June 30

2008 Volvo C30 Water Leaks



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC Canada. Vancouver's best auto service experience, and we're talking cars. How are you, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well today. 

Mark: So we're talking about water leaks. A 2008 Volvo C30, that had a bit of an issue. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle came to our shop. We had some electronic problems with the vehicle, but largely caused by water leaking into the car. And one of the owner's complaints was when I turn the heater on, you can actually hear water gushing into the back of the car. Which was kind of like, whoa, that sounds pretty serious.

Mark: Is there anything different in how you go about diagnosing water leak compared to diagnosing other issues in the car? 

Bernie: Well, of course, being a water leak, we don't plug anything electronic into the car because it doesn't make any sense. It's more of a physical and visual diagnosis. But I mean, many times, a leak in a car will be almost the first place we start with is a sunroof because, so if a car doesn't have a sunroof, that eliminates a huge water leakage problem. As much as I love sunroofs, I've owned a few vehicles and seen enough that they're kind of a pain, but you know, if you want to eliminate one water leak from a car, buy one that doesn't have a sunroof. 

But anyways, the sunroof is where we start with for a lot of leaks because, what happens with sunroofs is it's not so much the sunroof that leaks that they naturally seep water into the roof. There's a drainage system, so a certain amount of water will seep into the sunroof no matter what. But it's the drainage system that gets plugged up that will often cause water leaks. Either the drainage system gets plugged up or the hoses pop off. Things happen. So these are what caused water leaks. 

So that's the first place where we start. We did actually find a sunroof leak on this vehicle and did some repairs on that. We also noted the windshield had a crack near the bottom of the windshield, and the owner said that crack had been there for a very long time. But windshield leaks are kind of common on these vehicles. 

So we actually had the windshield repaired at the same time. And the windshield, we don't do them in-house, windshields are kind of a specialty repair. The windshield shop that we deal with said they've been finding a lot of Volvos around this vintage where the windshields actually aren't sealed very well at the bottom of the windshield.

So again, you know, that's a cause of leakage as well. We don't know for sure if that was the cause of this particular water leak, but we know the sunroof drain for sure was one of the causes of the leak. I'll just actually show a couple of pictures and a video here just so we can see the scope of how much water was actually in this vehicle.

So the other thing about water leak diagnosis, a lot of times we end up having to disassemble the car in a fairly major way. To actually take the carpets out of the vehicle. And that involves, in this car, removing the seats, the center console, there's a lot of work involved.

So there's our vehicle, the C30, 2008.  

2008 Volvo C30 Water Leaks

The other picture we have here, this is the floor of the rear. This is a two door coop. This is on the passenger side behind the seat. So the seat had actually been removed. This is the floor. Now this is sort of shiny stuff here, is all water. There's about an inch thick layer of water. And this is the carpet foam on the bottom, and this is about an inch and a half thick layer of foam.

2008 Volvo C30 Water Leaks

So it's a sound insulating carpet. I mean, very high quality, specially built item, but these things get just loaded full of water. So, I mean, there's no way, unless you maybe put the car in Arizona for 10 years, they would ever dry out with the windows open because the whole bottom of the car is saturated with water from the leak.

So, that's one area. Now I'm gonna show a couple of videos here. The owner had said, you know, when I turn the heater on, it blows water. And I thought, oh, there must be some problem with the heating system where water's getting in through the heater box and and causing water to blow through.

That wasn't, actually the case. It was just a whole of water on the floor being whipped up. But here's an interesting video to watch.

So that's all water spraying through. This is the heating vent on the floor for the passenger in the rear. This is water and it's basically being whipped up through the floor into this heating duct and being blown out. I'll show that again, and then I'll show another video. It's like a little rain shower going on. 

Here's our other video. So this is the water on the floor. This is with that duct removed. And again I'll play it one more time. So before I play it, where I'm moving the mouse pointer, this is the duct that comes from the heater box that blows the water. And that other one we're looking at attaches, makes sort of a bend up over the carpet. So this is basically the water being blown on the floor. So we'll call it Lake Volvo. And it's not really funny for the owner of the car, but, you know, so there we go. 

Mark: So you've gotta remove basically a lot of the interior of the vehicle in order to dry it out properly. 

Bernie: We do, yeah. You know, you're lucky if you can find a water leak sooner than later. So if you have a bit of water dripping into your car, it's better to figure it out and fix it fast than leave it till it gets too long.

You know, the other thing is, of course, mold develops and the smell gets pretty bad in the car. Anyways, you know, for the case of this vehicle we had to take the carpet out and it was out for quite a few days, just drip drying because it takes a long time to get that foam, that thick foam, to actually for all the water to dissipate out of the foam. It gets kind of mixed in there, so to speak.

Mark: It's built, foam is built to hold water. 

Bernie: It is, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So anyway, so that's kinda what was involved. So we'd found a major leak from the sunroof. One of the front right drain was bad, so we actually replaced the drain hose. We retested it. Everything was good. The car was dry inside. You know, after leaving it for a few days, we had our electronic stuff fixed up, put everything back together. So this is where, you know, I hate to say it, but sometimes, 99% of the work we do in our shop goes through without a hitch, but every once in a while we get a job that's just a plain stinker, something happens weird.

And so gave the car back customers happy, you know, the car was away for quite a while. We gave it back to 'em. Tested it. Yes, there's no water leaking into it. Give it back to him. It was like a rainy weekend Monday he calls, there's water all over the floor. My carpet, there's like a huge puddle on top of his floor mat.

We're going, what the heck? You know, it's like, we already verified it was good. So, tested it again. And it turns out the sunroof for some reason was like if the water was just over. So if the drain gets plugged, water will overtop the drain. And we're going, what, how is that possible?

Cause we put a brand new hose in, verified it was all good. Made sure the end where it drains out into the fender well was good. For some reason it had plugged up again. And the only thing I can theorize is there was possibly some debris and maybe in the back sunroof rails that had got in and maybe swooshed forward and went in.

These holes are only, you know, three eights of an inch kind of thing diameter or smaller and so, you know, a bunch of debris got stuck in there and, and drained in. We fixed that again, you know, and I didn't wanna give the car back to the client cause it's embarrassing and irritating when something comes back for everyone involved.

So we'd rechecked it again and found there was still water coming in from somewhere that didn't seem to show up before. So, you know, I wanna make sure we did a proper job for the client. So we ended up not only taking the carpets back out again, and this is on our dime, we ended up pulling the whole dash out of the vehicle.

Cause there's some leak coming from somewhere that we can't find. So we pulled the whole dash out of the vehicle. It turns out the only thing we could find was actually the door seal and the passenger side was leaking water in. So we replaced that and reverified everything. I just wanted to check it for a while to make sure there's no further leaks.

We verified everything was good after the door seal and put it all back together, and it's been good ever since. But the weather has been a little drier in Vancouver, so fingers crossed, it'll be good. But you know, the door seal, the sunroof drain, windshield done, all the sort of major leaks.

And there's actually, a bulletin from Volvo on these cars plus a whole bunch of other models, it's about a, I think it's about an eight or 10 page bulletin on water leak issues. So it's a pretty big deal on Volvos. But anyways, that's some of the extent we go through. Now, I will say that we spent several days of work on this vehicle for no charge to the customer. So that's how we like to back up our work when we do something and say, Hey, it's fixed. You know, unless we say, Hey, it's maybe fixed, there might be something else. But if we say, Hey, it's fixed, then we kind of own the repair. 

Mark: So how common are water leaks in vehicles and how often are they caused by the sunroof?

Bernie: Sunroof leaks are very common. Water leaks, we do maybe a couple a month. It's not our favorite job, to be honest with you. Maybe a couple a month, one or two a month overall, say over the year. And sunroofs are a pretty common cause. They're very often we'll find that the drains are plugged. If you're very gentle, you gotta be very careful to blow it out with compressed air, cuz you can easily blow the hoses off. Any slight amount of pressure, just a gentle amount, it can work. So sunroofs are very common and sometimes the actual sunroof frame or something will actually cause a leak, which is even worse. But yeah, it's pretty common. 

Mark: So sunroof, if to imagine this, these are like the gutters around your house. They have to have these gutters on the sunroof or underneath. We don't necessarily see them on the roof of the car, but underneath, there's gutters literally to take water out of and away from running into the car and back out of the car.

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah, it's an excellent description. There's actually gutters in the sunroof and there's drain hoses going forward and drain hoses going back. And any of them can plug. Usually it's the front ones that plug. They're the worst for some reason.

The actual sunroof itself, once it closes that seal around the sunroof is not waterproof. It's watertight, but not waterproof. And the way the cars are designed is there's actually some leakage that comes in and it's designed to be run down the gutters and out. And it works pretty well, almost most of the time.

Mark: So with so many modern cars having complete glass over the roof, how often are they gonna leak? 10, 15 years down the line. 

Bernie: Yeah. It is gonna be an issue for sure. It really depends on how well, now if it's permanently sealed in glass, like glued in, and I don't know how they do it on a lot of cars. I can think like a Tesla for instance, that has a pretty much all glass roof. I don't know how they seal theirs in, but I mean, generally windshields, they do leak from time to time, but most of the time that seal is pretty solid. But yeah, who knows? You know, and with a lot of electronics in cars, if you look through our library of podcasts, our plethora of podcasts, we talk about water leaks, there's a few that reference water leaks and damaged electronics. So that's a big thing in cars, in any make and model. So you really wanna keep the water outside and never let it in. 

Mark: Is there anything that an owner can do to prevent this from happening? 

Bernie: Well, you know, if you were handy yourself, you could actually test your sunroof drains, and it's a pretty straightforward procedure. You just open your sunroof and you could very carefully pour some water on the edges. You, there's probably videos that show you how to do this. But just at the very edge rails of the sunroof inside, if you carefully pour water, you should see it draining down outta the fenders in the front and the back. Depending on how much, which way the car is tilted, that kind of thing.

But, you know, if you're on a flat service, you know, if you pour in the front right corner, you should see water gushing out pretty fast on either side. And you know, if it doesn't do that, then you've got a plugged sunroof. So, I mean, that's a thing you could test, but you know, what probably most people will do is they're not gonna worry about it.

I mean, I'm the same way. I'm not gonna worry about it until, oh, there's a leak and then you're basically then you're gonna have to fix it. But as I mentioned, you can blow it up with compressed air. You gotta be so careful because just one little hit of too much pressure, there's a hose, it's just a plastic hose, it's not clamped on. It'll blow off very easily. So you'll create a way worse leak than you had. 

Mark: Yeah. And a lot more expensive repair. 

Bernie: Yeah. Well then you gotta take stuff out and apart and stuff. And sometimes that's what you have to do, if it gets plugged anyways. So as an owner, the other thing you gotta be careful is if you live in a place where there's a lot of like tree debris that drops on your car, If you can park in a spot that doesn't have that, that would be an advantage.

Because the other area that, you know, leaks do develop too is around the cowl area. That's the area where the windshield and the hood meet, and you can get debris in that area as well. And that builds up. We'll probably have a podcast at some point about water leaks from there.

But sometimes water will, there are drains for the heating system where it's normal for water to be in that area, but they have drains. So if those get plugged, then you start getting water in through your heating system and you know, that creates another level of problem. So if you can avoid parking under trees for extended periods of time, that's a good thing. 

Mark: If you're having issues with any vehicle that has water leaks, the guys to see in Vancouver, even though they don't like to do it, well they will do it and they'll do a great job. Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at pawlikautomotive.com or you can call to book (604) 327-7112. Pawlik Automotive. You got a book ahead cuz they're always busy. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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