Car Time – September 2019

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Dash Warning Lights Can be a Pain

    There you are driving along minding your own business when a red light pops on your dash alerting you of some kind of situation. Ugh! Why is my car acting out?
    Your vehicle is a machine that is very complex and components will fail. Nails will end up in your tires. Antifreeze will leak from your vehicle. All of these things could happen if you own your car long enough. 
    Vehicles have been this way since they were invented. The level of technology has increased into crazy levels of complexity. That includes warning lights on your dash. Thanks to technology we are alerted to these failures. We should not ignore these signs. 
    I compare car failures to medical issues. We are like cars. The older we get the more medical issues we have. They occur without warning. It will force us to change our plans or cancel appointments just like when your vehicle fails. We have to take steps to cure our medical issues. Testing will be done, follow up appointments will be made, etc. The body of course is a higher priority than your car, however you must take these car issues seriously. Just like with health issues, we must take the time to deal with them to expect reliability.
    Why is there a check engine light? This is the government stepping in. The Feds charge automotive manufactures to make a system that alerts you when an emissions related component fails. Most computer controlled components are emissions related. What does that mean? It means that it affects the pollutants that come out of the tailpipe.
    There is a long list of events that will cause a check engine light. These events can be as simple as a loose gas cap to a failed transmission and a ton of stuff in between. I have even seen a check engine light on due to dirty engine oil.
    Folks, these new cars are complex. They have computer controlled everything. Many mechanical parts are computer controlled components. When oil changes are neglected it will cause some of these parts to make the computer think it’s failing — all because of dirty, sludgy oil. What it really needs is an oil change. So the customer pays for diagnosis and an oil change. 
    Sometimes these check engine lights can be avoided. It comes down to good maintenance, awareness of factory required maintenance and having a good relationship with a top-notch facility.
    What about other warning lights? The TPMS (tire pressure monitor system) light is another pain. However, it can alert you of a puncture in your tire before it becomes flat. It will also alert you to low tire pressure for maintenance. This is another government idea to force people to keep proper air in your tires. Low air in the tires causes poor fuel mileage and dangerous handing.
    When your washer is low a light may come on and that is normal. If your low coolant light comes on that will normally mean that you have a leak in your cooling system and you should have it checked right away.
    The red light that looks like a genie means you are dangerously low on oil and you should stop driving. The red light that says “BATT” OR “CHARGING” means that you have a problem with your battery charging and your battery may potentially go dead.
    If a light message comes up that you don’t understand just pull out your owner’s manual and look it up. The point is to not ignore it but to act on it right away. The reliability of your vehicle and the safety of your family are at risk.

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