power came back on oabout ½ hour later the Volvo repeated a very dramatic thump-jerk and the power started to go out. The tack and speedometer started dropping - dash lights dimmed and all of sudden the power came back - lights back and gauges popped back up. Oonly to be followed by another thump about one minute later and this time the power failure was similar to above (not sure about taillights as I was moving on the highway and not about to get out and check.) oon our next trip even at the reduced speeds - 5 or 6 times he Volvo did some bizarre jerk maneuver with 3 of the times followed by power failure. ¿we talked about options and we agreed that selling this vehicle to someone and possibly putting another family at risk. It is not the right thing to do and not a christian thing to do.

- Sturgeon Bay, WI, USA

problem #3

Jun 012010


  • 94,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. While driving approximately 45 mph, the vehicle became unresponsive to the contacts attempts to accelerate. All electrical components also failed. The vehicle was pulled over and shut off for approximately 3 hours. Upon restart, the vehicle would drive as normal but all of the warning indicator lights on the dashboard were illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where the failure was unable to be diagnosed and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure recurred twice and the vehicle was taken back to the independent mechanic. The mechanic was still unable to diagnose the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 94,000 and the current mileage was 97,000.

- Moraga, CA, USA

problem #2

Oct 072009


  • 68,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Volvo XC90. She stated that while starting the vehicle it idles excessively and then the engine shuts off. After she turns the vehicle back on and operates normally and then begins idling once again. The mechanic stated that the computer indicated that the air flow meter and the throttle body gasket needed to be replaced. The dealer was contacted and they stated that they will update the files on the repair and the failure that occurred. The vehicle will be repaired at the owners expense. There are no related recalls. The failure has occurred for approximately 3 months and has become progressively worse. The failure mileage was 68000 and current mileage was 72000.

- Corona, CA, USA

problem #1

Mar 282006

XC90 5-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 13,000 miles
Pulling into a store parking lot with my foot on the brake and operating at very slow speed, the vehicle dramatically accelerated by itself causing a wreck against a tree.

- Tallahasse, FL, USA

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