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The check engine light in my 2001 Volkswagen Jetta vr6 came on today

I cannot, however, detect any change in the car’s performance. I think the light was triggered by me skidding out a bit in the snow storm, which caused a small engine stutter/misfire. I didn’t notice it right at the time, but rather shortly thereafter. I honestly think that there’s no problem since I’ve seen the light be triggered by similar one-time stutters in the past.

The reason I’m posting is that when I stopped in at my local VW dealership they told me that it now costs 98$ just to run a diagnostic. This is total bs; when I bought the car in 2001 up until a couple of years ago it was always free to hook up the little computer and run the error codes. In fact, I had a similar experience (stutter in a snowstorm) in the first couple of years I owned the car and they did the assay for free and told me there was no problem. Nothing’s changed since then so there’s absolutely zero reason other than extortion to have started charging for a diagnostic. A pox on VW’s house.

That having been said, having the light on is driving me nuts! It really gets under my OCD skin and I can’t stop looking at it. Is there a way for me to turn it off myself somehow? Or, better yet, is there an automotive shop somewhere in the Twin Cities metro area who will run the codes for free (for future reference since there will eventually be a real problem-- this car is an amazingly badly put together piece of excrement)?

Thanks for your input!

If a scan were thorough, and every component knowledgeably evaluated, it could have a value of $98. Of course, those “could bes” are rarely met. Instead, I fear, that the best scan tool in the world is simply used as code reader.
For $98, you can get your own scan tool, and scan any make of car, not just VW.
You can get the code, and get a snap-shot of some of the engine conditions when the code got set in the engine computer; such as engine coolant temperature, vehicle speed, rpm, etc. You could save your friends time, money, and sunny dispositions (hopefully).
The check engine light isn’t just for engine performance. It’s for other things, too; such as undetected (by you) problems with the transmission, ABS, Traction Control, emissions systems. You should get the code, usually while the check engine light is on. Some auto parts stores will do it. Just ask. Then just bring the code scanned, and the vehicle’s symptoms, here for interpretation and “you shoulds”.

The reason I’m posting is that when I stopped in at my local VW dealership they told me that it now costs 98$ just to run a diagnostic.

Why are you bringing your car to VW? I suggest you find yourself an independent mechanic. Dealers are no better (or worse) than independents, but they are almost always more expensive.

As for the code, there still are places that will read the codes for free. Check around at your local auto part stores. You can buy a reader for half of what VW is charging you.

That said, VW has a few codes that can not be read by the generic readers, it requires a VAGCOM. The VAGCOM also allow changing settings on the car’s computer. You can buy one of those if you like for no more than a few readings by the dealer.

I do suggest you get the code read and have it turned off. I suspect it was a clogged snow screen and by now that has melted off and you are fine. However why guess, get the codes and find out for sure. Also if you start ignoring the light, the next problem may be something that is about to seriously damage you car or compromise your safety and you will not know it.

As noted by hellokit get the actural code (like P0123) and post it back here. Don’t rely on a translation of the numbers, bring in the numbers.

When you skid if your car has traction control(likely) or skid control(ESC) expect the engine to hiccup a bit as it loses power purposefully so not put you into a further slip according to its electronics.

My dealer on charges $40 for diagnostic which I find beyond reasonable. The fix charges though are high IMHO. For $98 you are not paying for just a code read but a mechanics hopefully highly qualified opinion and repair proposal for a problem. It takes shop time away from other cars to perform this check. Some small indepenendents still charge this but if you become a regular customer they perform quick checks for free if in for other work.

They used to do this free but at the beginning of OBD-II problems “mechanics” would have the dealer do self free check waste shop time and get full diagnosis and then repair it themselves.

Andrew i,
I agree with you, except what likely results when some “mechanics” would get free DTC code readings. They probably take the code, and assume that the circuit the code references means that the sensor, or actuator, is defective. They, then, change the referenced sensor, or actuator, and sometimes, luck out, and the code “goes away”. More often, I think, the problem is not fixed, so they change more parts, and or, take it to a professional repairer. So, a little knowledge (the Code) can be an expensive thing.

Would it be better for all if every OBD2 car had the capability to display the code without the use of a code reader?

Is the line of thinking that people will ignore even more the “check engine” light if they easily knew what turned it on,kinda using the “fear factor” to get people to have their car checked.

There is a danger giving people more info (because of interpetation problems) and letting them decide “this light means nothing I will ignore it”.

I am in favor of the code being displayed, not just the “check engine” light,I realise good and bad will come from this.