2015 Volvo S60: Do Canadians (and Minnesotans) Really Appreciate This?
July 9, 2015
It was obvious as soon as I sat behind the wheel. Our 2015 Volvo S60 was anxious to tell me that it needed windshield washer fluid. Its prominent warning message even included a helpful underhood diagram to show me where to put it.
So I drove to my local filling station and bought a gallon jug of the stuff. At this point, I started having flashbacks.
The voices of Canadian product quality engineers began to ricochet around my skull. They dated back to the mid-1990s when I was working as a vehicle development engineer for the Toyota Technical Center.
It was early February in a tiny frozen town north of Lake Superior, and I was there for a winter suitability test. It was a new 4-Runner, I think. A crew of Toyota Canada product engineers was there too, of course. One of their gripes concerned windshield washer fluid.
The fluid itself was fine, and they approved of the nozzles and the spray pattern. It was the size of the 4-Runner's washer fluid storage bottle that was the problem. It wasn't big enough. It hadn't been big enough in the last model and still wasn't big enough in this new-generation prototype we were testing. They weren't impressed.
Apparently they had a stack of customer complaints about the issue. Washer fluid was, and still is, sold in 3.785-liter bottles (one U.S. gallon) up there, but the 4-Runner held something like three liters. Their customers didn't much like having a partial bottle of the stuff rolling around in their trunk, but they didn't want to chuck perfectly good washer fluid into a gas station trash can either. They wanted to dump in the whole enchilada, throw away an empty bottle and get on with their day.
This seemed reasonable to me. And I assumed that Alaskans, Minnesotans, North Dakotans and anyone else that burned through a lot of washer fluid in the winter months might take a similar position.
But I was the suspension-and-tire guy from Arizona, so I just watched and grinned from a few yards away as a Toyota Canada engineer opened a fresh bottle, poured it in and let the excess run out everywhere to make his point to the bemused, note-taking engineers that had flown in from Japan.
All of this replayed in my head as I stood in front of the Volvo with my new purchase. The gas station clerk had given me a handy paper funnel, which was a help in the early going when the jug was heaviest. I had no interest in making a mess.
Sweden isn't part of NAFTA, of course, so it seemed unlikely they'd sell washer fluid in 3.785-liter/1 gallon bottles over there. But what size are the jugs they sell in Gothenburg? Would I be able to pour in the whole thing?
Gripping stuff, I know.
Near the end, the blue fluid started to foam up like an inexpertly-poured draft beer. I didn't think I'd make it. But with a couple of pauses to let the foam die back, it all went in without spilling a drop.
I can only assume the S60's washer fluid capacity is 4 liters. Would this factoid have appeared in the owner's manual? Maybe, but where's the suspense in that?
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,886 miles