Why It Happens, What It Means, And How To Get Advice About It From An Expert Mechanic For Free
The check engine light which is also known as a malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) is used as an early detection system in a vehicle to signal the driver that there is something wrong with the engine management system. Now, the problem is that sometimes a check engine light can mean a serious problem for your car, and sometimes its something as simple as a cap coming loose. Why is that a problem? Because studies show that 6 out of 10 mechanics will tack on additional, unnecessary charges, and the check engine light is one of their favorites to attack because it is so vague as to what it could be.
So, if you want more information about the check engine light, keep reading because we have a comprehensive review, but we are going to give you something else too - a free way to avoid (1) taking your car in to get it fixed or (2) getting overcharged if you DO have to take your car in to get it fixed.
1. You see the handsome dude in the photo right here? (Its also the guy at the top talking about the check engine light stuff) That’s James, one of our ASE certified master mechanics (he hates being in the spotlight which is why we decided to tease him by putting him front and center on this page). He’s an expert with check engine lights AND he is great at explaining in plain English what is happening with your car. You can have James be your personal mechanic to give you advice FOR FREE, talk to the other mechanics at the repair shop so that they don’t overcharge you FOR FREE, and audit your repair so that you know you got the correct repair at a fair price FOR FREE (are we seeing a theme?)
2. Not all mechanics are like James. In fact, only 1/3 of mechanics are actually ASE certified (can you imagine if it was like that for doctors? We’d demand that they get their act together!) But lucky for you, we know who those top mechanics are. We have 45,000 auto shops in our network throughout the US that we know are good, honest mechanics. We can find a repair shop near you that is actually certified to do this type of work. Now you don’t have to go to one of our shops (James will still call in and make sure there isn’t any funny business going on regardless), but its nice to know that the guy working on your car isn’t just a guy off the streets who fixed a few cars as a teenager.
My car broke down in Vail, CO. The two mechanics in town seemed untrustworthy. TalkToMyMechanic helped me make sure they didn't take advantage of my situation.
There are dozens of things that could have led to your blown head gasket and dozens of other problems that could have occurred. This checks your car's diagnostic report with our database of 500,000 faulty repairs and our panel of 10 ASE Certified Master Mechanics, so you know that the mechanic is fixing the right thing. (3 of 10 car repairs attempt to fix the wrong thing).
Want to know whether you need to pay $300 or $3,000? This checks the price of parts for your repair AND labor rates against our database of nationally accepted wage rates, so you'll know that you are getting a fair price. (6 of 10 repair customers are overcharged).
If you drove your car after you blew out your head gasket, there's a 50/50 chance you ruined something else in your car. But would you like to know if that is really true or if it is just a greedy mechanic trying to charge extra? This checks additional repairs and suggested maintenance to find out if the repairs are necessary...or not.
Once you've received your final bill, we will negotiate with the shop on your behalf to see if they have any VIP special customer discounts. About 60% of auto shops are willing to drop the price if approached the right way. Once you know you've gotten a fair price AND THEN it gets negotiated down even further, you know that you've received the best possible price you could.
If you purchase before you take your car in, we can direct you to an auto shop in your area that offers a 24,000/24 month warranty on any repair they do (about 20% of shops in the US offer this protection).
I hate feeling like the mechanic is screwing me over when he hands me the bill. Just to never have that feeling again is totally worth the price.
So let us help you. Get free access to James and our 9 other ASE Master mechanics who will make sure that the guys down at the shop charge you the right price, for the right repair, and that they finish it when they say they will. That's all yours for free so try it out by using the form below.
Now, you're probably still going to want to arm yourself with as much information as possible about the check engine light so read the next few paragraphs carefully. This indicator signal is normally positioned in the instrument panel of the vehicle in order to make it visually available to the driver in case it turns on. Usually when it turns on it takes on a red or amber color to attract attention. It is equally important to understand that the installation of the check engine light is not the same for all vehicles. For those that are based on the OBD-II it makes use of a two-stage indicator: steady (for minor faults) and flashing (to signal severe problems). The fault code that is associated with a particular problem is stored in the engine control unit so that it can be used to diagnose the cause of the problem to come to an accurate solution.
The check engine light or MIL made its initial appearance in vehicles during the early part of the 1980s together with the introduction of computerized engine controls. This was a time when extensive computerization was being undertaken in virtually all sectors of society including business and automotive manufacturing. The introduction of the check engine light was part of the self-diagnosis function of the computer controlled engine system.
Initial versions of the MIL were fairly simple and straightforward. When a fault was detected by the engine computer, the MIL indicator on the instrument panel turned on. This was until the introduction of the OBD-II system which added signaling codes to the check engine light using flashing codes similar to the Morse code system. This was achieved by jumping two pins on the ALDL allowing the system to use different flashes for every code.
As part of the electronic control system of the vehicle, the indicator turns on every time it thinks it finds something wrong with the operation of the vehicle. Common MIL indicators included service engine soon, check engine, or check powertrain.
Sometimes the check engine light indicator showed just a picture of an engine which represents the International Check Engine Symbol. In some vehicles only the work check is displayed on the instrument panel.
It is important to understand that the check engine light indicator is just an outward manifestation of a trouble code that represents the specific problem of the vehicle. An electronic scan tool or perhaps a diagnostic computer is used to retrieve the code that has been stored. Therefore, to correctly identify the meaning of the check engine light indicators, the services of a qualified mechanic or electrician would be required.
The original intention for the OBD system was to assist technicians to specifically pinpoint automotive malfunctions to simplify troubleshooting. The system was reserved primarily for the problems associated with the powertrain which can cause a significant impact on the emission system. The OBD system troubleshoots problems based on the specific model, make, and year of the vehicle making their capabilities widely varied.
By 1996 the OBD-II was introduced based on regulations imposed on car manufacturers. This standardized the check engine light system using a more sophisticated method that functions as a built-in emission testing station. It monitors as well as adjusts various functions and components like the fuel system and exhaust system among others.
When a problem is identified it allows self-correction before alerting the driver of a problem. More modern OBD systems have become so efficient that they are checked for trouble codes instead of using traditional tailpipe emission testing procedures.
Despite the seeming usefulness of the MIL system it is a pity that many drivers are unaware of exactly what the light is attempting to say, therefore they do not know how to react. Some car manufacturers have even referred to the check engine light as the most misunderstood indicator on the instrument panel of the vehicle primarily because it can reflect a variety of problems from a loose gas cap to a comparatively serious misfiring engine condition.
According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, when the check engine light indicator turns on, the driver does not necessarily have to pull over immediately to the side of the road. It also does not mean that a tow truck needs to be called and discontinue the use of the vehicle. What the check engine light indicator means is that the vehicle should be checked out as soon as possible by a qualified automotive technician or mechanic.
Without a question only a qualified automotive technician or mechanic will know what is exactly wrong with the vehicle as well as how to resolve it. In this context, it is very important that drivers understand not what to do in case the check engine light turns on.
Without a doubt a vehicle represents one of the most expensive investments that any person can have. Therefore, it is important to value it by giving it adequate attention and care. A check engine light problem is not something that should be left to chance because it may represent a deeper and bigger automotive problem that can permanently ruin your vehicle. So let us help, you can get our private access number for free by using the form below.
BUT if at the end of your repair you aren't absolutely thrilled... if you don't enjoy the low prices, safety of an expert's opinion, and experience the most hands off, laid-back car repair of your life, then you're protected by our
You are fully protected by our 100% No-Risk Double Guarantee. If you are unhappy in any way over the next 30 days, just let us know and we'll send you a prompt refund. No questions asked.
Short answer - Yes, it really is that bad.
Sources* say that if we have 10 mechanics
That 6 of them will try to overcharge us
And the remaining 2/3rds won’t be certified
Meaning that you have an 87% chance of dealing with
an overcharging or under-qualified mechanic
Fact - Sources say that 60% of all auto repairs are overcharged.
Fact - Government records show that only 1 in 3 mechanics are actually certified.
Fact - The average repair amount that is overcharged is well over $100.
Fact - All this put together means that the average person has only a 13% chance of getting a fair price from a REAL mechanic. But that's just the average person.
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When you buy, you receive your own personal phone number to your master mechanic. Call that line and tell us briefly about what is happening with your car.
We find every shop within 20 miles of you that has the 24,000mile/24 month warranty. Then you decide if you want to select one of those shops or pick your own.
Once we know what shop you're going to, we take care of the rest. You just bring in your car and the relax.
(PS - while you're relaxing - we call the shop ahead of time, tell them you'll be arriving shortly, introduce ourselves as your automotive repair team, clarify things with the mechanics, check diagnostics, check pricing, check extra suggested service repairs, and negotiate lower prices. All while you don't have to lift a finger.)
Once we're finished, we'll give you a call or text summary of everything we uncovered, stopped, and negotiated before you pay. Then you leave happy knowing you got the right repair for the right price.
Just Answer doesn't have the ability to talk to a mechanic on the phone, or the ability to call in to an auto shop to do the hard work for you.
Just Answer just has a box where you can type your question, and a box where you get an answer.
But here is the biggest problem with Just Answer - you only one answer per purchase! And it is geared more towards Do It Yourselfers who are stuck on a repair question, not on a regular joe who needs help knowing whether he needs to take his car in at all, or needs to know if he is being lied to.
This is one of the main reasons people use TalkToMyMechanic, because the other answer websites are only for people who are trying to really fix things for themselves!
AutoMD misses the big picture entirely. They have a diagnostic tool…but think for a few moments: Do you really think it is possible to know what is wrong with your car with a 5 question quiz? Now, the tool can definitely guide you in the right direction, but there are over 10,000 parts in a car. And every mechanic we've interviewed says that it is foolish to try and figure out what is wrong with a car without first running diagnostics.
AutoMD makes money by sending YOUR customer information to high paying shops. Think about it, if AutoMD has to pick between taking care of you or the shop, who are they going to pick? The anonymous website visitor? Or the auto shops paying them thousands of dollars for customer information?
There is a 87% chance you get the wrong repair or get overcharged. And of the times you don't get overcharged, there is a 60% chance to still negotiate the price lower. So basically, 19 times out of 20, we save people hundreds of dollars.
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