If you have ever owned a vehicle, chances are you have seen it. It can look slightly different depending on what type of vehicle you drive, but it serves the same purpose for every car and truck. It's a small, brightly lit warning light located on the instrument panel. This little warning light has an amazing ability to raise a person's stress level and in some cases, a person will go so far as to cover it up with a wallet size photo or a small piece of black electrical tape. I am talking of course about the "check engine" or "service engine soon" light that illuminates when your vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer has detected a malfunction.
Why does this little light create so much panic in some people? First of all, it never lets you forget that something is wrong with your car or truck. Secondly, mental images of expensive repairs may start to build in your mind. Yes this light can be disturbing and even annoying, but covering it up won't make the problem go away and if left unattended, the problem can actually become worse. Not all people are so intimidated by the check engine light and in fact, some motorists don't even realize what it's there for. The on-board diagnostic computer that is standard in newer vehicles is constantly monitoring numerous systems, and all the parts associated with those systems. When the computer detects a problem, it sends out a signal to illuminate the warning light so you know it's time to get your vehicle into the shop for a professional diagnosis.
So many of the parts on your vehicle are interconnected and depend on each other to keep the vital systems of your car or truck working properly. If you decide to ignore the check engine light, the problem caused by one affected component may spread to other areas. As the problem spreads, the cost for repair is likely to go up. On the bright side of things, a service engine soon light can be caused by something as minor as a loose gas cap. Either way, it's important to get your vehicle into a reputable repair shop with certified mechanics and have the problem diagnosed right away.
The internet is a great resource for researching auto shops in your local area. Look at the customer reviews for each shop before making your decision. Most auto repair shops these days have their own websites and many offer discounts for services like check engine light diagnosis. When you speak with the service writer, be sure to communicate everything you know about the problem you have been experiencing. Have there been any strange noises, any vibrations, or any other lights showing up on your instrument panel. The more information you offer the more effective and efficient the technician will be with the diagnosis. It's also important that you understand the entire process and that you receive a cost estimate of all work to be performed.
A check engine light can definitely be unnerving and annoying, which is all the more reason to have it taken care of in a timely manner. Just remember that trying to ignore the problem can actually make it worse and when problems get worse, repair costs go up. If you haven't already chosen a repair shop that you're comfortable with for routine maintenance and other repairs, it's probably a good idea to get that done. Just in case that pesky check engine happens, you'll know exactly where to take your vehicle so you can get back on the road quickly and safely with the peace of mind of knowing that your vehicle was in good hands.
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