Question: My check engine light is on and my boyfriend thinks he can get the code read and know what part to replace to fix my car. I say it’s not that simple. Who’s right?
Answer: The simple answer is you are! But let’s look at it logically and break it down. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong with your vehicle. Some are simple but some are actually quite complicated.
In today’s vehicles over 80% of engine functions are computer controlled. The computer receives information from dozens of sensors. When a sensor reading is out of range, a trouble code is automatically entered in the computer and the check engine light is illuminated.
Unfortunately it’s a common misconception that the trouble code will tell you exactly what is wrong. Because the truth is, that for any given trouble code, there are any number of faults that would trigger that code. For example, a code indicating a misfire on cylinder three could be due to a bad spark plug, a failed coil, ignition problems, compression issues, etc. Each of those possibilities requires additional diagnosis to confirm or rule out a cause. Once a trained technician with state-of the art diagnostic tools and access to extensive research databases, can then nail down the problem, and set about getting it fixed.
A complicated diagnosis may take some time. Your boyfriend might be tempted to bypass a diagnosis charge by taking a trouble code reading with an inexpensive scan tool and start replacing parts. He might get lucky, but chances are he’ll end up like a recent customer who ended up spending hundreds of dollars on parts that weren’t needed and didn’t fix his problem because he tried reading the code himself. So save yourself time and money and have a professional with the right equipment check your vehicle.
Just one more thing… a flashing Check Engine Light indicates that a condition exists that could lead to serious damage. You should get to your service center right away. A steadily illuminated Check Engine Light is less urgent but still needs to be checked out. Keep in mind that a minor issue today can become more serious if left unresolved.