Ban the "Check Engine" light!

A good article on Jalopnik:

Just put some black electric tape over it, if you don’t want to see it.
Job done.

Yes! A better term is ‘the empty your wallet light’…

Could the manufacturers have decided that the buying public wants nothing to do with maintaining their cars other than returning to the dealer when a warning light appears? There are low oil. low ATF, low brake fluid, and low tire pressure alerts. It’s funny, but when minimum wage was $1.25 and gasoline was 25c filling stations would check all the fluids, check the tires, clean the glass and empty the ashtrays while you filled up. Now minimum wage won’t buy 2 gallons of gas and no one will even show their face when you stop for self service.

Zero maintenance cars would be a HUGE selling point…And that’s the direction the industry is moving…People are fed up with four figure repair bills…A car with a 10 year, 100K mile bumper to bumper warranty would become an instant market leader…A lot of people just want reliable transportation…

Isn’t that Hyundai’s current warranty on their vehicles?

Yup I just double checked it…"America’s Best Warranty 10Yrs/100K… I recall the first time I heard that stated on a commercial a little while back…Maybe 1-2yrs ago? (dunno)

I do however remember saying…Uh Oh…“There goes the Neighborhood”… Hard to argue with a Warranty of that magnitude…but where are the chinks in that Armor I wonder?

It’s a check engine light kind of day around here. The post I wrote this morning could have been nullified if my car provided some indication of what was wrong with it. I had to assume that because the car felt as if it was running normally, that the light indicated a minor or one-time issue. At least the car should give you the code so you can do an internet search to find the description.

You can buy a cheap hand held reader for $40 or so. It is a worthwhile investment.

I’d agree it would be nice to get a message concerning what the code is, but having the code or brief explanation is not going to help with the actual trouble shooting. You need the manual for that so really for 90% (pulled out of thin air) of the drivers, they should just take it somewhere to have it checked and fixed. I’ve got Onstar so all you have to do is push the button and they will tell you what it is. They’ll even transfer you to a techy that will explain what it means better and what to do.

I did like my Rivera where you could get the codes off the graphic screen and check major items like O2 sensor and fuel trim while you drive. That combined with the service manual made a big difference in diagnostics.

Just so you know…those codes are really for mechanic/technician diagnostic purposes ONLY…Can you IMAGINE THE MAYHEM…if the vehicle decoded what the OBDII Diagnostic codes were to the drivers??? OMG

…The Old Lady’s…The Old MEN !!!, THE PARANOID, The Soccer Moms, The Pseudo-Mechanics, the, the…what?

It would NOT be a good thing (for the Mfg’s, skilled mechanics, or most husbands worldwide) I can assuredly tell you that.


I don’t think we should blame the car companies for this one. Let’s look at the average driver. As far as they know or care, cars are either OK or not OK. If OK you ignore it if not you pay someone to fix it. They don’t want it any more complex than that. They don’t want to get involved. Yea, it is stupid, but do you really think we can change that? Do you really think it is the fault of the manufacturers?

After all it is the car buyer who is the driving force. If the car buyers wanted more information, they would be demanding it, but they don’t really care, until it no longer runs.

As to that light, as I recall it is a federal mandate to assure the pollution control equipment if functioning and has or has not detected a failure.

While those who bother to stop by here may not ignore their cars, let’s face it, it is those who do ignore their car as long as it still gets them from home to the carry-out and back who are the real problems. If owners would only read the owner’s manual and follow the instructions there, they could eliminate a lot of car problems.

Along with blackbird’s comment: Absolutely!
Can you imagine, people start posting to automotive threads with pseudo knowledgeable questions like “My dashboard is complaining that he thinks there are mud chiggers in the fuel line. Is he right? BTW, my car starts but doesn’t turn over if it is cold in Hawaii and I wear a button down T-shirt…”.

It’d be absolute mayhem.

Seriously, instrumenting stuff is a good thing. It is a very common thing to do in complex systems.
It isn’t a catch all but any bit of information helps when you’re trying to solve a problem.
I design systems that combine hardware, software and firmware and have done that for a broad spectrum of applications. When there’s trouble, my stuff usually indicates it by some means: flashing a number on an LED in morse code or scribble a cryptic message to an internet page that only we can read. Regardless of the how it is indicated, it isn’t for the benefit of users.

LOL…I was thinking the same things Remco…I am/was a Field Engineer working on Robotic Data Storage SIlos…lots of SW talking to or reporting on HW…“Main Bus failure”…sector x…blah blah…some of the “reports” from the machine would NOT be a good msg to let the customer see sometimes… I had an instance where the customer got a hold of “My tech info” and then tried to use it against me when telling me about an issue I was solving (and fixing just fine) on the unit…he’d say…But it said “failure this failure that”…I’d say …“yes because the door was opened unexpectedly and it caused a cascade of error msgs”…it doesn’t really mean this or that…OH MAN…the trouble he caused me!!!

Hopefully I will be back in the field again soon… loved my last job

I’ll submit this thread as an example of why the article is a dumb idea:

Years ago, we had a customer that had opened his frame up, noticed the LED was sending morse code and spent some time decoding its message. It would flash things like 014D and once in a while stuff would change and it would flash 014E. The change of code wasn’t an indication of an error but just that something had changed.
He apparently spent most of his day watching that LED and would call us, when ever he’d notice a change - a major pain. The morse was basically representative of a status word that indicated 16 independent true/false conditions and that can be useful if you’re trying to troubleshoot the system during development. The guy at one point insisted we supply him with the means of decoding those digits - yeah, like that was gonna happen.

The LED really is just for my purposes during development so I can quickly see what the thing is doing without having to hook scopes and analyzers up but, once it is out in the field, it really doesn’t serve any real purpose so on the next version of the firmware to that system, I changed the morse code message to read “get back to work”.
He stopped calling us.

Long story short and to keep this thread on track:
lights are useful except to idiots.

The lights are nearly all EPA driven, and try to signal when either tailpipe emissions or fuel tank evaporations are out of line. Before we had these lights, people just drove until the car a) wuld not start, 2) ran very rough or 3) had no power, or 4) guzzled gas. At that stage it would be a gross polluter.

My wife has a very careful friend who never takes chances. But she has been driving her Honda Odesey with its CEL light on for the last year. Her mechanic, whom she trusrts, told her to just keep driving. The van runs smoothly and does not guzzle gas. So it’s like 30 years ago when we did not have these lights.

“If OK you ignore it if not you pay someone to fix it.”

Or, if not you keep ignoring it until it grinds to a halt in the middle of an intersection, like my Aunt did when the transmission failed in her 1963 Comet.

p.s.: It seems the CEL codes confuse a lot of mechanics out there, so it would only be worse with the general public.

If you want to know more than the CEL tells you, get a 50 dollar code reader. Then use the internet to expand on what the code reader says. The tools are there for those who will use them.

For about $100 a scanner that will display real time data from OBD II is available. The data will be useless to the vast majority of car owners but the DIYers will find the information priceless.

My 2007 MDX has navigation. When a CEL appears it all lights up like a Christmas tree.

The navigation screen shows all the code(s), says there is an emissions problem and actually displays the text message related to the code shown.

I ignored my light and low and behold a week latter it never has come back on. It is some sort of EGR system problem.