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'01 Volvo S40 - Check engine light and A/C issues

my “check engine” light went on this morning (likely no biggie), but a/c is also not blowing cold, so I took it in and they wanted $265 just to "diagnose the issue. I’ve had a Volvo S40 for several years now and the dealership has told me MANY times that unless the check engine light is blinking, it’s not something that needs immediate attention, but more likely the car is in need of it’s scheduled maintenance (which is likely in this case, as it is time for it to be serviced).

However the place I stopped at on my way home last night - where I’ve taken my car several times for an oil change and other “can you please take a look for me” questions - wanted $99 to run just the “diagnostics” on the chk engine light. They’ve never charged me for that before. The guy said “It’s all computers now and it takes about an hour”. I said back to him “yeah, and all you do is hook it up to the diagnostics machine and walk away!”

So what I need to know is:

1. Is charging that kind of money for a “check to see what’s wrong” issue/question becoming the norm or was he trying to screw me around?

2. Is another $165 just to find out what’s wrong with the A/C a norm cost? That seems extraordinarily high to me. The 165 wouldn’t cover anything except to find out what was wrong - they would fix nothing, so that seems a bit extreme to me, however I’ve never had issues with the A/C in the past, so I don’t want to make choices for this issue without some additional input. The A/C blows and doesn’t make any evil noises or anything, but it just isn’t blowing cool air…kind of sounds like it just needs freon or something??? Again, I know next to nothing about the air conditioning systems in my car.

If there’s anyone out there who knows anything about Volvo’s, I’d love your opinion.

Also, if anyone knows a TRUSTWORTHY place to take a Volvo in or around Woodbury, MN, please let me know. I recently moved from Seattle, WA, so I have no one to ask for advice.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

To diagnose can mean different things. The simpliest and least expensive might be having the code read. I suggest you start there. Reading the code may be free at some auto part stores. The results of reading the code(s) should be a code like [P1234] Get that code and bring it back here. It may say a lot or it may be totally unrelated and minor. But the cost will be low.

Don’t make any assumption about what needs to be done just from the code. The code is just an indication of what triggered the light, it may be a bad sensor or a bad part or adjustment causing the sensor to report a problem.

For you specific questions:

  1. No way for us to know. We don’t know what he was planing to do.

  2. That depends of what it was to include. That may have been a high extimate, knowing that it might take five minutes or a few hours to find the problem. If your mechanic knew what the problem was then a final cost could be given, but since they don’t know they have to guess. Some may charge a fixed fee, others may change a little at a time unitl they get to the problem.

    I would make one suggestion. Don’t look for a Volvo expert, look for an A/C expert. A/C is about the same in all cars. Fine a real A/C shop (in the north they are usually Radiator shops, in the south they are A/C shops that do Radiators in the winter.

Hooking up to a scanner or code reader is just the first step in diagnosing a problem. The computer scan will indicate a place, or places, to look for trouble, but then there is more testing of individual components to determine where the real problem is. The machine doesn’t tell the mechanic which component is bad, it just gives him or her some direction.

AC problems are something only automotive AC experts can diagnose and repair, and it takes time to hook up the gauges and equipment just to check the system. This is totally separate from the Check Engine Light diagnostic, so, yes, they charge for it.

Your car is old enough to have lost come refrigerant. A small leak is common in an aging AC system, and adding refrigerant is a temporary fix if the leak isn’t repaired. Unfortunately, the only way to reliably find a leak is to add dye to the system, recharge it, and run it. The leak may be detectable right away, or it may take some time. If it takes time you may have to make a return trip to the AC shop. Annoying, yes, but often necessary.

This is good information - thank you!

This is also very helpful…the car’s fan also runs for a minute or two after I turn it off - loudly - this is new behavior, so I don’t know if it’s related or not. I guess I just need to get it checked out.

Thanks again for your help!

I have the same car.

Three points:

  1. Check engine light will set, and stay on for many issues. I have a catalytic converter issue I just posted. There might be an air conditioning code, perhaps “low charge.” As noted, some parts stores will read the code for you for free.
  2. The Check Engine light will flash under mis-fire. I had that last week and we needed new spark plugs.
  3. There is a maintenance light that goes on after about 6 or 7,000 miles. That is a reminder that service is due. It is reset after service is done. (to reset, just push and hold the trip reset button while turning on the key. It takes a few seconds to reset.) The maintenance light is NOT the check engine. These are different.

JoanneMN, I’ve owned 2 Volvos and your best move is to sell the car. Anytime anything goes wrong with a Volvo it is 2 to 3 times more money to get the problem fixed than if you had a Ford, GM, Toyota, or Honda car. People seem to see Volvo and figure they can charge a fortune for repairs. The fact that Volvo parts are ridculously expensive doesn’t help either. An '01 S40 is no safer than just about any other car on the road from '02 newer. The costs of repairs is not worth the Volvo safety hype.