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Volvo Engine and Service light stays on

My engine and service light stays on all while I’m driving from start to end. It is a 1993 940 with about 163,000 miles on it. My mechanic who I’ve used for about 7 yrs is a specialist for years in only Volvo’s and says it’s not repairable. I’t been over 3 weeks since I’ve been to my mechanic however, I have been driving the car only about 1 mile (about 4 times a week) just to do my errands. How long do you think I should drive this vehicle without it breaking down or do you think there is any hope for it?

We have absolutely no clue what’s wrong with your car, so I’m afraid we can’t second-guess your mechanic here. What did he or she say is wrong?

Anything can be fixed. Of course, there’s that ‘price for glory’ thing you want to worry about: how much will it cost and will that be worth it. Why a mechanic wouldn’t actually tell you what’s wrong is beyond me.

Go to Pepboys, Autozone or Advance. Let them read your engine’s error codes. You may get numbers like P1234. . There may be several. They’ll do it for free - say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to anything they’ll want to sell you because they are to auto repair what Binladen was cream cheese. Don’t let them repair anything.

Then report back here.

Isn’t this OBD 1?

You’re right. I missed the 93 year so it will be a bit more involving but OBD1 codes can be read. If it has a CEL, there’s a reason.
It could be that it may cost more than the car is worth to fix it but if that were my car, I’d want to know what’s wrong.
Some states won’t let you pass emission when a check engine light on so it could affect whether you can register that car, next time the test is due.

Edit: Here’s a link on how to read codes on older volvos: http://www.volvoclub.org.uk/faq/EngineOBDCodes.html

The only thing that I can add is that the OP’s driving habits have undoubtedly taken a toll on this car’s engine, and that this is very possibly related to the mystery problems that he/she is experiencing. With only extremely short-trip driving, this car–and any future car–will suffer in many ways.

One way to try to prevent engine problems with this type of driving style is to get the oil changed at least every 2 months. Otherwise, that oil is going to be incredibly diluted with water as a result of condensation that accumulates and never has a chance to “boil off”. In addition to that moisture not being able to lubricate the engine, this type of situation also leads to a build-up of damaging sludge in the engine, and that can be fatal to an engine. While it is probably too late to save this car, the OP can help to prolong the life of his/her next car with frequent oil changes.

But, even with frequent oil changes, the car’s exhaust system will rot-out prematurely as a result of this exclusively short-trip regimen, and the battery will have a much-shortened life. As a result, the OP should get into the habit with the next car of taking it out on the highway once a week for a run of at least 45 minutes.

My mechanic says it’s head gasket leakage. Any more comments will be appreciated.

How’s it running? Is it loosing coolant? Is it loosing oil? If its running smooth, has not lost any power, is not losing any coolant or oil, then I would doubt that its the head gasket. A blown head gasket won’t turn on the engine or service light anyway, well it might but it won’t be the head gasket that causes it but a symptom of the head gasket. But that symptom could be from something else too.

Did your mechanic pull the codes to see what the symptoms are?

If it is running good, not losing oil, coolant or power, then go ahead and drive it till it drops. The engine light is just telling you that your emissions are above allowed limits. If you live in an environmentally sensitive area, then maybe you should trade it in.

Also if it is running good and all fluid levels are up, take it out on the highway for a 30 mile run and see if it doesn’t clear up. Make sure your temp gauge comes up to the normal zone, if it doesn’t, then you might just need a new thermostat.

Totally agree with @keith.
Also, look in the coolant overflow reservoir. While the car is running, do you see bubbling? Do you see a bunch of white smoke out of the exhaust? That could be another indication of the car needing a head gasket.

If you don’t see any fluid losses, bubbles, smoke, etc, and that light does not clear up after a longer driver, drive it until the wheels fall off.It may very well be a sensor issue of sorts. Getting that done on an older car may or may not be worth it.

It would be a good idea to learn how to reset that check engine light (see link above) so you can get it through emissions when the time is right. Here in CT they emission test pre-96 cars with probes. They don’t read codes on older cars. As long as the light isn’t on and the levels are okay, you pass. Your state may be the same.
That light may very well turn back on after the test but it will have bought you more time with this car.