Was I "had" by a used car dealer?

I purchased a used 06 Scion xa on Saturday. I test drove it before I bought it, and saw a vehicle history report so everything seemed fine. But on the day I got it, I only drove it 15 miles when the “check engine” light came on. It has just shy of 60k miles on it, so my boyfriend thought it was programmed to go on when it was time for scheduled maintenance. But when I took it to get the code read, the guy at AutoZone said the dealer probably cleared the code so it would be off long enough for me to not know about it when I bought it. Is that possible?

Yes, the occurrence that trips the check engine light has to occur twice before the light will come on. Sometimes you can turn it off and it won’t reappear for weeks, sometimes in a few minutes. It depends on the code and the severity of the issue causing it.

What was the code? the guy at Autozone should have given you a cash register receipt with the code and their “best guess” of the problem. The code will be at the top and look like P0300. It will always be a P followed by 4 numbers. Let us know and we may be able to help you some more.

It was p0441 “evaporative emission control system incorrect purge flow”, which doesn’t seem like a terribly serious problem, but I’ve heard it can end up being expensive. I bought a fuel system cleaner from autozone that cleared up the problem for exactly one day and now the light is back. I haven’t had a chance to take it to a mechanic yet.

Call the dealer. Many used cars come with some level of 30 day or so warranty, sometimes a 50/50 cost share. What does your sales agreement say? I wouldn’t start with a mechanic until I have given the dealer a chance to make it right. Give him the code and ask him what he is going to do about this. No need to be confrontational or accusatory. Even if they aren’t contracturally obligated to repair, they may offer a goodwill repair if you present the issue in a straightforward manner.

I looked over my paperwork. I purchased “as is” with no warranty or ay kind of grace period for repairs.

“evaporative emission control system purge flow” can be ignored FOREVER if you don’t need an emissions test…If you DO need an emissions test, start looking for a new carbon canister or, with luck, just change it’s intake filter if they still have intake filters… be very careful about paying for repairs here…Many times parts are changed and the problem persists…You should not have to pay for guesswork…This has NOTHING to do with the drivability or function of the car…

I would still call and talk to them. I take it you didn’t have any prepurchase inspection or possibly a test drive that may have revealed the issue before the purchase. Hopefully this won’t cost you much to repair.

As a matter of course, I don’t purchase any dealer-sold used car without a 30 day/50/50 cost share warranty. If it isn’t offered, I ask. If we can’t come to agreement, I walk. I think a dealer should stand behind the car he sells for at least that period of time.

You may have screwed yourself by not having the car inspected before the purchase but odds are the dealer did not.

The dealer likely took this car in trade or bought it at auction. You state you drove it 15 miles before the CEL illuminated and the dealer probably drove it more like a total of a mile or two altogether before putting it up for sale.

This is a perfect example of why you always want your mechanic to inspect a used vehicle before you buy it. This is also a perfect example of why you should always read the paperwork before you sign.

The answer to your question is no, you weren’t “had” by the used car dealer. You were “had” by your lack of attention to detail.

You can ask the people who sold you the car to fix it, but if they say “no,” there is probably nothing you can do about it.

You may also see if you have any protections under the laws of whatever state, county or city you purchased it in.

In that 15 miles, did you fill the gas tank? One common cause for this condition is chronic overfilling of the gas tank, clicking the handle until every last drop is in the tank. The gas goes in at ground temperature, about 58F and then expands as it heats up to air temperature. The only place it has to go is into the canister. Adding gas, even if you didn’t overfill could have caused the light to come on due to increased vapor pressure.

You can spend a lot of money here, but first, try keeping the gas tank at 3/4 full or less. Do not fill up for awhile. Maybe the canister will dry out and everything will start working again. This might take a couple of weeks. It depends on how long the canister has been exposed to these conditions.

If you leave the light on, and this works, the light will go out on its own after a predetermined number of drive cycles without the issue. Once it goes out, remember to stop filling after the first click. Some cars are more susceptible to this than others. Looks like this is one of the sensitive ones.

One more thing, I don’t know if this is one of the codes that can be caused by a defective or loose gas cap, but that may be something else to look at.

I strongly recommend against ignoring Check Engine Lights (often otherwise called Malfunction Indicator Lights). While this particular problem isn’t one that would destroy your vehicle if ignored, by allowing the warning light to remain lit you’re essentially disabling your “early warning system” for other problems that COULD destroy your engine.

Caddyman is comfortable ignoring his CEL, but I don’t recommend it for others.

What state did you purchase this in? Have you researched the laws of your state?

Normally I would agree with the same mountainbike, but in this case, I would let it go for a couple of weeks, up to a month even. If the CEL starts flashing, then you must take immediate action. If after a month of not filling the gas tank, the light does not go out, then you will need to try something else, like changing the canister or vent filter.

I’m not sure if you mean you bought it from a used car dealer or from the used car lot at a new car dealer. At any rate this might be covered by the extended emissions warranty. Up till 70K for a lot of items, and 80K for things like cat converters. So check your owners manual and talk to the new car dealer on it. Also if you continue to drive with the light on, you may void that 80K warranty that you do have.

I agree with Bing. As long as major emission items are covered by Warranty til 8/80, I would think an immediate trip to a Toyota/scion dealer would be worthwhile.