At some point the check engine light is going to appear on your dash. It can come on for a variety of reasons because you have a computer in your vehicle that is referred to as the ECM or electronic control module. It measures voltage outputs from various sensors located on your engine, transmission and other areas under the hood. It analyzes this information and decides how much fuel and air the engine is going to need to do what’s being asked of it. The ECM will do all of this in a fraction of a second and make thousands of decisions in a second. The manufacturers have incorporated this type of technology into vehicles to make them more fuel efficient and to keep emissions from the vehicle as clean as possible. In short; it is a very sophisticated and complex system. When something goes wrong with it, the system can no longer do the job it was intended to do. It will self-diagnose through trouble codes that are stored in the system and these codes can be read with a code reader.
We often get calls from customers stating that their check engine light has come on and they took it to Autozone and they scanned it. The customers give me the trouble codes and ask how much to fix it. An example might be as an oxygen sensor code. The customer thinks that sensor is bad because a $75 scanners says that’s the trouble code. At times this may be true and a new oxygen sensor will fix it but the reality is more often than not, something else is causing the sensor to run out of range, and that is triggering the trouble code. It is important to understand that the scanner at the parts store simply gives you the trouble code. It leads you to the area at fault. It does not diagnose the problem. This is where technicians and diagnostic equipment come in that can measure inputs and outputs of related systems to find out why sensors are running out of range.
By now you’re asking “What does all of this mean to you?” Well, it basically boils down to this; if you ignore the check engine light and don’t repair the piece of the puzzle that is needed for fuel economy and performance you will ultimately damage other parts that may be very costly. You may lose gas mileage, and power. If you try to short cut an accurate diagnosis and replace the part that the scanner says is troubled, you may be throwing parts at it that it does not need or, get to the root of the problem that caused the part to go bad. If you have a favorite auto repair shop that has an actual diagnostic technician, and not a parts replacer with a $75 scanner you trust, I recommend paying that person to accurately diagnose the problem for you. In the long run it will save you dollars in repairs and at the gas pump.
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