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Engine Check Light On? Don’t Panic, Calm Your Nerves Here!
Imagine you’re happily driving and…the dreaded check engine light comes on. It’s never welcome, but it means your car’s computer system has detected a problem. This can be a simple problem to correct, eg the fluid level is low, a bulb has gone bad, or it can be more serious such as a component failure, eg a sensor or regulator.
The goal of this article is to give you more information so you can decide when to seek professional help.
For the last 10 years (and for some vehicles even longer), vehicles have been equipped with engine management systems. The ECU (Engine Control Unit) controls not only the engine but also the gearbox (transmission), brakes and suspension. The more modern and higher spec the car is, the more features it will have. So there are literally hundreds of reasons why the check engine light comes on. But don’t panic, the ECU can be ‘read’ and the fault code should show what the problem is.
What is a Check Engine Light / Check Engine Light?
All modern vehicles since about 1996 work on engine management systems. And the CEL (check engine light) is a warning light that tells you there is a problem; something is not working properly. The failure could be a component, or fluid level, or a software issue
Can the car be driven? This is the first question that comes to mind, and the general rule of thumb is: if the car seems fine, you can drive it, but you need to get it checked out as soon as possible. Try to make a decision based on the symptoms – if the car is running erratically – stalls, hesitates, drives erratically or seems unsafe in whatever way is best for recovery. When in doubt, always drag it!
CEL turned itself off; is everything ok now? Unfortunately, the error may still be present and recorded in the vehicle’s computer system. It’s best to do a scan again to fix the problem. To do this, you will need a technician with a scanner and analysis software. The scanner will detect one or more trouble codes and allow the technician to reset the check engine light when the problem is resolved.
Is there an easy way to delete the code?
Can I disconnect the battery or remove the fuse or disconnect the ECU? Well you know, I will say that it is not recommended because it does not solve the problem and the problem will most likely come back.
How do I reset the check engine light to off?
There is a reason why your warning light came on, and the most likely reason is that there is a fault somewhere in the system. If there is a fault, the vehicle’s computer will store it as a fault code which, of course, can be any of hundreds of different codes. Fortunately, fault codes are more or less the same across a range of different vehicles; that is, the P 0100 fault code is the same for Jaguar as it is for Ford as it is for Opel.
The priority is to solve the underlying problem. A fault code will either directly indicate where the problem lies, for example a faulty mass air flow meter (a component problem) or it may indicate a faulty circuit and further investigation will be required. It is important to then reset the check engine light to solve the underlying problem. Unless you have the scanning equipment yourself, you will need the help of a technician. If the problem is simple, an entry-level scanner and software will likely solve it. More difficult problems will require more sophisticated equipment. It’s like a medical problem; do you go to your doctor or a specialist?
We all need professional help from time to time. My advice is to ask around when looking for professional help. Check other people’s experiences with a particular company or ask your regular mechanic for advice on who to contact. With all of this, it’s always best to have as much knowledge as possible about how things work yourself. No one likes a ‘smart guy’, but you will be respected for being well informed. For more information on EOBD (Electronic On-Board Diagnostics) visit http://www.carfixer.co.uk
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