Engine light 2002 corolla

Had the oil changed today; before doing so, I saw that the check engine light had come on. Have been told by 3 professional car maintenance people that there is no connection between needing oil / oil change and check engine, that it would have been the check maintenance light.

Will take it in for diagnostic test by dealer ($100). Also, was told by the oil change guy that he heard pinging which could mean that the car needs to have the valves adjusted, and that the check engine light is due to needing something or other with the gas tank filter which could have a leak/crack, etc. This was corroborated as a possibility by the dealer’s service dept over the phone. That could be approx $480 at their labor rates.

What are the best & worse case scenarios??? Help ~ quickly! Must make a decision on Wed 9/24/14, depending on the (bad) news. Am currently in the Pacific Time zone. Must hear by about 10am PDT on 9/24. Thank you!

First thing, PLEASE REMOVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER!!! This is an open forum, and personal information should never be posted.

Secondly, There is no reason to take the car to the dealer and pay $100 to have a technician plug in a code reader to read the codes on an out-of-warranty car. Autozone does that for free. It sounds like the oil change place has already done that, so if you could post the code, like P0xxx, the fine folks here can give you further insight. I will admit there is more to diagnosis that simply reading the code, but, as a start, just getting the code at least let’s you know what your dealing with. And on a 12 year old car, that could be any number of a thousand things the computer’s built-in diagnostic system covers. Once it is out of warranty, an independent mechanic can help keep your car maintained for a lot less than the dealership can, and many are more competent.

Just by the report from the oil change guy, it sounds like you have an evap code. Knowing the exact code would be very helpful, but basically it sounds like there is a vacuum leak somewhere, which is not unusual for a 12 year old car. Quoting $580 sight unseen sounds like the lowball figure that the dealer would provide. Count on it being higher after they look at it. Check the ‘Mechanic’s Files’ on this website for a recommended mechanic in your area.

+1 to Busted’s post.

Especially the part about not posting your phone number. There are tons of crazys in the world, and posting personal information on any public forum could leave you with much more serious problems than a Check Engine Light.

The check engine light helps to give you a warning that some issue is pending with the drive train of your car, Thats all…unless it is flashing there is no immediate danger .
If it is flashing, it means that there is a good possiblity engine damage will occur if you do not shut the engine off right now.

So here is what I would do.

A lack of oil is the most damaging to an engine.
Check to be sure the oil is full. If it is…cancel the appointment with the dealer.

Keep a close eye on the gauges untill you get this resolved.

Next go to any Autozone, or Advanved Auto parts store and ask if they could read the codes.
They will give you a printout of the codes and they can advise you if it is an issue that must be attended to ASAP or if you just need a mechanic to look at the car soon. All for free.

Then post back here with the codes and any symptoms so we can try to advise you more.

It does sound like the oil change mechanic diagnosed that it is an emissions problem. These can be as simple as a gas cap left off, and rarely are a major issue that needs attention NOW!!!
One thing that people do that damages the emisions system is topping off the tank after the automatic shut off stops pumping gas. So if you top off your tank… stop.

I would advise you to find a independent mechanic…ask around for reccomendations.

Dealers have a much higher cost than most independents and charge more in turn.
Your local OIl change garage may have a good mechanic on their staff, but the chances are good the guy that will work on your car will be someone that was taught to change oil, look for items to upsell while your car is there, and knows little about diagnostic’s. They are well known to forget to tighten drain plugs, and often throw part after part on the bill…trying to eliminate the problem instead of properly diagnosing it. Do you really want that guy working on your car!!!


Morning, Joyce. I took the liberty of editing your phone number out – Busted and TSM are right; we don’t recommend posting your personal info here. The members are uncommonly helpful, though, and you’ve already started receiving some info to point you in the right direction. Good luck!


You’re all wonderful!! I took that chance re the phone # as I felt desperate to receive help asap; knowing I’d leave the house too early to check online postings & no smartphone.

I know dealers overcharge, but an independent mechanic said it was a dealer issue. Drove away from the dealer service dept at 7:25am today to take the car for the diagnostic at a Toyota-only independent garage I’ve gone to before. The issue was quickly diagnosed there for $30 as a loose gas cap! Engine light off ~ problem solved. (I pray!) It was a learning experience worth the much lower cost. However! I will be going to Autozone for diagnostics from now on, thanks to the great suggestions here.

Btw, I don’t “top off,” honestly. The oil change guy suggested that too; I didn’t want to quibble. But I did call him just now to let him know about the good resolution. And I’ll go back there for oil changes ~ with the Groupon I’m using for 3 changes + tire rotations for a total of…$30. Really! He also said he doesn’t do the kind of work he thought my car needed, so I guess he’s really a good guy just trying to help.

Thank you, you awesome, smart, knowledgeable, nice Car Talk peeps!! XO :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Glad it worked out so easily. A loose gas cap is probably the most frequent reason for a CEL to come on.

Your dealer might have saved you the $30 by suggesting you tighten it, but it would probably have taken a few miles or days or run/cooldown/run cycles for the CEL to go out, and you would have been worried all that time. $30 for confidence without delay seems like a good deal.

Thank you for letting us know the outcome.

You’re very welcome ~ Thanks to all y’all for making this such an amazing site!
The dealer suggest something to save me money?? that would surely have been way cool, but probably not allowed according to policy!! I called the rep who was writing up my work order when I left to let him know the blessed resolution. Now, will he pass on such a tip to the next victim ~ er I mean service client??? Let’s take a vote/make book on that… Am so grateful to the goddess of hapless car owners that I avoided their talons. (Would have said “clutches” but that’s not why I went there.) :wink:

The reason you should not “top off” the gas tank is because the gas tank needs some air space at the top. The gas tank vents to a charcoal canister so that the gas fumes do not get into the atmosphere, its a pollution control. Gas comes out of the ground at around 60 degrees. If the outside temperature is in the 80s or so, the gas will expand. If you have topped off the tank, then the gas is forced down the vent line into the charcoal canister and saturates it. It usually take multiple “top offs” to actually saturate enough to be a problem.

When the canister gets saturated, the purge valve does not appear to be working so the computer sets a code for the purge valve. That is where the $480 charge would have come from if they replaced the purge valve.

Not all cars will have this problem, some gas tanks have so much headroom that you can’t get enough gas into it to cause this problem no matter how many times you click the gas pump handle, others will set this code within a few “top offs”.

In any case, the best practice is to stop filling when the pump handle clicks off the first time.

hi keith~ that’s important info ~ esp as in tucson, summer (approx mid-may thru’ early oct) daytime temps are 95°-105°+F.
again … i do not “top off,” and that was not the issue, as it turned out; again, thank the goddess of hapless car owners. :slight_smile: