Friday, September 27, 2013

Cyber Mechanics

There is one more thing I accomplished yesterday that I'm kind of proud of--unless I misjudged and it turns out to have been a bad thing. The "service engine soon" light has been shining on my dashboard since early spring, and I've intended ever since then to get it checked out. But. There was one great big "but," that being that I've had more than one bad experience with auto mechanics feeding me a line of bull and talking me into expensive repairs that weren't actually necessary. Based on those bad apples, I've become suspicious of all but one trusted repair company, one that specializes in tires and brake jobs, unfortunately, not engines. If the light had read "service engine now," I'd have had no choice but to bite the bullet and hope to find an honest mechanic, but that word "soon" seemed like nothing more than a suggestion and made me wonder just how important it could be.

I've been reading online occasionally for months about the many different things that could cause the "service engine soon" light to come on, and one thing I learned was that even something as simple as a gas cap not screwed on tightly could allow enough air into the gas mixture to trigger the dashboard alarm. I also learned that tightening the loose gas cap (which I've presumably done every time I've filled the tank since the warning light first appeared) won't turn off the light. Well, I wasn't about to get roped into costly repairs over nothing more serious than a loose gas cap, so when my Internet search led to information about how to reset the light, I decided to try it.

It was so easy! All I had to do was remove the battery cable clamp from the negative terminal, wait five minutes, then put it back on, start the engine, and voila! No more warning light. I figure if the light comes on again, there must be something wrong that really needs fixing, and I'll go get the work done. In the meantime, maybe the light will stay off at least long enough for the car to pass its annual inspection.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Internet? Too many times, you say? Well, here it comes again:  I LOVE THE INTERNET!

UPDATE AT 7:00 PM:  Well, crap! The light came back on half a mile from my house. That's what I get for feeling smug.


  1. OMG! That's brilliant! I'm afraid I'm one of those who calls her mechanic the very second that light comes on. But I'm lucky... i have one I trust.

    1. Holly, it wasn't so brilliant after all. Check out the update at the end of the post.

    2. That little light drives me crazy! Fortunately I have a great Toyota dealership close by with an Express Service bay. I drive in there, they check it out and turn it off for no charge. It usually means "change oil."

    3. Annette, you are fortunate! It was a serviceman at the Toyota dealership here who told me my last car needed an engine replacement to the tune of $5,000+. I believed him and wrote him a check. Thank goodness they had to order the new engine, which gave my son-in-law time to take the car back to the same dealership and get a second opinion from the service manager. I got my money back and the actual repair cost at another place was around $800--still high, but not devastatingly so. I drove that car for another five years before trading it in on my current one.


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