2018 Volvo XC90 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Fuel system, brake and electrical issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

The newest tagline for the luxury Volvo XC90 is “the no-compromise SUV.” As many people that own the 2018 Volvo XC90 can share, this vehicle is far from luxurious. In fact, it seems that the automaker made plenty of compromises while building this model. From the malfunctioning electrical system to the defective service brakes, drivers face many complaints and difficulties.

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2018 Volvo XC90

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Service Brakes
5
Electrical System
4
Unknown Or Other
3
Fuel/propulsion System
3
Visibility/wiper
2
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
1
Engine And Engine Cooling
1
Wheels
1
Exterior Lighting
1
Power Train
1

Problems with the Electrical System

The first thing many people think about with the electrical system is the battery and alternator, but there is so much more that needs to run correctly, especially in a luxury vehicle. Owners demand the latest electronics and driver-assist technology, all of which rely on the electrical system. When these comforts don’t work properly, it just aggravates and disappoints.

One Edmunds review illustrates the anger perfectly, “In our 48 plus years of marriage, this has been our worst vehicle purchase, hands down….!!  HORRIBLE navigation & voice response.    Ask for navigation & the response is “who do you want to call?” (Just an example of one common response). Air conditioner went out yesterday in Houston 100 plus heat .Gas pump today…. kept kicking nozzle out …..one previous gas fill up ….. “spit” gasoline back out, soaking my shirt. Try to change blower speed on AC (when it works) & it refuses to change speed…. too many problems to mention all, but stay away from this suv …..We wanted safety & ease of use, but it has been the perpetual nightmare….. been in the shop 4 times in 7 months.”

While all of these might seem like minor inconveniences to some, there are many dangers that these situations pose. The gasoline-soaked shirt alone is something no one wants to face. The automaker also released an electrical-related recall. NHTSA Campaign Number 18V800000 discusses how the GPS installed on this SUV can malfunction, resulting in an error when emergency personnel attempt to find the vehicle in case of a crash. While this causes plenty of worry, so does attempting to drive a vehicle without air conditioning in 100-degree temperatures. After all, these owners didn’t buy a $1,000 clunker – they invested in a high-dollar luxury vehicle. The least it should offer is air conditioning.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Volvo XC90 Electrical Problems

IN OCTOBER 2018, FINALLY, TOOK THE 2018 XC90 TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT BECAUSE (1) THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON; AND (2) THE ELECTRONIC SAFETY SYSTEMS, SUCH AS THE AUTO BRAKING, HAD AUTOMATICALLY ENGAGED WITHOUT ANY CARS AROUND THE VEHICLE. THE VEHICLE WAS ALSO DRIVING AND HANDLING IN A STRANGE MANNER. FUEL EFFICIENCY WAS AGAIN A CONCERN.

WHEN THE CAR IS PARKED, I UNLOCK THE DRIVER’S DOOR, THE TAILGATE OPENS ON IT’S OWN (POSSIBLY INTO TRAFFIC) THEN AFTERWARDS, EVERY TIME WHEN STARTING THE CAR, A “12V BATTERY CHARGING FAULT STOP SAFELY” ERROR OCCURS TWICE. IT SEEMS TO BE OK TO DRIVE, BUT IT IS NOT CLEAR AS TO WHETHER THE FAULT CAN CAUSE A SAFETY ISSUE, AS THE MESSAGE IMPLIES. SO MANY OF THE SYSTEMS IN THE CAR ARE ELECTRIC. THIS IS A REOCCURRING PROBLEM THAT HAS HAPPENED 4 TIMES NOW, AND VOLVO HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIX IT.

Problems with the Brakes

There’s no reason to struggle to stop this type of vehicle. The brakes should be constructed of premium materials, especially considering the price that drivers pay to get behind the wheel.

In this Edmunds review, you see how fast it goes through brakes, along with other complaints. “Leased the XC 90 because it was a beautiful suv, and came with a lot of guarantees of technology, good gas mileage, autonomous driving. First, it is nice to drive when it works, but honestly it feels like Volvo just threw this out here and didn’t really test it. It’s been in the shop every 3 months for electrical problems, or driving issues, I go through breaks and tires like I own a Lamborghini, and I don’t drive it that much. Not to mention the manufacturer promised me an extra warranty when I purchased due to my former ownership with VW but that’s my personal beef and nothing to do with the actual car.   Gas mileage is horrible, accelerating is weak, something is popping up as a malfunction every month, I wouldn’t take the risk unless you want to pay to be a test dummy for Volvo.”

Among the multiple service bulletins provided by the company, there are plenty of issues to fix when it comes to the braking system. They discuss brake noises and how to repair them as well as a vibration caused by lockable wheel screws. It seems this automaker can’t figure out how to get the brakes under control for customers. Instead, they continue to pump out SUVs that pose a danger on the road or eat through brakes at unprecedented rates. While no one expects this SUV to brake like an Audi S4 Quattro Tiptronic, it shouldn’t cause problems like those talked about. It also shouldn’t fly through brakes unless they are a cheap quality. No one wants to spend more on brakes over the years than the SUV costs itself, but that’s what it feels like every time brake maintenance is required once again.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Volvo XC90 Brake Problems

WE HAVE OWNED OUR XC90 SINCE NOVEMBER 11, 2017. THE BRAKES WERE SQUEALING WHEN BRAKING IN NORMAL CONDITION(S), NO RAIN ON ROAD OR WATER ON BRAKES WHETHER WE WERE DRIVING ON CITY STREETS, HIGHWAYS OR FREEWAYS. VOLVO SERVICE TECHNICIANS HAD TO REPLACE ALL 4 ROTORS AND BRAKE PADS ON 30 MARCH 2018, JUST A LITTLE OVER 4 MONTHS OF OWNING THE VEHICLE. FOUR MONTHS LATER 8 AUGUST 2018, VOLVO SERVICE TECHNICIANS HAD TO REPLACE ALL 4 ROTORS AGAIN, BUT NOT THE BRAKE PADS. THERE IS NEARLY 25,000 MILES ON THIS CAR, WHICH NORMALLY ROTORS AREN’T TYPICALLY REPLACED UP TO 70,000 MILES. I UNDERSTAND THIS VARIES BASED ON DRIVING BUT TWICE IN 8 MONTHS FOR ALL 4 ROTORS IS INSANE. THEY ALSO FOUND ALL FOUR ROTORS EACH TIME WERE WARPED. WE OWNED A 2012 VOLVO XC60 FOR 5 YEARS AND NEVER HAD THE BRAKES OR ROTORS REPLACED DURING THAT ENTIRE TIME. SECONDLY A GRINDING SOUND IS COMING FROM THE SUNSHADE WHEN IT IS BEING OPENED OR CLOSED. OUR VEHICLE HAS BEEN IN THE SHOP SINCE 14 AUGUST 2018 WHERE THEY REPLACED THE SUNSHADE, ONLY TO HAVE TO REPLACE IT AGAIN 21 AUGUST 2018. WE WENT TO PICK UP THE VEHICLE AND THE GRINDING SOUND IS BACK AGAIN, WHICH NOW VOLVO WILL HAVE TO REPLACE THE SUNSHADE FOR A THIRD TIME. I AM A VOLVO CUSTOMER FOR LIFE, BUT THESE ISSUES NEED TO BE ADDRESSED AND FIXED FOR FUTURE MODELS. I AM THANKFUL FOR THE COURTESY VEHICLE DURING THIS TIME, BUT I REALLY WANT MY VEHICLE BACK. I ASSUME MY NEXT COURSE OF ACTION IF WE GET THE VEHICLE BACK A THIRD TIME WITH A DEFECTIVE SUNSHADE OR BRAKES IS LEMON LAW.

BRAKES CONTINUOUSLY SQUEAK. THE DEALER HAS INSPECTED THE BREAK SYSTEM TWICE AND MADE ONE ATTEMPTED REPAIR. ONE WEEK LATER THE BRAKES ARE BACKING TO SQUEAKING. I HAVE OWNED THE VEHICLE LESS THAN 90 DAYS, I’VE HAD ISSUES WITH THE BRAKES FOR MORE THAN HALF THAT TIME. THE CENTER DISPLAY COMPUTER SCREENS FREEZES CONSTANTLY, BUT RECENTLY FREEZES AND WILL NOT RESTART UNTIL AFTER THE CAR IS STOPPED AND RESTARTED.

EXCESSIVE PREMATURE WEARING OF BRAKE PADS AND ROTORS. FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND DISCUSSING WITH OTHER OWNERS, VOLVO IS AWARE THAT THE BRAKES ON THE XC90 PREMATURELY WEAR (AS IN AFTER 1K-20K NEW BRAKES NEEDED ON ALL TIRES). THE LOCAL DEALERS ALL STATE THIS IS A KNOWN PROBLEM AND THEN DEMAND $1,000 TO REPAIR THE BRAKES. VOLVO’S BRAKES AND/OR BRAKING SYSTEM IS DEFECTIVE AND DANGEROUS AS THE BRAKES PREMATURELY WEAR OUT COSTING CONSUMERS UNNECESSARY MONEY FOR ADDITIONAL REPAIRS WHEN VOLVO COULD RESOLVE THE ISSU

Problems with the Fuel System

The 2018 Volvo XC90 is available as a gasoline or hybrid model, but both have their own share of complaints. It seems that whichever option is chosen, there’s nothing reliable about the fuel system.

Just look at what this NHTSA review says, “Check Engine Light came on. Dealership inspected and determined the fuel filler pipe had a leak which was replaced under warranty (23k miles). I was informed this is a common issue with the XC90 and they too were surprised a recall has not been issued.”

The automaker is clearly aware of fuel system problems. Just look at Service Bulletin #TJ 34215.1.0. It discusses how the filler pipe can freeze, making it difficult to refuel. To fix it, the company must replace the fuel door latch that features an upgraded sealing apparatus. Until this issue was repaired, we wonder how many people showed up at the fuel pump only to find out they couldn’t fill the tank. Can’t get fuel into the vehicle – what a great new excuse for missing work.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Volvo XC90 Fuel System Problems

SERVICE DEPARTMENT HAD THE VEHICLE FOR APPROX. TWO-AND-A-HALF WEEKS. THEY, ULTIMATELY, DETERMINED THE FUEL PARTS, WERE DEFECTIVE. THEY REPLACED THESE PARTS AND NOTED IT WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL PRIOR FUEL ISSUES. HOWEVER, THEY ALSO STATED A RECALL WAS ISSUED, BUT MY VEHICLE WAS NOT ON THE LIST. NO RECALL NOTICE EXISTS WITH THE NHTSA.

CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON. FUEL FILLER PIPE HAD TO BE REPLACED. THIS HAS HAPPENED THREE TIMES AND HAS BEEN REPLACED THREE TIMES. THE CAR ONLY HAD 13K MILES FOR THE THIRD REPLACEMENT.

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Complaint Data

CategoryForward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
DateMay 08, 2021
StateWA
Description
Car suddenly activated the brakes, bringing it to a full stop from 35mph. It was on a city street. There was a 3-wheeled motorcycle approaching in the oncoming lane, but it was centered in its lane, with no risk of collision. We were approaching an uncontrolled intersection (no signal, no signs) when it occurred. The car stopped so suddenly that the shoulder harnesses caused some discomfort. Had anyone been following at a close distance, a rear-end collision would have been likely.
CategoryEngine And Engine Cooling
DateDec 07, 2020
StateNY
Description
Check engine light went on in our son's 2018 volvo xc90 on october 14, 2020. We selected the volvo brand since it is synonymous with "safety". *bf I brought the vehicle into volvo service on october 15, 2020 and learned that the right rear wheel well leak detection pump was damaged due to rodents chewing through the wiring. Safety issue #1: the vehicle would not pass inspection unless the damage was fixed. Learned that the wiring is made of a soy based material. I did my own research and learned there have been countless instances for volvo owners and across other brands of rodents being attracted to soy based wiring and causing hundreds and thousands of dollars of damage. This type of damage is not covered by warranties thus costing the consumer unnecessarily for a material choice manufacturers are making. Safety issue #2: the repair was made with another soy based wire. How long is the problem really fixed for? Safety issue #3: if a food product is being used in car components, this becomes an ongoing safety issue as one cannot control rodents being attracted to it and/or predict the type of damage and safety issue they may cause to a vehicle. My research uncovered that soy based wiring has been used for the past 20 years. The issue of rodents having a feast on these wires continues, as shared in articles by volvo and other brand owners too which jeopardizes the integrity of a vehicles safety. Safety issue #4: in my case, given that the fuel detection pump has to do with the fuel system/emissions and fuel is what is needed to power the car, this posed an issue of there being a power failure if the problem wasn't fixed. I am lucky the car didn't suddenly stop while driving it to the dealership. *js
CategoryWheels
DateFeb 07, 2020
StateNY
Description
Problems with the air is the tires. That is the most sever problem with the tires. The air in the tires work on comparing the air in tires. If one is low it shows which one is low. I have had to replace a tire.
CategoryService Brakes
DateJan 02, 2020
StateNY
Description
12,000 miles on car, rear brakes are at 2mm, front brakes 4mm. Volvo dealer does not feel there is a problem with the car and insist this is normal wear. I have never owned a car that has needed brakes so quickly and with rear brakes failing before the fronts.
CategoryService Brakes
DateSep 24, 2019
StateCA
Description
Excessive premature wearing of brake pads and rotors. From personal experience and discussing with other owners, volvo is aware that the brakes on the xc90 prematurely wear (as in after 1k-20k new brakes needed on all tires). The local dealers all state this is a known problem and then demand

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,000 to repair the brakes. Volvo's brakes and/or braking system is defective and dangerous as the brakes prematurely wear out costing consumers unnecessary money for additional repairs when volvo could resolve the issue.
CategoryElectrical System, Unknown Or Other
DateSep 17, 2019
StateNJ
Description
When the car is parked, I unlock the driver's door, the tailgate opens on it's own (possibly into traffic) then afterwards, every time when starting the car, a "12v battery charging fault stop safely" error occurs twice. It seems to be ok to drive, but it is not clear as to whether the fault can cause a safety issue, as the message implies. So many of the systems in the car are electric. This is a reoccurring problem that has happened 4 times now, and volvo has not been able to fix it.
CategoryFuel/propulsion System
DateAug 11, 2019
StateTX
Description
Check engine light came on, dealership inspected and determined the fuel filler pipe had a leak which was replaced under warranty (23k miles). I was informed this is a common issue with the xc90 and they too were surprised a recall has not been issued.
CategoryService Brakes, Unknown Or Other
DateAug 01, 2019
StateGA
Description
When driving the vehicle at a speed of 15-40 mph, the suv is activating the crash imminent braking "city crash avoidance" without anything in the path of the vehicle. This action is locking up the vehicle and seat belts lock up squeeze my wife unexpectedly. Dealor cannot find anything wrong when running diagnostics and will not replace the modules that control this feature without them showing bad. This has happended on the same road on multiple occasions.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateMay 20, 2019
StateIL
Description
Spontaneous sunroof breakage
CategoryFuel/propulsion System
DateApr 12, 2019
StatePA
Description
Check engine light came on. Fuel filler pipe had to be replaced. This has happened three times and has been replaced three times. The car only had 13k miles for the third replacement.
CategoryExterior Lighting
DateMar 01, 2019
StateOR
Description
Error message showed on the instrument panel, ' headlamp system malfunction, service required', however the light works but backup camera stop working. It also shows another error message 'city safety system unavailable'. Ask the dealer and they said it is an software issue. Fixed after the software upgrade.
CategoryPower Train
DateDec 13, 2018
StateVA
Description
Sometimes when the start stop system is activated at a stop and you start back off the vehicle accelerates forward without depressing the accelerator. On 3 occasions it caused me to almost run into things. I reported it to volvo and they said the system is fine.
CategoryElectrical System, Engine, Fuel/propulsion System
DateNov 20, 2018
StateTX
Description
I purchased my 2018 volvo xc90 t6 awd (hereinafter, the '2018 xc90' or 'the vehicle') in october 2017, through lease agreement. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that the fuel efficiency of the vehicle was well below the epa rating and warranted range, based on representations by the dealer at, and prior to, the time of sale. I took the vehicle to the dealer's service department, so the issue could be investigated further. The dealer reported there was a software update that addressed the problem, and that it would no longer be an issue. Subsequently, the issue continued to re-appear and the fuel efficiently continued to suffer. I again, on numerous occasions (between 5 or 6) between december 2017 and november 2018, took the vehicle to the dealer's service department. In each occurrence, except the final one prior to this complaint being filed, it was again reported that no issue existed or had been remedied with a software fix. Furthermore, in (or around) july of this year, the compressor (or another component controlling the hvac system in the 2018 xc90) failed, whilst driving to houston, texas. The heat inside the vehicle quickly raised. This part was replaced in houston. In october 2018, I again, finally, took the 2018 xc90 to the service department because (1) the check engine light came on; and (2) the electronic safety systems, such as the auto braking, had automatically engaged without any cars around the vehicle. The vehicle was also driving and handling in a strange manner. Fuel efficiency was again a concern. The service department had the vehicle for approx. Two-and-a-half weeks. They, ultimately, determined the fuel parts, were defective. They replaced these parts and noted it would be responsible for all prior fuel issues. However, they also stated a recall was issued, but my vehicle was not on the list. No recall notice exists with the nhtsa.
CategoryVisibility/wiper
DateNov 09, 2018
StateMI
Description
Volvo xc90 2018 models will not always display rear view camera content within 2 seconds of shifting into reverse as per fmvss 111. This is due to really slow and lagging infotainment system. Behavior is evident on multiple models and vehicles which share same sensus infotainment system.
CategoryElectrical System, Service Brakes
DateAug 22, 2018
StateSC
Description
We have owned our xc90 since november 11, 2017. The brakes were squealing when braking in normal condition(s), no rain on road or water on brakes whether we were driving on city streets, highways or freeways. Volvo service technicians had to replace all 4 rotors and brake pads on 30 march 2018, just a little over 4 months of owning the vehicle. Four months later 8 august 2018, volvo service technicians had to replace all 4 rotors again, but not the brake pads. There is nearly 25,000 miles on this car, which normally rotors aren't typically replaced up to 70,000 miles. I understand this varies based on driving but twice in 8 months for all 4 rotors is insane. They also found all four rotors each time were warped. We owned a 2012 volvo xc60 for 5 years and never had the brakes or rotors replaced during that entire time. Secondly a grinding sound is coming from the sunshade when it is being opened or closed. Our vehicle has been in the shop since 14 august 2018 where they replaced the sunshade, only to have to replace it again 21 august 2018. We went to pick up the vehicle and the grinding sound is back again, which now volvo will have to replace the sunshade for a third time. I am a volvo customer for life, but these issues need to be addressed and fixed for future models. I am thankful for the courtesy vehicle during this time, but I really want my vehicle back. I assume my next course of action if we get the vehicle back a third time with a defective sunshade or brakes is lemon law.
CategoryVisibility/wiper
DateMar 19, 2018
StateCA
Description
Cracked windshield even with less than minor chip. The car was driving at 68mph on a straight highway on a 'clip' sound was heard hitting the windshield. After 10 minutes a 14 inch crack was noted from the top edge to the center of the windshield. The car has
CategoryElectrical System, Service Brakes
DateDec 27, 2017
StateMD
Description
Brakes continously squeak. The dealer has inspected the break system twice and made one attempted repair. One week later the brakes are backing to squeaking. I have owned the vehicle less than 90 days, I've had issues with the brakes for more than half that time. The center display computer screens freezes constantly, but recently freezes and will not restart until after the car is stopped and restarted.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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