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1996 Volvo 850 Check Engine Light


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#1 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 07:09 PM

New poster here with a sudden problem...

I've got a 1996 850 sedan, non-turbo, with 69K on it. I was driving it home from work and decided to get a car wash at one of the touchless automatics. All was well until I came out of the car wash. I noticed the "Check Engine" light came on.

The car remains drivable. Here are my questions:

1. Could something from the car wash have caused the light to go off? I know it could have just been coincidence, but being that it went on right after the car was dried (ignition still on) I'm wondering if it had something to do with the car wash? I drove it about five miles back to my house.

2. I'm going to have to drive it on Tuesday. I'm a college student (commuter) and have two huge exams that day. I'm only 2.5 miles away from campus but alas, cannot walk due to the roadways involved.

3. Should I test it again tomorrow by taking it to church to see if the light might go off by itself? My church is only about a mile and a half away so that wouldn't be too harmful, right?

4. I've got to study for the aforementioned exams on Monday. Would it be OK if I waited until Wednesday, when I have no morning classes, to go see the mechanic? I'd only have to drive the car back and forth to school and church, with a combined total of about 6 miles there (and four starts, five if you count the one to the mechanic, he's about 7 miles from where I live).

As far as the car--I've looked around for leaks, etc and have found nothing. I'm not the most savvy person when it comes to the mechanics of cars--I know how to drive them and fill their gas tanks--and wouldn't know specifically if there is something I could check to see if there is anything serious here.

In addition to the lack of leaks, I can't notice any unusual smells. I smell the car wash soap pretty strong in the garage right now but that's it--no gas/oil smells. I've gone to this car wash before and haven't had a problem, although the soap smells exceptionally strong today so maybe it had something to do with it? Or maybe it's just some minor part that went due to age?

As I said, it does drive, and nothing feels, sounds, or looks wrong (aside from the amber light on the dash). It passed PA inspection two months ago with no problem and the engine oil has always been maintained.

Any advice on this would be much appreciated.

EDIT: I've looked around the web a bit, my gut feeling tells me it may be an O2 sensor? If it is, how much do they cost?

Edited by Pittsburgh850, 29 March 2008 - 07:10 PM.




#2 Oreo931

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 07:23 PM

Sounds like a coincidence to me. Where in PA are you located? Edit: never mind, just looked at your user name.
If you want, you can disconnect the battery for ~20 minutes and the light should go out. Then you can see if it comes back. If the car doesnt feel any different I'm sure it will be fine until you can get it to the mechanic. It could even be a loose gas cap if you didnt screw it on properly after you refilled last. It could be a million things.

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#3 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 07:49 PM

QUOTE (OrEo931 @ Mar 29 2008, 08:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Sounds like a coincidence to me. Where in PA are you located? Edit: never mind, just looked at your user name.
If you want, you can disconnect the battery for ~20 minutes and the light should go out. Then you can see if it comes back. If the car doesnt feel any different I'm sure it will be fine until you can get it to the mechanic. It could even be a loose gas cap if you didnt screw it on properly after you refilled last. It could be a million things.


I will definitely check my gas cap. Maybe it wasn't on tight and the humidity caused it to loosen up inside the car wash? I know it was freezing out the last time I filled up so maybe I didn't screw it on right--I think I did this once on my mom's minivan when I first got my license and the same thing happened.

I have no idea how to disconnect the battery...if someone could cue me in on that I'd give it a try. Any special tools I would need? (Apologies for my lack of knowledge--my major is psychology, not cars, and with a full load of psych courses I don't have the time to fit in a mechanics course...though I would if it would count for an elective).

I'll get an update out tomorrow sometime after I check that and start it up--it could just be a fluke, you never know. I had my ABS light come on in the fall and the next day it didn't come on and stayed off after that.

I'll probably aim for Wednesday unless I hear that it could be more dire than what you are suggesting, but for now I'm not panicking (about the car, that is...the psych exams are another story!)

Any more hypotheses, suggestions, theories, etc, feel free to post!

EDIT: I am indeed in Pittsburgh and live north of the city. Bobby Rahal is my closest Volvo dealer for a frame of reference, although I usually go to the Auto Mall of Wexford on Brandt School Road for my service. (The mechanic is close by and a lot of Volvo owners go there). They always get Volvo genuine parts for me and the labor is much less. I highly recommend them, they have serviced this car for years (used to be my grandpa's) and are reliable, honest, and prompt.

Edited by Pittsburgh850, 29 March 2008 - 07:52 PM.


#4 PharmD

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 08:16 PM

Greetings from nearby Morgantown, WV smile.gif I've always wondered where all of the Pittsburgh Volvo drivers were (seems there are none on this board besides yourself) but now one has turned up!

To disconnect your batter, from the front of the car looking down at your battery, you want to disconnect the LEFT hand terminal of the battery. To do this, use a 10mm wrench to loosen the bolt that holds the connection tight (be careful while doing this that you don't touch anything that could lead you to getting a quick jolt!) and then when loose enough, just pull the connector up and away from the now exposed terminal. Leave this disconnected for around 20 minutes or so, then reconnect it in the reverse order. This should reset your check engine light (as it was likely a fluke). This will also reset your trip computer information and your clock as well, so be sure to re-adjust these items afterwards. Also, your radio will now be asking for you to enter it's 4-digit security code, so be sure you have that on-hand as well. Your car might idle a bit weird or rough at first for a few minutes on the first restart, but don't be alarmed. It's just learning it's idle again.

Let us know if you need further help, and if you're ever in a sticky situation, I'm not far away tongue.gif

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#5 Keaton85

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:01 PM

Just take it to autozone and get them to read the codes. As long as shes not overheating then your pretty much all set.... A check engine light isnt like the car is going to explode! Also you sure its not the Service light? that comes on every 5K miles.

#6 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:11 PM

QUOTE (binglax09 @ Mar 29 2008, 10:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Just take it to autozone and get them to read the codes. As long as shes not overheating then your pretty much all set.... A check engine light isnt like the car is going to explode! Also you sure its not the Service light? that comes on every 5K miles.



No overheating from what I could see. Maybe the very humid car wash made the engine think it was overheating? (Just speculation).

I've got an Advance Auto Parts right up the street from me, I'll have them read it after my exams are over on Tuesday and then if I do need my battery disconnected I'm sure someone there could help me with it. The most intense thing I've ever done under my hood is add washer fluid...

Sounds like it should definitely be safe for Tuesday. Plus if I know something isn't right with it I could set up an appointment with the mechanic with specifics for 8AM Wednesday I guess.

Any more theories are welcome...I guess that's just the part of me who enjoys the science/research field coming out...

#7 flyfishing3

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:13 PM

QUOTE (ChambsT-5R @ Mar 29 2008, 04:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Greetings from nearby Morgantown, WV smile.gif I've always wondered where all of the Pittsburgh Volvo drivers were (seems there are none on this board besides yourself) but now one has turned up!



HELLO.


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#8 KlausC

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:23 PM

Don't panick! Most of the time, the check engine light (CEL) gets set by something that is smog related and will not effect driveability. These short trips you make are not good for your car, I hope you get on the highway once a week and let the engine get nice and hot.

When you disconnect the battery, remove the ground wire, not the red one. Safer that way. The battery is directly behind the driver's side (left) headlight. A small 10 mm wrench is needed. BUT, find your radio code before you do that. Otherwise, you will not have a functioning radio. It should be in your glovebox somewhere.

Study hard, don't worry about the car, drive it where ever you need to go, and get good grades. Your classes are much more important than your car right now. Besides, a 2 1/2 mile walk home from school is no big deal smile.gif


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#9 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:32 PM

QUOTE (KlausC @ Mar 29 2008, 10:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Don't panick! Most of the time, the check engine light (CEL) gets set by something that is smog related and will not effect driveability. These short trips you make are not good for your car, I hope you get on the highway once a week and let the engine get nice and hot.


That could be the problem right there...I usually drive distances less than ten miles. Haven't had it on the freeway since the fall, and even then I only went about 12 miles. The last time it went a distance of greater than 20 miles on a freeway would have been 2004.

Once I get the car looked at, it may be time for a ROADTRIP!!!

Also, I drove less than 5000 miles last year, which in PA means you are exempt from the emissions tests. If it's not a fluke in the system, I think we've just found the culprit. I'll have a rendezvous with my mechanic on Wednesday to get this ironed out...I don't want to be a polluter!!!

And yes, I'll be studying hard...four chapters of cognitive psychology and four chapter of personality theories is no walk in the park!

EDIT: I don't think a frigid PA winter helped me with those short distances either....those from around the area know what I'm talking about! And anyone familiar with PennDOT can probably sense a wheel alignment in my near future since spring is pothole season in Pittsburgh!!!

Edited by Pittsburgh850, 29 March 2008 - 09:34 PM.


#10 flyfishing3

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:37 PM

i live east of monroeville so we can meet up some time.

we are trying to get a local VCOA chapter going. there's about a dozen volvo people in the area. not really on here though.


i can't stand rahal. i use star volvo in greensburg. way cheaper and i think better.

there's a real hardcore volvo indy place in the south hills heading towards carneige. can't think of the name off the top of my head.

hit me up.

i'll be out of town most of next week but i have a code reader if you need it sometime.

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#11 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 10:03 PM

QUOTE (flyfishing3 @ Mar 29 2008, 10:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
i live east of monroeville so we can meet up some time.

we are trying to get a local VCOA chapter going. there's about a dozen volvo people in the area. not really on here though.


i can't stand rahal. i use star volvo in greensburg. way cheaper and i think better.

there's a real hardcore volvo indy place in the south hills heading towards carneige. can't think of the name off the top of my head.

hit me up.

i'll be out of town most of next week but i have a code reader if you need it sometime.

mike


I'm in Hampton Township. Keep me posted about VCOA!

I agree about Rahal...way over-priced. Plus they don't always get the job done. When the car was still my grandpa's, he took it there to get the A/C fixed a few times. Every time it was good for maybe a few months. I don't even have the A/C working in it right now...I just pop the windows open in the summer.

The car was bought at P&W back when they sold Volvos. I've got a friend with this old BMW L6 and he said the service there has fallen off a cliff lately.

If you find the name of the Volvo guy in the South Hills let me know. I finally have my 70K check coming up probably in late May, perhaps I'll give him a try, especially since I'm considering going to Cincy with a few friends around then for a few days and would want it tuned up for the trip. (I insist on driving--no way we get into my buddy's Eclipse on a long trip and I don't trust any Dodge Stratus, which is what the other guy has).

Just to throw it out to everyone--how much do you think an O2 sensor or something minor in the emissions system would run me?

#12 flyfishing3

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 01:06 AM

www.fcpgroton.com

pretty much best prices give or take for the sensors.

got the link for ya.

fcp groton.

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#13 Pittsburgh850

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:02 AM

I had the guy at Advance read my code today and he said it's an O2 sensor. The mechanic is going to fix it as soon as he has an opening, for now I'm just going to drive it to campus so I don't use it excessively--I can always borrow my mom's Toyota at night.

After talking with my grandfather, the original owner of the car, I found out that the O2 sensors in the 850 are the originals. This surprises me, I didn't think they were supposed to last for 12 years!!!

QUOTE (flyfishing3 @ Mar 30 2008, 01:06 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
i went to NA a million years agon.


Go Tigers!!! My mechanic is actually in Wexford on Brandt School Road.

#14 Keaton85

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:06 AM

I'm very surprised it failed with only 70K miles on it, thats the last part i would suspect with those miles.

Anyway, just have him replace the front sensor, it should take about 30 minutes TOPS and dont bother going OEM. os about an 80 dollar part and 30-40 bucks for labor and your good to go.

#15 KlausC

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:35 AM

QUOTE (Pittsburgh850 @ Apr 1 2008, 09:02 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I had the guy at Advance read my code today and he said it's an O2 sensor. The mechanic is going to fix it as soon as he has an opening, for now I'm just going to drive it to campus so I don't use it excessively--I can always borrow my mom's Toyota at night.

After talking with my grandfather, the original owner of the car, I found out that the O2 sensors in the 850 are the originals. This surprises me, I didn't think they were supposed to last for 12 years!!!



Go Tigers!!! My mechanic is actually in Wexford on Brandt School Road.
Because you only go very short trips, try driving to school in 1st gear. That might even heat up the O2 sensor enough to clean it off! My daughter's high school was only 2 miles from here and I told her to drive in L all the way, just to get the engine warmed up before she turned it off. The speed limit is only 30mph, so no problem. Except that when lifting off the gas, the car really slowed down smile.gif



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#16 Oreo931

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:58 AM

You could try resetting the code and seeing if it comes back. Sometimes a car will have a hiccup and throw a code over nothing.

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#17 PharmD

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:55 AM

QUOTE (flyfishing3 @ Mar 29 2008, 05:13 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
HELLO.


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