‘Hello? Is that Mr Donnelly? It’s about the MOT on your Volvo…’

Volvos are above all, tough. Our one had[tl:gallery size=120×120] clung on for a long time but an MOT failure sheet suggested the time had come for some TLC.
When the car was dropped off, our MOT man was pretty pleased to see the big Swede. ‘These always pass’ he said as he draped his plastic cover over the driver’s seat.
That comment made the failure sheet harder to swallow. But it could have been worse. I suspected the nearside front tyre might have been a bit suspect as it had a small cut in the sidewall. Not a fail, but the offside one looked like someone had taken a bite out of it, so that needed replacing. No point replacing one, so that was two tyres fitted. It was £75 fitted from our local tyre chap so that was sorted.
The brakes were another matter. Since I picked up the car, it had a very limp handbrake. The Volvo has quite a complex handbrake arrangement. On most cars, the handbrake applies the normal service brake mechanically. Not so on the Volvo.
It has a completely separate set of drums and shoes for the parking brake and these were in a bad way. It gets better. The previous owners have avoided replacing the worn shoes by adjusting the handbrake cables. These were now stretched and useless. So new ones of those too.
What I should have guessed is that anyone who tries to wind the cables in rather than fit new brake shoes probably hasn’t maintained the rest of the braking system regardless of cost either. The test showed virtually no handbrake function on the nearside, but both front and rear discs and pads were worn to excess too.
The total bill for a complete braking system overhaul and an MOT was £340. With around £50 of that going to the MOT itself, the £290 for parts and labour is not excessive bearing in mind the amount of work required. It has made the 850 seem quite expensive for a budget towcar.
Still, with a pair of new bowlers on the front and a rebuilt braking system, I’m now hopeful the big bills are at an end and we can get on with some towing.

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