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Auto mechanics - check engine light

Old 11-10-2010, 10:16 AM
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Default Auto mechanics - check engine light

My car's check engine light came on yesterday so I lifted the hook and checked. Yep, engine's still there. Now what? Do I just reset it? ;?
Old 11-10-2010, 10:26 AM
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I believe 99% of these are emissions related. Check your gas cap..... That turns mine on if left loose. Autozone or similar will hook it up and read you the code for free.
Old 11-10-2010, 10:32 AM
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Go to autozone as mentioned above and they will read the code for free. Once you have the code, you can google it to determine what the condition is. If the code turns out to be emissions related (o2, maf, etc) it is often an easy fix. If it was something that occurred once and isn't persistent, the code can be cleared.

Mine was the code for low voltage keep alive memory, which meant either insufficient voltage going to the ECU or a bad ECU. Unfortunately it turned out to be a bad ECU, and Ford wanted $1,200 for a new one.

Other times it's been something cheap and simple.
Old 11-10-2010, 10:35 AM
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Depends, actually, on several things. Your best course of action is to monitor it for the next 5-10 engine starts. If it is a soft fault, it will reset and go off by itself. If it is a hard fault, then it's going to stay on until you fix the problem.

Each vehicle manufacturer is different, but there are often two lights - Service Engine Soon and Check Engine. If you checked all the basics - oil, water, battery, etc. and all seems in order, then monitor for your next starts as said. These lights are often tied to sensors on your emission control system, as well. If one goes out, it will throw a fault and light.

Also, if you have a Checker Auto or AutoZone in your area, they often have the OBD scanners that they can hook up to your vehicle and tell you what code has been set. The code will point you to the sensor that's likely faulty. They usually do this free of charge. Sometimes, Jiffy Lube or other quick oil change places offer this as well, but may charge you a few bucks.
Old 11-10-2010, 11:10 AM
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Check your gas cap and if that doesnt work take it to autozone. Gas caps are one of the main reasons why that will turn on
Old 11-10-2010, 11:14 AM
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As above, get the code read somewhere for free - then come back and post the code and your year/make of vehicle and we should be able to help more.

Most are nonsense and few would lead to any real problems but at the very least you want to know what it's for.
Old 11-10-2010, 11:56 AM
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Get it into the shop and let a trained tech deal with it. The check engine light comes on to tell you there is "a problem". The code will only tell you what the engine is or is not doing, not why, or what to replace or fix.
Example: a code reporting a lean condition can be caused by a ton of different things. A few being an O2 censor reading incorrectly, it can be a vacuum leak from a hose or manifold gasket MAP censor etc etc etc.
All of which a tech can check and test without replacing everything until he finds the problem.
Old 11-10-2010, 11:58 AM
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as said, check the gas cap... or, sometimes a shot of bad fuel will cause it to light.

You can disconnect the neg terminal on the battery, push the brake pedal to drain the system then try a restart. This can reset the ECU & clear the CEL.

After I do that & fail, then I go to autozone.
Old 11-10-2010, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by On The Edge 1 View Post
Get it into the shop and let a trained tech deal with it. The check engine light comes on to tell you there is "a problem". The code will only tell you what the engine is or is not doing, not why, or what to replace or fix.
Example: a code reporting a lean condition can be caused by a ton of different things. A few being an O2 censor reading incorrectly, it can be a vacuum leak from a hose or manifold gasket MAP censor etc etc etc.
All of which a tech can check and test without replacing everything until he finds the problem.
What dealership do you work for?

Doing a little research and wearching the internet for your model of car along with the code will more often than not find you the correct diagnosis - it's just plain statistics working in your favor. Sure you could go down the wrong path, but good luck finding a pro mechanic anywhere that hasn't accidentally swapped out a few perfectly good parts this month.

My last (and I do mean last) dealer experience: Dealer diagnosis: Transmission needs to be replaced. Actual problem: Bad ignition coil wire. They wouldn't even refund me the $79 diagnostic fee.

Last edited by Flot; 11-10-2010 at 01:40 PM.
Old 11-10-2010, 12:50 PM
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I blew mine off for a year or so and it cost me a new cat converter
Old 11-10-2010, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Flot View Post
What dealership do you work for?

Doing a little research and wearching the internet for your model of car along with the code will more often than not find you the correct diagnosis - it's just plain statistics working in your favor. Sure you could go down the wrong path, but good luck finding a pro mechanic anywhere that hasn't accidentally swapped out a few perfectly good parts this month.

My last (and I do mean last) dealer experience: Dealer diagnosis: Transmission needs to be replaced. Actual problem: Bad ignition coil wire. They wouldn't even refund me the $79 diagnostic fee.
Dont work for a dealer, not a tech, dont even work with or on cars for a living. Never have never will. Just a regular back yard machanic like alot of folks are and i do most of my own repair and mantaince work myself. However Facts are facts and modern engine compnents are not cheep, particularly the electrionics. My statement about the engine codes and what they tell you are fact. You can go the autozone route and have them read the code and take thier advise on the rpoblem and try this and try that but most of the auto parts employees dont know much more then the average joe. Remember this, most electronic parts like sensors are expencive and can not be returned. Think about that when the part they recomend is going to be more then a few bucks..

Last edited by On The Edge 1; 11-10-2010 at 03:08 PM.
Old 11-10-2010, 02:33 PM
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Keep driving it and don't worry. It isn't bad until the check engine lights starts blinking on and off. When it gets to that point take it to the shop.
Old 11-10-2010, 03:12 PM
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Last week I just put out $3000.. on my sisters car. She said the check engine light was on a few days. We brought it to the dealer,the o2 sensor fouled out the catalytic converter. Long story short,get it checked.
Old 11-10-2010, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ant1 View Post
Last week I just put out $3000.. on my sisters car. She said the check engine light was on a few days. We brought it to the dealer,the o2 sensor fouled out the catalytic converter. Long story short,get it checked.
Sure they just did't want to sell you something? I thought fuel trim adjustments based on O2 readings were limited to a certain % rich or lean. The O2 sensor itself cannot "foul the cc", its juts a sensor, right? It might tell the engine to add or subtract fuel, but only to a point.

I wonder if something else killed your cc? Oil leak, water leak? Im no expert but those would seem worse than a rich or lean fuel mix.

I had goofy O2 sensors on 2 vehicles for months before I did anything and then I just replaced the sensors. Fixed.
Old 11-10-2010, 04:01 PM
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I have a 1996 trooper I am keeping alive from the junkyard. (Hell I actually learned to replace the starter right here on THT, and painful and humiliatimg detail for all to see). Best investment I made was code reader from northern tool. Get the code, then google it along with your car. I have gotten very lucky with sensors and the like, The great thing about the reader is that you can delete the code. You will even find folks who struggle with the saem codes, and sometimes you discover that they are common problems (and common fixes) associated with the code/model. I have an engine misfire every couple years (I like to burn my old premix in the truck as opposed to storing it), Clearing the misfire code gets through the year. Cleared the same code for my friends pathfinder.

Not sure I would be able to go that route for my daily driver, but for 29 dollars, the code reader rocks. When I walk out into the driveway with my Code reader, the wives in the hood fall into a swoon. BTW they can't delete the code at the parts stores. (but they will if you get the right guy)
Old 11-10-2010, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by ant1 View Post
Last week I just put out $3000.. on my sisters car. She said the check engine light was on a few days. We brought it to the dealer,the o2 sensor fouled out the catalytic converter. Long story short,get it checked.
Methinks your 3,000 dollar problem is much bigger than an O2 sensor and catalytic converter.
Old 11-10-2010, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by cjd View Post
I have a 1996 trooper I am keeping alive from the junkyard. best investment I made was code reader from northern tool. Get the code, then google it. I have gotten very lucky with sensors and the like, The great thing about the reader is that you can delet the code. I have an engine misfire every couple years (I like to burn my old premix in the truck as opposed to storing it), Clearing the misfire code gets throughg the year. Cleared the same code for my friends pathfinder.

Not sure I would be able to go that route for my daily driver, but for 29 dollars, the code reader rocks. BTW they can't delete the code at the parts stores. (but they will if you get the right guy)
We had an old Isuzu trooper for years. I loved that truck. Man it was ugly though.
Old 11-10-2010, 04:43 PM
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some vehicles......turn key on off on off on off on without starting and the dash will read out basic codes..... some downstream computers would just show a main code . like code 700 would be trans codes stored elsewhere and need further scanning
Old 11-10-2010, 07:34 PM
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I am a shop owner and would like to know how you spend 3K on a Cat and an O2. CC are killed buy something and O2 sensors most of the time report what they see and have very little control unless shorted or carbon coveted as well as mud caked external. They will not normally be the cause just the sensor that showing thete is a fuel control problem. . As to the original question. Go to auto zone get the code checked then Google it and post it here
We can debate it and might even find you a fix for less then3K. Email your vehicle type etc and the code and I will give you an Honest opinion so You can make a quality decision on what to do. I'm sure others will help also.
Old 11-10-2010, 07:43 PM
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Buy a code reader if you plan to work on your own cars, best $25 I have spent.

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