Engine light



last week the engine light went on in my 2001 toyota camry. i took it to my mechanic and he checked it. He found no problem, reset the computer and told me that if it happened again he would have to replace the computer at a cost of $500.00. It’s not that i don’t trust him but i need another opinion


My opinion is that you should really avoid that mechanic - probably.

I say that because a mechanic who “found no problem” wants to replace your computer…? (I say “probably” b/c there could be something that could explain it).

The computer in your car manages many of the cars major systems through a series of sensors. The sensors constantly report data to the computer about what is going in in the various systems. When the computer gets data that aren’t within normal specifications it turns on that little light and stores some diagnostic codes (OBD-II codes - “On Board Diagnostics”) that point to information about the issue.

For many codes, there are basic sets of diagnostic procedures one should use to pinpoint the problem. It might be as simple and cheap as a new gas cap. (Look in your owner’s manual, and it will give you this one). It might be as expensive as a new catalytic converter.

If your light comes back on, don’t go to the mechanic. Go to a chain type auto parts store such as Autozone. In many places they will read your codes for free. Write them down - an exact code - and post them back up here. The codes will be a “P” followed by 4 numbers such as P0123.

At the very least if you end up at a mechanic instead tell them that you want to know the exact OBD codes and write them down - also get them written on your receipt.

If you post the codes back up here then people can give you possibilities, advice, etc.

It might also be worth giving your mechanic a call and asking what it was that made him/her suggest the possibility of a new computer. And while doubtful, you can ask if they have any record of the codes.