- MOT - bit of a hassle this time due to an 'SRS-Airbag Service Urgent' warning message on the dash in need of fixing.
- Top Engine Mount
Had a bit of hassle getting MOT this time. Car passed apart from one item - the MIL light was on with the accompanying message "SRS-AIRBAG SERVICE URGENT". Now to be honest, this message has been on ever since I bought the car; one of those things I kept meaning to get around to investigating, but didn't. The car passed M.O.T. last year with this warning message but this year (well from January 2012), new ruling means that it is an MOT failure to have any warning lights present on the instrument panel. So I had to get it sorted before I could get my MOT.
The garage doing the MOT did not have the equipment to reads Volvo fault codes, so could not diagnose why the light was on. So I arranged to go to an independent garage that I have used before and highly recommend, PJ Hodge and Sons. They said they had about 80/90% capability to read/correct Volvo software, the problem lying with Volvo themselves seemingly being reluctant to fully release all information to third party code reading equipment. I guess you can buy a proper Volvo system but at a very high price. Most third party equipment will read codes, but will not be able to reset all codes.
PJ Hodge diagnosed a fault in the instrument cluster. Not very specific, but definitely a fault somewhere in the cluster which was causing a fault to show up in the SRS circuit. Until this fault was found and fixed, the code would not be able to be cleared; and for all I knew, might mean in the event of an accident, my airbags wouldn't deploy. PJ Hodge could only suggest that the cluster was replaced. From Volvo, they were priced at approximately 580 GBP + VAT + cost of fitting and reprogramming! That's about 700 GBP parts only! This was obviously not going to be an option on a car this age.
So I started doing a bit of research and started learning that this is apparently a common fault with these Volvos - failing instrument clusters causing errors, either due to heat or vibration or a combination of both. A simple fault, but expensive when the only option if to replace the whole unit. During my research, I discovered that I could not simply find a second hand one as they were very specific to each vehicle (plus also risky as they might be old and on the verge of breaking too).
I then found numerous reports in the forums about companies that specialise in repairing faulty cluster units. There are companies that do nothing BUT repair cluster units, so it was obvious that this really was a very common fault. I contacted a company called Cartronix, based in Portsmouth. Speaking to the guy there, he confirmed that it was a very common fault and that they routinely repaired 10s of these cluster units per week. He was very confident that they would fix mine.
There is a Job Form on their site that you simply fill in and submit, which sends them the job request and gives you a form to print out to put in with your cluster unit, plus an address label.
So I had to remove my cluster, package it up and send it off to them. They offer a very fast turn around, so I posted it on a Monday, it arrived with Cartronix on the Tuesday, they rang me by Tuesday lunch time to say it was done and they were putting it back in the post that day for me to receive the following day. Cost was 132 GBP including the shipping back to me. There was also the cost of sending it to them, which I paid about 25 GBP for.
Removing the cluster was such an easy job (for once):
1. Use steering wheel adjustment to move it out and down as much as possible.
2. The cluster plastic surround just simply clips into place, so you just need to gently pull it out towards you, starting with the bottom half. It is attached by a strip of trim to the upper half of the steering column cowl. This cowl is also only clipped on, so gently pull it upward off the column, then the pair are free.
3. The cluster is held in place with 4 Torx screws, which are easily accessible. Remove these (taking care not to lose them inside the dash) and the the cluster is free.
4. There is then just a single electrical connector in the rear of the cluster to disconnect.
5. Now the cluster is free.
NOTE: With the cluster out, the central locking did not work, so I could only lock the car by manually pushing all the buttons down. But this meant I could not lock the boot.
NOTE: Whilst the cluster was out, even with no keys in the ignition, the climate control seemed to go on and off on its own, so I had to turn the fan dial down to switch that off.
In retrospect, it would probably have been best to just disconnect the battery before starting.
Once the cluster came back, refitting was simple and the car started and behaved normally. The warning light was still on, but that was expected. Fixing the cluster just fixed the fault, the error code would now need resetting. So I went back to PJ Hodge for this.
But when PJ Hodge tried to clear the code, it would not clear. Their opinion was that the cluster must still have a fault. So I contacted Cartronix to ask them and their response was that the cluster was definitely fixed (again, they were super confident, doing so many of these per week) but that it would need a proper Volvo diagnostic system to be able to clear the codes. In their experience, they had not found any third party system capable of clearing the SRS fault codes.
So I booked an appointment at Bells Volvo in Northampton, squirmed at the quoted price of about 94 GBP, but knew I didn't have a choice. When I arrived, they only took about 20 mins to do it, which is GOOD, as I knew it was simply a case of inserting a plug and pressing a few buttons! The code cleared and kindly, they only charged me 28 GBP for the work.
Finally, I was able to get the MOT, 3 weeks later.
Total cost approx. 350 GBP. Painful for just turning a light off, but it could have been worse. I especially feel for the people that are a bit naive to these things and may have just gone with the first suggestion of replacing the cluster with a brand new one from Volvo. Then the cost could have easily be nearer 1000 GBP!
Top Engine Mount
I had a sneaking suspicion that an engine mount was worn out for some time. Just felt like the engine was moving about, causing poor driveability at low speed when on and off the throttle and also at higher speeds, going round corners etc, there just felt like there was something tugging the car about a bit.
Found that the top engine mount was badly worn, the rubber looked like it was completely torn, so whilst I was in Bells, I bought a new top mount (59 GBP) and decided to change it when I got home, as it was an easy quick job to do.
Changing this mount is so straight forward. Simple steps:
1. Remove plastic engine cover (pull vertically up).
2. Remove strut brace. Note - undo the 4 bolts holding the brackets to the turrents, not the single bolts holding the brace to the brackets. Also undo the big nut and bolt passing through the engine mount.
3. Whilst still attached to the engine, remove the lifting eye first, then remove all other bolts. There is a single bolt holding a hose bracket to the mount, then 4 bolts holding the mount to the engine.
This is how badly worn the old mount was:
4. Position new mount and attach to engine with 4 bolts, taking care to use correct torques.
5. Attach lifting eye and hose clip.
6. Replace strut brace - 4 bolts to turrets and then bit nut and bolts through mount.
7. Replace engine cover.
Simple as that - about 20 mins.
Driveability has notably improved, much smoother now, no jerking about. Great reward for minimal work. Starting to feel like a new car again.