This being 2017, as opposed to 1977, the vehicles we drive have all sorts of fail safe components and what are commonly referred to as “idiot lights”. Now, at risk of offense I would not casually use this term around your mother-in-law. It could be a bad idea to say, “Nana, can you buckle your seatbelt? I have an idiot light on.” She may be the grandmother to your children, but that might not go over well. The modern vehicle has a wide variety of warning lights, in fact, it seems that automakers have a whole division just to dream up new lights for your dash. There are lights that tell you when your lights are on, lights that warn you when your door is open, lights that are only lit when the engine is stopped and lights that blink for one quick flash, making you wonder what the heck just happened. Of course the ever present seatbelt light, accompanied by its chime/cacophony that is reminiscent of the doorbell to the underworld. Most of these warning lights, if they were not installed, would not be missed at all, except by the lawyers of course.

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The Check Engine Light

Much like coffee cups that warn that the contents may be “Hot”, the litigious nature of our society has trickled down to pretty much every aspect of our lives. Warning lights are a good example of this, but occasionally, they serve a purpose. Take for example the check engine light, which you may or may not have determined is the light indicating the engine is actually present. The little geometric blob with a “check” moniker underneath, is actually a very good indicator of engine performance and should not be ignored. We have all seen it at one time or another, and it can induce a panic if you are not familiar with the systems that are associated with the light.

The check engine light is connected to all sorts of sensors throughout the vehicle and can indicate a wide range of problems. The misconception about the check engine light is that the problem will correct itself, this is not true. If the light comes on intermittently, one of the systems is activating what is known as a trouble code, which will be stored in the ECU (Engine Control Unit) which is the brains of the engine. Through a large arsenal of sensors, the ECU monitors critical aspects of your engine’s operation. The ECU then determines if the parameters of the data it is receiving is outside of the accepted range and will trigger the check engine light. Of course, the ECU has much more of a role in the operation of the engine, everything from fuel control to ignition timing is filtered through the ECU. Occasionally the check engine light illuminates for only a few seconds and that can be a indication of a problem that may be caught before it becomes a major issue.

Don’t Cover it With Tape!

The old fix for the check engine light, is a piece of tape covering it on the dash. This is generally not a good idea, as figuring out what is wrong can be as easy as hooking up a scan tool to your ECU and reading the codes. Engine diagnostics has changed so much that now a complicated diagnostic procedure can be avoided and a code will point the technician in the right direction. Many times however, when the check engine light is on, the problem is nothing more than a loose fuel cap. Don’t be discouraged if the light does not go off right away, many manufacturers require a specific number of key switch cycles to clear the light. Apart from the fuel cap, many more serious issues could be present. Things like and air flow sensor, catalytic converter, oxygen sensors and spark plugs can all be the cause of a check engine light to coming on.

Bring It To The Experts!

The bottom line on check engine lights is that they should not be ignored and the experts at Miramar Automotive and Transmission can get to the bottom of the issue. We are a full service automotive repair facility and we pride ourselves on being customer focused and quality driven. So if you have a check engine light that is ruining your day, please give us a call as soon as possible. If you’re in trouble with your mother-in-law however, you are on your own.