The Check Engine Light mystery

You’re cruising down the road, and all of a sudden your eye catches a light on your dashboard. The dreaded Check Engine Light is on. You feel your stomach start to sink and a million thoughts go racing through your mind from “oh great, what now?”, “do I keep driving?” to “am I safe?”

Check Engine LightThe often misunderstood Check Engine Light is part of your vehicle’s self-diagnostic system. Every time you start your car and drive, the vehicles’ computers go through a series of checks. If something is amiss, it will turn the light on and store a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). The reason the light is on can range from simple to serious. That’s why it’s best to never ignore the Check Engine Light.

What the light means

When the Check Engine Light symbol is illuminated, it’s letting you know that a self-check in the emission system failed. The DTC (trouble code) will give reference to what area of the emission system may be failing or struggling. Consumer Reports explains it best:  The [car’s] computer monitors and adjusts dozens of components and processes. For example, it continually samples exhaust emissions as they come out of the engine and again when they leave the catalytic converter, a device that removes carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon pollutants from the exhaust. The system also monitors your car’s fuel system to ensure that gasoline vapors are not escaping into the atmosphere through a leak or even a loose or missing gas cap. In most cases, if a problem occurs, the computer will wait to see if it corrects itself before turning on the light. 

Your time and trust is too valuable to us for us to approach problem solving by throwing parts at the issue.

What to do with a Check Engine Light on

Flashing or steadily lit lights indicate different problems. A steady Check Engine Light doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an emergency – but it does mean make a service appointment soon. If the light is flashing, then it’s best to stop driving and call for a tow. The problems could cause greater damage to the emissions components if the car is driven further. In some cases, you may experience a loss of power; this is your car’s way of going into self-preservation mode until it can be serviced.

The value of free code readings – something for nothing?

Automotive parts stores may offer to scan the codes for free for you. But remember, they are a parts store and their mission is to sell parts. Let’s say you have a code P0457; the parts store may try to sell you a replacement gas cap. You buy it, install it, and off you go. Check engine light stays on. Now what? You probably aren’t going to go back to the parts store because their solution didn’t fix the problem. Go see a professional ASE certified mechanic who has the diagnosis skills to interpret why P0457 is on in the first place. After a thorough inspection and testing, the ASE certified tech concludes the leak was detected at the EVAP leak detection pump.

At Irish Hills Collision & Service, we attack the “whys” of a problem like a dog to a bone. Once we understand “why”, then we know “what” needs to be replaced, reprogrammed, cleaned and or adjusted. Your time and trust is simply too valuable to us for us to approach problem solving by throwing parts at the issue. Our approach is: test, diagnose, repair and test.