What does it mean when your check engine light comes on?

The check engine light or service engine soon light is known to technicians as a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL). This is used to alert the driver that there is a problem that the engine control module (ECM) has detected that is likely to result in increased emissions. When the check engine light comes on the ECM stores a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). This will remain even if the MIL is off for quite some time. So even if it goes off it is best to have it checked to see what happened so that you can prevent it from happening again. Most of the time these type of problems will not create any noticeable change in the performance of your vehicle but sometimes it could indicate a problem that could cause further damage to expensive components such as the catalytic converter. Usually when the condition is severe enough to cause damage the check engine light will flash on and off.

If the check engine light comes on, you should have it checked as soon as possible to find out what the problem is, and have it fixed to maintain the emissions compliance. The first step of diagnosis is to scan for codes. The codes only identify where to look when you begin troubleshooting. In a few instances, through experience, the technician may be able to just "know" what the actual fault is. As an example, a fault code for an oxygen sensor heater circuit is virtually always caused by a bad oxygen sensor. The diagnostic procedure for this code would have your technician trace the entire circuit, but an experienced technician would likely just recommend to replace the sensor and save you the expense of having him/her follow the diagnostic procedure. Some codes can be caused by a mechanical or electrical problem in another seemingly unrelated system, and could result in several hours of diagnostics. This is another case where an experienced technician with the proper tools and information support is able to focus his/her effort and find the problem more efficiently, cutting down on the labor and possibly even the parts bill.

Here at Precision Import Service we use some of the best diagnostic tools from Snap-On, Autologic, VAG-COM and others as well as information from ALLDATA, Mitchell OnDemand, and various auto manufacturers. With these tools and over 90 years combined knowlege we are able to sort through todays technologically advanced vehicles and arrive at a proper diagnosis very efficiently. When you bring your vehicle in with the MIL on, first we will ask you some questions about any symptoms that might be present as well as when was the last time you filled up your fuel tank then we will connect the appropriate scan tool to your vehicle to extract the codes. After evaluating the codes and any relevant technical service bulletins we may then have to ask for you to approve one or more hours of diagnostic time so that we can pinpoint the malfunction. Once we have identified the actual fault then we will be able to provide you with an estimate of how much it will cost to fix the problem.

Obviously, if you take extra good care of your car and get all the scheduled maintenance taken care of on time, you will reduce the likelyhood of a malfunction. But if you own your vehicle long enough, chances are you will eventually have the check engine light come on. If your check engine light does comes on, feel free to give us a call, or drop us an email, and we will gladly discuss it with you, but ultimately you will have to bring it in so we can check it out. We would like you to know that, whenever we work on your vehicle, we are diligent in our efforts to make a quick and accurate diagnosis and repair, as well as vigilent for problems that could crop up down the road. We take pride in the service we provide because we feel that's why you bring your vehicle to us in the first place!





Home Services Specials Location Check Engine

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