Howard's Volvo Maintenance


Power Steering Fluid

The owner's manual says ATF for the power steering fluid for this car (pre 2005) which is wrong. It is a synthetic hydraulic fluid made by Pentosin called CHF-202 which superceded the original fluid CHF-11S. Volvo seems to have "fixed" the manual for 2005+, you can see their 2004 and 2005 online versions for yourself

See here for an explanation on the fluids. This fluid is green color when poured from the bottle. It is definitely not bright reddish like ATF.

ATF seems to have been used for older power steering systems. So some people think ATF is okay since the manual says so. ATF is red color.

I unfortunately put in ATF per Volvo's manual and eventually my steering rack seal leaked on the passenger side. I suppose it might have been leaking to begin with since I had to add fluid.

Before you add ATF to your power steering reservoir, call and check with your local Volvo dealer to be sure.

Car Pulling Right

My XC70 would pull right at any speed. Pulling slightly at low speeds and heavier at highway speeds.

Had an alignment done and didn't fix it. Noticed my rear A-ARM bushings were torn and not sure if that was the cause. Finally took the car in for a rotation and they rebalanced the tires. Bingo, the pulling is gone.

Here is a post from a Volvo tech that seems to suggest 9 times out of 10, pulling on this car is caused by wheel/tire balance.

Check your original purchase agreement for your tires. Lots of places provide life time balancing for free as part of the contract.


I had a another episode with pulling right. This time with new tires and lots of updated front suspension elements. Balance+rotation+cross rotation didn't fix it this time. Alignment tech believes it is the spring mount bushing (this is what the top of the strut rotates on). Some people online suggest a Volvo service note that suggest to adjust the camber slightly. Here is a link to all that info. 

It does seem a bit of tinkering is required to improve this. I would suggest the following steps

  1. Make sure the car in aligned
  2. Cross rotate the front tires if they are non directional. If it gets worse, cross rotate it back
  3. Follow the this Volvo TSB to adjust camber 

Hope this correct the pull right problems you are encountering. 

Inner Tie Rod

Replaced the inner tie rods on my 01 V70XC. Was pretty easy.

How do you know if you need new tie rods?

When you jack up just one wheel and hold the tires by 3 and 9 o'oclock and twist, if you can feel movement, either the inner or outer tie rod ball joints have play.

If you jack up both front wheels, you will need to differentiate the movement that is the whole rack or the tie rods. The whole rack will move because both tires are off the ground. But it will only move a little until you hear the steering lock (assuming your key is out and steering lock is engaged)

To get a closer inspection, have your tires off and just pull the outer tie rods in and out and you will have a visual and by feel whether there is play or not. Again, if both wheels are off the ground, you need to tell the difference between loose ball joints or the rack moving. 

Some mechanics say some amount of play is okay but my front end has no play with new tie rods so I'm not sure how much play is okay.

Whether it is the inner or outer tie rods require closer inspection. Might be a good idea to change both while you are at it. For whatever reason, both my 01 T5 and 01 V70XC's outer tie rod's ball joint has been just fine. It has been the passenger side inner tie rods that went in both cases.

How to change the inner tie rod

Here is the directions for a pre 01 Volvo. But the directions are the same.

Inner Tie Rod Replacement Direction

One trick on this job is to turn steering wheel all the way right when doing the driver side tie rods and all the way left when doing the passenger side. It makes everything more accessible.

You can reuse the boots

This direction calls for the destruction of the boot. This is unnecessary and if your boot is in good condition, it can be reused. Instead of destroying the boot, do the following instead

  • To keep the toe in alignement relatively close so you can drive to an alignment shop afterwards without worrying ruining your tires, I measure the distance between a fixed none moving part on the rack (say the outer most bracket that clamps the rack on the subframe) to a mark (scratch a mark with a pencil or sharp tool) on the outer tie rod (say the housing for the ball joint). You need to pull the tie rods straight out as the angles will change the distance. This is the exact same distance you need to adjust between the inner/outer tie rods during reassembly so you can maintain a close alignment.
  • Just take off the outer tie rod, pop loose the crimped metal boot strap (twisting a flat head screw driver inside the crimp will get it loose) on the rack, and slide the boot out. Volvo suggest you use electrical tape to cover the inner tie rod threads while sliding the boot out. I guess this is to protect from scratching the boot. I found this unnecessary.
  • When you put everything back, I used the original Oetiker 56mm stepless crimp clamps. They worked perfect and were very tight. Info on the clamps here.


Volvo directions also calls for a counterhold (to counter the rotational force when you break loose the inner tie rods) No one would have this special tool. I did it without a counterhold tool like the directions above and had no problems. Some people use a strap wrench to provide the counter force. In my experience, this would be really difficult because the amount of force to break loose the tie rods can be high and you have weird working angles if the car isn't up so high (say setting on jack stands). I had to use my leg/feet to break loose the driver side given the angles+force involved. In this angle, I'm not sure how I can use my hand to apply the counterhold force without another person.

After doing this job, I thought a bit more on how to apply the counterhold force. Here is an idea but I've not tried it. Perhaps a strap wrench can be applied on the other end of the rack so there is more room to work on. Since the steering rack's shaft is a single soild tube of metal alloy, this should be fine. So imagine you have a pipe wrench on driver side tie rod, and the strap wrench on the passenger side. I've not tried this and if you turn the wheel all the way to one side, there might be less room to work on the other side. A second pair of hands would be necessary of course. If you are able to put the car on a lift, then there is a lot more room to position yourself and more angles to work with. 

If you want to apply counterhold force, make sure you don't scratch the silver metal shaft (Thus a soft strap wrench). The shaft slides over the rack seals and will leak if scratched. There is a plastic sleeve where the tie rod is connected. This is not where the counter hold goes, it has to be on the metal shaft.

Steering Rack Boot Clamp

When I replaced my inner tie rods, I initially used zip ties to secure the boot to the rack. However, they felt loose, particular on the driver side due to the very small lip that prevents the boot from sliding off. The rack seals will leak a little bit as it gets old making it very slippery and I worried it would slide off. I finally used a 75lb zip tie on the driver side and it felt more secure. However, 75lb zip ties are very wide and barely fit in the slot on the boot for the clamps.

I finally decided to use the original Oetiker stepless 56mm crimp style clamp and it worked perfect. Very tight and secure. These clamps aren't expensive but they are hard to find even online. Shipping is another $10 which seems silly for clamps worth a couple of dollars. I decided to purchase a bag of 100 so I have plenty available for those who want this clamp. I'll send you a pair for $6.50. Use this link to purchase. Here is a picture of the clamp. The left is the new one and the right is the old one that came off the rack.


Here is how they look on my rack. First picture is the driver side, second picture is the passenger side



Here is the crimp tool I used, it had no problem for clearance. However, I didn't get a perfectly symmetrical crimp (but certain on tight enough) on the passenger side (probably just because using my left hand (I'm right handed)). Oetiker has a crimp clamp that works side ways which is probably perfect for the job. The part number is Oetiker 1099 (or sometimes 1099i or 14100083). Saw some on ebay for $19 shipped free.


Power Steering Rack Replacement

Had a leaky steering rack. I think my leak might have been caused by wrong PS fluid type. Click here for more info on the correct PS fluid.

The leak typically develops at the seals closest to the inner tie rod. Passenger side leaks are usually visible first because the seal is very close to the tie rod boot. The bottom of your boot will be wet like this

The driver side seal is a fair bit distance from the boot so you won't see a minor leak for awhile.

Here is a general description of rack and pinion steering rack

Here are some details on this specific steering rack

Descrition and Operation Steering Gear

Steering Components and Diagrams

Here are the replacement directions

Replacing Steering Gear

NOTE: For everyone that has downloaded a previous version of my installation notes above. I've updated it with the warning *do not center the steering wheel* if you don't know how to reset the contact reel. I think I broke mine (and got SRS light on) because I didn't reset the contact reel.

I also got this rubber/squeaking sound whenever I turn the steering wheel after putting everything back together. Turns out there is a bushing that got pushed out of the steering column boot (at the wheel well area) when I pushed up the steering column to connect to the new steering rack. If this happens to you, you just need to slowly work the bushing back under the rubber boot. A small phillips screw driver will help slowly get the rubber boot's lip over the top of the bushing.

Purchasing the steering rack

Volvo no longer stocks the steering rack for my 01 V70 T5. Instead, they stock a newer steering rack with some additional adaptation hoses. An indy quoted me $1800 for this job!

Instead, I got an exact fit rebuild online for about $320. Looks like all of them are made by CVU ( My local reputable indy did say they no longer put in rebuilds because too many of them come back to the shop soon after. My has had no problem so far.

Most online stores will ask if you need a speed sensitive one or not. Mine was not speed sensitive. Look at where the 2 PS lines enter the rack (at the input shaft housing), if there are no wires going into the rack there, then you don't have a speed sensitive unit. Be careful as there is a wire running near that area. I think it is the O2 sensor wire going to the catalytic converter.

Power Steering Pump

Mine seemed to have started leaking ever so slightly right where the spinning shaft is. Finally got a rebuilt power steering pump. Here are the directions

I was replacing my steering rack as well so I just pull the line from the steering rack to the PS fluid reservoir. Hooked it up to a hose to extend it into a container. Turn on the car and pumped out the old fluid. Only about a quart will come out. So I had minimal leak when I pulled the hoses off the PS pump.

Removing the pulley from the old PS pump and transferring it onto the new one was pretty challenging. You might buy a rebuilt or new pump with the pulley already installed. Here are the notes I left for this job

A tip is to use a vice or an extra helper to hold the center shaft (of the pulley remover and the installer bolt that came with the rebuilt pump) while you crank the nut to remove and install the pulley. It is hard to do it by yourself torquing/turning the center shaft tend to compress against the shaft itself.
Also when you install the pulley, there is a washer with a bearings allowing it to spin smoothly. This allows easier turns during the installation process.
There is also a rubber o-ring that seals the pressurized line connecting to the PS pump. Make sure you get this ahead of reinstallation. It is hard to determine what is the right amount of tightness to put this back on. I over tightened mine and it snapped the o-ring in two and all the new fluid leaked out. Definitely don't "crank it tight".
The fluid supply hose connecting to the new PS pump kept on developing a little leak. The reason is that rebuilt pump had a different metal key where the hose is attached. Since the hose has pretty much deformed permanently to the old pump's key. It doesn't seal well. I just cut about 3/4"? off where the hose had deformed to the old pump's attachment. Now you have all new fresh rubber to seal it well. 

DIY Alignment

If you have recently replaced your steering rack or changed the tie rods. Your toe alignment might be off. Actually, there are numerous ways to take care during dis/reassembly that will get you pretty close to the original. I won't mention them here because of differences on which part you take off and reassemble. There is no way you can eye ball it so we need to measure somethings. A quick search on the internet will provide numerous do it at home procedures to get toe alignments that can be near perfect and certainly "good enough to safely drive to alignment shop".

Here are the general steps. I was able to align several cars this way

You will basically construct a perfect rectangle around the car and use a caliper gauge to calculate the toe in angles by measuring leading and trailing edge of the front wheels.

Drive car straight into where you will be doing alignment. Make sure you leave the the steering wheel pointing straight ahead. 

2 jack stands in front of front bumper. 2 jack stands behind rear bumper. Put a straight long (8'?) 2x4 on top of each one

Find the center of the front and rear bumper. Put a mark on the center of the 2x4. Align these.

You will tie a string between the 2 2x4s and at both ends. The string needs to be close to the wheels but not touching. Make sure the distance between string and the center mark on the 2x4 is all the same.

Loosen the lock nut and turn the inner tie rod until both front and trailing edge of front wheel is same distance to the string. This makes it 0 degrees toe in. You might turn 1/2 turn or 1 turn toe in for a slight toe in angle. This reduces wandering. If you want to be absolutely sure of the angle, do some trigonometry :)

Usually need 3 people to do this. 1 to turn the tie rod, 1 to measure distance between wheel lip + string, 1 to hold the steering wheel tight (unless you have a lock of some kind) 

Contact Reel

If your steering wheel is ever not centered (I replaced my steering rack and steering wheel was off centered by 90 degrees), you can not just loosen the nut and reposition it. There is a contact reel you need to reset as well.

The contact reel is something that connects your steering wheel airbag, audio, and cruise control electrically to the wires down the steering column through a turning steering wheel. I saw a spool of thin film wires internally when I took mine out. I think these wires get pulled apart if the contact reel isn't centered properly and turns beyond the design limits.

My airbag connection got disconnected and received 2 SRS diagnostic codes (SRS0014, SRS001C) which indicated an open circuit for the stage 1 and stage 2 connection between the SRS control module and the steering wheel airbag itself. When I did the continuity test on the contact reel, this was the problem.

There are quite a few steps to diagnose this problem. You should consult VADIS. Here are notes I left on this problem.

Leaky PS Reservoir

This is a common problem on this car. Mine 01 V70XC started leaking at Thanksgiving 2009 at almost 90k miles.

Volvo has an updated reservoir and hose + clamp to repair this. See here for more info.,%20Steering%20-%20Power%20Steering%20Reservoir%20Fluid%20Leak.pdf

On one of my cars, I just took off the old crimp on clamp and put in TWO screw type clamp and my leak has stopped. You can put a clamp a a new section of the rubber hose to get some new rubber onto the reservoir hose connection.

On another car, I changed out the reservoir. Volvo techs notes these reservoirs have interior parts that may come loose and the plastic reservoir is under pressure. I noticed my old reservoir definitely have a bulge after being in the car for 132k miles. To change the reservoir, I just siphoned out the fluid, removed it, put the new reservoir in with screw type clamps and topped off the PS fluid with CHF-11S.

I had a hard time removing the old reservoir. Once I cut off the top connection to the coolant reservoir. It came out pretty easy. Here is a video on replacement


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