November 27

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

Volvo

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience is voted many, many times by their customers and we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a Volvo XC90 2007 vintage that had a brake problem. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah, so the owner of the vehicle brought the SUV to us with issues with the parking brake. He had some ongoing concerns with the parking brake, had another shop do a number of extensive repairs on it, brought it back several times. They weren't really able to fix it, I guess, and brought it to us. It was the parking brake that wasn't working. I believe there's probably some noises going on in the back brakes as well when driving. He'd given up on the other shop and brought it to us to have a look at.  

Mark: So what kind of testing and diagnosis do you do in the case like this? 

Bernie: Well, it's really a matter of inspection, driving it and then testing the operation of the parking brake and taking it apart. This is a conventional parking brake. It's basically a foot pedal that you would push with your left foot which runs through cables and pulls brake shoes. It's rear disc brakes, but it has a separate drum. We'll look at some pictures in a bit. So it's got separate brake shoes that actuate through a cable system, fully mechanical.

Mark: And what did you find was wrong? 

Bernie: Well, we found a lot of stuff. I mean, on the left rear side the brakes had basically come apart. Actually, I got to get into pictures because this is one of those things where picture shows a thousand words because this was pretty cool, pretty cool in a sort of sad way.

Okay, so there's our Volvo 2007. What are we talking now? 2023. It's 16 years old and still looks like pretty near a new car. So really nice shape. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

These are some of the bits and pieces that we took out. I don't have a picture of the new parts, but this part here where I'm moving my mouse pointer hooked around one of the brake shoes. These parts have been grinding around inside this drum for a very long time. Well, at least long enough to cause a severe amount of damage. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

This was the worst side, and sorry the picture's not quite sharp, but this is the backing plate. This is where the brake disc sits, and removed. There should be brake shoes here. You'll see pictures of that in a minute, but all these parts here, you can see it's just ground down and gouged. I'll show some good stuff in a minute, just have a look at the ugly stuff first.

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

You can see a lot of bent metal and twisted things. This was the worst side. The other side had some damage, but not as bad as this. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

Just for comparison sake, this is what a new backing plate looks like. So we have to replace both backing plates. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

So again, I'll just do a little quick comparison here. Good, bad, good. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs
2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs
2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

These are the backing plates taken off the vehicle lying on the ground. I think this one's upside down, but again, as you can see, this one's pretty mangled up from everything that had come apart inside the drum.

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

Mark: That's basically broken off parts grinding around in there as the wheels are turning. 

Bernie: Exactly. Precisely. You know, I could probably take more pictures of ugly stuff, but I actually didn't. We're actually looking at the backside of this backing plate and it looks ugly. Is it the backside? No, this might be the front side. It is the front side. Okay. Yeah. Anyways, so this is the side that was okay still, but, you know, there had been some damage on this as well, but not to the severity of this particular side. 

There's a view of the brake shoes in and in good shape. That's sort of what things are supposed to look like. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

And we got another view here of good stuff. Yeah. So this is a star wheel adjuster. So when doing the parking brake, the first adjustment procedures is you adjust this wheel here. So these parking brake shoes are just lightly touching the drum and then you back it off a tiny bit. And then on the other side, the cable pulls the brake shoes tight. So, you know, if this was a hydraulic brake system, there'd be a wheel cylinder over here, which is a hydraulic cylinder that pushes the brake shoes, but it's not the way parking brakes work. 

2007 Volvo XC90, Parking Brake Repairs

Now, one thing I don't have pictures of here is the parking brake cables, which were also badly damaged. We don't know why. I think through whatever this other shop did to adjust them, did something to damage the cables because they're not even inside here. But they're somehow damaged. So we had to replace those as well. Those are not part of our picture show, but I think I've got probably all the ugliness and goodness we need to show. 

Mark: So do you think this was taking place before the repairs and then it was just, they didn't repair it right and so it continued on?

Bernie: I can only speculate that they didn't repair it properly and then tried to fix it by over adjusting, the customer probably came back saying, Hey the pedal did kind of goes down. So instead of taking everything apart and maybe looking at it as closely as they should have, I'm only speculating, but, you know, they adjusted the cables instead and ended up just adjusting it too tight to the point where it just ground down and wore out. That'd be all I can think of unless something wasn't put together properly, which could be the case on the left side and something fell apart. Probably didn't go as thoroughly as they should have to inspect it because you know, the fact that you can see why all those other parts got damaged because something fell apart, but why the cables got damaged. I don't really know. It seems really odd. 

Mark: What's the list of parts that you ended up replacing? 

Bernie: Parking brake shoes, all the hardware, all the adjusters, the actuator pullers, the cables. We even took the pedal assembly out because we weren't sure if there's some damage to the pedal that had caused this thing originally. And inspected that, made sure it was the right part number because they may have replaced that, we're not sure. But anyways, we verified that it was in fact the correct pedal assembly for the car.

Volvo apparently has made some modifications to the original parking brake system. And it had the modified parts in it. So whether the procedures that they did were correct or not, I'm not sure. But apparently the original system, I don't have it in front of me to see it, but my tech told me that it didn't have the star wheel adjustment in the original system. So there was obviously issues from Volvo the way it worked in the past, although we've worked on quite a few of these cars and never seen one. 

Mark: Was there any damage to the regular, to the disc brakes from all this?

Bernie: Oh yeah, yeah. So the discs were destroyed and we ended up changing the pads and rotors as well. So the outside of the disc wasn't damaged, but the inside was completely destroyed. You know, because it's a brake drum and all those parts were grinding around inside there, so completely destroyed that.

I didn't take a picture of that. And we did replace the brake pads as well. And I'm not certain as to why, but there may have been some damage or wear, or maybe they were down to the point where it just seemed to make sense to change them.

We offer a two year warranty on almost all the work we do. So we do everything right. It's like, if anything happens to this vehicle, parking brake, you know, hydraulic brake, it's pretty well covered. Except we didn't replace the calipers because there was nothing wrong with them. But we do service and clean them and lube everything. 

Mark: So how did it all work after the repairs? 

Bernie: Yeah, it was good. No clanging noises and the parking brake is nice and firm and yeah, it's good. 

Mark: And most new cars now have electric parking brakes. I know my EV does. Are these better than the traditional cable systems in your opinion? 

Bernie: I think so. You know, it depends on the car though I was just reflecting on this thought a little bit and you know, it's simpler in a way because most of them will actually have an electric actuator on the brake caliper. So it's kind of all contained in one spot. You don't have a bunch of cables running around the car. You just push a button, sends an electrical signal. The motor just goes and locks it up. 

It makes for a little more work when you're changing the brake pads. Cause you have to spin that parking brake actuator back. So that adds a little bit of work to a brake job, but not a lot. And less mechanical pieces. It makes it simpler. 

I will say like Range Rovers, I don't know if brand new ones do this, but for years, a lot of Range Rovers would have a parking brake, they'd have the brake shoes just like what we showed you in these pictures, actuated by cables. But it was an electric parking brake. And the actual actuator was some big motor box that would pull the cables and it was located up above the differential. And it's a really expensive thing to fix. And we've done those a few times. 

So most of the time they're good, some manufacturer does something silly, but yeah, I think electric parking brakes are pretty good. I think people that like to do drifts and spins don't like them so much because they like the kind of lever ones. Most people aren't driving like that, but some people, you know, like to have that ability to swing. The one thing I guess about the electric parking brake, it takes away your ability to micro adjust how much brake is being applied.

I have a couple of vehicles that have electric parking brakes and you basically push the button and they're locked on. But you know, the fact that they're locked on is good because that's what it's supposed to be. It's a safety parking brake. If you want to do drifting, you're going to have to get the right car and get the lever brake. I think some cars still come with them, but not many. 

Mark: Yeah. How are 2007 XC90s for reliability?

Bernie: I'd say they're pretty good. We work on a lot of Volvo's and when I see a car that's now 16 years old, that's, you know, really generally working pretty well, they're good. I think Volvo's are a little more finicky. They're fancier. They're more expensive to fix than your sort of average. lower end car, but they're good, well built car and they seem to be holding up pretty well. 

Volvo's had a reputation for building good cars for a long time. And when I think of some of the old Volvos, like the 240 series, which were pretty reliable, they actually looked like pieces of crap compared to modern standards. But you know, they've always been reliable and decent and generally worth fixing.

Mark: If you're looking to service your Volvo in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online on their website pawlikautomotive.com. Or you can call them at (604) 327-7112. You can book your appointment on the phone, believe that or not. And if they're busy, they will call you back, find out what's going on. Get ready for your appointment. 25 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver is voted by their customers. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for the fancy ending there. Looked really good. And thank you for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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