We took or '02 to an independent repair shop for a 105,000 mile service. We had great results at this shop for several years with service on our truck.
Along with timing belt, tensioner, water pump, spark plugs, and serpentine belt, I had requested the shop to drain the transmission fluid and replace what comes out with Toyota Type IV (3309 compatible ATF).
I wasn't interested in paying for a full power flush, plus with 105K miles I was concerned that a flush could create a problem. For the 60K miles we've owned the car the tranny never missed a beat.
When the car was done being serviced we got a call from the shop owner that there was a severe flare when shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. After further inspection it was determined that the car would not go to 3rd gear in autostick mode or when the car was in drive.
The shop owner showed me the technical service bulletin for the common defective nature of B4 servo covers on the transmission on my '02 an the '01 models. I thought this was very odd, that this part magically failed between the time I dropped the car off and after it was serviced at their shop. I mean, how does a working car get dropped off for preventative maintenance come back broken?
They took some time the following day and checked the B4 servo cover. As I had suspected, the B4 cover was not causing the problem. At this point the shop owner had a friend who operates a large transmission shop here look into the problem. He confirmed that 3rd gear was completely out and the tranny required a full rebuild ($3,100 ESTIMATE). He also indicated that the shop I had do the 105K service was clearly not at fault, and that any type of ATF (dexron, mercon, or anything) could have been put in to replace the 4qts that they drained out. This raised a giant red flag for me. From what I have read, the wrong ATF in this car spells disaster. At this point I was suspicious and I felt that these 2 shop owners could potentially even be in cahoots!
My wife and I were devastated. The shop owner that did the original service indicated that his friend who owned the tranny shop could have the rebuild done in about a week and wanted to know if we were going to proceed with the rebuild. At this point we were convinced that something was amiss. We have had bad luck in the past but this coincidence was just too weird.
We were convinced that if we had this friend of the shop owner rebuild the transmission we would not get a truthful diagnosis of why the tranny failed right after it was serviced.
As such, we had it towed to another shop that is well known nationwide. They quoted a similar price and indicated that they would be able to tell what caused the failure. At this point I did not give any details to the tranny shop regarding the events leading up to the failure. I wanted to get the most objective diagnosis possible!
We contacted the tranny rebuild shop after a couple days and asked if they found anything that caused 3rd gear to be gone. To our surprise the service manager said "I know exactly why this tranny failed". I was shocked. He then asked, has someone recently drained and replaced any ATF on this car?
I told him that had been done right before the tranny failure. He then said that this a common problem with these cars. The problem occurs when the fluid is added through what is mistaken for a fill port on the top of the Volvo tranny.
There is a 27mm bolt on the top of the tranny. This bolt is often mistaken for a fill port because it will readily accept a funnel. This allows a person to add 4qts of ATF faster than trying to add it through the smaller dipstick hole.
The problem is that this bolt is threaded, not only through the tranny case but also into the B4 transmission band anchor. This band is what provides for 3rd gear. When this bolt is removed it is also unthreaded from this band anchor. It is then virtually impossible recapture this band with the bolt unless the transmission is removed and disassembled!
Think about it. The band is just hanging inside the there. You cannot see it to position it or line it up with the band anchor bolt without having the tranny apart. It would seem that successfully recapturing this band anchor without a complete tear down would be like trying to thread a needle with tweezers inside a beer bottle while blindfolded!
So this unknowing tech saw this bolt (he thought it was a fill port plug), removed it, poured in the ATF and put the bolt back in. After doing this the B4 band had nothing securing itself to the transmission, thereby disabling 3rd gear all together. I couldn't believe it. This shop unknowing caused this $3000 problem.
I even found references to this out on the web here:
here in the 3rd paragraph:
here 2nd to last paragraph on page 1:
here page 2 paragraph 2:
And for those that need to visualize what a transmission band is, here is a simple diagram:
If the band anchor is not connected to the transmission housing, the band will not be able to tighten or clamp down around its respective drum to apply 3rd gear. The servo will only push against the free end of the band.
Armed with this information and an admission from the ignorant technician I plan on getting every dime of of rebuild costs reimbursed to us. I am also going to urge that shop to NOT work on Volvo's because they obviously do not know enough about them.
We'll see how it goes...