Whats does my "Check Engine" Light ON mean??

Is your "Check Engine" light on? Or does it come on intermittently ? Most "Auto Uneducated" people seem to think that if their "Check Engine" light comes on, that they are low on oil, or has something to do with the oil. That is of course, totally wrong. When your "Check Engine" light comes on, it simply means that the vehicles computer that basically controls the fuel delivery system has sensed that one or more of the inputs to the vehicles computer, has went out of parameters. To put it a bit more simply, one of the engines sensors probably needs to be replaced. When this happens a "Fault Code" is immediately stored in the computer. The "Fault Code" that is stored, is accessible by the technician when he goes to diagnose the problem. The technician will plug in a "Scanner" to get a picture of what is going on with the engines computer system and the sensors that provide input to the computer, so the computer can make changes in air and fuel mixture. In most basic terms, your vehicles computer controls fuel delivery by taking inputs from the many different sensors mounted on the engine, then taking that information and turn it into a signal that controls the pulse of the fuel injectors and air mixture. So, if your "Check Engine" light comes on- just know that it has nothing to do with the oil, and there is probably not much you can do by yourself to fix the problem. The "Check Engine" light being on does not mean that you can't drive the car, although it may run rough or puff out black smoke or be hard to start, just to name a few of the symptoms. Take your vehicle to an ASE approved shop, and make sure you understand how they charge for the first part, which is pulling the codes and diagnosing the problem, and then fixing the problem, which usually consists of parts replacement. Beware of any unnecessary work, make sure you get an explanation of what the problem is, and ALWAYS make sure to get the old parts back. Its always a good idea to take your vehicle to a shop that has a reputation for this type of work, ask your friends and family before just taking it anywhere. And of course if its a newer car, thats possibly under warranty, then you'll be taking it to the dealer.

Simple TUNE UP? Or More Diagnostic Time?

When your car just doesn’t seem like its running up to par, maybe has a rough idle at stoplights or when you turn the air conditioner on, you may just need a tune up. If you haven’t changed the spark plugs in a while, or the air and fuel filters, you’ll definitely want to do that at the same time. Most auto manufacturers have a recommended time to change those items, each vehicle is different so you can check your manual that came with the car. When it comes to the air filter, hold it up to a light or the sun, and see if you can easily see light through it. If not, its time for a new one. As far as the fuel filter, every 8 – 10,000 miles should be good. The PCV valve should be changed at the same time. When you drop your car off at a shop for a tune-up be ready for the mechanic to tell you, a tune up might not fix your rough running problem, so be prepared for extra diagnostic time. Diagnostic time is charged by the hour and can easily be around $60.00 per hour. The more information you can give the mechanic about your "driveability" issue, the better off your wallet will be in the end! Make sure you describe the problems you are having before you leave the car. Take a test drive with the mechanic, first you drive to a point and tell him when the car acts up. Then swap seats and let him drive back to see if he understands what the problem is. This will eliminate a lot of trying to explain whatever driveability problems you might be having on the phone later. I always recommend an oil change at the same time the engine gets tune up parts installed. That way if the engine had been running rich due to a fouled or bad spark plug, you get rid of your contaminated oil at the same time. Anything can happen though. Be prepared for things like spark plug wires, or fuel injectors. Oxygen sensors are another often overlooked maintainence part that needs to be changed periodically. If your mechanic thinks you have a clogged injector, he may recommend to have your fuel injectors pressure cleaned. Just make sure he doesn’t come back later and say that one of them is bad. If a bad injector is suspect, they should be checked for operation prior to cleaning them. Always ask for the old parts back so you can inspect them and get more of a feel and understanding about them. On the next post, we'll talk about your "Check Engine" light.

Avoiding Problems & Mistakes at the Quickie Lube Joint

When it comes to your vehicles maintenance, the one single most important task that you should NEVER overlook is regularly changing the engine oil.
Prolonging an Oil change will do more harm to your engine than anything.
The old addage “out of sight, out of mind” unfortunately is how a lot of people operate when it comes to getting job done. The thing is, Oil Changes are cheap. Even if you don’t try to do it yourself, there’s always one of those “quickie” oil change places right around the next corner, and they are all in constant competition with each other, and will offer coupons and “added value” services to get your business. Some of them go as far as cleaning your vehicles glass inside and out, and emptying the ashtrays, and some even do a quickie vacuuming of the carpet. All very simple tasks, that the wanna-be mechanic could actually do at home in the driveway with common tools. The engines Oil needs to be changed at least every 2500 to 3000 miles, or every 2-3 months. Check your warranty if your vehicle is newer for any special considerations or types of oil.
If you end up taking your car to a professional to have the Oil changed, make sure you look their work over, before you drive your car off the lot. A lot of these places hire young people, and just because of that, mistakes are often made.
When you go to pick up your car from the Oil Change garage, there are a few things you need to do. Before you pay, go out and take a look under the hood. Make sure your dipstick is there, and then after making sure you are on level ground, pull the dipstick out, wipe it off with a paper towel or kleenex, re-insert it and check your oil level. The oil level should be within the specified range on the dipstick. Take a quick look around your engine compartment while the hood is up, and make sure nobody left a wrench or other tool laying where it shouldn’t be. While your at it, take a quick look at your windshield washer fluid tank and make sure that its full. That's the blue colored fluid, in case you didn't know.
And just for the record, never, ever fill it with straight water. If the temperature drops below freezing, the tank will surely burst.
Then, again before paying, start the engine, then get out of the car, kneel down and have a quick look at the undercarriage. Look for any obvious leaks or drips that might indicate the Oil Plug wasn’t installed properly or the Oil filter isn’t tight enough. The most common screw up at a quickie lube place is when the threads on the oil drain plug get “stripped” upon reinstalling, or similar problem with the Oil Filter. Installing the wrong Oil Filter can create a huge crisis later on. However, usually an oil leak will present itself immediately with the engine running when this happens.
This is one of the reasons that if you do elect to have a quickie oil change outlet change your oil, that you want to stick with that same location for as long as you can or for the life of the vehicle if possible. If an oil drain plug did get stripped, and doesn’t leak right away, the next time you go to the same place for an oil change, there leaves no doubt as to how the thing got damaged in the first place, and, exactly the person that did it. That way if there are any costs involved with repairing it, you won't be the one paying!
Before you leave, you’ll want to make sure and ask if they checked the air pressures in all of your tires. This is a gimme, they are all supposed to do that. But more times then not, they forget to do it. You may want to have a quick look at your wiper blades while your there, because if they did’nt recommend them, chances are they didn’t check them. Most Oil Change places stock wiper blades and will install them for free if you purchase them there.
These are all good tips on avoiding problems after you get an oil change, and by checking the details of a shops work before you leave, and by asking questions about the work preformed, it will let them know what kind of customer you are. And if you take the advice of going to the same oil change place regularly, the employees will get to know you and be more likely to stay on top of things.