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2010 Volvo S40 (Volvo)
2010 Volvo S40 (Volvo)

Rob's Garage

Why does my Volvo's battery keep dying? Add to ...

Hi Rob

I purchased a new Volvo S40 in early 2010.

I love the car, but was shocked when I returned home from a week-long business trip to find the car dead. The battery had to be boosted. I called the dealership and they told me I needed a trickle charger if I don’t use the car regularly: “With a Volvo you'll need a trickle charger.”

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Then last week while away on vacation, my father wanted to use the car three days after my departure. The car was dead.

It seems ridiculous that a new car would fail after not being used a few days. Is the dealership to be believed?

Thanks so much, Ruth

On the surface, I too have a tough time with having to use a trickle charger – on pretty much any new car. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of such a thing, and if those of you reading this have been put in this position, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.

Volvos, like most modern cars, have a complex starting process involving integrated, computer-controlled engines and body control systems. In a nutshell, there are a whole bunch of things that have to be in perfect sync in order for the car to start.

With Volvo models, this is particularly true. So much so that the company has issued a document to the dealer network that describes a diagnostic strategy that addresses “No Crank/No Start” conditions.

It outlines the connection and diagnostic strategies for such components as:

• Engine immobilizer communication

• Central Electronic Module (CEM) to Engine Control Module (ECM) interface

• Start Control Unit (SCU) functionality

Now add to this known issue the possibility that your car may have been sitting on the lot for an extended period of time, and it’s possible that the battery may have been weak. These electronic modules are extremely sensitive to lower-than-normal voltage levels, so any combination of these problems will certainly combine to form the perfect storm under your hood.

Have the dealer look up Ref No US16335.1.1 en-GB in the Volvo data base. It should provide them with another diagnostic path – but have them fully test the battery, charging system and have them test the electrical system for excessive parasitic draw on the battery.

Ruth, if the dealer truly performs with the rigour outlined in this Tech Bulletin, expect to read Pillars of the Earth cover to cover – better yet, ask for a courtesy car and take the time to return your trickle charger.

Send your automotive questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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