Volvo XC90 Air Suspension Problems and Troubleshooting Guide

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So you’re considering getting yourself a Volvo XC90, a nice choice for a mid-size luxury SUV. But before you bring it into your garage, there are some potential issues you need to be aware of. And one component where issues keep popping up is its air suspension system.

Problems with its air suspension went to such an extent that the manufacturer had to extend the warranty for certain model years. Some common Volvo XC90 air suspension problems reported include a forceful thump in both the front and rear end, clunking noises from the front side, suspension warning messages, air spring leakage, and being stuck at a raised position.

Fear not if you question why this luxurious SUV has such issues and how to eliminate them. From common issues experienced by owners to troubleshooting the system, we’ve got you covered here. 

Volvo XC90 Air Suspension Basics

Volvo has introduced an advanced air suspension system in their XC90 model, which replaces traditional fixed-ride height springs. This electronically controlled suspension offers remarkable adaptability and enhances both ride characteristics and ride height across different modes of operation. 

In Sport mode, for instance, drivers can enjoy a lower ride height along with firm damping settings in their shock absorbers, perfect for those seeking a thrilling experience while taking on sharp corners at higher speeds. 

On the other hand, activating Off-Road mode significantly increases both ride height and ground clearance, ensuring optimal performance on challenging terrains. To further enhance convenience and accessibility for passengers, an easy entry setting is available that lowers the vehicle’s ride height by approximately

What’s the Reason Behind Volvo XC90 Air Suspension Problems?

Why is a high-end SUV like the Volvo XC90 experiencing air suspension problems? As we frequently mention, air suspensions are inherently susceptible to issues due to the use of rubber materials (such as air springs or airbags), sensors, and other delicate components. 

Basically, no matter if you’ve got a shiny new system or one that’s been modified, you can expect almost similar causes behind air suspension issues, except for manufacturing defects. Here, we have elaborated on some typical causes of air suspension issues in the Volvo XC90.

Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can have a significant impact on the air suspension system of a Volvo XC90. The common concern in frigid conditions is the increased risk of air leaks within the suspension system. 

The cold temperatures cause rubber seals and gaskets to contract, potentially leading to small cracks or gaps where air can escape. Besides, sub-zero temperatures put additional strain on sensors, valving solenoids, and compressor motors. 

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects are often responsible for the occurrence of air suspension issues. For instance, if low-quality seals are utilized, they could deteriorate quickly, leading to air leaks within the system. Such leaks compromise the operation of the entire air suspension system and may cause unexpected ride quality issues or even failure.

Moreover, insufficient quality checks during production can contribute to defects like misaligned sensors or improperly calibrated electronic control units (ECUs). These faults can disrupt the accurate measurement and coordination essential for achieving proper ride height adjustments and overall stability.

Rubber Materials in Certain parts

As we hinted earlier, rubber components degrade over time due to exposure to various environmental conditions and intense use. The consistent compression and extension force exerted on these materials can cause them to become brittle, resulting in leaks or cracks that compromise the air suspension system’s overall performance.

Moisture Intrusion

Moisture intrusion is a significant factor leading to air suspension issues in Volvo XC90 SUV vehicles. The air suspension system in the XC90 SUV utilizes pressurized air to support the vehicle’s weight, deliver smooth rides, and adjust ride height as required.

Moisture infiltration can affect various components of the system, such as the air springs, valves, and compressors. When moisture enters these vital elements, it can cause corrosion and deterioration over time. Corroded parts may fail to function optimally or cease to operate altogether.

Symptoms of Air Suspension Issues in Volvo XC90 

So, there are a few common signs that your air suspension might be acting up, and we should all be familiar with them. But you know how it sometimes goes; we just blame it on bad road conditions and move on without giving it much thought. 

But in reality, that’s not always the case! Even though these symptoms might not give you a clear answer about the specific issue, they suggest something wrong with your XC90’s air suspension system. So let’s take a look at what those symptoms are:

Suspension Warning Light Comes On

The air suspension warning light on the dashboard of your Volvo XC90 serves as a critical indicator, instantly catching your attention and suggesting that there might be an underlying issue with your vehicle’s air suspension system. 

This warning light is designed to illuminate when the system is experiencing a leak, deflation, or malfunction in any of its components.

Harsh Ride

Experiencing a rough and uncomfortable ride? This could be an indication of underlying air suspension issues in your Volvo XC90. Excessive bouncing, lurching, or jerking might point towards worn-out struts or shocks or a malfunction with the air springs or compressor.

So, when your vehicle bounces, lurches, or jerks excessively, it is essential to investigate the potential causes. 

Unusual Noise

Noise serves as the language of your car’s components. It is essential to acknowledge that every unusual sound holds a distinctive meaning. In the context of your esteemed Volvo XC90, paying attention to any unusual noises becomes crucial, as they might indicate potential issues with its air suspension system.

Abnormal Ride Height

One common indication of potential air suspension problems in your Volvo XC90 is an observable discrepancy in ride height. When your XC90 appears lower or higher than its typical position, particularly on one side, it may serve as a notable sign of an underlying issue with the air suspension system.

If the vehicle sits noticeably lower than usual, it suggests that there might be a loss of air pressure within the suspension components, causing them to compress more than desired. This could result from leaks in the airlines, damaged air springs, or malfunctioning control valves.

Volvo XC90 Air Suspension Problems

According to NHTSA complaints, recall records, and countless forum threads, some specific air suspension issues in Volvo XC90 are widespread compared to minor issues. We’ll discuss those common issues in detail below:

1. Aggressive “Thump” In The Front And Rear End

To begin our discussion, let’s address a particular concern brought up by users on NHTSA. According to their feedback, they have noticed a distinct and forceful thump coming from the vehicle’s front and rear. 

Interestingly, this sound seems unrelated to the suspension on either end but depends on which part is going over a bump. Now, things get surprising here; it only happens when they’re crawling along at low speeds and hitting one of those sudden bumps like a speed bump or driveway cutouts for water flow.  

It happens when your suspension squishes down and bounces back up (rebound). Here’s the kicker: even though these peeps have taken their wheels to the dealership, they still haven’t fixed this issue.

Potential Solution:

In most cases, this type of thumping noise indicates air pocket build-up in the suspension system. To alleviate this issue, follow the steps mentioned below:

  • Firstly, inspect the air springs within both the front and rear suspension assemblies for any signs of damage or degradation. Look out for cracks, tears, or leaks that could impair their functionality.
  • Furthermore, examining the valve blocks responsible for regulating airflow in the air suspension system is crucial. Ensure these components are securely attached and free from apparent faults or defects. 
  • Pay particular attention to potential obstructions within these valves that may impede proper operation.
  • Next, evaluate the condition of the compressor unit tasked with maintaining appropriate air pressure within the suspension system. Verify it is operational and functioning smoothly without excessive noise or vibrations.

2. Suspension Warning Message (Compressor Failure)

Volvo XC90 owners frequently encounter an issue with their air suspension system, receiving a suspension warning message. This is the most common issue with the Volvo XC90 air suspension we have seen so far. 

Even Volvo itself has acknowledged this issue. According to Volvo, there is a potential malfunction in the 2016-2020 XC90s air compressor due to a valve inside the compressor that may contain residue from an anti-corrosive agent.  

In such cases, you will see a message indicating suspension system service required on your car’s Driver’s Information Module display. Additionally, specific diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) SUM-B104177 and SUM-C103B4B C103B98 will be stored in the diagnostic memory, and there may be a blown fuse for the air compressor. 

The positive aspect is that if your Volvo exhibits the aforementioned condition, your authorized Volvo retailer will replace the Rear Suspension Air Compressor for you. Furthermore, Volvo has extended the official warranty to 7 years for this particular issue. 

Potential Solution:

If your XC90 is under the standard or the extended warranty, you’re in luck. However, if you have no warranty coverage, we have some tips to solve the issue.

The suspension warning message mostly appears in extremely low temperatures. This could indicate two possible causes: a blown compressor fuse or a failed compressor. Before taking drastic measures like dismantling your compressor, starting with the following troubleshooting steps is always wise.

  • Begin by checking the fuse of your compressor; this can often be done without much hassle and can save you time and effort if it turns out to be the root cause of your problem. 
  • Make sure you park your vehicle in a warmer environment before attempting this step, as extreme cold can affect electrical components.
  • If you find that there is indeed a blown fuse, replace it with a new one and then start your vehicle again to see if this resolves the issue with your suspension system’s functionality. 
  • In many cases where there has been an impending failure of the compressor itself, its corresponding fuse would have blown prior to complete malfunctioning.
  • However, if replacing the fuse doesn’t bring back the functionality of your compressor, and it fails to start, then it’s highly likely that the compressor itself has failed. 
  • The underlying cause of such failures seems to be related to temperatures dropping below -15C. At this point, the air suspension purging action can cause moisture present in the air circuit, which is already trapped due to humidity, to freeze and expand. This leads to blockage of airlines, resulting in excessive pressure build-up that causes compressor failure.
  • In such cases, unfortunately, replacing the air compressor becomes necessary in order to restore the proper functioning of your suspension system.

3. Clunking noise on the front side

Another noise-related problem that has raised concerns among a considerable number of XC90 owners is the persistent clunking sound emanating from the front of their vehicles. 

What makes this issue particularly troubling is its mysterious nature, as this clunking noise tends to occur even while driving on regular, well-maintained roads without encountering any significant bumps or obstacles. 

The clunking noise is often attributed to two potential culprits: malfunctioning suspension mounts and faulty sway bar end links. Suspension mounts are responsible for supporting and stabilizing the vehicle’s weight and movement but can wear out over time or become damaged due to various factors such as harsh road conditions. 

When these mounts fail, they no longer effectively absorb shocks and vibrations, resulting in an audible clunking sound emanating from the front of the car.

Potential Solution:

To fix the issue, first, thoroughly assess the condition of the anti-roll bar (ARB) linkage and mounting bushes. If there are any signs of damage or wear on any anti-roll bar bushings, proceeding with necessary replacements is crucial. 

While driving, pay close attention to any alterations in noises experienced. If no changes are observed, there has probably been a failure in the front dampers. 

It should be noted that in XC90 vehicles, replacing the front air spring damper requires replacing it as an integrated strut unit and cannot be detached from the Air Spring component.

4. Air leakage

The leakage problem in the air suspension of the Volvo XC90 is just as significant as in other air suspensions. Owners of the XC90 have reported noticing a decrease in height when the vehicle is parked and while driving. In certain instances, the suspension may initially rise but quickly lose height again. 

It is worth mentioning that the compressor appears to operate for extended periods. Besides, they hear a hissing noise. Unlike a tire that gradually loses air and eventually stops, the hissing sound from the suspension persists continuously.

Potential Solution:

In order to address the issue of air leakage, it is important to locate the source of the hissing sound as accurately as possible. The most likely cause of this noise is an air leak within the air suspension air-lines. Although an air leak can occur anywhere in the circuit, some specific joints or connections are more susceptible to leaks. 

These include the air suspension inlet at the top of the air below and the air springs. A simple inspection using soap and water can be conducted to determine if there is a leakage in the air spring. If there is a leak, it will be evident by white bubbles that adhere and do not trickle down. The procedure for conducting a leakage check is provided below.

  • Start the engine by turning the ignition. Adjust the suspension height to a high setting and then change it back to normal ride height using the display.
  • Stop the engine and measure the vehicle’s height on all four wheels. Measure from the center of each wheel to the bottom of the fender. 
  • Wait for about two hours and measure the height again. Compare the two measurements. 
  • If one corner of the car is higher or lower than before, there may be a leak in the suspension system. The corner with the biggest difference between the two measurements is likely where the leak is. 
  • Check for leaks systematically, starting with the airline connections. For this, you can use soapy water or a specific leak-detection spray. First, check the airline connections by wiggling them to see if there is a leak. 
  • Then, check the residual pressure retaining valve and the air spring. Look for white bubbles that stick to any specific spot. If you see persistent bubbles, those are the leakage spots.

Final Words

The Volvo XC90 air suspension problems have been a cause for concern among owners of this otherwise impressive SUV. The reported issues with leaks, malfunctions, and costly repairs have undoubtedly tarnished the reputation of this feature. 

While Volvo has acknowledged some problems and made efforts to address them through recalls and extended warranties, it is clear that further improvements are needed. We suggest consumers thoroughly research and test drive any vehicle before making a purchase, especially regarding advanced features like air suspension.