How To Save Yourself From The Dreaded Check Engine Light Scam

By Chad Ina - February 16, 2016

Every industry has it’s scams and the check engine light scam is no other, among many in the automotive industry.

It’s not that the automotive industry is bad as a whole, just like politicians are not bad as a whole. But, there are enough of them.

It’s a shame really. There are lots of mechanics out there that are fantastic people. Then of course, you have a few bad apples that ruin the whole bunch and tarnish everyone’s reputations.

What Is The Check Engine Light And Why Is It There?

It is the warning light for a computerised system that’s designed to monitor your vehicle for potential problems.

The check engine light is a catch-all status message that could mean many things. It could be as simple as bad spark plugs, or the expensive replacement of an O2 sensor.

Since it’s the one light for many things, it has inspired a tremendous number of scams when people take their vehicles to the mechanic or worse still to the dealership. The reason is that, they know you don’t know what it is. They can literally tell you it’s anything they want and give you a costly repair that wasn’t needed. There have even been cases where the person was billed for a pricey repair that wasn’t even done because it wasn’t broken in the first place.

One thing to be aware of is that; the check engine light is set to come on at certain mileage markers to remind you of maintenance and servicing.

So, just because the check engine light comes on doesn’t mean it’s something serious, although it sure could be. That’s why the measures we will discuss below are so important. You can take matters into your own hands and know exactly what’s going on as you walk into the repair shop or just fix it yourself.

Some things can be ridiculously easy fixes that you can do in a minute or two and we will discuss those below.

So, How Do You Protect Yourself From The Check Engine Light Scam?

1. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself against the check engine light scam and actually many others as well is to get a decent OBDII (On Board Diagnostics) checker for less than £100.

This in itself is a money saving investment, as many mechanics will charge that much or more depending on the make / model, just to hook it up to the diagnostics computer.

It’s super easy to use. All you need to do is, plug the unit into the OBDII port of your car (usually located under the dashboard, where the driver’s knees are) and it will give you an OBDII code, which you can then look up in the provided code status booklet or simply Google it.

2. The nicer OBDII units display the summarised meaning of the code denoting what’s wrong on a display. You can even then download it to your computer or tablet with the software installed to show you the full description and breakdown.

Many auto parts stores will actually hook up an OBDII device and show you or print the read out for you for free.

The reason they do this is they know you’re going to buy the parts to fix the problem. So, they show you the problem and profit from the parts sales.

Most of them will do this for free once or twice and then will steer you towards an OBDII device of your own.

If you only need just this one diagnostic performed and you’re going to fix it yourself if it’s within your abilities, then go for it, get it for free.

However, buying an OBDII is a really good idea. This way you can troubleshoot things right on the spot. Click here, for the U480 OBDII diagnostic tool, which we highly recommend.

3. The other thing you should do right now is, get the workshop manual for your car here. One you’ve looked up your fault a workshop manual is always handy to help with replacement of parts. Plus there is super useful info on how to troubleshoot and fix common problems on your car.

Quick And Easy Fixes

There are a couple things that you won’t even believe can cause a check engine light to come on, but they do.

Below we will discuss them and the super quick ways you can fix them and avoid that check engine light scam that could be waiting on you, just because you didn’t know any of these bogus problems.

1. As soon as you see your check engine light come on, go check your air filter. If you see that it’s dirty, replace it. Yes, the air filter restricting airflow due to being clogged can trigger your check engine light.

2. If you see your check engine light, go make sure your gas cap was properly screwed into place. If it wasn’t tightened properly so that it made that clicking sound or is worn out it won’t create your fuel vacuum seal. If the vacuum seal isn’t present then you can easily get a check engine light warning. You may have to drive your car for a mile or two so that the seal and vacuum is created. Once you’ve done that if the light is still on then turn your car off and restart it. If the light is then off, you may have solved it. If not use your OBDII and get the codes for the problem. Then look up the solution and solve it from there.

If You Do Need A Service

If you do have to take your car in for service you’ll go in knowing what’s wrong so that they cannot pull the wool over your eyes.

With these tips you should be able to avoid the check engine light scam altogether.

About the Author - Chad Ina

3 comments

  1. Hi
    That makes very good sense what you have said. I try to do all my repairs my self.my local garage are very good if any lights come on thy don’t scam me or charge me.

  2. Keep it up, how ever there a huge number of sensors on cars and being able to tell which is which is hard,
    maurice

  3. I notice that my Toyotas don’t use OBDII. What can I do about a diagnosis for them?

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