You're causing part of the problem by ignoring the Check Engine light. The Engine Computer detected a problem that could have been very minor at first, set a diagnostic fault code, and turned the Check Engine light on to tell you. There is always a long list of conditions that must be met to set a fault code, and one of them is that certain other codes can't already be set. The computer compares many sensor readings and operating conditions to determine when there's a problem. When a problem is detected and a fault code is set, many of the other tests that use that criteria as a reference will be suspended. If another problem develops that could be serious, it won't be detected and you'll never know about it until something happens.
Also, your mechanic will have no way of knowing of some of these additional problems. Once he diagnoses and repairs what is known to be needed, the rest of the tests will resume and additional problems will be detected for the first time. Those tests often don't run right away. They can take miles or days after leaving the repair shop. You're incorrectly convinced the mechanic didn't do a proper job, but he had no way of knowing another problem existed unless there was some other symptom.
Driving for years with the brake light on is also a very bad idea. That can land you in a courtroom very easily when the other guy ran the red light and caused a crash. Any lawyer or insurance investigator knows to look for ignored warning lights, altered ride height, non-standard wheels and tires, and any other modifications they can use to show a jury that you were partly at fault for the crash because you were less able to avoid it.
The anti-lock brake warning light means that computer detected a problem and set its own diagnostic fault code, and the computer turned the system off. That is simply an add-on feature that has been disabled leaving you with the same standard brake system all vehicles have, but the red brake warning light refers to that base brake system. It could be as simple as low brake fluid level, which will eventually send you sailing through a stop sign. It could also be as simple as a parking brake that's not fully-released. That's real common on all Ford products. They are well-known for parking brake cables that become rusted and stick. The third thing the red light can point to is a failure in one of the two hydraulic systems. That means you're driving with half the brakes. Boy, a lawyer would wring his hands and lick his chops if his investigator found that.
I can understand not wanting to stick money into a Ford product. We read that all the time, but you're referring to things that can happen on any vehicle at any time. Age and value have nothing to do with fixing brake and emissions problems. My daily driver is an '88 Grand Caravan, and I'd stick any amount in it to keep it going. There are no newer vehicles that could be more reliable. Anything I'd spend on repairs is peanuts compared to one new-car payment. You mentioned not trusting your van. I don't trust newer vehicles with computers hung onto every conceivable system that never needed computers before. I have newer cars, but I rarely drive them any further than I'm willing to walk back home.
Windstars are also under a recall for rear axles falling off. Most shops will not do the repairs unless the suspension and brake systems function as designed. They are required to address anything that would restrict proper operation, but that additional parts and labor aren't part of the recall so Ford won't cover those charges.
At the very least, find out why the red Brake light is on. If the engine falls apart, you just coast to the side of the road. If the brakes quit, you'll involve other people. That's when the lawyers come running. Check that the parking brake is fully-released, then check the brake fluid level. If it's just a little low, don't add any. If it's real low, we need to figure out where it's going. That light needs to be off so if a problem develops in part of the brake system, you'll know about it right away.
For the Check Engine light, start by having the fault codes read and recorded. Some manufacturers make reading them yourself real easy, but for yours the best is to visit an auto parts store. Many of them will read engine codes for free. Be aware those codes never say to replace parts or that they're defective. They only indicate the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis, or the unacceptable operating condition. It's best to get the exact fault code number(s). The generic descriptions can leave room for interpretation.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 AT 6:10 PM