Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) should be among your very first resources when servicing a vehicle. TSBs can be just as important and helpful as scan tools and test drives. And in some cases they can give you solutions to problems you didn’t even know were there. Of course some TSBs point to issues that are covered under factory warranty or recall campaigns. And in these cases it’s honorable and good business to direct the owner of the vehicle back to his dealership for the specified repair, typically at no cost.
But in most instances TSBs will help you in your daily diagnostic and repair work, and they represent a resource you should rely on. The best place to find the most up-to-date TSBs for Volvos is on their website volvotechinfo.com or on Volvo VIDA.
Customers may complain of a variety of shift quality issues, including soft shifts, slipping, or harsh shifts. These may be caused by problems with hardware or software, but mechanical issues are rare. Most often problems are related to electronic shift control.
Begin with the basics
Certainly the place to start, with transmission issues, as well as with virtually any customer complaint, is to discuss with the motorist, in detail, exactly what their concerns are, and what symptoms they are experiencing. And you’ll want to explore all the angles that may prove helpful in your diagnosis. Does the problem occur when the ambient temperature is hot or cold? Does it occur when the engine is hot or cold? Is it present only after hot soak? Does it happen more when going uphill or when the engine is under load?
There are other questions you might ask. Does the problem occur when the transmission is shifted manually? Do any other symptoms manifest themselves at the same time, like a change in engine sound, or perhaps a “hiccup” in any instrument readings? Are symptoms more common on the highway or in stop-and-go driving? Are symptoms intermittent or repeatable? Is there a MIL illuminated, indicating the likely presence of what are likely to be helpful DTCs? These questions and more will become important pieces of evidence.
Similarly, a road test may well prove valuable in pinpointing specific trouble areas. You and your technicians are more likely than the owner to glean helpful information from a road test, since you will have driven far more vehicles similar to this one, so you’ll know what’s normal and what’s not. If customer input and your test drive point to a specific issue, certainly you should look for TSBs that address that specific problem. Further, a test drive using a scan tool or Volvo DiCE will reveal if there are DTCs stored in the TCM and/or ECM. If codes are present, you can follow the appropriate diagnostic procedure for those codes.
Be sure software is current
In any event, you’ll want to check to see if the vehicle has the latest software updates installed. You can do so using the Volvo VIDA system. Before VIDA 2015 became available, it was necessary to purchase and try to install the TCM software to see if it would load. If the latest updates were already present, loading would stop and you’d get a message saying that the latest TCM software was already installed. This was an inefficient and time-consuming process.
Now, of course, you can use the online version of VIDA to detect the software status and diagnose likely transmission problems. You can also find additional information by accessing the .pdf viewing library. If there are no indications of catastrophic transmission problems and no DTCs pointing to a specific fault, you may well find success in performing a software update and fluid change.
When draining the fluid in high mileage vehicles, you may observe that the fluid is very black. This is not necessarily an indication of an internal transmission failure, but may only signify that the fluid has not been changed regularly.
While the capacity of transmissions in 5-cylinder Volvos is typically more than four quarts, you may only get four quarts when draining. If the oil is particularly dark or if you find significant amounts of water or debris, you may want to replace the oil, drive the vehicle for an extended test drive shifting up and down through the gears, and then drain that oil and replenish it with new. It is critical to use only the oil specified for these vehicles, and you can be sure of getting the proper oil from the parts department of your local Volvo dealership.