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Check engine light

I own a 2001 Mazda Protege DX which I bought new from the dealer back in 2001. Until recently its been a great car and I havent had any issues. I have 110,000 miles on the car. A few months ago my check engine light came on and there was a noticeable smell of gas while I was driving so I took the car to a national chain that I’ve been going to for oil changes since I moved out here to Maryland. They told me that I had to pay $80 for a diagnostic and then they could fix it. The diagnostic said something about emissions but when they were looking around under the hood they realized that a switch of some kind had been flipped so they flipped it back called it a day charged me the $80 for the diagnostic and some more for labor (flipping the switch and all) and told me that it was fixed. When I was driving home that day the light came back on and I could still smell gas. I returned the car the following day and was told that this time they would change the oxygen sensors to see if that fixed the problem (about $300 this time). This time the light went off and stayed off for about a week. Since then it has been going on and off every couple of days. Whenever I plan to take it back in, it seems to be off so that would completely defeat the purpose. This weekend it was still on so I took it to another branch of the same chain and explained the problem to them. They ran another diagnostic at a cost of $90 (because this was a different store) and told me that my catalytic convertor is shot and needs to be replaced. They also said that something is causing a lot of fuel to be dumped into my catalytic convertor and they need to have the car for a few days to try to figure out the problem or else I would have to keep coming back. The initial estimate is about 2 hours diagnostic time at $100/hour plus about $1000 to replace the catalytic convertor and then about $300 to replace the oxygen sensors which are kind of screwed since the initial problem wasnt fixed so the new ones will have to be replaced. Does any of this make any sense? Do you guys have any suggestions? Should I get another opinion or go to a dealership to see if they can fix the problem and fix it right? Thanks

Next post please use paragraphs, this is very hard to read.

One thing that doesn’t make sense (to me) is why you keep going back to a dealer who can’t properly diagnose the problem.

Find a reputable independent shop. Ask family, friends, co-workers where they go and if they are pleased with their shops/techs work.

Those dealer mechs are just throwing parts at the problem (at your expense) because they don’t know what the problem really is or don’t care.

Sorry people (as far as I’m concerned) shops that do this shouldn’t be in business.

Do you STILL smell gas?

You MAY have a faulty fuel pressure regulator. Remove the vacuum hose and see if gas runs out.

If it does, replace the regulator. This is a DIY test so it’s cheap.

Other than that there may be a different EVAP (emissions) fault as that is what usually turns on the CEL.

You need another opinion. There are few fans of national chain service centers on this site. These places are perhaps OK for buying your tires, but that’s about it. You need to find a good mechanic. If you don’t have time to find one, then a Mazda dealer makes sense. The dealer’s service and parts are expensive, but at least they should have qualified techs and the equipment to find the actual problem.

The shops you are using now are just into changing parts to see if they fixed it at your expense. All of the parts changed so far haven’t resolved anything. I suspect a new cat maybe needed, but the core problem has not been identified as yet.

The first stop at the 1st nat. chain was a complete rip off. They ran a scan for the codes, didn’t do anything but reset your car’s computer. They told you they switched a switch, bunch of bull on that one. Replacing the O2 sensors, another shot in the dark. They took you on that one too.

My vote is for “no confidence” in the national chain guys. They’ve already gotten too much of your money with “0” results. Pick up your car and take it or tow it somewhere else.

Ditto to Uncle Turbo’s post.