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I Checked My Engine. Now What?

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On: Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 8:57AM | By: Karen Cook

I Checked My Engine. Now What?

It’s happened to most of us. You’re driving along, singing loudly in the best place to sing loudly, and in the middle of the chorus your car chimes in and the check engine light comes on. All singing ceases, the radio goes down. The engine must be listened to, the car must be felt. Is it still running ok? Do I need to pull over? Will I get home? What exactly does that light mean, anyway? It’s a vague sort of warning. It can mean so much, and so little. “Checking” the engine does not make the light go off. Whatever made it come on wants attention. But how bad is it? Most of us don’t have a pile of money set aside for car repairs. Shouldn’t there be a better way?

With today’s technology shouldn’t we get a little more information from our vehicles? I’m not particularly savvy when it comes to the mechanics of an engine, much less the computer hiding in there. So why isn’t there a way for my car to talk to me in a language I can understand?

“When you get a minute, I have a small problem I’d like to have looked at, please.”

“If it isn’t too much trouble, I believe I need to see a mechanic. Kind of soon, if you don’t mind.”

“Stop! No, really! I can’t go on. Must...be...serviced...” (Fill in your own gasping sound.)

It doesn’t do any good to tell me that a sensor is bad, although that would be better than the light by itself, but I would be more comfortable if I know how serious the problem is. When my oil light comes on I know what that means, and the little door light is very clear. But the engine is a complicated machine and requires more clarification. It would help in dealing with mechanics as well. At this point all I can say is, “Something’s wrong. Fix it.” And then trust that I’m getting the service I need.

Of course, there are inexpensive code readers out there that will at least give you a starting point for discussion with your mechanic, but again, they don’t speak my language. If car manufacturers want to impress me with cool gadgets, give me a car that can talk to me, plainly, and possibly keep me from a nervous breakdown on the side of the road.


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