What does check en­gine light mean?

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

Wash your car us­ing a chamois, car sham­poo and power hose. Start at the roof of the car and work down fin­ish­ing off with the wheels and tyres. Once the car is clean, al­low it to dry and fol­low up with some car pol­ish to keep the out­side pro­tected. YOU’RE driv­ing along in your car or truck and sud­denly a yel­low light il­lu­mi­nates on your dash telling you to check or ser­vice your en­gine. If you’re like most car own­ers, you have lit­tle idea about what that light is try­ing to tell you or ex­actly how you should re­act.

Call it the most mis­un­der­stood in­di­ca­tor on your dash­board, the “check en­gine” light can mean many dif­fer­ent things, from a loose gas cap to a se­ri­ously mis­fir­ing en­gine.

“It doesn’t mean you have to pull the car over to the side of the road and call a tow truck. It does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as pos­si­ble,” says Dave Cap­pert of the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Automotive Ser­vice Ex­cel­lence, a Vir­ginia-based or­gan­i­sa­tion that tests and cer­ti­fies auto tech­ni­cians.

Ig­nore the warn­ing, and you could end up dam­ag­ing ex­pen­sive com­po­nents. It also can be a sign that your car is get­ting poor fuel econ­omy and emit­ting higher lev­els of pol­lu­tants. What the light means The “check en­gine” light is part of your car’s so-called on-board di­ag­nos­tics (OBD) sys­tem. Since the 1980s, com­put­ers in­creas­ingly have con­trolled and mon­i­tored ve­hi­cle per­for­mance, reg­u­lat­ing such vari­ables as en­gine speed (RPM), fuel mix­ture, and ig­ni­tion tim­ing. In The last of the tips to clean your car prop­erly, is to wipe down the tyre rims to re­move all dirt. Then ap­ply tyre pol­ish to all four tyres. Grease, rub­ber, and road-tar de­posits picked up from the road of­ten ac­cu­mu­late around the wheel wells and along the lower edge of the body. These can be stub­born to re­move and may re­quire a stronger prod­uct, such as a bug-and-tar re­mover. Use a soft, nonabra­sive cloth to re­move these de­posits, as they can quickly blacken your sponge.

Use a sep­a­rate sponge to clean the wheels and tyres, which may be coated with sand, brake dust, and other de­bris that could mar the car’s fin­ish. Mild soap and wa­ter may work here; if not, a ded­i­cated wheel cleaner may be re­quired. Be sure the cleaner is com­pat­i­ble with the type of fin­ish (paint, clearcoat, chrome, etc.) used on the wheels. A strong for­mula in­tended for mag wheels, for in­stance, can dam­age the clear coat that’s some cars, the com­puter also tells the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion when to shift.

When it finds a prob­lem in the elec­tronic-con­trol sys­tem that it can’t cor­rect, the com­puter turns on a yel­low warn­ing in­di­ca­tor that’s la­belled “check en­gine,” “ser­vice en­gine soon” or “check pow­er­train.” Or the light may be noth­ing more than a pic­ture of an en­gine, known as the used on the wheels that come on to­day’s cars. To be on the safe side, choose a cleaner that’s la­belled as safe for use on all wheels. Don’t... wash your car when the body is hot, such as im­me­di­ately af­ter driv­ing it or af­ter it has been parked in di­rect sun­light for awhile. Heat speeds the dry­ing of soap and wa­ter, mak­ing wash­ing more dif­fi­cult and in­creas­ing the chances that spots or de­posits will form.

Don’t move the sponge in cir­cles. This can cre­ate light, but no­tice­able scratches called swirl marks. In­stead, move the sponge length­wise across the hood and other body pan­els. And don’t con­tinue us­ing a sponge that’s dropped on the ground with­out thor­oughly rins­ing it out. The sponge can pick up dirt par­ti­cles that can scratch the paint. Do... rinse all sur­faces thor­oughly with wa­ter be­fore you be­gin wash­ing to re­move loose dirt and de­bris that could cause scratch­ing. Once you be­gin, con­cen­trate on one sec­tion at a time, wash­ing and rins­ing each area com­pletely be­fore mov­ing on to the next one. This en­sures that you have plenty of time to rinse be­fore the soap dries. Start at the top, and then work your way around the car.

Work the car-wash so­lu­tion into a lather In­ter­na­tional Check En­gine Sym­bol, per­haps with the word “Check.” In ad­di­tion to turn­ing on the light, the com­puter stores a “trou­ble code” in its mem­ory that iden­ti­fies the source of the prob­lem, such as a mal­func­tion­ing sen­sor or a mis­fir­ing en­gine. The code can be read with an elec­tronic scan tool or a di­ag­nos­tic com­puter, stan­dard equip­ment in auto re­pair shops. There are also with plenty of suds that pro­vide lots of lu­bri­ca­tion on the paint sur­face. And rinse the sponge of­ten. Us­ing a sep­a­rate bucket to rinse the sponge keeps dirt from get­ting mixed into the sudsy wash wa­ter.

When rins­ing, use a hose with­out a noz­zle and let the wa­ter flow over the car from top to bot­tom. This cre­ates a sheet­ing ac­tion that helps min­i­mize pool­ing of wa­ter. How should I dry the car when I’m done? Don’t... let the car air dry, and don’t ex­pect a drive around the block to do an ef­fec­tive job. Ei­ther will leave wa­ter­marks, which in ar­eas with hard wa­ter are the min­er­als left af­ter eva­po­ra­tion. In ad­di­tion, don’t use an abra­sive towel or other ma­te­rial that can leave hair­line scratches in the paint. Do... use a chamois (nat­u­ral or syn­thetic) or soft terry tow­els. If you choose tow­els, you may need sev­eral. It’s best to blot the wa­ter up in­stead of drag­ging the towel or chamois over the paint. The dry­ing process can be speeded up by us­ing a soft squeegee to re­move most of the wa­ter on the body, but be sure the rub­ber is pli­able and that it doesn’t pick up bits of dirt that can cause scratches. — Al­l4­women a num­ber of rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive code read­ers that are de­signed for do-it-your­selfers.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers orig­i­nally used the OBD sys­tem to help tech­ni­cians pin­point and trou­bleshoot mal­func­tions. But the sys­tems now are re­quired un­der fed­eral laws gov­ern­ing automotive emis­sions. Although larger trucks have been ex­empt from the re­quire­ment that quickly

is chang­ing.

“The ‘check en­gine’ light is re­served only for pow­er­train prob­lems that could have an im­pact on the emis­sions sys­tems,” says John Van Gilder, Gen­eral Mo­tors’ lead OBD de­vel­op­ment engi­neer.

Ex­actly what the OBD sys­tem looks for de­pends on the make, model and year. The orig­i­nal sys­tems var­ied widely in their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Some did lit­tle more than check whether the var­i­ous elec­tronic sen­sors and ac­tu­a­tors were hooked up and work­ing. What to do If your “check en­gine” light il­lu­mi­nates don’t re­act like one mo­torist, who sim­ply poured an ex­tra quart of en­gine oil into her 2002 Toy­ota Corolla. Although ex­treme sit­u­a­tions, such as low oil pres­sure or an over­heat­ing en­gine, might trig­ger a “check en­gine” light, your dash­board has other lights and gauges to warn you about those prob­lems and prob­a­bly a lot sooner. The best ad­vice is to read your owner’s man­ual be­fore­hand and learn the pur­pose of the “check en­gine” light and ev­ery other gauge and warn­ing in­di­ca­tor on your dash­board. Pe­ri­od­i­cally, you also should test the “check en­gine” light and other dash­board warn­ing lights. Usu­ally, you can do this by turn­ing the key to the keyon/en­gine-off po­si­tion. Con­sult the owner’s man­ual for more in­for­ma­tion. Re­place any bulbs that aren’t work­ing.

— Con­sumer­re­ports

The 'check en­gine' light is part of your car's so-called on­board di­ag­nos­tics (OBD) sys­tem.

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