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XC90 clunking noise, slow speeds, full lock

Help, Advice, Owners' Discussion and DIY Tutorials on Volvo XC90s. The XC90 proved to be very popular, and very good for Volvo's sales numbers, since its introduction in model year 2003 (North America).
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XC90 clunking noise, slow speeds, full lock

Post by clare8844 » Mon May 23, 2016 1:10 pm


My XC90 Active AWD D5 Auto 2010 (~70,000 miles) is making a significant clunking noise from the rear of the car when in full lock at slow speeds (e.g. when parking). The noise happens in both forwards and reverse gears and when steering left or right. It doesn't happen when it's being driven in a straight line. The effect lessens as I reduce the lock I'm using. Looking under the car as I reverse slowly on lock, the differential is visibly juddering when the noise is present, but it is not clear if this is cause or effect. The car jerks perceptibly when it's happening as if something is catching or binding. The problem doesn’t occur every time the car is at full lock and slow speeds, but probably 80% of the time.

The onset of this problem coincided with replacing the front tyres (which may or may not be relevant) and handbrake woes which resulted in replacement there too. Since I first heard this problem the tracking has been checked just in case. There are no clear issues when the car has been up on a ramp and looked at underneath.

Has anyone experienced a similar problem? If so, please can you let me know what the diagnosis was? I have taken the car to a Volvo dealer who decided the best course of action was to ‘wait and see’, but I am keen to get the issue solved.

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by matthew1 on Mon May 23, 2016 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Clarified title - please, no HELP in titles - read the rules

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Re: XC90 clunking noise, slow speeds, full lock

Post by cass3958 » Wed Aug 03, 2016 3:53 am

Sorry its taken so long for you to get a reply but obviously its not a problem that has occurred to others in the past.
First are you sure the noise is coming from the rear? I had a similar knocking sound when on full lock but it was coming from the front. It turned out to be the drive shaft bearing on the front nearside. No noise in a straight line but on full lock I would get a clunking rhythmic knocking noise from the front which was in time with the rotation of the front wheels. New drive shaft universal joint and no more noise.
If it is definitely from the back it could also be a drive shaft universal joint or it could be worse.
If its not a U/J drive shaft I would assume you have a problem with the rear diff or transfer box. From my experience with the AWD system on the Volvo the car is in front wheel drive about 90% plus percent of the time. There is a transfer box which decides via sensors on the wheels and an ECU if drive is required to the rear wheels and it then converts it to 4 wheel or All wheel drive, AWD system. The rear axle has a differential in the middle which splits the drive to each wheel and if I am correct this will have a Limited slip differential in so when one wheel starts to slip the drive is sent to the other side and you still have traction. There might even be a thing called a diff lock which locks both wheels together so they both turn at the same time. To try and explain what might be happening to your car you have to understand that on a normal car when turning the inside whee does not need to go so far as the outside wheel and therefore rotates slower. If the diff lock is on both wheels will rotate at the same speed and distance. OK in a straight line or gentle curves but on tight turns both wheels are trying to rotate at the same rate but one is trying to go a shorter distance than the other and you end up with one wheel skipping, slipping and juddering. This will be felt at a clunking and you will see juddering in the rear axle. Now I am not saying for sure that this is your problem but it might be that you have a problem with your transfer box which is sending drive to your rear wheels constantly so you are in permanent four wheel drive.
The only way I can think of checking this is to jack up the rear of the car, put the gearbox in drive, release the handbrake and try to rotate both back wheels. If they move the transfer box is free and disregard all I have said. If the wheels are locked and will not rotate further investigation is required with the transfer box as you are in permanent four wheel drive mode.
Someone please correct me if I am wrong here as I have not had to dealt with the Volvo AWD system before and only speaking on my experience of Land Rover 4x4 systems.

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