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Ryan G. Motorworks

Engine Service | Ryan GMW

In the world today, owning a car is becoming more and more of a necessity, and often times car repairs can mean paying more than you did for the car if you choose the wrong repair company. Since the engine is one of the most expensive parts to repair on a vehicle, it stands to reason that when the check engine light pops on you might have a little mini panic attack trying to think of all the possible things that could be wrong and how in the world you are going to pay for such an expensive part.

What is a check engine light?

First of all it’s important to note that check engine lights are not the same from one vehicle to another. The symbol on the dash varies based on the type of vehicle that is owned. The check engine light is a little light located on the dash, typically behind the steering wheel, that lights up when a driver needs to have their engine checked. Even though the appearance of the lights vary based on the type of vehicle, the meaning remains the same: the vehicle’s emission system isn’t functioning properly. There is an on-board diagnostic system (OBD) and engine control unit, located within most vehicles. This system and unit are responsible for monitoring a multitude of different parameters. The check engine light will pop on when they receive a reading that isn’t exactly like it is supposed to be.

A multitude of factors can trigger the check engine light of the vehicle to come on. Sometimes the reason may be simple, such as a faulty sensor or low transmission fluid. Loose caps and faulty fuel injectors are also common reasons that the check engine light might be triggered. The engine could just be wet. The oxygen sensors could be messed up. Or, it could be something major like a blown head gasket. No matter the cause, the final conclusion is the same: If your check engine light is on, you should really go and get it checked out. A lot of times your imagination is worse than the truth, but even when your imagination is dead on it is better to know so that the problem can be addressed before you end up on the side of the road.

Engine Diagnostics

When you take your vehicle in for engine diagnostics testing, it’s much like going to see a doctor because you have a fever. Like a fever, the check engine sign was the warning that made you act. You take the vehicle to an auto repair service center, like you would go to a doctor’s office, in order to see a professional. Much like a doctor diagnoses patients and prescribes the right antibiotics; the professional will diagnose what is wrong with the car and determine what is needed to get it up and running once again.

Engine diagnostic testing is used by the mechanic to gather the necessary data needed to repair the vehicle and get the engine light to go off. Engine diagnostics can be used for other things as well; such as, emission testing. Each vehicle belongs to a class, and each class of vehicles have emission standards they must adhere too. Engine Diagnostics can be used in emission testing to make sure the vehicle meets those standards.

How Engine Diagnostics Works

Typically, the first step to performing an engine diagnostic test is for the mechanic or repairman to plug a device into the onboard computer located within the vehicle. Located just under the dashboard on the driver’s side, there is typically a space for the mechanic or repairman to plug in the computer. The device that is plugged in will interface with the computer. It will then return a diagnostic code that the mechanic or repairman can use and refer back to a list of codes from the manufacturer of the vehicle. If everything is fine, the user will be informed by the device. However, the device may contain one or more codes if something is wrong with the vehicle.

The returned codes can have several different meanings. During the diagnostic test, the mechanic or repairman will determine what is causing each code to appear. This is so that they can determine the estimate of repairs and let the owner of the vehicle know about how much the repairs will cost them, or if the repairs are out of their area of expertise. Sometimes the fix is a simple one, but other times it can be very complex and take a few days to fully fix.