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I bought a used 2000 volvo s80 with around 93k on the odometer.

I was driving the other day and I felt sort of sick. At first I thought it was some dirt on the floor that got into the air. But upon driving again about 30 minutes later it was apparent something was definitely wrong, I was feeling woozy and weak the rest of the night.

The car has a bunch of lights on, but a mechanic says that it was mainly just the catalytic converter.. and that was only an "environmental problem"

So at this point I'm thinking of just junking it, since I don't think it's worth getting CO poisoning over. What would you suggest? Thanks.

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    My first thought is getting a different mechanic. – mikes Apr 7 '15 at 10:37
  • The problem should not be so difficult to resolve... smells like a " running-too-rich" problem. If possible, source a code scanner or have someone scan your vehicle to get the exact codes that your engine computer is seeing. If you can post up what your car is seeing, potential causes/remedies should be easier to find. I also second the suggestion to go to a different mechanic. – Zaid Apr 7 '15 at 10:42
  • As an addendum, when I waited a day and tried the car again, as soon as I opened the car door I was met with that thick "exhaust smell" The car itself ran fine, but.. not sure if I want to take the risk. As far as the codes, one of them is a catalytic converter leak supposedly. But I have a feeling that really means "exhaust leak." – Joe Curcuru Apr 8 '15 at 0:56
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    The engine light is indeed lighting up due to emissions related issues. However, the engine light would NOT light up if there is leaking exhaust, because the car just doesn't have any sensors to detect that. The mechanic is technically correct, but you need to check for exhaust leak independent of whether the engine light is on or not, since they may be completely unrelated. – Nelson Apr 8 '15 at 1:00
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    Have you even looked at the exhaust yourself? I've found rust and corrosion (most usual cause of leaks in exhaust systems) are very self evident. Put the car up on jack stands and take a look. You may be surprised. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 8 '15 at 11:23
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Exhausts inside the car is not healthy at all. As someone said, perhaps another mechanic should be considered.

As to the problem, it sounds like the exhaust pipe is leaking before the catalytic converter. The engine light would likely light up because of this, since the Lambda (Oxygen) sensor in the converter would be receiving less exhausts (and more oxygen) than expected. As Nelson says in the comments, a leak after the catalytic converter would not be detected.

I don't know if that's the case on an S80, but many cars have a "flexible hose" kind of construct between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust pipe which can leak without visible holes. enter image description here

To ascertain where the leak is, look under the hood, around the front wheels and under the car when running. Try plugging the rear end of the exhaust and see if a pressure is built up, if the exhaust system is okay it should.

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