Any advice on my check engine light situation

Hello all,

My vehicle is a 1999 Honda Civic with approximately 155,000miles to it. I will try to explain as best as I can how this all began…

Well, the first thing to occur was the metal “latch” on the handle you pop to get at your gas cap fell off so anyone could come by and remove my gas cap and/or siphon my gas. Well, I was dumb and instead of parking it in my garage thought oh, no one around here would do that (I was proven wrong). So, like the dumb blonde I am, suprise, someone stole my gas cap- he/she did not remove any gas, just took my cap.

So, after work that day (I noticed this in the morning on my way to work), I stopped at AutoZone and explained the situation. Now, on my way to AutoZone- the check engine light came on. The clerk mentioned that was likely due to the gas cap being off. He ran a code check to confirm it. He also said it could take a few days for everything to “cycle” through and for the check engine light to go off. I talked to a couple other people who said the same thing.

Besides that, I needed a new gas cap but because I cannot afford to purchase the whole latch, I had to do with the gas cap. I purchased a locking one for safety. Well, a few days later- the check engine light went away.

Now, about a week later, I had to fill up my tank. When I locked it, I must have done a really good job because I could not turn the key to unlock the cap. It would not budge. So, again, I brought it back to Auto Zone and thankfully someone was still there and able to loosen it. I have decided from now on, it is best not to lock my gas cap to avoid further issues.

So, all of this happened within a month. So, the second time I go to fill up my tank, I noticed on the way home the check engine light came on again. I am assuming it is due to the gas cap being too loose or unlocked or something regarding it. I plan to go to AutoZone again to see if they can run their code meter thing-a bob to confirm.

I guess, I am wondering if anyone out there can confirm my suspicions and whether this will be an ongoing issue? Also, I am due for an oil change and I worry the mechanics will notice the check engine light on and see dollar signs. The car has not ran any differently than it did before someone stole my gas cap. I always keep my fluids to where they should be. Their have been no new noises/sounds or other indicators flashing on my dash.

I’m sorry if this is cumbersome. I have tried to make this post simple but, usually, that may result in my overcompensation and than the post becomes even more confusing. :frowning:

Thanks everyone in advance

“I am due for an oil change and I worry the mechanics will notice the check engine light on and see dollar signs.”

As Nancy Reagan said, Just say no

Yes, it is possible that the presence of a lit-up CEL will cause the guys at your oil change place to see dollar signs, but they can’t charge you for repairs that you don’t authorize. If the CEL is lit up when you take the car in for the oil change, tell them that you know the light is lit up, that you know the cause of the lit-up CEL, and that you are not authorizing them to do anything regarding that light or the situation that caused it to light up.


Thanks VDCdriver- I know I haven’t been using the technical terms but I’m glad you understood :-). So, I’m assuming this is an issue you have heard of? (the CEL with the gas cap, I mean). Thanks again!

@rustytheruru You may have to get an OEM cap to fix this problem. I know that this was the case with one of our Toyotas (my wife’s). BTW, You can’t pass inspection in most states with this light on.

OEM? Is that just your standard (non-locking) gas cap? Thanks!

OEM=Original Equipment Manufacturer–in this case, Honda.

I can understand wanting to save a few bucks by getting an aftermarket gas cap from a parts store, but I have seen multiple cases where only the genuine article from the car’s manufacturer worked properly.

Hmmm…so it sounds like the only way to address the on/off again check engine light is to purchase an OEM? Do you know how high the mark up is? I know I need to actually get a whole new latch cover (sorry, I really don’t know what the technical term is so I’m sounding like a moron) so no one can pop my latch unless they are in the drivers seat of my vehicle.

I have no idea the cost for those, but seems like that and what you suggested are the permanant fixes?

I’m really not trying to be a cheap-a**. I know the importance and sadly, also know the importance of all the other monthly bills eaten up by a paycheck. I have always only bought Hondas or Toyotas cause I consider them reliable and great on engines, which allows me to run into fewer (generally) problems until I win the lottery. HA! :slight_smile:

That nag light really does not mean too much, if buying a factory gas cap is too painful for you, just ignore the light…But if you must submit to emissions testing, the light alone will cause a test failure…

Now, the fuel cap cover, called the fuel door, which is opened from inside the car, is that part completely gone? Torn off it’s hinges? Cause that WILL be expensive to replace.

Hi Caddyman- thanks for the response. The fuel door is intact (I feel so dumb not knowing what its called) but the metal hinge that unlocked it when I popped it from the inside, came off. Hence, how my gas cap was so easily stolen. I figured the labor on the part would get me more than the actual cost.

Do you have any Pick & Pull yards in your area? They are a great source of used parts cheap.

I would have to look Billythekid but I’m sure their out there. (I used to go to a “U pull our parts,” lot with a former friend’s dad years ago so, if anything, I can check around there). I have also been looking into whether a shop/dealership can just replace the hinge or if I would have to get a whole new fuel door?

Thanks for all the replies so far, guys!!! Your always a help :smile:

Just get the whole door. It won’t be much at a salvage yard.

Ok- thanks for the reply!!

Is it the lever inside the car that is broken or the something on the door?

Concur with the posts above, the best solution is to secure an OEM gas cap from a dealership. YOu might could save some money if you moseyed down to the nearby car-recyclers and see what they’d charge for a used gas cap.

If somebody stole your gas cap and didn’t siphon the gas, it was probably just a teenager playing a practical joke, and won’t do it again. In the mean time save up enough so you can pay an inde shop to fix the gas-door latch problem. If you don’t address that, you will eventually have your gas siphoned.

I like the idea posted above of just ignoring the check engine light too. But there’s a risk inherent. If something important that really needs to be immediately addressed gets flagged by a diagnostic code, you won’t realize it b/c the light is already one.

I had the gas cap cover broken off on my last car and drove it that way for 4 years, never had any gas stolen, parking on the street in Boston.

My thoughts exactly, GeorgeSanJose. I’ve been discussing with my boyfriend but I’m not a mechanic so what others might be able to ignore with a lit check engine lit, makes me panic.

I have trouble trusting mechanics but from seeing all the advice, I don’t know why, but I always feel like, "Well, are cars causing me more hassle than what its worth,’ but its my fault for not living in the cities.

Thanks again for all the advice. It alleviates some of my fears :smile:

BillRussell, did you have issues with your check engine light afterwards?

Keith, it is the level/latch on the inside of the fuel door that you pop to get to the gas cap.

Thanks again, guys!

GeorgeSanJose, will purchasing an OED from the dealership fix the lit check engine light so that when it does come on, I know it is not the gas cap? Thanks again- sorry, I meant to add to my earlier reply,

rustytheruru: it was the cover, not the gas cap itself. The cover provides security and helps airflow, does not change any operation of the car.