Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Check It!

Here we are living in the enlightened age of electronics. We can be just about anywhere and access just about any information we could ever possibly need. You can be in the middle of the ocean and find out where the closest Dunkin Donuts is to your location with a GPS device. You can consult complex air line schedules on line, then book a flight and pay for the tickets on line and then pay off your credit card on line as well. You can book your rental car and hotel and score tickets to a performance all within seconds.

We have computers in our cars that will tell you your elapsed mileage, your average MPG, your average speed, the miles you have left until you run out of gas, the inside and outside temperature and direction of travel. It can all be changed from standard to metric with the push of one button.

OK, we have all this, so why do we still have a check engine light that is expected to monitor everything associated with the engine and drive train? This light will come on if someone doesn’t tighten up their gas cap. It doesn’t ever tell you what the problem is, just that there is a problem. Then you have to go to a service center where they have to hook up a code reader to see what the problem is. If it isn’t a problem they can then reset it so the light goes off.

My question is; why can’t they make a read-out that tells you what the problem is so you can fix it your self? How about if they made one that would tell you how severe your problem is? Maybe one you can reset after you fix the problem, or at least let you travel a hundred miles or so without it nagging you.


Blogger Donna said...

We had an older model car a few years ago; the check engine light came on, Cliff took the car to a dealer. They got it off. Two days later, it was on again. Cliff put a band-aid over the light so it wouldn't worry him and drove the car for two more years. Then we gave it to our daughter and her husband, and they drove it another three years. With the band-aid on the light which was always on.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I believe that check engine lights are simply a way for the automotive industry to steal even more money from the consumer. When our check engine light came on we made numerous visits to numerous mechanics who told us nothing was wrong with our car. They reset the light only to have it come on again within a few days. We've been driving around with it on for about four years.

My question is how come the bulb for the check engine light never burns out? Why don't headlights last as long?


7:24 AM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Anon, the "numerous mechanics" that have told you that there is nothing wrong with your car are all nuckleheads.

Donna, please take the bandaid off of the light.

When the MIL (malfunction Indicator Light) is illuminated, It means one thing: A code is stored.
That code was stored when any number of critical paremeters were violated, and senced by the engine management system.
In the late 1980s congress mandated OBD (On board Diagnostics) which was updated to OBD-II which is a set of codes that are consistant between manufacturers. Also, the code retrieval equipment is consistant between manufacturers.
I splurged and purchased the finest software that I could find, check out:
OBD-II is the best thing that has happened to automobile performance, economy, and emmissions.
Make it work for you! Take your car to a REAL automotive technician and they will quickly make the repairs necissary.
Ever have a little glitch that never happens when the car is in the shop?
OBD-II solves that.
You just can't have a mechanic that is looking at your car and giving himself a self-colonoscapy at the same time.
Q- Why not have a readout displaying the problem?
A- Read the bandaid post above.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Glad you posted this because now we all have the answer from "gearhead."

Thanks to you both - seriously.

(I noted the link.)

9:40 AM  
Blogger Amaya said...

My airbag light has been on for 6 years. I took it to the shop and they said it was fine, but they never turned it off. I don't even realize it's there anymore.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

For less than $50 you can buy your own code reader to plug in just like the shops do. Google for "automotive code reader." Here's one at Amazon on sale for $38.95

12:33 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Rich, If you take your car to the shop and they pull out one of those, GO TO ANOTHER SHOP.
When the MIL is illuminated it means that a code is stored.
So you read the code; then what?!!!
You must then read the code definition and have a method (Autoenginuity) to monitor the systems that are suspect.
If the problem is intermittent, one can set up to 6 graphs on the laptop to monitor I/O in real time.
You can also operate outputs to verify proper operation.
This is , "..just like the shops do".
Otherwise, wrong shop.

12:49 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Spoken like a true...well...umm...Gearhead!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Gearhead, that car died of rust over 10 years ago. My daughter sold it to some Mexican for $100. One of the best cars we ever had... paid $1,000 for it. Celebrity. Lots of rust, but it kept on ticking. Thank God we put the bandaid over the light.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Well, gearhead, I didn't say the shop would pull one of those readers out, just that one can read the codes at home. It would seem good protection against an unscrupulous mechanic who might replace a gas cap and charge you $500 for something else which didn't require repair. It might also tell you if it was something which required immediate attention to prevent catastrophe or being stranded, or if the fix could wait until a later date.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Good points, Rich!

8:43 PM  
Blogger Jaggy said...

Happy Year One, Mr. Guy. The blogosphere thanks you for your contribution, and I say thanks for the laughter, lessons, encouragement, advice, and gentle prodding. *sniff* a whole year... well done!

10:56 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Thanks Jaggy.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Amaya said...

I just have to add that douche bag is one of my favorite insults. I love how it rolls off the tongue (the word! you dirty, dirty people!)

11:31 AM  

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