Case Studies

Volvo and Land Rover Differential Problems – Out Of Town – We’ll Repair – Send To Us

The Problem
This 2010 Volvo XC70 came to us with about 96K miles, and a loud noise coming from the rear of the vehicle. The noise was noticeable at low and moderate speeds while driving, and sounded like a loud whine or hum depending on vehicle speed. Initially this noise sounded like a defective wheel bearing but on further exam we determined the noise was in fact coming from the rear differential, the gear system that transmits force from the transmission to the rear wheels. We’ve seen this before, both on the later model Volvo and the Land Rover LR2 vehicles, and it’s not a good sign.

Volvo XC70
Volvo XC70

This differential design has been in use in the Volvo world since the 2008 to at least the 2014 model year, so it’s something to consider if you own a vehicle in that range. We service a tremendous amount of Volvo XC70s, and have seen the problem largely on those models, but have read reports of it being an issue on the S80 as well. Now the earlier Volvos had their own set of differential or bevel gear problems, which you can read about on our blog at Volvo AOC problems.

What We Found
We mentioned that we’ve seen this problem before, and we’ve also seen the new car dealer quotes for the repair, costing anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 dollars. Sounds expensive, right? Well the part itself is $4,200 from Volvo, not factoring in the considerable labor remove the defective unit, and install the new. The other option, a used part, was considered an unacceptable choice as this is a pattern failure, a common issue with many of the cars, and if the used one was not already in a later stage of failure, remember, you already have a used unit in your car, with no real warranty, is not a good solution.

Local To Us – We’ll Handle This For You
Just make an appointment, and drop off your vehicle to confirm the diagnosis. We’ll give you a free loaner car, and handle the repair for you in a day or so. Our cost to rebuild with a durable solution, Atlantic Motorcar easily save you $3,000 over the dealer price, most of the time we can do the complete repair, with a 1 year National Warranty, for $3,000 to $3,500 installed. Yes, really.

Outside Our Area
No problem, just have your local shop remove the differential, then have them drain and flush out the fluids well for shipping. Package the unit well, your local UPS store can do this for you with a “foam in place” box, remember the box needs to keep the unit safe on the way here and the way back to you. Complete details at or call us for details at (207) 882-9969.

Failed Bearing
Failed Bearing

Repair, Not Replace
Sadly the concept of repair, or rebuilding something rather than just replacing it, has become nearly a lost art in today’s automotive world. The concept of diagnosing and understanding the nature of the failure, then effecting a targeted repair to the system, seems to be past history. One thing that  we pride in here at AMC, is our ability to diagnose, first understand why the problem occurred – understanding the “why” is the key to preventing a reoccurrence, and then designing a durable solution to the problem. By durable, we mean minimally giving the service life of the replaced part, ideally longer.

On teardown inspection of this rear differential, we confirmed that the bearing and race for the pinion gear had failed, and the pinion gear was nearly seized, very tight and difficult to turn by hand. The inside of the differential was a mass of shinny metal flakes from the failed bearing, and the fluid smelled severely burned. Fortunately the rest of the differential and Haldex drive system were intact and undamaged, so a proper and through cleaning, inspection and precision rebuild were in order.

The concept of disassembling and rebuilding a mechanism like a Haldex differential is not common today, but here’s where Atlantic Motorcar shines. We actually employ skilled technicians who are craftsman, they have not only the ability, but are encouraged to repair, rather than just replace. In this case, our tech removed failed differential from the vehicle, disassembled and inspected to identify the failure, and then assessed what components were needed to rebuild the unit for a durable repair, lasting ideally the life of the car. And this just what we did, and we can do the same thing for you, if you have this problem with your Volvo or Land Rover.

Land Rover LR2
Land Rover LR2

Not Just A Volvo Problem
By the way, this is not just a Volvo problem but is also found on the Land Rover LR2 rear differentials as well. You see, Ford Motor Company owned both Volvo and Land Rover at the time of this design, so Land Rovers and Volvos in this era share this platform among several models, primarily for economic reasons. So while it may be branded a “Land Rover Power Transfer System”, this drivetrain is essentially a Volvo All Wheel Drive design. On the Land Rover, the differential failure and lack of individual repair parts for both brands is similar, and fortunately so is the solution.

Once Of Prevention, Worth A Pound Of Cure

Volvo Magic Fluid
Volvo Magic Fluid

Unfortunately, the Volvo differential or Land Rover “power transfer unit” is equipped with “fill for life” fluid. In the marketing parlance of the day, this is touted as a benefit, and yet at 90,000 miles this part has failed. Would changing the fluid more frequently have saved this part? Very we say likely yes; however fluid changes are often left out of the service schedule by the manufacturer on the newer cars to save money. After all, the manufacturers are in the business of selling new cars, not necessarily maintaining old ones.

Fluid changes on this system are not a “do it yourself” thing, as there is no real provision to drain out the old fluid, it must instead be aspirated, or sucked out with fluid transfer equipment, and the housing cleaned carefully to remove any metal or wear debris. Fortunately Atlantic Motorcar is very well equipped in this regard, and we strongly advise adding a differential fluid service on Volvos and Land Rovers, at the 90,000 mile service interval, if not sooner.

About that magic fluid. Both Volvo and Land Rover sell a very expensive, and specialty branded ‘special lubricant’ for their power transfer unit or angle gear unit, yet these components only consist of simple gears and bearings. Rather than the costly, and apparently insufficient factory fill,  we always use synthetic gear oil just to add a little extra margin of durability. This still costs a fraction of the dealer fluid. It is important to use the manufacturers recommended fluid while the vehicle is under the new car warranty.

How We Can Help
At Atlantic Motorcar we’ve developed some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expect technicians, to make this otherwise onerous repair a snap. Well, maybe not a “snap”, hard to call a day + of labor a snap, let’s just say that we make it flow very, very smoothly. All told, proper maintenance and repair is far less costly than replacing your vehicle every 3 year or so.

Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.

The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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