What Are the Signs of Air Suspension Issues in the Volvo XC90? (Expert Guidance)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different Volvo XC90 Air Suspension issues, what the causes are, and how these issues can be effectively dealt with.

What are the common issues in a Volvo XC90 air suspension?

The most common Volvo XC90 Air suspension issues that occur are:

  • Suspension failure Message
  • Front end Clunking Noise
  • Air suspension Warning
  • Rear Tie Rod end looseness
  • Rear Air spring Leakage

The Volvo XC90 Air Suspension

The Volvo XC90 is a luxury crossover SUV made by Volvo Cars of Sweden. The XC90 came with an optional air suspension.  The standard fixed-ride height springs are replaced with an adaptive suspension capable of changing the ride characteristics as well as ride height in the various modes:

  • The Sport mode’s lower ride height and firm damping settings in the shock absorbers is ideally suited to faster cornering. 
  • The Off-Road mode increases the Ride height and therefore the ground clearance. 
  • There is an “easy entry” setting that lowers the ride height by around 1.6 inch to assist easy passenger access 
  • There is also ‘rear cargo area load’ setting that lowers the ride height by 2 inches

Suspension failure message


  • Dashboard display says “Suspension Failure – Service needed”
  • Harsh Ride quality, feels like there is no suspension

Troubleshooting Suspension failure Message

  • Usually occurs in extreme cold weather like -15 to -20 degree Celsius
  • The Harsh ride is due to the Air Springs losing all the air pressure
  • Loss of air pressure is due to either a leakage or a Compressor malfunction
  • The “Suspension Failure” message is due to the compressor itself not working
  • Especially in extreme low temperature, if the compressor is found to not work, then it could mostly be due to either
    • A Blown compressor fuse, OR
    • A failed compressor
  • Before dismantling the compressor, it would always be wise to check the Fuse of the compressor. 
  • Make sure the vehicle is parked in a warmer environment. Replace the blown fuse and then start the vehicle to see if the compressor starts again
  • In case of a failed compressor also, the fuse would have blown prior to it completely failing.
  • If the compressor does not start after replacing the fuse, then it is mostly due to a failed compressor
  • The root cause seems to be that below the temperature of -15C, the air suspension purging action makes the moisture in humid air already trapped in the air circuit to freeze, expand and block the air lines. Subsequent to the blockage, the compressor would fail due to excess pressure build-up.

Front end Clunking Noise


  • Continuous clunking noise coming from the front
  • Noise happens driving on normal roads even without major bumps

Troubleshooting Front end Clunking Noise

  • Front end clunking noises could be either from the Anti roll bar or the shock absorbers
  • Inspect the anti roll bar (ARB) linkage and mounting bushes. 
  • If any of the anti roll bar bushings are damaged or worn, then first make the necessary replacements
  • Check once again while driving whether the noises have changed
  • If the noise is unchanged then there is a high possibility that the front dampers may have failed
  • XC90 front air spring damper is an integrated strut unit which can only be replaced as an assembly. The Strut is not detachable from the Air Spring

Air suspension Warning


  • The car is Stuck in the raised position
  • Suspension height does not change when selecting any of the drive modes, locking or using the rear up/down switches.

Troubleshooting Air Suspension Warning

  • As a first step, try Changing fuses and updating the air suspension control software. This will need to be done at an authorized dealer
  • In case the fuse and software did not solve the height problem then the next step is to replace the compressor.
  • It would always be better to replace both the compressor and the dryer unit at the same time. This seems to work in many cases from past experience.

Rear Tie Rod end looseness

  • This is part of the 2019 NHTSA RECALL 19V327
  • This is a known issue that is covered under warranty
  • If this problem is left unattended then it could result in the following safety issues:
    • A sudden change in vehicle handling
    • The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system could turn off
    • The sudden loss of control due to the ESC turning off could increase the likelihood of an accident

Rear Air spring Leakage


  • Loss of height when parked and during driving
  • The suspension may raise but soon loses height
  • The compressor seems to work for longer periods
  • The “Hissing” Sound is non-stop and throughout the time, unlike a Tire which loses air and stops

Troubleshooting Rear Air spring Leakage

  • Try to get as close as possible to the sound
  • The Most probable source of such noise is an Air Leak somewhere within the Air Suspension air-lines. While an air leak is possible anywhere within the circuit, there are certain joints or connections that are more prone to leakages, namely, The Air suspension ‘Inlet’ located at the top of the Air Bellow.
  • The next most obvious location would be the Air Spring itself. To check the Air Spring for leakages, do a very simple leakage inspection using Soap water. If there is a leak, you can see it as ‘White Bubbles’ that stick and do not drip down. The procedure for Leakage check is explained here. 

Air Leak Test

You can now do an ‘Air Leak’ test on your own by following these steps:

  • Turn on the ignition and start your engine
  • Set the suspension Ride Height first to “high” and 

then set it to “normal” Ride Height using the interactive display.

  • Kill the engine.
  • Do a measurement of your car’s Ride Height at all four wheels from the center of the wheel to the bottom of the respective Fender Panel.
  • After a gap of about two hours, once again measure vehicle Ride Height and compare these values with the measurements you took before (refer previous step). 

If the car stands with a lean on any corner, you could conclude that the suspension has a leak. The corner where you observed the greatest difference between the first and second measurement is the location of leakage.

  • Use either a Soap-water solution or a leak-detection spray to check the affected air spring shock absorber and its corresponding air inlet/outlet in the following order:
  • Air line connections (wiggle the lines to see if the problem leak is present)
  • Residual pressure retaining valve, and,
  • The Air spring
  • Observe the white bubbles that stick to any particular spot. If necessary, wipe out the bubbles and see if they appear again without additional spraying. These persistent bubbles are the leakage spots

If there happens to be no deviation at all after the two hour wait, then the measurement must be repeated after 24 hours. After 24 hours, a deviation of up to 4 mm is permissible.

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In this brief article we have discussed the different Volvo XC90 Suspension issues, what the causes are, and how these issues could be effectively dealt with.

For any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch with us.