Check Engine Light

Why do I see this symbol on my dash?

Maybe you have seen this image on your dash before, the dreaded “Check Engine Light”. Let me give you a little in-sight on this light and the importance of having your vehicle diagnosed by a trained professional. This light is triggered by a failed or malfunctioning component within your vehicle that is causing your car to run incorrectly. Sometimes your car may seem like everything is fine where other times a noticeable noise, sensation, smell or other warning indicator will occur. On a Nissan or Infinity the light will look quite different “Service Engine Soon” has the same meaning, these lights never mean your brakes are low, you’re due for an oil change or you haven’t performed your 60k service.

What's wrong with my car and who should I take it to?

First thing you need to do is have a trained mechanic pull the “Trouble codes” from your computer system to see whether a specific failing component is named in the computer of if a system failure or functionality code is named. For example an engine code can be stating that something specific is failing such as your TPS or Throttle Position Sensor, or the Heater Circuit in one of your Oxygen sensors. On the other hand the Engine code can be as generalized at stating “Evaporative System Leak”. In the first case the mechanic can locate the component, test the functionality of it by checking Ohms, Volts or even using other equipment while the car is running to graph the function of the component and condemn the item and recommend it for replacement. In the 2nd example many more steps will need to be taken to fully diagnose the vehicle. We have flow charts of multiple components within each system that we have to test and depending on the result of each test we move on to another step within the chart or we have located the problematic component. I’ll continue with my example of the “Evaporative System Leak”. First off a repair shop would recommend a full visual inspection of all lines and hoses within this system followed by a smoke test where smoke is ran through the Evaporative system to check for leaks as well. This process can take hours upon hours and come up inconclusive or with a recommendation of multiple components to be replaced. In the case of Japan Auto Care we have the expertise to know the common problems for each vehicle we specialize in and would be able to lessen this process time. Or in the case of most vehicles we would recommend replacing the Gas Cap with a factory replacement for this is not only the most common problem with vehicles receiving this code but it is also cheaper than spending hours trying to diagnose a very small leak.

Why should I fix that problem?

The most important reason for people to repair the necessary problems causing the Check Engine Light to come on is that your car WILL NOT pass smog with the light illuminated. There are many other reasons to repair this as well. Certain sensors are vital to the engine operation in your vehicle. The sensors throughout your car relay information to your computer that then tell your vehicle when to go, stop, when the spark plugs should fire, when the car should shift gears and a lot more. If your coolant temp sensor is inoperative or operating incorrectly and is telling your cars computer that the car is running cool when it is actually overheating you can end up with extensive damage to your engine resulting in a very expensive repair.

Ok, so I know whats wrong, it doesn’t seem important to me and I don’t need to pass smog right now, why can’t I wait to do the repairs?

So we know that your car needs an Oxygen sensor but its running fine, you don’t need to pass smog for a while and its a little more money then you want to spend right now. The main thing I tell customers is that there is a possibility that another component will fail or begin to malfunction on your car and because the light it already on you would have no idea unless your car starts to run poorly. This secondary problem can be a much larger issue resulting in damage that could have been avoided if we would have known that it failed.

I heard some people have free diagnostics for this, why don’t you?

This is the number one question I get asked about a Check Engine Light and the answer is simple, we actually diagnose your car. These other shops offering free diagnostics only give you a “Trouble Code” where as I explained before does not always tell you whats wrong with your car. You then would have to take your car to another shop for a full diagnosis or end up paying this shop to diagnose it anyways. Do you really want to be tricked into going to them? Starting off on the wrong foot is not how you gain trust from your customer.