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What might this mean?

I drive a 2006 Scion tC. Currently, it has about 43,000 miles on it. Two days ago, the “check engine” light went on and I was unpleasantly surprised. I maintain the car very well, which doubled my surprise.

The symptoms are the following: the car burns fuel at a very fast rate. On a half a tank, I went only 60 miles. While the car seems to run fine with more than 1/4 tank, once below it shakes occasionally and sometimes violently. Finally, the car always smells like gas-station (fuel smell surrounds that car, inside and out).

The problem is I am near broke. It is $60 for just the check up. While I realize I have to come up with money to get this fixed before serious (more serious?) damage is done, I want to go into the process with some ideas.

Thanks for any help!

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here. 

 The extra cost of fuel is soon going to cost you more than getting it fixed if you are lucky, if not you may have some damage done by ignoring it.

Pay now or pay later. If the mileage is that bad, then it won’t be long before you will have paid the repair cost in additional fuel alone. Also, if it is taking that much gas, the Cat probably won’t last long. That’ll be another expense to repair if you wait. You can start by getting the OBD-II code read. Many auto-parts store will do this for free. Report back the code(s) present, and maybe someone can help.

Is there anything unethical about going to a shop just to get the code?

No. But you don’t have to. As tardis said, you can go to an auto parts store and ask if they have OBD-II code readers for loan. You will give them your driver’s license and they will give you the code reader. There should be a D-shaped connector under your dash board that mates to the code reader cable. Just plug the scanner in while the car is off and collect the codes. The scanner will tell you when it is done. Just unplug it, take it back in, and the folks inside will print the codes for you. You can discuss it with them and post the codes here. If you are uneasy doing this completely safe test yourself, take a friend along who can help you. Maybe the parts store guys will help scan the ECM, too. And remember to get your license back.

With the engine running, there may be a fuel leak. Look under the car for any drip, and sniff test where the gasoline smell is greatest. If there is any leak, you want to get it fixed, pronto!
Can you do anything, such as put a clamp on a hose, and such?

You may have a serious problem that requires immediate help or the cost will go way up. You should not drive the car until it is fixed. Call a family member and ask for a loan or a gift if you have not already done so. You may have a leak.

Even though the bumper to bumper warranty is 3/36, I believe the powertrain warranty is 5/60 for a 2006 Toyota. Hopefully the problem comes under warranty. It’s a matter of pay now or a lot later.

Good luck,

Ed B.

First thing I thought of was a fuel leak and this needs to be addressed as it could be a fire hazard.

You say it’s well maintained. Who is doing the maintaining and is there a history of fuel system flushing, etc. involved in any of this?

So I received the codes and they were the following:

PO 171 with note: "Code in computer bank 1 running lean"
P 2195 with note: Code in computer stuck lean bank 1"
“Recommend replacing bank 1 oxygen sensor. Estimate $415.00 for replacement.”

It is covered by the 3/36k warranty but I am obviously not eligible. It is not covered by the 5/60k powertrain warranty. I spoke with a highly recommended auto repair shop and they said that it should probably be covered on a 50k emissions warranty, but Scion declined that, saying that law is not in effect in Michigan. The guy at the auto repair shop also said that it might be something as simple as a hose needing to be replaced (which could be done in minutes).

I will need to really draw on some sources that I don’t necessarily want to do to pay for this, so any help is definitely appreciated.

There is a 2yr 24,000 Federal Emissions Defect Warranty and the 8yr 80,000 Fedaral Emissions Performance Warranty, I have never heard of any 50K emission warranty,more important we are hearing of a manufacture claiming emission warrantys are not the same for all States.

Does your State test for emissions?

Why would Michigan be exempt in any case?

I couldn’t hope to answer to answer those questions…Most of the stuff that I have been told is beyond me. Thus I am putting trust in a lot of people, and trying to make sure I’m not screwed in the process by talking to people like you and others I know that have a better clue than me.

Well you should know if your State tests for emissions.

According to the internet, it does not.

Remember last week when we were discussing grounds for 8yr 80,000 cat denial and it was pointed out that the vehicle must fail a emission test, and some felt that having such a standard was impossible? “how can warranty be denied because a State doesn’t test” was pointed out. This case is about what? 02 sensors,that part isn’t so clear,02 sensors would be denied anyway. It seems something is going on in regards to 8 yr 80,000 and emission testing,simply needing a cat or ECU is not enough.

Here’s the link to the EPA Fact Sheet. Should clear the questions up.

There are two parts to the federal warrenty-performance and defects. The performance warrenty only covers bringing it back to specs when testing is required in your area. Apparently Michigan is not, same as Minnesota.

The defects warrenty will cover for the 8/80K if there is a defect in a major emissions system, regardless of whether there is a local emissions testing program. So guess that answers the questions and was a surprise to me.

So if it is an O2 sensor and you are beyond the meager 3/36, pretty much out of luck unless there was a defect in the sensor.

My text book has it backwards, it lists the defect Warranty as the 2 yr 24,000 mile one and the Performance Warranty as the 8 yr 80,000 one and doesn’t allow for non-test failing cars to qualify,I am going to point this out as this text book is part of the Colledge’s Automotive Program (it cost over $130.00) lots of good stuff in it.Has OBD3 info.

Automotive Technology, A Systems Approach 4th Ed. Jack Erjavec (used for ASE Certs.)Copyright 2005.
It concerns me that the EPA Doc. cited is dated 1996.(in the link by Bing)

The text book does say this info should be in every cars Owners Manual.

Back to the problem at hand…

I understand what it’s like not to have the cash to fix a car, but you need to find a way. Perhaps a car-saavy friend can help. If you run the engine long term with lean-running cylinders you risk doing serious damage. Lean running has exactly the same effect as a fireplace bellows on a fireplace, it raises the temperature. That can lead to preignition and serious consequences.

An '06 tC is a nice car. I know, because I drive an '05 tC and my son drives an '06 tC.

Sincere best.