The check engine light on your dash is on and like that missing filling in your tooth it’s not going away unless it’s attended to by a professional. What to do, where to go and what is it going to cost are questions that loom bigger for you than the meaning of life.
The answer to the first question is easy. The light has done its job – it has gotten your attention. There’s a problem, we don’t know what, but something happened in your automobile’s inners that caused the machine’s on board computer to “throw a code” and illuminate that icon.
One or more of the engine’s many sensors has told the car’s “brain” that something is awry. It could be emissions related or maybe the motor is beginning to operate outside one or more, of the many, standard parameters for things like fuel delivery or engine timing. In a few words – it is system related
Now is the time for you to help fix this problem. Mentally note the driving conditions when you first noticed the light. Things like – were you accelerating or cruising, did the engine miss or “pop”, did any of the other warning lights come on or was the transmission attempting to shift at the time, these may all be important to the technician who will be working on your car.
By the way, who will be extinguishing that light? Well there’s always the dealer but let’s accept them as the benchmark to which we compare other possibilities. The car dealer will provide all the amenities like the availability of a rental, shuttle service and possibly a Wi-Fi connection for your lap top in the waiting room. But these conveniences come at a price in the form of increased hourly rates and labor charges for the most elementary of services. However the dealer is the gatekeeper when it comes to its brand’s repair information and techniques, but there are other possibilties.
So if the dealer isn’t the choice who should be putting your car up on the lift. A reasonable alternative is an independent auto service center. But how would you ever know which one? Let’s disregard word of mouth endorsements since everyone knows how they work and direct our attention to some proactive self-effort.
Do some research – Better Business Bureau reports can be easily retrieved on-line.
Ask some questions – hourly rate, percentage of technicians that are ASE certified, membership in industry sponsored quality assurance programs like Approved Auto Repair run by AAA or AC Delco’s Independent Service Center program.
These affiliations and others devised by parts manufacturers and trade organizations have standards for membership and often an investigative process is performed prior to acceptance.
Make a visit – how is the housekeeping, not just in the waiting room but out in the service bays as well, are the invoices computer generated, what services are offered on site and which are sublet and to which trade associations does the firm belong? What information can be gathered from the company’s web site?
The answers to these questions should lead you to a reputable shop. You may want to try the company out by scheduling an oil change. This will give you a real time experience with the service center’s staff which you should judge by their willingness to spend time to uncover your concerns and desires.
The cost of determining what caused that light to come on should not amount to more than one hour of the shop’s hourly rate and in many garages it could be less. As for the cost of repairing the underlying problem, that of course depends on the repair needed.
It’s likely to be less painful than dental work and a lot less consequential than the meaning of life.