Winter weather, especially the kind that many of our experiencing here in the northern USA and Canada, can cause a lot of little issues that an XC90 doesn’t experience in warmer climates – or at least in other seasons. Among these issues is XC90 power steering whine – which I’m actually experiencing right now. It typically presents itself shortly after I start up my SUV and slowly goes away as the car warms up to operating temperature. By the way, morning temps where I am (as of writing this post) have been around -12F so that’s my threshold when I talk about winter weather. It’s cold. Sure the XC90 was born to be in the cold, but I don’t hold a grudge against any XC90 that decides enough is enough at -12F. Although for the record, mine’s running great once it gets warmed up.
Anyway, back to my power steering whine – at first, I dreaded the worst: Had my water pump failed? Accessory belt squealing? Was is the -12F morning temp turning my oil into jelly that my engine couldn’t warm up fast enough?
I did a little research and found that the culprit is very likely steering related but can be the result of multiple issues.
It’s very likely that your power steering whine is a combination of: a) your XC90’s power steering reservoir filter is clogged and b) the frigid temps are causing your power steering fluid to increase viscosity. Didn’t know your Volvo’s power steering reservoir had a filter? Join the club.
It’s job is as you’d expect – to keep the fluid clear of debris and to catch any metal particulate. However, after 14 years, I’m sure mine is clogged up a little. Add in the cold temperatures and you get an even greater inability of the power steering fluid to flow – causing the the pump to whine until it gets enough fluid.
You’ll hear the XC90 power steering whine coming from under the hood. It may sound “global” but if you listen long enough, you’ll hear it coming from the passenger side (on N. America/Left-hand drive models) where the power steering pump and reservoir are located.
Volvo XC90 Power Steering Whine – What to try first…
So what do you do? You can start by changing the power steering fluid in your Volvo XC90. It’s not a drain and fill procedure like an oil change, but it’s easier than you might think if you’ve never considered it before. The easiest way is to take a turkey baster and suck out as much fluid as you can from the reservoir. Then, fill the reservoir with the appropriate power steering fluid. Go for a drive where you have to make some turns (or put the car up on jack stands, turn it on and turn the steering wheel from side-to-side (stop-to-stop) a dozen or so times.
Turn the car off and repeat the turkey baster procedure. Just be sure to end the procedure in a way that allows you to top off the reservoir. So watch how much you’re taking out and compare to how much fresh fluid you have.
Volvo XC90 Power Steering Whine – What to keep in mind…
This is the cheapest fix for this. It often helps, but don’t be surprised if there’s more to your problem and that the condition of your power steering fluid was just a contributing factor.
Another option is to replace the power steering reservoir. On the 2004 Volvo XC90 2.5T model, it’s pretty easy to do. This also replaces the integral filter that I mentioned earlier in the post.
A Genuine Volvo power steering fluid reservoir can be bought for under $100USD (mine is GV part number 30741483). It’s fairly easy to replace and you should replace the fluid as well when you do this.
Keep in mind that, if it’s bitter cold where you are and this power steering noise doesn’t happen in warmer weather, it’s likely that the weather is playing a pretty big role in your Volvo XC90 steering whine. You could always wait for warmer temperatures to come and then see if the power steering noise goes away.
Or find a garage to let your car warm up for a while. That’s for you to decide. But just know that when it comes to your Volvo XC90, power steering whine can be a seasonal noise that you’ll either have to get used to – or get rid of.