Would you commute death sentence on my 1998 volvo v70 AWD XC?

I’ll save time by starting with my questions.

  1. Would you recommend installing an engine in my beloved car or ditching it for another cheap used car?
  2. If yes, is there a significant difference between a used engine and a rebuilt one, and which would you recommend?

Here’s the scoop:

I took my 1998 Volvo V70 AWD XC of 6.5 years & 178k miles to a muffler chain store for an estimate on fixing a “few things” prior to it’s upcoming emissions test. By a " few" I mean brake pads, very noisy exhaust and change fluids and filters.

Incidentally, the day before the low coolant light lit up and would not go off even after I topped off the coolant level that was a little above the minimum mark. If you haven’t already guessed the radiator has had a leak for about 3 months and needed to be replaced according to my very costly local “foreign & high performance” car mechanic. Until I could afford to do that I was regularly topping the coolant without necessarily waiting for the low coolant signal.

Anyway, THAT day, the fluid looked dirtier and yuckier than it had been in the past 3 months. ( not knowing much about cars, I thought to myself “maybe the radiator needs to be flushed”).

To my HORROR, the mechanic came out after 15 to 20 minutes with GRAVE and DEVASTATING news; I should think about getting a new car soon. REAL REAL SOON, like in the next 1 to 2 weeks. The head gasket was broken and engine oil was now in the coolant system.

As an alternative, he recommended installing a used engine. at an estimated price of $2700. The other relatively minor issues (exhaust and brakes)would obviously be addressed after that. He even offered me $500 to buy the car so that he could put an engine in it for himself.
At a local mechanic shop manned by hard working Brazilians I got an estimate of $1500-2000 for installing a used engine.

Thanks ever so much.
Fairfield CT

PS. pls refrain from the “it doesn’t pay to be cheap lecture”…(your chuckles and snorts are ringing in my ears)…I GOT IT, lesson learned.

Get another opinion, and not from a chair store mechanic. A mechanic who tells you your car needs a new engine, and then offers to buy it, is possibly exaggerating the car’s condition.

There are tests to confirm a leaking head gasket. Have they been done, or was the diagnosis based purely on the oil in the coolant?

Personally, I wouldn’t put another engine in a Volvo with 178K miles on it, but if you decide to spend the money, I suggest a rebuilt engine. A good rebuilt engine will come with some sort of warranty. A used engine is a gamble.

Maybe they can fix your engine. A leaking head gasket is not necessarily a death sentence.

Very tough call…Swapping engines and having everything work properly, including passing an emissions test, is unlikely. However, if the Brazilians will GUARANTEE a passing emissions test, that would be tempting. Otherwise take the $500 if you can still get it…

There is so much that can and will go wrong with your Volvo, I’d suggest moving onto another car. I had a '98 V70XC for several years and selling it was the best decision I’ve made in years.

If you have to keep it, I’d get more opinions on the current motor. Replacing a head gasket isn’t that hard of a job. Otherwise I don’t see how the motor has been harmed much to this point. If you said the car had overheated recently that might result in more damage, but you didn’t say that. Perhaps those Brazilians can change the cylinder head gasket, put in a good radiator, fix the brakes, and the exhaust for about $1,500.