I leased my Volvo S40 last July, and was excited about my choice of cars. Considering all of the standard safety features, the S40 seemed like the safest car for a reasonable amount of money. Besides, it carried the Volvo name, which is synonymous with Quality and Dependability. The honeymoon lasted for just over a year. During that time, I had to take the car in to have the drivers side door realigned, and the steering wheel replaced (the horn did not work). These still seemed minor compared to other cars that I have purchased in the past.
However, the story gets much better. Around 15K miles, I heard a sound from the drivers side rear brake, which occurred when releasing the brakes, not when applying. I called my local Volvo dealer, and scheduled an appointment to have the brakes checked, and the 15K mile service completed. While waiting for my appointment, I mentioned my brake problem to a colleague who owns a 2000 S40, and she told me that her father had replaced all of her brake pads between 10-12K miles, and has continued to do so EVERY 10-12K miles, or else they wear out.
Needless to say, I was astounded when the Volvo service representative informed me that my rear brakes were completely gone, with the drivers side rear metal on metal. We had a long phone conversation, and he told me that they saw this on a regular basis with the S40, and that it was not a problem on the other Volvo models. He as much as admitted that there was a problem with the design of the brakes on that car, and said that the pads definitely needed to be changed every 10-15K miles. Unfortunately for many others and me, Volvo does not advertise THIS aspect of their S40 or even indicate this in their manual.
While waiting to pick up my car, I called Volvo Customer Service to discuss my concerns, and attempt to come to some resolution regarding the total replacement of the rear brakes. The representative was not helpful, and continued repeating, as if reading a script, the brake pads are made of a soft material, and they wear out. I would agree, but not at 10 or 15K miles. My 1999 BMW did not require rear brakes for the first 65K miles, so this CANT BE NORMAL.
After speaking with Volvo, I went on-line to do a little investigation of my own. Within just a few minutes, I had located countless poor reviews of the S40, many highlighting the brakes as a MAJOR problem. I also went to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov and conducted a search involving various model years of the S40. I was not surprised to find numerous complaints regarding the brakes, and having to completely change them at 15K miles. Also see the review on Epinions.com for a 2000 Volvo S40 by NatalieZ.
I returned to the Volvo dealer to retrieve my car, and asked to speak to the service manager regarding the brakes. He took the company line, explaining away the problem for this wear and tear item, tried to convince me that there is no defect in the braking system, and that it is normal to replace brakes around 15K miles. Growing up with a father who owned a repair shop, I know better, and cant have the fleece pulled over my eyes quite that easily. He also said that there was nothing that Volvo could do and that they would not take any responsibility for the problem. Finally, he assured me that he did not care if I ever returned to his dealership or purchased another Volvo.
I paid $700 for the brakes and service, and immediately put my car up for sale. I explored several options for getting out of my lease, and discovered that the Volvo dealers are offering $4000 rebates on the 2004 S40s, which means my 2002 is only worth $13,000 at best, $4,500 LESS THAN I OWE ON MY LEASE! That is $10,000 in depreciation in just over a year. I finally decided to just take the loss and get out of this car while the getting is good. I already know that the front brakes will need to be replaced in the next 5K miles (as per the dealers estimate), and who knows what else will go on this INFERIOR car. The Volvo dealer even admitted to the BMW dealer that the S40 was not one of their best models (during the appraisal of my car). Thanks again Volvo for sticking it to me!
I am now the proud owner of a second BMW 3 series, and still driving the one I bought in 1998. I just feel sorry for the SUCKER that buys that car or any other S40.
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