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Haynes’ World: repair or replace a Volvo door handle?

Volvo V70 Haynes Manual

Haynes' World is a regular feature that takes a look at what the people at Haynes are doing with their cars, bikes and other vehicles. This time, a snapped interior door pull has Nigel Donnelly reaching for his Haynes Manual. 

Volvo V70 Haynes Manual

Car: 2001 Volvo V70 2.4 SE

Owner: Nigel Donnelly

Volvos of the early noughties are pretty tough, but 280,000km have taken their toll on the driver’s door grab handle. It fell to pieces on a recent trip to the supermarket, and I reached for the Volvo V70 Haynes Manual when we got home to understand how the door trim came apart, so I could investigate.

My first thought was to buy a new handle, but while this car isn’t old enough to be classic and it’s also not young enough to be modern – it is in ‘banger valley’ and sometimes you need to do what you can to keep things moving.

Volvo V70 door handle

Car door trim removal

The Haynes manual for the Volvo V70 described how to get the door card off the car and it was simple, and very ‘Volvo’.

There are a handful of expanding plastic clips around the perimeter of the door card. Pop the centre in with a small screwdriver or a small punch and simply pop the clips out. Nothing snaps off, nothing breaks and they are completely serviceable when the door is popped back. 

The same could not be said of the handle, which is in two parts. A hefty plastic ‘chassis’ gives strength and shape, with a decorative plastic finisher that hides all the function underneath.

The finisher is gently prised up from the bottom with a trim tool, revealing two T25 torx bolts. These go through the plastic chassis of the handle and into the door frame, providing the strength for two decades of opening and shutting. These were removed, the plastic triangular trim behind the door mirror was popped off and the door card was removed and placed on the bench for a closer look.

The handle had clearly seen better days. There are loads of good modern adhesives around for sticking plastics, but the plastic turrets for the T25 fittings had failed. One turret had a spiral fracture all the way around, while the other was more a snap where the plastic thinned out towards the middle of the handle. 

Volvo door handle repair

Interior car door handle repair

Given there was plenty of surface area to play with, and the repaired areas would be invisible once back on the car, I decided to go with two different methods for reattachment of the car door handle.

I used Gorilla Glue for an adhesive bond. This is good stuff, and it oozes and expands once activated with water. Given that I didn't know if any little slivers or shards of plastic were missing from the fractured areas, this would ensure there were no weaknesses or voids in the repair.

To aid the curing process, I took the glued parts into the house overnight as the workshop was a bit chilly for a good strong bond.

Staples door handle repair

A more permanent repair

The next morning, I added a belt to the braces in the form of some metal staples (shown above). The glued repairs were strong, and after cleaning up any of the foamed glue from areas where it might prevent the handle clipping back together, I fired up the plastic stapler.

These are essentially like a two-prong soldering iron. You put thin metal ‘staples’ between the prongs which heat up and allow you to press metal reinforcements into plastic which melts on contact with the red-hot staples. Release the trigger once in place and after five or ten seconds of cooling, remove the gun from the work. You will now have a metal-reinforced glued plastic joint which should help keep the repair intact for longer than adhesive alone.

You need to clip off the ends of the staples once the plastic has cooled down. I also filed down the raised plastic around the repair to ensure a neat finish and a good fit against the door card when reinstalled.

I also introduced a few smears of hybrid sealant to the door card itself where it had started to separate from the plastic inner panel. This will be invisible once installed but helps extend the life of a trim panel which would now only be replaceable with a second-hand item from a scrapped vehicle. Finding one in the right colour and right year might take a while, so this buys some time. 

Volvo door grab handle fixed

Door card replacement

Once the metal staples were all cooled and the sealants had cured, I screwed the handle back onto the door card and then popped the whole thing back in place.

Fitting it back on was fiddly, because you need to get the window channel and locking button all in place before dropping it down. Once lined up, though, the trim clips were popped back and those T25 Torx head bolts were tightened down carefully to avoid any damage being caused by being too boisterous.

After a week or so back in use, the handle feels rock solid, and despite a bit of interior strip-out, we’ve introduced no new squeaks or rattles. Always a worry when disturbing trim which hasn’t been disturbed since the Spice Girls were in the charts.