October 19

2009 Volvo XC60, Rear Differential Bearing Replacement

Auto Repair, Volvo


Mark: Hi, good morning. Mark, Top Local, we're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, voted best in Vancouver for auto repair by their customers 17 times, recently run the Georgia Straight again. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well!

Mark: We're talking about a Volvo, a pretty popular car, an XC60. This is the 2009, it had some kind of rear differential problems. What was going on with this, how did you diagnose this vehicle?

Bernie: Basically, the customer brought it to us with a humming noise coming from the back of this vehicle, figuring it's probably the rear differential. He was correct. We road tested the vehicle, hear a noise in the back, did a hoist inspection. We have listening equipment so we can listen to all the different areas in the rear end, the wheel bearings, the differential bearings, and whatever else is underneath the vehicle and determined that the noise was coming from inside the differential.

Mark: What's involved in repairing this?

Bernie: Basically on the Volvo, we removed the rear differential assembly, so it's a whole rear end, sub-frame assembly. Remove it from the vehicle, then take the differential off, dismantle it, and there's four bearings inside the differential. There's usually one bearing that causes the problem, it's the small bearing. It's the front bearing on the pinion shaft, for some reason these seem to wear on this vehicle all the time. Don't know why. Obviously not a big enough bearing to handle the job. That's the one that wears the most. We replace all the bearings. It's not a lot of extra money or time, while you have it apart, you may as well make sure you're covering everything. Also, when they wear out, there's metal filings that get pumped through the system, through the oil, so that's causes wear on all the bearings. The gears themselves never wear, but the bearings do. I can share a photo here, just so you can see what was going on inside this differential. This is the differential disassembled. This is a view, that sort of brownish-orangey coloured stuff in the middle, that is some of the differential fluid. That's some of the differential fluid was left inside the case after we drained it out, and you can see a bunch of shiny bits near the bottom, especially in the right corner. That is all metal filings from the worn out bearings, so that's been running around inside the system and grinding all the other bearings, so that's why it makes sense to change all the bearings at the same time. As I mentioned, the gears don't, they're so hard, they don't seem to take any abuse from this kind of thing, so they last, but the bearings wear. This is a picture of the worn bearing.

Mark: Ouch.

Bernie: Yeah, I know. If you know anything about bearings, you can see some very rough spots. There's a roller, it's a very smooth ... everything is really highly polished and smooth. You run a fingernail over this, it won't grab or gouge on anything, but if you can see, chunks of this race are missing. This is the inner bearing race. Funny, you look at the outer bearing race, it actually looks fine, so I cut the bearing apart, and that's what we find. We do a lot of these repairs, so we find this every single time.

Mark: 2009 doesn't seem that old. Is this a common problem on these cars?

Bernie: Extremely common. The interesting thing is that this vehicle is also the same as a Land Rover LR2. It doesn't look the same, but the drive train, the engine transmissions, the rear end, it's exactly the same thing. We replace these a lot on Land Rover LR2s as well.

Mark: Where do you get the parts to do these kind of services?

Bernie: This is the interesting thing. Bearings we can buy from a lot of our after-market part suppliers. Bearings are numbered, we've got the numbers off the bearings, we can get those. Seals are available from Volvo or Land Rover, I'm just going to divert to both makes here, because it applies to both. The bearings, interestingly enough, are not sold by Volvo, you can only buy those ... there's crush sleeves, there's various parts we need to do this repair. You can only buy those through Land Rover, so some of the parts we buy from Land Rover. Some of the parts we buy from after-market suppliers. Here's the interesting thing. If you were to take this vehicle to a Volvo dealer, the only thing they're going to do for you is replace the complete rear differential assembly. Would you like to know the price?

Mark: Yeah, that sounds expensive.

Bernie: $4,900 for the differential assembly.

Mark: How much?

Bernie: $4,900 for a complete differential assembly.

Mark: Plus labor to put it in.

Bernie: Plus labor to install. It's a fair bit of work on one of these Volvos to take the differential out. I don't want to ... I haven't seen a Volvo bill, but I would speculate it's probably in the $5-$6,000 range by the time the labor's there, and the taxes are applied to the job. Interestingly enough, if you go to Land Rover, they do actually have a technical service bulletin. They'll do the job by actually repairing the differential. It's strange that one dealer would do it one way, and one the other way, but that's just how they're set up.

Mark: Can you save a Volvo owner quite a bit of money when you're just changing the parts out rather than redoing the whole ... re-swapping out the whole rear end?

Bernie: Yeah, it's huge. I think thousands less to do the whole job. ​

Mark: I know for a lot of people, that they only will take their car to the dealer. The only concept they have is they're the best guys to service the car. Is that true in every case?

Bernie: I'd say not. I don't like to slam other businesses, but certainly, as an independent repair shop, we like to do things the most economical way for our customers. We'll take the time to find, we've done a lot of repairs and Volvo's where they'll only sell a completely assembly. Just an example. We look at it and go, well we can buy these bearings from this place or that, and these are the kind of creative things we do to save our customers money. You won't get that at the dealer. They're more interested in, "Let's get the car in and out, as quick as possible, let's get the job done." Without regards to cost or seeking other options. I can think of a lot of other examples I've seen over time. For an average service on your vehicle, yeah, the dealer's probably pretty good. Although one interesting thing that we do notice, we get a lot of new customers, go to do an oil change and we find the air filters are just hideously dirty. We ask, "Where'd you have the car serviced before?" "The dealer." It's like the technicians, because they're, this is my speculation, because they're paid flat rate, they want to get the job in and out as fast as they can. The more cars they can do, the more money they make. Fair enough, but they're missing things. They don't inspect air filters, unless it's incredibly easy. There's no money in them, for them, whether they sell another part or not. They don't get paid any more, so they don't bother. The customer really doesn't get the best service at the dealer. It looks like a great place. I'm not saying ... there are some dealers that are very good. It's hit and miss.

Mark: It's like life.

Bernie: Right.

Mark: How are these Volvos overall for reliability? The XC60?

Bernie: They're good cars. This is one flaw with them, but so far we don't see a lot for any other problem. This is, again, one sort of thing you can expect. It seems like almost every vehicle has something that's going to go wrong with it, unless it's ... well, even Toyotas we can pick a few things out, although they're highly reliable. Most cars, there's going to be some deficiency. This seems to be the one on these cars, other than that, they're pretty good.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Volvo, or Land Rover LR2, your Volvo VC60, or any other kind of Volvo, the guys to see in Vancouver at Pawlik Automotive. You can book your appointment at 604 327 7112, or check out their website. We even have other website builders and SEOs telling us how good the website is, so check it out. Tons of information on there. PawlikAutomotive.com. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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