Talon News - Good Local News

By JOHN WINKLEY
SPECIAL TO TALON 

MECHANIX

YOUR QUESTIONS ON AUTOMOBILE REPAIR ARE ANSWERED

 

February 16, 2018



Q: I drive a 2009 Subaru Forester and My check engine light is on, should I be concerned? And why did my cruise control light come on and flash at the same time? Can I keep driving it with it on?

Short answer in respective order: Sometimes. And, no I don't recommend it.

The computer system on your car is complex, A lot of the time a "Check Engine Light" (CEL) indicates a very minor issue that doesn't cause the engine to run noticeably different. Sometimes a more serious problem develops, such as a misfire, and the "Check Engine Light" will flash, and that's when you need to pay attention and get it checked out. Interestingly enough, two things that the CEL doesn't directly monitor is oil pressure and engine coolant temperature. You could lose oil pressure, or overheat, and your CEL would not ever come on!

Diagnosing the CEL became a lot easier in 1996 because the auto industry somewhat standardized it and called it On Board Diagnostics II, or OBD2. This made life a lot easier for technicians, otherwise you would need a different scan tool for every vehicle manufacturer. This article is mostly for 1996 or newer cars.

A few of my customers carry a basic trouble code reader, so they can read and clear a trouble code. In the Four Corners area, we see huge temperature fluctuations and large changes in elevation, and certain emission codes can set because of these large temperature and pressure changes. If you don't have one, many auto parts stores, will read the code for free. Often a customer will call me back with the code number, and I'll tell them if it's OK to keep driving. As a general rule if it's still running and the light is not flashing, you have time to schedule it.

What about that cruise control light, vehicle stability light, or other lights that also come on with the "Check Engine light"? Since other systems are closely connected to the engine control system, those lights come on along with the CEL. In some cars the cruise control light also illuminates along with the CEL. I think this is mainly an incentive to get the CEL issue addressed quickly.

Regardless, it's paramount to figure out what is going on and get the car fixed so the light will stay off. You don't know if there is one trouble code or ten of them, so it's best to address it sooner than later.

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