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2003 Xc90 6T w/69000 miles ...Run away or Buy?

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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shiloh51933
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Re: 2003 Xc90 6T w/69000 miles ...Run away or Buy?

Post by shiloh51933 » Tue Sep 25, 2018 7:45 am

This topic makes me very nervous as I just purchased a 2004 XC90 T6. I'm not new to Volvo by any means but I've never heard that the T6 had issues with Transmission that was very serious or common. But if you get get 100k out of a trans that's unusual for my experience having owned 6 volvos. The Xc90 T6 I purchased was certified Volvo, all services that Volvo recommended has been done up to this point. The atf service is documented as being done 4-5 times, the TB was done around 100k, it now has 130k. The suspension was replaced at Ramsey Volvo around 90k, all 4 wheel bearings where replaced at Volvo, the list goes on and on. I have all the receipts and documents from the dealership. She drives like a new car but after reading some of the details about T6 I'm not liking what I'm reading. I was really looking for a 2.5T but this T6 was so nice and well Documented I believed I made a good purchase. I've been servicing/repairing vehicles my whole adult life and have worked professionally as a auto service tech for about 10 years. Saying that I know quite a bit but there's always more to learn and I do make mistakes sometimes , I'm hoping this won't be one of those mistakes. Regardless I love driving my new to me XC90 T6!!


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SuperHerman
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Re: 2003 Xc90 6T w/69000 miles ...Run away or Buy?

Post by SuperHerman » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:26 am

I will answer your question from two angles. My family owns both a 2004 XC90 T6 and a 2016 XC90. Over the years I have owned various other Volvos with both the 2.5T and 2.9 engine. I think this will be helpful as it will give you insight into how much the car costs to maintain.

To help keep household peace my wife has her car serviced by others, professionally so to speak. All other cars I usually service myself. If a light goes on in her car, I help get it to the repair shop ... Basically I don't work on the car she drives. We don't have any rules of which car which family member can drive. Any one can drive any car. It is just maintenance that differs.

First angle is from when my wife drove and maintained the car. The 2004 basically cost us $1,000-1,500 every year after it hit about 60,000 miles. My wife drove the 2004 XC90 for about 10 years, we bought it as a three year old vehicle with around 30k if I recall. Service was usually performed at the dealership, but sometimes at the local shops where the service started as an oil change. The 2004 XC90 never left us stranded. A light would come on - a rattle would start - a steering issue - timing belt service - brake pads and rotors - control arms - front struts and seats - sway bar end links - wheel bearings - propeller shaft ... - off to the dealer or shop. Again, on average the XC90 cost $1,000-$1,500 every year. So if that is how you are going to operate and service the car those are the prices we saw.

At about 85k the transmission began to fail and was covered by Volvo.

Angle two, after my wife upgraded to the 2016 XC90, the 2004 XC90 came under my control. As I controlled the repairs and do many of them my service approach is different. I will not just replace one bad part, I will replace everything that could go bad at the same time if the work overlaps. Currently the car has 152k on it, and the transmission was rebuilt a second time by me at around 140k. Currently I have replaced the front struts and spring seats for the second time and replaced the rear shocks for the first time. At around 120k-140k many of the seals need to be replaced on the drive train. While there freshen up all the AWD fluids.

Overall the Gen 1 XC90 is just like any other Volvo of the same era - typical consistent Volvo design.

As to my rebuild, the replacement transmission after 60k (84k-140k) miles showed signs of heavy use. It still would have gone another 20k I believe but the fluid was black and the clutch packs showed definite signs of wear. So again about 80k miles.

On to the transmission. The 4t65E is not a bad transmission, but it does have some design issues. Its original design favored softer shifting which was accomplished by having a larger clutch gap on two of the clutch packs. This "play" results in a smoother shift, but increased wear. The transmission does not have a means to adjust for this as the clutch packs wear, and with the XC90 being on the heavy side equates for a shorter clutch pack life. That is why you see so many complaints on the T6 equipped XC90s. There are other transmission issues, but the one mentioned is the main one people experience.

When rebuilding 4T65E transmissions, shops in the know, have come up with solutions. For one clutch pack they use two thicker steels which decreases the gap, but causes harder shifts. For the other problem clutch they use one or two thicker clutch disks from a related GM transmission. Triple-Edge-Performance is the go to shop for the best rebuilds and/or help. The site has good information on 4T65E issues.

Wrapping up - the Gen 1 XC90 regardless of engine is hard on the suspension and brakes. It chews through sway bar end links every other year. If you do not do your own service figure $1-1500 per year is my experience. As you don't know the full service history you may luck out or hit a big bump up front (specifically the timing belt as they are a ten year item regardless of mileage. Our XC90 had the belt serviced around 110k at the dealer, when I inspected it at 140k it was cracking. You can rather easily pull the timing belt inspection cover and take a look at the condition of the belt) If the transmission fails, figure $3,000 for a shop to do the work. If you do it yourself, bare minimum is about $300 in parts and oil. There are numerous write ups on the forum, check the S80 board for the best ones.

If your XC90 lived a life of hills and much stop and go service the life of the transmission will be shorter. If it lived the life of flats and long drives the transmission life will be much greater. No matter what the transmission will have transmission issues at some point - all transmissions do. The 4t65E in the XC90 life expectancy is 40-60% less than it would be in a Chevrolet Impala. Those are numbers I deduced from reading much material on the 4T65E, they are my opinion.

Comparing the 2004 XC90 to the 2016 XC90 - the 2016 is hands down better in every way.
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June
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Re: 2003 Xc90 6T w/69000 miles ...Run away or Buy?

Post by June » Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:02 pm

This is a excellent informative video for our transmission made by GM for the dealer mechanic in a series called "Know How". This person named Rivlanta on YouTube has lots of these GM Know How videos covering all sorts of stuff. So I recommend you at least check out the video I snapped the picture of since you have mechanical experience it might help to see the cut away transmission they show and the various things torn down. June
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My Volvo cars owned
1989 740 GLT ordered
1994 850 4door standard shift ordered
1996 960 ordered
1998 S90 ordered totalled after 3 weeks
1998 V70 GT dealer stock car
2002 S80 T6 ordered totalled
2004 S80 T6 dealer stock car and current car owned

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