Check Engine Light Diagnosis and Repair
You need to find out what it means – it’s important!
Summary of this article:
- Your Check Engine light tells you there’s a problem, not what is the problem.
- The problem may be small or large.
- It’s important to find out what’s wrong right away.
- Cars have an OBD II port that can be read to find the diagnostic code.
- A qualified automotive technician can interpret the code, perform testing to find the cause and recommend the fix.
For at least 20 years, car manufacturers have a “Check Engine” light that can come on when the car’s computer is detecting a problem. This light can tell you that you have a problem, but not what is the problem.
A check engine light can signify something super simple, like a loose gas cap. It can also mean you have an expensive repair such as a catalytic converter. The first step is to find out fast what the problem is before driving your car more. This is because sometimes the check engine light is giving you advance-warning of a problem. And sometimes fixing a problem early can save you from an inconvenient breakdown and an expensive repair bill.
Finding out your diagnostic code
Since about 1996 all cars sold in the US have an OBD II Port (On-Board Diagnostic II) which can be connected to an electronic reader to tell you the diagnostic code or codes that led to a check engine light. While there are inexpensive readers that you can purchase to read these codes, for most people it’s just not all that helpful. That’s because it only tells you the code, then you have to do some research to learn what the code means. That can lead to misinformation and sometimes false trust that all is okay – which could be catastrophic.
Finding the code is like learning a zip code
We like to help customers understand how the code works this way: Once you’ve learned a zip code, you know what town you’re in, but you don’t know the street or house. The code simply tells us where to start looking, but additional testing and checking is needed in most cases to find the real cause of the problem.
It’s best to bring your car into our shop and have one of our experienced ASE Certified Technicians read the code, and interpret it for you and then check for the root cause of the problem. Most people prefer this route today because it’s simply easier and more accurate.
The risk in doing it yourself is if you miss something or misunderstand what the code could mean, you may cost yourself a large repair bill. It’s better to have a skilled eye looking over your car to help you make the best recommendations.
Don’t confuse Check Engine with Service Required Light
Also, it’s common that people confuse these two lights, but they are very different. A service required light is telling you that you have reached a maintenance interval and you should get that maintenance done. This is a light your car manufacturer has programmed into your car’s computer to tell you to get your maintenance done. While you can put off some maintenance for short periods, most of the time, you shouldn’t put off checking your Check Engine light.
If you would like more information, please feel welcome to call our service advisors at (559) 688-7384.
Owner Andy Daniels and Our Service Advisors are here for you!
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Since 1960, Frank’s Automotive Repair has been Tulare’s family-owned shop that gets the job done right and with a smile. We are a complete service shop and do everything from oil changes to tire rotations and all the way up to complete engine and transmission replacements.
If you’ve been looking for a great shop that truly services your vehicles well and you feel comfortable with, you’ll love Frank’s. Give us a try once and you’ll see why we are called “Tulare’s Most Trusted Auto Repair.”
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