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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi. I have ready many, many threads on XC90 transmissions and valve body issues (moreso with the V8, but I have a 6 cyl). I do have an appointment in 2 weeks to get my car checked, and beforehand I want to educate myself as much as possible.

UPDATE: The shudder for the symptoms below turned out to be the rear drive shaft (propeller shaft) that connects the bevel gear (aka angle) gear to the read differential and haldex unit. I eventually purchased a cheap wired listening device and connected the device's clamp to various point under the car and the noise and vibration came from the center of the propeller shaft. My theory is that while accelerating through the gears and rpms describe below, the control modules must have engaged the haldex resulting in the shaft shuddering. Or perhaps it is just some odd harmonic, because the propeller shaft does not shudder under other conditions, for example driving up a snowy hill. We had lots of snow last winter and I never got the shudder when the AWD system was engaged. But anyhow, after removing the propeller shaft and taking the car for a test drive, the shudder is gone. I am going to install a new propeller shaft (rebuilt?). However, I think my angle gear might also be on its way out. While the AWD system did work last winter in the snow, it show quite a bit of play.

I have a 2007 XC90 3.2L 6-cyl with 120K miles. I haven't checked the serial number on the trans. yet to see if I have model that has the valve body that tends to fail, but I bought the car in Jan. 2007, so I probably have an early model for that year that does have the "bad" valve body.

My primary symptoms are as follows

(everything below started subtly about 2 months ago but just became obviously noticeable about 3 weeks ago)

- moderate to heavy shudder in 2nd gear between 2200-2500 RPMs
- slight to moderate shudder in 3rd gear between 1600-1900 RPMs

- these shudders occur regardless of low or high acceleration, or load on the car (e.g. going uphill), although when I very first noticed an issue, it was more noticeable going up a slight incline
- these shudders seem independent of the warmth of the engine for the most part; perhaps they are a bit more pronounced on warm days when the engine is fully warmed up
- a slight modulation (wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa) feeling in 5th gear at 2200 RPMs when going up a slight incline
- the 2nd gear 2400 rpm "overlaps" with the 1600 rpm of 3rd gear, so it feels like the shudder occurs as part of the shift, but I think that the shudder is independent of the actual shifting, as I can replicate the shudder in manual shift mode without actually shifting, and manual mode shifting is smooth.
- I don't notice shuddering in 1, 4 and 6 gears, but perhaps that is simply because it is not as strong (yet?)
- the 2nd gear and 3rd gear shuddering seems to be getting worse over time
- all up shifts seem smooth
- all downshifts seem smooth
- i haven't noticed the transmission actually going out of gear at any time
- if in Neutral, no shudder or weird vibration as I rev the engine
- no RPM flare or hesitation when shifting
- while I don't think any gear is slipping, i also have been driving the car very gently and not pushed it, except for once when I accelerated up a steep hill in 3rd and perhaps the acceleration seemed less than I would have expected (or maybe I just wasn't really pressing on the gas all that hard for fear of hurting the transmission more)
- I would say the overall, there are a few clicks and clacks underneath the car when driving around on city roads, but nothing pronounced

I don't think I've ever had the transmission fluid changed; at least not any time recently. If it was changed in the past, that would have been part of the Volvo servicing plan.

I just thought my symptoms seem slightly different than others, given I don't have the hard downshifts or the flares or hesitations.

The check engine light is not on. To read possible transmission error codes, do I use the regular connection that I would use to read engine codes? I do have one of those code reading devices.

I haven't replaced anything on the this car, just done the regular service.

So I'm also trying to figure out whether to keep the car or move on. Apparently, with a good transmission, its only worth about $5K. But right now, everything else works on the car so it would be a shame to junk it or to get nothing out of it. But I'm waiting for my appt with an independent Volvo mechanic. I don't want to have this diagnosed by the dealer since I'm trying to avoid getting a completely new transmission.

So, does this sound like:
- the valve body problem
- the torque converter problem
- perhaps axels or drive shafts
- engine motor mounts
- some other tranny problem
- fluid contamination
?
 

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That's similar to what my '08 V8 is doing. It's the torque converter.
 

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Shudders and shakes would be more indicative of a torque converter issue. The power isn't being applied smoothy though the transmission.
Slipping gears, flares, delayed up/down shifts, difficulty downshifting or banging through gears are usually signs of a valve body failing.

Nonetheless, as know, if you have the bad valve body - it's not a matter of if but when it will fail. You may want to put some coin aside for this as well if you plan on keeping the truck for any length of time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Shudders and shakes would be more indicative of a torque converter issue. The power isn't being applied smoothy though the transmission.
Slipping gears, flares, delayed up/down shifts, difficulty downshifting or banging through gears are usually signs of a valve body failing.

Nonetheless, as know, if you have the bad valve body - it's not a matter of if but when it will fail. You may want to put some coin aside for this as well if you plan on keeping the truck for any length of time.
Thanks for all of your feedbacks. Good to know it is most likely the Torque Converter.

Since the appt w/ my mechanic is so far out, I called someone else who does transmissions yesterday, and they too said it was probably the torque converter and that the transmission has to be removed in order to replace it (which results in a base cost starting at $800-$1000 for just labor). They also said I might want to replace the radiator at the same time (i forgot to ask why). We really didn't discuss the valve body other than to rule it out, but my understanding is that the valve body can be replaced without removing the transmission, so I might defer that to save money for now.

He also said that if there is oil in the coolant, the transmission fluid is contaminated by the coolant (fluids flowing back and forth), but if there is not oil in the coolant, then you don't know without testing the transmission fluid (possible coolant fluid leaking one direction). My coolant looks oil free, so that is good but inconclusive. As suggested above, I may try the fluid change myself, but could that really impact the torque converter? I've seen lots of articles in this forum on changing the fluid properly that I can use as a guide.

He also said driving the car as is with a shuddering Torque converter should not damage the transmission itself, so I could drive the car while waiting for the repair.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I would start with a flush, if you are mechanically inclined. It's not difficult to do following the steps here. A flush would rule out contamination and old, burnt fluid. Relatively inexpensive.
I just watched some youtube videos on torque converters and automatic transmission, so now I do see that the transmission fluid from the main body of the transmission is shared with the torque converter.

One other thing the transmission person said was that the torque converter clutch lock up used to only be employed in the last gear at cruising mode (e.g. 5th/6th), and now the TC clutch lock up is used in lower gears to improve fuel economy.
 

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Because if the radiator has failed, the transmission is contaminated and allowing for an off balance torque converter resulting in vibrations/shutters. Google strawberry milkshake of death. This is why i recommend a flush first.
 

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Thanks for all of your feedbacks. Good to know it is most likely the Torque Converter.

Since the appt w/ my mechanic is so far out, I called someone else who does transmissions yesterday, and they too said it was probably the torque converter and that the transmission has to be removed in order to replace it (which results in a base cost starting at $800-$1000 for just labor). They also said I might want to replace the radiator at the same time (i forgot to ask why). We really didn't discuss the valve body other than to rule it out, but my understanding is that the valve body can be replaced without removing the transmission, so I might defer that to save money for now.

He also said that if there is oil in the coolant, the transmission fluid is contaminated by the coolant (fluids flowing back and forth), but if there is not oil in the coolant, then you don't know without testing the transmission fluid (possible coolant fluid leaking one direction). My coolant looks oil free, so that is good but inconclusive. As suggested above, I may try the fluid change myself, but could that really impact the torque converter? I've seen lots of articles in this forum on changing the fluid properly that I can use as a guide.

He also said driving the car as is with a shuddering Torque converter should not damage the transmission itself, so I could drive the car while waiting for the repair.
Some cars have an integrated transmission cooler. It's a separate box co-mated to the side of the radiator and uses the engine's radiator and its coolant to also cool the transmission fluid.

The problem with this design is when the trans cooler is compromised, it begins weeping transmission fluid into your radiator and the engine coolant loop.
That sounds terrible ...but that's not really the worst of it. It's the flow in the other direction that is the bank breaker.

Because your coolant system is pressurized, it constantly pushes engine coolant into your transmission fluid loop where it begins to mix up a catastrophic fluid referred to as "Strawberry Milkshake" or "Pink Quik". The coolant breaks down the lubrication and friction modifiers, as well as the adhesives holding the friction materials to the clutch.

Short story; transmissions don't run on coolant. The most common result: Failed transmission requiring a partial or full rebuild.
 

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...if you have the bad valve body - it's not a matter of if but when it will fail.
I don't know... mine was acting up pretty good when I bought it a year ago and almost 20,000 miles. I've done 4 drain and fills so far, and put a bottle of Lucas Transmission Fix in it on the 2nd one, so that's now diluted down after the last 2 drain and fills. Mine's been pretty calm for quite some time, with no signs of it getting worse. Frequent drain and fills can keep it going for a very long time.

Since a new valve body seems to be close to $1,000, and it could easily be replaced while the transmission is out, it's really a matter of if the money is available to kill 2 birds with one stone. If not, the transmission doesn't need removed to do it, but the subframe does need lowered to allow the clearance for the access panel and removal/install. If you haven't done subframe bushings yet, now would be a great time to do so.
 

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It is torque converter. We have lots of xc90 in Lithuanian club shipped from the US with the mileage higher than 100 000. Lots of cars are having the same problems and mine also had. Just made the repair on my friend's car. If your tranny shifts smooth - you are lucky to have a good working valve body. Your shudder is the result of wear of torque converter, that is absolutely normal.

You have to take off the tranny and make the repair of torque converter. In Lithuania such operation costs 500 €, with the new filter and fluid.

P.S. fluid flush won't help you.
 

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The TF80-SC used in the V8 and 3.2 doesn't have a filter that I'm aware of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
glebson - than you for the input and I agree it is the torque converter.

As a follow up, I did do a regular transmission flush and the mechanic did add an anti-shudder additive to buy me some more time since I can't afford the repair cost right now. He quoted about $1800 for just the torque converter, and $3-4K to include a new valve body as well.

The anti-shudder additive has helped but it took about 2000 miles to make a difference. The mechanic says it takes time for the anti-shudder friction compounds to absorb into the thin fabric like friction plates on the torque converter. But as folks have mentioned, while this did eventually decrease the shudder significantly, it did not solve the issue and the better approach would be to do the repair.

Overall I was deciding whether to give up on the car or continue to invest in it, and the anti-shudder additive and flush did buy me some time. But I've been doing more research into Volvo XC90 maintenance and it generally seems approachable, so I am going to purchase some tools and DIY to save money, and I will eventually get the transmission repair, probably opting for just the torque converter, not the valve body to save money.

As a side note, the transmission mechanic said the reason for the torque converter problems relates to a goal of improving overall fleet fuel efficiency to minimize government fees/taxes. So Volvo discovered they can get a slight increase in fuel efficiency by using the torque converter clutch lock up in all gears, where it used to be used only in the higher gear to improve efficiency. Something about maintaining momentum like a flywheel does? So this places a much greater overall usage rate on the torque converter for which they were not designed. He also said the friction plates are made of a carbon-like thin fabric-like material and eventually that material loses its friction qualities, hence the additive can return the friction quality to normal and buy you some time.

He said the valve body problems were due to poor quality metal (porous, weak) used in manufacturing, poor testing of the valve bodies so that defects from the poor quality metal allowed those defect valve bodies to be shipped. He said they used to try to rebuild the valve bodies by boring out some hole, but discover the metal was too weak or defect, and he eventually found a supplier that he trusts to provide the new valve body.
 

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I'm a little stumped why he'd charge so much to do the valve body. A new one is under $1,200, and it's a fairly quick job to do if the transmission is already out, which it would be if the torque converter is being replaced. It kinda sounds like he's ripping you off a little.

Cobra Transmission is selling new, updated valve bodies for $1,154.99.
https://cobratransmission.com/tf80sc-valve-body-volvo-305017-1

I'm not sure of the brand of torque converter my local shop would use, but he said it's a good, reliable product, and it would be about $250-300. Total quote was $1,000 to do the torque converter job, with labor. He charges $60 per hour, which is on the low side.

Torque converter and valve body parts cost would be about $1,500 or so. $1,500 to $2,500 in labor seems a bit high.
 

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I'm a little stumped why he'd charge so much to do the valve body. A new one is under $1,200, and it's a fairly quick job to do if the transmission is already out, which it would be if the torque converter is being replaced. It kinda sounds like he's ripping you off a little.

Cobra Transmission is selling new, updated valve bodies for $1,154.99.
https://cobratransmission.com/tf80sc-valve-body-volvo-305017-1

I'm not sure of the brand of torque converter my local shop would use, but he said it's a good, reliable product, and it would be about $250-300. Total quote was $1,000 to do the torque converter job, with labor. He charges $60 per hour, which is on the low side.

Torque converter and valve body parts cost would be about $1,500 or so. $1,500 to $2,500 in labor seems a bit high.
Next time check your calculations.

$1,800 (torque converter parts & labor) + $1,200 (valve body parts) = $3,000
add the labor for the valve body and it makes sense for the total cost between $3,000-4,000.
 

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Next time check your calculations.

$1,800 (torque converter parts & labor) + $1,200 (valve body parts) = $3,000
add the labor for the valve body and it makes sense for the total cost between $3,000-4,000.
I checked my calculations, according to what I was quoted: $1,000 for torque converter with labor + $1,200 for valve body, and about a whole 15-20 minutes to swap it out (if that - remove the panel on the front, remove the bolts holding it, unplug it, do the reverse with the new, install the cover), since the transmission will already be removed. That should be closer to $2,500, not $3-4,000. Besides that, there are lower priced valve bodies out there (according to this site). I just chose one from the list of known sellers on this site, and went with that price.

The point is, the labor to do the valve body once the transmission is dropped for the torque converter should be almost nothing. There's a thread here of someone replacing one, and all of the labor was dropping the subframe enough to get clearance to remove it once the panel was removed.

If it were me, I'd get a couple more estimates. The TF80-SC was used in several vehicles, not just Volvos. There are a few American vehicles that used it, as well. I'd wager many transmission shops have encountered them enough to be familiar with the unit.
 

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I have the 2008 XC90 V8 and may have the torque converter shudder. I wish to know if the fluid is the issue as both my dealer and local mechanic are reluctant to change it. I also wish to confirm that the torque converter uses the transmission fluid and that this shudder has not compromised the fluid or the transmission.
 

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Any transmission I ever worked on shared fluid with the torque converter. I can't see this one being any different in that respect.

I've done a few drain and fills and will do more when engine oil change interval comes due in the summer and easier to do outside.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I realize this is an old thread, but for RedGeminiPA, the $3500-$4000 quote was for both the torque converter AND the valve body, e.g. $1800 for torque converter and $1800 for valve body for a total of $3600.

sol: from my experience and everything I've read online, changing the transmission fluid does not fix the shuddering problem, which is due to the torque converter. Changing the fluid might temporarily dampen the shudder slightly, but really a new or rebuilt torque converter is the fix.

Also many are of the opinion that if you have not performed relatively frequent transmission fluid changes to keep it clean throughout the life of a now-older vehicle, that changing the old dirty fluid could cause problems, because the transmission currently "depends" on the dirt in the fluid for friction. Also, there could be metal bits and shavings that settled out of the way long ago that could be disturbed from their resting place, especially by a flush. Generally, a drain and fill, optionally adding a friction replacement additive, would be more conservative approach than a (power) flush for an older vehicle with dirty fluid. I have read quite a few spirited online debates on this topic.
 
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