1994 Volvo I am Told Needs Brakes and A/C Repairs

Reader Question Hi Austin,
I have a quick question:I brought my ‘1994 Volvo 850 to an indie mechanic reccomended by a friend to have my A/C repaired. After a dye check/recharge and a new accumulator, the A/C is pretty good – not as strong as my friend’s 2005 VW Passat, but I’m not about to shell out for a new compressor.

My question is this – when he had my car on the lift, he brought me out to it and pointed out that both of my front brake hoses were worn down to the threads — I did see some wear on both ends where they connect. It wasn’t
like they weren’t seated in there and they were still flexible, but you could see a little bit of the fiber underneath the rubber in tiny little spots around where they’re clamped on.

He said this is very dangerous and recommended an immediate repair — he also said I needed sway bar links, LF and RF as I have a “clunk” that’s been there for some time, but that this was not a safety issue. He further mentioned my rear calipers were frozen and the pads were almost gone.

I scheduled an appointment to bring my car in on Monday and have the 2 front brake hoses and the sway bar links replaced — the estimate he gave me was around $370 – $400. He said I could wait on the rear brakes until “my next oil change”.

1. Is this a reasonable estimate (I hope it doesn’t go much beyond this, as he “estimated” $350 for the A/C repair and it wound up costing me $391)?

2. Is there imminent danger of brake failure with the hoses appearing as I’d described?

3. How can I be sure he is using OEM parts, as the parts price quote was exactly what the OEM parts cost — do I ask him outright if he is using OEM parts? I have no idea if the accumulator he put in was OEM as he said he’d put in an aluminum one so that it would never rust out again and leak freon

— I paid $128.50 for this part, same as what the local dealer is charging for an OEM accumulator.
Thank you for any thoughts on this,

Hey there T.P

Thanks for your email. If you see severe cracks or cuts in the brake hoses, I would change them. But rarely in my shop do we replace brake hoses. They are designed to flex and take lots of abuse…..but if there is a safety issue do it.

The sway bar links wont really hurt anything, just make noise, but that repair is probably cheap to do, so if you have the funds, go ahead and do it.

The rear calipers, I doubt they are “frozen”, if that was so you would feel a drag on the car, like driving with the emergency brake on. You would also smell a burning foul smell odor from the brake pads, you can also feel the rear wheels after driving for awhile and see if the rear wheels are MUCH hotter than the front. If they were frozen, the rear wheels would be very hot to the touch. The wheels will be hot anyway, so be careful. You probably just need a normal rear brake job…..at least as far as what I can tell.

Non oem parts are not an issue here, most independent repair shops will not use OEM parts….that is why they are independent. I see no problem in using them here.

Austin C. Davis

Reader Follow Up

Thanks very much for your personal reply, Austin – I really appreciate it. I had a 2nd opinion at my local Valvoline where I get my oil changed. They said that the right front brake hose had a crack in the rubber, but that there was metal mesh underneath and that yes, at some point it should be replaced but it was not an imminent threat. They said the left hose looked fine.

Unfortunately, my A/C cut out today while I was driving with the fan setting at “2” and I couldn’t get it to come back on until I shut the car off, waited a few minutes, then started it, cranking the fan to “4”, its highest setting. I drove the car for a good 15 miles and had cold air the whole
time, but the cabin doesn’t feel right – like it’s humid despite the cold air – so the system is not pulling the humid air out of the cabin as it should.

After a couple of posts on the brickboard website and a few responses, it seems this indie mechanic ripped me off, which really bums me out. I was hoping I’d found a decent indie shop where I could take my Volvo for necessary repairs.
I’m not sure how to handle things with this guy (he’s the shop owner). I’d set up an appointment for tomorrow to have the work done I’d described to you in the previous email, but will not bring my car back there at this point.

I don’t really want him touching my A/C again, but if it dies completely, I just got taken for almost $400, and that is a lot of money to me. Thanks again, Tracie

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