Check Engine Light | What to Do

Has this ever happened to you?  You’re driving along, when all of a sudden Mommy says: “UH-OH!  Check Engine Light?!  Wonder what that’s all about…”

A “Check Engine Light” can mean many different things.  From a loose gas cap (sometimes Daddy calls me that) to bigtime engine trouble.  A blinking light means you need immediate attention.  If the light is steady it’s not an emergency, but you should schedule an appointment here at Searles ASAP

While you don’t have to pull over, your car could be wasting gas and polluting the air.  That would be yucky, and no one wants that.  Since way back in the 1980’s – long before I was born – computers have helped monitor things like engine speed, fuel mixture and ignition timing.  In addition to turning on the light, the computer stores a “trouble code” in its memory to help our highly-trained technicians identify the problem by performing a (Big Word Alert) “Diagnostic Assessment”.

If the check engine light comes on, check to see if dashboard gauges indicate low oil pressure or overheating.  Try tightening the gas cap.  This often solves the problem, but it may take a while before the light resets. Reduce your speed, and if you’re pulling a trailer?  Park it as quickly as possible to reduce any additional strain on the engine until you can bring it in.  How’d I get to be so smart?  I spend a lot time at the shop.  As Dad says “Hold my wrench, I’m just getting started.”

Chris Wylie: “A faulty oxygen sensor can cause too much gas to be used – cutting mileage by up to 40%.  Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve mileage by 3%, and replacing a clogged air filter?  Can save you as much as 10%“

Thanks Dad!  So to recap: Well-maintained vehicles, with regular oil changes & properly inflated tires are going to use up to 87 litres LESS in gas per year – which saves you money every time you fill up.  That brings us to NAPA’s latest maintenance offer: Now until August 31st, book your vehicle’s Spring & Summer Maintenance package and you’ll be entered to win one of 75 STIHL® Lithium-ion Blowers & Trimmers.

Searles Spring & Summer maintenance package includes: Oil, lube and filter, tire rotation, and a comprehensive multi-point visual inspection.  It’s True.  (See what I did there? 😉  Don’t forget:   You don’t need snow tires or chains after April 1st to go up the Malahat again, and you can always store them with us until next fall.

Now back to my blog: While no one’s thinking “Air Conditioning” just yet, your A/C has been asleep for months!  (I love doing this by the way)  Turn it on FULL BLAST!  Check for “funny smells” coming out of the vents and make sure it’s cooling properly.  If not, it may need a tune-up.  That’s when you’ll find out if you’ve got a leak or not.

Lastly, a good ol’ fashioned car wash will help you forget about all that snow we got this year!   If you’re doing it by hand, buying a good quality micro-fibre wash mitt will keep you from damaging the paint on a car.

Now just because it’s warmer out, doesn’t mean you can put away the first-aid kit!  BCAA recommends keeping a fully-stocked kit in the car at all times, and a blanket.  If you break down, it can help to keep you warm without having to run the engine.  Other must-haves include: Reflective vests, jumper cables and a fully-charged cell-phone.  A fire extinguisher, flares, flashlight and a whistle, plus food & water, and…an ACTUAL MAP!  Reason being?  GPS isn’t going to help you if you’re lost with no cell service or a low battery.

At the first sign of trouble, pull off to the shoulder as far away from traffic as possible.  But make sure you can be seen by all other drivers, by turning your hazard lights on.  Once you’re safely off the road, call for help. Be sure to tell responders where you are, what your car looks like, and if there are any special circumstances. They’ll ask you all sorts of important questions like:

Are you OK?  How many passengers are with you?  Are there any kids with special needs or pets in need of medical attention?  Regardless of whether you call 911 or roadside assistance, you should also call any friend or family member who might be waiting for you.  You don’t anyone to be worrying about you at home – especially when you heading Up Island to Grandma and Grampa’s house.

Until next time, be sure to put: in your favourites, and like Searle’s Auto Repair on Facebook.