CEL on 2002 Mazda MPV

I have a 2002 Mazda MPV. The CEL came on in Nov 2008. I took it in for diagnostics without delay and was told it was a non-specific transmission code. I have made sure the gas cap is always on well. Over the last couple months the CEL has gone off for periods of a few days, but it always seems to come back on. The first place I took it said the non-specific problem would not cause me to have a wreck or drop the transmission and to drive it that way. I talked to someone at the Mazda dealer and he also said not to worry (but he was selling me a motorcycle). Now the Mazda dealer in our area has declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, wiping out the 7 surrounding dealerships I had available. I could look up the code again–it’s in my car. So, does the on and off nature (mostly on) of the CEL mean something? I am the only owner of the car. It has only 47,000 miles on it.

I suggest two things.  

First those codes can be read for free by many auto parts stores, just stop by and ask.  You should get a code in the format [P0123]  and likely some sort of cryptic English message.  After you get them read, bring the code back here and post it as a reply to your original message.

Second, find a local Independent mechanic.      Dealers are no better (or worse) than independent mechanics for almost anything you might need done on your car.  They will almost always charge more per hour and often more for parts and supplies.  They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent. 

A dealer may well recommend work that strictly may not be needed, but could be connected to the problem or maybe replace a part when a little repair would fix it ALMOST as good a new.  

There is no need to bring your car to the dealer for any service other than service that is going to be paid for by a recall or original warrantee.  During the warranty period be sure to have all required (as listed in the owner's manual) maintenance done and to document all maintenance work.

I suggest that most people would be better off finding a good independent (Not working for a chain) mechanic. 

Note: Never ever use a quick oil change place. They are fast cheap and very very bad.

The bankruptcy filing is the perfect excuse to get away from the expensive dealer and find yourself an independent mechanic, as Mr. Meehan suggested. You don’t need a dealer for a 7 year old car. Any competent mechanic can service this vehicle.

The CEL is a warning, and should not be ignored. It may be on now for something completely unrelated to first time it came on.

Have the codes read again so you know what’s going on. I’ve never heard of a “non-specific” trouble code. The all mean something, and ignoring the warning can lead to costly repairs.

Check your owner’s manual. Your vehicle may need transmission service. Has the fluid ever been replaced?

one would hope you haven’t irreparably damaged your car by continuing to drive it with a CEL on for so long. get it checked out, and get the problem fixed.

it sounds to me like you got a ‘non specific poor quality mechanic’ who looked at it before.

i don’t know where you live, but here in Mass. the car wouldnt pass inspection with a CEL illuminated. there is something triggering it. find it out and fix it.

There are usually other symptoms when the CEL (Check Engine Light) come on. There can be symptoms even when is not on.
Do you notice any symptoms other symptoms with the transmission, or the way the engine runs? If so, let us know.
Bring any symptoms and the trouble code here, and we’ll talk about them.

Code was P0037. There have been NO symptoms of a problem. I have not taken it to a dealer in years, but I moved to the country and my mechanic is a long way off. The car has had regular routine maintenance that included transmission care. Have to arrange a way to get home and can’t leave my mother with dementia alone, so I probably WANTED to hear that there was no immediate problem. I’m taking it to my mechanic at the first opportunity and can drop my key off and leave the car. It is interesting that everyone I talked to, which included 2 mechanics and a car dealer, told me not to worry. Glad I worried enough to ask you folks.