In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across two people on Facebook (three if you include me) who have complained about a chirping or squealing coming from the area of their cabin air fan. Along with the squeak, we had at least two other things in common: We all own older models (I have a 2004, the others were 2005 XC90s) and we had all moved from a warmer climate to a colder climate before the noise occurred. For me, the chirping happens when the fan is at medium-speed or below and it gets worse when I make a left turn. My guess is that the centrifugal force of the turn puts some added pressure on the bearings and makes the sound louder. Also the two ways to make the sound go away are to turn the fan to high or off.
What to do About Your Squeaky/Noisy Xc90 Blower/FAN
If your Volvo cabin fan is chirping like mine, you have three options for solving the problem:
- Ignore it
- Lube it
- Replace it
Ignoring Your Volvo XC90 Cabin Fan Noise
Because my fan only makes noise in the winter months, I can basically ignore the noise it makes for eight out of twelve months each year. That’s enough time for me to devise a plan to stop the noise using one of the other two approaches listed in this post…which I never do. Instead, I figured I’d write about it because that’s easier. And it’s cold out, and I’d rather write inside with a hot coffee than lubricate or replace my XC90’s cabin fan.
So ignoring the noise is certainly one option.
Lubricate Your Volvo XC90 Cabin Fan
If you’re short on money or time (or both) you can lubricate the fan bearing to stop the noise temporarily. There’s no guarantee that this solution will get you very far but it may give your ears a temporary reprieve until you can get a replacement for the fan. Lubricate it with silicone spray because doing it with WD-40 isn’t a good idea. Well, it isn’t a BAD idea, it’s just that silicone spray lube for your fan bearings is a better idea. You’ll likely get better results and a lot less WD-40 smell in your SUV. You might also want to remove the fan to gain better access for lubrication. So, at this point, if you have the fan assembly completely out you might as well just replace it, right?
Certainly you could just lubricate it at this point. There’s no judgment from me as buying a new XC90 cabin fan isn’t exactly the cheapest thing you can do. A new fan is anywhere from $100 to $325 depending on your choice of brand name and whether you replace the control unit as well.
Replace Your Volvo XC90 Cabin Fan
If you want the sound gone so that it doesn’t come back anytime soon, buying a new blower/cabin fan for your XC90 is your best option. There’s some work involved, but it certainly within the ability of most DIY folks. If you’ve ever changed your cabin air filter, you’re only a few steps from changing the fan out too.
First of all, after letting your Volvo sit for a few minutes, disconnect the negative terminal to your battery.
Inside the car, in the passenger-side foot-well, remove the side panel. It’s the long piece with the vent for the air to come out. It should just pull off. I start at the end closest to where my feet would be and work my way back.
Next, remove the foot panel/lower shield – the one you’d take off the replace your cabin air filter.
Then, pull your carpet back for better access. There’s foam attached to the carpet – it will likely crack, but that’s ok, because when you put everything back, the crack will close up and you won’t even notice it.
Remove your air conditioning drain tube to get it out of the way and disconnect the electrical connector that’s likely in the way.
T25 screws hold the fan housing in place. All are easily accessible – except one against the firewall. The T25 screw next to the firewall is next to impossible to get to. Swedish engineering has placed it just above a ridge in the firewall that gives you about 0mm (ok, maybe 2mm) in which to fit any sort of screwdriver or other tool. Fortunately, you can get away with snapping the fourth tab and still get a proper seal when you put your new fan in place. (Side note: Why do we seem to have to break so many things on the XC90 in order to fix them? Maybe that will be the topic of a future post.)
Once you get the fan assembly out, it’s really just a matter of removing the resistor from the old assembly and placing it on the new assembly, assuming you just got a new fan motor+cage and not the entire assembly. Of course, you may be wondering why you didn’t get a new resistor, so you should read…
A note about the CCM resistor – also known as the Blower Motor Control Unit, Volvo 31315077
While you have the fan unit out, you’ll have access to the blower motor control unit (is that the right name). Some people suggest replacing this as an add-on repair (if you have the X out, you might as well replace the Y) but at roughly $100, I don’t see the need to replace something that likely isn’t broken. If you’re having trouble with the control unit (ex: fan runs but you aren’t getting heat/cooling to the cabin), then that may be something you want to consider but if not, don’t do it. The symptom of “fan working but no heat/AC coming out of vents could be something else as well. If you’re not sure, see your Volvo mechanic.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things on your XC90 to throw $100 at.