A Check Engine Light that Haunts Me

If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it’s when my car’s check engine light decides to make itself appear on the dashboard. Without having knowledge of a vehicle’s mechanical functions, I’m caught in the grip of an industry I do not know when this occurs.

Trust is a big factor when it comes to car repairs, especially if you have no clue on how an engine works. This is where I sometimes feel a repair shop holds all the cards and can play games with an unknowing customer.
A month and a half ago, I was driving and my attention was drawn from the traffic around me, to the luminescent yellow light that was not visible only moments ago. It was my check engine light. Both anxiety and anger came forth from within me and I knew I was in for a ride. To have it fixed.

I called my local repair shop and set up an appointment. I have been to this location several times for oil changes and they have been very helpful and earned my trust, but that is their job, since I am not knowledgeable.

A service technician greeted me and I told him the light was on and he printed out some standard paperwork and I handed him my key. After waiting for about an hour, the service tech came to me and said they ran a diagnostic check on my car and mentioned there was not one, but several codes that came up as possible problems. The catch was, they had no clue which code was accurate. My fears of not being familiar with car repair rose.

I was told, to fix the problem, they would re-set my car’s computer, which would then re-set the codes. This remedy was being done so when the light came back on, a better analysis of the problem could be found. The shop did charge me for this service, but said they would not charge for the next diagnostic check.

So there I was, driving my car around town for a few weeks, helplessly waiting for the dreaded light to show itself to me once again. At the same time, a part of me hoped there was no real issue and it was a false alarm. But that is never the case with that light.

About two weeks later, the light came back on and I was again making an appointment with the repair shop to have this problem resolved.

Same process as before when I brought my car in, and I waited about an hour for an answer. I got my answer, or so I thought. It was a bad fuel cap and I needed to buy a replacement. I went with a new factory cap, since cheaper generic caps have a lesser life expectancy, and I had my car back with its light off and clean sailing ahead for me to wipe the thought of that light out of my mind.

Too bad it was only a teaser. Only two days later, the light said “hello” to me, as if I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I called into the shop and told them the light was back on and I had to bring it in to them again.

At this point, my check engine light was on and off for approximately a three week time frame, and I was starting to doubt the repair shop and my trust in it was fading quick.

Frustrated, I told the service tech this needed to be fixed right this time, or there would not be another time for them to remedy the problem. I was instituting a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, as this was the third time I’d brought my car in to be fixed.

This time the tech said he found the issue, but I had my doubts. A hefty $350 later and I had my car back without my little luminescent friend showing himself.

I’m now driving my car around with hope the light will not shine on my dashboard anytime in the near future and this situation has made my lack of knowledge of cars only more evident.

Can I continue to live and rely on a vehicle like this without knowing it from the inside better?

That is a question a very large percentage of the population needs to answer. As cars are an intricate part of society and daily life, how about having some classes available in high school? Or perhaps have universities around the country make it part of their general education requirements. What can it hurt?

Having a better knowledge of the thing that takes us from “A-to-B” would only be a good thing, right?

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