We’ve all experienced that sudden anxious sensation of despair at one moment or another. You enter your vehicle and stick the key into the ignition, instinctively turning the switch and bringing your engine to life, just as you’ve done thousands of times before. Yet it pops up out of nowhere, sinking your heart a few inches into your stomach, blinking incessantly as if trying to mock you with an orange message of expensive foreboding disaster.
But don’t start screaming and tearing your hair out just yet. The first thing you should do is gather some more information. There are many causes and potential reasons why that fluorescent demon on your dashboard decided to come to life. True, the dreaded check engine light could be the precursor for a serious mechanical issue; however, it could also be something as simple as a loose gas cap.
The truth is, their is no such thing as a computer or a machine that you plug in and it tells you what is wrong, or a diagnostic trouble code that tells you what part is bad. The codes themselves don’t determine exactly which components are defective, but instead provide information as to where to check by indicating which engine parameter is outside of the normal range. This means that if anything, and we mean absolutely anything is not 100% perfect under the hood, the check engine light will come on and the orange demon will come to life.
To properly diagnose the problem or rather the cause of the check engine light, you must take your vehicle to a dealer or mechanic for a professional diagnosis. Not to the local discount parts store where you will only find parts counter people and not a real auto technician, the truth is they are there to sell parts, not to fix cars and most people end up at the repair shop anyway with the same car trouble that they started with at the parts store, just with a lot less money. The sooner you get the car to a real auto technician the better. Once at the garage or dealership, the technician will be able to connect a computerized scanner to your vehicle in order to obtain the trouble codes stored within the system and look at the data stream the vehicles computer system has. The technician will then locate the corresponding codes and data in the service manual given by the manufacturer of your vehicle. The manuals actually provide thousands of possible codes with vivid descriptions and proceedures for conducting diagnostic testing on the vehicle.
Although it very well might be nothing serious at all, the truth of the matter is that more often than not the check engine light does indicate that repairs are necessary. By far the most common problem which elicits the check engine light is emission control malfunctions. The emission control system is what keeps the air clean and basically it means that you will need to leave your vehicle with the mechanic to fix the issue properly.
In conclusion, there are many possibilities why your check engine light might have decided to ruin your day. A number of causes could be to blame, so try not to worry too much until you get the situation professionally diagnosed.