How To Diagnose a Check Engine Light before you bring your Car for Service

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    One of the worst things to see while you’re driving is a amber Check Engine Light. Diagnosing what the problem is before you seek professional help may save you hundreds of dollars.

    The first thing to know when you see a check engine light is that you need to take care of it immediately. Even if your car is still running smooth the problem could be something that could get very expensive if you don’t give it immediate attention.

    On one of our cars we have a gas cap that just will not close very well. Its one of those ones that when you close the cap it clicks like a safety cap on a bottle of aspirin. If the pressure in the gas tank leaks slightly we will get a check engine light. The problem is not serious but there really isn’t a good cure for it.

    On our other vehicle we use to have the same type of gas cap but we were able to replace it with a steel cap that is easy to tell if its closed. No safety clicks its just steel and a rubber washer.



    When the Check Engine light comes on it may not happen right away. You may fill up with gas and not until you drive the car the next day will pressure sensors cause the check engine.

    The first thing to do in our case is to take the positive battery cable off of the battery at our next stop and check the cap for tightness. This will normally cure the problem. As you can see its not a big deal but it isn’t always that simple.

    You can get a computer diagnostic tool for about $40 at most car parts places that plugs into a port normally right under your ignition under the dash. The diagnostic tool will tell you more information than the engine check light can.

    Some Parts places will check your car for free if its still drivable. This is good if you are out on the road. Check with the stores in your area now and see if they provide this service for free before you need it.

    Other parts stores will rent you the tool or give it to you free for a deposit. This way you can check your car at home if you are not able to drive it.


    Final Note

    A Check Engine Light is nothing to forget about. They can be warning you of serious problems with your engine that could put your safety in jeopardy or leave you stranded if you don’t take care of them or at least make sure its something simple and not something serious.

    If you have a check engine light on an older vehicle without computer diagnostic ports. Normally vehicles in the mid 1990’s or before .. then you can use your car’s service manual to diagnose the problem by watching the blinking code that the check engine light will produce. Normally its like Morris code with short and long blinks that return a number that will correlate to a sensor problem or something else.


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