Many of us have had our “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light come on at some point. Depending on your personality, your reaction may have been anything from total panic to completely ignoring it. Let’s review some information that will help you know what to do.
The “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light is a warning light. It is warning you that something is wrong with the engine management or emission system. That something could be as simple as a loose gas cap or as important as a condition that may cause expensive damage. When the light comes on, it may burn steadily or it might flash.
A flashing light means that there is something wrong that could lead to severe damage and you will probably notice the vehicle is running differently. When that happens, you’ll want to have the car inspected as soon as possible. While it is flashing, it is recommend that you drive as little as possible before having the vehicle inspected and you certainly would not want to tow a trailer, haul heavy loads or drive at highway speeds. That kind of driving could damage expensive components before you can get your vehicle in for service and properly repaired.
A steady check engine light is not as urgent. You still want to get your car in for a diagnostic inspection as soon as possible, but you can work it into your schedule. The first thing to do when you have a steady check engine light is to check the gas cap. If it is not on tight, twist it until it clicks three times. If a loose gas cap triggered the check engine light, it will reset after several trips. It may take a few days before the light cycles back off.
If the light persists, you should have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible. Every modern car has an engine control computer that runs most of the engine functions. When a sensor reads that something is out of whack, the computer will first try to compensate for the problem. If it can’t, it turns on the check engine light and stores a fault code in the computer’s memory. When you go into your service center, the technician will attach a scanner to a data port and read the stored fault codes. The codes tell the technician what parameters are out of standard so he knows where to start looking for the problem.
It is important to know that the fault codes do not pin point the exact cause of the problem. They only give the technician a starting point for testing and diagnosis. Any number of problems could cause a given trouble code. The technician will further inspect the vehicle and perform other tests as needed to determine exactly what needs to be done to repair your vehicle. After repairs, the technician will clear/reset the fault codes and retest the system to confirm the repair.
Now don’t listen to the amateur advice you’ll find on the internet about how to deal with your check engine light. Some say you can disconnect your battery so that the light goes off. There are several problems with that. The obvious problem is that you’ve done nothing to fix the vehicle; you have only turned off the light. The other problem is that you can actually erase some of your control computers’ learned memory. If that memory is gone, your vehicle needs to relearn and make adjustments for your engine, driving conditions and driving habits. Don’t disconnect your battery to deal with a check engine light.
Unless you’re a skilled certified automotive diagnostician, avoid buying a cheap consumer scanner (cheap scanners will only read OBDII fault codes and will not read the manufacturer specific fault codes) or getting your fault codes read at an auto parts store (remember, part stores are there to sell parts, not diagnose vehicles). Knowing the fault code is only a starting point to diagnosing the problem. You need a trained technician equipped with the latest high-tech vehicle specific diagnostic equipment to get you back on the road safely and avoid expensive repairs later on.
Silverdale Autoworks has ASE Certified technicians who attend training year round and are provided with the best diagnostic, vehicle specific scanners, lab scopes and information systems, to properly and efficiently test/diagnose your vehicle. That combination gives you peace of mind and the best overall value possible.
The Giveaway is a random drawing of our current customers; consisting of $50 Gift Certificates of Local Restaurants in Kitsap County.
…. There was a major typo with Last Month’s SAW Times, which was actually sent out with the same winner as the month before. So, since there wasn’t actually a winner for September, we will be drawing 2 winners for October!….
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