“Check engine” light on?

Let’s face it: The only lights we drivers want on in our vehicles are softly glowing dashboard lamps or strong headlights.

The unwanted list: amber, yellow or red lights proclaiming “Check Engine,” “Service Engine Soon,” “Check” or “SES,” often with a stylized image of an automobile-engine outline.

Not to worry, though. The infamous, unpopular and somewhat vague check engine light actually is a relatively friendly entry in the gallery of warning lights you might witness, such as the more imminent threat of those alerting you to problems with engine-oil pressure, temperature levels or braking power.

The good news is most times, a check engine light isn’t cause for panic. The less-than-good news is its appearance can mean any number of things might not be up to snuff under the hood. Hard to believe, but that light can illuminate for more than 1,400 different reasons. Part of your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics system, the check engine light can indicate anything from a quick fix (such as a loose gas cap or faulty spark plug) to mid-sized problem (mass air flow sensor or oxygen sensor) all the way up to a major repair (such as replacing a catalytic converter at a cost of $1,000 or more).

Often, those larger repairs can be avoided by responding immediately to an illuminated check engine light. For example, a catalytic converter can’t fail unless a related part such as a conked spark plug is disregarded by ignoring a check engine light that’s urgently “telling” its owner, “replace $10 plug to avoid $1,000 catalytic converter replacement.”

Many motorists believe all that’s needed to target a problem is to hook up a diagnostic tool to the car’s computer and read a code. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. That’s where a bit of detective work by your preferred Libertyville-area automotive-service experts at Auto Lab comes into play to properly diagnose and treat the problem.

Rather than reveal an incontrovertible, single problem, the trouble code points to a symptom being triggered by a problem. Compare it to a human with a fever. Yes, the thermometer placed under the tongue shows a reading of 100 degrees. But does that number immediately indicate whether that person is suffering from the common cold, a flu, an infection or some other malady? No. That’s where a medical professional’s expertise is needed.

Same thing for a check engine light. The code indicates an area in which a problem has occurred. Much like that 100-degree thermometer reading, a single code could be triggered by numerous causes. It’s up to an automotive-service expert to correctly identify the problem and advise on a cure.

Some are a snap to identify. Others will take time to diagnose. So, don’t ignore that check engine light. Make an appointment with your Auto Lab automotive-service experts and we’ll start working on tracing the root cause of the problem that’s making that check engine light illuminate…and get it fixed ASAP.

One additional warning: a flashing (vs. constantly lighted) check engine light indicates an immediate repair need. Bring your vehicle to Auto Lab right away to avoid the possibility of serious damage.

Questions on your vehicle’s check engine light? Don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help.

Posted in Check Engine Light.