The safe and sensible Volvo S80 may not be the coolest luxury sedan on the market, but with dual-zone automatic climate control, it should be one of the coldest cars around. While Consumer Guide and Edmunds report relatively few consumer complaints, the S80 air conditioning system is not without its problems.
Air conditioning repairs are usually an expensive proposition on the S80. As of September 2009, Consumer Guide lists the average price of replacing a compressor on the vehicle as £399. A condenser without installation can run as high as £243.
Leave It To The Professionals
S80 air conditioning problems are best left to the professionals. The automatic air conditioning systems have such a complex design that only certified Volvo technicians should attempt to work on them. Dealer diagnostic scanners can pinpoint the system's problem and get it back up to to speed. Even something as minor as recharging the compressor with refrigerant needs a special machine that can charge via the service valve on the high-pressure side. A cause of failed filling on the high-pressure side by mechanics not familiar with the S80 is often due to incorrect vacuum pumping.
In June 2009, Volvo issued a massive recall of more than 17,000 models, including the 2008 and 2009 S80, due to a software programming error in the fan control module. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the error can result in reduced air conditioning performance when the car is driving under certain conditions. Volvo dealers will replace the defected part for free.
Owners of S80s have complained that the air conditioner blower fan engages after the car is turned off. However, that is a normal function. According to the Volvo owner's manual, the blower sometimes comes on automatically after about 50 minutes and stays on for five minutes to clear out excess water from the coils. What is not normal are the complaints owners have with older model S80s where the air conditioner itself turns on after the car is off and at rest. Turning the fan and AC controls off before turning off the ignition does not prevent the issue, and owners have found dead batteries as a result. Until the malfunctioning control sensor can be repaired, try this procedure to prevent the problem. Turn the blower and air conditioner knobs to the "off" positions, turn off the car, restart the vehicle, then turn the car off again.
Although the air conditioning system should never be serviced by a do-it-yourselfer, performing preventive maintenance and inspections help keep the system running well. The easiest thing to do is to use it on a regular basis. The seals and internal components will stay lubricated with just five minutes of run time, no matter what the weather, each month. In addition, keep the compressor clean and the radiator cap on tight.