View Full Version : Replace "check engine" light with something actually useful!

01-19-2012, 11:52 PM
I love cars. And I really support this idea. Thoughts?

http://jalopnik.com/5877086/yes-the-check-engine-light-still-needs-to-die (http://jalopnik.com/5877086/yes-the-check-engine-light-still-needs-to-die)

01-19-2012, 11:57 PM
There is a reason they call them 'idiot' LIGHTS. You see it go on- shut it down. Now. You have a GOOD car, add more gauges, for GP.:cool:

01-19-2012, 11:59 PM
That would be great if the Check engine light didn't come one for EVERYTHING. Loose gas cap? Impending doom? you get the same indication. All we (drivers) are asking for is more easily accessible information.

Nicholas Carey
01-20-2012, 12:00 AM
I love cars. And I really support this idea. Thoughts?

http://jalopnik.com/5877086/yes-the-check-engine-light-still-needs-to-die (http://jalopnik.com/5877086/yes-the-check-engine-light-still-needs-to-die)

I saw that. Given how cheap a small alphameric display is these days, There's no reason your $30,000 car shouldn't actually tell you what the problem is. And given how cheap solid state memory is...there's no reason it shouldn't log all faults for later analysis, instead of just storing the latest fault. I love it when the check engine light comes on intermittently. Be nice to be able download the log and check on what's been reporting problems.

01-20-2012, 12:07 AM
They don't want you to know."All we (drivers) are asking for is more easily accessible information." Us your car's PC. Get the code, and cross reference it. Usually it involves hitting the accessory key 3 times, w/o starting. Write what you see. Cross it.

01-20-2012, 12:14 AM
Absolutely. Theres no argument that its can't be done. There are several tried-and-true ways to pull codes and find out what they mean.

But if my check engine light comes on while Im going 70 down the interstate, I'd like to know right then if (a) my Oxygen sensor is going bad or (b) my oil pressure is dangerously low. The first I can say, Oh, I should replace that soon. The second, Im going find oil NOW.

And of course they don't want us to know. Thats what keeps the shops in business. A Make has no incentive to make this information easily accessible. Thats why we want legislation. They can demand emissions regulations, bumper heights, even back-up cameras.

01-20-2012, 12:18 AM
there's no reason it shouldn't log all faults for later analysis, instead of just storing the latest fault.

I'm pretty sure the engine ECM does store that data so that a tech with the scan tool can get at it. Your right it would be nice to let us just see it. Maybe there's an "app for that." :)

I know that marine engines have that functionality. As a result, you best be sure to operate the engine within the parameters set forth in the owners manual if you want warrrantee work done.

" Yes Mr. Customer, you say you adhered to the break-in procedure. Hmmmm. Says here, you cancelled the oil change alert and didnt put 10 hours at half throttle on before opening her up. We're real sorry, but we cant fix it under warrantee. But we can have yuo up and running again at our regular shop rates."


01-20-2012, 12:54 AM
Get the code.

01-20-2012, 05:51 AM
Shortly before Christmas, my car (the commuter pod - a Ford Ka) started misfiring. Just missing a beat or three, now and again. I thought "Sparkplugs. I've never looked at 'em in 20k miles and I bet they're the ones from new, 55k ago."

Two days before Christmas, when starting up after work, the engine warning light came on. The manual, unhelpfully (and typically) says "Stop immediately and call a garage." Stuff that. It's meaningless. I drove the twenty miles home, after a brisk check of the oil and coolant levels.

The following day, with the weather clear, and a shift starting at 3pm, I popped the bonnet. The Ka is notorious for self-rusting-welding its plugs into the engine, so I took my time, applying plenty of WD40 and praying to the sparkplug pixie before taking the old ones out. Two came out with a large amount of effort. One took extreme amounts of effort. The fourth ... snapped in half. This, three hours before I needed the car for work and a subsequent Christmas commute across country. All four tips were heavily corroded and worn. This was the problem. And now I had a new one.

After swearing for a few moments, I tapped around the sparkplug remnants with a cold chisel and liberally applied more WD40. Waited an hour. Then drove a screwdriver into the plug's guts, attached the best and biggest mole-wrench I could find, and - calling on the powers of Conan himself - wound the "blessed" thing out.

Thoroughly copper-greasing the threads, the new sparkplugs went in - to the correct torque.

On start-up, after a few hiccoughs due to the puddle of WD40 in the cylinder, the Ka sounded great. Drove great. The engine warning light was, however, still on. So I took it to work, and down and up the motorway to meet my Christmas schedule. Three hundred miles with the engine warning light on.

Late on Boxing Day, the light just decided to go off.

It's still off.

The technical side of me wonders whether the sensor algorithms have determined that the fault (correctly diagnosed) has been rectified, and whatever software is running has been reset. Or maybe the bulb's blown! But what an insanely useless thing.


Dan McCosh
01-20-2012, 10:29 AM
Lots of cars give you much more information on a digital readout. The check engine light is required by the EPA to indicate the emission control system is malfunctioning. It doesn't do much for indicating there is something more serious wrong with your engine. I have engine temp, oil pressure, etc. on guages--but that's on an older truck.

01-20-2012, 01:05 PM
I drive a 1970 VW Beetle. I've found sadly more often then not my check engine light is the engine stopping for no apparent reason. Great thing is I can open the hatch and find what's wrong quickly and fix it. That's what cars need and should be. Not more lights!

01-20-2012, 01:55 PM
Every time my check engine light comes on, I stop the car, get out, open the hood and check to see that the engine's still there. So far, so good.

01-20-2012, 02:06 PM
After doing a lot with aftermarket ECM's I can tell you it would be a simple matter for the information to be available to the driver in multiple formats. I think the first manufacturer to do this would have a really large niche market past the hot rodding folks. Of course what no one seems to get is even though the manufacturers could do this regulation would soon get in the way. Welcome to the nanny state. For now if I want a powerful and economical vehicle that actually informs me of its real status I have to build it myself and break some law or regulation to do it. I know for a fact if my vehicle was in California I would be subject to reprisals for my insolence.

01-20-2012, 02:20 PM
man, i miss my old SHO, all you needed to read the codes was a paperclip. use it as a jumpoer in the plug, and then sit in the drivers seat and the CEL would flash the codes out. nowadays the prius is services by a mechanic (at least until warranty is up) and i take my wife's Cabrio autozone/ the like if i need to. I don't think it should be taken away, though i do like the dash display or something that tells you what went wrong instantly, but it should be something that's not easy to ignore, otherwise people will do just that.

01-20-2012, 02:23 PM
You Drive a Pious? :)

Hunky Dory
01-20-2012, 02:33 PM
The more I repair newer cars the more I love my 92 S-10 pickup. It is now excempt from all but an annual safety inspection and no check engine light. It just turned 70,000 miles and I have no plans to replace it.