When the check engine light suddenly displays on the car’s dash, panic mode sets in. Rather than freak out, consider heading to your local auto parts store or garage so that a professional can read the engine fault code. This is the easiest way to respond to a “check engine light near me” situation.
You’re just driving along minding your own business. Out of nowhere, DING! A little check engine light appears on your car’s dashboard. It might be white, red, yellow, orange, or blue! No matter what color the light is, you know you’ll be adding “take car to the local mechanic” to your weekly to-do list.
The check engine light can appear for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the catalytic converter is bad. In other cases, the gas cap isn’t fastened securely enough. The estimated repair cost could range from zero dollars and zero cents all the way to $6,000 for a total engine replacement.
Either way, it all starts with the same signal: check engine.
This article will take on the question of how to find a good place to get the check engine light code read near you as well as how to find more information about why the light may be appearing.
If you’re questions include the following, we’ve got you covered:
- Where can I get my check engine light checked near me?
- How much does it cost to diagnose a check engine light?
- Does AutoZone read check engine light codes for free?
Where do I take my Vehicle for a Check Engine Light Reading?
Modern cars have a lot sensors, so getting a check engine reading light near your home or workplace is basically a requirement if you see the check engine light come on during your commute.
There are several options available to somebody who wants to get the code read on a car that’s displaying the check engine light.
When the check engine light appears, your first step should be to check out the car yourself. This is an inspection to make sure all the doors are closed correctly, the gas cap is on all the way, and that there aren’t any detectable signs of engine distress (grinding, squeaking, ticking, smoke, burning smells).
If it’s not something as simple as a door that isn’t closed all the way or a left-open gas tank cover, then you should be prepared to tell a mechanic what is going on with the car by using the senses. Look to see if anything is out place. Identify strange smells or sensations (vibrations, shaking, etc.).
Calling the Mechanic
If you have a local mechanic that you know and love, then call the garage up. The professional is more than willing to take a look under the hood. They’ll also use a little computer that hooks up to the car’s port to read the possible reasons for the check engine light.
From there, the mechanic may be able to inspect the parts that are requiring attention. In some cases, the mechanic may attempt to override the reading with the machine, but this isn’t good if the repair is actually necessary.
Sometimes the check engine light can be caused by something that relates to emissions. In other words, the car isn’t broken, per se, but it is not working in the most efficient way. This could lead to more smog and a more rapid rate of gas consumption.
In many states, cars are inspected by the government to ensure they are in compliance with local emissions testing regulations. In Illinois, for example, cars with the check engine light displayed automatically fail. You will have to take your car to an approved mechanic for assistance.
You may even have to get the car retested! Some garages can do this part for you.
AutoZone or Other Auto Parts Retailers
Some retailers provide the code reading service for free. If you’re researching check engine light near me options, then perhaps researching auto part service providers is a good place to begin.
All you have to do is head up to the counter and ask the salesperson if someone is available to read the check engine light code. Take careful note of the fault codes and advice the sales representative provides you. They are clues that can help you resolve the issue.
Even if you yourself aren’t a fine mechanic, you will be armed with the information you need to negotiate costs with the pros. For example, if the code reads “gas tank open,” and not “brand new engine,” you won’t get tricked into dropping thousands of dollars.
Why is My Check Engine Light On?
Some drivers are problem solvers – rather than rush to the mechanic at the first glance of the check engine light, they try to identify possible causes first.
Modern cars have digital systems with many sensors.
Although this is a good move in many ways related to safety and repair costs, it also means today’s cars can be overly sensitive to error codes that occur in the vehicle’s software.
For example, if the sensor in the transmission gets wet from rain, it might fry. The whole car will lock up because the digital dashboard will say “check transmission.” There’s actually nothing wrong with the transmission other than the device that says that is broken. It can be frustrating for the driver!
This isn’t the intended purpose, though. Rather, it’s to protect the car owner. The car shuts down if it “thinks” it has certain problems so that the driver doesn’t find himself a dangerous situation where the transmission fails while they’re cruising on the expressway.
It also prevents the driver from causing further damage. A lot of car owners do not take their engine maintenance plans seriously enough. They get a check engine light or tire pressure alert and just keep on driving for miles and miles without a care in the world. Not a good plan!
When the check engine light is displayed on a vehicle’s dashboard, it tells the driver to get professional help and stat.
Why is my Check Engine Light On?
There are plenty of reasons the check engine light could have turned on your car. Here are several common culprits.
Computer Problems and Software Issues
Remember that the modern car is computerized. There is a software that manages the car’s performance. The system is composed of sensors.
The engine light will appear when the software reads ERROR. It means there’s a problem with the performance, often some issue that will impact the system related to the vehicle’s emissions.
The benefit of the digital involvement is that the codes can be read by another computer. The codes are logged, so that the mechanic can review the car’s past problems. The scanner is known as the OBD-II model. It makes troubleshooting the vehicle’s problem(s) a lot easier.
Word to the wise: don’t confuse the dashboard warnings. Some cars have check engine lights, maintenance lights, service lights, and oil change due notifications. Rather than work the guess and check model, refer to the car’s owner manual for a full explanation of what each alarm means.
Other Common Causes of Check Engine Light Illumination
Of all the codes and faults that can appear on a car’s computer registration system, these are some of the most common:
- Oxygen sensors have fried. Get the sensor (you must find out which has gone awry). Average cost: $296.00
- The gas cap is loose. It’s the classic cause. Secure it well or find a new one if it’s gone. Average cost: $0.00 to $75.00
- Check those sparkplugs, people! They could be damaged. Note that it could be the wires. Average cost: $50.00 to $350.00
- A catalytic converter problem has occurred. This can be an expensive repair. Average cost: $945.00 to $2500.00.
- Mass airflow sensor no longer works. Replace the part for improved performance. Average cost: $300.00
Why is my Check Engine Light Flickering?
If the check engine light is coming on and off in a flickering way, especially on older vehicles, it could mean something is up with the vehicle’s performance.
Experts point out that you should observe where and how are you driving when the light appears. For example, if the light appears while you’re in the city’s stop-and-go traffic, then city driving conditions are causing a fault. If it goes off while riding on the expressway, that seals the deal.
In other words, the light flickers because the condition causing it to turn on is not consistently occurring.
A flickering light doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You need to get the car to a professional mechanic right away. You can also head to a local auto parts store for advice, especially if you’re a regular Mr. Goodwrench.
Why is the Check Engine Light Staying Lit?
If the check engine light turned on, and stayed on, as opposed to flashing or blinking, it means the problem is a permanent fault. The error in the system isn’t a problem that’s coming and going. It’s here to stay.
This could cause the vehicle to shut itself down, operating only in safe mode. In this “limp-home mode,” the car will allow the driver to operate it in the lower gears, just to get to a safe location. Sometimes the car will not shift into drive or turn on after this safe mode is activated.
The car engineers designed this system with safety and affordability in mind. They want to ensure drivers don’t push their car in unsafe conditions. Additionally, they intend to help drivers save money by not ruining the car further while driving it when it is broken.
The bottom line: get the car to a mechanic in a timely manner.
The Check Engine Light is On and the Car is Not Working…
The thing about the check engine light is that sometimes it turns on, and it seems like nothing is the matter with the automobile. This can be frustrating, but it probably means something’s wrong a component that affects the car’s emission levels.
In other cases, there’s something clearly wrong with the vehicle as observed by:
- An inability to change gears
- Shaking and vibration
- The smell of burnt oil
- The smell of burning antifreeze (a sweet odor)
- Squeaking, squealing, ticking, or knocking in the engine
- Vehicle will not start or turn over
This is likely to cause the check engine light to turn on. In some vehicles, other lights may illuminate as well. The oil light is a common pairing with the check engine light.
Be advised that these conditions mean the car is NOT safe to drive. Call a tow truck. Call for roadside assistance. Call the junkyard if you have to! Whatever you do, don’t get behind of the wheel of a broken car. At best, you’re stranded in a safe place. At worst, it breaks down while you’re driving.
Why is my Check Engine Light Blinking?
If the check engine light isn’t quite flickering but instead flashing, you have a serious problem on your hand. The emissions regulation system has completely failed, and every flashing light could indicate a misfire that damages the catalytic converter.
Each illumination means that it’s glowing red hot, and a fire could start.
For this reason, it is important to take a blinking check engine light very seriously.
The Check Engine Light Could Mean Find a Junkyard
When you have a very old car, or a car that’s riddled with issues, the check engine light could mean it’s time to call the junkyard. Don’t be afraid to do so.
When the time comes for a car to call it quits, it can be recycled. In return, you get a cash payment!
It’s a win-win situation for the car owner and the auto recycler.
From fix the gas cap to find a local junkyard, the check engine light can send many messages.