Service engine soon? HELP!

Ok I really hope someone can help me with this. We’ll start from the beginning. I own a 2003 Saturn L200 with approx 70,000.00 miles, I bought it used from a dealer about 15 months ago. About a month ago, the service engine soon light came on, and the car seemed to have some difficulty starting. I took it to the dealer that I purchased it from where they ran a diagnostic and found the only issue was the battery. I had the battery replaced and they cleared the service engine soon indicator, telling me that they could find no other reason why it came on. The amount they charged me for this seemed a little high, but I will admit that I really dont know much about how much it should have cost. Total with new battery, checking the warning light and labor was $250. They also told me that if it came on again to return the car for more testing. So now, about a month later (about 1,000 miles more) the light has come back on. It is not flashing, which according to the manual is when the problem is really bad. I need to get an oil change anyway but my question is do I take it back to the dealer who I suspect overcharged me (not egregiously but still a large amount) because they said to bring it back if there were further issues? Or do I take it to a different mechanic to take a look at it? Im really in a bind as Im going to be driving this car across the country in a month and I need it to be in the best shape possible (Im driving with two cats, two cats + broken car + deserted highway in the middle of the country = disaster) If anyone can help me with this it would be very appreciated!! Thanks

First of all, the service engine light does not indicate imminent disaster (unless it’s flashing), so don’t become overly concerned. The light is warning you of a pending problem, or a sensor going out of range, or something. This light may or may not be related to the battery problem you had a month (and 1,000 miles) ago.

$250 does sound excessive for a battery, so I would certainly considering going elsewhere. Have you dealt with an independent mechanic in the past, or know someone who can recommend a good shop? If so, take the car there. Dealers are almost always more expensive than independent shops, and the work they do is not correspondingly better.

Another option is to have the trouble codes read at an auto parts store. Most places will do this free, and it may help indicate the source of the problem, or help you decide where to take the car for service.

I also suggest you read the maintenance schedule that accompanies the owner’s manual. There may be some maintenance required by the age or mileage of the vehicle that you should have done prior to your cross-country trip.

There is absolutely no reason, however, to think this car will die going across the country. Highway driving is easier on a vehicle than daily commuting.

1 hour labor to check light,$100.00 battery + install labor,not so bad,yes you could have got a better deal. Are you a regular customer with a independant mechanic? You did go to the Dealer, they are known to be the most expensive.I would go back,reason,they have seen you before and are more familar with you and your car. I see the value in building a relationship with the people you trust to work on your car.Just my humble opinion.

they riped you off. go to someone you can trust. as someone else said auto parts stores
will tell you why your service engine soon lite is on.

Well, I’m sure they charge you to dispose of the old battery, maybe new battery cables, probably a materials charge, the labor, the new GM-brand battery, I doubt that they charged you any more than they would anyone else. I heard a similar number from someone who took a Corolla in to the Toyota dealer.

You should take it in to Autozone and get it scanned. They’ll at least tell you what the code is, and will probably try to tell you what is wrong. Advice: take the technical information that they give you, ignore their diagnosis / opinion, call a mechanic and say “I have an '03 Saturn L200 and it’s giving me code ____” and make an appointment for diagnosis. I’d say skip the dealer, there’s nothing exotic or terribly unique about the power and drive trains on this car.

what was the code written on your bill?

we roll from there.


Update: After reading the manual over carefully, which suggested it could be a few things that may resolve itself, I decided to give it a few trips to see if the light turned off. Luckily this morning the warning light turned off! Yay and a big sigh of relief. Im going to take it to an independent mechanic for an oil change and Im going to mention it to them, but it seems the problem took care of itself. Thank you all for your helpful suggestions and comments!

Could have been a loose gas cap. Make sure you correctly tighten it after each visit to the pumps - it should click a couple of times as you turn it to the right to seal things up.