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Home » Auto Ownership

The Service Engine Light: Your Mechanics Dirty Little Secret

Last updated by on 84 Comments

Troubleshoot the Check Engine Light for Free

Even if you find a good mechanic, if you’re like me, you shiver at the thought of paying hundreds of dollars for major vehicle repairs. Well, the dreaded ‘service engine’ or ‘check engine’ light came on in our Pontiac Grand Am this past week. Even more, you dread paying $100 just to have your mechanic take a peek at your vehicle to tell you that nothing is wrong with it – but that’s what you get for being a responsible auto-owner. Or is it?

There is an alternative to those annoying ‘take a peek at it’ vehicle labor expenses. And it costs nothing. The service engine light comes on in your vehicle because the computer has diagnosed that something ain’t quite right. When the light comes on, a code is stored as the reason for triggering the light. When you take your car in to get it checked out, the mechanic hooks up a little diagnostic computer to your vehicle’s computer. They will then get a code and description that tells them what the issue is.

Check Engine Light: The Mechanics Dirty Little Secret

check-engine-lightWhat your mechanic probably won’t tell you is that you really didn’t need to shell out $100 just for them to hook up their little machine to check on the service engine light. You can get that for free at most auto-parts stores. I’ve had this done at Napa and Advance Auto Parts. It costs nothing. The auto part stores carry these to cater to DIY’ers in hopes that they, in turn, buy the auto parts at their store to make the fix on their own. It takes them 1 minute to do this.

I was relieved to find out that the cause for the light to go on in my car was a possible vapor leak coming from my gas cap, caused by a weak spring in the cap. The gas cap costs $10. The store can also reset the computer so that if the problem persists, the light will come on again. If it doesn’t, problem fixed.

There probably are some honest mechanics out there who won’t charge you for this. But good luck finding one.

Oh – another thing – replace your car’s air filter on your own – it’s easy, and will save you a lot of money versus having a mechanic do it.

Check Engine Light Discussion:

  • What clever techniques have you used to avoid vehicle service fees?
  • How much were you charged to have your car ‘looked at’?

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84 Comments »
  • Do You Dave Ramsey? says:

    Great piece of advice, thanks for sharing!

    • Cyndi says:

      I’ve owned an automotive repair shop for almost 30 years, The first thing we check is the gas cap, and there is no charge for that!
      Another thing you need to think about is Napa and Advance use a cheap little scanner, it might get you in the ball park what is wrong with your car, and you can buy parts from them,But as I have found it works sometimes , and the other you’ve bought parts that aren’t the problem. Not all Automotive shops are rip offs! My business is in the Small town of Williston Florida, we put out 25-30 cars a day and do no advertising, it all word of mouth.

      • Dean Reynolds says:

        Thanks for your straightforward answer and honesty.

      • lisa says:

        Hello, you seem like a person who is up front and honest, that is why I would like to ask you a question , and I hope you might be able to help, I bought a used car, I traded in mine ,and gave the guy cash, so all together I ended up paying like $5500, for a 1999 lexes, nice car motor is wonderful, but about 2 months down the road the check engine light when on , and so did the traction light, I went to see the guy I bought the car from , and he said oh it could be the cat. converter, and he said so what you have a sticker, and he laughed it off , and walked away , and I was like ok what about next year when I need a sticker, well come to find out there were so many hidden things wrong with the car, I also found out he unscrews the bulb for the check engine lights on some cars he sells. What can I do. I am a single mom with no money , and I told the guy that, I was like please this is all I have , and if there are things about this car please let me know, oh he swore it is beautiful, your going to love it. There was a rattle under the car I told him about right away, so he give 30 warranties and make an appointment like for the following week after I bought it it was like 8 days later, he did that for a reason didn’t he? Well he fixed it , but not really the problem was still there, I brought it back , but by then it was to late, Please tell me what can I do to some how recover from this. I do want to tell him what I know about the tricks he is pulling on people, and me. how long does it take for the check engine light to go on after you shut it off? Please if you can or anyone help me out, I would be very grateful for any help . Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
        Lisa From Mass

        • If my check engine light came on and someone scanned it real quick and got a code would that tell me the problem with my car? Please help I dont have much money.

        • Shareah says:

          I don’t mean to be rude, but may I ask what a single mother with little money was doing buying a lexus?
          If you don’t have money to begin with, don’t buy a luxury car! With that money, you could have found a newer car with probably less miles that would be cheaper to fix.

          That being said, look up the lemon laws for your state.

      • Shirley Mckeen says:

        Thank you so much for this tip. My gas cap is loose light came on. Then my check engine soon light. Going to check my gas cap. You may have saved me $$$!

    • david says:

      gas cap leaking… Yeah RIGHT

    • If my check engine light came on and someone scanned it real quick and got a code would that tell me the problem with my car? Please help I dont have much money.

  • SJ says:

    How uncanny to read this article considering i just came back from the Toyota dealership that gave me an estimate of $94 to run diagnostics on my car to figure out why the check engine light was on. To my luck i had gone to Sears Auto first that gave me the error code by running the quick diagnostic as your article lists, free of charge, which i then took to Toyota and didn’t pay a dime because it turned out to be a warranty issue!:) How often does that happen?!

    But the good thing about getting the error code was that i googled it before going to the dealer and had a pretty good idea of what the problem was and how much it would cost so that i could level head with the dealership instead of them taking advantage of me not knowing anything about cars and charging me a ridiculous amount.

    • LS says:

      FYI tried to take my car into Sears and they said it cost $100 to diagnose and they do not do work on it if there is something wrong

    • Shareah says:

      You’re the type of person us dealerships hate. You come in thinking you know what’s wrong with your car, assuming we are going to scam you, and make a huge stink. Just because Martha Sue had one issue doesn’t mean your car has the same. For something like a check engine light, the proper diagnostics must be run to be 100% sure what is wrong. Would you go to your doctor, after Googling your symptoms, and demand that he give you medicine because that’s what you saw online? Skip the x-rays or MRI because you saw something online? I understand diagnostics can be expensive, but it may save you money in the long run. Find a dealership or mechanic you trust.

      Also, check your warranty… this is something you can Google. Don’t bother running around town when your car is still under bumper to bumper warranty!!

      • Tiffany Coker says:

        Well, that is because you often do. I paid $125 last year because my car’s service engine light came on. The dealership claimed that they knew what the issue was after me paying that much for extensive diagnostics. Then I paid another $90, was called to go pick my car, was told it was fixed, got half way home and the light came back on, took my car to a mom and pop service place the next day, was told it was simply a fuse needing to be replaced, replace it and bam no more problem. So yes it is wise for people to have a little knowledge about their own vehicle so that they can avoid wasting hundreds of dollars they don’t have.

  • Jen says:

    Coming from a family of mechanics, while this could be a good place to start, I wouldn’t rely on those stores to have the most up to date diagnostic equipment. The only places that have those are car dealerships as they are quite expensive and they have to pay all update patches. Just keep in mind there are many reasons why things pay more. I think SJ had a good strategy.

  • Britt (Your Roth IRA) says:

    Great idea! I did not know this. I’ll have to pass this information along, and I’ll probably go check it out next time I go to fix something myself at AutoZone or Advanced.

    Luckily, I’ve actually found one of those “one in a million” honest mechanics. Last year, the air conditioning went out in my 1994 Mustang. I took it in fully expecting a $400-$500 repair bill…

    The final cost?

    $8.

    A vacuum tube in the switch broke. The mechanic charged $8 for the part and $0 for the labor.

    Now that’s a smart mechanic! (Of course, he’s local and not part of a major chain)

    Because he does things like this on a regular basis, I always take my car to him first. When something is expensive, I trust he’s telling me the truth…

  • Andrea (Recession Proof Living) says:

    Great tip! I hate all the fancy computer diagnostics that cost a fortune to get checked.

  • Craig says:

    My car recently has its service engine light go on and I could tell something was wrong with the car, but didn’t want to take it in and spend hundreds. I waited a few days and the light went off and things were smooth. Still prob should get it looked at, like your advice, will def help.

  • Joe Attardi says:

    Sometimes you can diagnose it on your own, with no special equipment needed. Back in the day, my ’94 Toyota Paseo’s CHECK ENGINE light came on. I did a little research and found out that there was an alternate way to get the diagnostic code (not sure how widespread this is)…

    I simply had to short together two pins of the OBD connector with a paper clip, and turn my car on. When these two pins are shorted, the CHECK ENGINE light flashes with a certain pattern that will tell you the code.

  • stephanie says:

    I used to have a 92 Ford Escort, and the check engine light came on any time we drove the car over about 50 miles per hour. We learned to ignore it. I now have an 02 Ford Escort and the check engine light has been on for about 3 years. I’ve had the car serviced multiple times in the past few years, and they’ve never mentioned any problems with my car that would cause the service engine light to be on. My car runs beautifully. I wouldn’t worry about a service engine light unless there’s some indication (other than just the light) that something is wrong with the car, especially if you get your car serviced regularly anyway.

    Also, I’ve discovered that a lot of times places that do 15 minutes oil changes will check out other stuff for free if there’s something you’re concerned about.

  • Phinance says:

    Thanks for sharing! I know nothing about cars, but it’s interesting that the car computer records these errors. Cars should come equipped with their own diagnostic tools to let people know what’s wrong with them. This has to be a car industry secret type thing.

  • Chris says:

    The $100.00 dollar code-read is a monster rip-off. I seem to ALWAYS have an engine light on in my truck so I finally bought a little OBD-II reader (costs half of a single “diagnostic” at the Ford Stealership) and its easier to use than a cell phone. Takes about 10 seconds from the driver seat.

    I just have HAD IT with paying hundreds of dollars to get a good running vehicle thru state inspection. I’m going to learn a bit of mechanic-ing. But don’t kid yourself, there are hundreds of possible codes and its not always as simple as a gas cap.

    Empower yourself and learn something about your car – it will pay off hugely in the long run.

  • Justin says:

    Great advice. Also, for the $100 they would like to charge you to check, you could buy your own cheaper model of scanner. Thanks for sharing about the free diagnostic check at your local auto parts shop.

  • Little House Jay says:

    To be honest as much as I dislike the charge (about £100 not $100) to hook the diagnostics up and tell me weather it’s a minor thing or indeed not. MY SLK cost enough to put up with this to be frank.

    Jay

  • Auto Repair Joe says:

    Most likely your light isn’t on because of a “glitch.” The vehicle monitoring system is extremely reliable and stable.

  • Amanda says:

    I love this tip! What a good first place to start. Of course your auto manual tells you that the warning light is the first indication that something may be wrong and having it fixed now could save you money down the road – but that diagnostic fee has always made me hesitant. Will try it out the next time and hoping there is not a next time!

  • Rick says:

    When a check engine light triggers in a car it is telling you that their is a fault in the operation of your vehicle. The ability one may have to scan a vehicle for codes does not mean that one has the ability to repair the vehicle. The code that you retrieve does not give you a slam dunk and tell you how to fix the car, the code allows you to digest faults associated with a particular code. It still requires a certain level of automotive skill to be able to repair the vehicle once you have determined what is actually wrong.In other words just because you have a little information about your car does not mean that you know what to do with it. Yes there are some codes that will trigger that are minor however this is not true for all check engine light problems. Todays cars are extremely complex, a wrong diagnosis can send you into a frenzy of parts purchasing that may or may not fix your problem while a correct diagnosis by a competent skilled technician will save you money in the long run. As a mechanic with 25 years in the service business I am here to tell you, it is not always as simple as buying some cheepo $50.00 tool from one of the local parts houses and even if you are able to retrieve the code the chances of anyone being able to provide you with the proper diagnosis from the parts house that you bought that cheepo code reader from is pretty rare. Good luck if thats how you want to go about repairing your car. Guessing is no substitute for experience, so do yourself a favor take your car to a trained technician and pay for the appropriate amount of time necessary to get a proper diagnosis and your car fixed right. You pay your doctor for his time and education why not your mechanic as well.

    • Anthony says:

      I’m with this guy.

    • Larry says:

      You’re right on the money with your comments. Just getting a FREE trouble code check only tells you what kind of problem you have but not actually what exact problem you have. Trouble codes need to be PINPOINT TESTED to verify the exact problem. It is often a very complex procedure and time consuming. That is why most all repair shops charge for that time spent on your problem. Average price for this is usually around $80 to $120 depending on where you live. So just bite the bullet and pay these technicians to work on your car.

    • Spencer says:

      Completely agree. a P0300 code means random misfire. So what is wrong??? No freaking clue. You’ve got to test plugs, wires, coil (s), So many things that could cause that one code. So pay a mechanic and stop throwing parts at it.

    • al says:

      I know where you are coming from..You are a mechanic and you have an inside knowledge of what is wrong and how to repair your car..what about the rest of us who had been ripped off by some greedy and dishonest so called mechanics (technician). I had my car recently repaired and all belts replaced.When I picked up my vehicle and brought it to a shop to be smogged ,it failed.There was an error but no code showing, The technician told me to drive the car around and put at least 200-300 miles on it since there were work done on the engine, which I did and when he checked the code came up and he told me there was a problem with the EGR..I went back to the mechanic who fix n my car but he told me the problem was the knock sensor that the smog technician say it was not.My soon to be ex mechanic tried to charge me for the sensor $365 for parts and $600 for labor after I shelled out $1800 for fixing both cylinder heads of my 99 Mercury Villager.So a little head start on our vehicle will help us an inside tip of actually what’s wrong with car..This is not necessarily amount to fixing them..I went to grade school just to learn the basics not to go and teach afterwards..A little understanding of stuffs gives us a better defense against dishonest mechanic and there are LOTS of THEM!!

    • ljem says:

      ya just like my bb did and $800.00 later the light is still on
      ok take to a knowledgeable mechanics and get $40.00 & 80.00 parts put on for the price of new rims and tires lmaoX2 oh ya not ripped off ok seams a little out outrageous and don t forget all the other things they will find that need repaired soon if not now like 5 year old struts ya my cars 13 years old and i ve had older that never needed struts
      good luck with that

  • Marcus Bethea says:

    I have been doing this for years. It is sad because they don’t offer this any more. Now you go in and the tell you they cant any more. Used to be you just give them your id and they let you borrow the tool. Some told you what the problem is some just gave you a code. You write down the code and look it up online. Now they want you to buy the portable machine. which isn’t bad for 50 to 100 dollars if you are a DIYer

  • JoeD says:

    The first and best thing to do is disconnect the negative battery cable and leave it off for 30 seconds or so, while it is off tighten your gas cap, then reinstall the cable. This allows the on-board computer to reset and will make the check engine light go off. Then run your car normally, if the light comes back there is really a fault, otherwise it was probably a loose gas cap or phantom fault.

    I agree with Rick above, to just start replacing sensors based on the codes can quickly get very expensive. It is better to go to a mechanic who will actually find and repair the problem at the outset.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I’m surprised that no one here mentioned that you have to have a car that is fairly recent (don’t ask me when) to be able to hook up one of those diagnostic readers.

    I have an ’88 and ’90 vehicles, and they probably won’t work for this stuff.

  • Salman says:

    1996-Present = ODBII System (You need a diagnostic computer to read codes)

    Prior to 1996, you only needed to jump two connectors to send the car into diagnostic mode while turning the key to read the code on instrument panel.

    The location of the connector varies from car to car. In the early Toyotas the connector was around the engine compartment. On the early Hondas, the connector was located under the passenger side dash.

  • David says:

    If your shop is doing its job it will scan all modules for faults and softwear updates.This will give you the whole picture of your vehicles module network.We offer this for $80.00.We use oem scaners for most all car lines.

  • Mike says:

    What can you do when the shop diagnose a check engine fault that is incorrect while charging you over $500.00 for work done and sensors replaced? Light returned following day.

  • Cat says:

    Coming from personal experience, there are many ways a person can go wrong with these free check engine light tests. I took my car to a friend’s husband who supposedly has been fixing cars since he was small. He supposedly went to school too, though I found out later it was for Harley repairs and he quit when the instructor demanded he take out his piercings if he wanted to continue his education there. He decided to drop out.

    Nevertheless, I took my truck to him, trusting he knew what he was doing, and watched him use one of these little hand hold code scanners that you plug into the car. He said I “probably” needed a new O2 Sensor. Well, he installed that cheaply enough and two days later the check engine light came back on.

    Do you think I am going to go back to him so he can change out yet another part that might not be problem? I told him I could get one of these free check engine tests to save him the trouble, but he said all they do is try to tell you need this, that, and the other thing – that you may not need. Well guess what? I feel he did the same to me.

    Rather than go back there, I called my regular mechanic and he said that is what happens you throw part after part at the problem and can waste money that way. Those smaller, less sophisticated diagnostics only spit out trouble codes and one trouble code could mean multiple problems.

    Places like Pep Boys count on that. So I am going to get a proper diagnosis to know EXACTLY what the problem is and that it can be fixed. Check engine lights can mean serious things – too serious to leave to chance. I am not going back to this hack for anything other than minor, easy to fix problems.

  • Kacie says:

    My check engine light has been on and off for a year and a half. Ive been told that it is an 02 sensor awhile ago, no money to fix it. Ive been running ARCO gas in my car. Seemed always to be fine. But I heard recently that Chevron was better and on my first tank last week, after driving 20 miles that light has gone off and stayed off. Is this a fluke or does it have to do with running better gas in my car?

    • Roland says:

      Kacie ,, i had the same on nissan sentra 1.8 ltr 2002
      came on off some time turning a uturn to fast the light came on then went off stayed on for 1 day and as mucha s 2 weeks then i turned the engine on in the morning and simultanesly turned on my garden hose with showerhead whille engine runnnig it keept engine longer cool thsia must have cleaned out some airflow or othe r glooged valve now driven 80 000 miles and it never came back on again it si a p*** the diagnistic is a money making crap nothing to do with passing the car in test,,
      regards roland

    • Roland says:

      the new mercedes have now 12 PC on board each talkinbg to one an other the owner will pay what ever a mech tellls them is wrong. seen to much rip off and the engine light is the biggest rip off, like isaid if a simple oring or presure cap is leaking that should be made readable on the dashboard for a consumer to read, and not some pc odbii reader,
      to the guy that said we pay doctors go and read once what they get ,for diagnostic check the bill the doctor get from insurance companie and wha t he //she gets. you may consider to be well overpaid, specially when we have to come back in a week then told well something else gone wrong, with the reader they can reset the engine light will go off and stay off till a fume is acumalting again ,, right u guys are ovedr paid and have mostly no idea, ((( could but many dif things great diagn,,,,,, bye for now

  • Roland says:

    tO YOU MY FRIEND ((( Rick says:

    October 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm )))

    YES I WOULD PAY A MECHANIC FOR HIS KNOWLEDGE BUT BUT BUT,

    would u agree that the check engine l should be a serious matter and a Gas Cap not locked or has gasket leak that should show in your dash board, what check gascap or like we have it on the brakes brake sensor,

    Now to your so called educated mechanic he wanted to take engine head of and clean it ,, iwent home in july and the next morning i got up started car and use a gentle shower sprayer garden hose
    then let the car run for an other 1 miinute and then turn it off

    went to work light wa no loner on and since then i drove car 80 000 miles so much for that,
    i think regardless of new price if they all use ODBII system reader it should also includ a owners info what could be wrong a gasket on a oiltippin stick or intake air flow thyeh are s narrow so why then build something and have owner spend money on stuff the PC does not tell them or the costumer ?>???

    i think that is a rip of from dot not passing the car when they can not diagnose quickly
    heere you say it can be this abnd that if the codse has several meaning that is not a code reader that is guessing okay,

    why should the car not pass test just because the gascap is leaking fumes,???

    while i see cars parked leaking engine oil or transmission, fluid which then makes the blacktop to disintegrate okay

    and i am not angry just amassed at some dumm remarks here,

    thanks

    roland

  • Mike says:

    I have read a few comments on here and other sites too. People are tired of being ripped off by shops and dealerships and paying over $100 for them to just scan to see why there engine light is on. If there was a business out there that offered to scan or turn off your engine light and give you the codes to and what is wrong with it for only $15 to $20 and they came to you. Would you call them?

  • Nk says:

    Wow…great advise, they usually charge us $89 at the dealership to diagnose the problem and $49 at Firestone but one good thing about Firestone is that they will wave the diagnose fee if you get your vehicle fix there and the dealership wouldn’t. Thank you so much!

  • Susan says:

    I recently purchased a 2004 Kia Spectra, four days after I had it, the car jolted slightly and the check engine light came on. I took it to Auto Zone and they did the free diagonstics on it, and code p1529 came up, which they told me was a transmission sensor. The place I bought it from sent me to “their” mechanic. I only had the car less that a week. He took it for a test drive and could not find the problem so he said. It stopped because he cleared the codes, and 3 days later it was on again and the car jolted slightly. They came and left me a loaner, took the car and brought it back the next day saying it was fixed. And again, 3 days later, the light came on again. I don’t know what to do anymore, the light does go off on occasion, but does come back on. The tacometer and speedometer are both functioning properly so I know its not a speed sensor.

    • Brenda says:

      So-called certified mechanic charged me $550 to replace upper and lower intake gasket, oil change, coolant system flush , reset engine light. 5 mile down the road , van stalled , rough iddling when cooled down , now this , b#^{}*+# has the nerve to tell me that I probably oxygen sensors or there might be something else wrong.

  • Tara says:

    O’ Riley’s does free diagnostic tests also.

  • Bobby says:

    I use to take in my old car to the shop all the time and it would cost me $40 for them to scan my engine light and an other $25 to turn it off a total of $65 for both. I got sick of it and found a person that started a business Scanning and turning off engine lights for $15 total for both in Coquitlam. He was half the price of what a shop would charge. He will give you the code and what is wrong with it. Try craigslist and you will find a few people that offer it.

    If you wont to know more about it you can email me: coolman6963@yahoo.ca

  • koko says:

    I had my car scanned at autozone today, and while it’s a nice service, it gave me only an overall description of what was going wrong with my car (cylinder misfire) and a list of about seven things which may be causing that to happen. So to fix it myself, Id have to buy and replace all kinds of parts to figure out which one is faulty. Could get pricey…. what I’d like to know is, how much more sophisticated are scanners at the shop or dealership, and how do mechanics go about troubleshooting these kinds of problems? Is it all just a guessing game in the end?

    • matt says:

      No, it is not supposed to be a guessing game. However, many mechanics lack the skills to diagnose even with the proper tools, so they just swap parts. To diagnose a cylinder misfire. I would check for cosistent spark, check for proper operation of the fuel injector, and if those were operating I would check for a mechanical issue in the affected cylinder. I would not use a scan tool for these tests. I would use various diagnostic tools. Digital multimeter, mechanics stethoscope,noid light,spark tester,test light,vaccuum gauge,compression gauge,fuel pressure gauge, fused jumper wires may all be needed to diagnose a misfire. As well as service information such as a wiring diagram and component locator. A REAl scan tool may display misfire counts to suggest which cylinder is misfiring, but aside from that it is about basic automotive test tools and REAL troubleshooting skills to diagnose a misfire. The free code scans are just an attempt to sell parts. Some problems are simple and can be found by scanning for codes, but others require real skills and equipment.

  • Ric says:

    You guys NEED to get an app for Android phones called Torque. It gives you the engine codes and clears them. The app cost 5 bucks and you will also need a bluetooth OBD2 connector for 20 bucks ( Ebay. ) I put my service on craigslist for 10 dollars to read and clear codes. I do about 30 a week. Not bad considering it takes 5 mins per car. I just saved you guys hundreds of dollars. You’re welcome.

  • STEVE says:

    ALTHOUGH MOST NEWER CARS HAVE OBD2 SELF DIAGNOSTICS THE CODE READERS AND SCAN TOOLS DONT TELL THE WHOLE STORY. THESE TOOLS DESPITE THEIR COST ONLY PROVIDE CODES BASED ON WHAT AN ENGINEER THOUGHT OF THEIR DESIGN , THESE SAME ENGINEERS WHO CLAIM THEIR PARTS DONT WEAR-OUT, WIRING HARNESS DONT FAIL ECT…. SO THE STRATAGIES USED TO TEST AND DEFINE CODES ARE ARE WRITTEN BY THESE SAME ENGINEERS—-THEY SAY THEIR DESIGNS SHOULD LAST AT LEAST 250,000 MILES WITH OUT FAILURES. IT IS UP TO A PROPERLY TRAINED MECHANIC TO TRACE THROUGH ALL POSSIBLE CAUSES AND ELIMINATE THEM ONE BY ONE. I’VE SEEN A FAILED WITH-IN RANGE OXYGEN SENSOR CAUSE AN EGR CODE ON A CHRYSLER PRODUCT THIS IS DUE TO THE TESTING STRATAGY USED TO TEST IF THE EGR IS FUNCTIONING—-THIS CAR CAME TO ME AFTER THE OWNER WENT TO A FREE SCAN CHECK PLACE AND BOUGHT A 200.00 EGR VALVE–I SAW THE BILL. I CHARGED 90.00 TO DIAGNOSE, 89.00 FOR THE SENSOR AND 90.00 TO INSTALL THE LIGHT NEVER CAME ON AGAIN, AND THE FUEL MILAGE WENT UP AS FOR THE EGR I WAS WASTED MONEY. THE OLD ONE WAS FINE AND THE STORE WOULD NOT TAKE BACK THE NEW ONE.

  • yanualia sellers says:

    help me please, my engine light came on and it won’t turn off, i got a 2002 cadilac deville, please help me, the light wasn’t on before, what happened is that i was listening to music for a long time and my car battery became so low, so i called my insurance to help me and send me the tow guy to charge my battery and then after my battery was charged the service engine light came on, and never turned off, please help me, what should i do .

  • RJ says:

    AS THIS IS TRUE THAT YOU CAN TAKE YOUR CAR TO A PARTS STORE. THE PROBLEM IS JUST BECAUSE THERE IS A CODE DOES NOT MEAN THAT IS THE PROBLEM. I OWN MY OWN AUTO REPAIR SHOP, I HAVE GAVE AWAY ALOT OF FREE CHECK ENGINE LIGHTS, BUT THERE ARE ALSO THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHTS THAT I CHARGE $86.00 FOR THAT WHICH IS MY HOURLY RATE. SOMETIMES THE LIGHT TAKES ME 2 HOURS TO DIAGNOSE. SO SHOULD I BE FARE TO MYSELF AND CHARGE MY CUSTOMER FOR MY TIME. OF COURSE I SHOULD BUT I DONT. YOU SHOULD CHECK INTO SOMETHING DEEPER BEFORE YOU SLAM AUTO REPAIR. COME AND DO MY JOB FOR A MONTH, BUY YOUR OWN TOOLS, OWN COMPUTER. LETS SEE WHAT YOU THINK AFTER THAT. ITS FUNNY TO ME PEOPLE HAVE NO PROBLEM GOING OUT TO A NICE DINNER, MOVIE, OR EVEN A VACATION, SPENDING TONS OF MONEY BUT GOD FORBID YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY TO GET YOUR CAR REPAIRED. LEARN THE TRADE AND UNDERSTAND WHAT A AUTO MECHANIC HAS TO BUY IN ORDER TO FIX YOUR CAR. MECHANICS BUY THIER OWN TOOLS, TOOL BOX, AND THIER OWN COMPUTER TO DIAGNOSE THOSE CHECK ENGINE LIGHTS YOUR BRILLANT PARTS STORE CAN’T FIX FOR YOU FOR FREE.

    • Nick says:

      If it takes 2 hours to diagnose the problem then charge for 2 hours if it takes 5 minutes to diagnose then charge for $86/12=$7.17 but you will not do that will you? And to be paid to reset the code and screw on a gas cap $86 is a ripoff anyway you look at it.

      • matt says:

        well if it takes all day you still only pay $90. If they charged by the hour and it took 3 hours to diagnose a tough problem and the shop charged $80 an hour that would be $240 just to diagnose. Then you complain that you paid $240 just to have them “look at it” as people say. They make money on flat rate, and they lose money on flat rate.

    • al says:

      RJ, some mechanics needs to be slammed..Yes,you bought all those expensive tools and equipments for your shop..I know some of them pay installments on these tools. If you do a good and honest enough job it is well and dandy..Fools like us who does not know A to Z on cars are the easiest VICTIMS of dishonest mechanics..They doesn’t seem to care as long as they can pay off their EXPENSIVE TOOLS at their (VICTIMS) err customers expense.I do not mean to imply that all mechanics are scam artist but I’ve been around too long to have seen them.Help your customers and they will turn around and give you free ads by word of mouth and praises.In closing MECHANICS NEEDS THESE TOOLS!!!!as much as WE NEED OUR VEHICLES to get to and from our jobs to pay for whatever expense our trusted vehicle will incur for us..I do need a mechanic whatever.

  • Laurie says:

    My friend is a mechanic and he will often charge a diagnostic fee when someone brings in an automobile. I hardly think this means he is dishonest as the article suggests. It isn’t always as simple as hooking up the computer to the car. The code will appear, but there can be several different problems related to this code. The code gives him a place to start. He then digs in to figure out exactly what the problem is and it usually takes more than five minutes.

    Spending time figuring out the problem on someone’s car, so the person can then go and buy the parts at an automotive store and attempt the repair on their own, does not pay his bills. Diagnosing problems takes him away from the repair jobs he has in which the customer will be paying for his service.

    What surprises me is how many people will go to a doctor and pay for all types of expensive diagnotic tests without blinking an eye. Often these tests are inconclusive, so the doctor orders more tests and the patient pays for the next set of tests without a complaint or question. How many people pay for a round of antibiotics, only to find they don’t work and have to buy a different type? Do these people call the doctor dishonest?

    I think mechanics get a bad rap as being dishonest. Yes, there are some bad ones out there, just as there are with all service jobs. But this is not the standard. To suggest the mechanic shouldn’t charge for their time when you plan to then shop around the repair charge or do the job yourself is unfair. In my opinion, those that do this are the ones who are dishonest.

    • Brenda says:

      Some mechanics know what the codes are to turn off engines lights but they choose to be greedy and squeeze. As much money out of customers as possible there are no honest mechanics they all are crooks

  • KIm Kramer says:

    I have a 2002 Toyota 4-runner sports edition. Runs beautifully and always has but at the 50,000 mark the engine light came on.
    At that time I did take it to the dealership to get the light turned off. They charged me around $150 and explained it away as an o2 sensor problem, Again at the 100,000 mile mark, and I mean exactly- guess what the light came on again. Know what? I’ve had that light on, for over 70,000 miles now and I don’t care. Toyota told me they wanted $300 to turn it off. They’ll never, NEVER get my money for that again. One time was enough for me to learn this is a money making deal for the dealerships and car manufacturers.

  • James says:

    I myself would like to trust most mechanics but since they are in the business to make money you have your work cut out for you if you know very little about cars. A supposedly Christian mechanic wanted to charge me for a new transmission when all that was wrong was a 30 dollar speed sensor. I drove the car home in limp mode. Was about to take the transmission out to work on it when some guy walked up into my yard and asked if he could help. Thank God he did! He knew a guy who owned a transmission shop for years. The guy told me to replace the sensor and bingo it was working fine. Saved over 2,000 dollars. Getting a code and researching will give you some confidence when dealing with mechanics. If you find one you can trust then give him your business and referrals. Like my transmission issue I knew it was not gone because I was the only owner and driver and it just wouldn’t shift into a higher gear. Common sense was telling me that it had to be electrical and not mechanical. You have mechanical issues with a tranny you will know it while driving it.

  • Scott says:

    This author must not value a professionals time, knowledge, and experience. I assume if a plumber came to his house he wouldn’t want to pay them for their time either. Getting the code out of the computer is the easy part. It then comes into time knowledge and experience that helps PROFESSIONAL technicians to determine the cause of the fault code correctly the first time. Not guessing and installing parts and if the “light doesn’t come back on problem solved.” If you build a relationship with the technician that services your vehicle like you would your doctor, they won’t charge you for diagnosing simple solutions like gas caps, however when there is a difficult code with multiple possibilities there would need to be a charge to pay for the expensive professional grade scan tools that we need to use and the training that we need to attend on how the ever changing technologies in new cars are evolving. You probably try to diagnose your own health issues too and do not value your doctor either. good luck with that one!

    • Brenda says:

      To you Scott when doctor diagnose the patient if they’re not sure about the cause ,they don’t charging you, but send you to a specialist who can

      • John says:

        To Brenda’s response:

        That statement about doctors not charging when they are not sure of the issue is absolutely not true. BEFORE a doctor sends you to a specialist, you typically go into to see your PCP (primary care physician), and from that appointment with your PCP, he/she may refer you to a specialist. That appointment though, is 100% ALWAYS billed. Please let me know of a doctors office that does NOT bill for that appointment to tell you to go see a specialist. They simply do not exist. And it makes perfect sense that they do bill for that time because you are essentially paying for a their time, even if it is to tell you that they want to refer you to a specialist. Why should it be any different for an automotive technician? If you do not think you should pay for their time, why not fix the car yourself? You obviously can’t because you do not have the correct tools as well as the knowledge to do that.

  • ross rigoli says:

    ihave a2002 buick century,the check engine light came on.they checked it out with a smoke test machine.they saw where the smoke was coming so he order a part and installed it underneath the left back by the gas tank.then he said I have to drive it so that part they put in will have to reset it self.that has 3 weeks ago.he inspected my so my inspection runs. this month.he checks it with a meter and says I have keep driving it until it resets itself.it cost me so far $150.00.thats for inspection and the part and labor.

  • Catherine says:

    Hi everyone! I was wondering if anyone can help me.. We recently bought a used 2002 Nissan Altima with 2.5 engine for my step daughter.(100k miles )We ended up all the way in Yonkers to buy it from a private seller. The people seem to be nice, she test drive the car with her father. Everything seemed all okay, two days after buying the car check engine light turned on. She took it to the nearest mechanic,they told her that there are 4 type of computer sensor errors. The errors was NATS system anti theft system with 2 sensor, then the Emission, least but last heated oxygen sensors. The asking sale was $4500 but we managed to bring it down to 4k flat. The way it sounded we got scam, but whatever it maybe, the question is how much will it cost to have it all fix? Or anyone here has an idea what we should do with it… Thank you in advance….

  • LHarper says:

    I have a 2001 Dodge Intrepid. You can pull the error codes yourself by turning on and off quickly the ignition halfway twice..then turning it on one more time. The codes will appear on
    The odometer screen. I’ve dealt with thus for years and now call the check engine light the
    Phantom light. Car runs fine. The light recently was off for 5 weeks but came back on a few
    days ago. Interesting enough it’s due for emissions inspection the end of this month. So once again I will pull the codes and there always the same two. Drive it for 60 mikes after I reset the battery and then get inspection done. I’ve had this car for 12 years and hopefully will trade it in within a year or so or sell it. Waiting on a better paying job before either happens. I am in NC so the inspections are due annually as is property taxes. Ignore both and the State blocks you from renewing tag..

  • Nadine Garwitz says:

    It is my opinion that ‘engine light’ problems are like fingerprints. Every time it comes on the diagnoses is different. Never one is the same. My engine light comes on….I take my car to my mechanic…..I pay for the fix….I drive my car for a few weeks….the engine light comes on again….I take it back to my mechanic….he diagnoses it, ‘different problem’….he fixes it…..I pay the bill….next month same old engine light comes on….I take it to a different mechanic…he gives me a different diagnoses…I pay the bill…next few weeks same thing happens. After reading this, and all of the comments, I feel like I have really spent a lot of unecessary money getting the engine light fixed. From getting two new batteries up to getting my catalitic converter replaced. Tomorrow is Monday, and I am going to take my car back to my own mechanic with a printout of some of these comments. Then I’m going to the Chevrolet dealer where I bought my car and show them. One of the two places is going to fix my engine light for free or I’m going to start a campaign to try and stamp out this kind of scamming.

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