Does the little check engine light on your dashboard light up? It may be telling you vital information about your car, that if not attended to right away could result in a significant repair. On the other hand it may indicate something really simple such as a loose gas cap. How do you normally tell what it means? You take your car to the repair shop or automotive dealer, fork out $50 – $100 so that they can tell you what is wrong. You may still need to do this, but not always.
My ’99 Lexus that I purchased used for almost half the Blue Book retail, has almost 300,000 miles on it now, and sometimes the little light goes on, and then for no reason goes off. This has been an incredibly low-cost car to maintain, but this has been maddening. Several years ago I was told it was oxygen sensors, then catalytic converter. After replacing two of each, the little light was reset. A few weeks later the light came back on, and I was told it was a different sensor. I had this checked by about 3 different mechanics over a year to two, and got mixed answers very frustrating.
My daughter and wife’s cars has had similar check engine lights pop on, as have friends and relatives of many makes and models, often with similar results as mine. For a while I just ignored the light, and then it would go out. This was very disconcerting to me, as I am trying to get many more miles out of my car, and not really knowing if a serious problem was occurring.
I didn’t want to have to pay a mechanic every time the light comes on our cars, so I recently purchased at NAPA a car repair computer code reader, or diagnostic code scanner. It is really easy to use: I just plug it into a computer plug located in my dash-board just below my steering wheel. It reads the codes, the website tells me what the codes indicate, the part that is needed and how much it will cost for me to repair it if a mechanic installs it, and where to order the part if I want to order it. If I decide to take a chance and do nothing I can reset the code and the light goes out.
This might be risky, because mechanics will tell you it is sometimes not this simple, and their experience might make the difference to correctly diagnose and repair. This is true, but for some codes they can come on when something is not really necessary to be repaired. For example, only on a few hot days of the year, a light comes on for my idle sensor and anti-skid control, and a few cooler days later I can reset it, and the light never comes back on. Perhaps this is caused by heat and humidity. If I am concerned, I call the dealer or mechanic, and they are more than happy to discuss the problem with me. If I am treated fairly, and need a repair, I will take it to them. I did this last summer when I needed regular transmission and differential service which they did surprisingly for a very competitive price.
This is handy device that helps me to evaluate my options, and reset that annoying light when a repair isn’t needed, and save me time and money.